The Science of Mythology. Or, My Drip, Drip, Dripping Distillations…

Blog

“We are the broken metaphors of a cosmos that is beyond our comprehension.”

This, an aphorism by Nick Cave (which I’ve transcribed in previous post), appears as the January 7th entry, if I’m not mistaken, within his Little Birthday Book, published in 2019 by Narayana Press.

https://cavethings.com/collections/objects/products/the-little-birthday-book

One could interpret this is as an encapsulation of our predicament. Likewise, of our suffering within the Mystery. Yet to me, it’s an unassuming yet compellingly deft insight, and perhaps the most concise I’ve yet encountered, that succeeds in rendering the experience of mythos that I’m convinced we all, in one way or another, more or less continually encounter.

In this vein, mythos is mostly simply defined, I think, as a thematic narration of intuitions motivated by and residing within an affecting image or images. If empiricism, alternatively, limits the source or acquisition of all knowledge as by way of the senses, of sensory experience (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) then mythos rather recognizes, in the philosophically romantic sense and the psychologically spiritual sense, experience born of instinct, Jung’s collective unconscious and/or revelation.

Meanwhile, an intuition can be said to be a modest revelation; it is a seizure of sorts but at a level that allows for discernment and contemplation, for participatory cognition. Aesthetic arrest, a phrase successfully employed by Joe Campbell in his discussion of mythological imagery, expresses an amplified form of intuition wherein we retain our faculties of discernment. It differs from mystical seizure, best described as an appropriation of our workaday causal cognition in favor of what those who encounter such a condition describe as direct epistemological and ontological congruence; i.e., knowledge as being and vice versa.

Neither is mythos sufficiently encompassed by definitions of phenomenology per se because while mythic experience is indeed a palpable phenomenon and there is, arguably, a science to it as attempted here, it doesn’t share phenomenology’s emphasis upon establishing a division between sensory experience and so-called reality. Some things can be said to be more real than others but all experience is legitimate as such.

Likewise mysticism, mystic experience and so-called spiritual revelation, all of which fail to sufficiently emphasize the paradoxically entangled and loosed psychological dynamic between transcendence and the experience of everyday connectedness to things or the perceived spirit (Japanese tama) within them.

Once again: Mythos, myth and mythology is a thematic narration of intuitions motivated by and residing within an affecting image or images. Until now, having indulged eleven years of study (indie scholarship) within the contexts of comparative mythology, mythography and the psychology of religion, I’ve not been compelled to define mythos, myth and mythology in terms that I would qualify as my own. Why not? A typical grad student, after all, with many years less experience within their chosen topic wouldn’t hesitate to contrive an opinion and publish it as a thesis, or a book. Otherwise, I don’t know why for certain except to say that the previous definitions and associated theories and extrapolations have all sufficed. And as Joe Campbell was keen to suggest, it’s not me, it’s the myths. Which is to say they speak for themselves.

A thematic narration of intuitions motivated by and residing within an affecting image or images. I’m going to keep reiterating this as a test of its authenticity and substance. Meanwhile, the idea, hardly without precedence, yet perhaps expressing an original hermeneutic, is hinged to Cave’s brilliantly distilled and at the same time evocatively expansive little big thing of an aphorism. How so? Recall my uni-directional congruence: myth => metaphor. Also, its counterpart: symbol => metaphor, which makes its first appearance here.

Cave acknowledges both identities (a metaphor is nothing if not an identification) when he references our metaphorical nature as real; that is to say our nature as biological entities encompasses metaphor and symbol. What are we metaphorical or symbolic of, exactly? Well, I think Cave is right to suggest that we are broken metaphors; otherwise flawed, imperfect, impure, what have you, and therefore merely evocative of the full expression or experience or example of individual mythologies. Art imitates life perhaps but life is also a metaphor, a symbol, of existence past, present and future. Time and the idea of timelessness (eternity) is of course an essential, structuring component of the architecture of mythos, myth, mythology and of course life.

Our sense of the passage of time is entangled with our experience of suffering (e.g., existential angst) and also of peace. This implies paradox. And paradox is also an intrinsic structural component of mythos. Life and the existence of all things interpreted, for instance, as the so-called play-of-opposites.

Where am I going with all this? I frankly don’t know. I’m riffing. Following my nose. And my heart and my heart-mind (in Oriental terms). I’m engaging the process of the heuristic hermeneutic, of following my intuitions within the context of seeking interpretation.

Why interpret? I don’t think it’s a proper question in the sense that we simply do certain things, one of which is interpret. Which is to infuse an otherwise shared or shareable experience with our own influence and perspective. Within a heuristic hermeneutic we acknowledge a core, essential, iconic or archetypal aspect – a certain objectivity – that drives a plastic, intuitive, ineffable and ultimately subjective influence from within and without, a pushing and pulling as it were, on behalf of things we encounter step-by-step and bit-by-exploratory-bit, spontaneously.

***

The above will have little if any practical use within the world-of-action. It’s the kind of thing that is birthed, concretized in a graduate thesis – or equally obscure (translation: unread) academic journal – and set upon a shelf to disintegrate and die. Or, short of printing, it spirals into the irretrievable depths of archival digital oblivion.

Why did I bother to write it, let alone post it? For my own sake. Writing a thing makes it real in a way a mere idea or thought can never be. Cultures without writing – everything pre-Babylonian and including the rare contemporarily indigenous versions still maintaining only an oral record – both suffer and benefit. They suffer because they are perpetually losing large segments of their intellectual, psychological, historical, hence mythological substance: the reality of their past dies and if not reinvented disappears. In certain cultures there exists an actual or tangible past that is never deeper than that which is present within the memory of one or two generations and a mythical, eternal (timeless) past, a realm accessible directly only by shamans which encompasses stories of origin, sources of spirit, magic and within which a First Mover or deity exists and to which the dead go.

Neither mythology nor religion (a subset of mythology) ought to be defined colloquially as an untruth or embellishment, least of all a lie, but more accurately, appropriately, comprehensively and usefully within the Jena Romantic sense of true fiction. The experience of both, however, oftentimes share aspects of neurosis and in the extreme examples, of psychosis. Neurosis being the self-aware experience of unsettling compulsions and zealous attachments whereas psychosis describes a person existing within and slave to an entirely subjective realm. Neurosis is perceived as such, psychosis renders the interior experience the only one.

Conclusion (Principles):

  1. “We are the broken metaphors of a cosmos that is beyond our comprehension.”
  2. Mythos, myth and mythology is defined as: a thematic narration of intuitions motivated by and residing within an affecting image or images.
  3. Myth => Metaphor
  4. Symbol => Metaphor

Enjoying the experience of being properly alive within our predicament, within the Mystery, entails:

  • A sense (any sense) of the first principle.
  • An intuitive grasp of the second principle.
  • Surrender to the third principle.
  • Surrender to the fourth principle.

***

TIME CRIME update:

The advice regarding an author platform is to categorize one’s various interests and productions into silos, for lack of a better word. Better to present things separately, they say, ignoring any proposed inspiring entanglements on behalf of providing straightforward choices for readers. This assumes one’s readers aren’t reliably interested in authors but rather particular artist-craftsman product classifications from authors.

I challenge this advice. First, because to each his own and, secondly, because emerging authors like myself simply don’t have the published oeuvre to bother segregating our offerings.

Meanwhile, I managed to polish off an entire chapter of TC2 last night – ten pages of 2nd draft editing! – which puts me at page 159 (I’m once again projecting a finished manuscript of 100,000 words or ~400 pages) and I feel, after exactly a year of bear wrestling TC1 into a semblance of an author platform, as if I’m finally rolling; as if the first novel is behind me and TC2 is game on, come what may.

Moreover, regarding my platform, I’m going to call myself arrived and legitimate as an indie sci-fi author and somehow the less sales I enjoy the harder I’m working. So be it. As Joe Campbell suggested, when falling, DIVE!