mythology

In the United States, there’s a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success: He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner. In Puritan countries, success shows God’s benevolence. In Catholic countries, your God loves you only when you’ve suffered.

The life of a mythology derives from the vitality of its symbols as metaphors delivering, not simply the idea, but a sense of actual participation in such a realization of transcendence, infinity, and abundance, as this of which the upanishadic authors tell. Indeed, the first and most essential service of a mythology is this one, of opening the mind and heart to the utter wonder of all being. And the second service, then, is cosmological: of representing the universe and whole spectacle of nature, both as known to the mind and as beheld by the eye, as an epiphany of such kind that when lightning flashes, or a setting sun ignites the sky, or a deer is seen standing alerted, the exclamation "Ah!" may be uttered as a recognition of divinity.

The whole edifice of Indian civilization is imbued with spiritual meaning. The close interdependence and perfect harmonization of the two serve to counteract the natural tendency of Indian philosophy to become recondite and esoteric, removed from life and the task of the education of society. In the Hindu world, the folklore and popular mythology carry the truths and teachings of the philosophers to the masses. In this symbolic form the ideas do not have to be watered down to be popularized. The vivid, perfectly appropriate pictorial script preserves the doctrines without the slightest damage to their sense.

Clearly, mythology is no toy for children. Nor is it a matter of archaic, merely scholarly concern, of no moment to modern men of action. For its symbols (whether in the tangible form of images or in the abstract form of ideas) touch and release the deepest centers of motivation, moving literate and illiterate alike, moving mobs, moving civilizations.

An entire mythology is stored within our language.

But the value of religion exceeds the individual. Not only every man has its own religion but the religion requires its validity for larger community, for nation, race ... Since god reigns equally over all countries of the world, the whole world with all its treasures and horrors is subdued to him ... Therefore the cultivation (Pflege) of religion leads its confessors to an extensive bond and puts them before the task to acquaint (verständigen) themselves mutually about their belief and to give it a common expression. This is, however, attainable only by giving certain outer form to the contents of religion which fits by its illustrative power for this mutual acquaintance. Under the conditions of great diversity of nations and their living conditions it is only natural that those forms are largely different in indiviudal parts of the world and that therefore during the times a very great number of religions has appeared. All the religions have, however, a common natural assumption (nächstliegende Annahme), that god can be imagined as a person (Persönlichkeit), or at least as similar to man ... Every religion has its own mythology and its specific rite ... For formation of religious cult follow from this certain symbols which are suitable to influence imagination of wide circles of people (weiter Kreise im Volke), so that they awaken in them interests in religious questions and enabled them certain understanding of god.

Anachronistic as this labyrinthine mythology may appear to the foreign mind, many of India’s ancient theories about the universe are startlingly modern in scope and worthy of a people who are credited with the invention of the zero, as well as algebra and its application of astronomy and geometry; a people who so carefully observed the heavens that, in the opinion of Monier-Williams, they determined the moon’s synodical revolution much more correctly than the Greeks.

The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade. What shall we do with leaders who tell us that we go to war in moral spotlessness or who make democracy synonymous with a republican form of government?

Here, then, comes in the felt necessity and longing for ‘atonement’, and all the more strongly when the close presence of the numen, intercourse with it, and enduring possession of it, becomes and object of craving, is even desired as the summum bonum. It amounts to a longing to transcend this sundering unworthiness, given with the self’s existence as ‘creature’ and profane natural being.

The inner self is precisely that self which cannot be tricked or manipulated by anyone, even by the devil. [The inner self] is like a very shy wild animal that never appears at all whenever an alien presence is at hand, and comes out only when all is perfectly peaceful, in silence, when he is untroubled and alone. He cannot be lured by anyone or anything, because he responds to no lure except that of the divine freedom.

This perpetual struggle between the magician and the religionist goes on in the mind and heart and will of every man of us. It goes on until it is rightly resolved, until man reborn into a mature religion ceases to try to coerce his God, and says humbly with Dante, “In thy will is our peace.” Religion, then, is not a matter of turning God to account in the realiza­tion of our own desires. Religion is trying to dis­cover what God is about and then offering oneself to the Eternal Goodness, “as a man’s hand is to a man.” “It is not in man,” says a modern thinker, “to make religion what he will have her be, but only to become what religion is making him.”

Perhaps, then, it is to save a man from the defeat and disillusionment of childish magic that there stands in our Bible that old story of the temptation of Jesus. Its ramifications and restatements are legion. Thou shalt not use thy God to get thy way. Thou shalt not coerce the Infinite to further the headstrong passing whim of the finite. Thou shalt not break the laws of health and then cajole thy God into working thee a miracle of healing. Thou shalt not let thy mind rot in idleness and then look for a sudden in­spiration given by reality. Thou shalt not spend thine all upon the world that passes away and ask thy God at thy latter end to give thee the sudden boon of a credible immortality. Thou shalt not take this attitude at all, using the Most High as an amplifier and emergency device for realizing thy soli­tary and selfish will. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

We are being told on all sides that religion is now breaking down, that its beliefs are an outworn delu­sion, and that all thoughtful men are being liberated into a perfect skepticism. That is not what is hap­pening. What is happening is this, men are dis­covering again what they have discovered often be­fore and then have forgotten, that magic will not work. But religion as a final attitude and reference of the finite human spirit towards its infinite universe remains and always must remain. It is the disposi­tion of those disciplined natures of whom we say that they are pure in mind and heart and will.

The true alternative to the outworn magic of primitive peoples is not the modern magic of persons disciplined in the applied sciences or the “new thought.” It is no solution of the ultimate moral and intellectual problem to trade self-will from the left hand of primitive magic to the right hand of applied science. What matters is a changed disposition and reference in this whole final commerce of man with his universe. Call it pure religion or pure science, the name does not matter. The one thing needful is that temper and disposition towards the will of God which we find in Jesus, Bernard, Pascal and Lister alike.

Whites are inevitably torn because they have no roots, they do not understand the past, and they have already mortgaged their future. Unless they can renew their psychic selves and achieve a sense of historical participation as a people they will be unable to survive.

If we can get that realistic feminine morality working for us, if we can trust ourselves and so let women think and feel that an unwanted child or an oversize family is wrong -- not ethically wrong, not against the rules, but morally wrong, all wrong, wrong like a thalidomide birth, wrong like taking a wrong step that will break your neck -- if we can get feminine and human morality out from under the yoke of a dead ethic, then maybe we'll begin to get somewhere on the road that leads to survival.

The knowledge of GodÂ’s existence thereby acquires a universal significance and absolute certitude. Indeed, even those who do not understand the philosophical proofs of the existence of God are informed about this truth by divine revelation. Philosophers or not, everyone to whom his word is communicated through the preaching of scripture and who receives it as coming from him, in this way knows that God exists. Philosophers themselves need to remember that God has revealed his existence and to hold onto that truth by faith.

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

I'm in the business of providing people with secondary satisfactions. It wouldn't have done me much good if they had all written their own plays, would it?