Mythos and Logos: two paths to knowledge
Updated: Jun 6, 2021
Mythos and Logos
In ancient Greece “Logos” was the objective language, the non-personal; you presented it in court with facts and figures - the evidence based language. Logos was the peer-reviewed essay, the analysis, the laboratory, the bookkeeping. Since that time, and as a heritage from ancient Greece, our western society presents logos as the main, and only, viable description of reality and truth; a reality and truth that can be calculated and quantified.
Is this language enough? Is science enough to explain your feelings when you look into the eyes of the person you love?
The anathema of Logos is Mythos. It is subjective, the personal; the oral story, the poetry: Mythos speaks of eagles carrying golden keys, and of the Earth being created in seven days; it speaks of God's riding through the rainbow bridge. Mythos doesn’t only see the sun, but an entire golden chariot driven by Sun Goddess Sol riding across the sky. Her horses are on fire as she rises from the gates of the East.
Both Mythos and Logos are necessary in order to attain philosophical knowledge and wisdom. The laboratory of science and the one of alchemy can live side by side, one using acids and bases, the other the spilled ink of the poet.
The atheist and the baptist preacher can be in harmony with each other. Because their languages have a different purpose, great insight (and culture) arise from both views.
Fundamentalism arises when mythos tries to infiltrate into the world of logos; suddenly the poetic and mythological language is taken as literal truth and people demand evidence for the eagle that carries the golden key; does it fly through Manchester or Philadelphia?
We want to quantify it and seek evidence for it. This is why religious fundamentalism can be seen as a modern phenomenon, trying to explain Mythos with Logos's terms and conditions. It’s a proposition that always ends in vain.
To break this spell, we need to recognise Mythos for its own value, insight and wisdom. Seven days in the world of myth means billions of years in the world of science.
We don’t need to discredit either science or the fairytale. Mythos is necessary; we need it at funerals, at weddings, and when a baby is born. It is a language that shows a reflection of our humanity and it carries metaphorical and poetic depth. We need Logos too; in the laboratory, to build a house, in calculating the speed of sound, and the mathematics of the revolving galaxy.
Mythos or Logos are two continents and we are better off allowing both to co-exist, rather than having an unnecessary tug of war between them, or forcing them together.