In defense of myth

October 19, 2015

An excerpt from an OUPblog article published on Friday 16th October 2015, written by Robert A. Segal, Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, and author of Myth: A Very Short Introduction.

Myth: A Very Short Introduction

"Some theorists of myth, Joseph Campbell above all, consider myth a panacea for all human woes.  For him, every culture must have myth, and he attributes contemporary social problems, such as crime, to the absence of myth.  For him, there is no substitute.

Other theorists of myth, such as C. G. Jung and Mircea Eliade, maintain that myth is most helpful--for Jung in getting in touch with one’s unconscious, for Eliade in getting in touch with God.  But neither quite deems myth indispensable.  For Jung, dreams are an alternative to myth.  For Eliade, rituals are.

All theorists deem myth useful.  For some, myth is a very good way of fulfilling whatever need it arises and lasts to serve.  For others, myth is as good as any other way.  For a few, myth is the best way.  For Campbell, myth is the only way.  There are no theorists of myth for whom myth is useless, let alone harmful."

Discover more: Read the rest of the article on the OUPblog. 

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