The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection

The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection

The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection

The Wisdom of the Serpent: The Myths of Death, Rebirth and Resurrection

Excerpt

Nothing is more provocative than the idea of death. It is because men know that they will die that they have created the arts and sciences, the philosophies and religions. For nothing is more thought-provoking than the thought which seems to put an end to thought: "What will it be like to go to sleep and never wake up?" Irresistibly this seems to suggest a corollary: "Where and who was I before my father and mother conceived me?" For the unthinkable-after-death appears to be the same as the unthinkable-before-birth, so that if once I came out of nothing, the odds are that I can come again and again. Nothing seems to create something by implication, just as low implies high. This is why the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth is about the most basic theme of myth and religion. Joseph L. Henderson approaches this problem, not so much as the historian or the anthropologist, as the psychiatrist watching his patients work out this perennial problem in their dreams and fantasies. It is here that the formation of mythology continues even in our curiously pragmatic and anti-poetical culture, and, as Maud Oakes's anthology shows, its themes are the same as ever.

Surveys of the world's mythologies have usually classified their materials by regions, describing the myths of the Greeks and Romans, of the Norsemen, the Egyptians, or the Hindus -- as if these racial, nationalistic, and geographical categories . . .

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