Myths of Reality

Simon Danser. Myths of Reality. Alternative Albion, 2005.

Myths of Reality is a nice introduction to social constructionist theory. That is, what we take as commonplace knowledge, our reality, is actually shaped by culturally formed myths and assumptions, a position somewhat similar to a situationist world view, but generally academically and without the situ sense of fun. As a way of explaining the world it makes sense, but social constructionism is too often promoted in the shrill, ugly language of post-modernism. Mr Danser avoids this and covers this counter-intuitive, but challenging theory in a claer and concise style. Common assumptions behind the accepted 'laws' of science, commerce, identity and language are tackled in a lively style, and from a decidedly radical-Left perspective.

Over-enthusiastic application of this view can be taken to extremes, and Mr Danser does tend to overstate the social-constructionist thesis at times, e.g. 'Eating is always a ritual, a re-enactment of profound cultural concepts'. Familiarity with social-constructionist theory should be essential for anyone taking a Fortean approach to reality, or anyone who questions the world view put out by global media and political-industrial interests but who hasn't fallen prey to conspiracy theories (which I suspect describes most Magonia readers). Indeed, much of Fort's writing could be interpreted as a proto-social constructionist argument. And the argument as to whether UFOs are culturally transmitted myths, or entities whose existence is denied because they challenge the myths of science, is a key Magonic debate.

But although Fortean Times is cited a few times, Myths of Reality is not specially directed at Magonia/Fortean Times interests, though other books from this press (Explore Folklore, Explore Mythology, both by Bob Trubshaw, and Explore Shamanism by Alby Stone, and Stonehenge by Andy Worthington) look of particular interest to the Magonia reader.

Some references to contemporary films, TV series, e.g. The Matrix and The Office, will cause Myths of Reality to date rapidly, but if you want a good introduction to a theoretical approach to the world, which is, after all, essentially Fortean, then Myths of Reality is a very good accessible guide, with full references. -- Reviewed by John Rowe, from Magonia 90, November 2005

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