Happy New Year! For the new year I’ve decided to change the layout of the blog for a fresh viewing and reading experience. The first post of 2014 will be the last post on Chapter 3, Man’s Archaic Heritage. It also will serve as an introduction to Chapter 4.
Preston Harold ends Chapter 3 with a focus on humanity’s legends, those stories and myths that tell us in no simple terms who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. In his work “The Evolution of Religion,” Samuel Miller says that in primordial myths “the experience of multitudes was strained, concentrated, and objectified in archaic figures and forms.” Hold the pulp; just the juice, please! Harold expounds on this thought:
Legends convey race memory, and because of their similarity they may be seen also as vehicles to convey man’s realizations of inner processes, both physical and psychic, for which no adequate words existed, so that these must be stated in poetic form… The Genesis legend may be viewed as telling the story of man from the dawn of life, retelling it through each day. It tells the story from every point of view and it is also a mound of truth enfolding the inner facts of life just as a “Tell” enfolds artifacts that reveal the lives of those who built and rebuilt upon the same spot.
In other words, the Biblical and other legends implore us to become inner archeologists, digging into the “mound of truth” within for the deep inner psychic and spiritual meanings to be discovered there.
Next, in one of my favorite illustrations in the whole book, Harold compares the telling of the legend to the structure of the human brain…
In this study the chain of Biblical legends is examined because they embrace so many others. Each of them must be viewed as a deeply and intricately furrowed unity enfolded into the smallest possible space: … “the surface of the hemispheres began to wrinkle at an early stage. The human cortex covers the hemispheres in deep and narrow folds. If the cortex were stretched smoothly over the hemispheres, a human brain would have to be the size of a beer-barrell.” The “shape” of the legend follows the “shape” of the brain.
I love it!
God IS, and yet is constantly BECOMING. The clue to God’s, and therefore mankind’s, workings lies in the name of God. Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. I Will Be What I Will Be, or, I Am Becoming What I Am Becoming. And Harold reminds us that in the view of “The Shining Stranger,” the Biblical legends…
…are not to be viewed as an absolute dictum handed to certain men from “God on high,” from an authority apart. They are mankind’s own best efforts to state and transmit memories of happenings and realizations that widen the boundaries of human consciousness… Evolution speaks of “change” or “becoming” — the problem is, how to convey the passage from one state into another? Legends enfold the story.
In other words, “mankind’s own best efforts” are undertaken by those inner archeologists, those who have gone deep within to find the beginnings of the heavens and the earth in their very own selves. The legends are how these archeologists pass on the information.
Now, as we prepare to move on to Chapter 4, Preston Harold wants us to keep the words of Arthur Toynbee in mind:
“If the Universe is a mystery, and if the key to this mystery is hidden, are not myths an indispensable means for expressing as much as we can express of the ineffable?… myths are the instruments through which these farthest flights of the Human Spirit are achieved… A primordial element is perhaps to be found in every myth that makes its mark. Yet the stuff of which myths are fashioned is mostly local and ephemeral.”
Until next time, peace.