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Myth and Ideology

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.

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2 Myth in the Renaissance and Enlightenment: The Deciphering of Myth

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While the study of myth and mythographers was pursued in the European Middle Ages, new directions and perspectives were given to this subject by the increase in knowledge coming from voyages to Africa, Asia and the Americas, together with the great increase in classical learning, notably Greek, Latin and Hebrew, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Samuel Bochart published a book on Sacred Geography in 1646 which asserted that the Greek myths arose chiefly out of misunderstanding of words having one meaning in an earlier generation and another in a later. He considered the Greek myth of Japetos, whom he equated with the Biblical Japheth, Noah’s son, but did not regard the Biblical account as myth. He proposed by his etymological, not mythological argument, that Prometheus, Japetos’ son, whose body was dismembered, was to be equated with Magog, the son of Japheth, on the grounds that Hebrew Mig is the root of Magog, having to do with the story of one whose heart is torn from his body. Just as the Church fathers before him, Bochart detected a direct act of the devil, the “ape of god” in the formation of pagan beliefs, in addition to the purely historical events. The Greek gods were originally Canaanite or Jewish figures brought to the Greeks by the Phoenicians. The method of Bochart is also that of Sallustius, for both thought that behind the overt message in the myth there is a hidden meaning. He has been followed ←25 | 26→by...

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