“It is true that, at least apparently, the modern world is not rich in myths. … We are thinking of the myth as a type of human behavior and, at the same time, as an element of civilization—that is, of the myth as one finds it in traditional societies. For at the level of individual experience it has never completely disappeared: it makes itself felt in the dreams, the fantasies and the longings of the modern man. …
“But what now interests us above all is to find out what it is, in the modern world, that fills the central position occupied by the myth in traditional societies. In other words,while recognizing that the great mythical themes continue to repeat themselves in the obscure depths of the psyche, we still wonder whether the myth, as an exemplary pattern of human behavior, may not also survive among our contemporaries in more or less degraded forms. It seems that a myth itself, as well as the symbols it brings into play, never quite disappears.” ~Mircea Eliade
There was a time when the telling of myths was an important job in any society. Whether it was a bard, a priest, or a philosopher, they taught the people using myth.
We all know that when a teacher tries to fill the students head with dry facts, he generally fails. The student probably retains no more that ten or twenty percent of those facts. But when the same facts are embedded in an interesting story, the student will remember the tale and the facts hiding in it.
There is also the case of the students who are not yet ready to learn certain things and will reject them if they are given to her as simple facts. Such truths can also be hidden in myths and the students will remember the myths, even when they don’t believe. Later, when they start to awaken, they may remember some of those mythical tales and recognize the facts they held.
Myth Magic of Today
While there has been a great effort by materialistic powers to kill the myth, even going so far as to change the meaning of the word to fantasies and tall tales, they have failed. Myth magic is all around us in books, movies, songs, and other forms of entertainment. I’m sure it can even be found in many popular video games. Let’s look at a few examples.
The Star Wars movies of George Lucas are pure myth. It is no secret that he was a student of myth-master Joseph Campbell. He based the stories on the standard myth of the hero versus the great evil found in many ancient traditional myths. Both Luke Skywalker and Hans solo represent the hero side, though it is primarily Luke who is the traditional hero of mythology. The emperor and Darth Vader represent the great evil. It is David and Goliath as space opera.
The Harry potter books similarly represent modern myth telling. Harry and his friends represent the good, the hero. Lord Valdemort and his Death Eaters are clearly the evil. Like Star Wars, the heroes are young while the bad guys are generally somewhat older. This isn’t age prejudice, but a way of saying that new thinking is needed to overcome the evil around us. Old ways and old thinking leads to death.
The myth magic is naturally a great part of the ancient mystery schools. I suspect many of the traditional ones originated with such groups.
Throughout time there have been periods when materialism reigned and anything spiritual was suppressed or laughed at. The ancients needed to hide their knowledge. They did this by putting it in stories. Even in the darkest times, much of the myth magic survived to keep those truths within them like hidden treasures. They are not only found in ancient literature, but also in art and architecture. Mythical truths are hidden in the designs and proportions of ancient buildings such as the pyramids. Art on the walls of ancient Egyptian building are more than mere tales of history. Much of the myth magic can be found there.
Now that we are awakening at the dawn of a new spiritual age, we can once more appreciate myths for the treasure chests they truly are.