Sunday, April 10, 2016

Real Deal #17: Why Mythos and Logos Exist Together in Every Society

"It’s not a matter of certainty, ever. I would make the argument that if there were a supernatural element that played a role in our everyday life in some noticeable way, it’s very, very likely we would have noticed it. It just seems weird that this kind of thing would be so crucial and yet so difficult to notice in any controlled scientific way. I would make the case that it is sufficiently unlikely in a fair Bayesian accounting that we don’t need to spend any time thinking about it anymore. Five hundred years ago it would have been a possibility. I think these days we’re ready to move on."
Space Collective:
Rene Descartes, living in an age when steam engines were novelty items, envisioned the brain as a pump that moved "animating fluid" through the body - head-shrinkers through the ages have tended to enlist the high-tech of their day to describe the human cognitive system - but the mind, Descartes argued, was something else entirely, an incorporeal entity that interacted with the body through the pineal gland.

While a few thinkers, most notably the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the 1940s, challenged Descartes' mind-body separation, it remained the dominant model up through the 20th century, though its form evolved with the times. After the development of the modern computer in the years after World War II, a new version of the same model was adopted, with the brain as a computer and the mind as the software that ran on it.

In the 1980s, however, a group of scholars began to contest this approach. Fueled in part by broad disappointment with artificial-intelligence research, they argued that human beings don't really process information the way computers do, by manipulating abstract symbols using formal rules. In 1995, a major biological discovery brought even more enthusiasm to the field. Scientists in Italy discovered "mirror neurons" that respond when we see someone else performing an action - or even when we hear an action described - as if we ourselves were performing the action. By simultaneously playing a role in both acting and thinking, mirror neurons suggested that the two might not be so separate after all.

"The spiritual/Mythos (subconscious/right brain) and the rational/Logos(conscious/left brain) exist together in every society but religious literalists and secular literalists do not see it that way. Religious literalists are theocratic absolutists who believe any worldview other than there own is heretical and evil while secular literalists' utopian vision is really a delusion of grandeur for their idealized socially-engineered social culture.

The religious literalists of Christianity, Talmudism, Islam, Transhumanism, Statists, Economists, Political Scientists and every other "pure" ideology do not want reason, critical thinking or intellectual pursuits to challenge their tradition; they demand blind faith and obedience to traditional interpretations of their sacred texts. Secular literalists claim to follow logic and reason and yet, economists for example, continue to worship at the altar of 'the invisible hand' which is a 'science of economics' myth."

Religious texts are not meant to be taken literally and largely deal with symbols, myths and metaphors. The people who wrote this texts came from a 'pre-modern' society. We tend to assume that people in the past were like us but in fact their spiritual lives were rather different.

In particular, they evolved around two ways of thinking, which scholars have called 'mythos' and 'logos'. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. The 'mythos' of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day to day lives. It was also rooted in what we would call the 'unconscious' mind.

The various mythological stories, which were not meant to be taken literally, were an ancient form of psychology. When people told stories about heroes who descended into the underworld, struggled through labyrinths, fought with monsters, they were bringing to light the regions of the subconscious realm, which is not accessible to purely rational investigation. Without a cult or mystical practice, the myths of religion would make no sense.

In the pre-modern world, people also had a different view of history from us. They were less concerned with what actually happened, but more concerned with the meaning of an event. Thus, we don't know what really occurred when the Israelites escaped from Egypt. The story has been written as a myth, and linked with other stories about rites of passage, immersion in the deep, and gods splitting a sea into two to create a new reality.

To ask whether the Exodus in Egypt took place exactly as recounted in the Bible or to demand scientific evidence to prove that it is factually true is to mistake the nature and purpose of this story. It is to confuse 'mythos' with 'logos'.

'Logos' was the rational, pragmatic and scientific thought that enabled men and women to function in this world. Unlike 'mythos', 'logos' must relate exactly to facts and correspond to external reality. 'Logos' is practical and logical. Myth was not reasonable.

You cannot make 'mythos' the basis of a pragmatic policy. If you did, the results would be disastrous. When, for example, Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade (1095), his plan belonged to the realm of 'logos'.

He wanted the knights of Europe to stop fighting one another, and to expend their energies in a war in the Middle East and so extend the power of the Church. But when this expedition became entangled in biblical lore, and apocalyptic fantasies, the results were catastrophic, militarily and morally.

But 'logos' has its limitations too. Scientific arguments can make no sense of tragedy. 'Logos' cannot answer questions about the ultimate value of human life. A scientist could discover new facts about the physical universe, but he cannot explain the meaning of life. That is the preserve of 'mythos'.

However, all religions contain truths and errors. By asking a government to enforce religion on its subjects, this denies the latter their basic religious freedom. It is the surest way to corrupt both religion and to arrest the spiritual growth of the people. No religion has a monopoly on spirituality.

This is because spirituality is not about how often you pray, fast and visit your mosque, church, synagogue or temple. It is about serving your fellow man and living by the virtues of humility, benevolence, tolerance and universal love. And all faiths, be they either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim fail this crucial test if they become theologies of rage and hatred.

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