Myths are stories that civilizations have told about themselves. These stories are often at odds with the observations of modern science. So the word ‘myth’ is often used in a disparaging way, to describe something that is patently not true. But a case can be made that myths are about poetic truth, as opposed to literal truth.
From this perspective, the issue is not about myth vs objective reality. Rather, it is about acknowledging two very different (and useful) ways to engage with the world, Logos and Mythos.
Logos is the logical, descriptive, analytic, way to see the world. Mythos is the poetic way, striving to capture the sense of it as a whole, as opposed to the nitty gritty of its internal mechanics.
Mythos is better understood as a call to action rather than a neutral description. For instance, we misunderstand initiation rituals if we just see them as ways to impart abstract knowledge. Their power lies in their ability to engage people into a transformative experience.
The transformation is two-fold:
– For each individual who gets initiated, Mythos is an invitation to the active process of engaging with the world in certain way. It provides experiential learning for a new way to see the world and interact with it.
– At the community level, this common perspective binds the group together, all the more powerfully that it is a felt experience as opposed to an abstract notion.