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Logos, Mythos, and Wicca: The Da Vinci Chaos
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Of all the controversial works of fiction these days, few have been as heavily criticized, and in some cases feared, as The Da Vinci Code. With conservatives and fundamentalists (particularly Catholics) calling it an attack on Christianity, and with a plethora of books and documentaries attempting to prove or disprove parts of The Da Vinci Code, it’s hard to figure out who’s right. Did Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene marry and have a child? Did Jesus become divine by a vote? Is the Holy Grail really proof of Jesus’ lineage? And is Christianity as we know it a religion built essentially on lies and the bastardization of Jesus’ teachings?
My response: I don’t know, I don’t want to know, and I don't know why people are so hell-bent on trying to prove/disprove a religion.
Bear with me; this has a connection to Wiccan and Paganism. There are many reasons why members of Earth-based religions might take such a stance. My first reason is simply because of the media furor; so many publications denounce The Da Vinci Code and its claims as a hoax, calling it historically inaccurate and an “attack on Christianity.” Then we have publications stating the reverse: that various parts of The Da Vinci Code are real, that there is historical evidence to support these claims. There’s so much conflicting evidence that I’m not sure what to believe. And I’m even more inclined to stay out of the matter due to the fact that all of this stems from a work of fiction instead of nonfiction.
A bigger part of my uncertainty is the controversies surrounding the Gnostic Gospels. Those who support some of the claims in The Da Vinci Code cite the gospels as proof. Those who try to disprove it claim the gospels as heresy, justly rejected by early Christianity when the Bible was being constructed and assembled. In this case, we reach an impasse. Each side is biased against the other. This makes it hard to form an unbiased, third party opinion when even the historical evidence is being bickered over.
My second and third reasons for avoiding this dispute are connected, and they're the ones which relate to our contemporary experience of Earth-based religions. While I’m not a Christian anymore, I was raised Catholic, and growing up I wasn’t one to fret over historical accuracy. Even if the evidence was plainly stacked up against me, I knew I wouldn’t believe it. Why? It all came down to faith. This same thinking grips millions of religious people of all denominations.
But there’s a bigger, more philosophical aspect to faith. There are two ways to comprehend life, history, and spiritual thinking. Scholar Karen Armstrong helped shed some light on the problems between confusing the two views, logos and mythos. Armstrong states that modern people tend to look at things through logos, which is by means of reason. In this way, we see everything in a literal sense, as factually true or false, either/or. This is the kind of thinking to whichfundamentalists hold. On the other hand, premodern people knew of another kind of knowledge that could not be ascertained though logos. This is where mythos comes into play; it is the deeper meaning of things.
In mythos, "what really happened" is not important, because this is a kind of knowledge that creates meaning for the person. Even if everything about that religion or belief were factually disproven, it wouldn’t matter because the believer has comprehended a truth that facts alone could not find. It is this view that gave us the ancient wisdoms, and should we reclaim it, we would be able to gain access to these wisdoms again. The problem with looking at religion through logos is the crisis of faith that occurs in situations like that of the Da Vinci controversy. If the origins of Christiainty could be definitively explained away as a creation of man, if the Bible could be proven to be inaccurate, then the believer who looks at the religion through logos would sufer a spiritual crisis, which could lead anywhere from total loss of faith to radical fundamentalism. The faith of many such believers is being constantly tested, since scholars are proving that many of the stories at the heart of all religions didn’t really occur. It is only those who live their religion in a mythos worldview that won’t be worried.
A perfect example of this is Wicca. When Wicca originated, the popular belief was that the witch cult was real, that those who had been persecuted in medieval times really were witches, that nine million died in the burning times, and that many covens were centuries old, tied directly to the burning times. All those stories have since been discredited as literal truth. And yet Wicca continues, often in more or less the same form in which it began. Why? Because, though many of us learned that our religion was based onliteral lies, we still understood that there were deeper meanings behind the faith, and found that it was real to us. This is because of the mythos that we, like millions of other religious folk, hold in regard to our religion.
This is why I feel it is pointless to try to prove or disprove the origins of any religion, and even more so to worry about it at all. From a historical point of view, sure, it’s good to have all the facts on the table. But for the religious, regardless of what faith they may have, the literal facts don't matter, because we know of a truth, a comforting knowledge that transcends time and facts. When we know that truth, or know that we’re on the path to finding that truth, we are doing what the ancients are doing – looking at the world through mythos.
Someday, when this age of fundamentalism and political correctness passes, when we have unbiased information about the history of Christianity’s origins, then maybe I’ll want to know. But this is too troublesome a time for a seeker to learn about such a touchy topic. And, quite frankly, it’s a waste of time, for even the most concrete proof that disproves a religion’s claims could never have the power to destroy the faith in every follower’s heart.
Wicker, Christine. Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. 2005. pg. 95-6.
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