A scientist has proposed that “sightings” of the Loch Ness Monster may be the result of seismic activity. Loch Ness is a very deep body of water lying over a fault line that causes ripples and bubbles in the water. Observers over the years understandably assumed such turbulence could only result from a very large creature swimming just below the surface. Once people began to observe the lake Our through their belief in a monster, imagination did the rest.
Of course, science will never disprove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. A hypothetical being could be hiding anywhere. The question, I believe, is which theory (a monster or seismic activity) brings the most illumination to our task of living in our world? I would suggest two answers to that question.
Clearly the scientific theory most illumines the world of our objective experience. Our world would not be one bit poorer if it has no mermaids, monsters, or even a God. We are looking at the same wonderful world regardless of its cause.
At the same time, our subjective experience cries out for a vocabulary as well. Poetic icons express our lived experience far better than abstract theory. Electricity is well represented objectively by the formulas of physics, and subjectively by a God holding a thunderbolt. Such images put a human mask upon the mysterious energies that lie beyond our scope. They allow us not so much to understand our universe, but to feel what it means for us.
Religious myths are the death of rational thinking if we believe in them as actual beings, but they can be the very heart of subjective insight if we see them as poetic windows into the mystery that gives us birth.
Why am I actually motivated more by “actual beings” (even knowing that they are mystery) than I do to the awareness that it is mystery out of which I come?
How do I relate to someone else who is relating to “that mystery”?
We seem to figure out how to relate more often when we find that our idea of “actual beings” (that are really myths) are similar in way that makes us feel like we are not alone in our “idea” or “reality”.