cover image MYTH: A Biography of Belief

MYTH: A Biography of Belief

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, . . Oxford, $19.95 (174pp) ISBN 978-0-19-514288-4

In this slender collection of four essays, Leeming brings myth out of the past and smartly into the present. One chapter each is devoted to the themes of religion, creation, deity and heroes. Like Joseph Campbell before him, Leeming aims not to debunk the historicity of individual religious stories, but to plumb them for the spiritual truths and psychological functions that emerge when they are compared across cultures and faith traditions. Leeming's strongest contribution, however, is to update our world myths by adding a new generation of modern "mythmakers" (people who help teach us who we are and where we came from): Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg and even Virginia Woolf. Leeming convincingly shows how the Big Bang theory should be placed alongside the Genesis accounts of creation in our collective consciousness. Leeming often develops his points not in straightforward academic style, but through conversations with imaginary representatives from different worldviews. He cogently argues that many religions risk becoming irrelevant by remaining anchored in the past and closed to the messages of newly emerging myths. His primary example of such a modern myth is environmentalism and its humbling lessons about the role of humans in the ecosystem (as advocated by Thomas Berry and Matthew Fox, among others). Leeming challenges readers to look beyond antiquity and to recognize how artists, writers and scientists help create the modern and postmodern myths through which we achieve self-understanding. (Jan.)