Mythology of Metaphor

Why Use Metaphor?

“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.” 

― Joseph Campbell 

Why is it so valuable to work with personal mythology in a metaphorical format?

People often think of a myth as a lie. In this book, I use the word myth to mean a narrative, a story that follows the description of the functions of mythology described by Joseph Campbell, the 20th century’s foremost expert on mythology.


4 Functions of Mythology


Joseph Campbell, a renown mythology expert, pointed out that mythology has four functions. When you understand this idea you will have a template from which to understand much of what is going on around you and with you:

  1. Metaphysical
  2. Cosmological
  3. Sociological
  4. Pedagogical

Metaphysical function enables the individual to reconcile the mysteries of the Universe. This function is designed for the individual to make sense of the powerful feeling of the divine in their lives. For example, that in order to live, something else must die. The metaphysical function of mythology is directing the consciousness to be aware of the size, origins and the matter of the universe, and to inspire a sense of awe and reverence of the great mystery of existence. To create and maintain the individual’s experience of transcendent reality, to dissolve the sensations of separated experiences, people, nature, and to create the imminent surrender to the oneness with the mysterious and unexplained universe.

Cosmologically, a myth’s purpose is to ascribe a specific order to the universe, so answering the question, “How did it come to being?” can become possible. To realize and to reconcile the relationship of a human to the a divine. A platform from which an individual can perceive order in the universe.  We find comfort in an explanation that includes our birth, death, existence and the story of creation, the influences of the stars in our lives, time, space, matter and biological origins.

The third function of mythology is sociological, it is directed to reconcile the order of cultural agreements, social behaviors, ideas and ways accepted in the society, cross-culturally accepted norms of living, order and reason, that answers the question: “How am I supposed to conduct myself inside the place I call the world?”

The Pedagogical function establishes and describes the rites of passage  through critical phases of life: infant, youth, adolescence, adulthood, maturity and old age. It provides guideposts and validates the behaviors, serving as a reminder that there is a purpose, and a place for each individual through each stage of life. The external signs bring man into harmony with what is within, and the way things are, developing a meaning for the narrative one has of his life, and to develop the impetus to prepare for the next stage of life, serving as a teaching outline and as a reference manual for human existence.

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