The truth is that despite all the revolutions of the modern age – the political (collapse of divine rule), social (freedom and equality over disenfranchisement and hierarchies), cultural (the disenchantment of the world) and scientific revolutions -, we remain deeply, fundamentally and essentially mythopoetic. In other words, we’ve always loved, and we still love creating myths.
The trouble is that this fact troubles us deeply and fundamentally.
There is hardly any area of life which is not affected by our mythological creativity. Not even science, the self-professed competitor of mythology, can rise above the human capacity to enlist it in the equally human mythographic project. Science is not just what scientists do – which only scientists truly know; it is a way of seeing the world that can only allow itself to be that through the stuff of myths, symbols and narratives.
Mythology is totalizing. Myths reach beyond the stories they tell. A Greek myth is more than the story it recounts. Orestes is more than a tragic figure in a matricidal story. A universal truth of general application lies buried in each myth like the nucleus in an atom. Unlike modern-day technology, industrial-age technology was not mythological, because it was not totalizing. Ours is, and it reaches beyond itself to explain areas not subject to its strict jurisdiction. Progress is more than western culture’s historic ability to improve things – it is itself totalizing, aspiring to become an ‘-ism’, like all other myths.
It is not a question of choosing science against myth, fact against fiction. It is all about which myths we choose to subscribe to, and which we don’t.