About the Functions of Mythology

“Traditionally, the first function of a living mythology is to reconcile consciousness to the preconditions of its own experience; that is to say to the nature of life. Now, life lives on life. Its first law is, now I’ll eat you, now you eat me – quite something for the consciousness to assimilate. […] The impact of this horror on a sensitive consciousness is terrific – this monster which is life. Life is a horrendous presence, and you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that. […]

The second function of mythology is to present an image of the cosmos, an image of the universe round about, that will maintain and elicit this experience of awe. This function we may call the cosmological function. The question of truth doesn’t matter here. Nietzsche says that the worst point you can present to a person of faith is truth. Is it true? Who cares? In the sphere of mythological imagery, the point is, I like it this way; this is the source of my life. […]

The third function of a mythological order is to validate and maintain a certain sociological system: a shared set of rights and wrongs, proprieties or improprieties, on which your practical social unit depends for its existence. […]

Finally, the fourth function of mythology is psychological. The myth must carry the individual through the stages of his life, from birth through maturity through senility to death. The mythology must do so in accord with the social order of his group, the cosmos as understood by his group, and the monstrous mystery.”

Joseph Campbell – Pathways to Bliss

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