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The Cry for Myth Paperback – 25 Mar 1993

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd; 1st edition (25 Mar. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285631330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285631335
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 2.5 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 514,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Rollo May (1909-1994) taught at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and was Regents' Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. An influential psychologist, he was the best-selling author of Love and Will, as well as the author of The Courage to Create, Man's Search for Himself, The Meaning of Anxiety, and Psychology and the Human Dilemma. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Format: Paperback
The Cry for Myth was May's last major work prior to his death at the age of eighty-four. It contains the hard-won wisdom of a lifetime. Much of it had been published elsewhere over the years--long before Joseph Campbell's sudden popularity-- but May felt strongly about making a cohesive statement regarding the vital importance of myth and how much we need it today. Myths are how we make meaning of life--no myth, no meaning. May's therapeutic approach to myths links him closely with figures such as Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, and Carl Jung, and comprises an essential and enriching feature of May's own existential psychotherapy. In this fine collection, May analyzes the archetypal myths we are living out--or maybe better, that are being lived out through us--and offers some new myths and interpretations that may help us make it more meaningfully into the new millennium.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A powerful book that challenges the notion that myths belong to the past, indeed that advocates the necessity for humanity to have myths to live by, that without myths our lives lose structure and meaning.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Dante's Inferno and The Great Gatsby but it was with May's look at the myth of Faust through three sources - Marlowe, Goethe and Thomas Mann - that he brings the great myth of our times to life.

The final chapter on space flight and those first astounding images of the Earth from space back in the 1960s speculates on what our myths may be, may need to be, in the 21st century.
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By A Customer on 2 April 1999
Format: Paperback
Rollo May's "The Cry for Myth" is a testimony on American mythology. A fantastic novel, it encompasses a variety of issues by relating them to classic pieces of literature, such as "The Great Gatsby" and "Dante's Inferno". The book was a pleasure to read (and I don't even like to read). It opened my mind to think in different ways.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent introduction to the understanding of myth and how myth can be used to give at least an appearance of purpose and direction to someone who in the twenty first century is exhausted by life's ups and downs.I think it is perhaps like compensating for the individual having plans that life events interfere with and bring to naught things hoped for and desired.Many people have no purpose and meaning in their life and feel that if reason alone cannot seem to give them answers to the questions life raises then they turn to myth as a young girl would clutch a doll to herself for comfort and assurance of a sort.However there is another route to self fulfillment, to reason and the validity of reason.A way to give real purpose,meaning and direction to our lives,filled with focus and supported by fact and attested to in history and contemporary living.Humanism has failed us as proven in one of many examples by the many wars of the last century and who can tell what will happen in this new one.I read this book that I now refer to and recommend as an alternative to embracing mythology.As the late G K Chesterton said "the purpose of having an open mind is like having an open mouth,to close it on something solid.This book I now recommend has that kind of solidity and ]could change your life forever and I mean forever.I read it and it changed mine and after fifty years I am still convinced.[[ASIN:0830834052 Escape from Reason (IVP Classics)]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x950beab0) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952f98b8) out of 5 stars For all mythology-lovers and seekers of truth and meaning 18 July 1998
By dr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Cry for Myth was May's last major work prior to his death at the age of eighty-four. It contains the hard-won wisdom of a lifetime. Much of it had been published elsewhere over the years--long before Joseph Campbell's sudden popularity-- but May felt strongly about making a cohesive statement regarding the vital importance of myth and how much we need it today. Myths are how we make meaning of life--no myth, no meaning. May's therapeutic approach to myths links him closely with figures such as Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, and Carl Jung, and comprises an essential and enriching feature of May's own existential psychotherapy. In this fine collection, May analyzes the archetypal myths we are living out--or maybe better, that are being lived out through us--and offers some new myths and interpretations that may help us make it more meaningfully into the new millennium.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952f990c) out of 5 stars Myth is vital to the human experience. 22 Jun. 2007
By Jeannette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago and I found it to be a fascinating read, from back to front. May's astute analysis of the place of myth within human life, sense of self and community is very sensible and relevant. Many may find his understanding of myth to be surprising, as it deviates greatly from the conventional existential perspective.

From time immemorial, cultures have woven intricate, fantastic stories, parables, myths and guiding narratives about the world, helping them to understand the universe, carve out a unique place within it and establish values. As societies grew, cultures passed these myths and stories down to their descendants. Communal traditions developed from these myths and guiding narratives, building among participants a sense of cultural kinship, identity and solace. People derived strength and direction from their guiding narratives, and these myths unified individuals in a commonality, supplying them with a vision.

Carl Jung's influence here is distinct, as May attributes the sense of meaninglessness, isolation and disoriented alienation of modern culture largely to the human "cry" for new myths (similar to Jung's Weltanschauung) that incorporate all facets of our humanity (both spirit and matter) and address our current reality.

May defines the myth as follows: "A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence [...] myths are our way of finding meaning and significance. Myths are like the beams in a house; not exposed to outside view, they are the structure which holds the house together so people can live in it." May is also careful to address our modern misunderstanding of what myth entails: "There can be no stronger proof of the impoverishment of our contemporary culture than the popular - though profoundly mistaken - definition of myth as falsehood." Read the book for more on this and for a clearer understanding of how the traditional "myth" is distinct from things like fundamentalism, or dogma. Nowhere is myth more evident than literature and the rich, vivid literature of past cultures demonstrates this. In fact, May goes to great lengths in his analysis to amply illustrate the crucial need for literature and the arts.

As scientific rationalism has swept in and usurped the position of omnipotent "God," our sense of meaningful myth has been eroded, particularly in America, where a strong sense of rich, cultural myth has not been as rooted in our understanding of community as it has in other cultures. (May discusses an entire spate of prevalent American myths, as expressed through literature.) The technological advances of the industrial age have all but completely divorced humans from the natural world, further contributing to our schizoid sense of spirit and matter. All in all, this has resulted in a severe fragmentation of community and knowledge of self, as we believe the appreciation of myth to be beneath our superior rationality and reason.

Despite this surface disdain for myth, we are still clinging to the old, impoverished myths which play a great role in our lives ("beams" in our "structure") and how we view the world, whether we realize it or not. We have not yet created new myths and guiding narratives to help us find meaning, and so we remain fragmented, repressed and separated from ourselves, the natural world and one another.

Like Jung, May asserts that self-knowledge and communal anchor arise from the search for the spiritual and awakening of the spiritual consciousness. May further asserts that our rejection of myth has left us drifting along, leaving us prone to depression, mental illness, dysfunction and fundamentalism of all kinds.

One of the elements I most appreciate about Rollo May is his ability to elegantly write readable books, without muddying the waters or losing the reader in a fog of dense language. I think that anyone who loves classic literature will also love this book, thanks to May's thorough discussion of Faust among a number of other literary and mythical characters.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d475f84) out of 5 stars Why mythology is important 1 Dec. 2001
By D. Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rollo May was a psychologist, but don't let that bit of information scare you away from reading this book. May examines the importance of mythology thru the ages, as well as its nexus with psychology and psychological theories. In doing so, May points out the didactic properties that myths have had throughout human history.
Along the way, May takes a critical look at fairy tales and discloses hidden "messages" that we normally pick up on only subliminally. His inquiry helps to elucidate many of the themes that we teach to our children, and hints at why fairy tales have such an abundant popularity in diverse cultures.
May also describes to us how myths evolve and develop over time, changing with the sociological paradigms of each successive epoch. In doing so, he uses the Faust legend as an example. The text offers some nice highlights on the transcendence of the motif as it was first penned by Christopher Marlowe and subsequently revised by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann.
This is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in mythology, and is a serious warning of the consequences that go along with marginalizing the importance of liberal arts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952f9b94) out of 5 stars "The loneliness of mythlessness is the deepest and least assaugeable of all." 16 Jan. 2013
By R. McOuat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
May is a seminal thinker in existential philosophy, along with Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Tillich, Franz Kafka and Albert Camus. For May, myths help us make sense out of an often senseless world. His concern was that the myths of our post-modern world were becoming shallow images of what they once were and that their use was sacrificed. He states "Many of the problems of our society, including cults and drug addition, can be traced to the lack of myths which give us inner security in order to live adequately in our day (p.9)." The fact that Mays was a practicing therapist gives added credence to his argument that the lack of such myths contribute to the mental problems of many people.

Lonliness is epidemic in modern society. We spend our lives burying ourselves in mental boxes that reassure us and prop us up. Unfortunately, this avoidance and fragmentation leads to existential anxiety. May argues that we are all driven by existential anxiety and the only way to defeat it is to form our own myths in order to make sense of our world. Facing life's conflicts involves short-term costs (pain, loneliness,) but leads long-term benefits (fulfillment, happiness). May compares a man trying to live outside of myths to a man without a country, a man banished from his community, tying it to the sense of fragmentation that seems to mark modern society. This "lonely search for internal identity" is why we need myths. Myths permit us to confront our mental rigidity and confront deeper meaning in our lives. We need to embrace these conflicts and delve deeper into them. We need to deeper purpose to help us seek our way on our journey of life.

A few of the myths explored by May include:

1. The myth of the "new" frontier,
2. The Horatio Alger rags-to-riches drama (The American Dream),
3. Peer Gynt conflict between demanding a woman's admiration and desiring her care
4. Gatsby's obsessive and futile dream of self-creation
5. "Briar Rose" version of the Sleeping Beauty tale,
6. Faust's deal with the devil

It's not surprising that so many people are disillusioned and looking in all the wrong places for happiness. Every individual needs to make the journey in his and her own unique way. For Rollo May, myths are the tap to the unconscious and the means for gaining understanding of our lives. We identify with myths because they help us to articulate, or to see more clearly, what we've already sensed. Myths can be used as exploratory analysis of to help us face life's challenges. As described by Joseph Conrad, a myth is a "secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation." In other words, myths do not originate from the external empirical world, but emanate from within you. Ultimate reality and self-identity comes through a journey that is defined by myths and how these myths resonate within us.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952f9dd4) out of 5 stars Powerful insights 20 July 2013
By Landon Shultz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Myths are stories which present images and ideas that help us to understand and make meaning of our lives. Rollo May does an excellent job of describing how myth functions in our society, providing several well thought out and clearly presented illustrations. Reading this book gave me a perspective which I had not possessed previously.
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