History as Myth and the Myth of History


“History constitutes the myth par excellence of both Christianity and the predominant culture in the West” (La nueva inocencia).

“History should not be idolized … A historical reality is simply a reality, but is not synonymous with reality … When I say that history is the myth of the West, I use the word “myth” not in the sense of a fable or something unreal, but rather as that which one believes in to such a degree that one does not even believe that one believes: it is taken as natural, obvious, self-evident” (Ecosofia).

The Western myth of history consists of believing that history is the horizon of intelligibility of reality, in such a way that when something is historical it is considered real, and if not, it is not. Panikkar is aware of the difficulty of a true religious dialogue between the East and the Christian West when one maintains that only the historical is real. The historical world is not, however, the only human world. There are well developed cultures for which the myth of history does not hold sway” (La nueva inocencia).

RP recounts a telling anecdote: “A Protestant minister in Vrindâvana told a Hindu, “Jesus of Nazareth existed. We know his history, his works, his life, miracles and all. He is an undeniable reality that still endures after twenty centuries.” adding with sarcasm “Whereas your Krishna is a legend, and, moreover, as such is a not very edifying … he is a myth; he didn’t exist. He isn’t real.” The good Vaishnava Hindu responded with a smile that Jesus is indeed a great and historic man, like Napolean … but nothing more. Whereas the Krishna of his heart and of his faith, on the other hand, is the truly real, that which moves him.”

Neither the theory of evolution nor the myth of history possesses the whole key to understanding reality. Furthermore, both represent an individualistic conception that is unfit for relational knowing, for knowing through love.

Raimon Panikkar

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“Writing, to me, is intellectual life
and also spiritual expirience…
it allows me to ponder deeply the mistery of reality.”