Do you ever wonder why myths continue to hold significance in our society? According to Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” myths serve multiple functions that remain relevant even today.
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The Functions of Myths Today
In our current secular and rational society, we no longer rely on allegory and mythology to help us understand the depths of our subconscious. Psychoanalysis comes close, but it cannot fully replace the power of mythology and religion. Despite rationalizing and dismissing our gods, myths still serve essential functions.
Function of Myths #1: Examining the Soul
As we have moved towards secularization and rationalization, we often downplay the supernatural aspects of myths, interpreting them merely as allegories or instructive fables. In our science-driven world, myths are easily proven to be factually untrue as history, biography, or science. However, this interpretation misses the true purpose of myths and their role in the human experience. They delve into the eternal journey of the soul, guiding us through the deepest corners of our inner selves. Even today, myths continue to fulfill this essential function.
Studying the ancient soothsayers, shamans, and the forgotten gods they once worshipped is crucial for understanding our own humanity to its fullest extent.
There isn’t a single definitive way to interpret the mythologies of humankind. While we have identified the universal hero’s journey and the monomyth, each culture has unique ways of understanding the origins and destinies of the universe. However, the process of interpreting myths is an integral part of their function.
Myths do not reveal themselves automatically or offer self-evident answers. They only provide insight into the questions we seek to ask. If we approach myths as mere sources of entertainment, they will fulfill that purpose. Likewise, if we view them as early attempts at science, religion, literature, or moral guidance, they will provide those insights too. Furthermore, if we seek a higher meaning, a sense of our origins, and our purpose in life, myths can guide us towards that understanding. The possibilities for interpreting myths are as vast as the myths themselves.
Function of Myths #2: Building a Sense of Community
The true function of myths for humanity is to bring us closer together and foster a shared sense of belonging. Despite living independent lives as individuals with various roles and identities, myths bind us together. Ceremonies rooted in mythology, such as birth, initiation, marriage, and death, remind us of our participation in something grander than ourselves. We are mere cells or organs within a larger entity, just as it was for our ancestors. Like the heroes of ancient myths, our modern heroes can embark on extraordinary adventures and undergo incredible transformations when they heed the call of the mythic.
In conclusion, myths play vital functions in our society. They enable us to explore the depths of our souls and provide a sense of unity and shared identity. They continue to guide us towards understanding our humanity and embracing our individual heroic journeys.