In the earlier volumes of this survey of the historical transformations of those imagined forms that I am calling the “masks” of God, through which men everywhere have sought to relate themselves to the wonder of existence, the myths and rites of the Primitive, Oriental, and Early Occidental worlds could be discussed in terms of grandiose unitary stages. For in the history of our still youthful species, a profound respect for inherited forms has generally suppressed innovation. Millenniums have rolled by with only minor variations played on themes derived from God-knows-when. Not so, however, in our recent West, where, since the middle of the twelfth century, an accelerating disintegration has been undoing the formidable orthodox tradition that came to flower in that century, and with its fall, the released creative powers of a great company of towering individuals have broken forth: so that not one, or even two or three, but a galaxy of mythologies — as many, one might say, as the multitude of its geniuses — must be taken into account in any study of the spectacle of our own titanic age. Even in the formerly dominant, but now distinctly subordinate, sphere of theology there has arisen, since the victories of Luther, Melanchthon, and the Augsburg Confession of 1530, a manifold beyond reckoning of variant readings of the Christian revelation; while in the fields of literature, secular philosophy, and the arts, a totally new type of non-theological revelation, of great scope, great depth, and infinite variety, has become the actual spiritual guide and structuring force of the civilization.
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