View Full Version : Personal Myths

12-24-2006, 11:17 AM
www.edge.org/discourse/bb.html and www.skepticforum.com have some good conversation going on.

I very much like Dennett's writing, and intend to finish Breaking The Spell sometime soon. Atran at the above link has good things to say, IMO. They're all worth reading and weighing carefully, I think.

My general attitude comes from three telling moments. Age 5, in sunday school, bible stories for me "are just like fairy tales, except adults believe them; I'll have to grow up before I understand."

Age 14, I feel morally sick when a sunday school teacher says "God made the bad people black so the good white people would know who to stay away from." (Thankfully the Mormon church has changed its colors, so to speak.) Those two times were about my only visits to any kind of church, BTW.

Approaching age 40, between the lines in philosophy course: most people are religious, I'm people, maybe I ought to know more about this.

These days I want to follow Jung, Atran and Dennett and explore the religious mythical Jungian existential thing more seriously, and be phenomenological about it through writing. I suspect the roots of religion, metaphor, science and story making are all entwined.

Exposing or confronting religious problems and fallacies is not on my agenda. Transforming them might be. Perhaps stories can lead to insights that would take us beyond religion by inviting development of personal myths to complement other personal choices, iff those myths are understood as a creative response: not revealed, but revealing.

Who's got recommendations for starting with Jung? Who else might I want to read? Do you have a personal mythology as a sort of embellished encapsulation (or whatever) of how you think about the world and your place in it?


Happy Eggnog Season . . . ;)

12-24-2006, 02:15 PM
Hi, while up in the middle of the night I just read your post, and thought I might make my first appearance in this forum. I'm only peripherally familiar with Jung if at all, and haven't read anything by him that I recall, but perhaps I can make some other reading suggestions.
This "conversation" comes to mind, "Is God a Taoist?" by Raymond Smullyan:
God speaks back to a person praying, and makes a big claim that free will is the greatest gift ever to Humankind, though the human in this case is much like some Christians I've heard who are so bothered by free will and their resulting difficulties in resisting sin that they wish they didn't have it. But the conversation is quite heretical by typical Western standards of what God is, and sends the poor person for many logical loops. Dunno about you, but after reading this I'm never gonna pray again. :)

The book "The Mind's I" by Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter contains the story at the above link, and commentaries by the athors/editors, with about a dozen other stories and commentaries in a similar light. I first read it when it was published about 25 years ago, and found it fascinating reading. I've read some by each of these authors separately, though I recall "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" to be a bit hard to read.

While you're at it, Hofstadter's first book "Godel, Escher and Bach" may be worth a read. I don't recall it having much to say about God or religion directly, but I think it's a standard read in some fields, though I can't think what fields those would be.

Mi life's story made very short (to make this totally on topic, I really should flesh it out and make it an article or book or something), I grew up as a "weak" atheist in the Baptist church (I generally didn't talk about it), at age 30 wound in a group where belief in God was "suggested" and I did indeed believe for several years, then I read every book in the library on cults and educated myself out of the group and all its beliefs, and now consider myself a strong atheist.

A seminal book in the process of "losing my religion" happened to be one I read peripherally to my quest to understand what had happened to me in the group: "The Adventures of A Parapsychologist" (now titled "In Search of the Light") by Susan Blackmore. I found my belief to be much like those of parapsychologists who believe that "hard proof" of esp, telekinesis or whatever was just around the corner. She ends her book after doing many rigorous (unlike her colleagues!) expeiments that show no positive evidence, with "I don't know." Before reading her book I was "skeptical" but not totally dismissive of esp, but since then I have no more interest in even casually persuing the possibility that it exists. More recently, I found that I actually came to this conclusion (I read her book in the 1990's) before she did (this is longish, but I think a good read):

And FWIW here's a Usenet post where I write a little more about Blackmore's book:

That was more than I was going to write...

12-30-2006, 11:48 PM
Hi, Ben. Thanks for all the book suggestions. I think I've read every one of them, but too many years ago! Hofstadter's book I think would be in the field of computational complexity.

I read your link, intro post and anecdote posted in the sci-fi forum; I like your thinking and I sympathize with your plight, which is so similar to mine: technical background (programming and philosophy), trying to get a grip on fiction. I tend to come up with slice of life things, or word salad or poems.

Your religious/cult history is intriguing indeed. I went to a buddhist chant session thing one time, where everyone said "nom me oh ho reng gay key oh" for about 1/2 an hour, then were instructed to go out and see that their chanting had caused more goodness to come into the world; another day, I was lured into the front door of some cult org, maybe early scientology, and was too scared by the looks on people's faces to go any farther. I guess I could have included these two incidents in my first post; they relate to the same psychology. About that time, I was reading Maslow's The Psychology of Being -- which I never did finish, altho I must have bought at least four copies to give away.

I decided to get more serious about pursuing Jung and found some websites. I'd like to find a reasonably in-depth summary of his thoughts, maybe an anthology with sections dealing with each of his major themes. I also need to get into the ancient myths, but I'm so impatient.

So, anyway, a friend recently wrote a novel, I was jealous and inspired. I keep getting analytical about it all. Reading the how-to books sometimes gets in the way. This new forum section: could be a nice place to talk about the root of story in the story of wo/mankind. But not everyone wants to take apart the magic of story. Maybe for fear of the wizard behind the curtain?

Rambling, also writing more than I thought I would. If you have some ideas on what story is, please share. And, what flavor of engineering do you do?