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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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3 Myth in the Nineteenth Century

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The writers in the European Enlightenment and their forerunners, from Pierre Bayle and Fontenelle to Charles de Brosses, Voltaire and Paul-Henri Thiry (Baron) d’Holbach held fable and myth to be the product of an irrational, narrow, dark and superstitious mind. In J. G.Herder and Ch. G. Heyne an opposed view of myth began to be developed, and those who followed them in this line sought the pure form of consciousness, of religion, and of the original divine spark in myth. But also, the beginnings of an objective, empirical and critical study of myth were set forth in the nineteenth century. Those who investigated it in this way did not believe in the myth they studied, but some of them believed a myth of one kind or another, which was the myth of myth.

Friedrich Schlegel in 1800 thought of myth as the work of art, but also held that this mythic art is the work of nature, not of man, and that the Almighty is depicted already in myth in a foreshadowed way, for what otherwise is seen by the mind through the senses, but evades the consciousness, is found in myth. It is the beginning of all poetry, returning us to the beautiful confusion of fantasy and the original chaos of human nature. Schlegel knew of no more lovely symbol of this chaos than the display in myth of the colorful disorder of the ancient gods. This effusion was put into the semblance of ordered thought about...

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