22. The Myth of Objectivity, the Objectivity of Myth
Myths are stories or sagas which record historical verities, recount moral or exemplary tales or embody timeless symbolic-archetypal situations for posterity. While history attempts to record information about events, myths convey impressions. However, there is a modern ideological problem here: what today is regarded as a fact can tomorrow be revealed to be a myth.
Many modern myths are created and perpetuated to appear factual, rational or scientific when actually they are just politically correct, consensually convenient or propagandistically dishonest. They distort or override veracities and perceptions which question modern assumptions and values. Thus, millions of people spent much of the late 20th century believing that Soviets were poised to take over the world, only to find later on that this possibility was slim, unlikely and largely cooked up by the American intelligence and military-industrial community.
Many modern thinkers claim facts to be on their side and sacrosanct, using rationalist reductionism – seeking to explain things within a recognised framework conforming to tight materialistic parameters. This often relies more on modern materialist ideology and public ignorance than on true historical commonsense or logic.
Whether correct or not, attempts in the 1990s to deny the existence of King David of Israel or the earlier biblical Exodus in the Sinai, on the basis that little clear evidence for them has been found, exemplify this. Yet the failure to find evidence points as much to the inadequacy of historians and archaeologists in finding evidence as it does to the baselessness of the myths in question.
Rationalism as a mindset survives by excluding awkward possibilities which upset its otherwise conceptually-neat system of grasping things. Thus, in the 1990s, crop-formations, though very factual, visible and measurable, were denied any reality or acceptance because they definitely did not fit into an established frame of reference – they were game changers and a change of game was not countenanced. A major disinformation campaign ('Doug and Dave') was instituted in 1992 after a formation suddenly appeared in the top-security grounds of the British Prime Minister's country residence, Chequers, with a pointing arrow oriented directly to the house.
Myths are shared beliefs about the past or present which can take on their own life. The dividing line between belief and fact is hazier and less substantial than many would believe. Modern myths tend to accrete elements and details in the course of transmission and repetition, and their accepted truth increases the more they are repeated and bought into. Modern politics, popular science and media coverage are so liberally mixed with myth that blatant evidence can be successfully erased or discounted with ease – and the public will usually believe it.
It is naturally assumed that ancient myth behaves similarly. Yet ancient myth was not necessarily the imaginative storytelling it is nowadays portrayed to be. In many ancient cultures spoken traditions and 'whispered lineages' were governed by very specific passed-down rules to maintain accuracy and prevent embellishment, and information was conveyed only to people who proved themselves to be reliable or who were fully trained. Myths were guarded closely and learned by heart to maintain their accuracy and subtle meaning.
Much ancient information is likely to be far more reliable than historians now wish to acknowledge. Myth is refuted especially when the information conveyed contradicts modern-day ideas. We have even created the concept of 'prehistory' to denote everything which happened before certain kinds of literary historical recording were brought into use.
Thus, ancient Atlantean myths recorded by Plato in his Timaeus and Critias, derived from Solon the Archon, who derived them from Egyptian priests in Saïs, are modernly judged to be implausible. They are passed off as fable or reduced to the status of mistaken accounts of volcanic explosions in the Aegean. Since geology does not acknowledge the possibility of large-scale landmasses sinking under the ocean – its guiding philosophy being one of gradualism, not catastrophism – it is taken to be impossible that such a thing could happen. Anything to avoid serious research in the matter! Yet there is something in the persistence of this myth, and there is indeed at least sketchy evidence to give it some backing. It is an hypothesis which has neither been proven nor soundly disproven.
One of the sad outcomes of the fall of the Soviet system is that a whole body of ideas and perceptions have been planed out with it: in the case of Atlantean mythology, the Soviets were more willing to investigate Westernly-reviled hypotheses than Westerners were, and they uncovered ocean-floor evidence which Westerners were loth to research or acknowledge. Nevertheless, the Western view now prevails and all is safe again. Many (but not all) ancient and historic myths are likely to be more real than modern sceptics like to believe, and a responsible approach to our early history would at least encompass serious research rather than premature rejection without thorough investigation.
The modern empirical approach, while valuable, is tainted by prior censorship of information, based on a subjective selectivity which conforms with already-existent 'proven fact', much of which is ideologically driven. This can lead to the building of an edifice of perceived truths upon which so many researchers come to depend that its demolition by new evidence can be prevented on the basis of the authority of orthodoxy and the difficulty in shifting a bulky belief system. Thus, the ideas of the ice ages and of gradualism in geology, as described by Victorian natural scientists and religiously adhered to by modern archaeologists, is difficult to question unless one is willing to lose research grants or professional standing, or to encounter full-scale opposition from one's colleagues and employers.
Thus tacit acceptance of the ice ages and gradualist ideas means that all non-conforming theories are instantly discounted and disregarded. The possibility that the Sphinx and the base of the Great Pyramid derive from a time around 13,000 BCE is instantly regarded as inadmissible. The possibility that the ruins of Tiahuanacu in Peru pre-date the Inca era by many millennia is also taken as inconceivable. The possibility that megalithic civilisation in Britain spread from the west eastwards, from Ireland to Britain, even though demonstrated by reliable dating, is still unincorporated into our thinking. It upsets the Victorian picture in which ancient high culture is taken to emanate from Greece and Egypt, from the south-east, not from the west.
'Objectivity', another modern myth, is accepted as true because sufficient strong-minded people hold it to be true, and sufficient lay members of the public accept that rationalists' claims are true. Which they are, within a certain frame of reference, but not completely and finally. It is unrealistic to take the position that all ideas proposed by rationalists, or equally by their extra-institutional opponents, are either correct or incorrect – we await a time in the 21st century when orthodox and 'complementary' knowledge cross-fertilise each other and become more mutually inclusive.
The fact that many weapons and cracked skulls have been found by archaeologists around the ancient megalithic temple of Stonehenge has been used by rationalists to prove that the megalith-builders were warrior-like, jealously possessive and unreligious, and therefore that the 'romantic' view of metaphysically-advanced ancient peoples in incorrect. Yet study of the mathematics and geometry of Stonehenge reveals a sophisticated knowledge of advanced principles and metaphysical science of a kind which suggests a very sophisticated society. Evidence of both spiritual sophistry and warlike behaviour simply means that, like today, society was made up of a large variety of people with a variety of forms of behaviour – saints and sinners have always occupied the same ground. There is also the possibility that a hundred years separate the great astronomer-mathematicians from the crackers of skulls - after all, from our distance a century looks small.
A retrospective look at the 20th century in centuries to come will probably judge that today's science was equally coloured by the religion and beliefs of the time as more ancient sciences once were. The religion of today is materialist rationalism – a neatly tangible explanation for everything. There is even a gulf between the public face of today's science, which presents itself as capable of eventually explaining everything, and the inner sanctums of science which, with the help of Schrödinger's Cat and other strange beings, know that objectivity is relative and that questions are more easy to identify than answers. In its role as a priesthood, the scientific community acts very unscientifically – yet, as always, there are very sincere people working within its halls.
Cultures use myths as a way of creating or reinforcing ideas about themselves or others. Myths can colour, enrich or override reality, and we live by them each and every day. Thus whiter-than-white washing apparently distinguishes good housewives from bad ones, symbolising devotion to husband and family and membership of the mainstream of good consumers. We do not think about our myths or even necessarily know we live according to them, even unwittingly enslaved to them – nevertheless they function actively, and they can travel and lodge in us like viruses.
Many myths can disguise underlying messages or lessons which are not immediately apparent in the story, yet they talk to the unconscious and play their part in constructing and reinforcing specific pictures of reality. Many people have lived through the last century or so believing the questionable myth that our society embodies the apex of human evolution and that techno-economic progress and growth are the sole means by which forward change may occur – despite increasing, though politically-incorrect, evidence that they may actually constitute a root-cause of world disaster. A disaster-causing society surely represents a low-point in evolution?