A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH by Karen Armstrong. NY: Canongate, 2005. Pp.149. (Call number to be determined).
Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives, according to Armstrong. Humans have always been mythmakers. It would be a distortion to say myths are “old wives tales” or “fairy stories.” “Myth is essentially a guide; it tells us what we must do in order to live more richly…Our modern alienation from myth is unprecedented.” (P. 10)
Armstrong covers six expansive periods of time: the Paleolithic Period (c. 20.000 - 8,000 BCE) to “The Great Western Transformation” (c. 1,500 - 2,000 CE.).The “Axial Age” (c. 800 - 200 BCE) was coined by Karl Jaspers who saw this period as pivotal in the spiritual development of humanity; the insights gained during this time have continued to nourish men and women to the present day.” (p. 79) Plato disliked myths because they did not help humans achieve their potential through logos. He likened myths to old wives’ tales. Aristotle agreed with Plato.
Today mythology is seen as an art form. Armstrong suggests that artists and creative writers “can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight to our lost and damaged world.”(P. 149). “Armstrong… employs a breadth of learning that reflects the scintillating, shifting light and shade of human experience.” THE TIMES (London). THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, in praise of Armstrong, says: “Witty, informative and contemplative: Ms. Armstrong can simplify complex ideas, but she is never simplistic.” (Back cover).
…The Library Committee