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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mythic Thinking


From The New Oxonian:

The Passion of the Christ-Deniers

he recent uptick of interest in the historical Jesus is fueled partly by a new interest in a movement that was laid to rest about seventy years ago, but has received a new lease of life  from a clutch of historical Jesus-deniers.  The rallying point for the group is a site maintained by a blogger by the name of Neil Godfrey, an Australian university librarian who, like many others who have assumed the position, comes from a conservative Christian background.

In the broadest terms, the movement feeds and thrives on the thesis that Jesus of Nazareth never really existed.  There are various permutations of that basic position: (a) That he was concocted lock, stock and cross by a second century religious movement that (also) produced the documents of New Testament; (2) He is a composite of semi-historical characters, but no one in particular; (c) He is the reworking of an assortment of ancient dying and rising god myths, a little from here, a little from there...


I am spending a good deal of time reading this article.
What I find very interesting here is the quaint notion of certain people that a "reworking of an assortment of ancient dying and rising god myths..." is somehow less important than physical objects or archaeological remains ( not many of which come with clearly marked and indexed labels, by the way.)

The author of this article is writing a book about the new Christ Deniers, or Trivializers, and I look forward to it.

I am intensely interested in how myths are treated by many people as writings on paper, later cut up and re-arranged on a new palimpsest.

Is myth fantasy? And does it stand against reality?

In reality, we may all see the large pine tree in front of our eyes.
Some of us may see it as part of the ecological progression of a sandy area, envisaging ancient seas and beaches and dunes, and thinking how the areas change over time; imaging the Pinery in Grand Bend, Ontario, perhaps.
Others may imagine a bear hiding behind the tree. Some may think of resins and amber. Some may think of timber and the cedars of Lebanon. Some may not see the forest just behind, being fixated on the one pine tree in the forefront, bending in the wind.

Not one aspect of Reality exists without a Story  into which we, as intelligent beings, place it.

Reality has infinite detail. We cannot process infinite detail. We substitute the extended or truncated narrative to accept the matter of reality into our overall understanding.

Fantasy and myth (and stereotypes, for that matter) are Story standing behind and supporting our view of reality; they often obey the non-linguistic logic of the icon, the image, and the song.

(And what are racial stereotypes but a desire to replace Reality with Narrative? We find reality is complex, and the old stereotypes work even now so well.)

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