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Daniel Rourke (M, 38)
London, UK
Immortal since Dec 18, 2007
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All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.
- Georges Bataille
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    An Appendix: Logos vs Mythos
    This post is an appendix to The Next Great Revolution in Reality. Also, please read the first part of this post for more thoughts on the role myth has to play on forward-looking thinkers:

    Since this post was originally written I have come to realise the true significance of the two main modes of thought expressed therein. The mythos of religious belief has, over the past few centuries, become prey to the savage logos of scientific rationalism.

    I come to the words of Karen Armstrong, in her epic, pocket-sized title 'A Short History of Myth' to elaborate this point further:

    Scientific logos and myth were becoming incompatible. Hitherto science had been conducted within a comprehensive mythology that explained its significance. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-62), a deeply religious man, was filled with horror when he contemplated the 'eternal silence' of the infinite universe opened up by modern science.

    When I see the blind and wretched state of men, when I survey the whole universe in its deadness, and man left to himself with no light, as thought lost in this corner of the universe without knowing who put him there, what he has to do, now what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost, with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does no drive people to despair.

    This type of alienation has also been part of the modern experience...

    ...Mythical thinking and practice had helped people to face the prospect of extinction and nothingness, and to come through it with a degree of acceptance. Without this discipline, it has been difficult for many to avoid despair. The Twentieth Century presented us with one nihilistic icon after another, and many of the extravagant hopes of modernity and the Enlightenment were shown to be false...

    ...Logos has in many ways transformed our lives for the better, but this has not been an unmitigated triumph. Our demythologised world is very comfortable for many of us who are fortunate enough to live in first-world countries, but it is not the earthly paradise predicted by Bacon and Locke. When we contemplate the dark epiphanies of the twentieth century, we see that modern anxiety is not simply the result of self-indulgent neurosis. We are facing something unprecedented. Our societies saw death as a transition to other modes of being. They did not nurture simplistic and vulgar ideas of an afterlife, but devised rites and myths that helped people to face the unspeakable. In no other culture would anybody settle down in the middle of a rite of passage or an initiation, with the horror unresolved. But this is what we have to do in the absence of a viable mythology. There is a moving and even heroic asceticism in the current rejection of myth. But purely linear, logical and historical modes of thought have debarred many of us from therapies and devices that have enabled men and women to draw on the full resources of their humanity in order to live the unacceptable.

    We must disabuse ourselves of the nineteenth century fallacy that myth is false or that it represents an inferior mode of thought. We cannot completely recreate ourselves, cancel out the rational bias of our education, and return to pre-modern sensibility. But we can acquire a more educated attitude to mythology. We are myth-making creatures and, during the twentieth century, we saw some very destructive modern myths... We cannot counter these bad myths with reason alone, because undiluted logos cannot deal with such deep-rooted, unexercised fears, desires and neuroses. That is the role of an ethically and spiritually informed mythology.

    Uniting these two modes of thought is akin to solving the mind/body problem, combining modernism with postmodernism and making the Newtonian and Quantum universes compatiable all at once! Yet, who can deny that there is something fundamental missing from a completely rational understanding of reality?

    Of course the obvious answers that surface are usually:

    "A scientific view of the world is my spirituality."


    "Buddhist meditation is compatiable with science."

    But these responses kind of miss the point. The role of myth is as a mode of thinking. Mythos and Logos represent the two ways we interact with the universe. At the moment many of us seem to be missing half the picture, and even those who do aspire to having a spiritual aspect to their thought end up viewing their 'myth' with Logos tinted spectacles. For example, being convinced that Jesus actually rose to heaven misses the mythological component of his story - again, in the words of Karen Armstrong:

    A myth was an event which in some sense had happened once, but which also happened all the time.

    Jesus as mythos is a constant affirmation of the cycles of death and rebirth which occur in each one of us every day of our lives. Surely a much more significant truth than any historically understood figure who got crucified for saying nice things about people.

    How can we reclaim our mythos?

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    Michael Garrett     Sun, Jan 13, 2008  Permanent link
    I can understand the academic study of myth and its relationship to the history of man. Beyond that I am not sure what you are suggesting we do with it.
    Rourke     Sun, Jan 13, 2008  Permanent link
    I originally put my point forward in this post...

    Current religious clashes throughout the world have proven that enlightenment thinking has not permeated all parts of modern society. The richest, most capitalistic country in the world is also amongst the most pious. Commitment to science is lacking in America at the moment, because the 'myth' of science has been established from the religious right. The belief that to be scientific is to be atheistic and therefore evil. As a result of this science funding and awareness has decreased, evolution in particular being taught very poorly across the country.

    If this position continues there will emerge a generation of students who have little chance of forging the great scientific utopia that Space Collective so readily focusses on.

    My belief is that science needs a mythos. The rational, scientific community need to establish their collective goals and channel them into a shared narrative which all of society can follow and believe in. The mythology surrounding science needs to be controlled from within, and not from without. Without it we will see the West slip into a new dark age of scientific awareness.
    Michael Garrett     Sun, Jan 13, 2008  Permanent link
    Thanks, and thanks for all of your posts, I have read them. I think I understand what you mean, perhaps it is the use of the term myth that I am confused about.

    It seems to me that myth could turn into dogma all too quickly. If we were to create a "science myth" wouldn't it have to be thrown out and begun again as soon as it was finished?

    In my opinion, the rational and scientific community have been bullied into believing it's not nice to
    offend the "believers" myths with the quest for facts and understanding. I think I see that changing, at least I hope so.
    Rourke     Wed, Jan 16, 2008  Permanent link

    I can respect the right for someone to hold a set of beliefs without actually respecting the precise beliefs they hold.

    Vulgar     Wed, Jan 16, 2008  Permanent link
    I'm not sure yet if this site is a consortium of hopeful intellectuals or a dumping ground for pedantic idealists.

    Not that you'd have anything to do with the later.

    It seems to me that despair is a pretty fundamental aspect of survival and humanity. Haven't all relatively successful relgions relied on it in some form? Perhaps it is just the background to which we create myths, a subtle distraction from anotherwise blank canvas (to which we set our microscopes upon).
    Rourke     Wed, Jan 16, 2008  Permanent link
    Ah, Fetile Jenny, to have but a smidgen of cynicism in this idealistic mélange. Welcome...

    I look forward to more criticism. I have been readying myself for it in fact. Conflict is resolution: your mode of thinking is one I will aim towards more directly in future.

    Scientific idealism is perhaps a greater myth than any religious cult has to hand, but is it a mythos that will propel us with any real momentuum? I doubt it also. Debate is far greater a force than agreement. Give me something I can believe in.
    meika     Wed, Jan 16, 2008  Permanent link
    Compare Paganism FAQ and a personal experience.

    I class myself on facebook as a pagan secularist, as I consider science to be a paganism (for similar reasons to Eric) while those other subsets of paganism -monotheisms such as christianity, islamd, judaism, and their orginal akhenatenism- can't see this because they pretend they are not pagan subsets.

    And the difference? In my paganism there is no supernatural. It's either natural or its non-existent.

    Weird shit still happens though.

    (Huckabee's platform which seeks to establish theology, like any Taliban might, into the USA's constition is a sign that America as an enlightenment experiment is now done. California über alles.)
         Fri, Jan 18, 2008  Permanent link
    This is important. Thanks for pointing it all out.

    What I think it is, is that there's a problem of people misappropriating mythos and stating that they happen to show the reasons behind everything through whatever logos/mythos, or that these reasons are within arm's reach. I think that was pointed out by you though.

    How can we reclaim them, then? Well, that's a pretty hard question to answer. I think the answer might have something to do with showing people the importance that nothing they know can be truly real, to take nothing at face value, and to only believe in themselves. More and more people are realizing this by the day, so as long as the rate of this mass epiphany does speed up and does not slow down to a stop, I think things are going to be just all right.
    Rourke     Mon, Jan 21, 2008  Permanent link
    I don't think there is a 'solution' as such.

    At the moment the two modes of human experience have been segregated into two camps, religion and science. This binary mode of thinking occurs throughout human experience and causes many more metaphysical headaches than mere theological and rational argument.

    For me the answer is summed up in the Chinese and Japanese word: Mu

    In the West we don't have such a concept. Mu is a bridge between Mythos and Logos, True and False, On and Off, One and Zero.

    I suppose Mu is akin to a Quantum Superposition of thought - it is neither a 1 nor a 0, an up spin nor a down spin - Mu is both these things, simultaneously, and just as in Quantum Physics Mu represents a third state with a character all of its own, but one which can only be understood as a composite of both previous states.

    Does the grand shift comes down to language then? A perceptual tool encapsulated in one syllable?