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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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5 Sacred and Secular Myth


The theory of myth as the spoken part of the religious world, of which the cult is the action or doing, has been discussed by W. Robertson Smith, Jane Harrison, Francis M. Cornford, Robert Graves, Clyde Kluckhohn, Samuel H. Hooke, Edmund R. Leach, and many others. We have seen that among the Pawnee bands some myths are part of the cult, some are interstitial, being recounted during pauses or rests in the performance of the ritual, and some have no relation to the ritual at all. The relation of myth to cult restricts its discussion to the religious field, to the sacred myth, or to myth in the service of the holy. This view of myth is narrower than that of myth as any kind of traditional tale, which may be sacred or secular, and it is narrower than the view of myth as any narrative about the supernatural, which are the definitions of myth most recently advanced. These perspectives add much to the discussion, but they all focus it on limited, indeed very limited aspects of myth.

It is recognized by some of the participants in the discussion of myth and ritual that many myths have little or no relation to the latter, and that some rituals are without mythic representation. Such loosening of the terms of reference to myth and ritual notwithstanding, the discussion of myth in relation to ritual ←239 | 240→and of myth as a sacred tale have currency even at present. This definition...

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