The Cypher Status of Myths and Rituals

James Kurian 
Madras Christian College, Chennai

One of the important functions of philosophy is to disclose the transcendent ground of our existence and thus provide a path toward authentic selfhood. Religious, cultural, and artistic expressions disclose this transcendent ground. A disclosure happens when these expressions are not considered merely as forms of human thought but are recognized to be cyphers which lead back to the original encounter in which they have their source. In this sense myths and rituals are the expressions of religious, cultural and artistic encounter with the transcendent ground of our existence.

This essay reflects on Karl Jaspers’ views on philosophy as the reading of cypher-script of Being as discussed in the final section of his monumental work, Von der Wahrheit,published as Truth and Symbol. Jaspers’ critique of Bultmann’s idea of demythologization and his call to turn to Asia to include Asian cyphers is also discussed in this essay.