’n Aanhaling waarmee Karen Armstrong ons op ons pad wil help (uit A short history of myth):
Mythology is not an early attempt at history and does not claim that its tails are objective facts. Like a novel, an opera or a ballet, myth is make-believe; it is a game that transfigures our fragmented, tragic world, and helps us to glimpse new possibilities by asking “what if” – a question which has also provoked some of our most important discoveries in philosophy, science and technology. The Neanderthals who prepared their dead companions for a new life were, perhaps, engaged in the same game of spiritual make-believe that is common to all mythmakers: What if this world were not all that there is? How would this affect our lives – psychologically, practically or socially? Would we become different? More complete? And, if we did find that we were so transformed, would that show that our mythical belief was true in some way, that it was telling us something important about our humanity, even though we could not prove this rationally?
Human beings are unique in retaining the capacity for play. Unless they are living in the artificial conditions of captivity, other animals lose their early sense of fun when they encounter the harsh realities of life in the wild. Human adults, however, continue to enjoy playing with different possibilities, and, like children, we go on creating imaginary worlds. In art, liberated from the constraints of reason and logic, we conceive and combine new forms that enrich our lives, and which we believe tell us something important and profoundly “true”. In mythology too, we entertain a hypothesis, bring it to life by means of ritual, act upon it, contemplate its effect upon our lives, and discover that we have achieved new insight into the disturbing puzzle of our world.”
Our modern alienation from myth is unprecendented. In the pre-modern world, mythology was indispensible. It not only helped people to make sense of their lives but also revealed regions of the human mind that would otherwise have remained inaccessible. It was an early form of psychology. The stories of gods or heroes descending through labyrinths and fighting with monsters, brought to light the mysterious workings of the psyche, showing people how to cope with their own interior crises. When Freud and Jung began to chart the modern quest for the soul, they instinctively turned to classical mythology to explain their insights, and gave the old myths a new interpretation.
There was nothing new in this. There is never a single, orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth.