Sometimes an artist will squint to better see the general tones in a composition. Where are the darks? The lights? And yet, we don’t spend our whole lives squinting – we would be rather clueless if we did. Joseph Campbell spent a lot of time squinting at world myths and proposed that all hero myths share the same general composition of tones. He proposed what is called the “Hero Cycle”.
You can read more about his ideas in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. As the title implies he wouldn’t say that he was squinting. For him all myths were different ways of saying the same types of things – fulfilling needs and understanding ourselves. But it is easy to forget, as he forgot, that he was observing a pattern. To see that many poems follow the pattern of a sonnet is not to know all of these poems. In general his observations can be helpful and intriguing but they do not negate the need for seeing the particulars of each myth.
To understand we must see with eyes wide open that each particular myth speaks to something completely different than the next. This is why I will never understand the call for all religions to coexist. When you squint at all religions you can see general similarities. However, to see each religion for itself is to see completely different ideas about world, God and man. How can those who disagree coexist? Only when there is an overarching power that compels them to tolerate one another. The call for religions to coexist in our day is actually a call for secularism to be that power above all worldly powers. The question is, can secularism be trusted with that kind of power? Or does it squint too much?