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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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7 Myth, the Known and the Unknown: The Myth of Theseus and Sciron


The problem of myth from ancient times down to the present has been taken up as a relation of what we know to what we do not know. This treatment of myth is supposed to be an intellectual matter, but a great amount of emotion is attached to it as well. For the unknown awakens our sense of hope as well as terror, joyful anticipation as it does gloomy forebodings. Sometimes the alternatives are a matter of the era in which we live, and sometimes of individual temperament. Francis Bacon and René Descartes appear to have been sanguine about the geographic and other scientific discoveries, and the mechanical and other inventions of their times, and this attitude was taken up by their followers, of whom there were many; but equally large numbers of people maintain a melancholic, atrabilious or choleric attitude at present toward the machine, technical advances and science, whether with good reason or without. These attitudes are often associated with myths, as we have seen. The notion that there are choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine tempers is another myth, or body of myths. It was widely believed at one time that the body has four fluids, blood, phlegm, and two kinds of bile, yellow bile and black bile; these fluids were held, either by their harmony or by the superabundance of one among them, to rule our temperaments or dispositions; in a variation of this myth, it was believed that the four chief body ←299 | 300→fluids or...

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