Table of Contents
The ancient people were a wise lot and they are responsible for handing over their knowledge and ideologies to present day generations. During the ancient ages, science had not developed to the extent and depth that it has developed in the modern times. Thus, in the absence of classified and well documented research studies, to a very large extent, they have taken resort to myths to shape the society and its norms and cultures during that time. But in this essay, the argument will focus on the concept that myths do not exist by themselves – there has to be some basis, or premise for its inculcation and usage. Myths cannot be self sustaining nor can they be autonomous or in line with independent thinking. The need to first create myths and then to defend them is absolute and unwavering, and the very fact that myths have stood steadfast during the evolution of time and changing civilizations bears ample testimony to their innate strengths and durability. For instance, there is a myth that at one time the Heavens were just above the Earth, and it was the God of Wind that pushed the Heaven above and then the skies were born.
During ancient times, people have considered that it is necessary for different elements to be in their proper places, the earth below and the skies and the heavens above. So also the case of the sun, moon, stars and the constellation have all been in place and these are not mere myths but realities. However, different myths and stories have been documented regarding many elements on earth and in the Heavens. The most important aspect that needs to be remembered is that there is definitely a scientific basis for myths and their frameworks in the context of the ancient times and not all of the ancient myths have been consigned to conjectures or just fantasies. Speaking of fantasies, in ancient times, kings believed a great deal in the power of dreams, and often rested in temples in order to elicit dreams that command them for the desired course of action. Thus, it appears that the element of fantasy in human life has played a major part in influencing and controlling the ancient kingdoms and monarchies.
Aspects of Speculative Thinking:
Speculative thinking or wishful thinking cannot be brushed aside as gimmick since it possesses elements of reality and every person needs it to provide him or her the courage to confront a myriad of problems that confronts humans from time to time. Speculative thinking involves much more than mere speculation, since this also needs to be grounded on some kind of logic, or phenomena. “Speculative though transcends experience, but only because it attempts to explain, to unify, to order, experiences” (Frankfort 1948).
Thus, speculative thinking is the root of deep thinking and reasoning which is being a practice since time immemorial and which has been handed over by the ancient civilizations to be refined in modern times as scientific hypothesis and rational thinking. Rudimentary exercises which were performed by the ancient people through myth making have been refined into modern scientific theories and practices, though now known by different names and nomenclatures. Speculative thinking is not based on conjectures or half truths but is definitely premised on a man’s constant search for the truth and the reality of his living on earth. He ponders through deep introspection about his own existence, that of nature and the world, and his role in the scheme of things on earth, what has been completed and what remains to be fulfilled both in objective and subjective senses.
There are many aspects about life in this Universe that defies answers - for instance, if God created the world, and there is need for creation to be identified than, through the use of common logic and intuition - which created god, in the first place. Life on earth is an evolutionary process, generations come, live and die and become a part of posterity. Yet there definitely was a time way back in history when thee was no human life – perhaps only pre historic animals and mammals roamed the earth- how, then did man arrive on the scene and produce and reproduce – there needs to be scientific evidence to prove the evolution of man too, and his movements from the ancient cave dwellers to the modern archetype of civilized humanity.
Ancient civilizations tried to find solutions for their problems, puzzles and predicament through the use of myths, given their limited exposures to scientific methods of testing hypotheses and finding relevant and appropriate solutions to their myriad of issues. The fact perhaps lies in their perception and how they visualized aspects of life- like birth, living and death, and the issues between these focal points. The myths perpetrated by ancient people served to fulfill their quest for survival and the various questions that bewildered them at that time and age. “On this distinction, scientific thought has based a critical and analytical procedure by which it progressively reduces the individual phenomena to typical events subject to universal laws.” (Frankfort 1948).
Universal laws have existed since time immemorial and even ancient people have honoured and obeyed them. These are inescapable laws that have been handed down from one generation to another, whether termed as myths or ideologies or even precepts, or laws of living on earth. There are definitely elements of truth and veracity in myths themselves, they too have moral and ethical values, and they too are subject to the scrutiny and stringent examination of successive human societies over time and moving eras. Myths do not survive on their innate strengths and ideological values alone- they are nurtured and groomed by successive societies in a highly inquisitive and obdurate settings, ready to pack them off to obscurity at the slightest flaw and the fact that many myths have lived to exist some other day is indeed ample testimony of its innate strength, resilience and tenacity.
They have been the focal point of debates and arguments and have lent credibility and rationale arguments to many critical aspects of human living over time. However, each generation is able to seen myths in different perspectives, in different light and this causes some bewilderment and chaos over time.
Differences between living in ancient and modern times
During ancient’s times, perhaps life was much more straightforward and uncomplicated, free from the rigors of modern scientific questioning and analysis. Man’s main objective was the fulfillment of his basic needs for food, shelter and procreation and this did not much present much of problems since hunting were abound and animals were never in short supply. The question of myth making arouse when a peculiar situation arouses, a natural calamity like flood, or drought occurred. This needed to be resolved and thus the elders were entrusted with the task of appeasing the Gods to remedy the situation and seek redressals. “The mythopoeic mind, tending towards the concrete, expressed the irrational, not in our manner, but by admitting the validity of several avenues of approach at one and the same time. The Babylonians, for instance, worshipped the generative forces in nature in several forms: its manifestation in the beneficial rains and thunderstorms was visualized as a lion-headed bird.” (Frankfort 1948).
Different manifestations of Thou to suit and appease different situations are what the ancient myths are all about. Yet beneath them is a veneer of sensibility and logical flow that perhaps is unmatched even in modern times of science and technology. Not just in support of mythopoeic events and trends but considering the time frame in which these concepts were captured is indeed a matter of awe and reverence. All myths are grounded on reality and real ground situations otherwise the question of such myths need not arise. Yet myths can be very useful in deciphering the mindset of members of ancient civilizations and their concept of livinng. Their concepts of death are also very interesting and absorbing, an ancient concept of man being sent back to the place from where he has originated – mother earth in all its generosity and magnanimity. Yet it would be an understatement to believe that mythopoeic concepts arise on their own. It most certainly does not, given the fact that things do not occur through chance happenings or sheer speculative outcomes
Actions do not operate on its own volition
Perhaps, in modern times the theory of gravitational forces conceptualized by Newton is a case in pointer. “We must remember that Newton discovered the concept of gravitation and also its laws by taking into account three groups of phenomena which are entirely unrelated to the merely perspective observer: freely falling objects, the movements of the planets and the alternation of the tide.” (Frankfort 1948). Consider for example the fact that rivers do not rise.
The scientific theory to this would be that the water levels do not rise because of lack of rain in the far off mountains has created such a situation – however for the mythopoeic view, this could be seen as the ill disposition of the Gods for which prayers and propitiation would be deemed necessary and mandatory to appease the gods and reclaim the water levels. Their perspective and approach to the common problem are different based on the existing socio-cultural and religious aspects coming into play, but that is not to suggest that the ancient theories were wrong – perhaps these were the only options available at that time and era – they did not have recourse to scientific deliberations about the effect of lunar movements on the tides or scientific calculations on how rivers behave in flood or drought conditions. Besides, myths do seemed to have worked on many occasions, reinforced common beliefs and augmenting and exalting the positrons and sanctity of head priests and chieftains.
Interpretation of creation and man’s life of earth:
According to ancient myths and folklores, creation has evolved from God who had overseen the concept of procreation perhaps on the form of a cow and even till late centuries the cow is seen to be a goddess that covers the entire skies and dominates the earth from above. Modern theories however speak of an evolutionary process and the Darwinian theory of man’s descent from monkey species. While scientific logic does hold good it is also necessary to examine that myths may also have limited applications, especially the ones relating to God and his creation of the universe. From a strictly believer point of view, it is clear and undeniable that there is definitely a supreme cosmic force that controls the universe and the fortunes of the world- human or otherwise. While there are different interpretations to human life and living, there is no argument about the ultimate preponderance of god’s will on mankind and this has been substantiated and proved time and again by mythopeic literature
There is however need for objectivity and’ cause and effect’ while analyzing the subject matter of mythopoeic effects on the human race and the fact that every action does need to have reactions and repercussions, good or detrimental. While myths have been debated in modern day scientific light and disposition, it cannot be denied that it belonged to a bygone era where science and technology were unavailable if not nonexistent. Our ancestors had to seek recourse to the available intellectual tools and techniques available at that time and space for answering many of the vexed questions and issues on life, death and the period in between. In the modern age of technological advancement and fast paced living and perhaps scientifically backed theories for all matters that occur under the sun, it is but natural that mythopoeic rationale may need to be seen in a more constructive and logical light in order to benefit human living on this planet.