Shards of Consciousness

What is Your Mythology?

Recently Wired magazine published an interview with Richard Dawkins. This interview got me to thinking about mythology. Most, if not all, cultures and groups have a mythology. Usually this is expressed in religious terms. Usually it is used to refer to a religion in which you don't believe. Here you see the two basic meanings academics give to myths. They are usually religious stories that are considered to be false.

Mythology isn't just about religion. Mythology is about imbuing your world with meaning. To say a myth is true or false is to miss its import. At root, a myth is an central idea around which you organize your beliefs. Through your myth you explain the world, give meaning to it. Myths are created to answer the questions

  • Who am I?
  • How did the world come to be?
  • What am I to the world and what is the world to me?
  • What will become of me when I die?

Your mythology is the lens through which you view the world. Your mythology forms your core beliefs. As I said in As You Believe, beliefs are ideas to which you have an ego attachment. They may be true in an objective sense. They may not. Often they are totally alogical, unable to be proven one way or the other. They are the source of many minor beliefs, and most of our emotional reactions. A capitalist believes in the myth of freemarkets. A communist believes in the myth of cooperative ownership and mutually beneficial labor. A Christian believes in the myth of Jesus. A Hindu believes in the myth of Nirvana. A follower of Islam believes in the myth of Allah. A New Ager believes in the myth of the law of attraction. A democrat beliefs in the myth of majority rule. A royalist believes in the myth of monarchy. An atheist believes in the myth of materialism. This says nothing about the truth or falsity of the belief. It says everything about how our myths are the defining beliefs around which we structure our view of the world.

Your mythology can have a positive or negative influence on your life. If you've never thought about it, write yourself a description of how the world is. You can base it on the four questions listed earlier. Then look at this description. It contains your personal mythology. Ask yourself some questions. Does it help you to be successful, however you define success? Or does it lead you to self-defeat? Does it help you be happy? Or does it make you unhappy? Does it cause you to engage with life? Or does it make you feel cut off from life? Does it make you feel safe in the world? Or does it make you feel unsafe?

The answers to these questions points the way to the starting points for what you need to change in your mythology to improve your life. Work on one thing at a time to change your mythology. You don't have to consciously try to make big changes in what you do. Change your beliefs about what you do. Take small steps to change your behavior in tune with the beliefs you are trying to instill. In time, what you do may change in big ways, but even more importantly your experience of the world will change. It may not be an easy task, but it is necessary if you want there to be lasting improvement in your life. What else were you going to do with the rest of your life?

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12 Responses to What is Your Mythology?

  • Hi Rick,

    This is grand. The old design was ok; this one is elegant simplicity. Looks like I'm not the only one redecorating.

    Ah, yes, the myths we hold about ourselves can make or break us and it's good to examine them periodically to discard the breakers.


  • Hey Carolyn,

    Why, thank you. I've been working on it off and on for a while. I liked the old design better than my first one, but like I said in a comment at Successful Blog, it made me feel like a banker. It was too busy and heavy. Your work and Liz's got me to finally get off my tail and get this one finished. I'm hoping it will be more comfortable and easier to use. Besides, I like to putter.

    Gurdjieff used to say we have to wake up. Maybe thinking about world views as myths will help people do that.

  • So truth doesn't matter? Ignore it at your peril - one day it will catch up with you...

    PS Neitchze died insane.

  • Thanks for the implication, Jake.

    Seriously, what is the truth you are talking about? Is it a religious truth? Is it a truth about the best economic system? Is it a political truth? On any of these counts, you will find more people disagreeing than agreeing with you, no matter what you say.

    Is it about appropriate moral behavior? You'll get more agreement there, until you go outside your own tribe.

    Is it about how gravity works - the attraction of two masses, right. No, wait, the geometry of space - until we figure out something better. Even physics, that queen of the sciences, utilizes models limited in scope are duration, to be thrown out when something more useful comes along.

    Is it math? Some math has fortuitously been found useful in modeling how the physical and social worlds work. Does that make them true, or useful?

    So really, what truth do you mean?

  • Jake,

    I've been told you may have been paying me a compliment. If so, I'm sorry I took it the wrong way.

  • I wasn't trying to be insulting, I was just trying to figure out where you're coming from. Are you saying (i) "there's no such thing as truth"? (in which case my question would be "Is that true"? Or are you saying (ii) that whatever the truth is, our limited human minds will never discover it, so we might as well choose an empowering mythology rather than waste our time chasing after the wind?

    By the way, Neitchze had an interesting take on this question - (although he wasn't a big fan of truth) - he said that finding the truth is like winning a woman's love - she can't be forced, she must be seduced...

  • Thank you for responding, Jake.

    Your second option is the closest to my stance. My post from yesterday, How Do You Know?, actually covers this pretty thoroughly. My personal stance, based on reading, thought, and experience, is closest to a panentheistic one. Be still, and know that I am God has great meaning to me. But this is my interpretation of experience arrived at through thought. Whether it is ultimately true, neither I nor anyone else, has any way of knowing.

    I used the word mythology here as a shock tactic. The word has negative connotations for most people, and I wanted to shock them enough to step outside of their normal belief structures for a bit to look at them more objectively and see that just because they appear to work doesn't mean they are an ultimate truth, and that if the belief structures are disempowering, limiting, or destructive either personally or socially, they can be changed.

  • Sometimes I think all the major mysteries in life can be boiled down to a seemingly unreconcilable dichotomy. Truth is, I think, both absolute and subjective.

    I think the idea that we should abandon the search for truth because our limited minds couldn't comprehend it is rather depressing honestly.

    Most of the problems with truth-seeking is the fact that we attach our ego to it. Once we untether the link, we are a lot more flexible with our beliefs and it ceases to matter as much whether a particular truth is absolute or subjective as long as we know it is true and valid for this moment and it may change in the future. And ironically, this brings us closer to the absolute.

  • "Truth is, I think, both absolute and subjective."

    More "lunatic wisdom": Is the foregoing statement true objectively, subjectively, or both, or neither? Does it bring us closer to the Absolute, or to the Subjective? If the Absolute and the Subjective had a war, who would win? Is "2+2 = 4" true subjectively or objectively? Is the statement "God exists" true (or false) objectively or subjectively? Or does he exist at this particular moment (as long as I believe in him) and cease to exist the moment I stop believing in him? As long as I truly believe that 2+2=5, does it not matter if all my checks bounce?

  • Menuka,

    I hope I didn't give the impression that we should not try to understand ourselves or our world. I believe we should, but if I think I've found The Truth, I can be sure I've made a mistake.

  • A valuable source of information regarding how myths can be used to bring ourselves into accord with our universal human truths is Jospeh Campbell's contributions.
    The Joseph Campbell Foundation is a invaluable resourse available to join for FREE. I encourage any one desiring to learn more to purchase his books, video lecture through his foundation to keep his legacy alive.

    Thank you once again Rick for spreading the word.

  • Thank you for the link Danielle. I'll be looking into it. Joseph Campbell has interested me since I saw part of the series he did with Bill Moyers. I've also read Transformations of Myth Through Time, though I've neglected his other books.

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