Map of Hell by Sandro Botticelli
Infused with the essential elixir of life, which at higher proportional neuro-cranial levels develops self-awareness and comprehension, our species has evolved significantly faster and farther than the other denizens of the earth in communication skills, tool-making, and art. But endowed with this powerful mental agility, we have endured proportionately significant levels of rise and fall.
Not knowing how and why we have come by this wondrous mental ability has led us to invent mythologies involving macabre rituals and practices, including regicide, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. Misguided by the mythologies of primitive shamans, ancient priesthood, and semi-deified monarchs, we have committed horrendous and gruesome acts of murder in war and other kinds of human conflict, as well as significant environmental destruction.
Today, we continue to enact our mythologies under such pretexts as ordinance, while we unleash intentional devastation on other peoples and upon the earth.
In his remarkable and compelling work The Masks of God, Mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904—1987) wrote,
- The world is full of origin myths, and all are factually false
- The high function of Occidental myth and ritual, consequently, is to establish a means of relationship—of God to Man and Man to God
- Supernaturally revealed, these have come from God himself as the myth of each institution tells; and they are administered by his clergy, in the spirit of the myth
- Toward the close of the Age of Bronze and, more strongly, with the dawn of the Age of Iron (c. 1250 B.C. in the Levant), the old cosmology and mythologies of the goddess mother were radically transformed, reinterpreted, and in large measure even suppressed, by those intrusive patriarchal warrior tribesmen whose traditions have come down to us chiefly in the old and New testaments and in the myths of Greece
- And the angry Lord of Isreal [Yahweh]—conceived in a purely masculine form—is supposed to have allowed a certain value to this excuse; for he promptly made the whole race of woman subject to the male
- This curious mythological idea…poses forcefully the highly interesting question of the influence of consciously contrived, counterfeit mythologies and inflections of mythology upon the structure of human belief and the consequent course of civilization
- For the human mind in its polarity of the male and female modes of experience, in its passages from infancy to adulthood and old age, in its toughness and tenderness, and in its continuing dialogue with the world, is the ultimate mythogenetic zone—the creator and destroyer, the slave and yet master, of all the gods
- To regard the poems in traditional books as a chronicle of fact, composed by poetic priests as conscientious history, is to prove oneself a dolt
- Any religion that is based on the notion of a Creator distinct from his Creation is fundamentally threatened by any recognition of divinity, not simply as present in the world but as inherent in its substance (this is the basic conceptual difference between the Occidental (Western) and Oriental (Eastern) themes.
Many ancient Greeks and Romans did not regard their religions as mythology. But indubitably, any tale explaining the interrelationship between mankind, the world, and the gods is mythology. Up until no, many of us still do not recognize this fact, because mythology is very much embedded in our religious doctrines, as well as our sociocultural and political systems and activities.
Language and art clearly differentiate us from the other denizens of the earth. Through these modes of expression, especially in works related to religion, it is evident that we cannot maintain ourselves without inherent elements of mythology present in our personal systems of belief.
Through objective analysis, we can determine that the religious doctrines (oral and written) of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam form a continuous successive link. There is no doubt that these religious systems come from the same primitive mythological source. In fact, any inference concerning supernatural beings is derived from primitive mythology.
Since we cannot actually see the ends of the universe or the composition of a quantum of energy, even our ideas of the Big Bang stem (metaphorically-speaking) from the same mythological sources of creation. All we can really do is point or indicate or conceptualize the various phenomena we observe.
Understandably, many religious folk are reluctant to concede the obvious primitive origins of their present religious mythology. They prefer to maintain their sentimental religious stupor, satisfied with what they are told by the priesthood. This condition is particularly evident in the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), where the original matriarchal tradition has been supplanted by a patriarchal (pastoral) tradition by the respective priesthood, and a supernatural order of their own design for their chosen people.
In every society in which they have been known, the shamans have been the particular guardians and reciters of the chants and traditions of their people
– Joseph Campbell.
Abraham stopped by an angel from slaying his son. (Credit: Wikipedia)
Many of us are content with the mythological tradition and metaphysical explanations handed down by the ancients about the relationship between man, the world and the gods (or God). We do not feel the need to go beyond our particular nurtured Oriental and Occidental religious customs and beliefs, or even to explore the primitive origins of the religious rituals and practices. We feel that somehow this knowledge might unnecessarily taint our personal beliefs and faith, and might even impair our cultural identity.
One day we will look back at our patriarchal religions of today and regard them as we now regard the matriarchal religions of ancient times—such as that of Minoan Crete and the Mother Goddess—that were supplanted by the ancient pastoral patriarchal priesthood.