A Short History Of Myth by Karen Armstrong


A Short History Of Myth is one of quite a few books written by Karen Armstrong on religious topics, with her excellent A History Of God being the only other one I’ve read. But A Short History Of Myth has a special place in my reading because of its lucidity and scope.

That scope covers everything from Palaeolithic times to ‘The Great Western Transformation,’ i.e. the Enlightenment and associated events. Central to Armstrong’s theme is the interplay of mythos (subjective, cultural, idealistic) and logos (objective, global, pragmatic), an opposition which runs through the entire work. I say opposition, but actually until the Enlightenment most people would have seen mythos and logos as complimentary.

What’s fascinating about the book is how it dissects the reasons for the types of myth we see in the past, from hunter gatherer societies, through the agricultural revolution, the arrival of monotheism in the Near East…

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