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What's real and what's not?

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What's real and what's not?

Post  Momos on Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:39 am

How do you differentiate pure entertainment stories from real-life events in mythology? How do you know which stories are fabulae and which ones are ''true'' so to speak?

I'm obviously not going to take everything I read literally, so how do I go on about distinguishing stories and reality?

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:55 am

Momos wrote:How do you differentiate pure entertainment stories from real-life events in mythology? How do you know which stories are fabulae and which ones are ''true'' so to speak?

I'm obviously not going to take everything I read literally, so how do I go on about distinguishing stories and reality?

Many of the myths are not merely for entertainment (though some are); many myths either portray moral truths, or go even further, they reveal mystical truths, truths about the gods, the cosmos, and our place in the cosmos, cloaked in a veil of fabulous and evocative symbolism/imagery. This would serve several purposes: for example, concealing these truths from the minds of the simple and impious, who would trample these truths underfoot and mock them out of ignorance; and also to preserve these truths, because, simply put, people tend to take notice and afford more attention to something that's wrapped up very nicely rather than something that's just plain and undecorated.

I would not be so quick to dismiss the "fabulae" as mere stories. Take a closer look. Maybe there's a glimmer, a hint, of meaning behind the fantastic imagery, and it's up to you to dig through it and try to figure out what it means. Unwrap the gift. See what's inside.

http://www.hellenicgods.org/mythology-in-hellenismos---mythologia

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Momos on Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:06 am

I'm glad you replied so quickly. So what you're saying is (sorry if I misunderstood you) that common sense should tell me what's real and what's not after taking a closer look of that particular myth?

I'd gladly like to hear others opinions as well, thanks for the link, I'll be sure to take a look.

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:31 am

Momos wrote:I'm glad you replied so quickly. So what you're saying is (sorry if I misunderstood you) that common sense should tell me what's real and what's not after taking a closer look of that particular myth?

I'd gladly like to hear others opinions as well, thanks for the link, I'll be sure to take a look.

I'm saying the myths are not necessarily "unreal" simply by virtue of it's fantastic imagery, merely communicating spiritual truths through a fantastic lens. So recognize the symbols are metaphorical and use the metaphors to interpret the myths for deeper meaning.

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Momos on Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:45 pm

You're making a strong point which I completely agree with, for example persephones abduction was seen as her coming into adulthood,
most greek mothers wouldn't have seen their daughters after their marriage so this was a fitting story for Demeter's grief for her daughter to symbolize just that.


Icarus wrote:So recognize the symbols are metaphorical and use the metaphors to interpret the myths for deeper meaning.

Although I said I agreed I didn't say I'm a scholar nor a philosopher, but thank you nonetheless.

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Erodius on Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:47 pm

I'm glad you replied so quickly. So what you're saying is (sorry if I misunderstood you) that common sense should tell me what's real and what's not after taking a closer look of that particular myth?

Well, not necessarily common sense, truthfully.

There are, of course, several kinds of myth: there are instructive/didactic tales (like those found in Aesop) whose central purpose is to teach a lesson, with the factuality of the story itself being largely irrelevant. Then there are origin myths and 'historiographic' myths, which are meant to describe the origin and/or history of a thing or a place — a large segment of Classical myth focuses on the mythic histories of particular families and places. Finally, there are religious myths, which are centered on religious subjects — i.e. stories of deities and of the foundations of religious actions and observances.

And, of course, a good number of myths are conglomerations of some combination of the above. For instance, in Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, the story that is told is a combination of a family history, a religious teaching, and a political origin story, all tied together.

However, it should also be mentioned that the Greek language itself distinguishes between two types of myth. One the Greeks call μύθος and the other λόγος. A μύθος (the origin of the word 'myth') is any kind of story, told sometimes for entertainment, sometimes for teaching a lesson, or sometimes to recount events of the past. Referring to something as a μύθος implies that something is a 'story', parts of it may be true, other parts might not, or it may even be entirely fiction. However, the word does imply that there is at least some ambiguity as to the story's truthfulness, although this might not be ultimately important, especially if the story is meant to be simply an exaggeration for entertainment's sake, or a 'three little pigs' type didactic tale. A μύθος is best translated as 'story' or 'tale'.

A λόγος, however, is usually the term that is used in religious contexts to refer to a religious narrative. It also refers to a witness speech in a court case, or to the speech of a teacher to a student. A λόγος is probably best translated as 'testament' 'teaching' or 'instruction'. It is the origin of our suffix '-ology', referring to a formal study of some subject. A μύθος may certainly be told via symbols (just like learning, say, chemistry or pharmacology) which one must learn how to read and interpret, however, 'λόγος' implies the idea that what is contained in it is pure and genuine truth, of which there is no question of its truthfulness or accuracy. Whereas a μύθος might be simply disseminated by storytelling or drama, and its origin is usually not known, a
λόγος comes directly from an essentially credible and non-fallible source — a sort of direct 'revelation'.

Most religious movements, especially Mystery religions, had a core set of myths from which they derived their religion, beliefs and ceremonies. This would often be written down in concrete form, and was referred to as a religion's 'Ιερὸς Λόγος᾽, which was used by the Christian movement as well, as comes to be translated into English as 'the Holy Word'.

As I mentioned, many Ἱεροὶ Λόγοι are told through a set of representations called symbola which have particular religious meanings and must be 'read'. Different movements had different symbola, which would be taught to new catechumens as part of their initiation process into the religion.

Since most of the Mystery religions of Antiquity have long since been lost and have died out, there are only a few living western Mystery religions that you can study — Catholic/Orthodox Christianity, Orphism, Hermetism, mystical Judaism (usually called 'Kabbalah'), mystical Islam (called 'Sufism'), and Gnosticism (and, you can make an argument that Freemasonry is a mystery religion). However, with the exception of Christian symbola and mystery teachings, the others: Orphism, Hermetism, Kabbalah, Sufism and the various Gnostic cults, all share a custom of withholding most of their deeper teachings from individuals who are not formal catechumens.

You're making a strong point which I completely agree with, for example persephones abduction was seen as her coming into adulthood, most greek mothers wouldn't have seen their daughters after their marriage so this was a fitting story for Demeter's grief for her daughter to symbolize just that.

That is a basic social/humanistic interpretation; very common in 20th century academia. It is also, however, a secularistic interpretation of a myth that was the core of the profoundly transformative religious cult at Eleusis that promised a postmortem salvation from the pains of the state of death, and which survived for millennia. Certainly, aspects of human social interaction appear in the navigium Cereris, and it also, obviously, incorporates a famous origin myth for the existence of the growing season and the dry season. But the religious exegesis of this story, even of sources outside of the Eleusinian cult itself, teach things considerably more profound than the simple, externally-evident 'it's about a mother and daughter relationship' and 'it's about the seasons'. It is about a familial relationship, of course, and it is about the seasons — however, it is also about the state of the soul, its tenure on the earth, the reason for it, and what is to follow, and what one ought to do — and, furthermore, how the family relationship, the seasons, and the soul's fate are related to each other.

I didn't say I'm a scholar nor a philosopher

Why, to even read myth at all, you are a scholar, and to learn from religious myth, you are a philosopher. In Western society, Hellenism is the foundation of both.  Wink 

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Momos on Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:02 pm

Thank you Erodios for your long reply, I've been lurking these forums for a while and it always amazes me how you always come off as an educated and literate guy who basically knows everything there is to know about greek culture in general, or so I've been lead to believe and therefore your knowledge I hold in great esteem. Things seem much clearer now, especially the mythos and logos part.

If there's anyone else who'd like to share their thoughts I'd be more than glad to hear it.

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Re: What's real and what's not?

Post  Erodius on Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:43 pm

Thank you Erodios for your long reply, I've been lurking these forums for a while and it always amazes me how you always come off as an educated and literate guy who basically knows everything there is to know about greek culture in general, or so I've been lead to believe and therefore your knowledge I hold in great esteem. Things seem much clearer now, especially the mythos and logos part.

Well, I'm an academic Classicist and a Latin instructor — I study these things all day, every day; so it's sort of part of my job to know these subjects inside out and backwards. Though, actually, my academic focus is mainly in Latin/Roman society, more than Greek — and, within that subject, primarily on religion, language, and social matters/daily life. Truthfully, my familiarity with things like Classical politics, political history, and warfare (which are all very, very popular focal areas in Classical academia), is mediocre.

Nevertheless, I'm very honored to hear such an encomium of me  Smile 

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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