Reflections on God 4: Hindu Mythology and Philosophy

This is part of God Flux but  split into smaller sections for an easier read.

Ka, Doniger, Joseph Campbell

Before entering the waters of atheism again, let me mention the other influences I had during and a little after my undergraduate years. I did a term paper on religion for which I read the book Ka by Roberto Calasso. I wrote a piece on that earth shattering book
which I have put up on this blog. I also read ‘Dreams, Illusion and other Realities’ by Wendy Doniger which is heavier in content. These two books sent my mind into warp for three months. I was seeing the world differently, dreaming differently and was in such a solipsistic state that I questioned this reality. I later got into Joseph Campbell (‘Myths we Live by’ and some Audio lectures) and comparative mythology, and read Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. I felt drawn to Hindu mythology and symbolism like never before. I also understood that most Hindus don’t know of these wonderfully stimulating ideas because it is never taught or they are satisfied with the ritualism of it. In fact, degrees in philosophy even in India focus on Western philosophy. I also found that there are very few Hindus who study their own religion from an outside, academic perspective. In the study of all other religions believers and non-believers study it together so if the non-believers come to conclusions which miss contexts, the believers may be able to correct them from their experience or knowledge of it. As someone raised Hindu in most practical ways, this void tempted me to take up studying it formally. Perhaps some day I will.

Schizophrenia: The Inward Journey

The Inward Journey is a chapter from the book by Joseph Campbell called ‘Myths to Live’ by and the one which connected very well with my interest in neuroscience. It talked about the experience of a schizophrenic person in terms of mythical structure. Then it drew a comparison of those who go through this experience voluntarily like Yogis or Shamans and those who encounter it accidentally, or with no preparation like those who take hallucinogenic drugs or get one type of schizophrenia. Campbell compares how these disparate groups deal with the experience to trained swimmers and those who’ve never been in water before and thus end up drowning. The common structure of myths worldwide which Campbell illustrates in his works, as well as a chapter on temporal lobe lesions by V.S. Ramachandran in his book ‘Phantoms in the Brain’ where people experience the divine and create symbols, suggested to me that perhaps belief in god and making similar myths was evolutionarily advantageous and it was an inherent biological feature similar to other mammalian emotions.

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See also