Edited By Cyril Levitt and Sabine Sander
This posthumously published work by Lawrence Krader surveys the study of myths from ancient times (in classical Greece and Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Akkad, Sumer, China), in the Biblical traditions, of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australia, and from Northeastern and Central Asia. It also covers the various approaches to the study of myth in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and the Romantic movement in the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century; it discusses evolutionist, structuralist, hermeneutic, and linguistic approaches. The book covers on the one hand the treatment of myth from the inside, that is from the experience of those committed to the myth, and on the other the perspective of those ethnologists, philosophers and other students of myth who are outsiders. Krader takes up the theme of esoteric and exoteric myths as he rejects some of the assumptions and approaches to the study of myth from the past while singling out others for approval and inclusion in his general theory of myth. The book includes a discussion of myth in science and in infinitesimal mathematics. It also considers the relationship between myth and ideology in the twentieth century in relation to politics and power. It both incorporates and broadens Krader’s theory of nature as a manifold consisting of different orders of space-time which he developed in his magnum opus Noetics: The Science of Thinking and Knowing.
Cyril Levitt and Sabine Sander
We begin our Introduction with Krader’s own words outlining his scope and purpose in writing the book:
The purpose of this book is twofold, first to write a short book on a rich, complex, and fantastic field, and therein to confront a number of viewpoints to one another, which are not usually brought under one heading. The second is to advance a theory which arches over the several viewpoints of the anthropologists, the Biblical and classical scholars, folklorists, the cultural critics of modern society, historians, philosophers, students of political ideology, psychologists, and sociologists. (lxvi)1
My purpose is to advance a theory of myth, to add other perspectives to it, some of which are well known, likewise some of which have been overlooked and forgotten. There is, as we shall see, a common direction extending over many centuries in the study of myth. (2)
And beyond this focus, Krader writes, that by means of the book’s “… exploration we learn something of ourselves, and indeed the more deeply we probe into the study of myth, the more profound and telling will be our understanding of how we think, how we feel, how we see the world and how we relate to one another in these human processes.” (lxvii)←xiv | xvi→
In a way, this is reminiscent of Durkheim’s [1912 (1995) 8] claim in his last and perhaps greatest major work, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life,...
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