=1 "The myths that kill"

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The myths that kill

from Manas Journal


All myths, the psychologists tell us, are projections of the desires of men. As with dramatic literature, the desires so expressed may be released hostilities, or they may be released aspirations. At its best, the classical ‘myth’ dramatizes the struggle of the human soul toward creativity, integrity and enlightenment. Consequently, as Joseph Campbell has said, there is only one great story to be told in however many ways. The idea of the ‘monomyth’ suggests, for example, an essential identity between the representational adventures and the directly recognizable spiritual quest of a Buddha.

Another indication of identity among great myths and legends is that the obstacles encountered by a Theseus or a Buddha are never portrayed as localized ‘evil’.

The Minotaur and Medusa couldn’t help being what they were; but Theseus as hero, as human being, was capable of growth and change - of becoming something more than he was at any given moment. In other words, the Greek who responded to the myth was not so much interested as seeing ‘evil’ eliminated as in seeing Theseus ennoble his identity by accepting tasks which reached beyond the limitations of most men. The Buddha did not acquire disciples by pointing to sources of evil in men or groups of men, but by pointing only to generalized sources of ignorance - within each man in varying degree - and to the possibility of progressive spiritual awakening which would banish ignorance in principle.

On the other hand, there are also ‘myths’ of opposite psychological effect - those concerned, not with Christ, but with anti-Christ. These are the inventions of men who wish to localize evil in some force, person, group or nation. They are the myths that kill, and will continue to kill so long as we allow them to shape behavior. For to focus on ‘evil’, locating it where we want it to be, is to give up the search of truth, to evade the moral problem.