Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Functions of Mythology

​"The first function of a mythology is to reconcile waking consciousness to the mysterium tremendum et fascinans of this universe as it is: the second being to render an interpretive total image of the same, as known to contemporary consciousness. Shakespeare's definition of the function of his art, "to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature," is thus equally a definition of mythology. It is the revelation to waking consciousness of the powers of its own sustaining source.

A third function, however, is the enforcement of a moral order: the shaping of the individual to the requirements of his geographically and historically conditioned social group, and here an actual break from nature may ensue, as for instance (extremely) in the case of a castrato. Circumcisions, subincisions, scarifications, tattoos, and so forth are socially ordered brands and croppings, to join the merely human body in membership to a larger, more enduring, cultural body, of which it is required to become an organ - the mind and feelings being imprinted simultaneously with a correlative mythology. And not nature, but society, is the alpha and omega of this lesson."

Page 4, 'Experience and Authority', from 'The Masks of God: Creative Mythology', by Joseph Campbell

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