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quotations about myth and mythology

Only a few individuals succeed in throwing off mythology in a time of a certain intellectual supremacy--the mass never frees itself.

CARL JUNG, Psychology of the Unconscious

Myths ... collected like barnacles on history, obscuring the truth.


He who has no sympathy with myths has no sympathy with men

G. K. CHESTERTON, The Everlasting Man

When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust.


Our myths are rich with enchanters and enchantresses: sea nymphs that sing sailors onto rocks, Circe turning men into swine, pipers playing children to their doom. They are metaphors for the sinister secret urge to self-destruction that has been with us since the first bite of the first apple.


It is hard for many people to give up the religion in which they were born; to admit that their fathers were utterly mistaken, and that the sacred records of their country are but collections of myths and fables.

ROBERT GREEN INGERSOLL, Some Mistakes of Moses

We're separated by our myths.

HUGH HEFNER, Esquire, Jun. 2002

Myths are lies; but I believe in the power of myths the way I believe in rocks ... rulers have had the various pantheons carrying water for them since the first con man met the first sucker, and priestcraft was born. That was long enough ago that they were probably both walking on their knuckles.

S. M. STIRLING, The Sunrise Lands

We cannot resort to simplistic or extreme solutions which substitute myths for common sense.

JIMMY CARTER, State of the Union Address, Jan. 25, 1979

I took mythology a lot more seriously since I'd become a vampire.


Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.

JORGE LUIS BORGES, "Parable of Cervantes and Don Quixote," Dreamtigers

Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men's reality.


A myth or legend is simply not made up out of a vacuum. Nothing is--or can be. Somehow there is a kernel of truth behind it, however distorted that might be.

ISAAC ASIMOV, Foundation's Edge

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Proposed Roads to Freedom

Myth is the nothing that is all.


There are those among us ... who prefer to live in myth instead of fact.

GLEN COOK, Doomstalker

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

That which destroys the old mythos becomes the new mythos.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. Certainly when a writer has acquired the habit of regarding life as mythical and typical there comes a curious heightening of his artistic temper, a new refreshment to his perceiving and shaping powers, which otherwise occurs much later in life; for while in the life of the human race the mythical is an early and primitive stage, in the life of the individual it is a late and mature one.

THOMAS MANN, Freud and the Future

All myth is an enriched pattern,
a two-faced proposition,
allowing its operator to say one thing and mean another, to lead a double life.

ANNE CARSON, The Beauty of the Husband

I'm always interested in debunking myths if they are untrue. But it's also important to identify myths and how they function, what value they may have.

NEAL ASCHERSON, interview, Scottish Review of Books

The Value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity.

C. S. LEWIS, "Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: A Review", On Stories and Other Essays on Literature

People didn't realize it, but they needed myths to survive, just as much now as when their forebears were alive. Perhaps more. Mythology embodied the world's dreams, helped to make sense of the great human problems. Just as the dreams of individuals exist to give subconscious support to their conscious lives, so do myths serve as society's dreams. They uncover the dark, hidden places where mysteries dwell and can turn to nightmare if left untended. They make sense of injustice in archetypal terms. They give men and women a blueprint for how they may respond to success or failure, tragedy or joy.

CHARLES DE LINT, I'll Be Watching You

What a myth never contains is the critical power to separate its truths from its errors.


But when he came to study those who had thrown off the old myths, he found them even more ugly than those who had not. They did not know that beauty lies in harmony, and that loveliness of life has no standard amidst an aimless cosmos save only its harmony with the dreams and the feelings which have gone before and blindly moulded our little spheres out of the rest of chaos.

H. P. LOVECRAFT, "The Silver Key"

That's how myths are born. Out of our carelessness, out of our tattered nerves, out of jokes that go wrong and flashy gestures.


True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero -- really look -- and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. "You must change your life," he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.

URSULA K. LE GUIN, "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction", 1976

I have often had the fancy that there is some one Myth for every man, which, if we but knew it, would make us understand all he did and thought.

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS, Ideas of Good and Evil


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