A myth is speculative ideology expressed in spectacular fashion. Ancient myths were inspired by a seemingly natural curiosity as to the greater questions regarding the quandary of the human existence. As such, cultural myths are somewhat revealing as to the thinking processes of people of various cultures at different points in history. How ironic then, that from the products of fiction we can learn so much as to certain fundamental realities of our own species.
Human existence is a twofold experience. There is our very being; which is known as life. Then there is the process of our continuous existence; which is known as living. Questions related to our actual existence are inquiries regarding the source of all that is. Questions related to the process of our continuous existence are inquiries regarding the reason why things are as they are. The former are of course questions for a discussion of the natural sciences. The latter refer to questions to be pondered by philosophers.
The one field questions cause and effect. In this regard, the basic question related to our very existence would be somewhat along the lines: What is the cause of all that is? The latter field is concerned with reasons. Thus, the primary question for the philosopher: Why do all things exist? Yet, the process of our continuous existence encompasses not only our own selves, but likewise our consequential relationship to all that is. Therefore, philosophical questions are many, such as: Why are circumstances such as they are? Why are there humans? Why are there male and female? Why the physical hardships unique to each specific gender? Why do we have to exert effort in order to survive? Why is there suffering? Why is there disease? Why is there death? Why is there speech? Why are there different languages? Why are there animals? Why are there land creatures? Why are there sea creatures? Why is there land? Why are there different terrains? Why is there water? Why is there air? Why are there entities in the atmosphere that I can see, yet cannot seem to reach? Ironically, these and other inquiries lead back to the fundamental question regarding our very existence: From whence came all that is?
And thus the two fields of inquiry are by no means exclusive of the other. Indeed, one has to wonder ‘why’ the effect, even when confronted by scientific discoveries related to the cause. Likewise explanations to the basic questions regarding ‘why’ are more accurately assessed when the question of ‘how’ is clearly addressed. And so there has always been a natural and a necessary relationship between science and philosophy. Hence the questions related to each field are somewhat complementary in the never ending endeavor to learn and ascertain the wonders of our being and continuous existence.
Ancient myths were efforts of historic societies to offer speculative answers to these and other such questions. Limited though their knowledge was; especially in the light of the discoveries of modern science, inquisitive and artistic minds of old created stories to enlighten their respective cultures as to possibilities. Granted, their methods were crude and the nature of their accounts render their tales unbelievable. The absurdity of anthropomorphic dialogues and hosts of associative deities are evident; yet the value of the myth is not to be sought in terms of factual events or even conceivable concepts. The ancient myth is evidence for contemporary thinkers that even cultures of old were concerned enough about themselves and the world around them to consider possible explanations, even though the expression of such was in terms of fiction and fantasia.
Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that there is and always has been a natural curiosity as to the greater questions regarding the quandary of the human existence. Our natural desire to understand these matters notwithstanding; there are other possibilities to consider. Possibilities which may in fact possibly be the greatest challenge for scientists and philosophers alike. Can we actually know where we came from? Can we actually know why we are here? Is it actually possible to ascertain the origin of our species? Furthermore, will we ever really understand the purpose for our existence? For that matter, is there a purpose to our existence? Clearly, the quest is as frustrating as the challenge is evident.
These queries notwithstanding; there is no guarantee that the answers will ever be forthcoming. For that matter, we may never know the specific origin of our species, or whether there is in fact an actual purpose for our existence. Then again, time will tell. The future owns the day; so to speak. Regardless, history indicates that humanity has never allowed the challenges so imposed to deter efforts on our part to search for the answers or to speculate as to the same.
Indeed, speculative notions as to the origin of our species and the purpose for our existence are common to most every culture. Yet specific theories as revealed by cultural myths vary depending upon time and circumstance. It seems that although folk of different times and places share a common interest as to the greater questions surrounding our existence; nonetheless ideas regarding the same vary extensively.
Of course in the modern era, humankind has made great strides towards explaining the origin of our species by scientific means. Although the science community is not fully agreed as to specifics, the generally accepted notion based upon the evidence at hand, is that a reasonable theory as to our origin is one which is complementary to and compliant with the basic principles of natural evolution. Whether Darwinism or a theory similar in principle; reasonably acceptable theories of origins are those based upon the natural evolution, continual transformation, and eventual change of all that is.
There are of course modern day mythicists; chiefly among the religious community, who look to tales and legends of old as reliable sources to answer the greater questions regarding the quandary of the human existence. As in times past, theories of origins and philosophic notions based upon myths and fables vary from culture to culture. Furthermore, most modern day mythicists borrow from the speculative tales of their own cultural past as a basis for contemporary theory and conjecture. In other words, most religion is cultural in that such is usually based primarily upon the traditional teachings of one’s respective ancestry. In this regards, the West tends to be an anomaly in that we incorporate the legendary myths of ancient cultures with whom we have no historical or cultural ties, and modify those theories somewhat to our own ideology. Hence; although separated by thousands of miles and years, we have adopted ancient Hebrew myths and adapted them to our own specific social circumstances.
Not that the borrowing of the myths of another culture and adapting such to one’s own cultural experience is a circumstance unique to our own situation. The fact is that the Hebrew myths which we of the West have borrowed for our own cultural experience, likewise are at least somewhat hybrid in their own respects. For it is clearly the case that many motifs of the Hebrew myths may very well have been borrowed from some earlier speculative stories of the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. Thus, just as we of the West have adopted the myths of the ancient Hebrews and adapted such to our social circumstances, the Hebrews appear to have done likewise, at least to some extent, with speculative stories of cultures which preceded their time.
The very fact that so many of the West are willing to rely upon ancient myths as a source to answer the greater questions of life is a mystery indeed. Ancient myths, the very existence of which are so revelational as to how folks thought so very long ago, are clearly the product of the imaginative mind before the era of modern science. Granted there is so much yet to learn, and further conceded, the endeavor of the quest for true knowledge is likely a task never to be fully completed. Nonetheless; it seems somewhat ironic that at a time when the science community has made such progress into an examination of sources, cause, and effect; that so many otherwise rational people of the West are willing to accept mythical theories as a reliable source to answer queries related to such matters. It seems that for the sake of tradition and culture, so many are willing to compromise the intellect in pursuit of the creative art of the imaginative minds of the ancient past.
To further complicate matters, the tendency in the West to interpret mythical material literally is not only a compromise of the intellect, but likewise is a misuse of the material so interpreted. That which was originally artistic speculation as to the answers to the greater questions of life, is misconceived by western mythicists as a literal historical account. Consequently, contemporary mythicists classify as history, material which chiefly records fictional settings and stories which are the product of the human imagination.
By regarding certain ancient myths as historical accounts, seemingly intelligent people have formulated systematic doctrine from material that should never have been implemented in such a fashion. To further compound the error, the practice of collective ritual evolved from the doctrines so formulated. Over the course of time, the imposing of confessed belief in the doctrine and continued practice of the rituals transformed artistic display into systematic dogma. Doctrinal teachings and ceremonial acts thus transformed mere fiction into dogma, and consequently oral and literary art became categorized as doctrine and institutionalized as the church.
As hard as it is to imagine, ancient myths which involved anthropomorphic dialogues and sensational stories are actually regarded as legitimate history even now in the 21st Century. Even more disturbing, fantastic tales of supernatural deeds for which there is no demonstrable evidence are regarded as reliable sources to explain the cause and effect of all that is. Perhaps most disconcerting of all, our modern society self imposes certain antiquated moral and social values, solely based upon the sacred teachings of ancient cultures. In essence, our culture compromises the very concept of intellect by relying on muchly unconfirmed history for our understanding of the ancient past; confuses contemporary global issues by relying on ancient myths as a reliable source to counsel the actions of the science community; and confounds global social integrity by imposing antiquated moral values on an enlightened and educated populace.
In conclusion, cultural myths are delightful sources of literary art which demonstrate quite sufficiently the literary skill and inquisitive nature of the human species. Speculative thinking expressed in such a spectacular fashion is certainly worthy of admiration and analysis. At the same time, reason must be applied when researching any written material. Since the myth is fiction, then its contents are to be studied in that light. For regardless of whether the myth is simply an oral fable unique to a certain indigenous community, or whether the myth has evolved from a specific culture to literary global distribution; nonetheless, the myth is but a myth.