Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"The average child is an almost non-existent myth. To be normal one must be peculiar in some way or another." - Heywood Broun, fully Matthew Heywood Campbell Broun

"Do people love truth? On the contrary, mankind has employed its subtlest ingenuity and intelligence in efforts to evade or conceal it... Do human beings love justice? The sordid travesties in our courts year after year suggest that they love justice only for themselves. Do they love peace? Can anyone seriously ask the question? Do they love freedom? Only for those who share their views. Love of peace, freedom, justice, truth - this is a myth that has been created by the folk mind, and if the artist does not look behind the myth to the reality, he will indeed wander amid the phantoms which he creates." - Vardis Fisher, fully Vardis Alvero Fisher

"The history of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed-upon myth of its conquerors." - Meridel Le Sueur, born Meridel Wharton

"Myth is the foundation of life, it is the timeless pattern, the religious formula to which life shapes itself... There is no doubt about it, the moment when the storyteller acquires the mythical way of looking at things, that moment marks a beginning in his life." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

"Without doubt the greatest injury of all was done by basing morals on myth. For, sooner or later, myth is recognized for what it is, and disappears. Then morality loses the foundation on which it has been built." - Lord Samuel, Herbert Louis Samuel, First Viscount Samuel

"In every age 'the good old days' were a myth. No one every thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them." - Brooks Atkinson, fully Justin Brooks Atkinson

"To keep from gravitating toward genocidal conflict, we must stop demanding perpetual progress. For quiet nonpolitical reasons, governments and politicians cannot achieve the paradise they habitually promise. Political leaders who continue to dangle before their constituents enticing carrots that are becoming unattainable hasten the erosion of faith in political processes. Circumstances have ceased to be what they were when the once-New World’s myth of limitlessness made sense." - William R. Catton, Jr.

"The bare, uncompromising face of the land is too much for us to behold, and so we clothe it in myth, sentiment, and imposed expectations." - Robert Finch

"Truth isn’t outside power, or lacking in power: contrary to a myth whose history and functions would repay further study, truth isn’t the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctions; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true." - Michel Foucault

"A myth is a collective 'dream' of an entire people at a certain point in their history... But a myth not only lives in literature and imagination, it immediately finds its way into the behavior and attitudes of the culture - into the practical daily lives of the people." - Robert A. Johnson

"Myth is the software, the cultural DNA, the unconscious information, the meta-program that governs the way we see 'reality' and the way we behave. By providing a world picture and a set of stories that explains why things are as they are, [mythology] creates consensus, sanctifies the social order, and gives the individual an authorized map of the path of life. A myth creates the plotline that organizes the diverse experiences of a person or a community into a single story." - Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

"While personal myths give us a sense of identity, continuity, and security, they become constricting and boring if they are not revised from time to time. To remain vibrant through a lifetime, we must always be reinventing ourselves, weaving new themes into our life-narratives, remembering our past, re-visioning our future, reauthorizing the myth by which we live." - Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived, and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic." - John F. Kennedy, fully John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

"When myth meets myth, the collision is very real." -

"Intoxicated with the power to manipulate nature, some misguided men have produced a rationale to replace the Myth of Superabundance. It might be called the Myth of Scientific Supremacy, for it rests on the rationalization that the scientists can fix everything tomorrow." - Stewart Udall, Fully Stewart Lee Udall

"The poem... is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life." - Robert Penn Warren

"The myth of integration as propounded under the banner of the liberal ideology must be cracked because it makes people believe that something is being achieved when in reality the artificially integrated circles are a sophomoric to the blacks while salving the consciences of the few guilt-stricken whites." - Steve Biko, fully Stephen "Steve" Bantu Biko

"A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes." - James Feibleman

"If we are to attain a final theory in biology, we will surely, surely have to understand the commingling of self-organization and selection. We will have to see that we are the natural expressions of a deeper order. Ultimately, we will discover in our creation myth that we are expected after all." - Stuart Kauffman, fully Stuart Alan Kauffman

"Experience is connected to myth. Being immersed in self-experience is living one’s own myth, one’s own life story… As our connectedness to living depends, we learn that experience is the teacher. And experience cannot be programmed. We are our own mythmakers, knowingly or unknowingly." - Stanley Keleman

"Truth myth concerns itself centrally with the onward adventure of the integral soul." -

"Much of [Winston Churchill’s] strength as a war leader derived from this very habit of myth-making, of surrounding even the ordinary and the humdrum with enchantment. Like Shakespeare’s Glendower, he could “call spirits from the vast deep” – and the British believed in them." - Ronald Lewin, fully George Ronald Lewin

"A hero… is not a hero until he is recognized as one. This means that the actualization of the hero is a two-way projection. First the hero must project by way of his deeds, his style, his character. When the projection registers, an imaginative process begins to remake the hero to fit as fully as possible the symbolic weight of his image. Legend and myth take over the historical personage, and through either an oral or a written tradition he is reborn in his heroic apotheosis." - Harold Lubin

"The basic function of a myth is always to govern present action towards future hopes." - George Sawyer Pettee

"Mental illness is a myth, whose function is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations." -

"As human beings, our greatness lay not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the Atomic Age - as in being able to remake ourselves." -

"The primary function of myth is to validate an existing social order. Myth enshrines conservative social values, raising tradition on a pedestal. It expresses and confirms, rather than explains or questions, the sources of cultural attitudes and values. Because myth anchors the present in the past it is a sociological charter for a future society which is an exact replica of the present one." - Ann Oakley

"Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. Expelled from individual consciousness by the rush of change, history finds its revenge by stamping the collective unconscious with habits, values, expectations, dreams. The dialectic between past and future will continue to form our lives." - Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr., born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger

"In every age 'the good old days' were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them." -

"Each religion, by the help of more or less myth which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny." - George Santayana

"A myth is, of course, not a fairy story. It is the presentation of facts belonging to one category in the idioms appropriate to another. To explode a myth is accordingly not to deny the facts but to re-allocate them." - Gilbert Ryle

"Myth is a kind of lensing system for the mind of God. It carries the codings of existence." - Jean Houston

"The Problem - Myth might be defined simply as "other people's religion," to which an equivalent definition of religion would be "misunderstood mythology"... Like dreams, myths are productions of the human imagination. Their images, consequently, though derived from the material world and its supposed history, are, like dreams, revelations of the deepest hopes, desires and fears, potentialities and conflicts of the human will... Its narratives and images are to be read, therefore, not literally, but as metaphors." - Joseph Campbell

"The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual potentialities of every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke their powers in our lives." - Joseph Campbell

"There is primal truth in myth." - Joseph Campbell

"The goal of the myth is to… [affect] a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will." - Joseph Campbell

"Happiness is a myth we seek, if manifested surely irks; like river speeding to the plain, on its arrival slows and murks. For man is happy only in his aspiration to the heights; when he attains his goal, he cools and longs for other distant flights." - Kahlil Gibran

"There is a reality behind the world as it appears to us, possibly a man-layered reality, of which the appearances are the outermost layers. What the great scientist does is boldly to guess, daringly to conjecture, what these inner realities are like. This is akin to myth making... The boldness can be gauged by the distance between the world of appearance and the conjectured reality, the explanatory hypotheses." - Karl Popper, fully Sir Karl Raimund Popper

"Knowledge is not a series of self-consistent theories that converges toward an ideal view; it is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives, each single theory, each fairy tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing the others into greater articulation and all of them contributing, via this process of competition to the development of our consciousness." - Paul Feyerabend, fully Paul Karl Feyerabend

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge; that myth is more potent than history. I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts; that hope always triumphs over experience; that laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe love is stronger than death." - Robert Fulghum, fully Robert Lee Fulghum

"Doing a straight-forward, clear-cut task that has a beginning and an end balances out the complexity-without-end that often vexes the rest of my life. Sacred simplicity." - Robert Fulghum, fully Robert Lee Fulghum

"It reflects a prevailing myth that production technology is no more amenable to human judgment or social interests than the laws of thermodynamics, atomic structure or biological inheritance. " - Barry Commoner

"Truth myth concerns itself centrally with the onward adventure of the integral soul. " - D. H. Lawrence, fully David Herbert "D.H." Lawrence

"The environmental crisis can only be forestalled when there is a broad new cultural understanding of what it means to be human. Sources of this new understanding would be myth – New Story - a spiritually based on an understanding of nature as the primary revelation of the divine." -

"Religion often partakes of the myth of progress that shields us from the terrors of an uncertain future." - Frank Herbert, formally Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr.

"Propaganda tries to surround man by all possible routes in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on his will or on his needs, through his conscious and his unconscious, assailing him in both his private and his public life. It furnishes him with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides immediate incentives to action. We are here in the presence of an organized myth that tries to take hold of the entire person. Through the myth it creates, propaganda imposes a complete range of intuitive knowledge, susceptible of only one interpretation, unique and one-sided, and precluding any divergence. This myth becomes so powerful that it invades every arena of consciousness, leaving no faculty or motivation intact. It stimulates in the individual a feeling of exclusiveness, and produces a biased attitude." - Jacques Ellul

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic." - John F. Kennedy, fully John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

"Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed." - Joseph Campbell

"A myth doesn't have to be real to be true." - Joseph Campbell

"Life knows us not and we do not know life—-we don’t know even our own thoughts. Half the words we use have no meaning whatever and of the other half each man understands each word after the fashion of his own folly and conceit. Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of tomorrow." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski