On the myth or the intelligence of History

N. Lygeros

Translated from the Greek by Despina-Myrto Drougka

The study of the culture, and the erudition of an author such as Kornaros, through his unique work Erotokritos, and ultimately that of his intelligence through the creation of a myth, that of Erotokritos, brings us to a reflection on the very nature of the myth.
The search for the fundamental and the intrinsic leads, in a strange way, to the legend. What Albert Einstein describes as God's thought, considering the rest as details, is a way of getting to the legend: an example in which the general leads to the universal. There is, however, a fundamental difference between legend and myth: the latter can be created consciously. It thus, seems that a generic legend can be transformed into a universal myth, but in what way can the myth be characterized as universal? Is it not primarily, socio-cultural? What is the method used by man to characterize an entity as universal?
The keystone of this type of a problem is the notion of humanity. Humanity, by its intrinsically diachronic appearance, plays a fundamental role in the transformation of a legend into a myth. Its diachronicity is decisive because it tests the robustness of the myth (see the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer). From the cognitive aspect, the structure of humanity confers upon it the characteristic of a sort of superman - probably the only one that ever existed - endowed with a gigantic memory. It is, after all, quite possible that this entity is identified with the divine perception of certain cultures and the natural notion of certain philosophical approaches. Like the thought that emerges from the complexity of the material substratum, which is the brain, humanity, as a mental entity, emerges from the structure that forms all human beings.
The birth of a singularity in the continuum of history generates a legend that can become generic, through a process of identification. If this first phase stabilizes in time it then gives rise to a metamorphosis, that of the legend into myth. The fundamental aspect of this transformation is the following: a legend is essentially a popular deformation of events, an alienation of history - a kind of idealization -, while a myth is a creative abduction of history (to use Umberto Eco's terminology) and thus, in a certain way, the ultimate outcome of history (cf. the myth of Prometheus).
Indeed, in the myth, the universal element is omnipresent. Thus, mythology constitutes in a certain way the set of universal elements of a historical culture. What is remarkable in Greek mythology is that its elements transcend their hellenicity to become universal. It is therefore, an intelligent phenomenon which transcends the historicity of the initial content and which abstractly realizes a latent concept.
The most tangible proof (as it is hypo-coded) of what we are proposing, is that myth can in turn, create history (cf. the myth of the Aretusa's prison and the place in Athens). The myth is, therefore, intimately linked to history and yet, by its nature, it is independent of time: remarkable property which contributes to render it a universal character.
This universal aspect of the myth makes it a strange attractor, not only for psychology (see the complex of Oedipus and Sigmund Freud's work) but also for philosophy (cf. the myth of Sisyphus and the work of Albert Camus). For, in the intellectual remit, the universal myth is richer than the classical story, from which it was extracted.
The myth that is undoubtedly the archetype of the intelligence of history, is the conscious myth. By conscious myth we listen to the work that is created, consciously, to become a myth. This type of myth is more rare because it comes directly from thought (historically, but not necessarily) without going through the stage of legend: intellectual sublimation. In this category we can classify Don Quixote of Cervantes, Erotokritos of Kornaros and to some extent Don Giovanni of Mozart (with the influence of Casanova) if the Dom Juan of Molière had not existed.
From the verbal aspect, it is clear that both Cervantes and Kornaros are endowed with an intelligence well beyond the norm. On the contrary, this assessment would be much more difficult to make in the case of Racine, whose variety of vocabulary is very poor; this leads to a distinction between a work due to art and one due to intelligence.
Another property of the myth is that even when it is conscious it can go beyond the idea of its creator. Thus, Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in a spirit contrary to that of chivalry - with an anti-hero figure. However, the knight with the sad figure had a success, of which status had not been foreseen by Cervantes and this success was such, that other authors were captured by this character so much, that his original creator had to put him to death in the second part of his work. And this is, undoubtedly, the most remarkable property of the universal myth: its immortality. As early as antiquity, people were aware of this. One of the most extreme cases of this awareness is the one of Erostrate, that Jean-Paul Sartre analyzed in his homonymous work. Except that, this is a negative case, because the analysis of Erostrate was only of the first degree. The contribution is only felt in the highest degrees, where intelligence and creativity are fundamental. Thus the most profound contribution of the universal myth is to reveal the role of eternity which contains intelligence in it.

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