Immanent Myth

What is the relation between myth and reason? Are they mutually exclusive, as some accounts of the birth of philosophy in the exodus from and interruption of mythology would have us believe? Levi Bryant has recently published two posts (here and here) that address this question. I found myself in agreement with the first post on Enlightenment, but I began to have doubts with the second post, on “myth”. This sets up an opposition between myth and enlightenment that I find unsatisfactory. So retroactively I wonder about the meaning of “enlightenment” that he proposes in his first post. “Enlightenment is immanence” – I agree with that, but only if that means that there is no essence to enlightenment, that there is no one enlightenment, that it is an open plurality of processes of rationalisation. My feeling is that those who speak out in favour of myth are in the same case, they do not wish to impose the One True Myth, but see myth as a processual dimension of many types of activities. So I would add to the mix the equation: myth is immanence, myth is an open plurality of processes of fabulation. The danger for me is the literalising of myth into a fixed closed  unique system, for which I would reserve the term “mythology”. So there is only a seeming paradox to saying more enlightenment implies more myth, and vice versa. Religion on these definitions can be seen to have both a mythic, enlightened, processual side and a dogmatic, creedal, static side. Even Zen Buddhism is not exempt from these to tendencies. There is the amazing “philosophical” zen that we encounter in various texts and explications, but there is the conformist institutional zen that we can encounter in its native institutions and rites. Zizek has some very interesting (if admittedly one-sided) comments on the use of zen training and ideology to condition soldiers into obedient pitiless killing-machines. The “timid” or non-radical Enlightenment is a similar case, as the free use of reason was limited to the élite and conditioned by various limiting assumptions, such as deism in the 18th Century Enlightenment. Freud I consider to be a typical case of the timid enlightenment with his positivism and scientism and authoritarianism (in his own practice of power, manipulation, intellectual predation, exclusion, self-serving fraudulent publicity, cynical money-making manouevres; in his justification of the status quo and of authoritarian politics and his antipathy to democracy). Further I think that “Reason” under a certain acception (no essences, so no one true definition of Reason as always and everywhere automatically on the side of progress and justice) can do much harm and is itself just as in need of enlightenment as any other process.

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