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What is the purpose of mythology? Show more Show less
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From the Greek pantheon to the Roman Dii Consentes to the Nordic gods and goddesses, mythology has played a major role in human culture for centuries. Evidently, the stories these people told shaped their societies, worldviews, and day-to-day lives, but why did they tell them in the first place?

Mythology manifests humanity's subconscious Show more Show less

Myths serve as gateways to the hopes, fears, and desires locked within the human psyche.
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Myths are the dreams of a culture

Just as a person's dreams may indicate latent leanings in their subconscious, myths may do the same on a massive cultural level.

The Argument

According to infamous psychoanalyst Carl Jung, our dreams serve as the gateway to our subconscious minds, giving us access to the hopes, fears, and desires we didn’t even know we had. Heavily influenced by the teachings of Sigmund Freud, Jung took his ideas one step further by suggesting that myths are like depersonalized dreams that reflect the collective psyche of all of mankind. Thus, myths are not necessarily specific to a certain time, place, or culture. Rather, various mythologies throughout the world show striking similarities, indicating that the stories we tell run far deeper than mere explanations or metaphors. They are, instead, poignant reflections of the human condition as a whole. Perhaps the most famous example of this effect can be found in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. This academic spent years studying ancient mythological texts from around the world and throughout history and was shocked to find that a single storyline (with, of course, minor alterations) could be found in most of them. A hero would be called to adventure, and with the help of a spiritual guide, depart from the ordinary world, into an alternate reality where he would experience challenges, temptations, and ultimately, discover his true character, returning to his normal life a changed man. In the simplest terms, this common mythical outline describes the challenges every person faces as they grow up and come to terms with who they really are, facing difficulties and roadblocks on the way to self-discovery. Subconsciously, creators of myths, regardless of time and place, have echoed this same story over and over. Clearly, this is no coincidence. It indicates the extent to which mythology mirrors our internal lives.

Counter arguments

While this interpretation may be true for some myths, it is a stretch to apply it to all myths, especially the ones that seem inexorably linked to the culture and context in which they were produced, like creation myths. Moreover, it is fallacious to place too much trust in the works of Jung, whose close ties with Freud have discredited him to a large amount of the academic community.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

This page was last edited on Friday, 14 Aug 2020 at 02:14 UTC