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Wednesday, January 25th, 2006, 02:02 AM

Over one hundred years ago, on March 26th in 1904, Joseph John Campbell was born in White Plains, NY. Joe, as he came to be known, was the first child of a middle-class, Roman Catholic couple, Charles and Josephine Campbell.
Joe’s earliest years were largely unremarkable; but then, when he was seven years old, his father took him and his younger brother, Charlie, to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The evening was a high-point in Joe’s life; for, although the cowboys were clearly the show’s stars, as Joe would later write, he “became fascinated, seized, obsessed, by the figure of a naked American Indian with his ear to the ground, a bow and arrow in his hand, and a look of special knowledge in his eyes.”
It was Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher whose writings would later greatly influence Campbell, who observed that
…the experiences and illuminations of childhood and early youth become in later life the types, standards and patterns of all subsequent knowledge and experience, or as it were, the categories according to which all later things are classified—not always consciously, however. And so it is that in our childhood years the foundation is laid of our later view of the world, and there with as well of its superficiality or depth: it will be in later years unfolded and fulfilled, not essentially changed.
And so it was with young Joseph Campbell. Even as he actively practiced (until well into his twenties) the faith of his forbears, he became consumed with Native American culture; and his worldview was arguably shaped by the dynamic tension between these two mythological perspectives. On the one hand, he was immersed in the rituals, symbols, and rich traditions of his Irish Catholic heritage; on the other, he was obsessed with primitive (or, as he later preferred, “primal”) people’s direct experience of what he came to describe as “the continuously created dynamic display of an absolutely transcendent, yet universally immanent, mysterium tremendum et fascinans, which is the ground at once of the whole spectacle and of oneself.” (Historical Atlas, I.1, p. 8)
By the age of ten, Joe had read every book on American Indians in the children’s section of his local library and was admitted to the adult stacks, where he eventually read the entire multi-volume Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology. He worked on wampum belts, started his own “tribe” (the “Lenni-Lenape”), and frequented the American Museum of Natural History, where he became fascinated with totem poles and masks, thus beginning a lifelong exploration of that museum's vast collection.
After spending much of his thirteenth year recuperating from a respiratory illness, Joe briefly attended Iona, a private school in Westchester NY, before his mother enrolled him at Canterbury, a Catholic residential school in New Milford CT. His high school years were rich and rewarding, though marked by a major tragedy: in 1919, the Campbell home was consumed by a fire that killed his grandmother and destroyed all of the family’s possessions.
Joe graduated from Canterbury in 1921, and the following September, entered Dartmouth College; but he was soon disillusioned with the social scene and disappointed by a lack of academic rigor, so he transferred to Columbia University, where he excelled: while specializing in medieval literature, he played in a jazz band, and became a star runner. In 1924, while on a steamship journey to Europe with his family, Joe met and befriended Jiddu Krishnamurti, the young messiah-elect of the Theosophical Society, thus beginning a friendship that would be renewed intermittently over the next five years.
After earning a B.A. from Columbia (1925), and receiving an M.A. (1927) for his work in Arthurian Studies, Joe was awarded a Proudfit Traveling Fellowship to continue his studies at the University of Paris (1927-28). Then, after he had received and rejected an offer to teach at his high school alma mater, his Fellowship was renewed, and he traveled to Germany to resume his studies at the University of Munich (1928-29).
It was during this period in Europe that Joe was first exposed to those modernist masters—notably, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung—whose art and insights would greatly influence his own work. These encounters would eventually lead him to theorize that all myths are the creative products of the human psyche, that artists are a culture’s mythmakers, and that mythologies are creative manifestations of humankind’s universal need to explain psychological, social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.
When Joe returned from Europe late in August of 1929, he was at a crossroad, unable to decide what to do with his life. With the onset of the Great Depression, he found himself with no hope of obtaining a teaching job; and so he spent most of the next two years reconnecting with his family, reading, renewing old acquaintances, and writing copious entries in his journal. Then, late in 1931, after exploring and rejecting the possibility of a doctoral program or teaching job at Columbia, he decided, like countless young men before and since, to “hit the road,” to undertake a cross-country journey in which he hoped to experience “the soul of America” and, in the process, perhaps discover the purpose of his life. In January of 1932, when he was leaving Los Angeles, where he had been studying Russian in order to read War and Peace in the vernacular, he pondered his future in this journal entry:

I begin to think that I have a genius for working like an ox over totally irrelevant subjects. … I am filled with an excruciating sense of never having gotten anywhere—but when I sit down and try to discover where it is I want to get, I’m at a loss. … The thought of growing into a professor gives me the creeps. A lifetime to be spent trying to kid myself and my pupils into believing that the thing that we are looking for is in books! I don’t know where it is—but I feel just now pretty sure that it isn’t in books. — It isn’t in travel. — It isn’t in California. — It isn’t in New York. … Where is it? And what is it, after all?
Thus one real result of my Los Angeles stay was the elimination of Anthropology from the running. I suddenly realized that all of my primitive and American Indian excitement might easily be incorporated in a literary career. — I am convinced now that no field but that of English literature would have permitted me the almost unlimited roaming about from this to that which I have been enjoying. A science would buckle me down—and would probably yield no more important fruit than literature may yield me! — If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity — well, teaching ought to quell that obsession — and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to Krishna’s dictum: The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.
His travels next carried him north to San Francisco, then back south to Pacific Grove, where he spent the better part of a year in the company of Carol and John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. During this time, he wrestled with his writing, discovered the poems of Robinson Jeffers, first read Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, and wrote to some seventy colleges and universities in an unsuccessful attempt to secure employment. Finally, he was offered a teaching position at the Canterbury School. He returned to the East Coast, where he endured an unhappy year as a Canterbury housemaster, the one bright moment being when he sold his first short story (“Strictly Platonic”) to Liberty magazine. Then, in 1933, he moved to a cottage without running water on Maverick Road in Woodstock NY, where he spent a year reading and writing. In 1934, he was offered and accepted a position in the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he would retain for thirty-eight years.
In 1938 he married one of his students, Jean Erdman, who would become a major presence in the emerging field of modern dance, first, as a star dancer in Martha Graham’s fledgling troupe, and later, as dancer/choreographer of her own company.
Even as he continued his teaching career, Joe’s life continued to unfold serendipitously. In 1940, he was introduced to Swami Nikhilananda, who enlisted his help in producing a new translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (published, 1942). Subsequently, Nikhilananda introduced Joe to the Indologist Heinrich Zimmer, who introduced him to a member of the editorial board at the Bollingen Foundation. Bollingen, which had been founded by Paul and Mary Mellon to “develop scholarship and research in the liberal arts and sciences and other fields of cultural endeavor generally,” was embarking upon an ambitious publishing project, the Bollingen Series. Joe was invited to contribute an “Introduction and Commentary” to the first Bollingen publication, Where the Two Came to their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial, text and paintings recorded by Maud Oakes, given by Jeff King (Bollingen Series, I: 1943).
When Zimmer died unexpectedly in 1943 at the age of fifty-two, his widow, Christiana, and Mary Mellon asked Joe to oversee the publication of his unfinished works. Joe would eventually edit and complete four volumes from Zimmer’s posthumous papers: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (Bollingen Series VI: 1946), The King and the Corpse (Bollingen Series XI: 1948), Philosophies of India (Bollingen Series XXVI: 1951), and a two-volume opus, The Art of Indian Asia (Bollingen Series XXXIX: 1955).
Joe, meanwhile, followed his initial Bollingen contribution with a “Folkloristic Commentary” to Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1944); he also co-authored (with Henry Morton Robinson) A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944), the first major study of James Joyce’s notoriously complex novel.
His first, full-length, solo authorial endeavor, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Bollingen Series XVII: 1949), was published to acclaim and brought him the first of numerous awards and honors—the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Contributions to Creative Literature. In this study of the myth of the hero, Campbell posits the existence of a Monomyth (a word he borrowed from James Joyce), a universal pattern that is the essence of, and common to, heroic tales in every culture. While outlining the basic stages of this mythic cycle, he also explores common variations in the hero’s journey, which, he argues, is an operative metaphor, not only for an individual, but for a culture as well. The Hero would prove to have a major influence on generations of creative artists—from the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s to contemporary film-makers today—and would, in time, come to be acclaimed as a classic.
Joe would eventually author dozens of articles and numerous other books, including The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology (Vol. 1: 1959), Oriental Mythology (Vol. 2: 1962), Occidental Mythology (Vol. 3: 1964), and Creative Mythology (Vol. 4: 1968); The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension (1969); Myths to Live By (1972); The Mythic Image (1974); The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion (1986); and five books in his four-volume, multi-part, unfinished Historical Atlas of World Mythology (1983-87).
He was also a prolific editor. Over the years, he edited The Portable Arabian Nights (1952) and was general editor of the series Man and Myth (1953-1954), which included major works by Maya Deren (Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti, 1953), Carl Kerenyi (The Gods of the Greeks, 1954), and Alan Watts (Myth and Ritual in Christianity, 1954). He also edited The Portable Jung (1972), as well as six volumes of Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks (Bollingen Series XXX): Spirit and Nature (1954), The Mysteries (1955), Man and Time (1957), Spiritual Disciplines (1960), Man and Transformation (1964), and The Mystic Vision (1969).
But his many publications notwithstanding, it was arguably as a public speaker that Joe had his greatest popular impact. From the time of his first public lecture in 1940—a talk at the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center entitled “Sri Ramakrishna’s Message to the West”—it was apparent that he was an erudite but accessible lecturer, a gifted storyteller, and a witty raconteur. In the ensuing years, he was asked more and more often to speak at different venues on various topics. In 1956, he was invited to speak at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute; working without notes, he delivered two straight days of lectures. His talks were so well-received, he was invited back annually for the next seventeen years. In the mid-1950s, he also undertook a series of public lectures at the Cooper Union in New York City; these talks drew an ever-larger, increasingly diverse audience, and soon became a regular event.
Joe first lectured at Esalen Institute in 1965. Each year thereafter, he returned to Big Sur to share his latest thoughts, insights, and stories. And as the years passed, he came to look forward more and more to his annual sojourns to the place he called “paradise on the Pacific Coast.” Although he retired from teaching at Sarah Lawrence in 1972 to devote himself to his writing, he continued to undertake two month-long lecture tours each year.
In 1985, Joe was awarded the National Arts Club Gold Medal of Honor in Literature. At the award ceremony, James Hillman remarked, “No one in our century—not Freud, not Thomas Mann, not Levi-Strauss—has so brought the mythical sense of the world and its eternal figures back into our everyday consciousness.”
Joseph Campbell died unexpectedly in 1987 after a brief struggle with cancer. In 1988, millions were introduced to his ideas by the broadcast on PBS of Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, six hours of an electrifying conversation that the two men had videotaped over the course of several years. When he died, Newsweek magazine noted that “Campbell has become one of the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture.”
In his later years, Joe was fond of recalling on how Schopenhauer, in his essay On the Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual, wrote of the curious feeling one can have, of there being an author somewhere writing the novel of our lives, in such a way that through events that seem to us to be chance happenings there is actually a plot unfolding of which we have no knowledge.
Looking back over Joe’s life, one cannot help but feel that it proves the truth Schopenhauer’s observation.

For more information on the works of Joseph Campbell, click here (http://www.jcf.org/works.php).

"Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation..." (Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces (http://www.jcf.org/works.php?id=104))

Link http://www.jcf.org/about_jc.php Joseph Campbell Foundation

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006, 11:48 PM
Joseph Campbel

Myths to Live By


Foreword by Johnson E. Fairchild
I. The Impact of Science on Myth (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part1)
II. The Emergence of Mankind (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part2)
III. The Importance of Rites (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part3)
IV. The Separation of East and West (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part4)
V. The Confrontation of East and West in Religion (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part5)VI. The Inspiration of Oriental Art (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part6)
VII. Zen (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part7)
VIII. The Mythology of Love (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part8)
IX. Mythologies of War and Peace (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part9)
X. Schizophrenia -- the Inward Journey (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part10)
XI. The Moon Walk -- the Outward Journey (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part11)
XII. Envoy: No More Horizons (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part12)
Reference Notes (http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm#part13)

I. The Impact of Science on Myth

I was sitting the other day at a lunch counter that I particularly enjoy, when a youngster about twelve years old, arriving with his school satchel, took the place at my left. Beside him came a younger little man, holding the hand of his mother, and those two took the next seats. All gave their orders, and, while waiting, the boy at my side said, turning his head slightly to the mother, "Jimmy wrote a paper today on the evolution of man, and Teacher said he was wrong, that Adam and Eve were our first parents."
My Lord! I thought. What a teacher!
The lady three seats away then said, "Well, Teacher was right. Our first parentswere Adam and Eve."
What a mother for a twentieth-century child!
The youngster responded, "Yes, I know, but this was a scientific paper." And for that, I was ready to recommend him for a distinguished-service medal from the Smithsonian Institution.
The mother, however, came back with another. "Oh, those scientists!" she said angrily. "Those are only theories."
And he was up to that one too. "Yes, I know," was his cool and calm reply; "but they have been factualized: they found the bones."
The milk and the sandwiches came, and that was that.
So let us now reflect for a moment on the sanctified cosmic image that has been destroyed by the facts and findings of irrepressible young truth-seekers of this kind.
At the height of the Middle Ages, say in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there were current two very different concepts of the earth. The more popular was of the earth as flat, like a dish surrounded by, and floating upon, a boundless cosmic sea, in which there were all kinds of monsters dangerous to man. This was an infinitely old notion, going back to the early Bronze Age. It appears in Sumerian cuneiform texts of about 2000 B.C.and is the image authorized in the Bible.
The more seriously considered medieval concept, however, was that of the ancient Greeks, according to whom the earth was not flat, but a solid stationary sphere in the center of a kind of Chinese box of seven transparent revolving spheres, in each of which there was a visible planet: the moon, Mercury, Venus, and the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the same seven after which our days of the week are named. The sounding tones of these seven, moreover, made a music, the "music of the spheres," to which the notes of our diatonic scale correspond. There was also a metal associated with each: silver, mercury, copper, gold, iron, tin, and lead, in that order. And the soul descending from heaven to be born on earth picked up, as it came down, the qualities of those metals; so that our souls and bodies are compounds of the very elements of the universe and sing, so to say, the same song.
Music and the arts, according to this early view, were to put us in mind of those harmonies, from which the general thoughts and affairs of this earth distract us. And in the Middle Ages the seven branches of learning were accordingly associated with those spheres: grammar, logic, and rhetoric (known as thetrivium), arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy (thequadrivium). The crystalline spheres themselves, furthermore, were not, like glass, of inert matter, but living spiritual powers, presided over by angelic beings, or, as Plato had said, by sirens. And beyond all, there was that luminous celestial realm where God in majesty sat on his triune throne; so that when the soul, at death, returning to its maker, passed again through the seven spheres, it left off at each the accordant quality and arrived unclothed for the judgment. The emperor and the pope on earth governed, it was supposed, according to the laws and will of God, representing his power and authority at work in the ordained Christian commonalty. Thus in the total view of the medieval thinkers there was a perfect accord between the structure of the universe, the canons of the social order, and the good of the individual. Through unquestioning obedience, therefore, the Christian would put himself into accord not only with his society but also with both his own best inward interests and the outward order of nature. The Christian Empire was an earthly reflex of the order of the heavens, hieratically organized, with the vestments, thrones, and procedures of its stately courts inspired by celestial imagery, the bells of its cathedral spires and harmonies of its priestly choirs echoing in earthly tones the unearthly angelic hosts.
Dante in his Divine Comedy unfolded a vision of the universe that perfectly satisfied both the approved religious and the accepted scientific notions of his time. When Satan had been flung out of heaven for his pride and disobedience, he was supposed to have fallen like a flaming comet and, when he struck the earth, to have plowed right through to its center. The prodigious crater that he opened thereupon became the fiery pit of Hell; and the great mass of displaced earth pushed forth at the opposite pole became the Mountain of Purgatory, which is represented by Dante as lifting heavenward exactly as the South Pole. In his view, the entire southern hemisphere was of water, with this mighty mountain lifting out of it, on whose summit was the Earthly Paradise, from the center of which the four blessed rivers flowed of which Holy Scripture tells.
And now it appears that when Columbus set sail across that "ocean blue" which many of his neighbors (and possibly also his sailors) believed was a terminal ocean surrounding a disklike earth, he himself had in mind an image more like that of Dante's world -- of which we can read, in fact, in his journals. There we learn that in the course of his third voyage, when he reached for the first time the northern coast of South America, passing in his frail craft at great peril between Trinidad and the mainland, he remarked that the quantity of fresh water there mixing with the salt (pouring from the mouths of the Orinoco) was enormous. Knowing nothing of the continent beyond, but having in mind the medieval idea, he conjectured the fresh waters might be coming from one of the rivers of Paradise, pouring into the southern sea from the base of the great antipodal mountain. Moreover, when he then turned, sailing northward, and observed that his ships were faring more rapidly than when they had been sailing south, he took this to be evidence of their sailing now downhill, from the foot of the promontory of the mythic paradisial mountain.
I like to think of the year 1492 as marking the end -- or at least the beginning of the end -- of the authority of the old mythological systems by which the lives of men had been supported and inspired from time out of mind. Shortly after Columbus's epochal voyage, Magellan circumnavigated the globe. Shortly before, Vasco da Gamma had sailed around Africa to India. The earth was beginning to be systematically explored, and the old, symbolic, mythological geographies discredited. In attempting to show that there was somewhere on earth a garden of Paradise, Saint Thomas Aquinas had declared, writing only two centuires and a half before Columbus sailed: "The situation of Paradise is shut off from the habitable world by mountains or seas, or by some torrid region, which cannot be crossed; and so people who have written about topography make no mention of it." Fifty years after the first voyage, Copernicus published his paper on the heliocentric universe (1543); and some sixty-odd years after that, Galileo's little telescope brought tangible confirmation to this Copernican view. In the year 1616 Galileo was condemned by the Office of the Inquisition -- like the boy beside me at the lunch counter, by his mother -- for holding and teaching a doctrine contrary to Holy Scripture. And today, of course, we have those very much larger telescopes on the summits, for example, of Mount Wilson in California, Mount Palomar in the same state, Kitt Peak in Arizona, and Haleakala, Hawaii; so that not only is the sun now well established at the center of our planetary system, but we know it to be but one of some two hundred billion suns in a galaxy of such blazing spheres: a galaxy shaped like a prodigious lens, many hundreds of quintillion miles in diameter. And not only that! but our telescopes now are disclosing to us, among those shining suns, certain other points of light that are themselves not suns but whole galaxies, each as large and great and inconceivable as our own -- of which already many thousands upon thousands have been seen. So that, actually, the occasion for an experience of awe before the wonder of the universe that is being developed for us by our scientists surely is a far more marvelous, mind-blowing revelation than anything the prescientific world could ever have imagined. The little toy-room picture of the Bible is, in comparison, for children -- or, in fact, not even for them any more, to judge from the words of that young scholar beside me at the counter, who, with his "Yes, I know, but this was a scientific paper," had already found a way to rescue his learning from the crumbling medieval architecture of his mother's Church.
For not only have all the old mythic notions of the nature of the cosmos gone to pieces, but also those of the origins and history of mankind. Already in Shakespeare's day, when Sir Walter Raleigh arrived in America and saw here all the new animals unknown on the other side, he understood as a master mariner that it would have been absolutely impossible for Noah to have packed examples of every species on earth into any ark, no matter how large. The Bible legend of the Flood was untrue: a theory that could not be "factualized." And we today (to make matters worse) are dating the earliest appearance of manlike creatures on this earth over a million years earlier than the Biblical date for God's creation of the world. The great paleolithic caves of Europe are from circa 30,000 B.C.; the beginnings of agriculture, 10,000B.C. or so, and the first substantial towns about 7,000. Yet Cain, the eldest son of Adam, the first man, is declared in Genesis 4:2 and 4:17 to have been "a tiller of the ground" and the builder of a city known as Enoch in the land of Nod, east of Eden. The Biblical "theory" has again been proved false, and "they have found the bones!"
They have found also the buildings -- and these do not corroborate Scripture, either. For example, the period of Egyptian history supposed to have been of the Exodus -- of Ramses II (1301-1234B.C.), or perhaps Merneptah (1234-1220) or Seti II (1220-1200) -- is richly represented in architectural and hieroglyphic remains, yet there is no notice anywhere of anything like those famous Biblical plagues, no record anywhere of anything even comparable. Moreover, as other records tell, Bedouin Hebrews, the "Habiru," were already invading Canaan during the reign of Ikhnaton (1377-1358), a century earlier than the Ramses date. The long and the short of it is simply that the Hebrew texts from which all these popular Jewish legends of Creation, Exodus, Forty Years in the Desert, and Conquest of Canaan are derived were not composed by "God" or even by anyone named Moses, but are of various dates and authors, all much later than was formerly supposed. The first five books of the Old Testament (Torah) were assembled only after the period of Ezra (fourth century B.C.),and the documents of which it was fashioned date all the way from the ninth centuryB.C. (the so-called J and E texts) to the second or so (the P, or "priestly" writings). One notices, for example, that there are two accounts of the Flood. From the first we learn that Noah brought "two living things of every sort" into the Ark (Genesis 6:19-20; P text, post-Ezra), and from the second, "seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean" (Genesis 7:2-3; J text, ca. 800B.C. ± 50). We also find two stories of Creation, the earlier in Genesis 2, the later in Genesis 1. In 2, a garden has been planted and a man created to tend it; next the animals are created, and finally (as in dream) Mother Eve is drawn from Adam's rib. In Genesis 1, on the other hand, God, alone with the cosmic waters, says, "Let there be light," etc., and, stage by stage, the universe comes into being: first, light; and the sun, three days later; then, vegetables, animals, and finally mankind, male and female together. Genesis 1 is of about the fourth centuryB.C. (the period of Aristotle), and 2, of the ninth or eighth (Hesiod's time).
Comparative cultural studies have now demonstrated beyond question that similar mythic tales are to be found in every quarter of this earth. When Cortes and his Catholic Spaniards arrived in Aztec Mexico, they immediately recognized in the local religion so many parallels to their own True Faith that they were hard put to explain the fact. There were towering pyramidal temples, representing, stage by stage, like Dante's Mountain of Purgatory, degrees of elevation of the spirit. There were thirteen heavens, each with its appropriate gods or angels; nine hells, of suffering souls. There was a High God above all, who was beyond all human thought and imaging. There was even an incarnate Saviour, associated with a serpent, born of a virgin, who had died and was resurrected, one of whose symbols was a cross. The padres, to explain all this, invented two myths of their own. The first was that Saint Thomas, the Apostle to the Indies, had probably reached America and here preached the Gospel; but, these shores being so far removed from the influence of Rome, the doctrine had deteriorated, so that what they were seeing around them was simply a hideously degenerate form of their own revelation. And the second explanation, then, was that the devil was here deliberately throwing up parodies of the Christian faith, to frustrate the mission.
Modern scholarship, systematically comparing the myths and rites of mankind, has found just about everywhere legends of virgins giving birth to heroes who die and are resurrected. India is chock-full of such tales, and its towering temples, very like the Aztec ones, represent again our many-storied cosmic mountain, bearing Paradise on its summit and with horrible hells beneath. The Buddhists and the Jains have similar ideas. And, looking backward into the pre-Christian past, we discover in Egypt the mythology of the slain and resurrected Osiris; in Mesopotamia, Tammuz; in Syria, Adonis; and in Greece, Dionysos: all of which furnished models to the early Christians for their representations of Christ.
Now the peoples of all the great civilizations everywhere have been prone to interpret their own symbolic figures literally, and so to regard themselves as favored in a special way, in direct contact with the Absolute. Even the polytheistic Greeks and Romans, Hindus and Chinese, all of whom were able to view the gods and customs of others sympathetically, thought of their own as supreme or, at the very least, superior; and among the monotheistic Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, of course, the gods of others are regarded as no gods at all, but devils, and their worshipers as godless. Mecca, Rome, Jerusalem, and (less emphatically) Benares and Peking have been for centuries, therefore, each in its own way, the navel of the universe, connected directly -- as by a hot line -- with the Kingdom of Light or of God.
However, today such claims can no longer be taken seriously by anyone with even a kindergarten education. And in this there is serious danger. For not only has it always been the way of multitudes to interpret their own symbols literally, but such literally read symbolic forms have always been -- and still are, in fact -- the supports of their civilizations, the supports of their moral orders, their cohesion, vitality, and creative powers. With the loss of them there follows uncertainty, and with uncertainty, disequilibrium, since life, as both Nietzsche and Ibsen knew, requires life-supporting illusions; and where these have been dispelled, there is nothing secure to hold on to, no moral law, nothing firm. We have seen what has happened, for example, to primitive communities unsettled by the white man's civilization. With their old taboos discredited, they immediately go to pieces, disintegrate, and become resorts of vice and disease.
Today the same thing is happening to us. With our old mythologically founded taboos unsettled by our own modern sciences, there is everywhere in the civilized world a rapidly rising incidence of vice and crime, mental disorders, suicides and dope addictions, shattered homes, impudent children, violence, murder, and despair. These are facts; I am not inventing them. They give point to the cries of the preachers for repentance, conversion, and return to the old religion. And they challenge, too, the modern educator with respect to his own faith and ultimate loyalty. Is the conscientious teacher -- concerned for the moral character as well as for the book-learning of his students -- to be loyal first to the supporting myths of our civilization or to the "factualized" truths of his science? Are the two, on level, at odds? Or is there not some point of wisdom beyond the conflicts of illusion and truth by which lives can be put back together again?
That is a prime question, I would say, of this hour in the bringing up of children. That is the problem, indeed, that was sitting beside me that day at the lunch counter. In that case, both teacher and parent were on the side of an already outdated illusion; and generally -- or so it looks to me -- most guardians of society have a tendency in that direction, asserting their authority not for, but against the search for disturbing truths. Such a trend has even turned up recently among social scientists and anthropologists with regard to discussions of race. And one can readily understand, even share in some measure, their anxiety, since lies are what the world lives on, and those who can face the challenge of a truth and build their lives to accord are finally not many, but the very few.
It is my considered belief that the best answer to this critical problem will come from the findings of psychology, and specifically those findings have to do with the source and nature of myth. For since it has always been on myths that the moral orders of societies have been founded, the myths canonized as religion, and since the impact of science on myths results -- apparently inevitably -- in moral disequilibrarion, we must now ask whether it is not possible to arrivescientifically at such an understanding of the life-supporting nature of myths that, in criticizing their archaic features, we do not misrepresent and disqualify their necessity -- throwing out, so to say, the baby (whole generations of babies) with the bath.
Traditionally, as I have already said, in the orthodoxies of popular faiths mythic beings and events are generally regarded and taught as facts; and this particularly in the Jewish and Christian spheres. Therewas an Exodus from Egypt; therewas a Resurrection of Christ. Historically, however, such facts are now in question; hence, the moral orders, too, that they support.
When these stories are interpreted, though, not as reports of historic fact, but as merely imagined episodes projected onto history, and when they are recognized, then, as analogous to like projections produced elsewhere, in China, India, and Yucatán, the import becomes obvious; namely, that although false and to be rejected as accounts of physical history, such universally cherished figures of the mythic imagination must represent facts of the mind: "facts of the mind made manifest in a fiction of matter," as my friend the late Maya Deren once phrased the mystery. And whereas it must, of course, be the task of the historian, archaeologist, and prehistorian to show that the myths are as facts untrue -- that there is no one Chosen People of God in this multiracial world, no Found Truth to which we all must bow, no One and Only True Church -- it will be more and more, and with increasing urgency, the task of the psychologist and comparative mythologist not only to identify, analyze, and interpret the symbolized "facts of the mind," but also to evolve techniques for retaining these in health and, as the old traditions of the fading past dissolve, assist mankind to a knowledge and appreciation of our own inward, as well as the world's outward, orders of fact.
There has been among psychologists a considerable change of attitude in this regard during the past three-quarters of a century or so. When reading the great and justly celebratedGolden Bough of Sir James G. Frazer, the first edition of which appeared in 1890, we are engaged with a typically nineteenth-century author, whose belief it was that the superstitions of mythology would be finally refuted by science and left forever behind. He saw the basis of myth in magic, and of magic in psychology. His psychology, however, being of an essentially rational kind, insufficiently attentive to the more deeply based, irrational impulsions of our nature, he assumed that when a custom or belief was shown to be unreasonable, it would presently disappear. And how wrong he was can be shown simply by pointing to any professor of philosophy at play in a bowling alley: watch him twist and turn after the ball has left his hand, to bring it over to the standing pins. Frazer's explanation of magic was that because things are associated in the mind they are believed to be associated in fact. Shake a rattle that sounds like falling rain, and rain will presently fall. Celebrate a ritual of sexual intercourse, and the fertility of nature will be furthered. An image in the likeness of an enemy, and given the enemy's name, can be worked upon, stuck with pins, etc., and the enemy will die. Or a piece of his clothing, lock of hair, fingernail paring, or other element once in contact with his person can be treated with a like result. Frazer's first law of magic, then, is that "like produces like," an effect resembles its cause; and his second, that "things which once were in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed." Frazer thought of both magic and religion as addressed finally and essentially to the control of external nature; magic mechanically, by imitative acts, and religion by prayer and sacrifice addressed to the personified powers supposed to control natural forces. He seems to have had no sense at all of their relevance and importance to the inward life, and so was confident that, with the progress and development of science and technology, both magic and religion would ultimately fade away, the ends that they had been thought to serve being better and more surely served by science.

Link http://jungland.ru/Library/EngCampMyth.htm

Dr. Solar Wolff
Saturday, January 28th, 2006, 02:03 AM
Joseph Campbell, ah yes, I had almost forgotten. Anyone even thinking about studying Social-Cultural Anthropology ought to read this book, cover to cover along with Max Weber, James Frazier, Claude Levi-Strauss and Margaret Mead. Then, if you can even approach Campbell's book or the work of any of these others without vomiting, you have a calling for Cultural Anthro.

Sorry all you Cultural Anthropologists out there.

Saturday, February 25th, 2006, 07:42 PM
Joseph Campbell, ah yes, I had almost forgotten. Anyone even thinking about studying Social-Cultural Anthropology ought to read this book, cover to cover along with Max Weber, James Frazier, Claude Levi-Strauss and Margaret Mead. Then, if you can even approach Campbell's book or the work of any of these others without vomiting, you have a calling for Cultural Anthro.

Sorry all you Cultural Anthropologists out there.

If you're not interested in scienseful approach to Myth's as ancient so modern you might have not written in the thread or did simpler - delete it.
No sorrow, here you go..