Mythological stories are usually flattened into ‘pre-scientific origins of a people,’ or explanations for weather. Usually people who say these things haven’t read enough of them. Or they’ve only read comparative summaries.
Others who dismiss them as ‘lies breathed through silver’, or the antics of demons, show a lack of experience. Myth is much more. And in fact, our entire world of stories that we surround ourselves with is basically mythology.
What is mythology? It is the step beyond the fairy tale. It is a story that externalizes the interior life within the context of our culture. It is like a sacrament, making visible an invisible reality. It holds up paths of action, reveals great relational truths, and connects the individual with the strangeness of creation.
Mythical characters usually have names, because they often probe a deeper question. They are definitive. I should be ‘like’ Hercules, or Loki, or Anansi. Fairy Tales reveal the normalness of the person, the individuality of the child, the identity emerging from a confusing inner life.
Myths chart the next step. What do we do with our selves? What do we do with our time? Essence and time creates our arrow of destiny, and the call to adventure. The call to explore and express the limits of our being.
Myths come to us from the deep and tortured and brilliant religious traditions of the past. From the depths of pyramids and temples and oracles, we are given stories of gods bartering with elves and dwarves, of creation moments, and endings. They are wracked with hybrid beasts and puzzles and intentional numerology and constellations.
Myths are fairy tales externalized. Myths are the beginning of understanding that creation around us is filled with the same forces and fields we find within us. That the journey into ourselves happens hand-in-hand with our sacred pilgrimage of life together as community.
The gods and their antics stand for deep truths, usually hidden behind silly adventures. In that sense, we must see they all have a hidden meaning. They can be enjoyed and laughed at and thrilled at by ordinary folk. But they can also unlock deeper psychological and spiritual truths.
Myths ride the line between the human psyche and how it emerges from the tapestry of spiritual realities, how we resonate with and are informed by gods, angels, demons, elves, dwarves, animals, stars, and the Great Abyss of Being in which everything teeters.
Our first world west is starved of mythology. We don’t know what human nature is any more.
In America, in a way, we are held together by a thin skein of myth. Our culture and country used to be defined by the founding myths of our origins; the Jack and Beanstalk sense of rebel heroism that kills the oppressive father figure, the impulse of the great uniting Odin who refuses to let Valhalla be torn apart, the Round Table of unity that binds free folk together.
But we don’t have a common mystagogical tradition. Our religious culture has been emptied out and starved of the human component. We’ve assured ourselves that the only myth we can cherry pick are the spiritual stories from Sacred Scripture.
But as history shows, they’re not enough.
How can they be? Stories of spiritual adepts and spiritual realities are the full flowering of the fairy tale and the myth. They cannot be understood without these human aspects. Because understanding is something only humans can do, to stand under these things. If we are unprepared, and don’t know it, we aren’t capable of unlocking the meaning.
Superheroes today are a modern mythology. They are for us what the gods were to the ancient people. They are expressions of a people, of a cultural ideal, of a subculture’s dreams. They make visible what is invisible to the normal human mind. We look at them, and love them for what they reveal about ourselves. And we mimic who they are, because they are symbols. They are more than mortal men.
Look at every movie in the Netflix lineup, or on DisneyPlus, or Hollywood’s century of filmmaking. All of them are mythology. All of them ask who am I, how should I act, how do I respond, why should I do something. We watch them and upvote them depending on how they resonate with us, on how they reveal us to ourselves.
Netflix’s Top 10, and the enduring classics from our century, are revealing a new mythology for our age, the mythology of the Every Man, where not just the royalty and the priests are favored, but we are all gods (Psalm 82:6).
But without mystagogy, myth remains forever the call to adventure without a clear sense of the destination.
Read the full post on the ‘Rewilding of Enchantment‘