|Saturday, 11 January2003|
It is another early morning. I got to bed at a reasonable hour - around midnight, or was that 12:30 am? Anyway, not too awfully late. But, when I wake up at 4:55 am, well that isn't much sleep. I shouldn't have gone to the bathroom - actually I shouldn't have tried to deal with the radiator. That's what actually woke me up to the point of a racing mind.
So, I started reading another book - The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, by Karen Armstrong. Thus far, after the New Intro and into the old Intro, it seems good. Dense. She has put into words a distinction which I like. She writes of the mythos and logos. The mythos, or myth, is what a society or culture creates to explain the reasons for being. Myth speaks to the inner self, the intuitive, the things beyond empirical science. What is the meaning of it all? might be a question for mythos. She gives the example of the Exodus - we have no idea how the Jews actually escaped Egypt. To demand that the Red Sea (Reed Sea) details are historically and scientifically accurate is an abuse of the text. The story was to convey timeless and true meaning of what God did, not to present a rational, empirical, and historical detail of events. The Exodus story is in the realm of mythos, not logos. Well, maybe. In the West, we often demand it conform to the logos.
Logos, she contents is the "rational, pragmatic, and scientific thought that enabled men and women to function well in the world." Logos is what makes the world work, yet it deals little with meaning. She says we have lost the notion of myth in the West, and our society is based almost exclusively on logos.
She goes on to say that in the premodern world, both were considered vital and inseparable. She writes that it was understood that it was dangerous to confuse the two - "mythical and rational discourse."
"Myth was not reasonable; its narratives were not supposed to be demonstrated empirically. It provided the context of meaning that made our practical activities worthwhile. You were not supposed to make mythos the basis of a pragmatic policy." "Logos... could not assuage human pain or sorrow. Rational arguments could make no sense of tragedy. Logos could not answer questions about the ultimate value of human life. A scientist could make things work more efficiently and discover wonderful new facts about the physical universe, but he could not explain the meaning of life. That was the preserve of myth and cult." (xvii)
A good model for the scientist and the priest. The scientist may discover and explain the physical, but the priest provides meaning to it all. If we could find a way to work within these understandings, as many have (my initial thoughts revolve around Evangelical/Fundamentalist thinking - they really haven't yet), we could be a vital resource for one another and a complement, as Anderson might say happened in the past when both forms were recognized and valued. Now, here in the rational West (the U.S., particularly), myth is discounted and the ideas of fundamentalist scientists and religionists (those who might not acknowledge the legitimacy or value of the other - mythos and logos) have been born and are nurtured. Everyone isn't like this, of course, but I think enough are that it keeps the two camps from truly benefitting one another - to our detriment.
"Our religious experience in the modern world has changed, and because an increasing number of people regard scientific rationalism alone as true, they have often tried to turn the mythos of their faith into logos." (xvii - xviii) I can see this. The idea that the Bible can be God's revelation of Godself to humankind and be the authoritative source of our faith and practice and the way we should live our lives to realize our true selves individually and as a society does not mean that many of the stories found in the Bible MUST be historically accurate or empirically true. Midrash, and perhaps myth, can convey something absolutely true, mythos, without having to be scientifically or historically true, logos. I suspect that only those who want to function only in logos would demand the opposite. I don't know, of course, the correct assumption nor do I understand the logical outcome. Post-modernism certainly has something to say about all this. Perhaps the premodernism and the post-modernism have some very interesting points in common?
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