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Mythology is poetic imagery describing mankind on universal paths through life. Like all poetry, it is a presentation in depth. In it, we see the stages of self or psyche in passage on the “way.” We participate in the myth in developing dialogues of individuals with self, society and culture, from infant to child, to adult, to old age and death. Analysis of myth is therefore susceptible to interpretation on various levels. Like psychoanalysis, appreciation of myth requires opening ourselves to insight and empathy on different levels.
Similarity between myth and dreams has been noted by Freud (1) and Abraham (2). According to Kanzer (3) both dreams and myth deal with external reality and man's wishes, creating symbols which handle the transition from inner to outer reality. In his Analysis of Dreams, Freud furnished tools for interpretation of dreams which were also applicable to analysis of myth. Using Freud's methods we can now study the evolution of myths.
The Greek myths offer such an opportunity. In our development of a science of man, we can turn to anthropologists, ethnologists, archeologists and psychoanalysts to trace the development of a myth such as Oedipus, which culminated in a trilogy of the great dramas of Sophocles. An archaic myth, related to fertility thus evolved into the profound dramatic tragedies of Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus at the height of Athenian civilization.
Freud found in Oedipus Rex, confirmation of clinical insights to describe nuclear problems of mankind. He noted that “The beginnings of religion, ethics, society, and art are said to meet in the Oedipus Complex.” (4) Here, Freud developed a model in psychoanalytic thought which emphasized the patriarchal aspects of the myth.
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