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The Four Functions of Myth: Tao Te Ching - Essay Example

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The first function is to arouse us to the wonder and miracle of creation and to awaken within us the awareness of something greater than ourselves, something mystical. The second function is to explain to us the shape and design of the ‘cosmos’ and give it a meaningful existence for us to be able to comprehend it. The ‘sociological’ function is to lay down the traditional law of that particular culture so that future generations may follow it. The ‘pedagogical’ function is to teach its readers about the various rites of passage that are required for them to pass from one stage of existence to another. These instructions to the reader to know humanity, to know oneself, to be disciplined and practice self-control, to pursue both contentment and ambition, to be duty-bound, are all examples of the ‘teaching’ or pedagogical function of myth. They also serve the sociological function as they describe what, according to Lao Tzu, is the ideal society. The moral and ethical codes prescribed by Lao Tzu are thus laid down in Tao Te Ching in this verse, as well as many verses following it.
We see therefore that the classical Chinese text on Taoism, which is essentially a religious tract, performs and fulfils the four criteria of mythology as established by scholar Joseph Campbell.

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Summary

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu contains a few elements of myth, especially a kind of creation myth that fulfils all four functions laid down by Campbell. The Chinese creation myth as envisioned by the Tao philosophy is laid down in Tao Te Ching. The very first verse describes this creation myth…
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