All great systems, ethical or political, attain their ascendancy over the minds of men by virtue of their appeal to the imagination; and when they cease to touch the chords of wonder and mystery and hope, their power is lost, and men look elsewhere for some set of principles by which they may be guided. We live by myth. ‘Myth’ is not falsehood; on the contrary, the great and ancient myths are profoundly true. The myth of Prometheus will always be a high poetic representation of an ineluctable truth, and so will the myth of Pandora. A myth may grow out of an actual event almost lost in the remote past, but it comes to transcend the particular circumstances of its origin, assuming a significance universal and abiding. Nor is a myth simply a work of fancy: true myth is only represented, never created, by a poet. Prometheus and Pandora were not invented by the solitary imagination of Hesiod. Real myths are the product of the moral experience of a people, groping toward divine love and wisdom—implanted in a people’s consciousness, before the dawn of history, by a power and a means we never have been able to describe in terms of mundane knowledge.
—Russell Kirk, The Dissolution of Liberalism, Commonweal (January 7, 1955), 374
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