The Real Alternative

Leave a comment

Talcott Parsons – “It’s no game”

Cruising along through summer, here’s an entry updated at


1 Comment

Today’s Top Tweet – Big Boy and the Serpent (a brand new myth for all ages)

A couple of weeks ago I put together a new blog called msea4ever. Its About page explains the name, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to “come out” and link it to Earthpages or not. So I said nothing here.

Tonight I’m thinking, What the heck. It’s just another side of me.

So this tweet points to a new transformation myth, written by yours truly. I’ve read a lot of myths. Seems the influences here are mostly Ancient Greek and North American.

I hope you enjoy. I had fun writing it!

Leave a comment

“Science, Technology, and Magic” by Umberto Eco

Stuff Jeff Reads

Image Source: Wikipedia Image Source: Wikipedia

I have to admit that this essay, included in the book Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism, was not what I expected from the title. I expected an analysis on the similarities between the three, but actually it is an exploration of science is different than technology and magic, which Eco asserts are similar in nature. Honestly, I always considered magic and science to be more alike.

Eco begins his argument by pointing out that technology is not the same as science, but is merely a product of science.

Science is different. The mass media confuse with technology and transmit this confusion to their users, who think that everything scientific is technological, effectively unaware of the dimension proper to science, I mean to say that science of which technology is an application and a consequence but not the primary substance.

Technology gives you…

View original post 383 more words

1 Comment

Symbolism in “The Cat in the Hat”

Stuff Jeff Reads

CatInTheHatRecently my daughter pulled together a pile of books to give to Goodwill. Among them was The Cat in the Hat. It is such a classic book and I have read it countless times to my children over the years, I just couldn’t part with it. I surreptitiously removed it from the pile and slipped it onto my bookshelf.

Back when I was in college, I had taken an honors-level seminar and one of the books we studied was The Cat in the Hat. That section of the course was fascinating and made me look at this book from a completely different perspective. Even now, reading it again, I discovered more symbolism that I had never seen before. I decided to point out some of them so that the next time you read this book (and you will read it again) you will be aware of the symbolism…

View original post 480 more words

1 Comment

The Sword and the Grail: Restoring the Forgotten Archetype in Arthurian Myth

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, surely is PD because of the age of the engraving – The Middle Ages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This following excerpt has been posted with permission. Read the entire article at

© Copyright John Adcox

If it were even possible to assemble them in one place, the volumes written on psychological and mythic approaches to the Grail quest in Arthurian myth would bend even the sturdiest, stout oak bookshelves. From Emma Jung and Maria Von Franz’s definitive work, The Grail Legend, to the work of later luminaries ranging from Joseph Campbell to Robert Johnson, the Grail quest has evolved from Celtic lore to become a metaphor of astonishing power that continues to guide generations of seekers on their own journeys to individuation, to use the Jungian term.

The Arthur stories are no longer purely Celtic-they have become universal. It’s not too great a stretch to call the Matter of Britain, the cycles of legends surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, the definitive myth of Western civilization. Here we find our modern concepts of equality (the Round Table had no “head” and no corners), romantic love, strength protecting the weak, and spiritual growth and enlightenment based on the achievements of the individual expressed in a single source-and arguably expressed with more power and greater resonance than in any other myth cycle. How else can one explain the enduring popularity of the Arthur story? There have certainly been other romantic stories, probably even greater ones. Adventure? Our heritage of myth is full of it. Magic? We’re lousy with it. Fellowship and super human accomplishment? Look no further than the adventure tales of Fionn McCumhail, Jason and the Argonauts, or Robin Hood and his Merry Men. All of these cycles, and thousands of others, have been enormously popular through the ages. Robin Hood and the men of Sherwood, especially, have inspired countless novels, songs, poems, films, and television productions. But none of them have approached the Arthur stories for enduring and significant popularity. It’s more than a subgenre-it’s an industry.

The Round Table experience a vision of the Hol...

The Round Table experience a vision of the Holy Grail. From a 15th century French manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dreams of lost, golden ages are called “Camelot.” Remember the Kennedy administration? A Google search on the Internet reveals more than 100 different companies and products with Excalibur in the name. Truly special treasures are “Holy Grails.” Remember the “Holy Grail of Christmas presents,” the coveted Red Ryder BB gun, in A Christmas Story? Metro Atlanta boasts at least five different neighborhoods with streets named after Lancelot, Galahad, Guinevere, and King Arthur himself.

When I began thinking about this article last month, I stopped by a tiny mall bookstore, and quickly located no less than 16 different contemporary novels, not counting children’s books, books that use the theme but aren’t specifically or overtly Arthurian (Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, Stephen King’s Dark Tower, or C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, for example), or classics, on the Arthurian legends-in three different categories.

At present, two big-budget King Arthur films and one new television series are in various stages of development. Dan Brown’s current bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code, offers a new take on the Grail quest, but the core elements are the same: a man’s quest through terrible danger for a healing symbol of the Divine feminine. For some reason, the Arthurian legends have struck a chord that is arguably unmatched in Western culture, surpassing even the myths of classical Greece.

The question, again, is why?

Read the entire article, “The Sword and the Grail: Restoring the Forgotten Archetype in Arthurian Myth” at


The meanings of myth

By Michael Clark

The word myth has a lot of different meanings, depending on who’s speaking. Myths can be ordinary (like a popular idea), sublime and heavenly or, possibly, something horrible and scary.

Perhaps all contemporary usages share the idea that myth points to something beyond the scientific method. But in reality it’s not quite that simple. Many postmodern thinkers critique science as a modern myth. And scholars like the Indologist, Wendy Doniger, say that most myths contain an inner structure and rationality.

To further complicate things, the pioneering mythographer Sir James. G. Frazer believed that, underneath their colorful imagery, myths are a kind of protoscience.

Literary and artistic types tend to see myth as an artform. But others say that myth is more sacred than the arts because at different points in history myth connects with ritual. To counter that notion, others observe that ritual, itself, doesn’t guarantee the presence of the sacred. And the definition of ritual, itself, is also open to debate. Could getting together with your pals every Wednesday night to watch your favorite Sci-Fi TV show be considered a ritual? This isn’t too far-fetched. Not a few academics see Star Trek as a religion or, perhaps, a mythology. Another point to consider here is that many artists see their practice as a kind of spiritual discipline. So who can really say that myth is more sacred than art?

Myths and Fairy Tales

According to professor T. Henighan,1 the Freudian child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim says that myth:

  • Contains particular heroes with unique names
  • Tells of heroes that are ‘larger than life’
  • Involves majestic and ‘spiritual’ divine beings
  • Relates an often tragic and pessimistic story2
  • Reveals conflict between the superego (i.e. internalized social conscience) and id (i.e. instinctual drives of love and death that seek gratification)
  • Sets unrealistic demands that normal human beings can never fully achieve

Whereas fairy tales are a type of folk tale in which:

  • The names of heroes and heroines are absent or ordinary3
  • Supernatural but not divine beings are mentioned
  • Positive outcomes are the norm
  • Childhood and adolescence figure prominently
  • The actual content (i.e. Oedipal material) is obscured through elaborate symbolism

This, of course, is just one point of view. Specialists hardly agree as to whether myths and folk tales are basically the same or different. Moreover, some contend that myth precedes the folk tale, others, the reverse.

True and False Stories

In Myth and Reality Mircea Eliade maintains that “societies in which myth is—or was until very recently—’living,'” distinguish true from false stories.4

Eliade gives examples from two American Indian groups, the Pawne and the Cherokee. And from Africa he cites the Herero and the inhabitants of Togo. As any good sociologist or anthropologist will observe, however, Eliade seems to naively take existing ethnological research at face value. He says these cultures believe their myths are true stories, while folk tales apparently are seen as morally instructive but false stories.

However, he rightly notes that mythic stories were not universally accepted as truth in ancient societies where different beliefs and philosophical schools competed for legitimacy.5 Eliade is not referring, for example, to ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths.

But the idea that all members of a given “living” society privately regard hegemonic myths as true stories is open to question. It would be unwise to assume that mythic beliefs are universally accepted in any culture or, for that matter, subculture. As with the ancient world, external displays of acceptance – among both leaders and community members – very likely could be feigned out of prudence or political expedience.6

Hard to Define

As to a defintion of myth, Eliade says:

It would be hard to find a definition of myth that would be acceptable to all scholars and at the same time intelligible to nonspecialists. Then, too, is it even possible to find one definition that will cover all the types and functions of myths in all traditional and archaic societies? Myth is an extremely complex cultural reality, which can be approached and interpreted from various and complementary viewpoints.7

While there’s no unanimous agreement as to the meaning of myth, this multiplicity speaks to its richness and importance. The following point form list summarizes some of the leading and interrelated theories on mythology. It’s far from exhaustive but hopefully illustrates, among other things, the contemporary relevance of myth.


  • Conceals our instinctual and repressed unconscious desires and tendencies (Sigmund Freud)
  • Reveals our “personal infantile history,” particularly with regard to the creators and followers of hero myths (Otto Rank)
  • Reflects transpersonal, elementary ideas (Adolf Bastien) or a collective unconscious revealing through mythic images a deeper meaning in life (Carl Jung)
  • Provides imaginal signposts along an inner and outer journey, helping heroic individuals gain enhanced wisdom (Carl Jung, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell)
  • Mythic thinking may be a survival mechanism for painful ritual abuse but in the negative unresolved instance, mythic thinking may culminate in sociopathic behavior-e.g. the ethical insanity of a Hitler (Chrystine Oksana)


  • Codifies, legitimizes and strengthens dominant beliefs, practices and relationships based on power in a given society (Antonio Gramsci, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault)
  • Fosters social cohesion, functioning, development or chaos (Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, Emile Durkheim);
  • Contributes to egoism, altruism, alienation and anomie (Emile Durkheim)


  • Reading myths affords aesthetic charm to the, at times, “stale, flat and unprofitable” task of living (C. S. Lewis, [quotation: William Shakespeare])
  • Provides religious or heroic legends that the audience knows are fictional (Robert Graves)
  • Helps us to meaningfully interpret and transform our world (Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung)


  • A non-scientific attempt to explain natural phenomena (E. B. Tylor)
  • Archaic source of oral stories, history and cultural identity (Micea Eliade, Clifford Geertz)
  • The second stage in mankind’s evolutionary sequence of symbolical, mythical and logical modes of thought (J. J. Bachofen)
  • Directs individuals through important stages of life, in many cultures marked by solemn or sacred “rites of passage” (Karl Kerenyi, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)
  • Provides communal meaning about ancestors and the afterlife (Carl Jung)
  • Myth is best understood as the sum total of its variants and is a tool that can help solve cultural problems, paradoxes and contradictions (Claude Lévi-Strauss)
  • Offers a grid defined by its own rules of construction. This grid doesn’t explain the meaning of myth in itself but creates a “matrix of intelligibility” which facilitates understanding of the world by revealing structural laws of human thought, communication, interaction and behavior (Claude Lévi-Strauss)
  • Legitimizes beliefs in magic, which for so-called primitives is a kind of protoscience that may be used for practical purposes, such as regulating the harvest (Sir James. G. Frazer)
  • Magic is recognized a kind of myth by so-called primitives, used symbolically to relieve natural anxiety and express their hopes for positive outcomes–e.g. while hunting or fishing in dangerous places (Bronislaw Malinowski)


  • Provides information about historical conditions, especially about those with the power to create myths (John Noss)


  • May be used as global propaganda (e.g. Marxist Theory of History) and for political agendas–e.g. glorifying oneself and demonizing opponents, as in election-time TV ads (Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes)


  • Outlines right and wrong, and inevitable punishments and rewards for dishonorable and praiseworthy acts (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)


  • Teaches individuals how to conform and advance in society, especially in archaic cultures (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)


  • Provides a working “map” of the conceivable universe (S. H. Hooke)
  • Relates to a Creation of the World and the subsequent interaction of gods, goddesses, semi-divine beings, human beings, animals, vegetation and the geographical landscape (Donna Rosenberg)


  • A story designed to evoke magical powers (Jane Harrison)


  • Symbolizes and possibly leads to an awareness of dimensions and beings beyond the mundane world (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung)
  • Mythic rites and rituals bring forth a ‘sacred history’ within the context of human life (Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell)

Philosophical and Theological

  • Myth arises from incorrect insights, that is, intuitions about ultimate reality (or specific situations) which have not been questioned nor empirically investigated “until no further relevant questions arise” (Bernard Lonergan)
  • A symbolic means of expression through which mankind attempts to answer existential questions-i.e. achieve self-understanding in a world where the transcendental is often seen as immanent (Rudolf Bultmann)


  • Recent figures like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Carl Jung, Melanie Klein, Joseph Campbell, Mary Daly and Barbara Walker implicitly or explicitly say that their own modern myths (i.e. theories about myth and related cosmologies) contribute to the betterment of self and society

Economic and Entertainment

  • Film, music, videos, literature, TV, advertising, video games and most other forms of popular culture belong here (and in some of the above categories). To mention a few: Kyle XY, X-Men, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Matrix, BattleStar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, The Incredible Hulk, Xena the Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the TV Hercules, KISS, Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, HALO 3, Super Mario, Avatar (the movie)


1. Tom Henighan. ITV lecture for English 18.208 (Myth and Symbol) televised at Carleton University, Ottawa: January 29, 1998.

2. This is debatable, particularly with regard to Hindu myth.

3. Cinderella might seem an exception but as ‘Microglyphic’ pointed out at the former, she’s renamed as such by her step-sisters. See, for instance the Brothers Grimm variant of the tale.

4. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963, pp. 8-10.

5. (a) Anaximander (611-547 BCE) and Xenophanes (570-480 BCE) for instance, directly challenged the anthropomorhpic gods of ancient Greece. And doubts most likely existed among the historically invisible (the vast majority of people who were never famous enough for the history books). Also, in ancient Egypt crudely made statues apparently mocked Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, likely carved by dissenters.
(b) Military conquerors and occupying powers also influenced local myths in the ancient world. Conquerors would sometimes replace indigenous myths with their own. Other times they would import myths yet tolerate those of the subjugated. Military victors also synthesized their own myths with those of the defeated populations, as in India and Rome.

6. (a) John Noss in Man’s Religions (1957: 45-96) outlines some of the political and socially stratified aspects of pagan worship in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
(b) A contemporary example might be found within the Roman Catholic Church, where penalties can be harsh for disobedience among the clergy and also among wayward believers (e.g. women ordained as priests).

7. Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 5.

The meanings of myth © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

DVD Review – Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend

Reality Films

Title: Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend
Genre: Documentary, Robin Hood, Action and Adventure
Production Company: Reality Films

Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend is a documentary by Philip Gardiner. The film opens with contemporary actors playing Robin Hood and his band of noble rebels, with enchanting scenes of Sherwood Forest and some medieval ruins and artifacts.

Within this authentic setting, Robin Hood digs into historical records, folkloric possibilities and mythological parallels around the legend of Robin Hood, the pervasive culture hero who “steals from the rich and gives to the poor.”

The film is rich and informative and the recreation atmosphere is convincing. While the actors portraying the outlaw community are obviously modern, they seem to resonate nicely with the Robin Hood myth, probably because most are local forestry workers who volunteered for the film.

The first half of Robin Hood covers all the proverbial bases. Then the film shifts to advance the filmmaker’s Gnostic leanings, which closely resemble those of the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung. At least, this seems to be the case. I’ve never met Philip Gardiner and am assuming that Gnosticism reflects his own beliefs. This seems a reasonable guess because many of his films depict Gnosticism as a shining counterpoint to a tarnished old Christian Church.

Christians who see the New Testament as a theological work containing elements of fact, myth and exaggeration, might balk at Robin Hood’s claim that Jesus Christ and John the Baptist are equals.

Consider the New Testament:

John replied to all of them, “I am baptizing you with water, but one is coming who is more powerful than I, and I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps. It is he who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Despite what the New Testament story pretty clearly says, Robin Hood suggests that the archetypal pair of Jesus and John also manifests in the images of Robin Hood and Little John, the Graeco-Roman twins Castor and Pollux, and in countless other mythic exemplars and cosmological models.

Carl Jung, who devised the modern idea of the archetype, also made liberal use of analogy in world religion and myth. Jung claimed that the basic truths underlying diverse archetypal imagery were discernible through his own brand of “analytical” psychology.

Some scholars, however, have little sympathy for Jung’s approach, maintaining that the extensive use of analogy is usually too loose and not connected to actual historical and cultural contexts. Unrestrained analogizing, they say, yields specious arguments and ultimately detracts from a given study’s credibility.

Scholars like this say that contemporary scholarship is quickly falling into a kind of black hole where any pseudo-historical truth claim is passed off as fact—as long as it sells. Meanwhile, other authors and researchers promote the liberal use of analogy, equating it with seeing “The Big Picture.”

Does the unrestrained use of analogy really give us the Big Picture. Or does it just seem to, if we don’t know any better?

Enter the Christian theologians, particularly Catholics, who say the contemporary Church doesn’t mindlessly bash Gnostic and Pagan elements but ennobles their worthwhile aspects within the higher, more comprehensive perspective afforded  by Christian belief. That’s why, they’ll argue, we find various artworks depicting Pagan themes within the Vatican museums.

Not a few Protestants, of course, object to this scenario. Some even pejoratively call the Catholic Church the “Whore of Babylon.” But this isn’t the place to delve into the complexities of religious rivalry.

Robin Hood has something for everyone. It brings to life the timeless tale of a notorious sinner-saint who, like many before him, takes refuge in the woods while seeking justice in the face of an ignoble ruler.  Even the most discerning of scholars might learn from this film, lest they get lost in the minutiae and miss the forest for the trees.

Special features include more commentaries and Gnostic/Pagan pop music videos.