Moses and Superman: Why Writers Revise Mythology for Relevance and Meaning


Humans are constantly revising everything– it’s how we evolve — by hashing, rehashing, innovating, building upon and creating new spins on ancient memes, fairy tales, myths and even religions. It requires a deft melding of both the familiar and the new. Look at the proliferation of superheroes. Not since the Alexandrian conquests have we seen such a hotchpotch of multi cultural gods and myths blending together, reborn and renewed in shiny new epic adventures and incarnations. 

My favorite recent example is Cider House Rules– a stunning retooling of ancient Semitic folklore retold and reconfigured in a1940’s tale of the love hate story between a young “doctors” rebellion against his demanding patriarchal “father”, who “falls” from heaven (St. Clouds) to live in an apple orchard, fighting his destiny the whole way, only to realize “watching and waiting is a lot like doing nothing” whereupon he learns that action is required and thereby reclaims his destiny.

Another stunning example is Apuleius’s The Golden Ass (125 AD) where he sets down in writing the powerful love story of Cupid and Psyche. Reading this original retelling of the ancient myth it is impossible not to see its influence on practically every Shakespearean tragedy ever told from Much Ado About Nothing to Twelfth Night to Romeo and Juliet right on through the the underlying themes of Wuthering Heights,Bruce Joel Rubin’s Ghost as well as resonant throughout Perreault and Grimm’s Beauty and The Beast, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. As for Homer we can see it born and retold through the great classics of India: The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.  

 Not only are they organic, but they are us! Jung referred to them as archetypes or ancient memes that are so ingrained in our genes they resonate constantly throughout our subconscious minds. He further defines “urtürmliches Bild, or archetype, “ as a memory deposit, an engram, derived from a condensation of innumerable similar experiences… the psychic expression of an anatomically physiologically determined natural tendency.

Haha, never made the connection, but it’s perfectly translatable and traceable through Nietzsche’s Apollonian Dionysian theories, right on back to the drunken divine revelries of the Celtic, Nordic, Indo Aryan and Greek myths of Bacchus, Apollo and Dionysus. In the Orient you have the numerous tales of the drunken masters who prevail in spite of their inebriated states…

Regardless of the source, be it original or revisionary, we are constantly reworking memes, themes, morals, archetypes and ancient myths born from the human imagination and experience. The quality of the end result depends on the skill, intelligence, craftsmanship, and interpretation of the author and artist. Lucas famously created Star Wars using the dynamics of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”. John Irving utilized the timeless archetypes of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Semitic folklore to lend a mythical quality to his Cider House Rules. Puzo and Coppola drew upon the Arthurian Cycles and Fairy tale structure  to create an immediate identification and empathy with a notorious crime family struggling to extricate itself from the underworld. Tarantino, at his best, is constantly playing off the literary traditions of “harrowings”  from the Celtic Imrams and injecting them into his Outlaw worlds.  When these dynamics are deftly employed you have a timeless hit, when they are ignored or forced you have a ponderous mess like “What Dreams May Come” or Gangster Squad.

Stoker’s Dracula born from the dark imaginal realms of Absinthe, The Green Goddess, Opium or Laudanum and their addictive powers — as were Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, and Keats.

One needn’t have “missed” the point in order to expand upon it. Perhaps the larger point is whether it is the author, the fans, the publishing company, or another writer, as new technologies, trends, and new awareness and understanding develop the best characters and plots are being constantly revised to meet the Primary Images of contemporary society and culture. When I worked for Booker Plc in London they were very busy bringing Ian Fleming’s works into the modern age through the works of John Gardner. One of the more recent and fascinating examples of this in movies was how after The Bourne Identity came out it forever made the Pierce Brosnan Bond obsolete– the producers knew immediately they had to recreate Bond through Daniel Craig or risk seeing their golden goose become a cultural relic of the past.


Of Actors, Artists and Addicts


Artists by their very nature require a certain solipsistic attitude. It is the very fiber of their craft to say nothing of the time, devotion, and “alone” time just to perform and perfect their instrument. There is nothing evil or wrong in it,  although it doesn’t make them particularly great neighbors, parents, husbands, church deacons, etc.  Hoffman was very upfront about his addictions and often commented had he  been famous or rich much younger he would have been dead that much earlier, too! The reason many artists are addicts is because the two can be intertwined psychologically and even genetically. The very thing that drove them to addiction drives them to be artists and vice versa. It never goes away and is only accelerated or abated by various social economic and psychological conditions. To ask if he loved, or lived, or transcended himself is perfectly fine, but to answer or judge them for not being otherwise causes so many more complications.  Hoffman presaged his early death and spoke about it as though it were a premonition of sorts. As with the late Cory Monteith, one of the inherent problems seems to be in their post-rehab treatment. An addict becomes sober and  detoxes for a time, but when they relapse they go right back into their old dosage and inadvertently kill themselves. I think that’s imminently more addressable, for the rest of us,  than the deeper, more ontological questions as to why they’re addicts, artists or even actors in the first place.



If your FAITH is enlightened by informed well-researched intuition that is one thing, but if it means acting and cleaving to a belief system in spite of all empirical evidence, science, history, physics, law, knowledge, education and reason it is no longer faith, but blind acceptance, mindless conformity and a glaring negation of your human potential and promise.

Another X-Man is out of the closet


Another X-Man is out of the closet

I find all this curious. I remember Dr. Jonathan Miller ( British humorist and “self-important” polyglot ( and mighty good dentist, too!) frequently commenting on the whole hidden (closeted) alter egoism of super spies and super heroes as being in itself a type of latent homosexual fantasy. So what happens when all of the Superheroes and super spies are outed? Is the day coming when the only ones in the closet will be lowly hetero nobodies or nebbishy eremitic writers? Everybody on the outside will simply be …fabulous! Kind of like Hollywood today. via EWON

Religionists of the World: It’s Time to move on!


Groucho Marx famously retorted, “I love my cigar, but I take it out once in a while.” Christians of any and all stripes, be they liberal or conservative, might take a break from their beloved fount of inspiration and learn a little bit more of the fascinating, but discredited pseudo-history behind it. The science is there to show what a marvelous conglomeration and metamorphosis of mythologies from diverse cultures and civilizations stand behind its construction. Seriously, it’s time to grow up, face the music and leave these childish notions behind. It is wholly possible to feel all the ecstasy, love, and spiritual devotion you can muster separately from any specific belief system. Atheists experience just as much fascination, awe and universal love as Buddhists, Christians or Sikhs. Everyone is capable of generating that spirituality just as everyone can experience the afflatus of love. It is not dependent on any one mythological figure, be they, Jesus, Moses, Zoroaster or Jove. Love your tradition, celebrate its magnificence and foundation, but don’t forget to move on. Once you’re accustomed to free-styling the way humans are inherently capable, you’ll have all the beneficence of a “spiritual being”, but with the wisdom and ratiocination that science, reason and reality has to offer.

My Advice to Young Atheists


Many new atheists are proud of their achievement, and they should be. It takes a powerful iconoclastic and renegade mind to dispel the insidious mass delusion of theistic belief. It also takes years to leave a philosophical record of how exactly one arrived at it.

There are some, as Sam Harris, who were raised in a secular family, so there was no great “break from the spell” to contend with. We do see a lot of social atheists in various internet forums today. Men, women, boys, girls who call themselves atheists because it’s trendy, rebellious, edgy, or just plain “gangsta”. We can guess these types will be the ones who hit middle age and backslide into the faith of their forefathers or some other branch of new age woo woo ism down the line. And that’s okay, too!

Lawrence Krauss recently said, “it’s the job of educators not just to educate, but to eliminate ignorance”. I’ve come to the realization there is probably no more worthless or futile discussion than debating whether there is a god or not. Or, as Sartre once remarked (paraphrasing) “it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference one way or the other”. Sure, it makes a big difference in politics, legislation, school curriculums, women’s reproductive and gay rights. When people go around citing god, or the Bible, or whomever as justification to deprive others of their inalienable rights they need to be theologically, scientifically and resoundingly crushed, shamed and exposed for the ignoramuses they are.

My overall sense is that the god issue is a non starter, a ruse, a distraction, because the idea itself is obsolete and irrelevant. Since we know atheism to be irrefutably, scientifically, historically, anthropologically, sociologically, linguistically true, and out of the ten thousand deities of our human past not one has escaped the ideological dung heap, the likelihood of any one religion in the world today escaping the same fate is ludicrous. It would be like betting against the sun rising tomorrow after studying its past performance.

The reason theism or atheism per se is pointless is because people really don’t worship a god, they only worship their god, and when it comes to worshipping their god, the only access to IT is in their head alone. And what is in their head is a quagmire and melange of half truths, prejudices, parental issues, delusion, some mental illness, and a rather jaundiced world view supported by a hodge podge of urban legends, fairy tale boons, fulminations, and loads of confirmation bias. To argue against this is like trying to explain aviation to South American pygmies. Their only reference can be to an “Iron Bird”.

Similarly, it is not sufficient to simply debate the god question anymore. Atheists would do better to direct their attention and effort away from that meaningless abstraction and go after the religionists on their own ground i.e. theologically, historically, linguistically from the “factual” records. We have all the evidence we need. It is out there. The only reason any religion today has a history is because it has been falsified, bastardized, plagiarized, extrapolated and expropriated over hundreds, if not, thousands of years, from other historical records –nevertheless, the other records are out there for all to read and discover.

As much as I appreciate Dr. Richard Carrier’s effort to defeat Christianity through the Bible, it seems a bit like trying to prove Frodo and Gandalf fictitious by citing The Lord of the Rings. My advice to “new atheists” is congratulations, you’ve made it! Now move on, and get busy, there’s real and more important work to do, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing ain’t cutting it anymore.