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 Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Thu 12 Sep 2013, 16:26

Strong societies seem to have been enriched by the spiritual 'myths' that  shaped their lives. And the reasons for it, manifold - toady supplication, fear, need and material circumstances at first, I guess and then the great leap to self, the soul and perpetuating both, further coloured by splendid acts of faith when reason demands proof. Just think though what we have as a result; great churches, mosques and temples, paintings, music and much else. I can't support this with illustrations because I don't do that sort of up loading - someone else might  Is such creativity now floundering in the  cold darkness of negating logic and the void of unsupported morality? Or should I just go the bar and have a G and T and talk about footballers?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Thu 12 Sep 2013, 20:24

Oh, let's talk about Abbey Crouch's cat that was lost, but now is found (and Abbey's stylish outfits worn during her frantic search for the missing feline).


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2400916/Abbey-Crouch-continues-search-missing-cat-different-outfits-day.html

On second thoughts, don't let's.

Interesting what you say about how myths have enriched us all. Absolutely. I think I said ages ago that we need our myths, and I stick by that.

So much art, literature, music inspired by belief - from the gods of Olympus (and before) onwards. Artists and craftsmen striving to express something about a power greater than themselves and so tapping into that power. Utter tosh? Maybe, maybe not.

Will this continue now the old gods/God (including presumably the Muses?) are dead? Is there some mute, inglorious Milton out there who will one day write a superb Ode on the Nativity of the Great Spaghetti Monster? I doubt it.

The artistic future, I fear, is bleak. Thank you, Nietzsche and friends. We may now all be brave and grown-up enough to confront your empty and indifferent universe, but art is certainly going to be the poorer. I hope I'm wrong.

PS I haven't abandoned the other thread, Priscilla: I was simply aware that, as ever, I was veering off-topic and that other people were not responding. But no one is responding on this site anymore - shame, but there you go. Perhaps all the old posters are as weary as I am. What was that apt expression you used once - "We are all historied out"?

PPS It's nearly 3.00am again as I edit this: I seem to have taken over from Normanhurst as the board's insomniac.

Regards, lady with the sling, but who's run out of pebbles (I kept missing anyway).


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 03:01

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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 09:16

A great book exploring the relationship between the arts and pure science is : "Unweaving the Rainbow", subtitled "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder" (1998) by Richard Dawkins. I can thoroughly recommend it.


PS : Love the Flying Spaghetti Monster giving the life to Adam ... I suspect there are many more in that genre to be found on the net Smile
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 09:41

@Meles meles wrote:
A great book exploring the relationship between the arts and pure science is : "Unweaving the Rainbow", subtitled "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder" (1998) by Richard Dawkins. I can thoroughly recommend it.



I've been told it's a very good, MM. Perhaps Dawkins isn't (quite) the Devil's Spawn, after all:

The first chapter describes several ways in which the universe appears beautiful and poetic when viewed scientifically. However, it first introduces an additional reason to embrace science. Time and space are vast, so the probability that the reader came to be alive here and now, as opposed to another time or place,, was slim. More important, the probability that the reader came to be alive at all were even slimmer: the correct structure of atoms had to align in the universe. Given how special these circumstances are, the "noble" thing to do is employ the allotted several decades of human life towards understanding that universe. Rather than simply feeling connected with nature, one should rise above this "anaesthetic of familiarity" and observe the universe scientifically...

But I think William Blake put it better:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Mind you, Blake was quite bonkers. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 10:02

Yeah completely bonkers! mad 

And he does indeed put it nicely - if one accepts this out of its original context. His poem was all about being "good christians" and trying to tackle the social evils of his day.

The poem ends:

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.



So, although one might indeed want to consider the wonder of the world in a grain of sand, ... just remember that it's all God's work*. So stay respectfully in awe and wonder of God and do not go looking any further for answers and do not ask any difficult questions. Go forth and tackle corruption, cruelty, hypocrisy etc amongst one's fellow man, but in the end God is the sole answer, God is the final arbiter, God is the ultimate Law, God is all you need to know.


Which is not, I think, how Richard Dawkins, would want us to view the universe, neh?. Wink


*Although of course Blake's God wasn't quite the same being as the accepted, orthodox, CofE, God, and neither was his Christ.... indeed a lot of Blake's "christianity" was at considerable variance with accepted dogma. As you say completely barking! Or maybe idiosyncratic would be a better word?


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 10:49

@meles meles wrote:
mad 

Now don't you start, MM. Coping with Catigern's love of that particular emoticon is quite enough...

Seriously, I think there is more to Blake than you suggest, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss his poetry.

And I don't want to sound like a copy of York GCSE Notes. I often do, and it's embarrassing.

Let's change the subject, quick.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 10:56

Crossed posts/edits with you, Temp  .... yes indeed there is considerably more to Blake than just that and I was equally guilty of simplistically quoting him out of context. But enough on Blake, although as you say there's enough about him to do another thread. Another time perhaps.

And now I really must rush to the shops before they close for lunch:
wabbit

EDIT : Bum - Too late! .... They were closed and the shutters were down at 12:27 ... C'est la vie ... In France nothing must delay lunch!
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Fri 13 Sep 2013, 22:15

And someone had better clear up any mythunderstanding between the two threads. I hope this one will concentrate on splendid works resulting from belief/faith and such without delving into the proven veracity of current beliefs or faiths of any persuation. Is that too simple?

MM if you keep charging about in a bunny suit saying 'Bum' I will probably hear the slamming of doors - assorted shops etc - from here. Sigh - I suppose they also know you are British, mm?
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 08:41

The argument that belief/faith as you put it has a good side that is evidenced by the great architecture/music/literature etc it has inspired is a gross over-simplification of the creative process. While I would never suggest that there has not been a correlation between the two I would definitely dispute accrediting the significance and beauty of the creation to the validity of the faith, an accreditation that is often implied and even sometimes stated by those who, for various reasons, subscribe to a particular faith.

It is probably safer to conclude that both activities, the creation of great works and the investment in transcendental faith systems, utilise, channel and focus human imagination and therefore work well in tandem. However the historical record shows that the nature of any particular faith system in this symbiosis is secondary in importance to the creative urge itself. And thankfully so, I say. As a result of this we are the inheritors of many fantastic human creations over the millennia which are as uniform in their majesty and wonder as the faith systems which fuelled the creators' imaginations have been diverse.

And of course there are the countless other great works throughout time which owe nothing to that symbiosis and everything to the sheer unfettered imagination of their creators, just to lend the complete lie to the spurious attribution referred to above.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 10:06

Nah! Not all so. Great Cathedrals did not result from a surge of creative juices but for reasons of faith -albeit that could have been fear, bribery or veneration among other reasons.

Even the cutlers of Thaxted, Essex - top dogs in the field before Sheffield - raised a splendid pile to honour St Lawrence - their patron saint along with St Mary in a pragmatic religious hedge-bet.

They surely saved their creative urges to perfecting their craft. I would quote a bit from the above but safer to say and conclude that had the cutlers had no shared faith that we would have had no worthy symbol that accredited and validated that.

I'll now  go and gather stones for any worthy David who might like to have a proper go on this subject.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 10:21

Really crappily designed cathedrals also resulted from the same faith.

But I take your point if you are really referring to Gothic architecture. In fact I would go further and cite European Gothic cathedrals as the single most successful heuristic building programme in all of human history, both in aesthetic and engineering terms, and that this was only possible due to a particular religious faith operating in a particular political way at a particular point in human history and at a particular level of technological development in that history. I cannot see any other religion, even with the same political clout at that juncture, being capable of bringing that phenomenon about in a manner even approximating that which actually occurred.

But I still say "nah!" to your "nah!". The phenomenon can be accredited to the faith, but not to the validity of the faith - more so to its power, influence and timing, and how it intelligently utilised all three. And I am grateful for this.

In an aesthetic sense I am also a great fan of the mosque. This too is another architectural marvel whose character and impact have been totally enabled by a particular religious faith operating in a particular political manner over a crucially lengthy period of time. But I would have the same reticence when contemplating that this might therefore lend that faith validity, no matter how grateful I am in this case too for its legacy.

The crucial question in any case is not whether the faiths in question enabled the creative process, which of course they demonstrably did, but whether the creativity itself would have been absent in their absence. That is where I draw the line - the historical legacy, especially if one strays from these two notable architectural examples, indicates (thankfully) that this is not so and never has been.


Last edited by nordmann on Sat 14 Sep 2013, 11:22; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : semantics, semantics (and grammar))
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 10:32

Your post appeared while I was typing, P. I hope I have not taken your name in vain below.

@nordmann wrote:
The argument that belief/faith as you put it has a good side that is evidenced by the great architecture/music/literature etc it has inspired is a gross over-simplification of the creative process. While I would never suggest that there has not been a correlation between the two I would definitely dispute accrediting the significance and beauty of the creation to the validity of the faith, an accreditation that is often implied and even sometimes stated by those who, for various reasons, subscribe to a particular faith.
Isn't it rather difficult for us to "oversimplify" the creative process - that ultimate mystery? What is this urge? Whence does it come? Can we pin it down, define it?

But you see, this is where you and I - and I think Priscilla too, if it is not presumptuous of me to include her (I apologise if it is) - part company; or rather not so much part company, as part understanding. Or not even part understanding. This discussion is not a matter of intelligence, or of our being "simple-minded". It is about ways of looking at, ways of experiencing the world - what I suppose John Berger meant by his "ways of seeing".

You see, for me, human imagination and that power which we describe by so many various, inadequate names are one; and it is a power that has nothing whatsoever to do with Rome, London, Mecca, Athens, Jerusalem, or any other centres of human faith "systems" which are political and not spiritual. For me, such systems completely miss the point, although, ironically, their money - raised God knows how - has so often funded artistic endeavour.

I'm afraid it's going to be more poetry again. Here's a link to the whole of Wordsworth's poem inspired by the beautiful Wye Valley near Tintern Abbey; but the the lines that sum up my creed are below:

http://www.rc.umd.edu/rchs/reader/tabbey.html


For I have learned  
To look on nature, not as in the hour  
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes  
The still, sad music of humanity,  
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power  
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt  
A presence that disturbs me with the joy  
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime  
Of something far more deeply interfused,  
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,  
And the round ocean, and the living air,  
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,  
A motion and a spirit, that impels  
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,  
And rolls through all things.


Going back to the question Priscilla put in her OP, Iain McGilchrist in his The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World has some very intesting things to say on the problem of art in the modern world. Back in a bit. Got to have my yoghurt now.

Another post now, too - oh well, will send without reading.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 10:40

Rather than part company or understanding I would say that we both essentially make the same point. It is just as valid (probably more so in fact) to say that the creative impulse is that which is paramount here and will use any means available to express itself and translate itself into real representations of its own power.

Aesthetic preferences aside though, a bemoaning of the lack of great artistic expression in the modern world can equally justifiably be backed up by comparing this era with almost any nascent civilisation from our history, regardless of how much or how little religious faith played a role in enabling artistic expression at that time. The argument suffers rather than is enhanced by limiting the comparison to conspicuous faith-enabled phenomena such as Gothic cathedrals.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 11:36

@Priscilla wrote:
Great Cathedrals did not result from a surge of creative juices but for reasons of faith -albeit that could have been fear, bribery or veneration among other reasons.
Ι'd suggest that the creativity was always there and that religion was merely an influence on the inate urge. If it wasn't christianity or whatever faith doing the influencing the creativity would still have existed and would have been expressed in a different way.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 11:45

I agree. However there is an element of truth to Priscilla's assertion that the decline of the role of faith has impoverished artistic expression in modern times. As global society is more and more consumed by its own consumerism the aesthetic has been one of the most prominent victims of this development. Creativity still abounds, but the tangible product it produces through the facilitation of the consumer ethos is a poor comparison to that which was produced when more transcendental motives were to the fore. Great artistic expression still exists, but it no longer can be held up as a badge or emblem of the general society that produces it, at least when compared to the social homogeny that commonly held and powerful faiths once lent society.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 11:48

I'd suggest that the building of the cathedrals was all about the projection and display of wealth and power ... whether of mother church itself, or of the generous financial backers, be they individuals or guilds etc.

The creative genius of the master masons that the cathedrals display could have been, and indeed often is, equally displayed in the construction of lay buildings: houses, palaces, guildhalls, castles. For many, perhaps most of the master craftsmen, it wasn't about their personal religious faith, but about being able to display their artistry, thanks to generous backers who were prepared to sponsor the project.

(crossed posts again)


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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 12:00

Of course you're right, MM. What makes the Gothic cathedrals a truly unique phenomenon however was the manner in which all these skills and aspirations were harnessed to one end without the requirement at any point for anyone to come up with a grand plan, a steering committee, even a controlled committment to financing the projects. It was almost as if overnight and independent of each other hundreds of disparate communities suddenly seized on a new technological opportunity and embarked on utterly fantastic building projects without thought or care for completion dates, deployment of expertise or financial sourcing. Each project was imitative of its predecessors but beyond that there was little control exercised at all in ensuring the technological expertise developed in one project could be utilised by another. Trial and error dictated the majority of the projects, with some spectacular failures en route. Projects envisaged to take years or decades stretched out over generations and were therefore prey to all the usual social upheavals experienced within such long time frames. And yet, amazingly, the bulk of them worked, and we are the grateful inheritors of their effort.

Without a fundamental and commonly held belief that these projects were a worthwhile and important expression of religious fidelity on the part of their participants it is difficult to see how the achievement could have been pulled off, let alone even contemplated.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 12:01

@Meles meles wrote:
I'd suggest that the building of the catherdals was all about the projection and display of wealth and power ... whether of mother church itself, or of the generous financial backers, be they individuals or guilds etc.

The creative genius of the master masons that the catheral displays could have been, and indeed often is, equally displayed in the construction of lay buildings: houses, palaces, guildhalls, castles. For many, perhaps most of the master craftsmen it wasn't about their pesonal religious faith, but about being able to display their artistry, thanks to generous backers who were prepared to sponsor the project.

(crossed posts again)
Or one could go back further in time and look at the Coloseum, I don't think religion can be credited with the creation of that, yet it is still a marvel of creativity, artistic ability and engineering achievement.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 12:08

@nordmann wrote:
I agree. However there is an element of truth to Priscilla's assertion that the decline of the role of faith has impoverished artistic expression in modern times. As global society is more and more consumed by its own consumerism the aesthetic has been one of the most prominent victims of this development. Creativity still abounds, but the tangible product it produces through the facilitation of the consumer ethos is a poor comparison to that which was produced when more transcendental motives were to the fore. Great artistic expression still exists, but it no longer can be held up as a badge or emblem of the general society that produces it, at least when compared to the social homogeny that commonly held and powerful faiths once lent society.
Absolutely. And here's what McGilchrist says:

As, with the advance of modernism, art became ever more self-conscious, it encountered further problems. Alienation, fragmentation, decontextualisation: the defining features of the modern world were as problematic for art as they were for society, since art, like society, derives its meaning and power from connection, cohesion, context. The predicament of art in the modern period could be said to be how to respond to this challenge. And its problem is made more intractable by a different sort of deracination - more than just the severance from place, or even from history, but the inevitably consequent severance from roots of all meaning in shared values and experiences, the vast implicit realm from which all imagination draws its power... Many artists saw that the modern world was fragmented, incoherent, decontextualized and alien, a world where the implicit and intuitive had been lost. But art itself cannot succeed if it too is fragmented, incoherent, decontextualized and alien, nor if it becomes explicit and discursive - if it becomes about its own plight...
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 12:16

Amphitheatre design owed much technologically to temple design, so it is dangerous to cite secular examples from societies that also had faith-based motives behind their development of building technique.

The major quibble here is what motivated the engineer. I would suggest that both assertions are true - the engineer/architect was principally motivated to produce good expressions of his technique and expertise, his aesthetic motivations however were difficult to divorce from less secular forces at play in his society.

Temperance, I am reminded by your quote of Picasso's great line - "Art is a lie that tells the truth". One truth it tells is the nature of the society that produces it, and I am in agreement that we are currently in an era when that truth is as difficult to ignore as it is uncomfortably critical of our general values. The only compensation is that history tells us this is not an isolated phenomenon. Artistic stagnation and decline are recorded events from which society has recovered before. However that is poor compensation for those who find themselves living in such times. At least we have better access to past glories than our predecessors did, so can thankfully (if somewhat impotently) remind ourselves of the possible.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 12:51

@Islanddawn wrote:
Quote :
Or one could go back further in time and look at the Coloseum, I don't think religion can be credited with the creation of that, yet it is still a marvel of creativity, artistic ability and engineering achievement.
True, but just one minor point .... don't forget that the Colosseum (the Flavian amphitheatre) was build specifically to house "the games" which were then very much part of imperial roman society. But the games themselves, and in particular the gladiatorial contests, derive from the religious cult of Etruscan/Early Roman "funereal contests", that is warriors fighting to the death (ie a form of human sacrifice) at the funeral of a fallen military hero ... and as such even the roman "games" have a religious provenance.

So yet again one cannot deny the influence of religion in many, apparently secular, buildings. In our own time (the past 150 years) the UK's Houses of Parliament, today essentially a secular building, still derives much of it's architectural style from the religiously-inspired mediaeval gothic cathedrals.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 13:16

But this is not just about building.

The Rex (tremendae majestatis) from Mozart's Requiem has me in tears, as, indeed, does the entire work. But tears for what, for whom?



I always seem to have to rely on other people's words, but this what D. M. Thomas, the writer, says about this Requiem. Thomas tells of a harrowing afternoon when he had brought his dying wife home from hospital and she was fretting badly, not about the pain she was suffering, but about who would look after her garden after she was dead:

"I went to my study, overlooking the garden, and put on the Requiem. Every section, every phrase, now fully lived: "Et lux perpetua - everlasting light", "Kyrie eleison - Lord, have mercy", for the ground of our relationship had been as bumpy, sometimes, as our garden, and I was in need of mercy. The "Rex tremendae" brought me unbearably up against the mystery of this beautiful, heartbreaking universe. In the "Lacrimosa" I saw Mozart on his deathbed, still composing, with Constanze crying and his pupil Sussmayr trying to read his mind. Though Mozart died in 1791, he signed the unfinished work "1792" - either hoping to live, or believing the creation would go on. Rightly, for the modestly-gifted pupil achieved a miracle in the "Benedictus" and the "Agnus Dei".

Weakness and suffering are inwoven into this music, making it a requiem for us all. We leave to others what we cannot finish; love goes on growing, and the light shines
."

"Believing the creation would go on..." I blow my nose, and fervently hope that, like Mozart, Thomas  is right.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 13:21

Mozart is a good example of genius transcending whatever external motives could be accredited to what it creates. He could take any theme presented for any reason and construct something beautiful out of it.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 15:12

Then there was Mahler. Said to be agnostic to the end,  jewish music can be identified in some pieces and his early explorations of metaphysics also had an effect - yet his 8th and last Symphony is a bang crash wallop of statement about redemption.

Have there ever been any societies that flourished in creative expression that did not have a structured faith of some kind?

The Colosseum those great cathedrals may have been symbols of power and  yet surely it was the impetus of a founding mind somewhere who initially sought to display an expression of faith? Splendid Scythian gold jewelry exposes their shamanistic beliefs - even those exquisite golden bees of King Nestor's time are an expressive link with beliefs of the time. 

the there is modern stuff such as the Hoover dam which I think rather fine - no  faith there - except a profound one in ones understanding of maths, physics and design - yet that is in a society which still has a notion of faith.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 15:42

Well building on Temp's comments about Mozart, (he himself was hardly a great paragon of catholic piety), alongside the heart-rending beauty of his Requiem, one can easily contrast the music of his operas. They are not generally based on religious themes (ignoring the religious or otherwise symbolism of 'The Magic Flute') but rather they were written purely for entertainment, to make money and to display his obvious musical talent. But amongst all the sometimes bawdy comedy, the music nevertheless remains sublime.

I would do a Temp and quote from the film 'Amadeus', but I can't recall the words .... but Salieri, attending in secret, a production of "The Marriage of Figaro" says something along the lines of hearing "true forgiveness" set to music ...


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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 15:57

Salieri: I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there, perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable, making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 16:00

Thanks Temp Wink 

I thought you'd probably know it.

My point though was that the said piece of music is (I think) a duet between a husband and his wife .... only she's in disguise and he thinks he's actually flirting with the scheming little maid, and yet she still chooses to hear him with love and forgiveness....  And despite this rather tawdry subject matter, the music and the message it is conveying, remain beautiful.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 16:17

@Meles meles wrote:
...he himself was hardly a great paragon of catholic piety...
Neither was Caravaggio, MM, whom we have discussed at length on ferval's "What is Art?" thread. Derek Jarman (in his 1986 film) has a dying Caravaggio - who had drunk and whored (with women and boys) and fought (even murdered) his way around Italy - spit on the crucifix which a desperate young priest holds up to him. Summoning up his last reserves of strength, Caravaggio then hurls it in contempt across the room.

Is this more Jarman's anger than Caravaggio's? I don't know. But the religious art Caravaggio produced is sublime. He understood more about the beauty and heartbreak of the Christian message - about sin and despair and redemption - than any of his paymasters at the Vatican. Was it them he hated, rather than Christ? I have no idea; and I know I must beware of sentimentality. I just look and marvel.

But the title of Andrew Graham-Dixon's biography is revealing, I think - Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane. Perhaps all the best artistic lives are.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 18:04

In ancient Greece and ancient Rome people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings. People believed that creativity was a divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant and unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these divine attendant spirits of creativity ‘Daemons’. Socrates believed that he had a Daemon who spoke to him from afar. The Romans had the same idea but they called that sort of disembodied spirit a ‘Genius’...they believed that a genius was a magical divine entity who was believed to literally live in the walls of an artist’s studio … and who would come out and invisibly assist the artist with his work and who would shape the outcome of that work.

I know little about Daemons and Muses, and I had no idea of the etymology of "genius".

In ancient Rome, the genius (plural in Latin genii) was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family (gens), or place (genius loci). The noun is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, "to bring into being, create, produce." Because the achievements of exceptional individuals seemed to indicate the presence of a particularly powerful genius, by the time of Augustus the word began to acquire its secondary meaning of "inspiration, talent."

Is this information accurate?

PS I'm also musing (pardon the pun) about idols and false gods, and the buildings erected to house and glorify them. Wembley Stadium? The monstrosities recently completed in the financial district of the City of London (The Gherkin/The Walkie-Talkie/The Cheesegrater)? Not to mention the huge and hideous shopping malls that have sprung up in recent years. Our new cathedrals, I suppose. The Walkie-Talkie actually works miracles - it melts cars as grown men stand and silently weep. Grown men of course also weep and prostrate themselves at Wembley.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2409073/Walkie-Talkie-melted-Jag-Londons-Fenchurch-Street-skyscraper-melts-businessmans-car.html



PPS I'm fretting now that I am talking too much. Will post this and then pipe down for a bit.


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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 18:27



This is the Trafford Centre. It is like some pagan temple, but not nearly so classy - all synthetic pillars and plastic "mouldings". It is absolutely hideous, inside and out.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 18:46

But you must admit that the pale drunks on the roof who got trumpets in their crackers have appeal.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 20:43

Are you sure that building is not in Dubai, it has that look about it?
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sat 14 Sep 2013, 21:11

It's in Manchester all right, Gran. I've been there - just the once. Actually the picture above is a modest side entrance. Here's the main gate. It is even more - er- spectacular.



The internal architecture also beggars belief and has been described as "bewildering". The official description is "Rococo/late Baroque in design, with eclectic elements of Art Deco and Egyptian Revival. It is decorated primarily in shades of white, pink and gold with ivory, jade and caramel coloured marble throughout." Otherwise known as "le style dejeuner du chien".

Others however have criticised the deception of the fake palm trees and neo-classical decorative pillars which are not made of marble but decorated medium-density fibreboard. Architecture critic John Parkinson-Bailey plainly described the Trafford Centre as a building which "will not appeal to purists" and went on to describe the range of interior architecture as "bewildering". The Peel Group say that the striking and extrovert architecture is aimed at providing visual delight, to make the visitor's shopping experience more vivid.

Medium-density fibreboard pillars. I love it. Not even the Romans had them in their temples, you know.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 04:42

@Temperance wrote:
PS I'm also musing (pardon the pun) about idols and false gods, and the buildings erected to house and glorify them. Wembley Stadium? The monstrosities recently completed in the financial district of the City of London (The Gherkin/The Walkie-Talkie/The Cheesegrater)? Not to mention the huge and hideous shopping malls that have sprung up in recent years. Our new cathedrals, I suppose. The Walkie-Talkie actually works miracles - it melts cars as grown men stand and silently weep. Grown men of course also weep and prostrate themselves at Wembley.
Idols and false gods? At the risk of diverting yet another thread on to religion, gods and God are man made constructs (or inventions) and idols or gods are whoever a person or a collective group wishes it/them to be. So whilst I agree with your analogy in general, I'd suggest they are merely erections to the new gods. Merely the latest in a very long line.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 07:38

I wonder when they dig it up in 500 years what will be left.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 08:02

That "false god" remark had me wondering too. Was there ever a cathedral to a true god in everyone's eyes? That end of things seems completely subjective and argument-startable territory.

Sometimes determined avoidance of a faith system or ology or whatever can itself lead to some quite inventive and aesthetically interesting solutions. In the Soviet Union for example the ideological state sanctioned a particular style of modernism resulting in a dominant architectural style that to my eye could be summed up as big, bland and quite often dehumanising. Kafka's fears writ large in concrete. The great exception, for reasons too complex to go into without diverting the thread even further into a sociological minefield, was the transport system. Suffice to say that this crucially important interface between the citizen and the state, above all others, was allowed to impress aesthetically while retaining humanistic attributes, and in a state as huge and diverse as the Soviet Union this last criteria - humanism - was expressed through diversity.

The upshot was that while the rest of the world was moving towards bland conformity when it came to, for example, the humble bus stop, the USSR's citizens were being treated to little gems like these (bear in mind that you are not seeing them in their former pristine condition). Cheap and tacky? Yes. Devoid of elevated stylistic aspirations? Yes, definitely. But human? Most definitely!

I make no apology for posting so many of them as it is in their diversity that their true value lies. In a poisonously control-freak state these represent the antidote:
















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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 08:25

@Islanddawn wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
PS I'm also musing (pardon the pun) about idols and false gods, and the buildings erected to house and glorify them. Wembley Stadium? The monstrosities recently completed in the financial district of the City of London (The Gherkin/The Walkie-Talkie/The Cheesegrater)? Not to mention the huge and hideous shopping malls that have sprung up in recent years. Our new cathedrals, I suppose. The Walkie-Talkie actually works miracles - it melts cars as grown men stand and silently weep. Grown men of course also weep and prostrate themselves at Wembley.
Idols and false gods? At the risk of diverting yet another thread on to religion, gods and God are man made constructs (or inventions) and idols or gods are whoever a person or a collective group wishes it/them to be. So whilst I agree with your analogy in general, I'd suggest they are merely erections to the new gods. Merely the latest in a very long line.
Oh, gosh, ID - you sound so stern and disapproving! Smile 

"Idols and false gods" - just an expression, just an expression - you know how I love my KJV (sorry). Here's another favourite line:

1 Kings 11:5 - For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

"Abomination of the Ammonites" - sounds dreadful, doesn't it?

PS I love those pictures, nordmann.

PPS Gran - wouldn't you love to be there (in five hundred years time, I mean)?!


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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 08:29

And of course while in Russia and on the theme of cathedrals to Mammon and other diverse but spectacular alternatives to more orthodox faith-based architecture it would be remiss not to point out the underground train system, and of course GUM:



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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 08:50

I too immediately thought of railway stations when you mentioned modern day temples.

This is the magnificent Grand Central Station in New York, before its decline and then more recent restoration:




And there's an interesting BBC Point of View article about great stations from around the world with some cracking photos:


BBC News - Readers' favourite railway stations



PS : And  Temp, whatever did the poor ammonites ever do to get "abominated"? As if extinction and fossilization wasn't enough:



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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 09:04

What an amazing photograph, MM (EDIT: the one above the fossil pic - I agree - ammonites are very nice).

And doesn't St. Pancras (from your link) look like one of those vast, cavernous Victorian parish churches - the sort you see up North in Manchester or Leeds?



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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 09:22

Deleted.


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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 09:25

MM, I think from earlier threads you have expressed an admiration for Brunel? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but it is just that Brunel affords a marvellous tie-in between railway stations and the general theme of this thread.

In the early 1850s Brunel was commissioned to design what is still the main station in the Paddington complex, the bit adjoining Praed Street. His intention was to outdo in grandeur Waterloo Station, at that stage the only other significantly large terminus in the the London area. However Waterloo, a then conventional iron girder construction with brick infill, had already demonstrated a problem with using that technique for railway termini. Constant vibration from locomotives was too easily transmitted along the iron sinews of the structure leading quickly to unsightly mortar cracks and even some worrying detachment of the brick components from the metal. Brunel's initial idea was to surround the girders with load-bearing stone pillars since he also had to work out a way of supporting a three hundred ton roof canopy (three times that of Waterloo at the time) and he thought he had the perfect aesthetic solution in a sort of mock-Gothic style. This initial plan however was rejected as too costly by the railway company.

The sub-architect given the job of finding an acceptable solution, Matthew Digby Wyatt, turned out to be an inspired choice. Not only was he a cutting-edge designer and good mate of Brunel but he was also a respected art and architecture historian. He realised at once that the Romans had already solved the problem of building huge enclosed spaces with good shock-absorbing qualities and which, thanks to their later utilisation by the Catholic Church, also had the desired religious associations Brunel had envisaged for his "cathedral to the steam age". Wyatt hot-footed it over to Hagia Sofia and various other basilica survivors from the Roman era and came back with a plan of knitted brick concourses, ultimately knitted at the top with a giant iron-latticed roof canopy thereby avoiding the need for buttressing. It had never been done before on such a scale but Wyatt, who had great faith in his bricks and Brunel, who had equally great a faith in his iron, never doubted that it would work. So successful was it that it was imitated globally almost immediately. Even Waterloo was basically torn down and rebuilt within a decade.

It's worth pointing out of course that the use of basilica construction does not mean that Brunel and Wyatt owed a debt to religion for their innovation. The original basilicae with the unique structural techniques developed to build them, were not religious buildings at all but tribunal assembly points in the civil administration of Rome. They were a departure from temple architecture when it came to enclosing huge spaces, and their proven success at survival meant that it was they, and not the Roman temples, which were both available and numerous enough to become the trademark assembly buildings for the Church when it assumed control. Wyatt was in fact returning the architectural style to its secular roots.

Have a look at the exposed brickwork in Paddington the next time you're there and then take a look at the surviving aqueduct supports in your area (which used the same technique). When one remembers that bricks are essentially simply baked clay and then one thinks about the huge load-bearing demands that both applications were designed to accommodate, it's literally breathtaking.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 09:39

You don't need to go quite so far for imaginative bus stops, this one's near Dumfries.



Those Soviet one's are wonderful; are they mostly from the old 'Autonomous Regions'? Rather than being any kind of expression of the interface between State and people, I see then as expressions of quiet subversion.


I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned museums and galleries, those seem to be the current edifices that are being given the most architectural treatment. Which prompts the thought - is the Past (and art even)  a false god too?


      



and really close to home




I see there's a new post but my weekend guest has just emerged, clutching teddy and asking for breakfast so I'll post this and catch up later.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 09:49

@ferval wrote:
Those Soviet one's are wonderful; are they mostly from the old 'Autonomous Regions'? Rather than being any kind of expression of the interface between State and people, I see then as expressions of quiet subversion.
Some are, some aren't. In that peculiar mess of contradictions that was the Soviet mentality they were of course subversive, but at the same time deemed necessary. After all if the proletariat can't build his own bus-stop what's the world coming to?

By the way, one of those mosque-based bus-stops is in northern Ukraine. Not exactly a Muslim enclave by any stretch of the imagination. Subversive it may have been in concept on the part of its designer but it is a subversive expression so deliciously complex that it could only have arisen in the USSR.

And sorry if I gave the impression that they were meant to artistically express the interface between citizen and state. I meant (and said) only that this is where they were situated in the social structure and, for various reasons, a unique place in that structure where individuality (and even subversion) could actually flourish with state approval. I stress of course that this was post-Stalinist approval, and only approval at that as it might be understood in a post-Stalinist Soviet system - something which resembles anything but approval in most other systems.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Sun 15 Sep 2013, 11:29

@Temperance wrote:
Oh, gosh, ID - you sound so stern and disapproving! Smile 
I did too Temp! Sorry, that wasn't my intention, just trying to get thoughts in some semblence of order. Note the time of the post, 6.42am and without even half a cup of coffee downed.Smile

Ferval, you pipped me at the post. I just came back online to add museums to the list, adoration of the past or are they just the best designs to compliment the displays of artifacts and art?  I suppect there is a little one upmanship between nations/cities involved as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Mon 16 Sep 2013, 09:43

This is an interesting essay.

http://www.selectedworks.co.uk/religionandartrevised.html

Taken out of context, but perhaps relevant to posts above:

It is an arguable claim that all serious art is in some sense an attempt to articulate something ineffable, something which transcends everyday reality, and that it is consequently religious art, whatever the conscious beliefs of the artist or the audience. On this basis one may think that artistic creation is (in some sense) a religious act. "To reproduce is human, to create is divine" says Man Ray. One may also see the art work as (in some sense) sacred, and the experience of art is a (quasi-) religious experience in which the attention which we pay to a work is really an act of piety or worship. Anyone, for example, who feels shock or outrage at the destruction of an artistic work - the breaking of a sculpture, the destruction of a canvas, the burning of a book - is probably not far from seeing such acts as literally sacrilegious.


ID wrote:
Ferval, you pipped me at the post. I just came back online to add museums to the list, adoration of the past or are they just the best designs to compliment the displays of artifacts and art?


Having read the above paragraph from Pateman's essay, your use of the word "adoration" is interesting, ID.

There has been so much sacrilege through the ages (and Christians, I know, have been as guilty as any). Human beings - don't you just love them? Capable of creating like God, and just as capable of destroying like the Devil.

EDIT: Please note I do not believe in the Devil as with pitchfork and horns etc. (apart from Catigern). I refer to the destructive, hateful impulses that exist in us all alongside the loving and the creative - or something like that. Will shut up at once and drink more tea.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Mon 16 Sep 2013, 12:11

In any case the devil is not merely a destroyer, I would have said. For the personalisation of evil to work in myth the devil has to be almost as creative as the creator, but just in a very bad way.

I prefer Empedocles' take on it (when it comes to simplistic bogeyman-infested mythology versus Greek "let's just reason this bloody thing out" philosophy I will always go with the lads who also understood personal hygiene as a communal facility). He saw the cosmos as a constant battle between Love and Strife, and that life could not exist if one or the other ever won out. The christian mind-set owes a bit to this tradition too (though will never admit it). When the competition is over ("Day of Judgement etc") then life as we know it is over too. Put simply (that term you love), Love builds up while Strife tears down and we spend the interim dodging the shrapnel if we can. We are products of the clash and our lives are therefore defined by it too. We can side with one or the other if we want but it doesn't really matter. No matter how evil we wish to be we still have no control over whether good will come from our actions or not, not ultimately anyway. The opposite also holds true - the gooder we try to be the badder sometimes the effects. Therefore morality is not a choice between good and evil, but a far more complex choice involving responsibility for one's actions after careful scrutiny - a moral position that we can at best aspire to but never wholly achieve.

Much more satisfying intellectually than the christian/muslim bowdlerisation in my view. The jewish "yetzer hara" is a sort of ok compromise except it places evil squarely within each person and ignores the concept on the cosmic level. If they'd had the imagination to reason it out properly they too might have arrived at Empedocles' cosmic circle. They simply got as far as the internal adversary bit and then chucked thinking out completely, replacing it with a load of rules designed to apparently thwart the inner demon, some of which were so stupid that they must have been composed by someone's internal Satan themselves.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Mon 16 Sep 2013, 12:34

Empedocles was obviously a thoroughly good egg (have just been reading about him on Wiki).

But there always has to be someone who takes the p*ss - in E.'s case that awful Lucian of Samosata:

In Icaro-Menippus, a comedic dialogue written by the second century satirist Lucian of Samosata, Empedocles’ final fate is re-evaluated. Rather than being incinerated in the fires of Mount Etna, he was carried up into the heavens by a volcanic eruption. Although a bit singed by the ordeal, Empedocles survives and continues his life on the Moon, surviving by feeding on dew.
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PostSubject: Re: Power of Myths for the Simpler Minded   Mon 16 Sep 2013, 12:41

I Love Lucian - if they'd had TV in the 2nd century that would have been a favourite of mine!

Lucian's satirical attack on Empedocles was nothing compared to the christian church's attempt to wipe the guy from history. We must be grateful to Cicero of all people for the good bits that survived. I assume the church's beef was that Empedocles' rationale was, well, rational, and made a much better stab at explaining good versus evil than the bogeyman version.
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