Mythological concepts of good and evil in a real world

When modern people apply a mythological concept of good and evil to their experiences, it is an emotional response to inexplicable maliciousness. It is understandable, but it is spontaneous and not reflected, and drawing examples from scripture from 2000 and more years ago only attempts to solidify an emotion and give it a body. There are modern representations of the same principle in fantasy writing.

In the Tolkien fantasy universe, the portrayal of the Ainur mirrors the description of the Elohim, the lesser gods in the OT, and in the Silmarillion, Melkor, the Elven name for the great rebellious Vala, the beginning of evil, and the mightiest of the Ainur, then became known as Morgoth, ‘The Black Enemy,’ after the rape of the Silmarils. His part is of course taken by Satan in Christian tradition, which in fantasy is okay, but we mustn’t forget that Satan as we have come to think of him is a character from John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost,” a fallen angel who rebels against God and is cast out of Heaven. Both Satan and Morgoth share some similarities in terms of their rebellious natures and their fall from grace, but they exist in different fictional worlds and serve different narrative purposes.

My “understanding” or perhaps my interpretation of reality sees the “Ground of Being” or sacred Unity, intricately entwined in our own lives and looking out through our eyes at the unfolding of existence. That would, in a sense be the “good” that initiated and participates in existence as we know it. The bad would be anything intentionally contradicting, opposing, or even destroying those things that we have yet to fully understand, which seems to be restricted to humanity as appearing to be the only sentient life possessing intention, including potential propagation of opposition to the way things are. The futility of such an exercise is emphasised by a conviction that we return to that sacred Unity, which is unassailable and in the end the refuge of broken hearts.

I believe that what a friend wrote to me, “evil just seems like a proclivity stemming from our temptation to always welcome more power and control” is right. In a way it seems contra-intuitive to us that aligning ourselves with reality, rather than seeking to improve it, is the wise thing to do. But as we have seen in recent history, such intentions overlook the consequences of their actions. Trying to make other cultures resemble our own, rather than learning and at best enhancing them, has seldom worked out well, which is why so much strife continues in the world. So, the proclivity to assume we can improve on creation, which may also be the temptation in Eden, is what banishes us from paradise. What follows is a continuous attempt to repair the damage done, and thereby causing further damage, because we lack the understanding, or rather the acceptance of the nature of things. This is the narrative of the Bible as far as I can see.

Essentially, we must accept that humility rather than a feeling of superiority over other traditions is more advisable. In fact, as the Europeans expanded, humility in encountering the foreign cultures of the world would have been the more prosperous approach, just as all the so-called advances in history would have fared better with humility, but it is counter-intuitive, despite being a core value in the teaching of Christ. We do have a similar behaviour in other groups of course but it is probably because the colonisation and exploitation of the world was mainly in the hands of Christians, that the hypocrisy bites so fiercely. The American led globalisation was in reality a continuity of that.

If the narrative of Christianity is based on a cosmic fight against evil like portrayed in fantasy stories, we become not a force for good, which has a completely different character, but inadvertently a force for evil.

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Sorry, but your antecedent does not fly. As you tried to insinuate earlier that Jesus’ heavenly Father did not exist in reality, you neglect again the reality of factual evidence that many have for his providential interventions into his children’s lives.

It isn’t.

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Define heaven …
Define heavenly father …
Define reality …
Define factual evidence …
Define providential interventions …

I have a sympathy for and an appreciation of how people can come to describe their experiences, but these stories are like old attempts to force a particular behaviour. My grandmother used to tell horror stories to make us children sleep at night, especially at Christmas when we were all excited and some adult would bring presents to the foot of our beds. We shut our eyes and dared not look up for fear of having coal tipped on our bed. When I had a child, I swore never to tell him such stories.

On the other hand, I did warn him that human beings have a proclivity towards gaining power and control, and I also made sure that he realised that this was in his own heart as well. Our task is to understand that and realise that love is the only way, and everything that is not done in love has unwanted consequences. That is what I learnt from Jesus … not that he was the product of some supernatural intervention, other than the experience of love, which I believe is divine in nature.

That’s a non sequitur, telling horror stories to make children sleep at night! No wonder you’re messed up! :grin: And how are horror stories like people describing accounts of God’s interventions! The stories I tell are factual instances of God’s interventions are delightful to me, and when I hear others’ accounts I delight as well! Speaking of stories, I need to thank you for giving me one, the first entry in three months that I’ve made in my Co-instants Log (if anyone is interested in it – not that anyone would be, they can PM me).

And regarding all your ‘Define’ demands, I do not need to waste my time – you would not accept my understanding and knowledge of them anyway. All I need to say to you is what Jesus said to those who did not believe in the resurrection, “You are badly mistaken!” and leave you to your own unenviable devices.

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With many words you have said absolutely nothing, and you can’t define any of the things I mentioned. The only thing you come up with is, “There are factual instances of God’s interventions” and I tell you that they are stories symbolic of their perceived immediate participation in what they understood as a cosmic drama. They are quite understandable as such and, in fact, have great value as records of human development. It is just that at some stage, probably in what was called the ‘Axial Age’ by Karl Jaspers and which refers to ancient history from the 8th and the 3rd century BCE, Jaspers says that this time was a turning point in human history. They learnt to disengage from that ‘immediate participation,’ step back and review what their stories were telling them.

It is then that they came to realise that it is man’s proclivity to power and control that is what was previously understood as “possession” by evil, and in Israel we find the Prophets saying that God had no pleasure in sacrifice. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” and in the NT “to love Him with all your heart and with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, which is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This is a paradigm change which the High Priest, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were not willing to accept. That is why Jesus was killed on the cross.

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I’m curious… what do you mean what was believed to be possession ( are you referring to something like demonic possession ) was actually just peoples tendency to lean towards wanting power?

Eye run knee.

No, I won’t, not can’t, because it would be futile.

I guess you could say reality is symbolic of reality. (‘The only thing’ is that I am quite happy about all of them. ; - ) What you are ‘telling’ me is that you are kidding yourself.

The biggest thing you’re missing is the reality. There are facts imputing unmistakable meaning (to those who are not denialists) to the time and placing of events – here are only a few. The aforementioned Co-instants Log contains four decades of co-instances (my substitute terms for coincidence, as opposed to Jung’s godless ‘synchronicities’) in my life and a couple of decades of retrospective entries before that.

Too bad for them because the reality of participatory experience is way more fun than mere philosophizing and conjecture. You’re a Brit, right? Maybe you are familiar with George Müller, an amazing man of God who founded several orphanages in the nineteenth century (I love that face! ; - )… he experienced the reality and documented the facts:

I’m glad you quoted that because it’s true and worth seeing, but to what end I don’t know because it’s another non sequitur since you don’t believe it. And citing Jesus is again silly because so much of what he said you discard.

The main reason Jesus was killed, in big picture, the ‘VFA’’, the view from above, not losing the forest for the trees in the ‘VFB’, the view from below, the main reason was to save his people from their sins so they could be adopted into his Father’s family for eternity.

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It’s truly a wonder to feel the banality of the plural pronoun as it’s uttered by the non-dualist

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And I tell you the main reason Jesus let himself be killed was ‘enlightened self-interest’:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

(That joy is us, I tell you, if we belong to him.)

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Now you’re telling Dale what he’s doing and thinking??

Besides which, if you’re referring to the scriptures your assertion is just plain wrong – very little of the accounts are the right kind of literary type. This is just the same sort of sentimental nonsense put out a couple of generations ago by scholars who hadn’t even bothered to investigate the documents they were talking about . . . but has continued to simmer here and there.

No, it isn’t. He was killed because He identified Himself with God.

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First of all, we see how some people believe in the presence of angels and, logically, of Satan/Lucifer or whatever name you choose, as well. What would the influence of such an adversary be?

In “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, the devils use various strategies to manipulate human behaviour, such as exploiting their weaknesses, encouraging selfishness, fostering doubt and discouragement, and distorting their perception of reality. Screwtape advises Wormwood to target areas like human relationships, prayer life, and individual virtues to create confusion, discord, and ultimately lead the individual away from a virtuous life.

Many Christians I spoke to believed that Lewis had not just written a satirical novel, like I thought, but had described the way the devil works.

The narrative that is widely assumed by Christians is a mythology, the line between Adam and Jesus is a mythology. I am not critical of mythologies per se, and they can be meaningful if they are not confused with history. But to be honest, I ask myself who is the sentimental one here.

Rob, I’ve read through your post a number of times and don’t really see any opening for discussion or comment beyond agreement or disagreement. All concepts of good and evil held by christians have been declared mythology, so we are done discussing that. Everything else stems from that mythology, which all christians seem to handle improperly. And there’s an end to it.

Is there a question or point you want to discuss here?

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I obviously wasn’t clear in my statement that arose out of a discussion I had about the profundity of mythology and literature, which portrays principles in a drama rather than explaining them. The same goes for good and evil, of course, which is portrayed in the Bible, and by Christian authors like Tolkien, as an embodied evil or evil entity.

The human experience reveals though, that good and evil are expressed through humankind, which has a singular ability to intend people either wellbeing or suffering. I was expressing my concern, that an all too literal understanding of literary portrayals project this proclivity onto imaginary entities, rather than seeing the problem in humanity.

It isn’t a case of mythology being “only” mythology, as modern people tend to regard it, but that it’s profundity lies in its ability to move people emotionally. But it is more than a love or horror story, it is moving them towards a different behaviour, which one only sees if we realise that it is us the story is talking about.

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That’s not how I believe in Satan personally. I don’t think of Satan as a being that supernaturally influenced people like a demon on one soldier and an angel on another. I don’t think Screwtape letters were accurate at all.

I think God had a race of being with him called the hosts of heaven and that part of their job was to help rule over the cosmos just like we were to be corulers over earth. I think these “gods” communicated with people like humans do or through things like visions.

But I don’t really think about them so much because I believe that they are all dead. I think they died in the first century and will never exist again unless they were resurrected by God through universalism.

But I’m also open to them never having existed at all and are just symbolism as well for people stuck in things anti goodness and happiness. After all if we know that God did not make us, but instead we evolved just like everything else, why would Angels be magically made. They would need to have also evolved and we see no evidence for the evolution of things like that.

But it’s mostly challenging because it would make it an odd way to interpret the confrontation Jesus had out jn the wilderness. It’s not presented as metaphorical or symbolic. It’s presented as a real event.

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  • From the TV series, Annika. Season 1, Episode 4,
    • “I believe that engineers have identified six different types of bridges, There’s a beam bridge, which is, well, It’s just a slab of concrete or even a log across the stream. There’s an arch bridge, like the Rialto in Venice. It’s very nice. There’s a suspension bridge, like the Golden Gate in San Francisco. There’s three other types of bridge. What they all have in common, though, is that their purpose is to cross a divide of some sort. And on the whole, they can be very successful, but that’s assuming that the two sides are happy about being connected. 'Cause sometimes all you do is let the enemy across.”
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That’s the thing: to realize that myth isn’t a debasement of reality but rather the most nearly adequate way we have of representing the sacred aspect of reality. Or so it seems to me. I wonder if @Christy has any more informed take on it than that?

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Or provide access to more media for the yeast to propagate and insinuate itself, which suits the yeast just fine.

Yes, I think myth is a way of communicating about meta-narratives that give meaning to reality. Some philosophers have written about the ideas of “mythos” and “logos” and how both can be vehicles of truth.

I disagree with the OP that the Christian story is “based on” the cosmic struggle of good against evil. That makes it sound derivative of other stories, when in reality, the cosmic struggle of good against evil is a metanarrative that has interested humanity for ages. And yes, the Christian story is a framing of that narrative that is also found in other stories, because that theme is powerful and strikes at the heart of our human questions about meaning and purpose.

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