Extracting the Gold Inherent Within
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Why Myth

Taken from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary

Max Muller

Parts of mythology are religious, parts of mythology are poetical, but mythology as a whole is neither religion nor history, nor philosophy, nor poetry. It comprehends all these together under that peculiar form of expression which is natural and intelligible at a certain stage, or at certain recurring stages in the development of thought and speech, but which, after becoming traditional, becomes frequently unnatural and unintelligible.



myth, n. [LL. mythos: GR. mythos, word, speech, story, legend.]

  1. a traditional story of unknown authorship, ostensibly with a historical basis, but serving usually to explain some phenomenon of nature, the origin of man, or the customs, institutions, religious rites, etc. of a people: myths usually involve the exploits of gods and heroes.
  2. such stories collectively: mythology
  3. any fictitous story
  4. any imaginary person or thing spoken of as through existing.
mythology, n.; pl. mthologies. [LL. mythologia; Gr. mythologia, a telling of tales or legends, legendary lore; mythos, myth, and -logia, from legein, to speak.]

  • the science or study of myths or legends; that branch of science which investigates the meaning of myths, and the relationship between the myths of different countries or peoples.
  • a book of or about myths.
  • myths collectively; especially, all the myths about a specific being, or those myths, fables, or traditions interwoven with the history, origin, deities, etc. of a specific people.


"Myths are not just for putting children asleep, but for waking adults up."

Zaman Stanizai - Pacifica Graduate Institute Lecture

"A myth is something that is true on the inside, but false on the outside."

Kindergarten student

"Myths are stories that never were but will always be."


"Of all training of human potential, myth, in particular, is the most important journey of transformation."

Jean Houston

"The subject matter is not literal but symbolic: not the external world but the human mind. Myth originates and functions to satisfy the psychological need for contact with the unconscious."

Carl Jung

"Myths attempt to explain, in complex symbolism, the vital outlines of existence; they also attempt to make more acceptable the painful realities of existence - danger, disease, misfortune, and death - by explaining them as part of a sacred order in the universe."


"Plato - who may have understood better what forms the mind of man than some of our contemporaries who want their children exposed only to 'real' people and everyday events - knew what intellectual experiences make for true humanity. He suggested that the future citizens of his ideal republic begin their literary education with the telling of myths, rather than with mere facts or so-called rational teachings. Even Aristotle, master of pure reason, said: 'The friend of wisdom is also a friend of myth.'

Bruno Bettelheim - The Uses of Echantment

"Myths [are] the symbolic expression of deep philosophical realization and thoughts, and [are] a mystical teaching of some of the deepest truths about God and the world."

Marie-Louise von Franz

"The myth, is for the Blacks, only a means by which to explain something; it is a consciously composed lore of master ideas which may not be placed within reach of just anyone at anytime. Certainly it constitutes a form of "slight knowledge' ...sometimes available to the average man. It conceals clear statements and coherent systems reserved for initiates, who alone have access to the "deep knowledge." The myths present themselves in layers, like the shells of a seed, and one of their reasons for being is precisely to cover and conceal from the profane a precious seed which appears to belong rightly to a universal, valid body of knowledge."

The Dogon of Africa in the Pale Fox

"The range and richness of mythic motifs is virtually endless; it moves across centuries and across cultures and, if one reads carefully, may even be seen between the lines of today's newspaper... Collectively, they tell the whole human story and the cosmic drama. Each one expresses a fragment of the whole, part of a chapter. Each of us lives one verse or another, moving to rhythms deeper than consciousness can plumb. Let us be grateful for these images even as we are grateful for our dreams; they tell us in visible form of the invisible at work in history and in us."

James Hollis - Tracking the Gods: The Place of Myth in Modern Life

"Myths are clues to our deepest spiritual potential, able to lead us to delight, illumination, and even rapture."

Joseph Campbell - Power of Myth

"Myths are stories of our seach through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significnce. We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. We all need to understand death and to cope with death, and we all need help in our passages from birth to life then to death. We need for life to signify, to touch the eternal, to understnad the mysterious, to find out who we are... Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life."

Joseph Campbell - Power of Myth

"Now what is myth? The dictionary definition of a myth would be stories about gods. So then you have to ask the next question: What is a god? A god is a personification of a motivating power or a value system that functions in human life and in the universe - the powers of your own body and of nature. The myths are metaphorical of spiritual potentiality in the human being, and the same powers that animate our life animate the life of the world. But also there are myths and gods that have to do with specific societies of the patron deities of the society. In other words, there are two totally different orders of mythology. There is the mythology that relates you to your nature and to the natural world, of which you're a part. And there is the mythology that is strictly sociological, linking you to a particular society. You are not simply a natural man, you are a member of a particular group."

Joseph Campbell - Power of Myth

"The central answer is that myths are permanent. They deal with the greatest of all problems, the problems which do not change because men and women do not change. They deal with love; with war; with sin; with tyranny; with courge; with fate; and all in some way or other deal with the relation of man to those divine powers which are sometimes to be cruel, and sometimes, alas to be just."

Gilbert Highet - qtd. in Rollo May, The Cry for Myth

"A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence...myths are our way of finding meaning and significance. Myths are like the beams in a house; not exposed to outside view, they are the structure which holds the house together so people can live in it."

Rollo May - The Cry for Myth

"Myths are our self-interpretation of our inner selves in realtion to the outside world. They are narrations by which our society is unified. Myths are essential to the process of keeping our souls alive and bringing us new meaning in a difficult and often meaningless world. Such aspects of eternity as beauty, love, great ideas, appear suddenly or gradually in the language of myth."

Rollo May - The Cry for Myth

"Whereas empirical language refers to objective facts, myth refers to the quintessance of human experience, the meaning and significance of human life. The whole person speaks to us, not just to our brain."

Rollo May - The Cry for Myth

"Myth is a form of expression which reveals a process of thought and feeling - man's awareness of and response to the universe, his fellow man, and his separate being. It is a projection in concrete and dramatic form of fears and desires undiscoverable and inexpressible in any other way."

Rollo May - The Cry for Myth

Student Testimonial

We use myth because of the similarities it has to things that are going on in our actual lives. While it's a little exaggerated in some stories, the main point can usually help us.

Imani - Alchemy Student