The Stories Begun

{June 23, 2010}   Truths and Lies

C.S. Lewis–before his famous conversion to Christianity–said this to J.R.R. Tolkien: “Myth is lies breathed through silver.”  Tolkien responded with a challenge to that assumption: Christianity is true and it is also a myth.  Though challenging a non-believer with such a “proof” seems inadvisable at best, especially if you want to keep and already adversarial friendship alive (as Lewis and Tolkien’s was), in this case it seems to have been quite effective.  It was not too much later that Lewis converted, and some point to this conversation as one of the causes.

I’m not sure I believe that claim, it sounds down-right apocryphal.  However, this is not what I want to discuss today.  I want to discuss what I find to be an exceptionally perceptive quote, if not completely true.

One of the first things I learned in my studies as a Classics minor was that all belief systems, regardless of proven validity, are myths.  This did not offend me as it did some of the others in the class.  In fact, it made a great deal of sense to me.  Who was I to claim that the Egyptians or the Greeks were so very mistaken?  There was obviously something that inspired the faith of these civilizations, even the contractual obligation that the Romans felt toward their gods.  I am sure that in another couple millennia, today’s Christianity will seem as foolish as the Grecian gods.

That being said, I am a believer.  I strongly believe in my version of the Christian mythos, and therefore object to myth being completely classified as lies.  That is also not what this blog is about today.  Today’s blog (and I do apologize for taking so long to come to the point of discussion) is about how this quote specifically applies to me as a re-writer of myths, even if it only is a hobby as yet.

As evidenced by the introduction I wrote to my thesis, I believe there is an intrinsic truth to myth.  For those of you who have not been subjected to a) my thesis and/or b) the introduction, I spent ninety-four pages applying the Jungian theory of the collective unconscious (mixed with a dash of Genetic criticism) to re-imagining “Beauty and the Beast.”  I spent three pages explaining why the mix.  The why boils down to this: in Genetic criticism, the concept of the “authoritative text” exists.  This “authoritative text” is theoretical–it is the text as the author intended it, and the key word to describe it is supposed to be “stable.”  When applied to the collective unconscious, I think that trapped within the human subconscious, there is a stable, authoritative text for each myth.  I think myths contain the truths of human existence.

They also contain the lies.  Locked within our subconsciouses aren’t just the truths of the human condition, but also the dreams.  These dreams get woven into myth.  Herein lies the silvered lies.  We’ve dressed up the lies as truth.  Dreams aren’t always lies, we can make them come true, but when they are dressed up and paraded about like everyday occurrences that take no work to come to fruition, then dreams become lies.

Myth is both silver and dross, sometimes each disguised as the other.  It is truth masquerading as lie and lie aspiring to be truth.  It is the human subconscious manifested, the good and evil in us all.  Collectively, we are all writers of myth.  And I love it.

Off to find both fact and fiction!


P.S. It seems my schedule is fluid.  Or just that my life has been too crazy to fit to a schedule in the past week.  I’ve decided that, for this week only, the entire schedule is shifting to a day later.  My apologies, and I will be more regular now that the major event of the summer is over.

P.P.S.  Thanks, Race.  An e-mail is coming.


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