Mythical Symbols and Religion

Matthatter and I have been discussing mythology on the free will and determinism thread and I thought that, in fairness to Tengo Nada who started that thread, it would be more appropriate to continue the discussion on a thread explicitly focused on mythology.

Now I recognize that mythology is a huge topic so I considered if we should narrow it down somewhat. For example, even if we focused on the role of mythology in biblical religion, it would still be an enormously broad subject. If we narrowed the discussion to Christian mythology, it would still be a huge area. It would also pick up interest because of controversy among Christians about whether or not the Bible may be legitimately considered myth or not.

Let me clarify that we are not referring to myth in the pejorative sense as merely fiction. At the same time, the way I understand it, before the rise of modern science, there was less conflict between science and mythology. The two fields were not clearly differentiated as such. Science and theology were overlapping subcategories of philosophy. Today that is not the case. But what I would like to consider, is the possibility that although the factual basis of a myth may be doubtful to the point of absurdity, the myth may still be meaningful. It may still convey wisdom which is relevant to us today.

So, recognizing that threads here often take off on a direction of their own despite the expressed intentions of the opening post, I have decided to keep the topic wide open. It’s fine with me if we focus on mythology in Christianity, or comparison of Eastern and Western mythologies, or the relation between myth and ritual, or myth and dreams. There is also the question whether we are creating new myths that function for us in any way similar to the ways myths functioned for primative humans. There are these and many more issues we could discuss including some I’m sure I haven’t anticipated.

As it happens Matt and I were discussing the serpent archetype which is ubiquitous in ancient mythology. One aspect of that topic that interests me, is how in ancient mythology, going back to Paleolithic times, the animal is seen as a manifestation through which a god or spirit being is manifest. So tribal people believed by killing the animal they were releasing the spirit being to return to the spirit world. Campbell calls this the “willing victim theme”. The talking serpent in the Eden story appears to illustrate some of the characteristics of that kind of spirit-being. Yet, in the Eden story, the serpent is cursed but not killed. Why is that?

We could say then that the animal is an incarnation of the spirit-god. In the willing victim myth, the animal then becomes a voluntary sacrifice that is killed and eaten. Could the post-Easter understanding of Jesus of Nazareth’s incarnation and crucifixion as a willing sacrifice be a development of this mythic process?

I like mythology, and I like it for far more than just its entertainment value. Still, I think there is a danger of becoming literal in its interpretation, even for those who insist on its non-literal value. There is the temptation to insist on universal meanings for instance, or that “this means this”.

I’m no expert, but I would want to link the serpent in Eden to prior creation myths such as the Enuma Elish, where there is a dragon god named Tiamat.

I think Tiamat represents chaos, and is eventually slain by some other god who represents order (Marduk I think?). So indeed, you point out a good point: Why is the serpent only cursed by God instead of slain as in prior mythologies?

Perhaps the Bible recognizes that chaos cannot be done away with. It’ll always sneak in through the cracks like a snake…

Hi Felix,

from 2004 (yes, it is a long time ago) onwards I posted quite a lot about Myth, much of it inspired by people like Karen Armstrong: http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=140406&p=1596063&hilit=Myth,+Mythos#p1596063

What she had to say then is still pertinent:

Shalom (for now … :wink:

This is an important issue to discuss. I began to discuss it on the free will and determinism when I referred to what C.G.Jung called “the objective psyche”. Do archetypes seem to generate multiple valid interpretations? That seems likely. But how? Are all interpretations equally valid? That doesn’t seem to be possible. To me some interpretations are better than others. But why? Is there any criterion we can agree on for judging interpretations? I expect these issues would be threaded through any serious discussion of mythology. Hopefully we can make some headway toward answering them here.

Wasn’t Tiamat a serpent with whom Marduk battled? Wasn’t that a kind of Great Flood myth? How could we decide if Eden’s serpent alludes to Tiamet or if both images refer to some third symbol or unrelated primary process material {e.g. dreams or visions} in the minds of the authors?

I recently read Armstrong’s “Battle for God” from which your quotation comes. I found her book quite illumnating regarding the devlopment of scientific rationalism, its effect on traditional thinking and the reaction of fundamentalism. It is a book that offers much to keep in mind when discussing how to interpret mytholgy.

Hi Felix,

I believe that the serpent is a symbol of grace and elegance in form, which has fallen from grace. The word “arum” (cunning) is a passive participle of the word “aram” which means bare, the connection could lead to the fact that cunning leads to bareness, as the awareness that they are naked comes to Adam and Eve after eating the fruit.

Listen to the terminology used:
“the serpent was cunning above every animal of the field”
“the serpent said to the woman, Dying you shall not die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it, even your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”
“the woman said, The serpent led me astray, and I ate”
“God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all beasts, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Shalom

I’m at work, and don’t have much lunch time left before I clock back in, but I just wanted to make a point (as a defense of my theory, in the free will and determinism thread, that a snake could actually, at its root, refer to the threat the mind experiences due to an inability to predict something’s possible behaviors/results):

But cunning, of course, refers to one’s potential to efficiently take action that is unexpected.

I interpret that quote as meaning the snake, a moving object with a body so different from man’s (and thus, difficult to sympathize with), is sensed as the most unpredictable animal; by “taking the advice of the snake” man roots his experience of reality according to the “voice” of (threatening) unpredictability urging him to (in order to escape this experience and avoid it in the future) label it “Evil”, and things that avoid it “Good”, and begin categorizing objects seemingly causing or associated with “Evil” as “Evil”.

How could this be a universal archetype, though? How could many separate cultures have independently came to this basic, fundamental association of (the image of) the snake with psychological unease/threat and the root of man’s curse (out of Eden).

Perhaps the answer lies in how body communication (for example, cries that express an immediate, currently present natural state/process) evolved to (symbol-using abstract) language. First the mind would be able to experience a memory of an unpresent(ly physical immediate) object, and understand it is what it “should” have (it’s what the body tells him it should have). The body, maybe even unconsciously, would express a combination of how the object was perceived, as well as where the body calculates the object to me (the head points towards a certain direction while grinding its teeth, or the arm makes a steady forward movement like a river, in the direction of a river). What is happening is the body is expressing the subjective recall/interpretation of a memory. I have to go now (have to get back to work), but does anyone have any ideas on how an early subjective experience of/expressions of the snake coul have been transferred into symbolic language (preserving a fundamental association with mental threat/unease)?

Hi MH,

In the biblical sense, the serpent is sleek, slick and smooth, or crafty and delicate. Jesus too speaks of serpents in this way, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” and shows that the idea of serpents being wicked, even though the serpent is said to have led Eve astray, isn’t biblical.

What the Bible does say is “you are cursed above all beasts, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” explaining the hostility that does exist between mothers and serpents, because of the dangers for their children posed by poisonous snakes.

But I think that the symbolic nature lies in language, where the attribute of the snake, cunning (“arum”) is associated with being exposed (“aram”) and therefore necessarily shrewd. This leads to it being an open question which Eve is susceptible to, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food … it was pleasant to the eyes … and desirable to make wise.” The “sin” here lies in believing that God would intentionally withhold something good, causing the loss of innocence and in the end the loss of paradise.

I don’t believe that the story is telling us any more than why human beings lost paradise – and how to get back. Not that paradise is the same as it was, since we are different, but we have to change to get back. It does question much of what we have accepted as being wisdom, which in many cases is our ego which is looking after number one. In this way, the serpent in the analogy could also symbolise our ego, which seems to believe that we are permanently under attack, and that we must seek out what is being withheld from us.

The Ego is necessary for survival, so we can’t completely lose it – although Luther spoke about drowning the “old Adam” daily. But it is enough to suppress the ego, not allowing it to rule our character or becoming “puffed up” and overbearing. That could explain why the serpent isn’t killed in the analogy, but rather cursed.

Shalom

Nice point. But I didn’t really intend to cast the snake as evil, but as the drive that led to the concept of “evil”. I am saying that the snake, at its basic level, represents an uneasiness that things are unpredictable in the sense that current objects may results in mental agony; that things/plans/further understanding of cause/effect (and resulting strategies of action) need to be taken care of (for the future security of “good” experiences).

So in that quote I think Jesus is saying something like “It’s a dangerous world out there–there are people who don’t experience, think and value what you do (they don’t exercise the golden rule), so you have be on your guard, you have to have a social sensitivity that you have to make an effort to understand another’s mindset, you can’t assume you know how things are going to pan out.”

It seems like a bit of a contradiction, according to my terms… but that’s due to equating the “snake” mindset/subjective feeling/drive with the error of grounding/planting/rooting one’s context of reality on the (absolute/objective) existence of “good” and “evil” (which always come back to trying to avoid certain kinds of subjective experiences, IE “good” and “evil” only exist as myths in the symbol-using mind).

The mindset of the snake is pretty much unavoidable… it’s directing Eve to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wasn’t its preference, it was just what eve “consumed” as the snake urged her further understand what her surroundings things “are” and what effect they can/will have on her.

I’m not so sure the ego is necessary for survival, though… but it depends on cultural upbringing. I certainly think it would be stupid to not describe a “person” according to some name, simply because certain (seemingly static) body’s/minds have a greater potential to perform certain tasks, and those minds have access to data acquired by (a mind arising from a body that, though not every the same as another, filters environmental data in a similar enough fashion to make it productive to just call them) their (individual, static) minds.

I also think doing this would of course result in one associating with this name (and “its” common tendencies, talents, weaknesses, etc), and to a certain extent, one would, from time to time, interpret data according to a kind of faith in the absoluteness of that name/identity, but I think a culture, at some point, could upbring children in such a way that they don’t interpret “their own” and others behavior in light of their own self-concept, which results in a lack of productivity (both current and the chance of future well-being) as one tries desperately to affirm the “self” is good, sabotaging the possibility of fulfillment/“oneness” with the moment time and time again. I think a culture like this could actually treat their “social selves” as ongoing works of art, and have a lot of fun with them. I can see the (comparative) change, and current inspiration/being of a friend at a certain moment by his deliberate emphases on certain behaviors. All communication could still serve a productive purpose, but minds could be having fun with the egos at the same time, rather than taking them as true expressions of what the mind is (capable of).

You may still call this an ego, but for me the “ego” would not be what I was talking about (seeing the word according to a context that that temporary subjective illusions are actually objectively/absolutely real, valid and right or wrong).

Here’s a brief summary of Biblical serpent symbolism for consideration:

Source: jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007 … olism.html

The ambiguity of the serpent as a Biblical symbol can be seen in the fact that the serpent not only kills but heals. The healing aspect of the serpent symbol is picked up and applied to Christ in John 3:14-15.

I suppose the issue is whether mythology offers some sort of guidance in and of itself. I think it doesn’t. You don’t listen to or read mythology and find guidance in some sort of objective way. Isn’t it more a sounding board in some sense? The question always remains - how to interpret it. One of my growing philosophical interests is the psychology of various beliefs - for instance that materialistic monism is so often a form of extreme dualism in the psychological sense, or that religions are so often a tool for the propogation of arrogance and even hatred. I think much of the power of myth (not a reference to Moyers or Campbell) comes from its mysterious ability to awaken us to schisms such as those. Myth speaks to us on a pre- or extra-rational level, and that level of communication is a vital aspect of our humanity. But obviously if we begin to live our life in a non-rational manner – if we ignore rational thought, then we have simply reverted to some sort of “animal” nature, or at worst become monsters in the process.

Hi MH,

Yes, I can agree with that generally, although I am always careful not to let the story become true in a literal sense. I too believe that the aspects of life you have mentioned have been worked into the story

Yes, generally: “You are vulnerable in this world, so you will have to be as shrewd as the serpent whilst retaining a basic pureness of heart.” I find it interesting that Jesus tells his people to be harmless – something I heard in Buddhist talks a while ago.

Whilst you are right, we are symbolic minds and we can fathom things better and faster reading good symbolism whereas we need far longer using linear language. Look at the sentence above and its complication, our thoughts are like that sometimes too – no wonder we become befuddled.

I think that the temptation was intended as the point of conflict and that it was never “innocent”. But whether Eve was learning from the serpent’s shrewdness, or whether she was tempted by the idea of forbidden fruit, something erotic caught her eye and it was what led her astray.

It was always something that I had experienced in myself and amongst my associates, but it was never as strong as when I began to meditate and I heard Buddhists talking about temptation and mindfulness. The ego is something real and I believe that it does have its area of relevance in the survival instinct. It arises often as the voice that says, “did God really say …” or as the judgemental opinion, the ever self-caring side of our personalities, ensuring that we are never short-changed.

OK, I can follow where you are going, but I think that the ego is generally out of order and distracting us from the work of art that surrounds us. Rather than gaping at our ego and “having fun” with it, if you were able to suppress that drive and become mindful, I believe and have experienced the reality of everyday life to be seen with a new awareness. In the language of the analogy, it would mean that Adam and Eve should play with the snake and let themselves be tempted – becoming oblivious of anything else, until perhaps they find that they are no longer in the garden. In the story, they suddenly become aware that they are bare – like the serpent, and reliant upon their cunning to save the situation. It is this realisation that strikes people in puberty and along comes morality (good and evil). I think it is important to understand how important our socialisation is at this point.

Shalom

anon–
I think you have hit on a significant characteristic of myth. It is pre-rational. I think much of it is based on visual imagery. So no linear rational interpretation is going to completely capture every nuance of meaning. The power of myths is such that it calls for participation. That is the function of ritual. Or is it the other way around? People find themselves acting out rituals and invent myths: narratives invented to explain why they are doing what they are doing. Perhaps myths and rituals are two aspects of the same unconscious instinct. Rituals dominate in life transitional events like coming of age, marriage, war etc. Maybe the function of myths is primarily liturgical.

Yes, I like that. I might have more to say about it later if I find time.

Now that my weekend has began I am happy I can contribute more to this thread (thanks for making it, Felix, and nice OP).

I will like to address some of the questions and points Felix makes in the OP, but first I will continue the discussion that’s began with Bob and I, and then I want to reply to some of the things Anon noted (which I think are important).

Shalom, Bob. Thanks for your replies. I think for the most part you and I are generally agree on a lot of these things; I think we mostly have some different associations with certain words and symbols.

Yes, I think it is an important point.

As I mentioned, I think (the voice/feeling/need for predictability) of the snake is unavoidable (not to say every experience is the voice of the snake, but it is “program”/“function” that the Homo Sapien “computer” runs often… I guess I could compare it to that anti virus software that is always running in the background, even if I only notice it when it alerts me to a potential risk.

But perhaps it is this “be harmless” that is the answer? To be harmless is A) to realize harming another can result in harm to you and/or B) to realize that you are driven to think and act in order to avoid “bad” experiences (suffering), and that that is the case for others as well–so that, in a sense, the act of behaving in such a way that is reckless to another’s drive (mythological “purpose”) to avoid “bad” experiences is contrary to the very “purpose” of one’s existence; to truly seek to avoid “bad” subjective experiences (which is the cause, or “God”, of all conscious action), one must not only define the bad according to one’s own subjective experience, but all subjective experiences. IE The golden rule exists to maintain predictability (that one is safe); an overall accordance to the “social contract” is necessary for peace of mind; to not strive to avoid harming others (to a point one naturally chooses behaviors taking that into account) is itself willfully “downloading” a reality that “contains viruses dangerous to your system’s protection”.

In a simpler sense, the snake will result in labeling other people in opposition to one’s own self/mind/observing (and oftentimes with strong negative associations) unless this is neutralized by defining them according to a label that A) equally applies to everyone and B) is (the cause/“purpose”) everyone. As a result, (the mind experience/interprets that) everyone is, above all other impressions of differentiation, (the same thing that is) one’s mind. This is not only accurate in the sense of minds having, in essence, the same basic motivations, but also because the objects in one’s mind (though constructed from information outside of it), and any defining opinions of them, are the mind at that moment. I define “mind” as an arising subjective experience; the mind is that (whole) experience (and it never exists beyond that, except as a transaction referring to general mindness).

I definitely agree that symbolic language is an incredible tool, and has enormous potential. It would be ludicrous to choose to let it go. My point is that… well, I’ll an analogy:

-An intelligent ape starts finding similarities between objects he sees and objects he’s seen in the past. One day he is swinging from branch to branch, and then he notices a small branch ahead of him. He sees it is small, and his body begins to lock up (naturally “calculating” its size as inefficient to support his weight), but he doesn’t like the feeling of stopping his momentum with a jolt (and having to hang there and make a big effort to struggle inch my inch to sit safely on the tree, and then having to carefully climb down) but he convinced himself that it is a branch/“thing for swinging”, like any other, and so he grabs it, it breaks, and he falls to the ground. He tries to land on all four, and ends up breaking his thumbs.

He goes to a doctor (I’m not claiming this is a realistic analogy :stuck_out_tongue: ) who takes an X-ray of the ape’s broken thumbs. The doctor points to the break in the X-ray, while pointing to the ape’s thumb joints, and lightly squeezing them. The Ape hits the doctor, then screams due to the jolt of pain resulting from his broken thumb, and runs away with the X-Ray. But then, looking at the X-Ray and his hand, the ape “understands” that what he is looking at “is” the reason for the pain. So he starts trying to fold the X-rays in such a way that the thumb properly connects to the hand. As he does this, he experiences horrendous pain, which urges him to make more of an effort–he tears the picture so he is better able to properly connect the thumb to the hand. His pain gets more and more intense, and he goes to such lengths as tearing the the X-Ray so he has just the hand and the thumb, and begins placing them over objects his hands regular use–wrapping them around branches, fruits, etc. It seems obvious, but he isn’t thinking clearly; from the very beginning he equated his source of pain with the image, and as he got more and more desperate to avoid the pain, he got more and more focused on the problem and answer lying in the picture.

Eventually, he’s going to divide the picture into smaller and smaller sections, trying to rearrange those, and finally they’re going to be turn into dust, and he’s not going to know what the hell he is looking at; he doesn’t know what is what anymore. Finally he’ll feel pain, and look at his hand, and realize the pain comes from what’s been in him the whole time, and then he’ll let his body heal.

He’ll get injured again, but then he’ll make an active attempt to let himself heal (now able to use his intelligence and symbolic ability constructively to minimize situations where he’ll have to use his hands).

I think we are referring to “ego” a little differently. When I referred to ego I meant something that includes your (definition of) ego, but it is personalized (the otherwise neutral observer associated with meditation is lost in the intoxication of the mind’s “reality”–believing it be the reality). I will meditate and experience ego (self-concept-based thoughts) after ego after ego, but I wouldn’t say (according to my terms) that there is an ego (in my subjective experience of viewing these arising self-based thoughts), because during the meditation I let them dissipate without giving them any credence; my mind (or, should I say, the mind immediately arising as a result of these stimuli) experiences their fading them, not identifying with them in the least (for they were merely temporary illusory thoughts not worth attending to in that context).

I feel you misunderstand what I meant. By “having fun” I don’t mean being careless or reckless, or not being sensitive to the idea that certain actions can have consequences, the idea is that A) people can’t help but think of another mind as that body from which they interpret the mind–to associate and experience a current mind through the movements of that body and B) to consciously “play” with the body’s potential as an expression of mindfulness–the idea is that in this culture everyone knows that, though they see a body (let’s say which results to mind “B” arising) associated with the name “Bob” and automatically feel it [b]is /b body (and the same mind), the same “person” they have communicated with before, their mind is programmed to know that is not the case; though that mind (mind B) will likely have access to a memory of first person experience of communicating with “them”, they have never truly interacted with that body (though it fits the general label “Bob”), and have seen the expressions of that mind (B) before, because neither ever existed until that (and only that) moment.

So, they are being mindful, for all their “playing” is, in every mind, an expression of a mind that knows it is merely arising, only existing for that moment (to never be again).

Every mind acts according to the idea that this harmony and fun, this appreciation and praise of the ability to creatively express is only possible if the mind is secure the body’s well-being (from which mental well-being is dependent) is secure for the foreseeable future (that “everything that can be done is being taken care of”), so of course the body does “tends to the garden” in such a way to ensure “everything that can be done is being taken care of”, and as they do this (as well as when they let the body rest) they joyously express their security by “sculpting” their body’s form (and action) according to the unique, one-of-a-kind inspiration that is every mind.

Hi MH,

It could be my non-conventional and multi-sourced approach to religion that causes problems.

Oh yes, the serpent (in us?) is necessary, just out of control. If your computer would slow down or even stop functioning because your antivirus software was running (like in “the good old days”), you would want to find some way to let it run in the background without disturbing the real reason you use a computer. The same is with human-beings in as much as we have a number of abilities and functions that are hampered by the antivirus, which is always up front.

Yes, I like the way you have described it. The “social contract” idea is in effect a golden rule and expects us to mutually avoid being harmful to others. What I call ego or the serpent cries out, “Are you crazy! You can’t trust those people! Did they say that they would adhere to the golden rule? Didn’t you see the way he looked at you when he said it?” This is the situation described in the primordial setting of Eden, but it is our actual situation described in a non-scientific way.

These thoughts never leave us alone and restrict us to a linear thinking pattern, although we are able to experience in a multi-linear way, if we can silence our thoughts. This is something that I found in Christianity to have taken over the idea of prayer, which was restricted to speaking (linear thinking). The moment you start listening, those thoughts arise and dominate. If you can just let them pass, without reacting to them they disturb you less and you can experience more than just hearing – the present moment emerges and all senses, except sight, start to tingle.

I had an experience as a child when I was with my father in Malaysia. We sat on a rock face overlooking the jungle and he told me to listen for a while. It took about five minutes and I was a little impatient, but suddenly it happened, the panorama before me suddenly became alive with sound. Quadraphonic was nothing compared to this. When I was in Sri Lanka with my wife, I asked her to do the same at the ruins of the Citadel of Sigiriya, on a 200 meter lump of granite that rises starkly above the flat central plains. After a patient wait the jungle burst into life for her as well. These are just small examples of what abilities and functions we loose in modern society, when ego is dominant.

OK, I am also inspired by the Dhammapada which starts,
“All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering flows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never departing shadow.”

Hmm, is that ape insured? :wink:

I think you have described the learning process adequately, and the analogy of Eden does too, since first of all Adam blames Eve for his insecurity and ignoring the warning of God, effectively saying that she was a problem that God is responsible for. But in the end he has to understand that his problem is genetic – since his first born, Cain, kills Abel and becomes taunted and condemned by the “knowledge of good and evil” that seemed so desirable to Eve, making him a vagabond living in the land of Nod (vagrancy), east of Eden where cities and vengeance became the norm. As a result, in opposition, it is said that the lineage of Seth made a beginning preaching in the name of JHVH.

Agreed, when you react to this state of mind. Unfortunately, the great majority doesn’t even know that there is an alternative to their “temporary illusory thoughts” and the call to “fear not” is something that they only associate with external dangers. Most people try to ignore their anxiety by distraction and preoccupation, but it doesn’t free them, but overpowers them, they enter a state of denial and suffering starts.

OK, I believe I’ve got it. People associate their interpretation of a mind with the visible body, but the mind isn’t necessarily the same, even though the body seems to be, because the mind of now is different to the mind of yesterday (or the mind of this morning in comparison to the mind of this afternoon). I think, however, that we have to expect some continuity in order to be interactive, or in my case to develop some therapeutic method to help a resident in their present condition. Essentially you are right, but general interactive experience tends to be less sophisticated.

Yes, I follow you, though I experience the interdependence of psyche and soma (mind and body) which produces psychosomatic illnesses or organically caused psychological disorders as well as organic well-being as a result of psychological soundness and vice versa. I doubt though, looking at the rise of mindfulness based therapy, that many people are really aware of their own potential in this area. Although I would recommend a more playful approach, I think that the state of denial in which we often exist prevents that.

Have a good weekend!

Shalom

Some responses to Felix’s OP for now:

I sort of agree with what I boldfaced, though I am not sure I do in the sense you meant it. I base their connection (the similarity between their belief that an animal’s spirit exists after death and the snake being the voice that instructed Eve to eat the fruit) lies in an experience of the mind (to be more specific, an experience that is so unusual it includes consciousness of the experience itself).

When growing up, children learn that their elders are an authority of how the world is, and what should be done. Also, they learn that the explanations of the world were passed down from ancestors (who were the authority figures of current authority figures). They were probably told myth stories about their tribe first being founded by the great ancestors, who (probably due to speaking with some god and/or being formed by some god) who understood what life was, and how to survive and master it (how to tend the garden in order to keep oneself alive). So then, when the mind is in a very unusual situation (which results in very unusual thinking), usually in combination with the intensity and seemingly “body know-how/instinctive understanding” of the fight or flight reflex (I assume), the mind, once calming down and going back to its usual “self” (after being back in a familiar situation) recalls the drastically different subjective experience, the feeling that thoughts (which felt distinctive from one’s own) were telling it to do this or that with absolute authority. Those thoughts didn’t contain any rational explanation, they weren’t logical; they were just stating the thing to do, and the mind felt they were right. These thoughts are then attributed to the ancestors, and result in the belief in a “soul” that continues to exist once the body dies.

The snake, I have been thinking, refers to the subjective sense that something (relating to avoiding the potential danger of those object) needs to be done (to prevent that danger), but that something is not known (and thus, one has to “decide” not only how to avoid that potential danger, but how to decide how to avoid that danger).

Preface: What I am going to write is not a claim that the New Testament Jesus myth is nothing but a recycled myth, nor that any of the books (as intended or any interpretations of them) didn’t result in original and unique myths and teachings.

Lately I’ve been viewing the story of Jesus in light of the Greek tragedy.

As I see it, the Greek tragedy served the purpose (whether made with this conscious intention) of a kind of catharsis for it’s viewers.

In the tragedy, an individual, usually a person of high standing, of significance, such as a general, a king or some hero… usually someone associated with God; a King given authority by God, a hero who is part God, a general attempting to serve the will of God, etc. The idea is to establish, from the beginning, that this is a significant character who is making an earnest effort to do the right thing, for the good of God and/or one’s family/culture/etc (as I will mention, “God” pretty much is synonymous with the “right” purpose/way of acting/way of light so, usually, it serves as an affirmation of the current culture/structure of society, in order to minimize cognitive dissonance when living according to its values/norms/roles/etc).

Yet, despite the character’s “pure” intentions, and overall goodness, he suffers a tremendous misfortune. Throughout the tragedy, he remains true to his purpose, to his purity and goodness, though doing so results in such suffering. The character and the story is, in essence, a representation of every person’s frustration in attempting to do what is right, to be a good person, yet still being plagued by doubt, overcome with anger and depression, having to swallow one’s tongue as another of a higher standing wrongly insults them, having to force one’s mind to tasks and jobs and roles that the mind avoids; the tragedy is the story of a person who, for the greater good of societal peace (and thus, personal ease of mind/predictability/stability), chooses to act according to culturally-ordained good (this includes “God’s will”), even if doing so feels wrong, and even if others fail to do so, to one’s one detriment.

By sympathizing with the hero, one attaches their will, their soul, their suffering, with him, and they can purge their bottled-up emotions and release and cleanse themselves from sin by being expressing emotion and focus (on certain feelings) in a socially-appropriate settings. Viewing the tragedy, and “knowing” everyone else viewing it is experiencing similar “cleansing” and affirmation, provides the confused “soul” with a much-needed validation of their social and cultural-conscience, as all doubts (sins) dissipate with the projection of one’s own existence on that of the most significance and elevated of all human beings.

Jesus is the son of God–the follower of his father’s (can be seen as both familial and cultural authority) will/righteousness, and in order to uphold the right will, he suffers and is crucified. However, though it takes time for the mind to overcome the affect of such brutal wrongdoing (when you wish others no harm and act out of respect and understanding of their suffering), one can say a couple of days… or three, remaining true and unwavering to your understanding of righteousness, you rise again, your will further affirmed, your thoughts and actions (by the golden rule) more powerful than ever.

I recall reading that the Greek Tragedy likely evolved from tribes that ecstatically danced whilst intoxicated (where they became/worshiped Dionysus). I can understand how breaking down the barriers of “Apollo”/(culturally-ordained reason/logic) by altering brain chemistry would then allow one to "drop their guard’ and then dance away all the bottled up anxiety and frustration. Perhaps this wasn’t as practical in a more complex society with more specific roles and rules to follow… they settled on a tragic performance that affirmed cultural-acceptance throughout the production, instead.

Anyways, it’s important to note the similarities between Dionysus and Jesus. They were both born from a virgin, and Dionysus was also crucified and rose from the dead in the spring.

I think the rebirth in Spring (first Sunday after full moon after vernal equinox) refers to nature once again flourishing according to its “rules” of life (even after suffering through winter), Sunday has the whole “God rested” thing… I suppose with the rebirth one is assured of the righteousness with which they act… the full moon contains a full and equal balance of “Yang” and “Yin” energy?

I enjoyed reading this story, thanks for sharing it :slight_smile:

It reminds me of what I Alan Watts referred to as “Floodlight” consciousness, differentiating it from “Spotlight” consciousness.

The floodlight consciousness is (set in such a way that the is) seeing/experiencing a larger breadth of information that is arising, while spotlight consciousness is focused on a particular object, seeing it with a greater “depth”, so to speak (not necessarily that the experience is “deep” or accurate or insightful). The ego (experience/consciousness/setting/context/interpretive filter) tends to result in spotlight consciousness (that restricts one from fruitful introspection/attentiveness to how thoughts lead to other thoughts), as the mind focuses on an object that is deemed vital to the self-concept (which is seen to be “good” or affirming to one’s self, or “bad” in conflict with it).

Floodlight consciousness happens in degrees, of course… sometimes when I am sitting in a crowded place and I start experiencing an ego-based spotlight consciousness, I will intentionally “turn on” the purpose of being mindful of every sound that enters my mind, and will then go into a floodlight consciousness that can hear an incredible amount of sounds (if I manage to avoid any tendencies to label these noises according to words, or interpret them according to my ego, I get the pleasure of listening to an amazing symphony :smiley: ).

Another example, though not quite as floodlight, is when I am having a “philosophical” discussion with someone (including many variables with elastic meanings), and I experiencing an intuition that what they said is flawed (that my associations with all pertaining variables results in an “error” of their statement), but I cannot quite find the source of the conflict. My mind then, according to the context of they said and this feeling, goes into a floodlight consciousness where I notice a bunch of considerations pertaining to possible associations of different words they used in the argument, and associations of words their argument is meant to address, and once I see an object that turns into depth (significance as a possible explanation) my mind goes into a floodlight consciousness based on that context (or a spotlight consciousness if that alone assures me of my understanding), until I am confident I’ve found the source of the intuition.