This episode of Living Myth begins with the confusion and fears developing from the difficulty of finding a peaceful transition after the recent election. Trust in institutions and political process has eroded to the point where people with opposing views feel that they are living in opposite worlds. While most agree that the truth can set us free, it becomes ever more difficult to find what that truth might be.
What for many modern people can seem like a flood of falsehoods and a baffling plague of conspiracy theories might have been seen by Socrates as a collapse of imagination that leads to the “lie in the soul.” The lie in the soul is an untruth taken into the core of a person’s life, where it becomes treated as truth. This was considered the most dangerous kind of lie because of its destructive effect on both the individual’s core and the community’s soul.
Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates proposed that the antidote to mistruths and misconceptions can be found, not simply in asserting the facts, but in a notion that translates as the “noble lie.” The noble lie can best be understood as stories that are not literal or historical, but are foundational for understanding humanity and essential for reestablishing universal truths.
In this old way of seeing, myths and creative arts were considered to be lies that reveal truths that otherwise can remain hidden. In other words, the kind of truth that can heal is found through acts of creativity and imagination not through facts and data gathered to make a point.
The symbols and metaphors of myth and the creative arts do not simply open our eyes, they open our imagination and thereby allow us to see the world anew. When the world becomes increasingly divided and it becomes more difficult to separate the deeper truths from the big lies, the point becomes not simply political resolution, but also a greater awakening to the underlying unity and inner truths of life.
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