According to my "History", it can readily be assumed that myths were first sung in the disoriented, starry dawn of man's earliest conscious awakening...
Guilt can only be “perceived”, which is to say, intuited, felt, and expressed among a people whose collective psychological walls between language and non-language, between the Objective and Subjective, and between Faith and Reason as well as in and between members of the group have not been fully established. Before these walls are erected, a given people will only experience Shame which, as stated elsewhere, is an externalized form of Guilt. And, because the psychological walls of a “shameful people” have not been fully established, the individuals who compose that collective will most likely not be able to see themselves as individuals distinct from the continuity of their group and kind. Among these people there is no “individual” at all, the group is the individual and its collective psychology will be that of each one of its members. The “shame-bound collective” will, therefore, behave similarly to the fully differentiated individual of individualistic societies. “Individuals”, psychologically estranged from their natural collective, will, principally – if not exclusively – experience guilt, not shame. For shame is the collective’s expression of guilt and with it comes the same kind of feelings that guilt provokes in the individual. Instead of guilt, shame is the expression of distress and remorse for one’s actions done to the collective, even if it was only to a single individual of that collective. Guilt, on the other hand, is the distress an individual feels (or at least should feel) when one has perpetrated some sort of wrongdoing against “oneself”, one’s god, or another individual member of the society in which he lives, “oneself” here synonymous with “one’s own values”.
For, what used to be real-life flesh-and-blood people of a collective have, in the differentiated man, now been replaced with values or morals or symbols or standards of personal conduct which one will engage like the former personified members of one’s own “tribe”; values which nowadays do indeed assume a hierarchical form and therefore demand varying degrees of protocol which must be adhered if one expects to engage with such values in a manner proper to their station and rank in a man’s internal hierarchy; that hierarchy which enables a man to navigate the social life of the collective in which he externally finds himself and is yet estranged.
When, therefore, a man’s highest value changes or surrenders to, say, the Truth of Christ and His Gospel, all other values of even the most insignificant import are affected in profound and often irreversible ways. This same phenomenon was also “externally” witnessed among the various pagan tribes when they encountered the proselytizing Christian missionaries in Northern, Eastern, and Western Europe after the fall of Rome. In these collectives, which, presumably, would have experienced shame because of their largely undifferentiated internal natures, the highest internal value of the individual did not change because it was not “his” to change in the first place. The change of mind of the chief or most prominent member of the collective was good enough to have a cascading effect on every lesser member which he had jurisdiction over; the chief’s salvation which became his people’s salvation. That the missionaries sometimes doubted the sincerity of the lesser members’ “conversion”, which would have no doubt appeared to ape the more prominent members of their societies, reveals that said missionaries had little to no concept of just how radically different their own psychological structure was compared to those whom they were evangelizing.
How downright offended and perplexed the leaders of these undifferentiated pagan collectives must have been to witness said missionaries evangelizing to subordinate members of the group, especially lower-ranking men, slaves, concubines, and even females (?!), to say nothing of children; it would today be akin to one evangelizing to a man’s finger or leg or internal organ.
According to my “History”, it can readily be assumed that myths were first sung in the disoriented, starry dawn of man’s earliest conscious awakening, when the psychological walls of his mental, emotional and sensual life had not yet fully formed, a time when man realized no differentiation between his faith and reason, his instincts and individual thoughts, his dream-life and wake-life, leaving man everywhere vulnerable to “believing”, or else “assuming”, the so-called “truths” of his bodily sensations from which the miraculous tales sprang; those same miracles which can now be fully assumed to be of the domain of Faith; the “belief” (but not perception) of such miracles which, since Christ, is now made possible only by the power of His Holy Spirit. Quite likely, therefore, did early man actually “see” or even “witness” – if only in the sublime clarity of his “mind’s eye” (then, little different from his actual eyes) the fantastic events the mighty poets had immortalized in verse.
In undifferentiated states like those that ecstasy can elicit is there no natural, consistent distinction between so-called “reality” and “super-reality”, inasmuch as in a state of undifferentiation there are no hardened internal divide between language and non-language, between consciousness and unconsciousness, between “what-is” and “what-is not”. In man’s undifferentiation did he – perhaps naively, perhaps inescapably – truly “believe” he was not only living the actual myths but that they indubitably happened in the wondrous manner in which they were sung.
Myths were therefore never intended to teach individual people certain values and ethical standards by which such individuals should behave so as to successfully integrate into the society in which they were born, fully estranged, for there was, at the time of mythical composition, no clear reckoning of the notion of “individual” in the first place. The myths were to be “lived experience” by which one could and were encouraged to emulate. That myths were expected to “teach” anything is a much later development. And because the events the myths portrayed were, as stated, utterly fantastic, the stories would, in time, lose their credulity and their credibility the more that man’s internal nature differentiated and the linguistic and non-linguistic domains entrenched themselves as two distinct and impermeable modes of psychological “life”. In their most developed state, myths became paradoxical and senseless, or at least so it would seem to those who heard them. And, without something like the Spirit of God manifesting in the life of an individual, it eventually became utterly impossible for rational, differentiated men to span the now-impassable chasm between myth and reality, between fantasy and actuality, and between synthesis and paradox.
If anything, myths reinforced and conditioned their hearers to uphold the socio-political status quo from which they were created; that status quo which in all but a few extreme cases was an aristocratic hierarchy (i. e. “god structure”) composed of distinct, impermeable classes or castes whose admission could not be breached because they were initially established at a time when man did not think independently, nor act or will on his own. A man was a member of a caste through blood and birth and his membership therein was ordained and underwritten by the gods who had originally established the hierarchy which was “passed down” to the people of a society, even at a time when the gods no longer universally spoke and acted in the mind and senses of man, as the way it was and had always been.
As man became more internally differentiated, however, he naturally began to expect from his society the same kind of empirical evidence (or at least logical plausibility) that his Reason was demanding in every other aspect of his life. At this point did the myths begin to loosen their grip over the minds of the people and with it, the ancient hierarchical structure of society which had initially enshrined the myths and imbued meaning into the lives of their hearers. Only when Homer, Hesiod, and their gods loosened their grip over the Greek mind could philosophy, non-mythical speculations, and later, democracy and “humanistic” (i. e. humancentric) conceptions of art and culture be birthed. For, by the time of Thales the myths had long fallen into incredulity (at least among the elite) and with it the hierarchical foundation which had stabilized Archaic and pre-Archaic Greek society since the emergence of the Greek “I”, or since at least the so-called “Dorian Invasion”. Solon and Socrates were “simply” manifestations of certain internal developments that had begun to concretize within the individual Greek mind as a result of the growing differentiation between the linguistic and non-linguistic psychological domains of Attic society. Not even the epics, which always come after myth – their events which can be somewhat located in actual history and among concrete people performing tangible deeds, all of which enable progressively differentiating peoples some rational respite from the miraculous fantasy of myth (notwithstanding the fact that such miraculous elements were certainly present in epics as well, but less accentuated) – could survive the Greek need “to know” “objectively”, and with it, “what to do” and “how to live” and also “what to create”, their response to such internal crisis which came in the form of, for lack of a better term, “Greek humanism”, that which proceeded to permeate every then-conceivable arena of human life.
Greek Humanism, however, was “merely” the structure without substance, mere words and deeds without a certain transcendent teleology of which the Greek mind – or any differentiated mind for that matter – thirsted and would not rest until it was found (either rightly or wrongly); that rest which, as history reveals, it found, perhaps fitfully, perhaps paradoxically, perhaps intermittently and at times insincerely, in the power of Christ whose very Gospel was written, not in the scholarly Greek of the academy but in Koine of the streets which rendered Christ’s message, in certain sense, “for them”, “for all of them”.
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”