Human Guilt Expressed in Myth Reading Response

Evident in most of the Fall From Grace and Flood myths we’ve read, and in the Apocalypse myths we will read
later this semester, is what seems to be the foundational emotion of human guilt. By foundational, I mean that
guilt seems to be one of humanity’s first aspects to come into existence. As we were created, so was our guilt.
Our guilt precedes and triggers the fall from grace, the deluge, the end of times, etc. Examining the existence
of this idea–human guilt–in the Fall From Grace myths suggests that human guilt is conceived to be almost
simultaneous to and indistinguishable from our conception. Its recurrence in other myth types or Elementary
Ideas such as Flood and Apocalypse myths and its inclusion in myths across the globe and throughout time
suggests that the idea of our guilt has not been an isolated or fleeting one, but a feeling we inherit.
Anecdotally, I’m sure many of us are aware of contemporary terms like Catholic guilt (Links to an external
site.), etc…but the existence of this trope in ancient myths begs questions. Why do we feel guilty? Why do we
imagine ourselves this way? What caused this? Are we correct in feeling this way? Etc…
Read the first chapter (pgs.3-20) of Yuval Noah Harari’s incredible book, Sapiens: A Brief History of
HumankindPreview the document. The chapter ends with two prominent theories attempting to explain how
Homo Sapiens became the last human species standing. One of these theories–Homo Sapiens killed off other
human species–might begin to offer partial answers to some of the questions above, but we have to make
some leaps and linkages to get there. That’s ok.
If Homo Sapiens did indeed survive by killing off other Human species, and if Jung and Campbell’s ideas of the
Collective Unconscious have merit, we might be looking at a contributing factor to the possible origins of the
guilt that has shadowed humanity.
Is there any real evidence that something like the Collective Unconscious exists, though? Is there scientific
proof of some shared space informing human experience? Not directly. Does that negate the importance of it
as an idea? I don’t think so. The Collective Unconscious gives us a mechanism through which we can examine
shared aspects of human experience. This is invaluable.
While there’s no reference to the Collective Unconscious, this article (Links to an external site.)and those linked
below point to the growing evidence suggesting exposure to trauma can alter RNA sequences that are passed
down through generations. This is referred to as Epigenetic Inheritance, and the theory allows us to think about
those questions–why do we feel guilty; are we correct in feeling this way; etc.–from a new point of view,
particularly when we look at myth as a way to deal with, psychologically, the weight of shared trauma from
generations past.

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