Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mythology and Truth

My walking neighbor (we walk together in the mornings) clarified for me the role of mythology in religion. He talked about mythology as a means to convey the truth. And, he said, those who take the mythology literally are stuck in a "logical quandry."

Like Aesop's fables, the events may not have actually happened (not many of us have heard animals "talk"), but they describe a truth about life through their stories. What is it then that we "believe"? It is the wisdom of the stories, because that wisdom aligns with our experience. Job, for example, lost everything except for his faith. By retaining his faith, his luck turned around. Was there really a man Job who was a pawn in a contest between God and the Devil (as portrayed in J.B. by Archibald Macleish)? No, probably not. And yet have them been men and woman who have been down on their luck and who still retained their faith? Absolutely. And did their lives turn around in time? Of course. Was it the faith that caused his life to turn around? We'll have to wait and see the metadata from a number of double-blind studies... or else...

Car[l] Jerome, in his comment yesterday, gave the following references:

 Kalama Sutta

 Simile of the Snake Sutta

"It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them." (Buddha, from the Kalama Sutta).

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