Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

Here is a link to a blog by Thomas Verenna with a comment I posted:

Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

It is quite humorous that I mixed you up with that other blogger.  I didn’t get enough sleep last night and my mind was apparently a bit fuzzy.

This blog post has good info.  I’ll have to think more about the distinction between legend and mythology.  Do you think most religions begin with legends?  And do you think legends usually begin in some historical model or inspiration?

There is one place where I see a mixing of myth and legend.  Some savior god-men are also identified with the creator god and/or considered to have existed since the beginning.  But I don’t know if either the legend or the myth comes first or if they co-evolve.

I can only juggle so many fields as well, but my curiosity is always distracting me.  I sometimes wonder why I get obsessed about something like mythicism.  I’m more interested in the comparative mythology side of it and how it relates to modern culture as represented in various media (specifically storytelling). 

I’m more of an idea person in that I prefer philosophy and psychology over history, but of course it all blends together.  My desire to analyze ancient texts is mostly limited to how I perceive the ideas to still be vibrant within contemporary culture.  I find it fascinating how certain ideas can act as memes that take hold of the shared experience of a culture for centuries and even millennia.

One of the earliest books I read that started me in the direction of studying all of this was Carl Jung’s Answer to Job.  It was his most personal book, but also it was where he most deeply engaged the mythology of Christianity.  I tend to lean towards an archetypal view of mythology.  Most basically, archetypes are patterns in the psyche, but they’re also patterns in the environment in which the human psyche evolved.  It is very strange how different cultures often come to similar meanings and mythologies about the world. 

This is where I think Acharya/Murdock has one key to understanding a larger perspective.  There are only two baaic factors that all humans in all places and time periods have shared: a basic human nature and psychoological functioning; and a common enviornmental experience. 

As for the latter, the most universal experience humans share is the observation of the sky.  The human mind evolved with people staring at the sky, and it offered a survival advantage.  The patterns of animals and plants also follow the patterns of the seasons, and knowing these patterns precisely could mean the difference between life and death for the people of the earliest civilizations.

As such, Christians didn’t need to borrow mythology from Pagans.  The mythology of the heavens was common to the entire ancient world.  Any educated person would’ve been familiar with it.  Astrotheology was a common framework of knowledge that crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

Thinking along these lines, I suspect that these patterns (in the sky and in the mind) precede the storytelling.  Either legends emerge from this pattern-seeking tendency or legends that arose independently become adapted to the requirements of these patterns.

There is another aspect that most people forget.  Ancient people experienced the world differently, and it isn’t helpful to place our standards and assumptions onto their stories and religions.  I think it’s essential to understand cultural development on the largescale. 

Some examples are ideas such as the Axial Age, Julian Jayne’s view of the pre-literate mind, and the socio-cultural developmental model of spiral dynamics.  The clash of ideas beginning in the Hellenistic period was a clash of paridigms of reality.  I sense this has something to do with the clash between Gnosticism and Christianity… something about the emerging literalist mind… along the lines of Weber’s rationalization of culture.

Or so it seems to me.  🙂  I don’t know how this fits into what you’re talking about, but that is the context I’m considering.

Is your book being published soon?  Will it be available on Amazon?

One thought on “Re: Mythicism, Minimalism, and its Detractors

  1. This person was a good example. Like Bedard, Verenna is intelligent (but Bedard was nicer). Another similarity is that both Bedard and Verenna apparently had spent much of their lives focused on New Testament studies and they both demonstrated the problem of specialzing to the point of near tunnel vision.

    Even though these two know New Testament scholarship better than I, my knowledge is more broad. Both were dismissing astrotheology all the while giving evidence of how little they understood the subject. This is understandable for Bedard because he is an apologist, but Verenna claims to be a mythicist.

    The really sad part was Verenna showing how little he knew of science. And his ignorance of the academic scholarship of astrotheology (i.e., archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy) was quite telling.

    I can’t say I overall disagreed with Verenna’s view but he kept insisting on being disageeable. He was so identified as being a scholar that my pointing out a different perspective was a threat to the territory he had staked out. I’ve noticed this kind of territorialism with other NT scholars (e.g., John Loftus dismissal of mythicism all the while admitting his own ignorance).

    Verenna’s ignorance about Acharya/Murdock and astrotheology was verging on egotistic belligerance. He just had to be right, and he seemed to underestimate the possibility that I might know something he didn’t.

    This depresses me because it is so common. Venom-spewing assholes like Verenna give a bad name for mythicists. Verenna is self-taught and so obviously is sensitive about having his scholarship questioned. But what advantage does he gain by attacking people like me (and Acharya S) who agree with his basic viewpoint?

    His attacking Acharya S was very strange. He really was acting irrational. He respects both Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price (the latter he called a friend). These two scholars respect Acharya’s work, have written positive reviews of her books, have referenced her in their own work, and Price has even written a foreword to one of her books.

    Doherty and Price have read Acharya’s books and have come to a positive conclusion, but Verenna apparently hadn’t read any of Acharya’s books and was basing his conclusion on details he gathered on the internet. That demonstrates the difference between a real scholar (Doherty and Price) and a pretender (Verenna).

    Interestingly, Price originally had a critical attitude towards Acharya. But he changed his mind and was willing to admit to being wrong about her. If Verenna respects his supposed friend Price, then why doesn’t he follow Price’s example?

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