We grow up with them, they are regular features of our cartoons and children and even adult’s entertainment to this day. They exert a power over the human mind, which suggests that either we are all suffering from some wild collective delusion, or that mythical creatures do have a kind of existence, albeit an immaterial one. Of course, since there are children’s toys and numerous statuettes the world over of these creatures we must wonder, where do these ideas come from?
What evolutionary purpose do mythical creatures possibly serve? If we observe nature, we can see quite clearly that she is not wont to construct unnecessary things. Everything, from the smallest to the tallest, serves some kind of vital function within the biosphere. Can the same be said of these things that seem to exist only in the noosphere?
Since mythical creatures are heavily relied upon in the world of heraldry, wyverns, unicorns, dragons and so on, they have become symbols, not unlike letters or words, or perhaps more accurately, hieroglyphs. You are unlikely to be reading this, I suppose if you are the kind of person who already knows about the Royal Houses of the world that still use these creatures today on their family crests. You may even have your very own unicorn earring collection. It’s really not that far removed from Game of Thrones, really, except a hell of a lot more complicated. Not surprisingly, I suppose, since this is real life.
So mythical creatures exist, then, in the same way that words exist, in the same way that software on a computer exists. They require the agency of some hardware i.e. the human mind (actually traditionally called ‘wetware’), just like computer software requires a computer in order to fulfil the point of its existence. Without the hardware, the software is just a bunch of crazy code.
Does this metaphor then extend to mythical creatures, that without the human mind, they are just a bunch of crazy nonsense? Perhaps, and yet there may still be more to this than that. I don’t know if you have even been to an old forest and found twisted old trees that seem to form the shape of letters of the alphabet. Of course, we have all learned that nature is blind and mute, right? She cannot communicate with us directly. And yet, all of us dream, and sometimes we dream of mythical creatures. All of us have had the strange and slightly uncanny experience of having someone mention a unicorn and suddenly start seeing them everywhere, as if the whole tapestry of existence were just that – a work of art deliberately constructed to communicate some kind of message.
Perhaps our artificial intelligence, our supreme number crunchers, will be able to eventually construct a map of language, of the myriad associations of meaning and show how mythical creatures are part of the foundation that supports our entire linguistic world, and therefore, effectively the entire phenomenal world. What will happen when AI meets the first unicorn, discovers how it first came to be wandering in the forests of the human mind? Goodness knows.