Having explained Lewis’s notion of myth (albeit a concise explanation), we next explore its relation to historical fact. Understanding this relation is important because the familiar use of the word “myth” implies something imaginary, made-up, or fictitious – and therefore not real. However, Lewis argues that a myth is in some sense more real than historical fact.
To understand this a little further we’ve got to go back to Plato. Yes, him. (In one way or another, everything philosophical goes back to him it seems.) I’ll keep it real brief, one-sentence brief. Plato taught that there are two planes of existence; in the one exists the abstract ideas of which the other holds concrete instances.
Lewis, in this way, sees myth as a “transposition” of an idea in the one plane to an instance in another. In other words, a myth is a concrete expression of an idea (in the Platonic sense). It is more real because the idea flows to the one experiencing the myth as reality without the need for an historical occurrence. In this way truth is communicated not as an abstract idea, but as concrete reality (in the experience of a myth).
So, that a myth is true is not dependent upon any historical occurrence; and at the same time it does not exclude the possibility of historical occurrence. Lewis is attempting to disconnect myth from historical fact, while at the same time connect myth with truth.
Again it boils down to this question. Why does this matter? Well, you may have begun to quickly perceive the connection that is here with regards to the Bible. Religious writings are always connected in one way or another to some notion of myth. And truth-seekers often consult various religious writings. Lewis’s notion of myth has implications for our understanding of the Bible. My next post will explore some of those implications.
This post is part of a series of posts on C.S. Lewis and his idea of Myth
- Part One – C.S. Lewis and Myth
- Part Two – C.S. Lewis, Myth, and Historical Fact
- Part Three – C.S. Lewis, Myth, and Scripture
- Part Four – C.S. Lewis, Myth, and Truth
- Part Five – C.S. Lewis, Myth, and Christ