Mythology occupies a much more important role in society, in your and my ways of thinking, how we form ideas and concepts about life, than we recognize.
Mythology existed before science, philosophy and religion and has had a profound influence on philosophy and particularly religion. Yet the mythological existence and influence is practically unknown to all.
I watched a documentary on Star Wars, one of the biggest saga movie series of all times, the last film being produced in 1983 by George Lucas but 32 years later the enthusiasm is still going strong and the anticipation for the follow-up release, announced for December 18, 2015, in just a few months, is reaching fever level.
This documentary highlighted 59 themes in Star Wars that found their counterparts in Greek and Roman Mythology, as well as parallels with the Bible and even Modern history. Indeed, these mythological themes seem to be recurring events and even characteristics of humanity as the planet swings between the ‘bad’ and ‘good’ poles of influence.
A few of the 59 themes include:
- The role of the central figure, the leader including his childhood, parents and growing up.
- The role of the heroine, both her origins, damsel in distress and / or rise to leader and / or queen
- The mentors that take these children, young men and women under their wing, and how and why they share knowledge and wisdom with them.
- I didn’t know it, but learned that the term ‘mentor’ was actually the name of a Greek god and has come down to us as a well-used modern term. Odysseus placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus when he went off to the Trojan war. Just goes to show the long hand of mythology.
- The kingdoms, leaders and people of ‘good’ (in Star Wars: called Jedi) and ‘evil’ (Sith). Even those names are not chosen haphazardly, they do have origins and meanings.
- The superhuman strength by which all of these bigger-than-life characters operate. In Space Wars ‘The Force’, but other ancient and modern super-heroes have their particular recipe.
- How a leader can be swayed and ultimately totally switch from good > evil. The eternal question of the origin of evil. In religion the question is: If God is all good and if He’s at the origin of everything, then where does evil come from?
- These mythological stories also include a quest. It often turns a normal person into the hero. It very often involves the saving of a lady, a city, an empire and in Star Wars: planets, galaxies and the universe.
- There are mythological places, objects, creatures and cosmologies.
I have no intention of answering the question of the origin of Mythology in this blog post. It is a piece in the overall puzzle we’re putting together and must find its real place so that the questions that surround this intriguing topic can be answered in relation to our four key pillars of knowledge: experience, philosophic reasoning, science and religion.
While researching this a little more deeply, I ran into an article from which below is a quote. It elucidates this aspect of the origin of mythology. I will say that the author’s and the website’s opinions are their own and do not represent the approach of The Explanation.
As it happens, Greek philosophy, and Indian and Chinese, were different from what came before; and we can specify what the differences were. Pre-philosophical thought can be characterized as “mythopoeic,” “mythopoetic,” or “mythic” thought. “Mythopoeic” means “making” (poieîn, from which the word “poet” is derived) “myth” (, mûthos).
There is a large and growing literature about mythology, but here all that is necessary are the points what will serve the purpose of distinguishing philosophical thought from the thought of people in earlier Middle Eastern civilizations (Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.) about the nature of things. With the identification of the characteristics of mythic forms of human thought, it becomes possible to identify the unique innovations of philosophy. Note that philosophic thought does not replace mythopoeic thought, but supplements it.
- Myths are stories about persons, where persons may be gods, heroes, or ordinary people.
- Example Myth: The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. King Gilgamesh seeks to become immortal, after the death of his friend Enkidu, but fails. This is still a poignant story, since human beings still face loss and grief and death, just as did Gilgamesh. Indeed, Enkidu’s vision of death is still chilling:
There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness. I entered the house of dust and I saw the kings of the earth, their crowns put away for ever… [N. K. Sanders, Penguin, 1964, p. 89]
The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is used in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Darmok” [aired 30 September 1991, season #5, show #2]. Captain Picard is trapped with an alien captain, who communicates with allusions to stories. Picard uses the story of Gilgamesh. However, the alien captain, like Enkidu, having become a friend, then dies. Thus, one of the oldest stories in history remains grist for modern science fiction.
- Changed in Philosophy: Thales’ proposed a theory of earthquakes, that they are just when a wave in the cosmic ocean rocks the earth, which floats like a plate on the ocean. This explanation eliminated the actions or intentions of the gods.
At the page for this excerpt, there are many other myths and identifiers. They identify them as Egyptian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Greek, Roman… But the ‘why’ is elusive.
What is the purpose of myths? What is their goal? Where do such fantastic, unbelievable, incredulous stories, people and creatures come from? Who would think to make up such sagas? Is there a message they are trying to get across? Or maybe even hide in this mythology?
All exciting questions in my mind. Frankly, if you don’t think so, that’s fine. For The Explanation this is fascinating stuff because it exists, even if you don’t find it interesting, it is prevalent around our globe and we can’t ignore it. Yes, it occupies a bigger piece in our puzzle than you might think. Frankly, this subject could cover a book all by itself.
Your comments are welcome below. Stay with me because I will be developing this in further blog posts sooner or later but definitely in Audit of the Humankind and Agony of Humankind, second book of The Explanation series.
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