book review - How the Human Mind Shapes Myth

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book review - How the Human Mind Shapes Myth


Post by gralan » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:35 pm

When They Severed Earth From Sky
How the Human Mind Shapes Myth
Elizabeth Wayland Barber & Paul T. Barber
(Princeton University Press; 2004)

Sept 2010; review notes by Greg Anderson

Believing that humans have had brains like ours for over 100,000 years in our Evolutionary development, the authors ponder on why these intelligent people made up myths that are ridiculuous to us. They conclude by many suppositions and evaluations, that the information we received from the ancients and not so ancient are in mythic form; they are time capsules of a sort.

These "time capsules" contain important information which is stored in narrative form of factual truth along with inferences made by those peoples and those who carried on the myths after they had experienced enough change the original purpose was forgotten.

Because we can look back at all the things which were misunderstood, as we determine, these people were transmitting truth in the format available. The development of time, based on 360, on 60, on the power of integers (1;2,3;4;5 and 12) developing worldwide into the same time keeping standards (360 days a year, 30-day lunar cycles, etc.) is seen as what happens with intelligent people sitting around without TV to confuse their minds(ch.16, pag 216.) With this the universe begins to assume orderliness.

How these things are remembered is by using exaggeration, vivid mental imagry, compression and mnemonics, current cultural values, rote learning, and throw in a healthy dose of Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (after this, therefore because of this) which basically means that since one event occurs soon after another event, the prior event is taken to have caused the latter. The corpse is in the kitchen, ergo the cook did it.

Due to our innate ability to think in a correct way (see paragraph one), even though we had faulty evidences unlike today with our modern Sciences, humans developed a Golden Age form of thinking about former important events, facts and peoples. This is due in part to what they term the Delilah effect, as in Delilah gets blamed for cutting Samsons hair in the "Bible myth"(sic) when it was actually cut by others. This is because the actions of the minor characters, restructured with retelling, are attributed to the major characters.

They conclude, along with their Enlightenment heroes, that the fallacy of affirming the consequent is evidence of the error all unenlightened humans are guilty of with regularity. So, as exampled in chapter 5 of their book, we look at inferences made with representative if P, then Q:

P- If dishes reside in cupboards Q. we can get dishes from cupboards
P- If clothes reside in closets Q. we can get clothes from closets
P- If X resides in Y Q. we can get X from Y

Now we have it expressed Q, then P:

Q. We can get fire from flint
P- Therefore fire resides in flint.'

They use as support of this the Pacific tribes who spoke of Coyote, Frog and Wood. Frog swallowed the last coal, and after being chased by evil spirits Frog spit the fire into Wood. Wood swallowed it. Coyote showed people how to bring fire out of the wood by rubbing two sticks together. "And so, to this day,Wood contains Fire, and Fire resides in Wood."

Unfortunately for the authors, this is exactly the kind of reasoning that unbelievers have to make because they are refuting the prime logical inference innately understood by every cognizant human being: God is, God created; We are, we are the created. Thus I will represent it as:

Q. Ancient worldwide mythology often bears trace elements of truth
P- Therefore past true information is mythic in form

The authors' write, '"myths" were not intended as fiction in our sense, but as carriers of important information about real events and observations.... contrary to prevailing belief today, this information can sometimes survive intact for thousands of years.' Our job then, they conclude, is that by understanding the impact of Silence, Compression, Restructuring, and other principles, we can decipher the contents of these "precious time capsules."

When I was talking this over with an unbelieving friend of mine, who thinks its nice I'm going to school about theology, she agreed that all our past is myth and that we remember it and add to it as we wish our past to be and to justify what we wish to be true about ourselves.

Point taken.

It is an interesting read, and one that allows us to get an insight into what the world Academics are up to and how they process information. This is of particular interest since this is the kind of stuff they teach in our public and private schools, colleges and Universities; seminaries too. If one is not careful, it is easy to get caught up in their worldly paradigm, which feeds our old nature. As Christians we need to be on guard to watch over the proclamation of the Church to ensure, with God's help, that the truth is readily exposed and expounded upon.

We know that the early church had maintained a cultural myth which demanded judaizing the gentiles, yet God made sure this point was opposed upfront by two methods: one through Peter's testimony, the other through Paul's testimony. They even had to settle this is a synod gathering in Jerusalem quite early in our history. It is an idea that has not died yet all these centuries since, and has been perpetuated even by "gentiles" who have other reasons for their actions. But in Christ we know that there is now made one new Man in Christ Jesus our Lord. We all come to and through Jesus, being drawn by the Father and returned to the Father's care for safekeeping while sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of our redemption.

We know this because it is what the Bible clearly teaches. This is not mythic, or analogizing from our doctrinal preferences into the form of the text of Scripture. Much of what separates us as believers could be dispelled with, if we dealt with how significantly the Church is impacted by the world's standards of thinking, judgment and evaluation.

IMO. but then - who am I, what do I know? 8-}2

1Pet1 - (NASB)
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. :amen:

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