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Thread: Joseph Campbell's Monomyth

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    Joseph Campbell's Monomyth

    Hello All,

    I thought I'd come up with a Joseph Campbell thread. I've read most of his books several times over the years and I'd like to see if anyone around here was familiar with his works/concepts and would like to discuss them ? A few of his most popular ideas are..

    The monomyth (often referred to as "the hero's journey") is a description of a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world. This universal pattern was described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).[1] A noted scholar of novelist James Joyce, Campbell borrowed the term monomyth from Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Campbell's insight was that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years, all share a fundamental structure. This fundamental structure contains a number of stages, which includes

    1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline
    2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails
    3. Achieving the goal or "boon", which often results in important self-knowledge
    4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail
    5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world

    In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell wrote:[2] “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

    The classic examples of the monomyth relied upon by Campbell and other scholars include the Buddha, Moses, and Christ stories, although Campbell cites many other classic myths from many cultures which rely upon this basic structure.

    Welcome to

    MonoMyth Video - Hero’s Journey of Beowulf

    This site is devoted to the idea that the Unconscious mind continually sees all things as stories. We live epics, we make all things into dramas and to help to unravel what these stories we are living are, we get clues in the form of our favorite books and stories. Learn to spot the themes and you can live your Myth, rather than having it live you.

    Campbell introduced one of his principal theoretical constructs in the Masks of God series. It was in Occidental Mythology (1964), that Campbell outlined the four functions of myth:

    * First is the metaphysical function. Myth awakens and supports a sense of awe before the mystery of being. It reconciles consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence. Myth induces a realization that behind the surface phenomenology of the world, there is a transcendent mystery source. Through this vitalizing mystical function, the universe becomes a holy picture.

    * The second is a cosmological dimension deals with the image of the world that is the focus of science. This function shows the shape of the universe, but in such a way that the mystery still comes through. The cosmology should correspond to the actual experience, knowledge, and mentality of the culture. This interpretive function changes radically over time. It presents a map or picture of the order of the cosmos and our relationship to it.

    * Third is the sociological function. Myth supports and validates the specific moral order of the society out of which it arose. Particular life-customs of this social dimension, such as ethical laws and social roles, evolve dramatically. This function, and the rites by which it is rendered, establishes in members of the group concerned a system of sentiments that can be depended upon to link that person spontaneously to its ends.

    * The fourth function of myth is psychological. The myths show how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. It is this pedagogical function of mythology that carries the individual through the various stages and crises of life, from childhood dependency, to the responsibilities of maturity, to the reflection of old age, and finally, to death. It helps people grasp the unfolding of life with integrity. It initiates individuals into the order of realities in their own psyches, guiding them toward enrichment and realization.
    Campbell relied often upon the writings of Carl Jung as an explanation of psychological phenomena, as experienced through archetypes. But Campbell did not necessarily agree with Jung upon every issue, and had very definite ideas of his own.

    A fundamental belief of Campbell's was that all spirituality is a search for the same basic, unknown force from which everything came, within which everything currently exists, and into which everything will eventually return. This elemental force is ultimately “unknowable” because it exists before words and knowledge. Although this basic driving force cannot be expressed in words, spiritual rituals and stories refer to the force through the use of "metaphors" - these metaphors being the various stories, deities, and objects of spirituality we see in the world. For example, the Genesis myth in the Bible ought not be taken as a literal description of actual events, but rather its poetic, metaphorical meaning should be examined for clues concerning the fundamental truths of the world and our existence.

    Accordingly, Campbell believed the religions of the world to be the various, culturally influenced “masks” of the same fundamental, transcendent truths. All religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, can bring one to an elevated awareness above and beyond a dualistic conception of reality, or idea of “pairs of opposites,” such as being and non-being, or right and wrong. Indeed, he quotes in the preface of The Hero with a Thousand Faces: "Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names." which is a translation of the Rig Vedic saying "Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanthi."

    Campbell was fascinated with what he viewed as basic, universal truths, expressed in different manifestations across different cultures. For example, in the preface of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he indicated that a goal of his was to demonstrate similarities between Eastern and Western religions. In his four-volume series of books "The Masks of God", Campbell tried to summarize the main spiritual threads common throughout the world. Tied in with this, was his idea that many of the belief systems of the world which expressed these universal truths had a common geographic ancestry, starting off on the fertile grasslands of Europe in the Bronze Age and moving to the Levant and the "Fertile Crescent" of Mesopotamia and back to Europe (and the Far East), where it was mixed with the newly emerging Indo-European (Aryan) culture.

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    Here are some of his books...

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces

    The Masks of God Volume One Primitive Mythology

    The Power of Myth and Myths to Live By can be found here...


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    I love Joseph Campbell, which is odd because I'm generally opposed to the universalist trend towards comparative mythology. Campbell was brilliant though, and managed to analyze each theme in its own light and not drag the subject material down into vague generality. I was particularly knocked out by his commentaries on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival.
    "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
    — Samuel Adams

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    Parzival reminds me of childhood dreams of knighthood. It seems to awaken in me the play-sphere of childhood. Which is necessary for myths to work. Where..

    The literal fact that the apparition is composed of A, a mask, B, its reference to a mythical being, and C, a man, is dismissed from the mind, and the presentation is allowed to work
    without correction upon the sentiments of both the beholder and the actor. Furthermore, it is even possible for a really gifted player to discover that everything absolutely everything has become the body of a god, or reveals the omnipresence of God as the ground of all being.

    Belief or at least a game of belief is the first step toward such a divine seizure.

    Such a highly played game of "as if" frees our mind and spirit, on the one hand, from the presumption of theology, which pretends to know the laws of God, and, on the other, from the bond-
    age of reason, whose laws do not apply beyond the horizon of human experience.

    I am willing to accept the word of Kant, as representing the view of a considerable metaphysician. And applying it to the range of festival games and attitudes just reviewed from the mask to the consecrated host and temple image, transubstantiated worshiper and transubstantiated world I can see, or believe I can see, that a principle of release operates throughout the series by way of the alchemy of an "as if"; and that, through this, the impact of all so-called "reality" upon the psyche is transubstantiated. The play state and the rapturous seizures sometimes deriving from it represent, therefore, a step rather toward than away from the ineluctable truth; and belief acquiescence in a belief that is not quite belief is the first step toward the deepened participation that the festival affords in that general will to life which, in its metaphysical aspect, is antecedent to, and the creator of, all life's laws.

    The opaque weight of the world both of life on earth and of death, heaven, and hell is dissolved, and the spirit freed, not from anything, for there was nothing from which to be freed except a myth too solidly believed, but for something, something fresh and new, a spontaneous act.

    From the position of secular man (Homo sapiens), that is to say, we are to enter the play sphere of the festival, acquiescing in a game of belief, where fun, joy, and rapture rule in ascending series. The laws of life in time and space economics, politics, and even morality will thereupon dissolve. Whereafter, re-created by that return to paradise before the Fall, before the knowledge
    of good and evil, right and wrong, true and false, belief and disbelief, we are to carry the point of view and spirit of man the player (Homo ludens) back into life; as in the play of children, where, undaunted by the banal actualities of life's meager possibilities, the spontaneous impulse of the spirit to identify itself with something other than itself for the sheer delight of play, transubstantiates the world in which, actually, after all, things are not quite as real or permanent, terrible, important, or logical as they seem.

    Surce: Primitive Mythology
    The above explains how myths seem to work for me. By seeing at them, through them, and holding them the same at that time.

    Unique to the human experience is prolonged dependence on parents for survival which can later become a God who establishes an absolute moral order which creates comfort as do the rose buds.

    This is “surpassed” by man as Campbell describes ( in Nietzschean terms ) in his talk of the third function of mythology in Creative Mythology..

    3. The Social Prospect

    Nor is the situation more comforting in the moral, social sphere of our third traditional mythological function: the validation and maintenance of an established order. In the words of the late John Dewey (1859-1952)

    Christianity proffered a fixed revelation of absolute, unchanging Being and truth; and the revelation was elaborated into a system of definite rules and ends for the direction of life. Hence “morals” were conceived as a code of laws, the same everywhere and at all times. The good life was one lived in a fixed adherence to fixed principles.
    In contrast with all such beliefs, the outstanding fact in all branches of natural science is that to exist is to be in process, in change…
    Victorian thought conceived of new conditions as if they merely put in our hands effective instruments for realizing old ideals. The shock and uncertainty so characteristic of the present marks the discovery that the older ideals themselves are undermined. Instead of science and technology giving us better means for bringing them to pass, they are shaking our confidence in all large and comprehensive beliefs and purposes.

    Such a phenomenon is, however, transitory. The impact of the new forces is for the time being negative. Faith in the divine author and authority in which Western civilization confided, inherited ideas of the soul and its destiny, of fixed revelation, of completely stable institutions, of automatic progress, have been made impossible for the cultivated mind of the Western world. It is psychologically natural that the outcome should be a collapse of faith in all fundamental organizing and directive ideas. Skepticism becomes the mark and even the pose of the educated mind. It is the more influential because it is no longer directed against this and that article of the older creeds but is rather a thematic participation on the part of such ideas in the intelligent direction of affairs.
    It is in such a context that a thoroughgoing philosophy of experience, framed in the light of science and technique, has its significance…
    A philosophy of experience will accept at its full value the fact that social and moral existences are, like the physical existences, in a state of continuous if obscure change. It will not try to cover up the fact of inevitable modification, and will make no attempt to set fixed limits to the extent of changes that are to occur. For the futile effort to achieve security and anchorage in something fixed, it will substitute the effort to determine the character of changes that are going on and to give them in the affairs that concern us most some measure of intelligent direction…

    Wherever the thought of fixity rules, that of all-inclusive unity rules also. The popular philosophy of life is filled with desire to attain such an all-embracing unity, and the formal philosophies haved been devoted to an intellectual fulfillment of the desire. Consider the place occupied in popular thought by search for the meaning of life and the purpose of the universe. Men who look for single purport and a single end either frame an idea of them according to their private desires and tradition, or else, not finding any such single unity, give up in despair and conclude that there is no genuine meaning and value of life’s episodes.
    The alternatives are not exhaustive, however. There is no need of deciding between no meaning at all and on single, all poses in the situations with which are confronted-one, so to say, for each situation. Each offers its own challenge to thought and endeavor, and presents its own potential value.

    In sum: the individual is no on his own. “It is all untrue! Anything goes!” (Nietzsche). The dragon “Thou Shalt!” has been slain-for us all. Therin the danger! Anfortas too was installed thorough no deed, no virtue of his own, upon the seat of power: Lord of the World Center, which, as Cusanus knew, is in each. The wheel on the head of the Bodhisattva, revolving with its painful cutting edge : Who can bear it? Who can teach us to bear it as a crown, not of thorns, but of laurel: the wreath of our own Lady Orgeluse?

    The nihilist’s question, “Why?” {wrote Nietzsche} is a product of his earlier habitude of expecting an aim to be given, to be set for him, from without- I.e. by some superhuman authority or other. When he has learned not to believe in such a thing, he goes on, just the same, from habit, looking for another authority of some kind that will be able to speak unconditionally and set goals and tasks by command. The authority of Conscience now is the first to present itself (the more emancipated from theology, the more imperative morality becomes) as compensation for a personal authority. Or the authority of Reason. Or the Social Instinct ( the herd ). Or History, with an immanent spirit that has a goal of its own, to which one can give oneself. One wants, by all means, to get around having to will, to desire a goal, to set up a goal for oneself: one wants to avoid the responsibility (-accepting fatalism ). Finally: Happiness, and with a certain Tartuffe, the Happiness of the Majority.
    One says to oneself: 1. A definite goal is unnecessary, 2. Is impossible to foresee.
    And so, precisely when what is required is Will in its highest power, it is at its weakest and most faint-hearted, in Absolute Mistrust of the Organizational Force of the Will-to-be-a-Whole.

    Nihilism is of two faces:
    A. Nihilism, as the sign of a heightened power of the spirit: active nihilism.
    B. Nihilism, as a decline and regression of the power of the spirit: passive nihilism.
    Attempts to escape from nihilism without transvaluing earlier values only bring about opposite escape: a sharpening of the problem.

    Pages 621-623 Creative Mythology
    Thanks to Mrs. Lyfing for typing that..

    A Key notion is that supernormal sign stimuli is artwork and changes/affects species..

    Chicks with their eggshells still adhering to their tails dart for
    cover when a hawk flies overhead, but not when the bird is a gull
    or duck, heron or pigeon. Furthermore, if the wooden model of a
    hawk is drawn over their coop on a wire, they react as though
    it were alive unless it be drawn backward, when there is no re-

    Page 31 Primitive Mythology

    It was found, for instance, that the male of a certain butterfly
    known as the grayling (Eumenis semele), which assumes the ini-
    tiative in mating by pursuing a passing female in flight, generally
    prefers females of darker hue to those of lighter and to such a
    degree that if a model of even darker hue than anything known in
    nature is presented, the sexually motivated male will pursue it in
    preference even to the darkest female of the species.

    "Here we find," writes Professor Portmann, in comment, "an
    'inclination' that is not satisfied in nature, but which perhaps, one
    day, if inheritable darker mutations should appear, would play a
    role in the selection of mating partners. Who knows whether such
    anticipations of particular sign stimuli may not play their part in
    the support and furthering of new variants, inasmuch as they
    may represent one of the factors in the process of selection that
    determines the direction of evolution?" "

    Obviously the human female, with her talent for play, recog-
    nized many millenniums ago the power of the supernormal sign
    stimulus: cosmetics for the heightening of the lines of her eyes have
    been found among the earliest remains of the Neolithic Age. And
    from there to an appreciation of the force of ritualization, hieratic
    art, masks, gladiatorial vestments, kingly robes, and every other
    humanly conceived and realized improvement of nature, is but a
    step or a natural series of steps.

    Page 43 Primitive Mythology

    Nor are we ready, yet, to say whether the obvious, and some-
    times very striking, physical differences of the human races repre-
    sent significant variations of their innate releasing mechanisms.
    Among the animals such differences do exist in fact, changes in
    the IRMs of the major instincts appear to be among the first
    things affected by mutation.

    For example, as Tinbergen observes:

    The herring gull (Larus argentatus) and the lesser black-
    backed gull (L. fuscus) in north-western Europe are con-
    sidered to be extremely diverged geographical races of one
    species, which, having developed by geographical isolation,
    have come into contact again by expansion of their ranges.
    The two forms show many differences in behavior; L. fuscus
    is a definite migrant, traveling to south-western Europe in
    autumn, whereas L. argentatus is of a much more resident
    habit. L. fuscus is much more a bird of the open sea than
    L. argentatus. The breeding-seasons are different. One be-
    havior difference is specially interesting. Both forms have two
    alarm calls, one expressing alarm of relatively low intensity,
    the other indicative of extreme alarm. L. argentatus gives the
    high-intensity alarm call much more rarely than L. fuscus. The
    result is that most disturbances are reacted to differently by
    the two forms. When a human intruder enters a mixed colony,
    the herring gulls will almost always utter the low-intensity call,
    while L. fuscus utters the high-intensity call. This difference,
    based upon a shift of degree in the threshold of alarm calls,
    gives the impression of a qualitative difference in the alarm
    calls of the two forms, such as might well lead to the total dis-
    appearance of one call in one species, of the other in the
    second species, and thus result in a qualitative difference in
    the motor-equipment. Apart from this difference in threshold,
    there is a difference in the pitch of each call. 13

    Between the various human races differences have been noted
    that suggest psychological as well as merely physiological varia-
    tion; differences, for example, in their rates of maturing, as Geza
    Roheim has indicated in his vigorous work on Psychoanalysis and
    Anthropology. 1 * However, it is still far from legitimate, on the
    basis of the mere scraps of controlled observation that have been
    recorded, to make any such broad generalizations about intellectual
    ability and moral character as are common in discussions of this
    subject. Furthermore, within the human species there is such broad
    variation of innate capacity from individual to individual that gen-
    eralizations on a racial basis lose much of their point.

    Page 45 Primitive Mythology
    Now back to Parzival..

    C G. Jung, for example, identifies two fundamentally different
    systems of unconsciously motivated response in the human being.
    One he terms the personal unconscious. It is based on a context
    of forgotten, neglected, or suppressed memory images derived from
    personal experience (infantile impressions, shocks, frustrations, satisfactions, etc.), such as Sigmund Freud recognized and analyzed
    in his therapy. The other he names the collective unconscious. Its
    contents which he calls archetypes are just such images as that
    of the hawk in the nervous system of the chick. No one, has yet
    been able to tell us how it got there; but there it is!

    "A personal image," he writes, "has neither archaic character
    nor collective significance, but expresses unconscious contents of
    a personal nature and a personally conditioned conscious inclina-

    "The primary image (urtumliches Bz'W), which I have termed
    'archetype/, is always collective, i.e. common to at least whole
    peoples or periods of history. The chief mythological motifs of all
    times and races are very probably of this order; for example, in
    the dreams and fantasies of neurotics of pure Negro stock I have
    been able to identify a series of motifs of Greek mythology.

    "The primary image," he then suggests, "is a memory deposit,
    an engram, derived from a condensation of innumerable similar
    experiences . . . the psychic expression of an anatomically, physi-
    ologically determined natural tendency." *

    Jung's idea of the "archetypes" is one of the leading theories,
    today, in the field of our subject. It is a development of the earlier
    theory of Adolf Bastian (1826-1905), who recognized, in the
    course of his extensive travels, the uniformity of what he termed
    the "elementary ideas" (Elementargedanke) of mankind. Remark-
    ing also, however, that in the various provinces of human culture
    these ideas are differently articulated and elaborated, he coined
    the term "ethnic ideas" (Volkergedanke) for the actual, local
    manifestations of the universal forms. Nowhere, he noted, are the
    "elementary ideas" to be found in a pure state, abstracted from
    the locally conditioned "ethnic ideas" through which they are sub-
    stantialized; but rather, like the image of man himself , they are
    to be known only by way of the rich variety of their extremely
    interesting, frequently startling, yet always finally recognizable
    inflections in the panorama of human life.

    Two possibilities of emphasis are implicit in this observation of
    Bastian. The first we may term the psychological and the second
    the ethnological; and these can be taken to represent, broadly, the
    two contrasting points of view from which scientists, scholars, and
    philosophers have approached our subject.

    "First," wrote Bastian, "the idea as such must be studied . . .
    and as second factor, the influence of climatic-geological condi-
    tions." 2 Only after that, as a third factor, according to his view,
    could the influence upon one another of the various ethnic tradi-
    tions throughout the course of history be profitably surveyed. Bas-
    tian, that is to say, stressed the psychological, spontaneous aspect
    of culture as primary; and this approach has been the usual one
    of biologists, medical men, and psychologists to the present day.
    Briefly stated, it assumes that there is in the structure and func-
    tioning of the psyche a certain degree of spontaneity and conse-
    quent uniformity throughout the history and domain of the human
    species an order of psychological laws inhering in the structure
    of the body, which has not radically altered since the period of the
    Aurignacian caves and can be as readily identified in the jungles
    of Brazil as in the cafes of Paris, as readily in the igloos of Baffin
    Land as in the harems of Marrakech.

    Pages 31-33 Primitive Mythology

    The norms of myth, understood in the way rather of the “elementary ideas” (marga) than of the “ethnic” (desi), recognized, as in the Domitilla Ceiling (Figure 1), through an intelligent “making use” not of one mythology only but af all of the dead and set0fast symbologies of the past, will enable the individual to anticipate and activate in himself the centers of his own creative imagination, out of which his own myth and life-building “Yes because” may then unfold. But in the end, as in the case of Parzival, the guide within will be his own noble heart alond, and the guide without, the image of beauty, the radiance of divinity, that wakes in his heart amor; the deepest, inmost seed of his nature, consubstantial with the process of the all, “thus come.” and in this life-creative adventure the criterion of achievement will be, as in every one of the tales here reviewed, the courage to let go the past, with its truths, its goals, its dogmas of “meaning.” and its gifts: to die to the world and to come to birth from within.

    Pages 677-678 Creative Mythology
    This seems like Nietzsche’s “Will to Power”…


    Can love in the romantic sense between individuals with “free will” be supernormal sign stimuli..“the guiding spiritual force of the European West”…

    The point for now, rather, is that in the syndrome of ideas here presented as a unit we have the earliest definition of the sucular mythology that is today the guiding spiritual force of the European West. Theologians seem not even to realize that this mythology exists and is the functioning religion of many of their parishioners, mumbling incredible credos in their pews.

    The Grail here, as in the later Queste, is the symbol of supreme spiritual value. It is attained, however, not by renouncing the world or even current social custom, but, on the contrary , by participation with every ounce of one’s force in the century’s order of life in the way or ways dictated by one’s own uncorrupted heart: what the mystics call the Inner Voice. Trevrizent’s observation that a miracle had come to pass, in as much as Parzival had forced God by defiance to make his Trinity grant his will, touched the quick of the teaching: the anagogy, the metaphysical san, of this exemplary Gothic tale. According to its revelation, sprung from the heart and heartland of the European west, the moral initiative in the field of time is of man, not God; and not of man as species, or as member of some divinely ordained consensus, but of each one separately, as an individual, self-moved in self-consistent action. That is the meaning in our west of the term “free will.”

    Page 564 Creative Mythology

    “combined in himself the energies of the two spheres, the worldly sphere of desires, and the higher one of the purely spiritual adventure,” so , relating these two marriages we may see in that of Gawain and Orgeluse a combination of the energies of both: the imperfect, of marriage in this life on earth, and the perfect, of the ideal it intends; the normal and the supernormal image of that mystery of love, wherein each is both.)

    Page 569 Creative Mythology


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    Here is Campbell telling the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I think it illustrates some of the things I touched upon in the previous post..

    ...We must constantly die one way or another to the selfhood already achieved.

    MOYERS: Do you have a story that illustrates this?

    CAMPBELL: Well, the old English tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a famous one. One day a green giant came riding on a great green horse into King Arthur's dining hall. "I challenge anyone here," he cried, "to take this great battle-ax that I carry and cut off my head, and then, one year from today, meet me at the Green Chapel, where I shall cut off his head."
    The only knight in the hall who had the courage to accept this incongruous invitation was Gawain. He arose from the table, the Green Knight got off his horse, handed Gawain the ax, stuck out his neck, and Gawain with a single stroke chopped off his head. The Green Knight stood up, picked up his head, took back the ax, climbed onto his horse, and as he rode away called back to the astonished Gawain, "I'll see you in a year."
    That year everybody was very kind to Gawain. A fortnight or so before the term of the adventure, he rode off to search for the Green Chapel and keep faith with the giant Green Knight. As the date approached, with about three days to go, Gawain found himself before a hunter's cabin, where he asked the way to the Green Chapel. The hunter, a pleasant, genial fellow, met him at the door and replied, "Well, the Chapel is just down the way, a few hundred yards. Why not spend your next three days here with us? We'd love to have you. And when your time comes, your green friend is just down the way."
    So Gawain says okay. And the hunter that evening says to him, "Now, early tomorrow I'm going off hunting, but I'll be back in the evening, when we shall exchange our winnings of the day. I'll give you everything I get on the hunt, and you give me whatever will have come to you." They laugh, and that was fine with Gawain. So they all retire to bed.
    In the morning, early, the hunter rides off while Gawain is still asleep. Presently, in comes the hunter's extraordinarily beautiful wife, who tickles Gawain under the chin, and wakes him, and passionately invites him to a morning of love. Well, he is a knight of King Arthur's court, and to betray his host is the last thing such a knight can stoop to, so Gawain sternly resists. However, she is insistent and makes more and more of an issue of this thing, until finally she says to him, "Well then, let me give you just one kiss!" So she gives him one large smack. And that was that.
    That evening, the hunter arrives with a great haul of all kinds of small game, throws it on the floor, and Gawain gives him one large kiss. They laugh, and that, too, was that.
    The second morning, the wife again comes into the room, more passionate than ever, and the fruit of that encounter is two kisses. The hunter in the evening returns with about half as much game as before and receives two kisses, and again they laugh.
    On the third morning, the wife is glorious, and Gawain, a young man about to meet his death, has all he can do to keep his head and retain his knightly honor, with this last gift before him of the luxury of life. This time, he accepts three kisses. And when she has delivered these, she begs him, as a token of her love, to accept her garter. "It is charmed," she says, "and will protect you against every danger." So Gawain accepts the garter.
    And when the hunter returns with just one silly, smelly fox, which he tosses onto the floor, he receives in exchange three kisses from Gawain -- but no garter.
    Do we not see what the tests are of this young knight Gawain? They are the same as the first two of Buddha. One is of desire, lust. The other is of the fear of death. Gawain had proved courage enough in just keeping his faith with this adventure. However, the garter was just one temptation too many.
    So when Gawain is approaching the Green Chapel, he hears the Green Knight there, whetting the great ax-whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff. Gawain arrives, and the giant simply says to him, "Stretch your neck out here on this block." Gawain does so, and the Green Knight lifts the ax, but then pauses. "No, stretch it out -- a little more," he says. Gawain does so, and again the giant elevates the great ax. "A little more," he says once again. Gawain does the best he can and then whiffff -- only giving Gawain's neck one little scratch. Then the Green Knight, who is in fact the hunter himself transfigured, explains, "That's for the garter."
    This, they say, is the origin legend of the order of the Knights of the Garter.

    MOYERS: And the moral of the story?

    CAMPBELL: The moral, I suppose, would be that the first requirements for a heroic career are the knightly virtues of loyalty, temperance, and courage. The loyalty in this case is of two degrees or commitments: first, to the chosen adventure, but then, also, to the ideals of the order of knighthood. Now, this second commitment seems to put Gawain's way in opposition to the way of the Buddha, who when ordered by the Lord of Duty to perform the social duties proper to his caste, simply ignored the command, and that night achieved illumination as well as release from rebirth. Gawain is a European and, like Odysseus, who remained true to the earth and returned from the Island of the Sun to his marriage with Penelope, he has accepted, as the commitment of his life, not release from but loyalty to the values of life in this world. And yet, as we have just seen, whether following the middle way of the Buddha or the middle way of Gawain, the passage to fulfillment lies between the perils of desire and fear.
    A third position, closer than Gawain's to that of the Buddha, yet loyal still to the values of life on this earth, is that of Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra. In a kind of parable, Nietzsche describes what he calls the three transformations of the spirit. The first is that of the camel, of childhood and youth. The camel gets down on his knees and says, "Put a load on me." This is the season for obedience, receiving instruction and the information your society requires of you in order to live a responsible life.
    But when the camel is well loaded, it struggles to its feet and runs out into the desert, where it is transformed into a lion -- the heavier the load that had been carried, the stronger the lion will be. Now, the task of the lion is to kill a dragon, and the name of the dragon is "Thou shalt." On every scale of this scaly beast, a "thou shalt" is imprinted: some from four thousand years ago; others from this morning's headlines. Whereas the camel, the child, had to submit to the "thou shalts," the lion, the youth, is to throw them off and come to his own realization.
    And so, when the dragon is thoroughly dead, with all its "thou shalts" overcome, the lion is transformed into a child moving out of its own nature, like a wheel impelled from its own hub. No more rules to obey. No more rules derived from the historical needs and tasks of the local society, but the pure impulse to living of a life in flower.

    The Power of Myth, Pages 188-191


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    Here is Campbell talking again of the importance of living life in this world ..
    Returning, however, to Voluspo--which Wagner took as inspiration for his Gotterdammerung--we find that there the universe itself unfolds from within, organically, to its day of doom, when Garm, the dog of Hel, howls before the “Cliff-Cave,” Hel’s gate, giants, dwarfs, and elves break free, and the gods ( already knowing, as they do, the destiny before them ) go to meet in mutual slaughter those monsters of the deep, at the close of the age.

    And so too the old King Beowulf, and the dragon of his doom, at the close of his life:

    “Not a foot’s length,” he said, “will I give back from the keeper of the barrow, but as Wyrd may grant, the ruler of all men, so shall it befall us in the fight.” And rising, strong beneath his helm, he carried his battle sark to the stony steps, where beneath a wall and arch of stone, a stream, streaming with battle fires, was pouring from the barrow. The old king let sound his voice, and for the treasure warden within there was time no more for peace.

    First the monster’s breath, fuming hot, broke forth; the earth resounded; and the warrior, strong of heart, swung up his battle-shield for what was destined. The dragon coiled and came: at first slowly moving, then hastening, until, smitten by the sworld, he cast forth a deadly fire and the blade gave up its strength. ( No easy journey is it now to be for that old King of the Geats, who must leave this earth plain unwillingly to make his home in a dwilling somewhere else. And so must every man lay aside the days that pass ) Again the two became engaged.

    And it was then that a young shield-warrior, Wiglaf, perceiving his lord hard laboring, moving into the slaughter-reek, bore his helmet to his lord’s side. But his shield immediately melted, and the spoiler of the people, with bitter fangs, took Beowulf’s whole throat, whose blood gushed forth in waves. Wiglaf struck the dragon’s neck; his sword sank in, the fire failed: the old king drew from his burnie a dagger, and those two together cut the worm in two.

    But that was the last triumphant hour of that king in this world; for the poison within was rising in his breast. “ Dear Wiglaf, quickly now,” he said, “help me to see this old treasure of gold, the gladness of its bright jewels, curiously set, that I may yield my life the more easily and the lordship I have held so long.”

    As a number of commentators have remarked, there was nothing of the Christian spirit in this noble death: no thought of sin, forgiveness, or Heaven, but the old Germanic virtues only of loyalty and courage, pride in the performance of duty, and, for a king, selfless, fatherly care for his people’s good. Beowulf’s joy, furthermore, in the sight of the earthly treasure is even decidedly un-Christian; for the work is everywhere alive with love for the wonder of life in this world, with not a word of either anxiety or desire for the next.

    Creative Mythology Pages 122-123


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    In Primitive Mythology Joseph Campbell writes..

    Still another profoundly important structuring system of ex-
    periences that can be said, without question, to constitute a pattern
    of imprints on our own readiness for life is that of the normal
    stages of human growth and emotional susceptibility, from the
    moment of birth to that of death and the stench of decay. A great
    deal of excellent writing on this subject has been produced
    recently by the various authorities on child psychology , and
    psychoanalysis, so that to review the whole matter in detail would
    be only to repeat what is already very well known. However, I am
    not aware of any work that has yet drawn attention in systematic
    series to the mythological motifs developed from the imprints of
    this sociologized biology of human growth.

    As we have noted, it requires twenty years for the human
    organism to mature, and during the greater part of this develop-
    ment it is dependent, utterly, upon parental care. There follows a
    period of another twenty years or so of maturity, after which the
    signs of age begin to appear. But the human being is the only
    animal capable of knowing death as the end inevitable for itself,
    and the span of old age for this' human organism, consciously
    facing death, is a period of years longer than the whole lifetime
    of any other primate. So we see three at least three distinct
    periods of growth and susceptibility to imprint as inevitable in a
    human biography: (1) childhood and youth, with its uncouth
    charm; (2) maturity, with its competence and authority; and (3)
    wise old age, nursing its own death and gazing back, either with
    love or with rancor, at the fading world.

    It has been the chief function of much of the mythological lore
    and ritual practice of our species to carry the mind, feelings, and
    powers of action of the individual across the critical thresholds
    from the two decades of infancy to adulthood, and from old age
    to death; to supply the sign stimuli adequate to release the life
    energies of the one who is no longer what he was for his new task,
    the new phase, in a manner appropriate to the well-being of the
    group. And so we find, on the one hand, as a constant factor in
    these "rites of passage," the inevitable, and therefore universal,
    requirements of the human individual at the particular junctures,
    and on the other hand, as a cultural variable, the historically
    conditioned requirements and beliefs of the local group. This gives
    that interesting quality of seeming to be ever the same, though
    ever changing, to the kaleidoscope of world mythology, which may
    charm our poets and artists but is a nightmare for the mind that
    seeks to classify. And yet, with a steady eye, even the phantas-
    magoria of a nightmare can be catalogued to a degree.

    The remaining sections of the present chapter develop, therefore,
    in the way of a tentative, preliminary sketch, the main lines and
    phases of what would appear to have been up to the present
    moment, at least the chief sources of imprint in the course of
    the archetypal biography of man.

    A fifth and culminating syndrome of imprints of this kind, mixed
    of outer and inner impacts, is that of the long and variously argued
    Oedipus complex, which, according to the orthodox Freudian
    school, is normally established in the growing child at the age of
    about five or six, and thereafter constitutes the primary constel-
    lating pattern of all impulse, thought and feeling, imaginative art,
    philosophy, mythology and religion, scientific research, sanity and
    madness. The claim for the universality of this complex has been
    vigorously challenged by a number of anthropologists; for example,
    Bronislaw Malinowski, who, in his work on Sex and Repression in
    Savage Society declares, "The crux of the difficulty lies in the fact
    that to psychoanalysts the Oedipus complex is something absolute,
    the primordial source ... the fons et origo of everything. , . .
    I cannot conceive of the complex as the unique source of culture,
    of organization and belief," he goes on then to say; "as the meta-
    physical entity, creative, but not created, prior to all things and not
    caused by anything else." 30 Geza Roheim, on the other hand,
    replied in defense of Freud in a strong rebuttal, 31 to which, as far as
    I know, there has been no response. However, since our problem
    for the present is not that of the ultimate force or extent in time
    and space of this imprint, but that simply of the possibility of its
    derivation from infantile experience, we may say that whether it is
    quite as universal as strict Freudians believe, or significantly
    modified in force and character according to the sociology of the
    tribe or family in question, the fact remains that at about the age of
    five or six the youngster becomes implicated imaginatively (in our
    culture world, at least) in a ridiculous tragi-comedy that we may
    term "the family romance."

    In its classical Freudian structuring, this Oedipal romance
    consists in the more or less unconscious wish of the boy to
    eliminate his father (Jack-the-Giant-Killer motif) and be alone
    with his mother; but with a correlative fear, which is also more or
    less unconscious, of a punishing castration by the father. And so
    here, at last, the imprint of the Father has entered the psychological
    picture of the growing child in the way of a dangerous ogre. As
    R6heim represents the case in his study of the psychology of
    primitive warfare, the father is the first enemy, and every enemy
    is symbolic of the father; S2 indeed, "whatever is killed becomes
    father." 33 Hence certain aspects of the headhunting rites, to which
    we shall presently be turning; hence, too, the rites of the paleolithic
    hunters in connection with the killing and eating of their totem

    For the girl, the corresponding Freudian formula is that of the
    legend of Electra. She is her mother's rival for the father's love,
    living in fear that the ogress may kill him and draw herself back
    into the web of the nightmare of that presexual cannibal feast
    (formerly paradise!) of the bambino and madonna. For times
    have changed, and it is now the little girl herself who is to play the
    madonna to a brood of dolls.

    Since the following chapters furnish abundant instances of this
    romance of a Lilliputian and two giants, we need not pause to
    document it here, but observe, simply, that one example has already
    been supplied in the episode of Killer-of-Enemies (the boy hero),
    Kicking Monster (the father-ogre), and the Four Vagina Girls
    (who are dangerous in the father's service but susceptible of
    domestication) . Four is a ritual number in American Indian lore,
    referring to the four directions of the universe, and appears in this
    story because the figures have no personal, or historical, but rather
    a cosmic mythological reference. The girls are personifications of
    an aspect of the mystery of life.

    And so, finally, to conclude this brief sketch of the Freudian
    notion of the family romance and ite variations, the reaction of the
    very young male who vaguely senses that his mother is a temptress,
    seducing his imagination to incest and parricide, may be to hide his
    feelings from his own thoughts by assuming the compensatory,
    negative attitude of a Hamlet a mental posture of excessive sub-
    mission to the jurisdiction of the father (atonement theme), to-
    gether with a fierce rejection of the female and all the associated
    charms of the world (the fleshpots of Egypt, whore of Babylon,

    Yea, from the table of my memory

    I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,

    All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

    That youth and observation copied there;

    And thy commandment all alone shall live

    Within the book and volume of my brain,

    Unmixed with baser matter: yes, by heaven!

    O most pernicious woman!

    O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! 34

    Here we are on the way to the worship of the omnipotent father
    alone, monkdom, puritanism, Platonism, celibate clergies, homo-
    sexuality, and all the rest. And there is much of this, too, to be
    found in the chapters to come.

    For as long as the nuclear unit of human life has been a man,
    woman, and child, the maturing consciousness has had to come
    to a knowledge of its world through the medium of this heavily
    loaded, biologically based triangle of love and aggression, desire
    and fear, dependency, command, and the urge for release. It is
    a cooky-mold competent to shape the most recalcitrant dough. So
    that, even should it finally be shown, somehow, that the human
    nervous system is without innate form, we should still not be sur-
    prised to find in all mythology an order of sign stimuli derived
    from the engrams of these inevitables.


    1. Introduction

    The figures of mythology and literature embody a plethora of human facets, and
    allow us to observe various aspects of our psyches as they stand before us,
    interact, and live out the implications of their essence. Since Freud's 'The
    Interpretation of Dreams', psychoanalysis has also employed such a myth: that
    of Oedipus Rex. The present essay attempts to develop other dramatis personae
    of the structural mind, elucidating an antithetical relationship of Jesus
    Christ to Oedipus, and exploring its psychoanalytic and philosophic
    implications. This exploration brings us to a fuller appreciation of the
    symmetry of the structural theory, deriving the association of Christ with the
    superego, and deducing from the structural theory the presence of a Christ
    complex. By understanding Oedipus as an anti-Christ, we are given access to
    Nietzschean philosophy, and more explicitly develop the conceptual relationship
    between Nietzsche and Freud via the figure of Zarathustra.

    Christ and Oedipus stand as two mythical kings, with a remarkable and
    henceforth obscure relationship to one another. From birth to death, we find a
    number of striking parallels and anti-parallels. Both Oedipus and Christ were
    born under unique circumstances, with the identity of their parents cloaked in
    obscurity. Oedipus was taken away from his parents in order to thwart
    infanticide and the oracle's prophecy that he would slay his father and lay
    with his mother. Thus was it unknown to Oedipus that his father and mother were
    king and queen of Thebes. The identity of Christ's parents were also obscured,
    and in a similar fashion it was initially unknown that Christ's father was the
    King of Kings, and his mother the holiest of holy. Oedipus and Christ were both
    unwitting heirs to a throne, and each was destined for a unique kingdom.

    Christ and Oedipus ultimately developed an antiparallel relationship to their
    parents: their respective triads were diametrically opposed. The father of
    Oedipus realized his mortality at the hands of his son, and his mother Iocaste
    subsequently had a directly sexual relationship with him. The father of Christ,
    however, was immortal, and his mother was virginal despite her conception and
    delivery. Oedipus destroyed the father and achieved union with the mother,
    while Christ shunned the mother and achieved union with the father. Oedipus
    destroyed the will of the father in order to inherit his kingdom, while Christ
    acquiesced to the will of the father in order to inherit his. Oedipus
    accomplished a worldly kingdom by the assertion of his will, while Christ
    accomplished a spiritual kingdom by the renunciation of his. We can observe
    that even the conclusions of each myth are anti-parallel. Oedipus was
    ultimately punished for affirming his will, while Christ achieved immortality
    for the renunciation of his. Christ and Oedipus thus appear in a state of
    dialectical antagonism with respect to one another.

    2. Christ contra Oedipus/ Superego contra Id

    The relationship of Christ to Oedipus has interesting implications both
    analytically and philosophically. We may first conceive of Christ as an
    anti-Oedipus, with particular respect to the structural theory of the mind.
    Oedipus may be thought to represent the libidinal drives of the id (viz. eros
    and thanatos), and has achieved satisfaction of these drives despite the
    socially organizing principles of family. I posit that as Oedipus is associated
    with the id, so should Christ be associated with the superego. It does not seem
    controversial to introduce a religious figure as the embodiment of the
    superego, for it is posited to be a source of our notion of perfection, as well
    as our moral compass and conscience. Like the Christ figure who strives for
    union with the Father, the superego too, according to Freud, represents a
    "longing for the father." In addition to sharing characteristics with the
    superego, Christ also satisfies a further requirement: as the superego is
    antithetical to the id, so should the embodiment of the superego be
    antithetical to the embodiment of the id. Unlike other religious figures,
    Christ both instantiates the principles of the superego and is antithetical to
    the id's Oedipus. Thus, dynamic elements of the structural theory may be played
    out in the personae of Christ and Oedipus.

    By virtue of symmetry with the Oedipal complex, we may posit the existence of a
    Christ complex. The id-affirming activity of Oedipus is anathema to social and
    familial organization of the external world (in short, the reality principle),
    and the mythical Oedipus encounters demise because of it. We must note in the
    myth, however, that Oedipus does enjoy a degree of success and actualization
    because of his behavior in that he did acquire and serve the kingdom of
    Thebes--his will to power was satisfied. Simply stated, the drives of the id
    can and do bring about vitality, health, and success. While the superego
    appropriately counterbalances the drives of the id to achieve equilibrium, it
    is conceivable that these activities may also function pathologically, viz. one
    may overcome one's drives to the point of debilitation. The superego may drive
    an individual to an aberrant point of guilt (wanting, for example, to suffer
    for the sins of the world), to the idealistic and false notion that one's
    parents are perfect (my father is a God, my mother is without sin), and to the
    masochistic impulse that one must be crucified--if need be--in order to please

    The Christ figure--as a personification of the superego--demonstrates a
    situation in which an individual is so acquiescent to the will of another (in
    this case, God the Father) that he loses his very life before he will assert
    his own will. Like the Oedipus myth, the Christ myth also presents
    heterogeneous results: Christ is punished by crucifixion, but is then rewarded
    by resurrection and ascension. Considering the "morals" to each myth
    collectively, we note that some form of balance between these two poles must be
    achieved, as we would state for the relationship of the id to the superego.

    3. Oedipus as Anti-Christ: the Relationship to Nietzsche's Zarathustra

    In the previous section we considered Christ as an anti-Oedipus, but now we
    shall consider Oedipus as an anti-Christ. The concept of an "anti-Christ," as
    well as the earlier suggestion that unbalanced Christ-like attributes are the
    mark of pathology rather than perfection, hearken us back to the work of
    Nietzsche. The antagonism of Christ and Oedipus bears an interesting
    relationship to Nietzsche's Zarathustra, and suggests a novel Nietzschean
    interpretation of Sophocles.

    Zarathustra's name is a European modification of the ancient Persian Zoroaster,
    from whom the religion zoroastrianism is derived, a religion that asserts the
    near equal balance of good and evil gods. Zarathustra was the protagonist of
    Nietzsche's work 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra', an innovative literary-philosophical
    treatise published in four parts. Zarathustra, who retreated to the mountains at
    the age of thirty, has descended ten years later to share his insight with the
    people. Zarathustra is clearly presented as a quasi-religious figure, and
    delivers speeches that oftentimes reveal a formal--if not substantive--unity
    with those of Christ. Of course, Nietzsche made no secret of his fervent
    anti-Christian sentiments, and in fact hailed himself as the anti-Christ.

    In various respects, Oedipus and Zarathustra stand in opposition to Christ, but
    what is their relationship to one other? Is there some order to the triad of
    Christ, Oedipus, and Zarathustra? I posit that these three personae bear a
    triadic relationship to one another that possesses a formal unity to the three
    spiritual metamorphoses introduced in the Prologue of 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'.
    In the Prologue, Nietzsche describes three metamorphoses of the spirit, which
    take the form of the camel, the lion, and the child. The strength and the role
    of the camel is to bear the burden of old values--it acquiesces to the value
    system to which it is heir. The first metamorphosis transforms the camel into a
    lion, who proves victorious in the battle against tradition's value-laden
    dragon. The dragon is described as being covered with scales that read "thou
    shalt," while the lion battles with the "I will." By conquering the dragon, the
    lion can only create conditions for the creation of new values, but is incapable
    of creating values itself. This is the task of the allegorical child, who looks
    upon life freshly, and is able to be the creator of new values.

    It is likely that the camel is representative of the Christian (if not Christ
    himself), who, in Nietzsche's perspective, accepts and bears the yoke of slave
    morality, as well as the mediocre culture of Christian pity. Nietzsche calls,
    ironically, for a move forward to the pre-Christian and pre-Socratic value
    schema, and looks to the Greek concept of virtue, as well as the "master
    morality" he describes in 'Beyond Good and Evil'. Thus, the camel must
    metamorphosize into the lion who is able to assert its own will and conquer
    inherited values, although it may not yet be able to create its own. I suggest
    that Oedipus is this lion in the desert. "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt honor
    thy mother and father" speaks the dragon: Oedipus replies "I will" and is
    exalted for it. Oedipus has killed the father, and it is this id-like Oedipal
    spirit that has similarly killed God the Father. "God is dead" announces
    Zarathustra, and it is the Oedipal spirit of man who is the murderer.

    This Oedipal persona, he who has killed the father, is powerful but nonetheless
    limited. Like the lion of the three metamorphoses, he can slay the dragon of old
    values but lacks the capability of creating new ones. This deficit derives from
    the fact that, like the 19th century European intellectual climate of
    Nietzsche's time, Oedipus cannot face the truth with his eyes open.
    Nietzsche's fear for European thought is rooted in the terror of man after the
    realization that God is dead, and that we have killed him. When the
    metanarrative of scientific truth collapses in a similar fashion, man is
    destined for nihilism. When Oedipus realizes his own truth, he too retreats to
    the comforting darkness of nihilism by plucking out his eyes. Thus can we see
    this Sophoclean tragedy in Nietzschean terms. Nietzsche, however, demands that
    man go further, that he overcome himself, that he see the truths and the lies
    while still opening his eyes to say Yes to life. Zarathustra is this child. The
    hermit who encounters Zarathustra on his descent from the mountain back to the
    world of man (a descent that is reminiscent of the philosopher's return to the
    cave in Plato's Republic) recognizes his awakening, saying: "Zarathustra has
    changed, Zarathustra has become a child, Zarathustra is an awakened one; what
    do you now want among the sleepers?" Zarathustra understands and accepts the
    death of God, but still abides by the wisdom of the earth with an affirming
    Yes. In this is he free for the task of valuation, the task of the child in the
    final metamorphosis.

    It is perhaps strange that we even speak of a progression when in fact the
    movement of these mythical figures moves backwards in time, from Christ at
    the beginning of the first millennium, to Oedipus in the 5th century B.C., to
    Zarathustra (derived from the Persian figure Zoroaster) who dates back to two
    millennia B.C. We start at the phase of the camel, at the Christian phase,
    because that is where Nietzsche finds our cultural spirit. It would not be
    consistent with Nietzsche to envision a linear progression toward some future
    uebermensch, but rather more likely that the metamorphosis of the spirit is
    something that goes back to or recurs, a prominent notion in Nietzschean

    4. The Zarathustrian Ego and its Relationship to the Structural Theory

    Given that the id is Oedipal, and the superego is Christ-like, could we reason
    backwards from the myth and consider an undescribed or perhaps unactualized
    structural element that is Zarathustrian? Is this mystery of Zarathustra not a
    historical figure resulting from the cultural evolution of man, but rather a
    psychological state that we ourselves may achieve when we synthesize the
    antagonism of Christ and Oedipus? If the ego is a battlefield of the id and
    superego, could the Zarathustrian ego be the battle already won?

    According to Freud, it is through the ego we have our primary connection to the
    world through perception, and it is the ego that ultimately mediates the
    presence or reality of the external world within the mind. It is further
    responsible for censorship and repression into the unconscious, and attempts to
    achieve control of the id. Finally, it is important to recognize that the
    superego is a modification of the ego in response to the Oedipal drives of the
    id. How would the Zarathustrian ego compare? As an embodiment of the
    Nietzschean "will to power," it is reasonable to assert that the sine qua non
    of a Zarathustrian ego would be its strength. When we posit such strength we
    shall see how all other elements of the structural theory naturally conform to
    a Nietzschean mold.

    Zarathustra is a philosophical and religious figure who is introduced to
    supplant Christ--how, therefore, would a Zarathustrian ego affect the ontogeny
    of the Christ-like superego? Although the origin of the superego as a reaction
    to the Oedipal drives of the id has been, the superego emerges from the ego
    (and subsequently dominates it) by virtue of the weakness of the ego. According
    to Freud (1923, p. 48):

    "[The superego] is a memorial of the former weakness and
    dependence of the ego, and the mature ego remains subject
    to its domination. As the child was once under a compulsion
    to obey its parents, so the ego submits to the categorical
    imperative of its superego."

    It is clear that the birth of the superego is a result of the fragility of the
    ego, as well as its inability to harness the forces of the id. Thus, assuming a
    greater strength of the ego, we would expect less dynamic impetus for the
    formation of the Christ-like superego. In this way, the Zarathustrian ego would
    function as a Nietzschean anti-Christ. I posit that the strength of the
    Zarathustrian ego--with the subsequent lack of need for the superego--could be
    conceived as a either a step in the development of the individual (ontogeny) or
    a step in the development of the species psychologically (phylogeny).

    Heidegger, a major 20th century philosopher and interpreter of Nietzsche,
    repeatedly puts forth the question in Nietzsche: who is Nietzsche's
    Zarathustra? He returns us to the notion that Zarathustra is some type of
    bridge to the uebermensch, and inquires into the nature of this bridge
    (Heidegger, 1961, pg. 219).

    "Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: 'For that man be redeemed
    from revenge--that is for me the bridge to the highest
    hope and a rainbow after long storms.' How strange, how alien
    these words must seem to the customary view of Nietzsche's
    philosophy that we have furnished for ourselves...But then
    why is it that something so decisive depends of redemption
    from revenge? Where is the spirit of revenge at home?
    Nietzsche replies to our question in the third-to-last
    episode of the second part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which
    bears the heading "On Redemption." Here the following words
    appear: "The spirit of revenge: my friends, up to now that
    was man's best reflection; and wherever there was
    suffering, there also had to be punishment."

    Overcoming the spirit of revenge, from one perspective a step from Judaism to
    Christianity, takes on a more psychological significance here. Christian
    thought attempted (in principle) to turn us away from the "eye for an eye"
    sensibilities of Judaism, in order to purge us of a vengeful and punitive
    attitude toward others. It appears as if Nietzsche wishes to cure us of the
    Christian sensibility that engenders a vengeful and punitive attitude toward
    ourselves. In the context of Nietzsche's thought, the association of
    punishment with suffering is also part of the Christian legacy. For those of
    "herd morality," the Christian superego adds insult to injury by associating
    guilt and causal significance to suffering, rather than viewing it as a part of
    the human, that is to say natural, condition. Not only must we suffer, but we
    must punish ourselves for the guilt that has brought this suffering about. Thus
    in The Anti-Christ (pg. 141) does Nietzsche praise Buddhism for its "struggle
    against suffering," as opposed to the Christian "struggle against sin."

    For those of "master morality," suffering is also inflicted by a superego. The
    natural predilections of the master include the infliction of suffering on
    others. When this natural tendency is repressed, the impulse is turned inwards
    in the form of conscience: one comes to inflict pain on oneself, as well as
    moral censure for the very drive to inflict pain at all. Perhaps the
    Zarathustrian ego is strong enough to suffer and to inflict suffering without
    the need to punish itself masochistically through the superego.

    The Zarathustrian ego will also have a unique relationship to the id, as well
    as the instincts of the id. Before Freud conceived of the id, Nietzsche
    recognized the power and importance of the instincts. In Beyond Good and Evil
    (Nietzsche, 1886, pg. 201), he points out the instinctual foundation of
    ostensibly rational thought, and furthermore suggests that the conscious,
    rather than the unconscious mind is the proper domain for these instincts.
    Thus, the rational ego is not opposed, and perhaps should not be opposed, to
    the instincts of the id.

    We see a picture of the Zarathustrian ego emerging. It is strong, and thus
    limits the genesis or at least the power of the superego. It is able to suffer
    and to inflict suffering without the masochistic retribution of punishment. It
    does not attempt to conquer the id but rather absorbs it, integrating and
    recognizing its instincts as an appropriate part of its conscious activities.
    Instead of repressing and censoring instinct--and therefore mutating it--it
    accepts and envelops it, or at least does not split itself off into a rational
    ego and irrational id in the first place. With the psychic apparatus more
    wholly integrated at the surface and interface between interior and exterior,
    the Zarathustrian ego is capable of a richer and more natural interaction with
    the world. Unlike Oedipus, it is strong enough for truth; unlike Christ, it is
    strong enough for lies.

    5. Discussion

    We see a henceforth obscure relationship between the personae of Oedipus and
    Christ elucidated. Each born under some cloak of doubt, each destined to be
    heir to a unique kingdom--one by the satisfaction of his impulses and the other
    by denial of his. If Oedipus represents a particular aspect of the mind that may
    experience pathology if unbalanced, then so may Christ represent an aspect of
    the mind that may be pathological if unbalanced (viz., the Christ complex).
    From the perspective of Nietzsche--who no doubt recognized the great importance
    of Christ as evidenced by his fervent opposition to all things Christian--we may
    also consider the Christ complex in its cultural expression. The so-called slave
    mentality, the culture of pity and weakness, and the inhibition of cultural
    genius were, according to Nietzsche, in large part due to Platonic and
    Christian ideals. Once again, we may view the Christ complex in terms of
    psychic ontogeny (a Freudian perspective) as well as psychic phylogeny (a
    Nietzschean perspective).

    The assertion of Oedipus as an anti-Christ led appropriately to the discussion
    of Nietzsche, and Nietzsche's own anti-Christ Zarathustra. "Who is Nietzsche's
    Zarathustra?" Heidegger asks. One answer is that he was a teacher of eternal
    recurrence and the uebermensch, although Heidegger directs us to a deeper
    consideration of the question. I posit that Zarathustra represents a new form
    of ego, strong enough to incorporate the instincts of the id, and therefore
    strong enough to have little need for the genesis of the superego. This is
    consistent, in many ways, with Nietzsche's vision: an ego strong enough to
    recognize and embrace instinct, and to trust the wisdom of the earth rather
    than the ephemera of a Christian superego. From our cultural beginning of the
    Christian superego, we make the first step of recurrence to the Oedipal lion,
    slaying the dragon of "thou shalt!" with the id's "I will!". Finally, the child
    of the Zarathustrian ego is born: a new developmental beginning, a recurrence to the ancients, an opportunity for new strength which sees the death of God, but does not yearn again for the father in the form of a superego.
    Makes sense to me..??


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    Nietzsche and Freud

    Nietzsche provided a much-needed antidote to Sigmund Freud's mythological speculations. The ideas of a beastly id, a striving ego, and a hyper-moral superego are so very 19th century.

    His treatment of the Greek myths as parables illustrating his psychological theories is presumptuous, to put it mildly. A brisk breeze of cold air is provided by Karl Kraus's skepticism, perhaps best embodied in his hard-headed comment "Let those who will believe that their emotional problems can be solved by the application of ancient Greek myths to their private parts."

    It has been a popular practise, actually an aberration, to interpret, music, art, poetry, biography, and philosophy in terms of Freud's meta-mythology. It has been applied, inter alia, to Beethoven's symphonies, and Nietsche's philosophy. This unfortunate practise has cast little light and much gloom upon artistic and literary criticism.

    So, whom or what, then does Nietzsche's Zarathustra represent ? Is he a metaphor for the ego, or the will, or the Uebermensch ? Did it never occur to any of these psycho-critics that he might be none of these ? It appears clear to me, at any rate, that Zarathustra is a persona of Friedrich Nietzsche, who chose to present his novel philosophical insights as the ideas of a long-dead Persian theologian. I.e., Zarathustra is just a literary device.

    BTW, The name Zarathustra is Old Persian, Zoroaster is a late Greek corruption of the Old Persian name. Not, as implied in the post, the reverse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gorm the Old View Post
    It appears clear to me, at any rate, that Zarathustra is a persona of Friedrich Nietzsche, who chose to present his novel philosophical insights as the ideas of a long-dead Persian theologian. I.e., Zarathustra is just a literary device.
    Most probably.

    I actually like that style of writing and wish it was used by modern writers. Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand used it quite well in the mid 20th century but I can't think of anyone more recent.
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