Are Mythologies Relevant Today?
With the advancement of science, many individuals have become disillusioned with religion and mythology. Skeptics, particularly in the West, who now characterize religion and mythology as fiction and falsehood, are growing. In the age of science, they say, objective evidence and rational analyses – implying scientific findings only must count for knowledge and not dogma or blind faith. Science, however, cannot reveal all truths. While the science might explain the mystery of the physical world, only subjective human thought and experiences would reveal the mystery of life. We, therefore, need a literature of the spirit.
Mythology is the ˜literature of the spirit, timeless in its themes and universal in its appeal, that arose from the collective consciousness of our cultures. They are not merely stories about the life of ancient people.The epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha, for example, are on the surface little more than narratives about a prince exiled to a forest or the fight between cousins over property. In reality, the stories are far more about descriptions of the trials and tribulations that we confront in our everyday lives. Across history and time, we humans have been creatures of poor judgment and unrighteous conduct. Through subliminal messages, the epics and mythological stories tell us how we must control the irrational savage within us. Through illustrations, they show us the consequences of right and wrong actions. They create for us a map of human experiences, documenting the struggles we confront, and the processes we must follow to overcome our moral and ethical dilemmas. Without such a guide map, we would be lost.
We should, therefore, not interpret mythological stories and their characters literally and discard them as fiction. The stories, born of divine dreams, are about integrating us into our culture and society and showing us how we must live in harmony with nature of which we are apart. More importantly,they are metaphors for realizing our spiritual potentialities. We must recognize that mythology is a rich legacy that our ancestors have given to us to liberate ourselves from the confining walls of ordinary life and to find harmony in higher experiences.We should continue to explore the clues that myths provide us to unearth the great values hidden within them.
Dr. Ram S. Sriram