OTHER: Myths of Creation. Philip Freund

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  • Book although this may sound promising, in practice it readily conduces to reductionism nonetheless.

    I t is crucial for Eliades purposes to decide that two (or more) phenomena are different expressions of a symbol.JJ He does so by vesting common qualities and functions in the items compared- which means, in effect, that he reduces them to their essential significance. Moreover, he does so with a quasi-mystical assertiveness that overrides an inter-. est in structure and process and throws into even greater relief his personal surrender to the murky charms of the quest for ultimate explanations. Take, for example, his essay, Mephistopheles and the Androgyne or the Mystery of the Wholc, the essay that lends part of its title to the collection. Here he discusses the complementarity, reconciliation, unity, and transcendence of apparent opposites, and he ilocs so with reference to a host of things: the Mephis- topheles of Goethes Fausl (the demon who denies Life yet is all the same a collaborator with God (p. S O ] ) ; the androg)li?e (man-woman, herniaphro- dite) of Balzacs Siraphita; the folktales of Transyl- vanian Gypsies, Bulgarians, and Finns; the Cyprian cult of the bearded Aphrodite; Hindu philosophy; and so forth. He avers that from a certain point of view . . . many beliefs implying the coincidenlia opposiloruvz reveal a nostalgia for a lost Paradise, a nostalgia for a paradoxical state in which the con- traries exist side by side without conflict and the multiplications form aspects of a mysterious Unity, and he concludes that ultinzalely, it is the wish to recover this lost unity that has caused man to think of the opposites as complementary aspects of a single reality (p. 122, last two italics mine).

    Not only are Professor Eliades interpretations reductive and essentialist, hut, as the above venture into ultimate causality might suggest, they are also highly personalistic. Eliade recommends the intel- ligent sympathy of the exegetist. But this, in the absence of rigorous methodological controls, is likely to result in as many sympathetic interpretations of a given phenomenon as there are sympathetic in- terpreters. Eliade. however, shrinks back from re- commending public controls, and thus fails to furnish u s with a way out of this dilemma--if, indeed, he even perceives it to he such. In his essay, Ohserva- tions on Religious Symbolism, he addresses him- self, it is true, to questions of method. But here, in thc last chapter of his book, he confirms the suspicion that his methods are intractably sul>jectivist. How might we choose among competing yet equally personalistic interpretations? T.argely, in the absence of anything better, by an appeal to metaphysical presuppositions about the essential nature of man. LVhcn one begins to speak ahout a science of re- ligiiins (11. 197), however, somcthing more is re- quired. Science, as I understand it, involves testable hypotheses. While sympathy ant1 intuition may be important for developing theories that are offered as puhlic knowledge, they are quite inadequate for the testing of such theories. And metaphysical presup-

    Reviews 263 positions, of course, are not directly subject to refu- tation.

    A closely related weakness is Professor Elides failure to deal satisfactorily with the problem of mechanisms. When scientists set out to explain things, they characteristically go about their busi- ness by postulating mechanisms and then checking hypotheses about them. As R. HarrC (Theories and Things, 1961:21-22) has put it,

    . . . it iq not suficient for a scientific explanation of lung can- cer to show that its incidence bars a high correlation to the number of cigarettes smoked. . . . For a scientific explanation it is also necessary to give an account of tlie mechanism by which heavy smoking has this disagreeable outcome. If a minimal esplanation were all that was required in science, we qhould. for instance, havestopped short a t Mendels L a w and not gone on to discover the mechanism of heredity. its physi- cal basis. in the properties and structures of the nucleic pro- teins.

    Eliades defects in this regard are well illustrated in his essay, Experiences of the Mystic Light. He cites instances from many sociocultural settings of people who have had subjectively disturbing experi- ences of light, and he maintains that all experiences of the supernatural light present this common de- nominator: anyone receiving such an experience undergoes a change of being: he acquires another mode of being, which gives him access to the world of the spirit (p. 21). Thus, whatever a mans previ- ous ideological conditioning, a meeting with the Light produces a break in the subjects existence (p. 77). But even if this be so, Eliade has not ex- plained all [or even any!] experiences of the super- natural light. There are important questions that he ignores. Why do some people experience the light and others not? And what might be the mechanism -transmarginal inhibition or what-have-you-that could be used to explain the how of the experi- ence? While Professor Eliade may not care to grapple with such problems, the scientist, in principle, is obligated to confront them.

    M y t h of Crcdion. PHILIP FREWND. Illustrated by Milton Charles. New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1965. vi, 304pp. 18 illustrations, index. $4.95.

    Rm*med by ALAN DUNDES, University of California

    This is an eminently readable survey of some theories of myth and many types of creation myths. The author, a novelist and man of letters, previously edited the paperback edition of Otto Ranks classic Myth of the Birth of the Euo. Freund is by his own admission a devotee rather than a student of myth. Generally, he follows the tradition of the majority of his sources, e.g., Frazer, Freud, Fromm, Jung, and Joseph Campbell, in seeking a clue in mythology to univetsal characteristics of the mind of man. Un- fortunately his familiarity with the appropriate anthropological scholarship seems to be limited to Malinowskis 1926 Myth in Primitive Psychology.

  • Dealing first with the creation of the world (as opposed to the creation of man), Freund distin- guishes five basic myth types, which a folklorist would label: primeval water (Motif A 810), cosmic egg (A 641), universe from parts of creators body (A 614), world parents: sky-father and earth-mother (A 625), and fiat creation (A 611). Each type is illustrated A la Frazer with a stream of consciousness set of examples from a wide variety of cultures (bibliographical sources are rarely provided). Then the creation of man is analyzed in a similar vein with the identical aim: Such tales about the beginning of man fit into four or five large categories which pro- vide even clearer evidence that the human mind seems to work the same everywhere. This is clearly a continuation of the 19th-century concern with cul- tural similerities (universals) as opposed to the 20th-century American anthropological concern with cultural dijermces (cultural relativism).

    The most convincing and interesting documenta- tion of the universalistic position is Freunds de- tailed survey of contemporary origin theories in such fields as astronomy, astrophysics, paleontology, and human biology (with reference to the fossil man evidence). Citing alternative and conflicting scien- tific theories of the origin of the universe and the various theories of human evolution much as he cites variants of myths of the creation of the world and of man, Freund demonstrates the surprisingly limited state of scientific knowledge. I t is often ob- served that in primitive mythology, there are few examples of creation ex nihilo. However, in scientific theory also, ultimate origins are typically not dis- cussed. Laws and principles are described, for ex- ample, evolution, but the origin of the laws is fre- quently ignored. Sometimes, as Freund points out, our scientific theories approach myths in structure and content. The notion that life on earth began in water is similar to the primeval water myth; the notion that the solar system resulted from pieces being torn from some initial larger body is similar to the dismemberment of Ymir myth. Freunds juxta- position of scientific theories with creation myths is often brilliant. As all men are bound by myths, so we in the modem Western world are bound. And if our scientific thinking is in fact partly myth-directed or myth-taken, then it behooves us to know more about the nature of mythology.

    The idea that mythical thought and scientific thought are not necessarily qualitatively different has also been set forth by LCvi-Strauss (in the con- clusion of his provocative paper The Structural Study of Myth). I t is a pity that Freund did not take the trouble to read the relevant anthropological literature on myth. There is no reference to Thomp- sons Mot$ Index or to the modern essays on myth typology by Kluckhohn and Rooth. An obvious instance of the authors lack of knowledge of the myth literature is his attributing Max Miillers celebrated comparison of Greek and Tndic myths to the American historian John Fiske!

    2 64 .,I mericatL d nthrofiologist 169, 19671 The saving grace of the book is its positive eclec-

    ticism of approaches coupled with consistently criti- cal and insightful coninients on Frazer, Freud, Fromm, and others. What a shame that Freunds mind is not as informed as it is keen. Of course, the books jacket proudly proclaims that the author seeks to prove nothing. So it is no criticism to say that he has succeeded. No doubt the book will be warmly welcomed by Jung and Campbell buffs, who, postulating the universality of human thought, find never-ending delight in studying myths plucked from their cultural contexts.

    The Ritisal Theory o/ Myth. JOSEPH FONTC s NROSE. (University of California Publications Folklore Studies: 18.) Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univer- sity of California Press, 1966. 77 pp., appendix, bibliography, indeu. $2.50 (paper).

    Kaliewed by DAvm BIDNKY, Indiana UniverAity

    This monograph is a critique of the ritual theory of the origins of myth as developed by Lord Raglan and Stanley Hyman upon the foundations of Frazers Golden Bough and Harrisons Tlrernis. It combines classical scholarship and ethnological theory in a manner that has not been attempted since Clyde Kluckhohn. The author is to be con- gratulated for his service to contemporary ethno- logical scholarship and especially for his textual examination of the classical sources of the Golden Bough and Tlremis. It is to be hoped that he will turn his attention to other topics of the Golden Borrgli that are in need of critical analysis. The weakest part of the monograph is the concluding chapter, which leans rather heavily upon the work of Malinowski and William Bascom.

    Fontenrose demonstrates that Raglans extreme theory that all myths are ritual texts and that all myth-ritual complexes go back to a single Ur-ritual -that of the annual sacrifice of a divine king-has no basis in recorded history or in actual, ethno- graphic facts. Furthermore, there is no ethnographic evidence to support Frazers conjectures for the ritual killing of the divine king.

    While Stanley Hyman does not accept the uni- versal slaying of a divine king and does not trace all myths back to a single ritual, he does accept in principle the thesis that myths arise only from ritual and that every ritual has a spoken accompaniment, which is the myth and becomes the traditional tale. Hyman relies upon Jane Harrisons Theinis as his source of inspiration, and Harrison, in turn, acknowl- edges the infuence of Durkheim in her hypothesis that the myth of the gods is derived from collective representations and collective emotions engendered by the performance of social rituals. Just as he ex- amines Frazers Golden Bough for the source of Raglans theory, so the author analyzes the classical material upon which Harrison constructed her Tlremis. He concludes that the Pdaikasfro I l s n i n