August 1, 2018

Mythology Opens Door to Guiding Principles


Historical Atlas of World Mythology

When I left the Bible Church I took some college classes on sociology and religion and I stumbled into mythology. In 1988 a PBS series featuring Joseph Campbell airs on TV and I became one of his fans almost instantly. The Series was called “The Power of Myth” there were six episodes. (You can still find clips on line and the series is available to purchase as well.) I was hooked. I read nearly everything that Joseph Campbell published. Mythology was my life, and it helped me uncover the guiding principles.

In the background there was a little thread forming. Turns out similar mythical stories have a way of turning up in different cultures and times. There are lots of creation stories; flood myths turn up in nearly every culture; stories about acquiring knowledge pops up nearly everywhere. (If you have an interest in these sorts of things – they really are fun to read.) Beginning in 1988 Campbell published Vol. I, Part 1 of a five-volume set called “Historical Atlas of World Mythology” and final volumes published in 1989. This is a marker because these volumes make a difference in my understanding of Spiritual Consciousness.

Similarities Abound

By the early 1990’s, I realize that there are too many similarities among myths and scriptural texts. The many guiding principles are showing up everywhere in the written texts. Through Campbell, I began to extend my reading to Indian scripture. Campbell has a great love for the Eastern mysticism and teaching. By 1995 I’ve read through The Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads and then on to Buddhism and Chinese, Taoism and Confucius’ Analects and others. So, I’d been around the world in early philosophical history.  This reading brings me to an extraordinary discovery (for me, anyway) about historical events.

Lets pick a topic: The Golden Rule. Simple enough, right. Let’s put some facts together. First people: Confucius (China) lived ~550 – 479BCE; Lao Tzu is more difficult but believed to be about the same era; Plato (Greece) about 430 – 350BCE. In India there is Buddha who also is thought to have lived and taught at about the same era. Buddha, Confucius and Plato (for historical purposes) live at just about the same time period. The chances that they had any contact with one another in any way are quite remote. And yet at about the same time in history these three teachers are expressing value systems based around the Golden Rule.

Guiding Principles

The Great Teachers

There are many other occurrences of this, for instance, early Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and nearly every other major religion has expressed variations on the concept of the Golden Rule. It derives from the early concepts of reciprocity – eye for eye & tooth for tooth – and is an important social concept standardizing our inherent desire for empathy.

Statistically Impossible

There is little chance that the guiding principles rise up in history everywhere with the written word at the same time. It just isn’t statistically feasible without something connecting the individuals in some way. It is not highly likely or probable. Much later than this and there could be “cross pollination” occurring as explorers and traders are beginning to break through the isolation that continents naturally produce.

Some scientist might want to say that it is just that our brain wired that way. Or, in our early evolution, we pushed out the selfish, cheater brutes and “selected for” the helping, supporting, sharing “nerds” and so by the time we get to small agricultural communities we have bread in empathy and support skills and mostly eliminated selfish, brute, cheaters. The Spiritual Mystics will tell you it’s ALL in your imagination so why does it matter. Well I don’t know you decide… Either way, we get to scattered groups of humans across the globe, possessing a “help one another” standard that comes to be known as the Golden Rule.

That is the thread: no matter how we get here there appears to be a simple system for us to follow. History tells us that when an ideal like the Golden Rule is followed there is population growth, economic success, and empire building. When there isn’t – dark ages and chaos…