In the recent War on Christmas hullabaloo, the question was asked, ďIs there nothing sacred anymore?Ē My answer: Yes, there is something sacred. Most sacred is our innate curiosity, our ability to reason, and a determination to know truth. Any attempt to hinder human thought processes is great sacrilege.
Last century, Lord Raglan, a student of mythology, studied all the myths and legends that influenced Western civilization in his 1936 book entitled The Hero. His basic premise is that the mythical heroís life is a remnant of ancient ritual drama enacted at the coronation of priest-kings.
According to Raglan, rituals involved specific acts performed for magical purposes. Ritual dramas required participants play specific roles. A quasi-boilerplate plot always determined the characterís role. Eventually, myths of priest-kings outlived the ritual and became the many myths and folktales from which we derive many legendary heroes such as Hercules, or Moses, or Robin Hood.
Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter continued this archetypal tradition of mythical characters. They affirm inherited patterns of thought derived from past collective experiences of humanity. Freud believed these archetypes to be present in our subconscious psyches. Thus, their popularity, as well as opposition from adherents of competing myths, continues today.
Raglan concludes there are at least twenty-two standard archetypal characteristics of this duplicated singular myth. The closer the legendary character fits these characteristics the less likely the hero is a historical personage. Historical persons dramatically differ from Raglanís twenty-two characteristics are as follows:
1. He is born of a
Lord Ragan counted each heroís archetypal event. Alexander the Great received the most points for a historical personage, seven. Here is how some people you might have heard of scored.
Oedipus scores 21
Following are some thoughts on Lord Raglanís analysis:
A score of six or less qualifies one as a historical figure. This is not definite proof that the person existed, since most cartoon characters score low too.
A score of more than six indicates the hero does not represent a historical figure. This does not mean that the hero is totally fictitious. Rather it does indicate that many aspects of the heroís life have been replaced by the archetypal fiction.
Some may ask why do humans seem compelled to revere their heroes as sacred. Humans need hero figures to compensate for their own disappointments, disillusionments, and lack of meaning in life. Some make heroes of Tiger Woods, George Bush, or Billy Graham. Others make heroes of Jesus, the prophet Muhammad, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or even L. Ron Hubbard (Church of Scientology).
Now that we have survived the War on Christmas, maybe we can turn to what is truly sacred, the freedom to think and reason and then let the facts speak for themselves. Lord Raglanís analysis is not the final word on our heroes, but it certainly merits serious consideration. Yes, admitting such may hurt some Christianís feelings. Nevertheless, considering what and why the things we hold sacred from anotherís perspective may generate some much-needed tolerance. What could be a better resolution for the New Year than tolerance?
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