The Hidden Matrix: Myth and the Human Mind
By Neil Philip
One of our foremost interpreters of myth argues that it is essential to all culture: the factory reset of human consciousness
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“Absolutely fascinating. I think you've touched on so many absorbing and important topics here that it will be wonderful to read the whole thing. I can hardly think of anything more valuable, and I salute you for having the ambition to take it on.” Philip Pullman
"Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”
In The Hidden Matrix, I will explore the world's mythology for answers to these perennial questions posed by Paul Gauguin. The Hidden Matrix is a very ambitious book, examining the nature, meaning, and importance of myth throughout the world and all through human history. And I want to link all that in with neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology, and anthropology, and religion. I want, in fact, to explain why myth has been and remains so crucially important to us.
I've been obsessed by myth since childhood. It seems to me that the need to create myths is a deeply rooted element of human consciousness. With one curious exception in the Amazon, every human culture that we know of has had its myths, its gods and goddesses, its superhuman heroes and heroines, and the richness of that mythology mirrors and expresses the essential nature and values of that culture.
To explore the great treasure chest of the world’s mythologies is to access a vast database of knowledge and creative thinking, and to unlock the secrets of our own minds. Myth is the name we give the metaphors through which we reconcile the world we see with the world we perceive. Myths are mental structures before they are narratives; concepts first, stories second. They are, in effect, tools, as real and as useful as a hand-axe or a computer. Myths offer us stories and metaphors of how the world was created, and how it will end, life and love and death and everything in between - good and evil, moral ambiguity, the relationship between the visible world and the world of the spirits, the nature of divinity, ecology and civilisation and the meaning of time. Essentially, each society’s myths are a pattern-book for every aspect of that society’s culture. If we were imaginative enough, we could recreate the culture from the myths.
Mythology is the hidden matrix of the human mind, a deep structure hard-wired into the human brain. I believe that language, mythology, and religion evolved together, necessarily intertwined, and that the metaphorical thinking that shapes both myth and speech is the ground of all human culture. The territory of myth is also the territory of the poetic imagination. In a sense, this is a book about the poetics of belief, and how that poetry has shaped and been shaped by the innate human need for stories and storytelling. Let me take you with me every step of the way on my journey into the mythworld.