Max Muller founded comparative mythology with the goal of investigating cross-cultural themes in myths. As I earlier indicated, it is true that there are interpretative differences in cultural myths, but there also are significant similarities of myths across cultures. In Essays on Comparative Mythology, (1856) Muller considers myths attempts to understand natural events. Like Campbell, Mueller proposed that culture’s frequently distort natural phenomena. Cultures and religions often take what is natural and turn it into something that is supernatural. Religion’s dogmas are frequently based on supernatural distortions of natural events (much more to come).
James Campbell was an eminent mythologist who authored the 4 volume Masks of God (1962-1968). He focused on mythic symbols and mythic quests. Campbell was especially good at pointing out the natural bases for most myths, and why these naturalistic forces account for the many similarities of myths across cultures. Similarities yes, but because of the way Nature is interpreted by various cultures there are mythic differences. Campbell saw a significant correlation between myths and their evolution into religions (more to come). However, as I point out later in later posts, interpretation of natural phenomena is also a major reason for dogmatic differences among religions. I note that Campbell is well-known for saying that to follow one’s nature is to find one’s bliss.
Euhemerus (4th Cent BC) was an early Greek mythologist and folklorist. For him myths are often distorted accounts of history. A euhemerism (named after Euhemerus) takes a human hero and in retelling the story over and over again makes him more heroic than he really was/is. This happens all the time. Most cultures appear to have developed, and continue to develop Hero Myths that the average person tends to want to emulate and become like. Joseph Campbell wrote about the monomyth or “hero’s journey.” The idea of a Hero Myth in contemporary societies is alive and well. There is no shortage of present day overrated, euhemeristic characters –—> politicians, celebrities of all kinds, movie stars, preachers, business leaders, and sports stars. Over time some of these individuals become mythological characters; eg. there are people and groups trying to make Ronald Reagan a mythic character.
Myths have a fictitious component, but they always contain some elements that are true. It just appears to me that there is some truth in most cultural myths! The idea of myth comes from the Greek concept of mythos meaning word, saying, or story. Myths often begin as allegories but are closely related to fables, folkloric stories, tribal stories, sagas, fairy tales, and parables. I know that there is tremendous power in mythology, storytelling, and symbolism. Human cultures and people live by their myths. Every culture has their own mythical rituals. Myths help cultures build their worldview. I know at some level we all create our own myths, stories, fables, dream weaving fantasies of who we are, or who we would like to be. My personal myths have helped me understand and manage some of life’s challenges and problems. Myths have actually acted as a defense mechanism for me in order to help me regulate some of the harsher realities that come with living.
Mythology – I previously discussed how we humans try to make sense out of the mysteries we encounter in life. I previously posted how literature and the arts are ways we have tried to explain the mysterious. Now, I contend that myths are another manner that can be used to try and understand life’s mysteries. Mythology has greatly influenced the investigative human mind to explain the mysterious. Myths help inquisitive humans find our place in the Universe, and our attempts to understand the human condition. Since the beginning of human consciousness storytelling has tried to explain the unknown. Myths are stories that try to resolve the mysteries found in Nature; especially the Triune Mysteries of creation, life, and death. A major goal of a myth is to penetrate the natural world and to discover natural patterns and order that gives meaning to events. Carl Jung felt myths are based on natural world events that help bring order and make sense to the human world. The Greeks and Romans were great myth-makers and often used the wonders and mysteries of Nature as themes. Myths are metaphoric in their attempt to interpret and understand Nature and human nature. Most myths are built on natural or human nature foundations. Peter Kreeft suggests a human nature component to myths by stating, “the old myths are wiser than the new demythological books. They grew from our race’s subconscious and embody intuitive wisdom.” (1992) I state that in my desire to study the natural roots of many myths, intuition was pulled-up and pushed-up as I gradually built my naturalistic worldview.
Nazis Germany recognized the power of myth and how myth (more to come) can be exploitatively used in literature, the arts, and film. The Nazis used myths to spread their deceitful information; eg. symbol of the Spear of Destiny. The Nazis film Triumph of Will (1935) was a symbolical way to spread Adolf Hitler’s cult of personality propaganda. In a speech inaugurating the Haus der Deutschen (House of German Art), evil genius Adolph Hitler said German art must be used to express the spirit of Nazi Germany. Masterful Hitler said in attempts to spread Nazism, if reality is distorted one might as well make the distortions big. According to Hitler “make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it,” and “how fortunate for government that the people they administer don’t think.” (1930’s) It is because of Hitler’s extreme evil that a cardinal rule of mine is to not make a reductio ad Hitlerum comparison. That is, no matter the inhumanity to others I will not compare it to Hitler’s inhumane abominations or the pure evil of the Holocaust. Hitler is one of the most vilified persons in history and metaphorically the symbol of extreme evil. It was the Nuremberg Trials that started the process of confirming-and-confronting those Hitlerian evil-doers.
Germany of the Third Reich is a prime example of how Nature and human nature was so dramatically-and-traumatically misinterpreted by the pyrotic abominations of Nazis doctrine. By sleight-of-hand, the Nazi’s notoriously distorted Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of ubermensch by portraying Aryan people as supermen. I attest-and-detest that cowardly Nazi “supermen” spread their despotic myth of eugenically pure people and their desire for hereditary improvement by selective breeding. The Nazis twisted Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” by proclaiming the superiority of the Aryan race and by enslaving those they considered inferior. The dark fellowship of Nazis extremism of racial purity became an excuse to cherchez-le-juif, “look for the Jew” to exterminate the Jew. Nazis incendiary propaganda tried to seek out Jews, scapegoat them, and eliminate them by holocaustic methods.