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Interpretation and Mythos

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jeanne's first version of an adaptation of William Duke's hypnosis effect on perception
From an illustration in the New York Times by William Duke

Mythos ->The Terror and Torture I See -> The World As I Perceive It Based on My Mythos
The Process of Interpretation from Top to Bottom

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: November 22, 2005
Latest Update: November 22, 2005

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Index of Topics on Site The Importance of Interpretation and Mythos
This piece is based on an article in the New York Times on November 22, 2005, in the Science Times Section, at p. D1: This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis. . . Backup.

We have had extensive discussions this semester on mythos: the stories, beliefs, we tell as a people about our origins, the meaning of life, our relationship to the Other, whatever that may include. Dr. Amir Raz' July article on hypnosis represents one of the advances in neuroscience (science of the mind and brain) that should help us understand precisely why we cannot "prove" scientifically our beliefs, not that we would want to for them to be valid for us. Beliefs are part of our humanity, that which guides us in explaining who we are and why we are here and where we are going. We don't need to validate them. They simply are. They are ours. They guide us. The only time they represent any problem for science is when we claim that they themselves are the equivalent or the same as science.

Science is logos, that which we can explain rationally by observation and disciplined study of nature and the world as we can determine it through our senses. Because science depends always on what we are able to know, it changes continuously, as we are able to measure and observe more, and correct old inaccuracies of measurement and observation.

Mythos, on the other hand, does not so change. It may change, as we change, grow, experience greater spirituality, whatever. But somehow we seem every so often to get caught up in one group or another assuring us that their mythos is the one and only mythos that we must all accept as truth. There are many kinds of truth. There is legal truth, there is ecological truth, there is truth as it sustains us in our beliefs. But because all truth, as knowledge, must be filtered from the top- down, as Dr. Raz explains in his article. Belief, like hypnosis, alters our perceptive abilities. If we "believe" that the earth is round, it's round, for all intents and purposes. Even though string theory is currently showing us that there is a very good likelihood that the cosmos consists of flat planes or membranes from which, according to present understanding, only gravity can escape, and that we hope in a billion years or so when our sun dies out will provide a "worm hole" from which we will be able to escape to a new universe with a new sun.

That's scientific speculation. That means that's what lots of scientists are seeing in today's theoretical interpretations of possible answers to questions like "What happens when the sun dies?" I don't think I'll be around for it. But I like that science gives us some reason to hope that humans, all humans, whatever the mythos that sustains them in today's world with today's knowledge, can hope for an on-going future. There is so much good and so much wonder to preserve. May science one day lead our children to the new universe they need.

Brenda asked the other day how I could possibly imagine that God needed my help. Good question, Brenda. I think that any creator god, who, according to most religions, created me in His [more recently, /Her] image, needs my help, for I must live out that which He/She created. Certainly, if He promises an after life, which I can hardly imagine when our greatest scientists have difficulty imagining string theory, He/She must have wanted at least some of those like me to join Him/Her in some way. Love is interactive. Love is certainly a part of our creation, albeit a socially constructed part. That means that it's not possible to see love, to touch it, to hold it, but we all know it when it is there amongst us. Love generates a loving world, which makes our existence loveable. And I cannot imagine that a creator god would not want me to love in return for his love, which may make manifest this world, especially if He sent His Son to save me, and all of us.

Need, like love, is a social construct. A creator god may not "need" me in the sense that He/She may be able to do whatever He/She chooses whether I exist, live after life, whatever. But if He/She creates what we call "love," then it would seem that he would "need" some like me to allow that love to grow and replace the war and terror and torture and greed with love for all of us. We need each other, as parent and child need each other, as lovers need each other.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does mythos affect the way we see the world? In the bottom to top process? or in the top to bottom process?

  2. How does that color our perspective of the world?

  3. Why is there no need to "prove" our mythos or beliefs?

    Consider that they are the absolute top.



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