80 QUESTION: You spoke of the subject of unity. An occurrence in this week’s news brings up a question regarding the possible unity of the Christian churches. There have been attempts made by the Pope and his ecumenical call, and by various denominational groups, to get together in the hope of becoming united. In spite of these attempts, the battle still rages between fundamentalism and liberalism. Just this week, Bishop James A. Pike of the Protestant Episcopal Church referred to various myths in the Bible – such as Adam and Eve, Eden, Heaven and Hell. He was immediately accused of heresy by his own clergy. What do you think is the place of myth in religion?
ANSWER: People do not understand what myth really means. For the majority, myth means invention, fantasy, imagination, fairy tale or a lie. Of course, the real meaning of myth is very different. But this misunderstanding is not the only reason for the failure of various religions to come together. If this problem were solved, something else would stand in the way.
Often, people are so bound by their allegiances and loyalties to religion, politics, or anything else to which they adhere, that they are afraid to let go. A personal fear or threat is involved here. They feel, “If I have to give up what I believe, then my whole world and personal safety crumbles.” They cannot afford to face what they consider a threat to their security.
So the core of the problem does not lie in the misunderstanding of myth, symbol, or anything else for that matter. The core lies in the psychological problems, in the false safeguards people have built for themselves, and in their resistance to reexamine the true motivation for their tenacity in holding on to certain ideas, be they right or wrong.
As long as this state prevails among the majority of people responsible for achieving unification, their inner obstacles will always produce outer ones. However, I would not call their goal union, but unification – the attainment of which is a step closer to union.
QUESTION: Could you give us some idea of the true meaning of myth?
ANSWER: I could discuss this for a long time. For the moment, I will only say that myth represents a truth which is conveyed in a form acceptable and understandable to human beings. A myth, similar to a symbol – concisely put together – is a vast truth in picture form, like the picture language in the Spirit World, or like the picture language you experience in dreams.
The difference between a symbol and a myth is that you can have a symbol for anything, important or unimportant. In your dreams, you have your own personal symbols for your personal little idiosyncrasies. A myth, on the other hand, deals with a general, universal truth. It is presented in a concise, pictorial way to make it acceptable and understandable, to make you perceive it. The principle of myth and symbol is the same.
QUESTION: Is it true that a specific psychic activity that is projected into the outside world is highly individual and relative? In other words, what one sees and perceives as truth, is related to what one projects. And what one projects is relative to one’s specific psychic activity and experience?
ANSWER: Yes, that is true, but it also goes beyond that. A myth, contrary to many symbols, is something that is actually true. But it is presented so that the individuals to whom it is revealed can grasp it. But it is, in itself, a representation of absolute truth.
111 QUESTION: How do you explain the function of drama, myth, and fairy tales in the personal development of the human being?
ANSWER: If the questioner has in mind the effect that myth, drama, or fairy tales have upon a human being, the question has already been answered by this lecture [Lecture #111 Soul Substance – Coping With Demands]. The assimilation of any input from outside depends on the impressionability of the soul. As to whether fairy tales or myths have a good influence on a growing person, and also on an adult person, cannot be generalized.
It depends on the material and on the interpretation. A grown-up person is no longer dependent on interpretation by others, but a young child is dependent on the interpretation given by adults. Such interpretation may not even occur in words, but in the atmosphere that emanates from the telling of the story.
The adult’s feelings have a much stronger influence on the child than the words. Whatever the child’s mind really takes in will have its effect. If an apparently cruel fairy tale or myth is taken literally, a soul-particle that is already afflicted will be negatively influenced and impressed. The healthy soul-substance will not even have a negative reaction if the story is misinterpreted. False myths will not have a negative effect either.
For not all myth is truthful. Untruthful literature, or other influences, as well as misunderstood and misinterpreted truthful influxes, will take effect only where the soul is already afflicted. When an afflicted soul receives a truthful interpretation, or other truthful messages, it is given a chance to assimilate such helpful influences. Whether or not it does so, depends on the person.