Scholarly article on topic 'Myth, History and Art'

Myth, History and Art Academic research paper on "History and archaeology"

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Abstract of research paper on History and archaeology, author of scientific article — Igor Fic, Kateřina Ďoubalová

Abstract Text of the present study is a contribution to solving the issue of the relationship of myth, history and art (poetry). In general, it presents an analysis of the linkages between myth, history and poetry, creating a theoretical basis for future empirical analysis of individual literary works. The purpose of the study is to create conditions for the interpretation of literary works on the basis of historical discourse in which it is assessed diachronic consideration of the phenomena. Because of this plan, it is necessary to rely primarily on the results of archetypal criticism, which interferes with the mythology, history and poetry. The width of the problem, however, forces us to take into account also the methods of Jungian psychoanalysis, structural analysis and literary hermeneutics. All these methodological procedures substantially affect the content, meaning and interpretation of constants contained in mythical, religious, historical, artistic and esoteric texts. The importance of reading poetry and literary works of art, commonly categorized into the canon of European literature suggests that their authors proceeded not only from the contemporary literary context, but their works are substantially touching elements of religious, mythical and cultural-historical life. Given these facts, we must emphasize the importance of research in the field of analysis and classification of archetypes, symbols, prototypes (antitypes), images and comparisons. Information acquired by analysis of individual literary works necessarily lead to finding the meaning of literary works. This will constitute the meaning of a literary work as much timeless phenomenon that happens through reading and interpretation of the poetic works regardless of place and time. Thus exposed research trajectory of a literary work is generally recommended for each literary critic, who deals with a unique interpretation of a particular literary text.

Academic research paper on topic "Myth, History and Art"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 149 (2014) 339 - 343

LUMEN 2014

Myth, History and Art

Igor Fica, Katerina Doubalovab*

abDepartment of Czech Language and Literature, Faculty of Education, Palacky University Olomouc, Zizkovo namesti 5,

771 40 Olomouc, Czech Republic

Abstract

Text of the present study is a contribution to solving the issue of the relationship of myth, history and art (poetry). In general, it presents an analysis of the linkages between myth, history and poetry, creating a theoretical basis for future empirical analysis of individual literary works. The purpose of the study is to create conditions for the interpretation of literary works on the basis of historical discourse in which it is assessed diachronic consideration of the phenomena. Because of this plan, it is necessary to rely primarily on the results of archetypal criticism, which interferes with the mythology, history and poetry. The width of the problem, however, forces us to take into account also the methods of Jungian psychoanalysis, structural analysis and literary hermeneutics. All these methodological procedures substantially affect the content, meaning and interpretation of constants contained in mythical, religious, historical, artistic and esoteric texts. The importance of reading poetry and literary works of art, commonly categorized into the canon of European literature suggests that their authors proceeded not only from the contemporary literary context , but their works are substantially touching elements of religious , mythical and cultural-historical life. Given these facts, we must emphasize the importance of research in the field of analysis and classification of archetypes, symbols, prototypes (antitypes), images and comparisons. Information acquired by analysis of individual literary works necessarily lead to finding the meaning of literary works. This will constitute the meaning of a literary work as much timeless phenomenon that happens through reading and interpretation of the poetic works regardless of place and time. Thus exposed research trajectory of a literary work is generally recommended for each literary critic, who deals with a unique interpretation of a particular literary text.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LUMEN 2014. Keywords: myth; history; poetry; interpretation; criticism.

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: katerina.doubalova@seznam.cz

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of LUMEN 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.08.261

1. Introduction: Prolegomena to the beginnings of European artistic thinking

The relationship between myth and history was perceived differently in different epochs and its rather positive description is far from clear. Myth, or fable, can be characterized as a witness to the mystical union of man with the universe. This connection has the form of a ritual and is literary implemented, sung, rhythmized and told in verse, which all uses imaginative abilities of man and seeks universal validity. (Campbell, 1998, p. 35) "The ritual itself is inexplicable: the pre-logical, pre-verbal and in a certain sense, pre-human." (Frye, 2003, p. 127) Its character is timeless. The ritual consists of a formal principle of magical and religious practices, in order to guide a person through certain stages of life (there are four such, the same as seasons of the year: birth - baptism, adult -confirmation, marriage and death), of human maturing in accordance with the principle of the divine being. Through ritual, myth is gaining in importance. "In terms of importance or dianoia, the world of myth is an area where the poetic meaning and composition form the structure of imagery, which has conceptual implications. (...) This world is an apocalyptic world of absolute metaphors where everything is potentially identical with everything as if everything was included in one infinite body." (Frye, 2003, p. 157) Myth creates a comprehensive space of metaphorical identification of individually conceived human existence with the eternal foundation of the universe.

Myths have a strong symbolic function. Through the symbol human life can be seen as participation of own negotiations at the timelessly operating mythical structure, what is more, human life is possible - and in societies with living mythical tradition even necessary - understood as the realization of the myth. The myth, though transcendentally based, is irrevocably tied to reality. "Myths cannot be understood, if removed from the lives of people who are telling them. (...) They are not any dramatic or lyrical creations without regard to social or political establishment, rituals, customs or law: on the contrary, their role is to justify all this, consolidate and support a figurative expression of great ideas." (Dumézil, 2001, p. 16)

Therefore, the myths become "a treasury of ideas, language forms and cosmological ideas, moral lessons, etc." (Vernant, 2001, p. 11) The myth was passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition in the form for which there was a typical "voice, tone, rhythm and gesture", and also "a different way of thinking." (Vernant, 2001, p. 11) This different way of thinking requires a different arrangement of formal and linguistic means and, above all, lies in the specific approaches to reality. Myth is defined as "creative and exemplary" way of being. "There is no myth that would not reveal any mystery, not referred to the initial event, which became the basis and starting point of any structure of reality or human behavior." (Eliade, 1998, p. 9) This model is the basis for "the whole world" and for "eternity" because by the very fact that a man is being informed of the beginning of the world, the myth is not exclusive part of secular time. "When cosmogonic myth recounts how the world was created, it also reveals the origin of the cosmos and its ontological order: it says why this world exists. Cosmogony is also ontophany, the full manifestation of being. And because all the myths are in some way involved in creation of any kind cosmogonic myth, every story about what happened in illo tempore, is a variant of the exemplary story of how the world was created, and it follows that every mythology is ontophany. Myths reveal the structure of reality and countless ways of being in this world. Therefore they are exemplary models for human behavior: they reveal the real stories that invoke these realities. Ontophany always includes a theophany or hierophany." (Eliade, 1998, p. 8)

2. Discussion: Approach to the myth from Ancient Greek philosophers to Jesus Christ as a man and a symbol

This concept of reality and time gradually led to a confrontation with rationally and empirically based perception of reality: the mythological epic was rejected by Greek historiography as well as by much more rigorous Greek philosophy. For Herodotus a myth represented basic concept of history whose beginning and end are elusive and meaning is inscrutable. Herodotus' relationship to reality is traditional. Civilization pressure of expanding Greek polis put history and myth against each other, whereas mythological stories remain the domain of the epic and drama. Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War focused the attention of the reader or listener to contemporary social and political events taking place in the human and linear time. Their consequences are verifiable, interpretable and evaluable. Everything can be subject to empirical scrutiny, it is separated from the mythical origin of the material and converted into the relationship between carefully picked up material, subjectively-founded organization and actually functional evaluation.

Thinking of Greek historians took the path of destruction of traditional historical mythic schemes. Its aim was to divide currently lived, sensually received and in real time revealed facts from strictly traditionally bound interpretative schema. Thucydides' history represents a decisive step towards creating a history rooted more in the present than in the past, and therefore the history freed from the traditional mythical concepts; history has been transformed into an instrument of social and political guarantee of present reality, which becomes a matter of the past gradually with time. Author gives his personal and personally biased testimony and becomes its natural rate. The historical significance of Homer's mythical poetic work was in terms of "historicity" relativized.

Greek historiography rejected the Homeric epic and embraced the new rules of representation of facts. At the core of its aversion, however, we find the philosophical nature of the dispute. Presocratic philosophy and especially Plato opposed the myth - and therefore poetry - as well as the concept of truth and morality. Implacable Plato's critique of poets and poetry is the last phase of conflict between myth and logos. Myth stepped aside logo, metaphorical representation of the conceptual world. Soon, however, there were attempts to reconcile the two conflicting opposites. Hellenistic thinking and religious feeling eventually came to the rehabilitation of the myth and the Homeric epic. The foundation became the allegorical interpretation of the text, which sought to uncover the secrets of eternal truths and ancient wisdom hidden behind the world of phenomena as well as behind figurative fabric of mythical epic tales: "Homer's apology turns into apotheosis. For Neoplatonists, the poet becomes the hierophant, keeper of esoteric secrets." (Curtius, 1998, p. 225)

Emphasis was placed on the allegorical interpretation of poetic framework of quasi historical processing of reality, however, the subject of interest of interpreters was different: Roman thinkers prefer Virgil before Homer, but Homer's influence was not considerably weakened. Attempts to numerous treatments of history of the Roman imperial period copy Livius' History and Tacitus' Chronicles, the description of the present processes preserves religious-mythical character of celebratory rhetorical nimbus. Educated Asian Greek Pausanias, a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius, describes and evaluates the Greek culture and the Greek education in a way that pays respect for profaned archaic wisdom as well as for long established, petrified classical education of the Greeks that became commonplace. Myth and history overlap in his interpretation and merge into a single comprehensive picture not because the author was unable to find the resolution, but because on his way to the spiritual treasures of the past, he embraced the country and its cultural heritage as a complete entity in fact, as it was preserved in his days.

The multiplicity of philosophy and considerable influence and diversity of then iconic religious and mystical practices led, on the one hand, to the feverish effort to create a universal cognitive formula eligible for a uniform interpretation of the world, on the other hand, it is this tendency that contributed to simplification, reduction and reinterpretation of classical education in order to create its cultural canon and a unifying intellectual and religious lines. Syncretism and mysticism of Hellenistic thinking has created a rich tradition of allegoresis of facts and its interpretation, opening the way to a wide and consistent adoption of Christianity as a unifying intellectual and religious - mythical element. On the contrary, Christianity could not do without elaborated methods of interpretation and ideological concepts of Greek philosophy, and their use meant the adoption and maintenance of the Greek cultural tradition.

Judaism gained a special status within this world. Educated leaders of the Jewish community in Alexandria were exposed to a double pressure: on the one hand, they were confronted with the intellectual heritage of Greek philosophy, on the other hand, were put under pressure of its practical application in the society of Civitas Romana. The Romans did not have a peculiar philosophy, religion and art. Instead they regarded Roman culture, this conglomerate of politico-religious theses of the Hellenistic world, principally derived from the political practices of the Greek polis, as a homogeneous prerequisite for the executive power. They replaced the aforementioned universal cognitive pragmatic formula by theorem of politico-religious identification with the power structure of the state and law. Roman religio (L. religare = bind; religio = liability) subordinated religious, national or ethnic, social and personal liberty of man to a complete authority and design of Roman citizenship. This concept was implemented on the ground of political rhetoric filled with myth creating technique of demonstrating facts. Their adoption would require a degree of religious and mythical correspondence of traditional cults with the state religion, which required relationship of religious and mythic images born of Indo-European cultural tribe. Such an enforced application of a homogeneous politico-religious model in a heterogeneous community of diverse cults and national cultural traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean, necessarily led to its degeneration. Christianity adopted this model as a

socially formative principle, however, on different cultural and religious grounds. In the High Middle Ages Christianity initiated similarly destructive development of its hegemonic ambitions, which it inherited from the Roman Civitas.

Alexandrian scholarship of Hellenized Jews sought to reconcile the later Greek philosophy with Jewish historical and religious tradition of the Old Testament. Method of allegoresis appeared as a convenient tool because the application of contemporary Greek log has receded considerably far from classical definition. Only through exemplarity of its visual realization in often very spectacular public discourse the perception of diverse cultural and religious environment of the Hellenistic world became possible. In the Roman Alexandria religious and cultural influences of "old world" permeated and clashed heavily: Egyptian, Persian, Syrian, Greek, gnostic and Christian. Alexandria was a synonym for intellectual and cultural syncretism for most Indo-European nations, whose religious system was based on polytheism and strong matriarchal traits that was associated with the cult of the goddess of fertility and Mother-Earth.

Jewish religious and cultural practice, however, was defined by monotheistic exclusivity. So if the Jews had to survive and co-exist in incompatible religious and cultural environment and if they did not want to accept the fact of voluntary or forced assimilation, for which was enough to rename the original deities, they had to transform the interpretation of their religious system so as the other spiritual elite did, of course elites of polytheistic based religious cults. One way was to preserve the original mythical thinking and traditional religious wisdom in the system of cryptograms, anagrams, emblems, numerical symbolism, etc. Among the Jews there is an example of such practices the art of Kabbalah. The tendency to conceal the meaning formed an undercurrent stream of European philosophical and religious thinking. It led to the development of symbolic representation of facts, to the flourishing of mythical imagination and made it available to the medieval Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art by mysterious picturesque and grotesque stylization of the world, out of official religious doctrine, and that is the paths of alchemy.

Jews living in the Diaspora, however, were offered another way. Of course they were Semites, and of course subject to the One God, the God - Father. Their religious thinking, of course, was not compatible with the religious thinking of Indo-European nations at the most important point for their life - the classification of divinity. In their concept the divinity was unknowable, inexpressible and therefore unclassifiable. Renaming their unknown God, or charging their religious traditions by politico-religious principles of Roman citizenship, it would be a designation of undesignatable fact. It was unthinkable, therefore impracticable. A completely different concept of sacredness made it impossible to adapt, to make it profane and manipulate with the traditional concept of God. It was necessary to find a spiritual principle compatible with this notion. Philo of Alexandria revealed the concept handed down in Greek philosophy. Philo's God ruled the world, got involved in its operation, transformed it into reality and created history. Doing all this, the God was unknown and incomprehensible. Logos fulfilled the role of a mediator between him and reality. Indo-European religious traditions however possessed visible deity, acting in the world of the senses and experience which was invoked from the original chaos by name of certain God. For the Romans who automatically took over this system, the act of sacral specification of reality was very important. It allowed the implementation of social efficiency and multi-functionality of endorsed religious system.

The Old Testament God of the Jews, however, could not be specified that way. He did not have name and could not be represented. He seemed incomprehensible for the Romans, inconceivable and politically unusable. Alexandrian Jews, like the Pharisees of Jerusalem, thought to find a way to create religious and social compliance with state religion: God was placed ahead the reality perceived by the senses. They highlighted his role of universal originator, transcendent and timeless acting creator of the All (logos of Greek philosophy), who implements himself in history, but his effect must be recognized as such. In contrast, other ancient deities were identified in practice with historical facts. Greek gods introduced a man into human history and the history gained mythical dimension. Over time, however, human history profaned, and Greek and other archaic gods became quite successfully and effectively corrupted. Ancient religious traditions gained metaphorically significant features of a particular sacredness compared to Jewish religious universalism.

Hellenized Jews introduced religious monotheism in accordance with the Greek Neoplatonist and Neopythagorean philosophy. Hellenistic thinking and Christian theological inspiration of the Church Fathers then synthesized the formal and spiritual heritage of the ancient world: myth, epic and poetry. Historiography and philosophy encountered in the field of rhetoric to provide a formal structure for expressing universalist ideas of Hellenistic Jewish philosophers and historians, Christian apologists and the Church Fathers. For the next thousand

years, theology, philosophy, history and poetry interwove in a single complex spiritual idea of the Christian-oriented ontological model of the world based on mutual formal and genre enrichment and recovery. This formally established symbiosis, but not its theologically oriented ontology framework, was disrupted by conceptual integrity expressed in philosophical works by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Jesus Christ is a historical figure and a symbol as well. In his person, the horizontal, or linear, concept of time and historical time crosses with the vertical, with eternity. Historical and timeless conception of Christ completes and consolidates the mythical reproduction of historical fact of archaic and pre-Christian people and allows deep, religiously based projection of myth to historical fact, which only in myth finds the possibility of unveiling its semantic potential. Christian myth respects the history of the historical events unfolding in time. The time is filled with liturgy, and allows us to experience historical fact of birth and beginnings of history. Divine and human world are identical. "The identity of all categories provides a unifying vision of Christ: Christ is one God and one man, the Lamb of God, the tree of life and the vine stem, whose branches we are, stone which the builders rejected, and temple rebuilt, which is identical to his resurrected body. Religious and poetic identification differs only in terms of intentions. The first case is all about the existential meaning, whereas the second is primarily metaphorical." (Frye, 2003, p. 163-164)

3. Conclusions

The historical myth consists of a number of historically verifiable events. It is true that their source is reality, and that a man - its meaningful part and extreme example of its representation - stands in its semantic middle. It is also the fact that reality, and therefore man, are derived from the absolute value of God, in which everything finds its beginning and end. This not non-authentic position of human life, always derived from the reality of God, allows a man to be the bearer and recipient of a mythical historical narrative structure, as well as to be an indispensable participant to the mythical ritual. And this is also true: the reality - the space of the current overlap of past, present and future - is communicable, transmissible and comprehensible especially as the word realized in speech. Once the reality is outspoken, it becomes apparent, and therefore exists and gains the importance. According to Hebrew, as well as Greek tradition, things and people are endowed with existence only when given a name. A moment of recalling reality via giving it a name, and thus preserving it in our memory, creates history. The history of man (humanity) is the history of words, the element of repetition and constant update of words actually creates the conditions for its mythical implementation. The Greeks claimed that an important event or a heroic act that ever existed, it must first be praised, poetically glorified, by bards. It is the only way the fact becomes memorable, therefore it exists. Man remains the creator or co-creator of the word (myth); he creates his presence and becomes a co-creator of history. His existence is historically and mythically identifiable. His life is a continuous change, update, the subject and the source of the myth.

Myth makes the past present and every historical event out of time, so that acceptable at any time. Myth objectifies the event out of reach of precisely conceived theory of objectivity, reasonably to epistemological parameters of historiography as well as any other science. The intention of the author of poetic work is to mediate an immediate experience of specific event that not only becomes part of human seeing, thinking and feeling, but it also stands in total unity with the world. This way, timelessly conceived action opens a timeless expression, and thus transcendent reality. All European art, sensually perceived and unveiled in a particular time, aims at timeless transcendent reality.

References

Campbell, J. (1998). Myty. Legendy davnych vëkù v nasem dennim zivotë. Praha: Pragma.

Curtius, E. R. (1998). Evropska literatura a latinsky stredovëk. Praha: Triada.

Dumézil, G. (2001). Mytus a epos I. Praha: Oikoymenh.

Eliade, M. (1998). Myty, sny a mystéria. Praha: Oikoymenh.

Frye, N. (2003). Anatomie kritiky. Brno: Host.

Vernant, J. P. (2001). Vesmir, bohové, lidé. Praha, Litomysl: Paseka.