Frederick Nietzsche on the loss of myth:

friedrich-nietzsche

“Yet without myth, all culture loses its healthy and natural creative power: only a horizon surrounded by myths can unify an entire cultural movement. Myth alone rescues all the powers of imagination and the Apolline dream from their aimless wanderings.

“The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, omnipresent and unnoticed, which protect the growth of the young mind and guide man’s interpretation of his life and struggles.

“The state itself has no unwritten laws more powerful than the mythical foundation that guarantees its connection with religion and its growth out of mythical representations.

“Let us now, by way of comparison, imagine abstract man, without the guidance of myth – abstract education, abstract morality, abstract justice, the abstract state; let us imagine the lawless wandering, unchecked by native myth, of the artistic imagination; let us imagine a culture without a secure and sacred primal site, condemned to exhaust every possibility and feed wretchedly on all other cultures—there we have our present age, the product of that Socratism bent on the destruction of myth.

“And here stands man, stripped of myth, eternally starving, in the midst of all the past ages, digging and scrabbling for roots, even if we must dig for them in the most remote antiquities.

“What is indicated by the great historical need of unsatisfied modern culture, clutching about for countless other cultures, with its consuming desire for knowledge, if not the loss of myth, the loss of the mythical home, the mythical womb?

“Let us consider whether the feverish and sinister agitation of this culture is anything other than a starving man’s greedy grasping for food – and who would wish to give further nourishment to a culture such as this, unsatisfied by everything it devours, which transforms the most powerful, wholesome nourishment into ‘history and criticism’?…

“For this is how religions die; the mythic premises of a religion are systematized, beneath the stern and intelligent eyes of an orthodox dogmatism, into a fixed sum of historic events; one begins nervously defending the veracity of myths, at the same time resisting their continuing life and growth. The feeling for myth dies and is replaced by religious claims to foundations in history…

“…Like a human being, a people has value only in so far as it can give its experience the stamp of eternity, for in this way it becomes desecularized, and reveals its unconscious inner conviction of the relativity of time and the true, metaphysical meaning of life.

“The opposite occurs when a people begins to understand itself historically and to shatter the mythical bulwarks that surround it. This generally goes hand in hand with a resolute process of secularization, a break with the unconscious metaphysics of its former existence, and all the ethical consequences that follow that.”

– The Birth of Tragedy, by Friedrich Nietzsche

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