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The Myth of the Birth of the Hero


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Author Topic: The Myth of the Birth of the Hero  (Read 811 times)
Achilles
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2009, 05:00:05 am »

The interpretation of the myths themselves will be taken up in detail later on, and we shall refrain here from all detailed critical comments on the above mode of explanation. Although significant, and undoubtedly in part correct, the astral theory is not altogether satisfactory and fails to afford an insight into the motives of myth formation. The objection may be raised that the tracing to astronomical processes does not fully represent the content of these myths, and that much clearer and simpler relations might be established through another mode of interpretation. The much abused theory of elemental ideas indicates a practically

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Achilles
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« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2009, 05:00:22 am »

neglected aspect of mythological research. At the beginning, as well as at the end of his contribution, Bauer points out how much more natural and probable it would be to seek the reason for the general unanimity of these myths in the very general traits of the human psyche, rather than in primary community or migration. This assumption appears to be more justifiable, since such general movements of the human mind are also expressed in still other forms and in other domains, where they can be demonstrated as universal.
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Achilles
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« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2009, 05:00:33 am »

Concerning the character of these general movements of the human mind, the psychological study of the essence of these myths might help to reveal the source from which has flowed uniformly, at all times and in all places, an identical mythological content. Such a derivation of an essential constituent, from a common human source, has already been successfully attempted with one of these legendary motifs. Freud, in his Interpretation of Dreams, reveals the connection of the Oedipus fable--where Oedipus is told by the oracle that he will kill his father and marry his mother, as he unwittingly does later--with two typical dreams experienced by many now living: the dream of the father's death, and the dream of sexual intercourse with the mother. Of King Oedipus he says:
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Achilles
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2009, 05:00:47 am »

His fate moves us only because it might have been our own, because the oracle laid upon us before our birth the very curse which rested upon him. It may be that we were all destined to direct our first sexual impulses toward our mothers, and our first impulses of hatred and resistance toward our fathers; our dreams convince us that we were. King Oedipus, who slew his father Laius and wedded his mother Jocasta, is

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Achilles
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2009, 05:01:05 am »

nothing more or less than a wish-fulfillment--the fulfillment of the wish of our childhood. 1

The manifestation of the intimate relationship between dream and myth--not only in regard to the content but also as to the form and motor forces of this and many other, more particularly pathological, psyche structures--entirely justifies the interpretation of the myth as a dream of the masses of the people, which I have recently shown elsewhere. At the same time, the transference of the method, and in part also of the results, of Freud's technique of dream interpretation to the myths would seem to be justifiable, as was defended by Abraham, and illustrated in an example, in his paper on "Dreams and Myths." In the circle of myths that follow, the intimate relations between dream and myth find further confirmation, with frequent opportunity for reasoning from analogy.
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Achilles
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« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2009, 05:01:20 am »

The hostile attitude of the most modern mythological tendency (chiefly represented by the Society for Comparative Mythological Research) against all attempts at establishing a relation between dream and myth is for the most part the outcome of the restriction of the parallelization to the so-called nightmares (Alpträume), as attempted in Laistner's notable book, and also of ignorance of the relevant teachings of Freud. 2 The latter not only help us to understand the dreams themselves but also show their symbolism and close relationship with all psychic phenomena in general, especially with daydreams or fantasies, with artistic creativeness, and with certain disturbances of the normal psychic function. A common share in all

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Achilles
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2009, 05:01:32 am »

these productions belongs to a single psychic function: the human imagination. It is to this imaginative faculty--of humanity at large rather than of the individual--that the modern myth theory is obliged to concede a high rank, perhaps the first, as the ultimate source of all myths. The interpretation of the myths in the astral sense--or more accurately speaking, as "almanac tales"--gives rise to the query: In view of a creative imagination in humanity, should we seek (with Lessmann) for the first germ of the origin of such tales precisely in the processes of the heavens, or on the contrary, should we conclude that ready-made tales of an entirely different (but presumably psychic) origin were only subsequently transferred to the heavenly bodies? 1 Ehrenreich makes a
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Achilles
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« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2009, 05:01:49 am »

more positive admission: The mythologic evolution certainly begins on terrestrial soil, in so far as experiences must first be gathered in the immediate surroundings before they can be projected into the heavenly universe. 2 And Wundt tells us that the theory of the evolution of mythology according to which it first originates in the heavens, whence at a later date it descends to earth, is contradictory both to the history of the myth (which is unaware of such a migration) and to the psychology of myth formation (which must repudiate such a translocation as internally impossible). 3 We are also convinced that the myths, 4 originally at least, are structures of the human faculty of imagination, which were at some time projected for certain reasons upon the heavens, and may be secondarily transferred to the heavenly bodies, with their baffling phenomena. The significance
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« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2009, 05:02:00 am »

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of the unmistakable traces--the fixed figures, and so forth--that have been imprinted upon the myth by this transference must by no means be underrated, although the origin of these figures was possibly psychic in character; they were subsequently made the basis of the almanac and firmament calculations precisely on account of this significance.
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Achilles
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« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2009, 05:02:11 am »

In a general way, it would seem as if the investigators who apply an exclusively "natural" scheme of interpretation have been unable, in any sense--in their endeavor to discover the original sense of the myths--to get away entirely from a psychological process such as must be assumed similarly for the creators of the myths. 1 The motive is identical, and led to the same course for myth-creators and for myth-interpreters. It is most naïvely uttered by one of the founders and champions of comparative myth investigation and of the natural mythological mode of interpretation; Max Müller points out in his Essays that this procedure not only invests meaningless legends with a significance and beauty of their own but also helps to remove some of the most revolting features of classical mythology, as well as to elucidate their true meaning. 2 This readily understandable revulsion naturally prevents the mythologist from
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Achilles
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« Reply #25 on: December 29, 2009, 05:02:30 am »

assuming that such motifs--incest with mother, sister, or daughter; murder of father, grandfather, or brother--could be based on universal fantasies, which according to Freud's teachings have their source in the infantile psyche, with its peculiar interpretation of the external world and its denizens. This revulsion is, therefore, only the reaction of the dimly sensed painful recognition of the actuality of these relations; and this reaction impels the myth interpreters, for their own subconscious rehabilitation, and that of all mankind, to credit these motifs with an entirely different meaning from their original significance. The same internal repudiation prevents the myth-creating people from believing in the possibility of such revolting thoughts, and this defense probably was

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Achilles
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« Reply #26 on: December 29, 2009, 05:02:40 am »

the first reason for projecting these relations onto the firmament. The psychological pacifying through such a rehabilitation, by projection upon external and remote objects, can still be realized--to a certain degree, at least--by a glance at one of these interpretations, for instance that of the objectionable Oedipus fable, as given by Goldhizer, a representative of the natural school of myth interpreters: Oedipus (who kills his father, marries his mother, and dies old and blind) is the solar hero who murders his procreator, the darkness; he shares his couch with his mother, the gloaming, from whose lap, the dawn, he has been born; he dies, blinded, as the setting sun. 1
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Achilles
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« Reply #27 on: December 29, 2009, 05:02:59 am »

It is understandable that some such interpretation is more soothing to the mind than the revelation of the fact that incest and murder impulses against their nearest relatives are found in the fantasies of most people, as remnants of infantile ideation. But this is not a scientific argument, and revulsion of this kind--although it may not always be equally conscious--is altogether out of place in view of existing facts. One must either become reconciled to these indecencies, provided they are felt to be such, or one must abandon the study of psychological phenomena. It is evident that human beings, even in the earliest times, and with a most naïve imagination, never saw incest and parricide in the firmament on high, 2 but it is far more probable that these ideas are derived from another source, presumably human. In what way they came to reach the sky, and what modifications or additions they received in the process, are questions of a secondary character that cannot

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Achilles
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« Reply #28 on: December 29, 2009, 05:03:24 am »

be settled until the psychic origin of the myths in general has been established.

At any rate, besides the astral conception, the claims of the part played by the psychic life must be credited with the same rights for myth formation, and this argument will be amply vindicated by the results of our method of interpretation. With this object in view, we shall first take up in the following pages the legendary material on which such a psychological interpretation is to be attempted on a large scale for the first time.

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« Reply #29 on: December 29, 2009, 05:03:41 am »

Footnotes

3:1 A short and fairly complete review of the general theories of mythology, and of the principal advocates of each, is to be found in Wilhelm Wundt: Völkerpsychologie (Leipzig, 1905-9), Vol. II, Part I, p. 527.

4:1 Das Beständige in den Menschenrassen and die Spielweise ihrer Veränderlichkeit (Berlin, 1868).

4:2 "Die Kyros Sage and Verwandtes," Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie, No. 100 (1882), P. 495.

4:3 Pantschatantra (1859).

4:4 Herodots Darstellung der Cyrussage (Breslau, 1890).

4:5 Compare E. Stricken: Astral Mythen (Leipzig, 1896-1907), especially Part V, "Moses"; and H. Lessmann: "Die Kyrossage in Europe," Wissen. beit. z. Jahresbericht d. städt. Realschule zu Charlottenburg (1906).

5:1 Naturgeschichte der Sage, 2 vols. (Munich, 1864-5), tracing all religious ideas, legends, and systems back to their common family tree and primary root.
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