Sunday, August 13, 2017

Myth as Expression of Truth

“Myth is a symbol, approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately or accurately express…. It implies not falsehood, but truth; not primitive. Naïve understanding, but an insight more profound than scientific description and logical analysis can ever achieve. The language of myth in this sense is consciously inadequate, being simply the nearest we can come to a formulation of what we see very darkly…..This procedure is quite legitimate if [we] understand what is being done.” …………..Biblical Scholar Millar Burrows
This good expression of the purpose of myth has been misunderstood ever since human consciousness moved towards its higher dependency on the neocortex. Human beings when they evolved from the archaic and magical consciousness into the mythological era tried to find more meaningful expression of what the intuitive mind was able to perceive. The sages of the ancient wisdom traditions and the writers of sacred scriptures used myth as a tool for evoking the human mind to grasp deep spiritual truth.
It is unfortunate that when the rational age of consciousness evolved and religion became the sole, unquestionable dispenser of spirituality, a historical interpretation of scriptures became the dominant mode. This is because then there could be a two way regression of anchoring the deep truth into the rational domain.
These two are; the evoking of pre-mythical magical consciousness which could become a universal unassailable explanation invoking a supernatural source for events in a literal sense and also assign a historical character to the scriptures so that the authors become witness to purely sensory perceptions as witnessed in the past and  rational mind becomes an unquestioning receptor of meanings.
 There are also certain fundamental relatedness in which a myth evolves. The socio-cultural and language are very important factors at the time of the conceptualizing of mythical theme. We are fortunate in this respect especially in the study of Biblical scriptures as voluminous studies have been carried out from Jewish, Christian and secular perspectives. Through these studies we have been able to find deeper meaning and commonality of structures of various symbolism which are used in these writings. If we consider the creation story in the book of Genesis, the symbols employed such as the sacred garden, the flow of water from the underworld, the serpent, opening of one’s eyes, Cherubim and the flaming sword are all common symbols appearing throughout ancient near east in Biblical times.
There is a psychological dimension which is very vital in the structuring of a myth. All myths evolve from the author’s ability to call upon the archetypes in the process of deeper perception of truth from the universal unconsciousness. This perception of truth from the universal unconsciousness and hence the common archetypes finds different types of expression depending on the local milieu, culture and language.
An common example in the creation myth is the ‘coiled serpent’ symbolism. The archaic consciousness of humanity, predating the magical and mythical consciousness evolution, the coiled serpent, “Uroboros”,  eating its own tail was used as the symbol of primal, unmodified consciousness of humans. It is a paradisiacal state which provides all their needs. The open ended uncoiled serpent on the tree of knowledge represents the internal prompting man when growing out of primal consciousness to perceiving the external world and his own ego through this newly invested knowledge derived from the tree of knowing and to equate himself to God but in this process becomes keenly aware of his physical nature or his lower self. This duality results in his worldly life of toil, pain and keen sense of emotions resulting from his rational thinking.
When we study the myth of Eden we can see how the psychological development of the human being progresses from the primal state of undifferentiated unity towards a subject-object duality of perceptions. The participating players in the Eden Myth are the male and the female and the deity which is presented as the Great Mother Goddess and the serpent. This theme can be seen in many sacred scriptural mythologies.
The Sumerian mythology talks of Marduk and Tiamat, Vedic lore talks of Indira and Vritra, the dragon or serpent, Greek myth of Zeus and Typhon. All these myths are told to evoke and make humanity keenly aware of our primal purely unmodified consciousness and our current status of fragmentation.
This is a vast topic and the reason for bringing up this specific topic is for all of us to delve deeply into the what so ever scriptures we use for our spiritual enrichment and move beyond literal, historical and dictated meanings and eke out the spiritual kernel which can enrich our lives.
Love to you all.


  1. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

    Viktor E. Frankl

    Any myth leading us to this is Good

  2. Thank you Ram. When I posted the quote of Viktor Frankl, my intention of sharing was precisely regarding all emotional stimuli we experience in prayer, meditation, Yoga and reading of scriptures or any witnessing.
    The Japanese have a wonderful word 'Yūgen'. It is a cosmic awareness that mysteriously appears in one's inner self.