Karen Armstrong argues that symbolism came more naturally to people in the pre-modern world that it does today. The Greeks referred to two different ways of knowing: Mythos and Logos. Both were essential and neither were superior to the other. Each had its sphere of competence, like different tools or instruments, that could be applied depending on the context or what the situation demanded.

Logos referred to reason, that pragmatic mode that enabled people to function effectively. It was good for practical purposes but could not help with existential problems like loss, or finding meaning. For that mythos was required. Mythos helped people to live creatively in the world, but in a different way to logos. Mythos as it manifested in myth-making, told stories that focused on the confusing, puzzling, and tragic aspects of existence – the aspects of reality that logos could not speak to.

Mythos, as it manifested in myth, was a programme of action. It put you in the correct psychological and spiritual posture. Myths tell us how to cope with mortality, how to deal with suffering. Myths, like any form of art, introduce us to a deeper dimension of existence. People used to re-enact myth in elaborate ceremonies that worked aesthetically on participants. Myths and ritual were inseparable. Myth without ritual was like musical notation without the music; it was impenetrable until it took form.