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A Game That Is Real

This quote is from Karen Armstrong’s book A Short History of Myth. She says something here that I’ve tried to say many times, in private conversations and on this blog. She does a much better job!

    An experience of transcendence has always been part of the human experience. We seek out moments of ecstasy, when we feel deeply touched within and lifted momentarily beyond ourselves. … Religion has been one of the most traditional ways of attaining ecstasy, but if people no longer find it in temples, synagogues, churches or mosques, they look for it elsewhere…. Like poetry and music, mythology should awaken us to rapture, even in the face of death and the despair we may feel at the prospect of annihilation. If a myth ceases to do that, it has died and outlived its usefulness.

    It is, therefore, a mistake to regard myth as an inferior mode of thought, which can be cast aside when human beings have attained the age of reason. … Like a novel, an opera or a ballet, myth is make-believe; it is a game that transfigures our fragmented, tragic world, and helps us to glimpse new possibilities by asking ‘what if?’—a question that has also provoked some of our most important discoveries in philosophy, science and technology.

Karen Armstrong is a scholar of religion who has also written extensively on Islam and mystic Christianity. She is perhaps best known for her 1993 book A History of God.


Comment from homeyra
Time: July 29, 2007, 18:24

This doesn’t look like a popular post :)
Maybe no more need to “attain ecstasy”, as we can buy it!
This reminds me of something in PPGG’s latest post:
“At present, what penetrates is: Fundamentalist Sermons on Armageddon, violent video games, the empty spectacle of steroid-induced professional sports hype,” etc….

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