Thursday, November 19, 2009

Time and myth

Reading up on Jungian archetypes at the moment, and trying to decide whether Jung was a charlatan or a scientist. This is G. Van Der Leeuw on myth and time, an area of particular Jungian interest:

Time and myth belong together. Myth creates time, gives it "content and form." This is still implicit in the calendar: "An III de la Republique," "in the tenth year of Fascism," "AD 1949." Time was determined by an event that emerged from the unconscious at the moment when it was given form... For myth and so-called reality are indissolubly interwoven. When they read the earliest history of certain tribes or people, scholars wonder: is it myth or history? mythical usage or real usage?... But the whole question is false. Myth is life and life is myth.

Now, I think it is tendentious to say that time in these (or any) epochs of change 'emerges from the unconscious at the moment they are given form'. There is some truth in it, but it is not an absolute truth. Pol Pot, for example, definitely declared Year Zero, but to say that the Christian era began in year 1 AD, with everyone immediately understanding that shift from unconscious to conscious thought, is clearly anachronistic. It didn't happen like that. The principle is reasonable, and therefore they underlying premise that myth and time are closely interlinked is also acceptable, but to posit this as a universal truth is unsound reasoning.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

Yes, I think Jung touches on an important insights, and then goes off the reservation with it by lack of analytical precision. (Something I know well.)

In Chapter 1 (after the Intro) of The Ecumenic Age, Order & History, Vol. IV, Voegelin does a more comprehensive job at discussing the various ways in which time relates to constructions of myth or history. See especially, pages 78-79.

Also, Order and History Vol. I (Israel and Revelation), pages 116-126 is very interesting and more clearly laid out than the passage cited above. While it deals specifically with the case of Israel, it elucidates problems with regard to writing a 'timeless' story that contains facts of mundane history.

In general, I think the notion that myth is life and life is myth is an imprecise statement of the classic Voegelinian insight that "...the order of history emerges from history of order." In other words, throughout the history of the world, man makes sense of his world through the stories he tells about it, and those stories are tied to a particular time and place and people.

In that regard, "reality" and "time" as conceived in that reality, do spring from the mind of the collective unconscious of a people (-perhaps as representative of a particular thinker's original inner insights then becoming that people's Tradition).

This is not to say that the physics of time (entropy increases as time move foward) is not also a reality. The issue is that as humans we need to break up this stream of time and make it intelligible. How we choose to do this is an idiosyncratic but telling insight into what a people thinks about the world.

Compare: escatology with cyclical time with infinite time...
what are the implication of each?

Personally, I believe in bathroom time: a world where I can read on the toilet all day long, and still get paid. Myths are great... .