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The Two Hands of God: The Myths of Polarity

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protagoras

Myths as not "just myths"

by protagoras on Jun 6, 2009

If you ever doubted that it could be possible to write about myth without falling into the trap of taking it as "just myth", this outstanding book by Alan Watts may dissipate them all. Religion is an all-out topic when it comes to the refinement of one's own beliefs and ways of life: the grace of Watts' writing permeates the flow of the argument clearly showing the reader a well distinct thread which enlighten the underlying unity of apparently very different symbolisms and myths. With wit as Coomaraswamy, and insight as Suzuki, the author leads the reader through the multifarious variety of religious expressions around the planet, dwelling with humour and lightness on the most speculated "subject-matters" regarding theology, or anthropology. To do that, yet, it is demanded of him, and of the reader, exactly that: taking to heart, the fact that it is not "just myth", and that "myth" is not falsity, but an image which expresses, or tries to, the totality of the universal experience in a culture. Don't go in this if you cannot, for instance, take ancient hindu, or iranic myths as seriously as scientific ones. It will result in a boring reading, reduced to the retelling of old stories which cannot be really much more than fancy (however, if you have a taste for exotism, it may do anyway...). But if one really feels the exigency of making a step aside of the orthodox opinion of our society this book may be a real groundbreaking one: for Mr. Watts takes on the symbolism of duality, showing how widespread is among humans as trees are in a forest, and pin pointing with the most precision how the differences amongst the approaches taken into this regard (that is, polarities - which are, it may be added, a strong feature in science too, as that of particle/wave) descend quite directly from a number of basic assumptions which expression is the culture itself and the myths which this culture produces. May it be noted: don't expect a systematic philosophical book, as, say, Kant's, but an anthropological and theological discussion not less penetrating than, say, Levý-Strauss', and yet quite less academical than both. At least the first edition, which is that in my possess, features 23 plates (b&w) depicting works of art from the various regions, to support the reading, and give an hint of the symbolism involved.

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