Mythos and the Near Eurycosm

In ancient Greek thought/culture, "mythos" refers to stories and myths and legends and the pattern of interpreting the world in terms of these; it is commonly opposed to "logos" which is the pattern of interpreting the world in terms of rational, logical understanding.

Obviously logos has been on the rise for some time, but mythos is always there alongside.

In the arts of all kinds, mythos still essentially reigns supreme, with logos intervening most directly in the financial aspect of the art business and the frequently goofy world of academic/analytical aesthetic criticism.

In science, engineering and math, logos takes the lead, but the invisible hand of mythos is always there behind the scenes, and sometimes not too far.  Selection of a scientific theory is never purely based on agreement with data or mathematical concision; there is always an intuitive element ... some theories are viewed as simply more "elegant" than others.  And considerations of intuitive elegance play a huge role in guiding the scientist's search for theories.

I have heard Muslim converts tell me "I read the Quran and it was so beautiful I knew it must be true."   And I have heard physicists say "General relativity theory is so beautiful it basically has to be true."   Judgments like this are mythos straight-up: some stories are so compelling they have a certain kind of truth to them regardless of the details of their comparison to particular bodies of data.

I grew up rather annoyed and disgusted with the degree of enthusiasm so many people had for heroes, gods, legends, pentagrams, crosses, mandalas, and various mythological/symbological constructs.   Yet still I loved Picasso, Chuang Tzu, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, A Love Supreme, Star Wars, and so forth.   The archetypal mythopoeic patterns grabbed my heart and the back of my mind, even as my analytical, logical mind rebelled at their apparent arbitrariness.

Eventually (actually, only fairly recently) I realized that people with a more mythos-oriented mindset than me, didn't necessarily take their various legends and myths as LITERALLY true, as true in the analytical, data-driven sense.    Rather, they were interested in a different kind of truth than the kind I was generally preoccupied with.   They were willing to believe these things in their hearts, without worrying about literal, logos-style truth.

In Jung's theory of the Collective Unconscious, archetypal patterns -- serving as the core of humanity's historical myths, legends and symbols -- exist in a sort of eurycosmic realm, where they tie together various empirical and psychological patterns from behind the scenes.   Synchronicity -- meaningful coincidence -- often emerges in the form of spatiotemporally unrelated events, that are tied together via a common archetypical/eurycosmic linkage, suddenly turning out to be correlated in empirically observable ways.

Synchronicity of this sort -- surprising, meaningful coincidence that connects spatiotemporally distant entities that happen to co-participate in some archetypal pattern(s) -- would follow from a combination of

  • basic "morphic resonance" dynamics, as I've reviewed above
  • the existence of many causal paths of the form A => B => C, where A and C are in our spacetime continuum, and B is an archetypal/mythopoiec pattern existing in the eurycosm

In general, it seems that the validity of mythic thinking would follow, in a eurycosmic context, if we made a certain simple assumption about the region of the eurycosm associated with our spacetime continuum.   Suppose we construct a probability distribution on eurycosmic forms, so that a pattern in the eurycosm is more highly weighted if it interacts with our spacetime continuum more.   Then what we need to assume is that archetypal/mythic patterns tend to be especially highly weighted in our local region of the eurycosm.

In terms of the formal definition of pattern, this has to do with the metric of simplicity on our local region of the eurycosm (what we may call the "near eurycosm").  The relevant metric of simplicity must be one that weights the patterns we find archetypal/mythic as being especially simple.   In this case, morphic resonance type dynamics will result in mythos-related pattern flow being surprisingly common in our spacetime continuum.

From purely within our spacetime continuum, it is a difficult pattern recognition task to identify the slippery patterns of archetypically meaningful coincidence.  There is always so much else going on.   But people whose spacetime-continuum-resident mind-networks have linked more tightly with their eurycosmic mind-networks, have in many cases been able to open relatively intense channels of pattern-flow from the near eurycosm into our spacetime continuum.   Along these channels, knowledge about the relevant weighting function in the near eurycosm has in many cases implicitly passed (though  mixed up with various other personal and cultural factors, to be sure -- life wouldn't be so interesting otherwise!).

An extremely important and interesting question, then, is: What are the most relevant simplicity measures for the near eurycosm?   Mythos contains many hints, though also many confusions.   Human myths, legends, symbols and so forth most likely mix up highly-weighted near-eurycosmic patterns, with various culturally-specific inventions and various patterns oriented toward localized emotional gratification or social manipulation.   Disentangling all these factors is hardly possible.

On a personal level, this line of thinking makes me feel slightly differently about religious rituals than I used to.   I have always appreciated the mystical core of traditions like Zen, Sufism, various shamanisms and so forth -- but I have generally been turned off by the specific rituals associated with these traditions, which have always felt quite arbitrary to me.

Some people seem to enjoy partaking in rituals with others, largely for the feeling of togetherness.   But most of the time that kind of feeling of togetherness creeps me out.   (Though waaaaay back in the day I did enjoy cheering with the crowd when Steve Carlton pitched a no-hitter at a Phillies game;  and singing along with the crowd in e.g. Who and Pink Floyd and Ween concerts -- I guess these are religious rituals of a sort!)

Anyway, to the extent that religious rituals may embody patterns that are highly weighted in the near eurycosm, it may be that they have some value beyond serving as arbitrary tokens for sociopsychological attention to congeal around.

Let us take yoga postures as an example.   They can be nice for stretching the body and relaxing the mind, even for folks who have no understanding of or interest in underlying yogic philosophy.   And their names are evocative, and often more than evocative -- e.g. the "tree" pose embodies some of the uprightness and nobility and stillness and tallness of being a tree.   To a large extent, they are the way they are because of the specific shape and inner and outer properties of the human body.  But to what extent do they also reflect/embody patterns with high weighting in the near eurycosm?

If indeed the answer is "to a significant extent," then morphic dynamics in the eurycosm would mean that enacting these particular body/mind forms serves to link the practitioner's body/mind especially much to broader eurycosmic forms....  Which obviously is a contorted, academic-ish way of saying stuff that traditional yogic texts say in more detail and more elegantly.  But my awkward phrasing has the advantage of tying in these spiritual-ish, mythic, traditional-type ideas with science/math concepts like probability distributions and causal chains.  In fact, I suppose what I'm doing in this post is something in the vague direction of "explaining mythos in terms of logos".    Maybe something interesting will come of this wacky conceptual cross-breeding...

One empirical prediction resulting from this line of thinking is that psi phenomena like remote viewing and telepathy should be more effective when they involve patterns that are simpler according to the relevant simplicity metric of the near eurycosm.  If mythical/archetypal structures are a noisy-but-meaningful indicator of aspects of the simplicity metric of the near eurycosm, then one might expect a weak phenomenon in which remote viewing, say, a mandala would be easier than remote viewing some other arbitrary shape of generally comparable visual complexity.   If anyone knows of studies of this nature, please drop me a line and say so.

Another interesting observation is that many archetypal visual and musical forms are closely connected to the same abstract algebras that structure modern physical theories.   One can view this as merely a testament to the remarkable universality of mathematics.   On the other hand, mathematics is a huge space, and the mathematics that we humans choose to focus on (and/or are able to focus on given our cognitive particularities and peculiarities) is a very small and special subset of the totality of possible mathematics.   It could be that the presence of the same math in our physical universe and in our intuitions and in our archetypes is a result of these mathematical structures being especially simple according to the simplicity metric of the near eurycosm.   I'll explore the physics/archetypes connection further in a later chapter.


  1. Ben....

    Perhaps you should take a look at Jung's student, Campbell, who had rather more pertinent things to say about Mythos than did Jung, giving it a much fuller accounting.

    Jung veered off into territory that was more fanciful than anything else (ironic given the topic here). But if one is trying to give an account of Mythos based upon Logos, then Campbell is who you need to be accounting for.

    1. yeah, good suggestion, I'll re-read Campbell, it's been decades since I looked at his stuff...

  2. Left this as a note on your Google+ post of this, but the other very interesting take on all of this is Mark Booth's NYT best-selling The Secret History of the World. What's interesting about that work, and he frames it in terms of the idealist versus materialist perspective, is that the connection between these domains/dimensions is through consciousness or experience. The bridge to the "near-eurycosm" is coupling between the material structure of the human brain and the experiential structure of the human mind.

    It's clearly not for everyone, but if you are seriously exploring this stuff, I think you will find it an interesting read. And yes, I agree with Matthew, Campbell is always a good source here. I'm intrigued - and happy - to find someone with your area of focus digging into this linkage, by the way, Benjamin.

  3. The framing of the two cultures in terms of myth and logic and Jung's archetypes is certainly interesting. I hope we won't have to go through an intellectual inquisition to allow logos to flourish without interruption.