Mnemosyne, daughter of heaven and earth, bride of Zeus, in nine nights becomes the mother of the nine Muses. Drama and music, dance and poetry are of the womb of Mnemosyne, Dame Memory. It is plain that the word means something else than merely the psychologically demonstrable ability to retain a mental representation, an idea, of something which is past. Memory – from Latin memor- mindful- has in mind something that is in the mind- thought. But when it is the name of the Mother of the Muses; “Memory” does not mean just any thought of anything that can be thought. Memory is the gathering and convergence of thought upon what everywhere demands to be thought about first of all. Memory is the gathering of recollection, thinking back. It safely keeps and keeps concealed within it that to which at each given time thought must be given before all else, in everything that essentially is, everything that appeals to us as what has being and has been in being. Memory, Mother of the Muses – the thinking back to what is to be thought – is the source and ground of poesy (Martin Heideger, Basic Writings).
In this passage from an essay entitled, What Calls for Thinking?, Heidegger very clearly includes the realm of Mnemosyne, Mother of the Muses, in what we call “thinking.” The Western intellectual mindset of our day assumes that the scientific method is the direct path for thinking to take. Heidegger is saying that poetry, myth, music, etc. (the realm of the Muses), “everything that appeals to us as what has Being and has been in Being,” must be included when talking about thinking. A place must be given to mythos as well as logos.
Plato was the first to disparage poetry and the arts in favor of what he believed to be Philosophy. According to Socrates, poets were unacceptable in his ideal Republic. Apparently, the emotions evoked by poetry and the arts were unhealthy for the ideal citizen. Sounds a lot like the Satanic rock music scare in the 1980’s.The point I would like to make, however, is that Heidegger is absolutely right. Thinking must not consider myth, poetry, music, plays, movies, dreams, etc. as non-reality. They are just as real as this keyboard I am using. Prior to Plato and his teacher, Socrates, and perhaps a few others, they were included; there was no distinction in thinking between mythos and logos. Western culture took a two-thousand-year detour at the expense of Soul. Sure, we’ve got exciting technology which is very useful, but at what price? Is there a way for us to get back on the path? Perhaps the Fates deemed it necessary we go down the road of technology for a time. Finally, here is something I wrote some years ago, which I believe is pertinent concerning Goethe and his ideas on thinking:
Faust believes that in the macrocosm one can discover truth concerning the microcosm. Hence, when one attempts to sense Nature as it is in itself, one gains self-knowledge, which, in my opinion, is what Faust really wants. Faust believes that Nature and man are one, thus allowing man to learn about himself through Nature. Nature is not to be studied so we can stuff computer hard-drives full of scientific data, analyze it, sift through it, and catalog it. Rather, Goethe believes that Nature should be studied so we may gain self-knowledge. Furthermore, the basis of Faust’s frustration stems from his inability to derive self-knowledge from discursive reasoning alone. I believe Goethe is telling us we need to transcend discursive reasoning, not jettison it altogether, and to unite it with a higher order of perception, which comes when we truly attempt to see Nature as it is.