Creativity, Science & The 4 Functions of Myth

Kechak ( young man stands naked amongst his peers, facing a raging bonfire. Days of starvation, sleep deprivation, dancing and song have significantly altered his reality. The beating of drums, the heart beat of the strange world he has been inhabiting, is reaching a crescendo…

And what comes next?

In a word: pain.

The boy is going to be branded: body, mind and soul – them tribal folk are gonna do nasty things to his privates.

The otherworldly quality of his unconscious has been brought to the fore in circumstances controlled by his community. Those strange psychic activities – the electric storms beneath his surface layer consciousness – have been made manifest in the weird and wonderful activities of the unfolding ritual. His consciousness, unconscious and body are one and totally bound up in the tribe, and now… well, now comes something to remember it by.

Mythology, according to the great comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, serves four functions:

  1. Metaphysical: Awakening a sense of awe before the mystery of being
  2. Cosmological: Explaining the shape of the universe
  3. Sociological: Validating and supporting the existing social order
  4. Pedagogical: Guiding the individual through the stages of life.

We live in a scientific age in which it would seem these functions are now provided by science.

But, when it comes to creativity, which in the modern world arguably helps to satisfy some of the 1st and 4th functions, the assistance science provides is limited.

According to Campbell, “Mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centers of life beyond the reach of vocabularies of reason and coercion”. In other words, mythology forges a bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind, a bridge that both affords cohesion and injects vitality into living (opening up the mental flood gates so to speak). Unfortunately, this is not something provided, at least in my experience, by scientific reasoning.

So, in a tick-off between mythology and science, both for creativity and the art of living, that’s one tick for mythology.

Now, I am creature of my age: I have a penchant for individuality, freedom and the truth, but… well, I’m not sure the pursuit of individuality, freedom and the truth has really brought me much happiness.

So I guess I’m also questioning how well science performs the 2nd and 3rd function.

As for being branded into a way of viewing and experiencing the universe and yourself that forges an accord between your conscious and unconscious mind, your role in your community, what your community does, all manner of fabulous awe inspiring mysteries of life and that helps you to make your way through the various stages of life… well, I have to say, that doesn’t sound half bad.

So, shit… as much as that is probably a con for most people, for me, it’s another tick to mythology.

We could probably compare some more, but I don’t want to bore you. Suffice to say, I’ve looked into it and for me the mythological ticks have it.

To conclude, I want to be a conformist tribal warrior. The truth be damned!

And what does this mean for me as a song writing?

Not sure.

Well actually, that’s not true…

The reason I’m writing this is that I’ve just started reading Creative Mythology from Campbell’s Masks of God series. It’s an analysis of… the arts, I suppose, from the Renaissance to now, from a mythological standpoint.

And this is what Campbell has to say about it:

Happy Valentine's Day! (#45653)In the context of traditional mythology, the symbols are presented in socially maintained rites, through which the individual is required to experience, or will pretend to have experienced, certain insights, sentiments and commitments. In what I am calling “creative” mythology, on the other hand, this order is reversed: the individual has had an experience of his own ­– of order, horror, beauty, or even mere exhilaration ­– which he seeks to communicate through signs; and if his realization has been of a certain depth and import, his communication will have the value and force of living myth – for those, that is to say, who receive and respond to it of themselves, with recognition, uncoerced.

So there you go: according to Campbell, good artists are mythmakers. So much for being a conformist tribal warrior!

Anyways, I’ll keep you posted on any cool stuff I learn.

Note: If you’re interested in mythology, check out ‘Quest’, a song I wrote after reading Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’.

If you enjoyed this post, it would be great if you could facebook ‘like’ or ‘share’ it, tweet about it or whack it up on Reddit, and better still if you could take the time to listen to 60 seconds or so of my original tune at the top of the sidebar. If you like it, please like my facebook page (also in the sidebar) and feel free to listen to more of my music on my homepage or from the drop down music menu above.

I’m On Fire – Bruce Springsteen (Cover)

“I’m On Fire” is my favourite Bruce Springsteen song. It was one of 7 songs from his Born In The USA album that made it into the top 10 in the states, so was obviously written when Bruce was at the top of his game.

If you enjoyed this cover, it would be great if you could ‘like’ it and my facebook page in the sidebar, and better still if you could take the time to listen to my original tune (also in the sidebar). 



Veronica LakeI had a tendency in my early 20s to fall in… lust with ridiculously beautiful women who were most probably out of my league.

Doing so was not particularly beneficial for my mental health.

So this song is about looking back at those times.

I’ve always loved the whole film noir aesthetic, so was going for that kind of imagery lyrically.  And film noir, of course, has femme fatales that men lose their shit over, so it was kind of an obvious choice.

Oh, and just as a point of interest. Liar evolved out of song idea 1.


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Here Comes The Sun – George Harrison (Cover)

‘Here Comes The Sun’ was written by George Harrison and is one of his most well known contributions to the Beatles. It was written in 1969 at Eric Clapton’s house during one of the UK’s clearest April’s on record after (and yes, funnily enough, the meteorological data has been analysed) a colder than usual winter.

Anyways, spring is here. It’s sunny in Sydney, so the song seemed appropriate to cover.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre – The case of Ziggy Stardust

Sukita Bowie: Speed of LifeWhen David Bowie appeared on the UK’s Top of the Pops singing ‘Starman’ as Ziggy Stardust on July 5th 1972 a strange androgynous alien visitation was beamed to 15 million viewers across the nation.

He was shocking, bizarre, beautiful and talented and within days Bowie mania swept the country.

Too many it seemed that he had appeared from nowhere, but Bowie had spent the previous ten years in a long, varied and difficult artistic gestation.

From his early teens to that career defining moment he’d tried almost anything, from R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll bands, to mime theatre, acting, television commercials and a folk trio called Feathers.

He even had a go at a children’s novelty record, The Laughing Gnome.

Check it out:


In 1969 Bowie timed the release of his single ‘Space Oddity’ with the luna landings and had a hit. But with remnants of his aforementioned folk incarnation on the rest of the album, his image was confused and he seemed destined to be a one hit wonder.

It wasn’t till Bowie met pop music manager Tony Defries, who launched the careers of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, that things changed.

Tony, you see, had money, and, perhaps more importantly, Tony had a plan.

He introduced Bowie to the New York underground theatre and music scene, which in the early 70’s was as weird and wacky as it gets. There he met Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and became fascinated with the avant-garde.

The brilliant Hunky Dory was released soon after, but the record didn’t sell.

Bowie, it seems, needed more than just good music. He needed a fully formed persona, an otherworldly character, to fully engage the imagination of his audience – to become, perhaps, some kind of identity defining cultural phenomenon that all the kids could attach themselves to.

He needed Ziggy Stardust.

So wanna-be rock stars take note: despite David Bowie’s undeniable talent, it took Ziggy Stardust, an alien who had assumed human form as a rock star, appearing on the Top of the Pops to shoot him out of stratosphere and make him the Starman we love.

So there is certainly something to be said for musical theatrics.

That said, seeing it now, it seems pretty tame (especially with the daggy kids dancing around the stage). But remember, this was 1972:

If you enjoyed this post, it would be great if you could ‘like’ or ‘share’ it, tweet about it or whack it up on Reddit, and better still if you could take the time to listen to 60 seconds or so of my original tune at the top of the sidebar. If you like it, please like my facebook page (also in the sidebar) and feel free to listen to more of my music on my homepage or from the drop down music menu above.

photo by: Shemp65