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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mythos and Logos

Since I am teaching a course on “Science  & Theology – From Conflict to Confluence”, I thought, for the benefit of my students as well as my blog audience,  I will share two very deep insights. The first from a Nobel prize winning Physicist of the early twentieth century and the father of Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum physics, Niels Bohr and the second from the contemporary Franciscan Theologian Fr. Richards Rohr. OFM, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, promoting universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.
"We ought to remember that religion uses language in quite a different way from science. The language of religion is more closely related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. True, we are inclined to think that science deals with information about objective facts, and poetry with subjective feelings. Hence we conclude that if religion does indeed deal with objective truths, it ought to adopt the same criteria of truth as science. But I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far." …………., Niels Bohr “Subjective vs. Objective Reality and the Uses of Religion in a Secular World.”
“The Judeo-Christian creation story is told in the form of a cosmic poem (Genesis 1). The realm of myth, art, and poetry can heal and create coherence, connection, and deep trust for the human psyche much better than prose that “tells it like it is.” Rather than orient us toward solving a problem, symbolic language and images turn our focus toward being itself, toward meaning, purpose, and inner life forces. They evoke the depths hidden beneath the practical, self-centered ego, and speak to our personal unconscious—as good therapy does—and our collective unconscious too—as story and myth often do.
There are several levels of knowing and interpreting reality—a “hierarchy of truths,” as Pope Francis calls it.  Not all truths are of equal importance, which does not mean the lesser ones are untrue. So don’t fight useless battles against them. Something might be true, for example, on a psychological, historical, or mythological level, but not on a universal level. Fundamentalists think the historical level is the “truest” one, yet in many ways literalism is the least important meaning for the soul. Facts may be fascinating, but they seldom change our lives at any deep level. I do believe the “historical-critical” method of interpreting Scripture is a helpful frame, without which fundamentalists create a fantasy that looks a lot like their own culture and preferred class perspective.
Scholars since Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) have been making good use of a distinction between logos, or problem-solving language, and mythos. Logos language includes facts, data, evidence, and precise descriptions. Rob Bell describes how “logos language and thinking got us medicine, got us airplanes. . . . For the past three hundred years we have had an explosion of logos language. . . . But the problem is, there are whole dimensions of our existence that require a different way of thinking.”
Bell rightly says, “The Bible is mostly written in mythos language. . . . Good religion traffics in mythos. . . . Mythos language is for that which is more than literally true. . . . Evolutionary science does an excellent job of explaining why I don’t have a tail. It just doesn’t do so well explaining why I find that interesting!” We need mythos language to express the more-than-factual meaning of experiences like falling in love, grief, and death.
Good religion, art, poetry, and myth point us to the deeper levels of truth that logos can’t fully explain. Early Christians knew this; but the Western Church spent the last five centuries trying to prove that the stories in the Bible really happened just as they are described. For some Christians, it’s imperative that the world was created in six literal days, otherwise their entire belief system falls apart. Christianity came to rely heavily on technique, formula, and certitude instead of the more alluring power of story, myth, and narrative. These give room for the soul, mind, and heart to expand. Ironically, from such an open and creative stance, we can actually solve problems much more effectively.
The whole point of Scripture is the transformation of the soul. But when we stopped understanding myth, we stopped understanding how to read and learn from sacred story or Scripture. Children delight in hearing the same fantastical stories over and over again because they are open to awe, mystery, and discovery. Oh that we could all read the creation story with similar childlike wonder and open-heartedness!” ………….Fr. Richard Rohr from “Daily Meditation – Creation”
The beauty of the advancements in current sciences and new findings and hypothesis proposed in Biology, Physics and Cosmology points to a realm of pure abstraction through the use of new language of higher dimensional manifolds and mathematical concepts which are akin to the language of mythology.
Love to you all

2 comments :

  1. Thank you dear Tib! Your essays are always inspiring!

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  2. Thank you Olga. Been travelling to our school in Trichy.

    ReplyDelete