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What's In a Name? God and Mythology

In response to the question "How would you define mythology?" Joseph Campbell answered:

My favorite definition of mythology: other people's religion. My favorite definition of religion: misunderstanding of mythology.

A myth does not mean something untrue. Let's get that out of the way first. It'll be hard to understand much of what I write on this blog without fully understanding this point. Although centuries of the scientific method has made many of us forget, there is a fundamental void between reality and the words that we use to describe reality. This is not to denigrate science or the scientific method. I think it's the most powerful tool we have to make predictions about the nature of the world. That being said, it is inherently a descriptive project, not a prescriptive one - meaning, it talks about reality, but never fully captures it.

Myth uses story and narrative to do the same thing, but with the expressed intent of speaking about our experience as human beings in the world. Typically, infused with the dominant political and metaphysical frameworks of the cultures in which they emerged. That experience is the truth that myths point to, rather than trying to accurately describe reality. The confusion is created when people treat myths as though they are trying to be science.

God is also a myth, which does not make it untrue or unreal. However, it does mean that we should understand that our descriptions about God are stories and narratives that speak to the human experience, and not accurate descriptions about what God really is. If I'm honest, it has taken me a long time to be able to even use God as a term again because of how many assumptions people bring with them whenever they hear that word. Now though, I no longer wish to let my fear of being misunderstood dictate my choice of language.

For me, God is not a cosmic male parent or some kind of all-powerful wish fulfillment genie. That is just another idea in the mind. God is the ground of all reality. That which makes existence possible at all. It is the creative force of a universe that is eternally evolving. It is the energy that makes the principle of emergence possible. And it is expressed as all things, through the universe itself, which is at its essence, one wholly-unified thing.

The dualistic mind separates us from God, as if that were possible. God is up there and I am down here. I have to pray to this God as if it doesn't already know everything I want. And yet, mainstream religion also teaches that God is everywhere. This shows the confusion that still exists in the popular understanding of God.

At the end of the day, all ideas we have about God are just that - ideas. They can point you towards an experience of the depths of reality but they are only pointers. God can only be experienced, it can never be known or understood through concepts. Myths are true insofar as that as pointers, they can genuinely provide access to the experience of God, but they must always ultimately be left behind.

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