Lectures 4 and 5. October 21 and 28, 1947
In dealing with mental truth we must detach “truth” from the Bible as it is known in history and science. The first fact we are aware of is that we live on a flat surface and the sun rises and sets. Then, by explanation, we know it is an illusion. But the fact of experience is still real. The truth as it appears in the Bible is like the truth of that fact of experience. The accuracy of history in the Bible is in inverse proportion to its spiritual value.
In the Old Testament we see a chasm opening between two types of minds. One type sees experience in historical terms, and the other, the prophetic mind, transforms human reminiscence into drama. The shape and form of that story becomes a parable. A cleavage emerges between the literal and the spiritual comprehension. The literal acceptance survives in Judaism and represents a type of attitude that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. The Gospels bring the spiritual approach.
RITUAL AND MYTH
Ritual is the act, the thing done. Myth is the Word, the revelation, the scripture, the story of how this came to be; that is, what is said in the Bible. Ritual comes earlier because the act must precede its explanation. Myth is the explanation of the ritual. The Bible is a gigantic myth, a mythic account of human life. It is definitive myth which gets everything in and consolidates all mythic tales of any significance.
What ritual is the myth explaining? The ritual of human sacrifice. This must be dug out of the Bible because it is clear only in myth. Much editing has covered up this human sacrifice ritual and it survives only in odd and lurid passages in Judges, etc.
All myths do not explain a ritual. The explanation of customs of various tribes have mythical explanations. The anthropologist is looking for different explanations because a different conception of myth is necessary to him. Myths deal with gods.
God is the God of Christians; god is a supernatural being.
All products of human civilization are products of myths; they are attempts to reflect on life. Man doesn’t evolve; he resists evolution. The development of consciousness is an evolution of mental form. Evolution takes place in time, while consciousness looks back at time. Myth is word, idea.
Monoloty is the stage of religious statement in which the Hebrews say “Jehovah is our God.” It is not polytheistic nor monotheism, but a kind of halfway house. Other people have gods and each god chosen is a war-god––“my god can lick your god,” which means no tolerance of someone else’s god.
Monotheism is when our god becomes the only true god, the only possible God. This represents the advance of civilization.
Polytheism: Man never assumes he is the greatest thing in the world. He is a natural being among nature. God here is seen as unknown, which means we separate him from the known, that is, from nature. To make god knowable, he must combine subject and object, human nature and the forces of nature. There becomes a god for each natural phenomenon; the god humanizes the natural force of the storm, for example.