On the Nature of the 'Myth': Mythology v. Religion/Fiction

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On the Nature of the 'Myth': Mythology v. Religion/Fiction

Postby Parodites » Wed Apr 28, 2021 1:01 am

First thing, an argument I threw at some guy who said Tolkien was just a childish version of George's Game of Thrones:

First of all, I don't get the sentiment of wanting to go back in time- the idea of not watching a series because it turned sour in the later half; I don't get how what happens goes back and retroactively makes what happened before bad. The first few seasons of GoT had amazing characters, amazing dialogue, and served as a highpoint of TV drama: the fact that the later seasons blew, doesn't change that. But to the bigger issue: I do not think GoT is discount Tolkien, but what you said isn't true either- Tolkien is not a more childish kind of fantasy. In fact, it isn't fantasy. It's mythology. Tolkien is mythology; GoT isn't. Tolkien deals with fundamental human archetypes, just as do real myths, be they Greek or Egyptian, whereas GoT is just people and politics, just drama and loss, just love and death,- a kind of simulacrum of the real world that doesn't touch any of the immortal psychodynamic archetypes that constitute authentic mythology. It's at points very well written and interesting, but still: not a mythos. That is why I find Joe's idea strange, the idea that George "did it better" than Tolkien. Did what better? They are doing two entirely different things, the similarity in the literature is just a surface level similarity; one is dramatic fantasy, the other is mythology. (Simply world-building isn't mythology. Mythology isn't even properly a literary phenomenon, it is beyond simply a type of literature.) I mean... do you really think that is what Tolkien is about? Dwarves and Elves?

The only real modern mythos that has been produced is Elder Scrolls and Lovecraft's mythos, (and maybe Star Wars, it depends on which media you consider) because they allow new people to add their own stuff, their own theorizing, their own characters, etc. to the expanding story without compromising its intrinsic character- because that intrinsic character,- the thing that makes it "Greek" or "Lovecraftian" or "Elder-scrollsy",- is precisely an immortal human archetype, something that can be reproduced and added to ad infinitum without losing its intrinsic character. That reproducibility is what the ancient theorists called "mimesis". GoT doesn't have that, it is simply a good piece of historical fantasy,- however, George attempted to write it in a way nobody else has before: imitating the way events unfold in the real world. Unfortunately, just as you can't pull all the diverging 'stories' taking place in the real world into a single fulfilling conclusion, (because there is no 'overall story' of history, it's just disparate events unfolding, connecting, then dissolving again with no telos or thematic arc) so the multiple disparate plot threads of George's books have diverged so much that they cannot be brought together again. That is why every book takes him longer than the last, and why each book gets larger than the last. To connect two threads, he has to invent 10; but then, to connect those 10 threads, he has to come up with another 50; but then, but then, but then... Uh oh, a bit of snag there. It's a compounding, accelerating effect whose inherent logic now makes it impossible for George (or for anyone) to pull the plots and the characters back together into a singular story. Therefor there is no singular story.

There is no 'story'. There's a bunch of isolated stories that, despite seemingly occurring in the same universe, are not connected and don't fit together. The book will never be finished, I mean the next book- let alone all of them. That is why nobody before George attempted to write a fiction in this way, mirroring how real-world events spiral into chaos and compound on one another. Nobody tried to do that because it doesn't work. GoT was an interesting experiment though, and an even more interesting failure; let it remain forever as an example of how not to write.

And that is the thing. History, like I said, doesn't have a telos. History doesn't have a theme. History doesn't have a 'story'. But humanity does. Humanity has a story. The human soul has a story. That human story IS 'mythology', and it can be retold until the end of time, rendered in novel formulations by succeeding generations and cultures without losing some undefinable, immortal characteristic that makes it what it is, some deep core, some 'truth'. Not a scientific truth. Some other kind of truth. That kind of truth we associate with the domain of religious experience and man's search for transcendence in the face of the 'mortal gamble'. [I purposefully recall by that expression one of Socrates' phrases: kalos (καλος) kindunai, or the 'glorious risk' of immortality Socrates spoke of while drinking the hemlock amidst philosophical speculations about the afterlife.] Tolkien found a way to access that ineffable core, that deep truth,- that human story,- the story of humanity, so that he could re-tell it for all of us,- many of us having never really heard it before, at least not in language we could relate to and intuit; he found a way to access it and re-tell it for a new generation. He achieved that. And it is an invaluable achievement, a priceless one. And George, to be frank: George did not.


Second, an excerpt from one of my books succinctly stating what mimesis actually is:

"It is not enough to merely study the myths
themselves, as did Tolkien. A true mythology has a property called mimesis, where there is a
memetic core that can be reproduced in endless variations within a changing, mutable
outer-form, and this without losing any of its psychological potency, such that cultural
transmission of the myth across space, time, etc. becomes possible and even beneficial to the
survival of the myth in question. To create that transmissible memetic core that resists
manipulation despite a changing outer form, one must identify some new 'fact of the soul' as
Voegelin would say. Lovecraft's mythology had this: more Lovecraftian mythology has been
created over the years than Lovecraft himself created, and, despite the endless stories and
variations, an inner-content unites them all and constitutes them as precisely 'Lovecraftian',
which is the central meme at the heart of a mythology."

Then an excerpt about how this property allows a true religion, couched on immortal archetypes generated by the mythos, to spread, while it causes a mere cult to eventually implode and die:

" This self-diminishing quality, a state of negative-return eventually reached by an ideology like that displayed by the alt-right, or in fact any
ideology, is similar to the same phenomenon we might glean from a discussion of the fundamental differences between religions and cults. A
religion is a system of ideas, symbols, etc. distilled over time, that comes to form the basis of a coherent mode of spiritual expression. In other
words, a person within the religion uses that system of archetypes, symbols, images, ideas, etc. as a kind of abstract language for expressing
aspects of human nature and their own experience that might otherwise be very difficult or impossible to express, and other people within the
religion can do the same, so that it becomes possible to have a dialogue about these difficult aspects of human nature and experience,- aspects we
colloquially refer to as 'spiritual'. Thus, individuals within the religion make their own contributions to its overarching language, further enriching
it. Think of the old Rabbis: there are hundreds of volumes of midrash and biblical commentary (not even counting things like the Zohar or the
books on Chariot meditation based on the visions of Ezekiel) that a Jewish person is expected to learn right alongside the Testament itself,-
commentaries composed by individuals, over a great deal of time, offering up their own personal contributions to the religion. The more powerful
the religion's internal organizing principle is, the more profoundly that religion touches upon the shared depth of human experience, and the more
liberty it affords individuals to make their unique contributions to its perennially developing language- for when that organizing principle is
strong, these contributions do not destabilize the religion and fragment it, but in fact help it to spread and grow. Without systems like this, there
would be grand fields of human experience which we had no possible way of talking about,- there would be parts of us, of what it means to be
human, forever buried in the incommunicable,- and in fact, one does not even need to subscribe to a religion in order to make use of its abstract
language in this way, that is, in order to make use of 'the depth as antidote,' to cite Voegelin's expression.

A cult however does not possess any intrinsic, coherent system or internal organizing force, and, instead of trying to create one and allow
individuals to contribute to its symbolism, (as in the example of Rabbi's contributing to Judaism through the midrash I noted) there is often a
top-down structure arbitrarily imposed by one or a few leaders, so that, instead of people expressing themselves and entering into a global
dialogue about 'spiritual' aspects of their experience through that religion's unique language of abstract symbols and ideas, what happens is
everyone in the cult just gets molded by the same top-down, imposed structure,- eventually parroting the leader in order to move up the ranks
within the cult. The cult often goes out of its way to crush any change, any contribution a member tries to offer to it- because the cult possesses
no internal organizing principle at all and so any such modification would completely destabilize it,- would collapse the whole imprisoning
hierarchy it had been contrived to instill in the brains of its followers. In other words, if the cult is only held together through a single leader's
charisma and it is devoid of any genuine internal organizing principle capable of touching upon some innate aspect of shared human experience,
then any change to it would make it fall apart: thus the cult goes out of its way to de-individualize people, to destroy their capabilities for
self-expression, and to crush all attempts by its followers at making a modification or addition to it, often by employment of various manipulative
psychological techniques. This is a philosophical differentiation, and so it is of course possible for sects within a religion to splinter off into their
own little universe and degenerate into cults, while what might have began as a mere cult hundreds of years ago could evolve, over time, into a
genuine religion- into a true vehicle for human expression and the greater dialogue implicated by 'the Depth'.

One must avoid relating these 'symbols' merely to visual imagery, that is, to iconography, since I am talking more about Piercian semiotics; about
the philosophic symbols, like those Schelling called tautegories. I don't mean to imply symbols as in idols, as in graven images, as in mere visual
symbols like a Cross. I mean the kind of symbols used in the bible itself, like the Apple representing the Fall into Sin at the Garden,- the
"promethean spoil" of knowledge. I believe that understanding the Apple and Garden as symbols for a deeper reality, for a deeper human reality
inherent in consciousness itself,- for the Depth,- is far more profound than believing that the story of Genesis was simply about a magic apple and
a talking snake. I am not a literalist (neither were any of the great saints and Biblical scholars in history like Augustine- nor were those who wrote
the Biblical texts themselves) so by symbol I mean things like mythic or psychological archetypes, things like allegories, etc. because the word
symbol, in both philosophy or comparative literary analysis, has a much more general and deeper meaning than a mere image like a Cross,- than
'graven images' as the Bible would call them. I would also add that a man using these symbols to communicate something, to express himself in
visual language, in a painting of Jesus or in the roof of the Sistine chapel,- that really isn't a violation of any Biblical command. To believe so
would require a very stringent, limited and shallow reading of the texts, which tell us we are not supposed to worship graven images. They do not
forbid art; they do not forbid visual representation of the Bible's own abstract symbolisms like that of the Apple, the Tower of Babel, etc. We
know that because we have, as few as they might be, artifacts from the time period in which the Bible texts were written, and they quite happily
represent spiritual themes in visual language.

The major distinction is not the quantity of believers, with a cult merely having fewer and a religion more. The distinction is why a religion has
more and a cult has fewer; why a religion can grow and a cult can only disintegrate over time and finally, disappear. The most important
distinction is that a religion has an inherent organizing principle and a cult does not- this principle referring to something equally inherent in
man's own nature, in human consciousness, (Parenthetically, I feel I must clarify what I mean by that inherent property of human consciousness.
Human consciousness is recursive, that is, I can think about myself and I can think about myself thinking about myself, but I can "think about
myself thinking about myself thinking about myself", etc. etc. so on and so forth ad infinitum, with this infinitely recursive property, which
Hofstadter calls a strange loop, being the source of our spirituality, of man's transcendental capacity for self reflection and what Augustine calls
the excessus. This 'excessus', because it is infinite in scope, cannot be spoken of through anything other than abstract symbolic networks like
those provided by religion and philosophy, and even by art to some extent.) and in man's possibility of experience,- his ontological horizon or
Dasein in Heidegger's words,- and that a cult does not. A religion uses that organizing principle to make a system of symbols that other people
can contribute to and expand on, because if the organizing principle corresponds to something real inside the human psyche, then the external
body of symbols growing around it will not de-stabilize when additions are made to it, allowing the religion to spread and grow. A cult cannot
grow in this way, whereas a religion can. A cult, because it lacks any such organizing principle and its outer structure does not correspond to
anything real in man's ontological horizon, must utilize a top-down structure imposed by a single leader, or a few leaders,- leaders who maintain
the artificial stability of the cult through their charisma, brainwashing, and by force. If someone tries to add to the cult's external garb, to it's false
symbols and often very contradictory ideas, then the whole hierarchy of the cult starts to fall apart. The cult destroys itself when it grows beyond
a certain threshold. The religion has internal, intrinsic organizing forces while the cult does not, so a religion can actually grow, whereas a cult
just destabilizes when it tries to grow- when people try to add to it.

Finally, on the modern resurgence of Myth as a kind of meta-political force accreting a new doom-drumming 'karmic aeon' around which to ensnare the next generation of souls in service and debt to a new IDEA, a new dharma,- the inescapable orbit of the New Man, whose hierophant has therefor claimed a novel source of magicka for the modern era:

" Myth is not primordial quasi-religion, or some kind of incubating antecedent for religion,
inasmuch as 'religion' is not a logically necessary progression in the development of myth. One would do well to fully differentiate the two. Myth,
whose modern equivalent is what the CCRU named hyperstition, is an artificially constructed, imaginative-poetic history (Like those for which
Lovecraft is infamous. Note his production of false documents, eg. the Necronomicon, as well as false actors, eg. the Mad Arab.) that, when
superimposed over 'real history', overloads the symbolic gaps, fragments, miss-identifications, contradictions, etc. in such a way as to explain the
tears in our own history (This explanatory mechanism is what I call a 'hypermnemata'. Just as, in Stiegler's thesis, the hypomnemata is any
'external memory-device' or narrative formulae that conditions the subjectivity of those utilizing it to shape their history, so the hypermnemata is
an external memory device that conditions other memory devices, that is, the hypomnemata.) that an empirical science, even in principle, cannot,-
and even convert them into energetically charged limen capable of propagating a discursive metalepsis across disparate, otherwise disconnected
semantic fields, that is, the autonomous or 'internal semiotic' discussed in this essay, which we must recognize as properly the secret of the
Kantian schematism which Kant himself, unable to properly articulate, was forced to dismiss as an 'art concealed in the depths of the human soul',
like all philosophers do with regard to their integral but inexplicable premises. Myth achieves this because, as discussed by Heraclitus, (and
argued equally in my own "Mythos and Ontos") it is naturally paired to the reinscriptive processes of the Logos and thereby intimates the direct
affirmation of Being, that is, a 'Doric trace' reaching back toward some occluded point of origination in the human cultus,- an affirmation from
which we are eventually disconnected by the linear development of techne,- a 'thaumazein' whose revelatory contents generates the circulus of
Vico's imaginative-universal, which structurally inheres an underlying pattern of material history that no 'particular' or empirical science can
access. A constructed history that is unable to do this, is simply not a mythology, but only a more elaborate fiction, like that of Tolkien or Star
Wars. For this is the function of mythology, as understood by the ancients who engaged directly with the still living mythos themselves,- as
opposed to modern scholars. Given the fact that the 'real history' of the ancients was so unreliable, the use of such a mythology is evident,- though
one might say that our own history is, if in other ways, even more inaccurate than theirs. Inasmuch as knowledge, that is, the ability to explain, is
itself power, so it was independently discovered around 2015, in no small part due to events surrounding the US election, that a hyperstition
superimposed on 'real-history' in this way, if it could repair the gaps within the later, might be utilized to not only explain otherwise
incomprehensible features of the 'real history', but to influence events in that history, therefor offering an alternative source of political power for
those who musingly named this force 'meme magic'. "
Qui non intelligit, aut taceat, aut discat.

-- Hermaedion, in: the Liber Endumiaskia.

in formis perisseia mutilata in omnia perisarkos mutilatum;
omniformis protosseia immutilatum in protosarkos immutilata.

Measure the breaking of the Flesh in the flesh that is broken.
[ The Ecstasies of Zosimos, Tablet
the First.]
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