Myths are stories based on significant memories from times past. For indigenous cultures, they are highly valued narratives that give meaning and cohesion for society. Creation myths are the most common, something that all cultures need in order to orient themselves to the cosmos. Our modern scientist myth of creation, an abstract invention that does not follow the usual convention of memory, is the Big Bang.
On the surface such stories do not make sense to our rational, linear minds. They appear as child’s play, inventive sequences of otherworldly action. Cultural heroes usually appear as the protagonists who act out the drama. We get the feeling that occult information has been encoded into the story, something exceedingly important that is not readily understood from a surface reading.
The end result for us modern rationalists is a lot of head scratching.
One way to deal with the situation is to regard myth as nothing more than made up lies or primitive and poorly recorded history, a quaint but ultimately worthless exercise. This interpretation of myth still echoes through academia.
This is not a new phenomenon, as many ancient Greek and Roman thinkers came up with the same conclusion. In their era, following the last Earth catastrophes caused by the roving planets, the memory of such events had faded enough that wild stories of angry sky gods hurling their thunderbolts had already become quaint. As time passed, fewer people could imagine such Earth and sky drama, because the solar system had finally found stasis.
It began with the 6th century Greek, Xenophanes who first expressed disbelief in the traditional myths and stories of antiquity. Theagenes, a writer of the 5th century created the allegorical school of interpretation, signifying that myths are always signs or symbols of something else. To take them literally is to miss the point.
Two centuries later, Euhemerus argued that myths are exaggerated accounts of events actually witnessed by long ago people and that the Homeric gods such as Zeus and Apollo were actual human kings. Therefore according to Euhemerus we are actually reading distorted history. So influential was he, that his book, Sacred Writings, was the first Greek book to be translated into Latin, used as a primary source through the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, establishing myth as nothing more than garbled history.
Later Christianity declared that all myth was by definition pagan and idolatrous, and off limits. Greek and Roman myths were regarded as historical curiosities, nothing more.
In the 19th century a sea change began as much new information started appearing, gathered by the new scientific fields of ethnology and anthropology. These theorists slowly extricated themselves from Church dogma, and put their own spin on what they thought myth expressed. Folklorist James Frazer, anthropologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl, and philologist Max Muller each focused on the primitive, pre-logical mind of early people as a way to explain the irrational obsession and content found in archaic myth.
Until the 20th century, myth was the dust that was swept under the rug. From this lowest ebb in significance it was finally resuscitated, first by Emile Durkheim with his sociological approach, showing that myth was a type of social glue or ethos that held society together. Freud took off from there and explained that myth contained humanity’s disguised expression of sexual and aggressive compulsions. Durkheim had discovered that mythology can serve practical social functions, and Freud had shown that myths are expressions of the collective unconscious.
On the heels of this change came the next leg up; recognizing myth as a sacred, allegorical narrative of human experience. Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell are the most well known, but three others need mentioning; Mircea Eliade, Rudolf Otto, and Rene Guenon. Through the work of these five scholars runs a “current of respect for the sense of the sacred as expressed in all of the world’s religions and mythologies. Through their writings we gain some sense of the worldview of the ancients, in which rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were living parts of a living whole…”
Today, we find ourselves basking in this healthier rendering of myth. Joseph Campbell is perhaps the most eloquent in pulling at our heartstrings with his archetypal hero’s journey, giving each of us a seat at the table.
The allegorical understanding of myth first promulgated by Theagenes, is what drives the philosophy of these 20th century scholars. The idea that myth may also be a telling of an historical series of events is missing from this perspective.
There is a new thread that is emerging, what we might call a modern Euhemerist movement, recognizing that myths may contain more than metaphoric content; that they originated as descriptions of real events and therefore not just “true” stories in an allegorical sense, but factual ones in a historical sense.
This brings us to the current moment, and is an understanding of myth that is an underpinning of the Planet Amnesia narrative. Much research has already been done to decode archaic myths with any eye to historical, physical observations. Once you start looking with open eyes, a curious picture emerges: the archaic gods were planets, planets lived close to us for a time, planets and the glowing forms of electricity-plasma that streamed between and around them were observed in awe and recorded in interpretive stories.
A whole new window has opened into the past!