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the power of myth

I am currently reading a book called "Sapiens" which is a brief history of humankind and, in it, there is a description of the power of myth in helping advance homo sapiens ahead of other early humans such as Neanderthals. The ideal size of social group that humans can maintain without myth is about 150 people, but throw in the common beliefs of religion, law, corporate structure, etc and you can have perfect strangers cooperate due to this shared value system. This is what allowed homo sapiens to utilize much larger groups to defeat other archaic humans who did not use such common belief as a way to cooperate.

The thing about myth however is that it must be weighed and analyzed and if I tell you that Neptune is the god of the sea and thousands of people believe it, that does not make the pronouncement any more of a reality.

Institutions like the Catholic church were able to get the populations of nations to cooperate under the power of kings (who had no power other than that of belief bestowed by people). This is how great masses of people were able to move forward with common goals even if they had never met each other.

The unfortunate power of myth however, is that although it can be a great motivator, it can also be a great enslaver.

I will write a review of the book in a future post.


  1. Sounds interesting! Looking forward to finding what the author sees as the myths of today. Chapters, here I come. ;- )


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