Cosmological Myth

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Eric Voegelin's Definition of Cosmological Myth

Bill McClain and Jack Elliot:

""The cosmological myth is the form within which early humanity, both nonliterate and literate, organized its sense of reality. By narrating stories of how the ordered whole (the universe, we might say) came into being and gained its present shape, early people oriented themselves in the world... (p. 16) "Prehistoric religion, in Voegelin's terms, was an effort to integrate oneself with the cosmos. Much of the religion of historical humanity has been the same. Indeed, prior to modernity, virtually all peoples who had not made revelation or philosophy the soul of their culture retained as a primary religious goal harmony with nature... (p. 20)

"Intrinsic to Voegelin's notion of the cosmological myth is the sense that all of the participants share in the same single substance of the universal whole. Simply by existing and having a place on the map of reality, they become partners, partakers, of the one stream of existence or being or life... (p.22)

"To speak of the cosmological myth is to imply a holistic relationship with nature. The peoples we have glanced at stand for countless generations of premodern human beings whose basic outlook was holistic. They thought, felt, worried, exulted, and all the rest without dividing themselves into an intellectual part and an emotional part, without dividing nature into widely separated strata of plants, animals, humans, and gods...

"..Prior to modernity, and with significant qualifications for revelational and philosophical peoples, fitting into the cosmic whole, being in tune with the cosmic force, was the matter to which most people turned their attention. The basic goal of cosmological peoples, in other words, was being true to, living out, their deep conviction that the world was a living whole...

"Harmony and power, then, nail down the corners of the cosmological religious map. In India, China, and other Eastern cultural areas, the Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist religious complexes rose atop an older cosmology. Indeed, Voegelin thinks that the Eastern sages, for all their acuteness about human psychology, never really broke with the cosmological myth... Nature has always been so comprehensive or atmospheric a reality that the notion of living within nature as part of an all-embracing system of vital forces has never receded very far. The Indian yogis might learn the pathways to deepest inner self-possession (samadhi). The Chinese social thinkers might work out the intricate relations between goodness (jen) and ritual (li). But seldom if ever did they move away from their assumptions about the cosmic whole to let the transcendent possibilities in these achievements fully flower. Seldom, in other words, did they articulate what the creative power might be in itself, apart from its embodiment in this specific, perhaps contingent, world." (pp. 43-44) [Carmody 1987:16, 20, 22, 43-44]"