Sandra LaFave

MYTHOS (Mythic world view)

Some people have called the mythic world-view “primitive” or “irrational”.


In the mythic experience of life, math/logic type thinking is not as important as high emotionality — "low focus, high affect".


The paradigm is the Aborigine Dreamtime, a "strong" time, eternally “now,” “everywhen,” in which paradigm roles and activities always ongoing.


Some elements of mythos remain in contemporary world religions, e.g., the ongoingness of Jesus' salvation act in every Mass


The mythic world-view is unhistorical because daily time is unimportant. The only time that matters is "strong" time, which is always ongoing.


Ritual re-enactment of paradigm events and archetypal persons (Hunter, Warrier, Lover, etc.) in strong time gives meaning to everyday life. In mythic cultures, one achieves a kind of liberation from daily time by imaginatively merging with timeless archetypes and repeating archetypal activities in a ritual manner.


According to mythic world-views, there has been a devolution (a "fall") from Golden Age to daily time — things now aren't as good as they were in a long-ago Eden.


Oral cultures — those without writing — tend to be mythic, so knowledge is limited to what the group can remember.


Sacred places and objects are thought to exist within the everyday world. So mythic people tend to be wary of changing the natural world, and do not modify nature on a large scale.


The categories of being merge. A thing can be simultaneously both X and not-X.


Mythic people do not make the same distinctions we ordinarily do. Here are some examples.

  • Self is not different from tribe or ancestors
  • Mythic cultures tend to focus on groups. Individuals matter only insofar as they exemplify the timeless archetypes. For example, mythic cultures tend not to have the concept of an individual afterlife. One's eternal destiny is bound up with the destiny of one's clan or tribe. If an individual's clan or ancestor has offended the gods, the individual is doomed as well, whether or not the individual is guilty.

  • Self is not different from nature.
  • Humans are part of nature, and the interests of humans don't necessarily supersede the interests of animals or plants. Mythic people typically participate in rituals to placate the local gods of the animals and plants before undertaking projects that require killing of local animals or plants.

  • Thinking is not different from feeling.
  • Living things are not different from dead things.
  • For example, the Australian Aborigine people consider Ayers Rock to be alive, and to possess god-like powers.

  • Body is not different from soul.
  • Conscious is not different from unconscious.
  • Ordinary wakeful consciousness is not privileged. Mythic people believe it is possible for events that occur in dreams or trances or drug-induced states to be as real as events of ordinary daily consciousness, especially if the dreamer is a person of known special powers, e.g., a shaman.

  • Animal is not different from human.
  • For example, some Native American creation myths say "At the Great Beginning, there were The People. And some of the people decided to become buffalo, and some decided to become crows, and some decided to become wolves," etc.

  • Sacred ritual is not different from secular life activity.



LOGOS (Logical world view)


The logos world-view is what we usually call “modern” or “rational”. The word "logic" comes from the word "logos" in Greek. So does the "-logy" ending of words like "anthropology," "psychology," "biology," etc.


The logos way of viewing the world de-emphasizes emotions; it is "high focus, low affect."


Western philosophy and science are paradigms of the logos world-view.


The logos world-view features linear time, which goes in one direction only (forward). The past is gone. Each particular event is unique in space and time. So history becomes important as the record of unique non-repeatable events.


In the logic world-view, time is imposed on religious ideas. For example, concepts like "beginning" and "end" start being applied to the universe. God becomes the ruler of linear time; he decides when it starts and stops. Stories of creation and last things emerge.


The logos world-view features an empirical, practical orientation.

People begin to think of nature as governed by causal laws. Using empirical methods, humans can discover the laws of nature and use them to manipulate, predict, and control nature in increasingly large-scale ways.


Logos cultures typically have writing, which allows knowledge to be accumulated, and not limited to what the current group can remember. Linguistic precision becomes vital.


The world of things is value-neutral.


Everything is a something. Everything has “whatness”, “nature”, “essence” — some specific kind of being. If this is an apple, it’s not a banana. It has apple-ness; it lacks banana-ness.


Logos cultures often oppose thinking and feeling, and value people who can think efficiently and use language clearly. Men are thought to embody the logical ideal more than women, children, or slaves.


Western religions offer personal salvation after death. One's eternal destiny is not tied to one's tribe or clan. Salvation is on an individual basis.



THALES (c. 600 BCE) represents the transition from Mythic to Logical world-view in the West.


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