Your portal into the magical world that exists within the hustle and bustle of city life.

Exploring Mythos and Logos: Balancing Rational and Symbolic ways of thinking

on

The concepts of mythos and logos originate from ancient Greek philosophy and represent different ways of understanding the world and human experience. Logos emphasises rationality and logic, while mythos emphasises symbolism and subjective meaning. While they are often contrasted with each other, using both mythos and logos can provide us with a more balanced perspective, helping us make better decisions, find deeper meaning and handle life’s challenges more effectively.

I have found understanding the strengths and weaknesses of these different modes of thinking has benefited my life, my spirituality and my magical practice. I hope you find it helpful, too.

In our modern world, the emphasis is almost entirely on logos, or rational thought, while mythos is often ignored or devalued. Before the Enlightenment, most people worldwide embraced beliefs blending spiritual ideas and rational thought. Logos was used for practical matters such as tool making, agriculture, providing shelter and finding or growing food. However, people embraced mythos for its ability to answer deeper questions and provide meaning to life. 

During the Enlightenment, a major 18th-century European movement, there was a shift in thinking. The Enlightenment elevated reason as supreme, promoting science, scepticism and individualism. This new mindset devalued mythos as superstitious and primitive. Reason became prized, overshadowing intuitive thinking and spiritual beliefs.

I think we can all still recognise this influence in modern life. Only what can be seen and measured is given value, while less tangible subjects such as spiritual ideas are dismissed as ‘woo woo’. However. I believe that humans need both ways of thinking to make sense of our experiences as well as to empathise with others and honour the natural world. Without mythos, the world can seem a stark and inhospitable place, devoid of meaning and wonder. With mythos, everything becomes alive and enchanted and we feel part of something greater, something with depth and inherent spirit.

A summary of mythos and logos

The following explains some of the most important concepts relating to mythos and logos

Logos

  • Logos is a Greek term that is often translated as “reason,” “logic,” or “rationality.”
  • Logos refers to objective facts and the rational and logical aspects of human thought and understanding. It seeks to understand the world through observation, experimentation and logical reasoning.
  • Logos typically pertains to conscious, rational, and logical thinking processes. It involves deliberate, analytical reasoning that we are aware of and actively engage in.

Mythos

  • Mythos is a Greek term that refers to “myth” or “story.”
  • Mythos is associated with subjective and symbolic modes of knowledge. It values metaphor, symbolism and the exploration of deeper truths.
  • Mythos embraces intuitive thinking and the subconscious 
  • This mode of thinking is often associated with spirituality, folklore, literature and the arts.
  • Mythos can access deeper layers of meaning and understanding that may not be immediately apparent to our conscious awareness. It connects to our intuition, emotions and cultural narratives that shape our worldview and perception of reality.
  • Mythos can bridge the gap between conscious and unconscious aspects of cognition, offering insights and perspectives that are not solely dependent on rational analysis.

Why embracing mythos is important

While logos has held centre stage in the West since the Enlightenment, recent research from psychology and neuroscience highlights the importance of integrating both ways of thinking for overall well-being and cognitive function. Research indicates that activities like storytelling, metaphorical thinking and intuitive reasoning can enhance our wellbeing, creativity, cognitive abilities and emotional resilience.

Intuitive reasoning

Intuitive reasoning involves using gut feelings and intuitive insights to make decisions and solve problems without relying solely on conscious analysis. Although it may seem irrational, research shows that intuitive reasoning is crucial for good decision-making, especially in situations which involve uncertainty, time pressure or incomplete information. For example, experienced physicians and entrepreneurs often rely on intuition to quickly assess situations, recognise patterns and find effective solutions.

Intuitive reasoning allows us to tap into our unconscious knowledge and past experiences, helping us navigate complex situations. Additionally, intuition can act as an early warning system, alerting us to potential threats or opportunities and enabling rapid and effective responses to changing circumstances.

Metaphorical thinking

Metaphorical thinking uses metaphorical language and concepts to understand abstract ideas and make sense of the world. Research shows that this type of thinking is a natural part of human cognition and a powerful tool for boosting creativity, problem-solving and cognitive flexibility. For example, people skilled at using metaphors tend to be more creative and innovative in areas like art, science and business. Metaphorical thinking helps individuals reframe problems, come up with new solutions and link seemingly unrelated ideas. Additionally, metaphors can act as mental shortcuts, making it easier to learn, remember and communicate complex ideas.

Storytelling

Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of human communication and has been shown to have profound effects on cognition and emotional well-being. Research indicates that engaging with narratives activates multiple regions of the brain involved in processing language, emotion and social cognition. For example, listening to or creating stories can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and oxytocin, which are associated with feelings of pleasure, empathy and social connection.

In addition, storytelling allows individuals to make sense of their experiences, construct meaning and develop a sense of identity and purpose. In therapeutic settings, techniques such as narrative therapy harness the power of storytelling to facilitate personal growth, emotional healing and resilience in the face of adversity.

Introducing practices such as storytelling, metaphorical thinking and intuitive reasoning into our daily lives can enhance our creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional resilience. These practices can help us navigate the complexities of the modern world and cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Practical ideas for balancing mythos and logos

Journaling

Reflective journaling is a great practice to help us understand the bigger picture of our lives and understand the deeper meanings involved in the stories of our lives. Journaling can also help us access our subconscious and intuition. Use your journal as a space to express yourself freely, without worrying about grammar or structure. You can write about your dreams, aspirations and fears, or simply jot down observations about the world around you. Reflecting on your innermost thoughts and emotions can help you tap into your intuitive wisdom and gain insight into your deeper desires and motivations.

Example journaling practice

Keep a journal where you write down three things you love, appreciate or are grateful for each day. This practice can help cultivate a sense of appreciation for the beauty and abundance in your life, encouraging a more positive outlook and building emotional resilience.

Mindfulness exercises

Mindfulness exercises can help us to develop present-moment awareness, connect with our unconscious and tune into a more mythos way of thinking. Mindfulness techniques, such as mindful breathing, body scans or loving-kindness meditation, can help us quiet our mind, reduce stress and enhance our ability to experience life with openness and curiosity.

Example mindfulness practice

Start your day with a mindful breathing exercise. Take a few moments to sit quietly and focus on your breath, observing the sensations of each inhale and exhale. Notice any thoughts or emotions that arise without judgment, allowing them to come and go like clouds passing through the sky.

Creative expression through art

Engage in creative activities that allow you to express yourself authentically and tap into your imagination. Whether it’s painting, writing, singing, dancing, or playing music, find a creative outlet that resonates with you and brings you joy. Use your creativity as a means of self-expression and exploration, allowing your intuition to guide you in the creative process.

Example art practice

You might like to start a visual journal where you combine images, words and colours to express your thoughts and feelings. Use collage, drawing, painting, or mixed media to create pages that reflect your inner world and outer experiences.

Nature-based rituals

Connect with the natural world through rituals and practices that honour the rhythms of the earth and the cycles of life. Spend time outdoors, whether it’s going for a walk in the woods, gardening, or simply sitting in nature and observing the sights and sounds around you. You might like to engage in rituals that celebrate the changing seasons, such as solstice ceremonies, moon rituals, or planting rituals.

Example nature practice

Create a nature altar in your home or garden where you can place objects that hold special significance for you, such as stones, feathers, or plants. Use your altar as a sacred space for reflection, meditation and connection with the natural world.

Archetypal exploration

Study archetypal patterns and universal myths to deepen your symbolic understanding of the human experience. Exploring myths and fairytales helps us understand our deepest fears and human questions. Passed down through generations, these ancient stories reflect universal themes like love, heroism and mortality, offering insight into our shared experiences and concerns. Myths can act as mirrors for our inner struggles and aspirations, helping us confront our fears and grapple with life’s uncertainties. By engaging with these narratives, we find comfort in knowing that our challenges are part of a larger human journey, spanning cultures and time.

You might also like to explore the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who introduced the concept of archetypes as universal symbols and motifs that recur across cultures and civilizations. It can be illuminating to reflect on how archetypal themes manifest in your own life and psyche and consider how they shape your perceptions, beliefs and behaviours.

Example archetypal exercise

Select a myth or fairytale that resonates with you or captures your interest. You can choose from various cultural traditions or explore a story that you’ve always found intriguing. Read or listen to the chosen myth or fairytale attentively, allowing yourself to become immersed in the story and imagery. As you engage with the story, pay attention to the characters, themes and symbols presented. Notice any emotions or thoughts that arise within you as you read or listen. Reflect on how the themes and symbols in the myth or fairytale relate to your own life experiences and inner world. Consider the universal human concerns such as love, heroism and mortality reflected in the story.

Tarot and Oracle Cards

Another way to explore mythos is with the use of divination practices such as tarot or oracle cards to tap into intuitive guidance and symbolic wisdom. Choose a deck that resonates with you and spend time familiarising yourself with the cards and their imagery and symbolism. Use card readings as a way to access your intuition, gain clarity on pressing questions or concerns and uncover hidden insights about your life path.

Example divination exercise

As you shuffle the cards, breathe deeply, relax your mind and try to keep your mind open to intuitive ways of thinking. Draw a single card and place it before you. Gaze upon the image, allowing it to speak to your subconscious. Reflect on the symbols and themes presented in order to see what wisdom you can find in the ancient symbolism represented by the card.

By incorporating these practical tips into your daily or weekly routine, you can cultivate a balanced approach to thinking that integrates both rational and symbolic modes of understanding. These practices can help you develop greater self-awareness, creativity and resilience, ultimately leading to a deeper sense of fulfilment and connection with yourself and the world around you.

How combining mythos and logos can work together

Mythos is a vital and neglected way of thinking, but that doesn’t mean that logos is not also important. When we combine mythos and logos we have a more comprehensive way of thinking. The following offers some ways we can use both mythos and logos to help us navigate life more easily.

Stress management and emotional resilience

Mythos offers stories and symbols that can help, inspire and comfort us during stressful times. By engaging with myths, we can find inspiration and solace in universal themes of struggle, change and triumph.

Logos, on the other hand, provides tools for rational analysis and problem-solving. By using logical thinking we can identify stressors, develop coping mechanisms and build emotional resilience to handle challenges effectively.

Mythos helps us accept that life is often ambiguous and uncertain. Myths reflect life’s complexity and change, teaching us to adapt and find meaning in transformation. By engaging with myths, we can become more accepting and resilient in the face of uncertainty. We can also learn to tune into our intuition to help us make decisions and come up with new ideas and approaches.

Logos, on the other hand, can give us tools for rational decision-making. By analysing information, weighing options and making informed choices, we can handle uncertainty more confidently and effectively.

Seeking meaning

Mythos helps us explore big life questions and find deeper meaning and purpose. Myths address concerns about identity, mortality and existence, connecting us to something greater. Engaging with myths provides comfort in shared human experiences and a sense of belonging.

Logos complements this by encouraging us to critically examine our beliefs and values. Through logical thinking and reflection, we can understand our place in the world and create a sense of meaning and purpose based on reason and evidence.

In conclusion, combining mythos and logos helps us handle modern challenges and find deeper meaning in life. Using both rational analysis and symbolic interpretation, we can build emotional resilience, confidently face uncertainty and find purpose in life’s big questions.

I hope you have found this introduction to mythos and logos helpful. If you would like some tips on using more intuitive ways to practice mythos in your magical practice, see my post on Intuitive Witchcraft

Eva May Baker
Eva May Baker
Hello, and welcome to The City Witch, your portal into the magical world that exists within the hustle and bustle of city life. My name is Eva Baker and I am an urban folk witch, author and your guide on this magical journey.

Must-read

The power of black candle spells for protection, banishing and divination

Black candle spells can assist in breaking bad habits, enhancing shadow work, fostering a connection with spirit guides and as an aid to divination practices.

Working with the God Hermes

The God Hermes rules over boundaries, transitions and communication and is a prominent figure in Greek mythology. As the messenger of the gods, he...

Shadow work for beginners

This article on Shadow work for beginners provides a gentle introduction to the powerful transformative practice of shadow work.

Recent articles

More like this

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here