American mythologist who wrote numerous influential works, including _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_ (1949) and the four-volume _Masks of God_ (1959-1967).
Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 31, 1987) is best known for his work in the fields of mythology and comparative religion.
The Hero With a Thousand Faces is one of his best-known books: it discusses the myth of the hero’s journey, a pattern found in many cultures.
Campbell, as a child, became fascinated with Native American culture when his father took him to see the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He soon became versed in numerous aspects of Native American society, primarily in mythology. This led Campbell to a lifelong passion with myth, and its similar, cohesive threads among all human cultures.
Campbell was a student of Carl Jung, just as Jung was before a student of Sigmund Freud. Campbell’s work in mythology bridged the seemingly disparate stances of Jung and Freud, and their pivotal debate over the collective unconscious which became an embodiment of the conflicts between Western and Eastern worlds of belief.
Campbell was a professor at Sarah Lawrence College from 1934 until 1972.
Campbell collaborated with Bill Moyers on the PBS series The Power of Myth, which was first broadcast in 1988, the year after Campbell’s death in Honolulu. They also jointly authored the book The Power of Myth [ISBN 0385247745] associated with the series.
- post rock track _Mythologies_ MP3 (160k) by Windsor For The Derby off of _Emotional Rescue_ on Aesthetic (2002)
- abstract underground hip hop track _Conspiracy Of Myth_ MP3 (256k) by Antipop Consortium off of _Arrhythmia_ 12″x2 on Warp #094 (2002)
- illbient track _The Myth/Illogical_ MP3 by Techno Animal off of _Radio Hades_ CD on Position Chrome #030 (1998)
- _The Myth/Illogical b) Dub_ MP3 (vK) off of _Phobic_ 12″ on Position Chrome #011
- track _Mythmaker’s Office_ by Pot Valiant off of _Loud Street_ 7″ on Lookout! #79 (1993)
- track _The Science Of Myth_ MP3 by Screeching Weasel off of _My Brain Hurts_ CD on Lookout! (1991)
“Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images. The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete (neurosis, psychosis: the plight of spellbound Daphne (Ovid)); but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost superhuman degree of self-conciousness and masterful control. This is the basic principle of the Indian disciplines of yoga. It has been the way, also, of many creative spirits in the West. It cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as yet unkown demand of some waiting void within: a kind of total strike, or rejection of the offered terms of life, as a result of which some power of transformation carries the problem to a plane of new magnitudes, where it is suddenly and finally resolved.”
– Joseph Campbell.
Mystery Cult and Apocalypse (Hellenism: 331 BC – 324 AD)
In Japanese the term ‘jiriki,’ “ones own strength,” refers to such self-reliant disciplines as Stoicism or, in the Orient, Zen Buddhism, while ‘tariki,’ “outside strength, another’s strength,” refers to the ways that rely on the idea of a savior: in Japan, Amida Buddhism. Through invoking the name of the infinitely radiant Solar Buddha of the Land of Bliss, one is reborn, at death, in his paradise, there to attain nirvana. During the Hellenistic age Western counterparts of this popular Buddhism were the numerous mystery cults that flourished with increasing influence until, in the late Roman period, first Mithraism, then Christianity, gained imperial support and, thereby, the field.
For not all of us are philosophers. Many require an atmosphere of incense, music, vestments and processions, gongs, bells, dramatic mimes and cries, to be carried beyond themselves. And for such the various styles of religion exist – where, for the most part, however, truth is so enveloped in symbol as to be imperceptible to anyone who is not already a philosopher. Degrees of initiation have been developed, through which the mind is meant to be carried beyond the fields of the symbols to increasingly exalted realization – passing, as it were, through veil beyond veil. But the ultimate realizations differ, according, on the one hand, to the cults in which divinity is seen as at once immanent and transcendent, and, on the other, to the orthodox Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan liturgies, where the ontological distinction is retained between God and Man, Creator and Creature.
In cults of the former type the two strengths, “outside” and “within,” are finally to be recognized as identical. The savior worshipped as without, though indeed without, is at the same time one’s self. “All things are Buddha things.” Whereas in the great Near Eastern orthodoxies no such identity can be imagined or even credited as conceivable. The aim is not to come to a realization of one’s self, here and now, as of the one mystery with the Being of beings, but to know, love, and serve in this world a God who is apart (mythic dissociation) though close at hand (omnipresence), and to be happy with him when time shall have ceased and eternity been attained. The referent (the “God”) of cults of the first type is never a personage somewhere else, to be known, loved, served, and some day beheld (which, in fact, is the notion to be dispelled), but a state of realization to be attained by way of the initiatory, knowledge-releasing imagery of the “God,” as through a sign. The function of such signs is to effect a psychological change of immediate value in itself, while that of the orthodox mythology is to fix the mind and will upon a state of soul to come.
As an example of the first type or pagan-Oriental type, we may take the once powerful cult, derived from Iran, of the Mysteries of Mithra, which came to flower in the Near East during the Hellenistic age as a kind of Zoroastrian heresy, and in the Roman period was the most formidable rival of Chritianity both in Asia and in Europe, reaching as far north as to the south of Scotland. In it were offered seven degrees of initiation. In fact, the neophyte was known as “Raven” (corax), and in the rites the celebrants wore masks representing animals of the zodiac: for astronomy was undergoing a new development in this period through an application of Greek thought to the data of the centuries of theSumero-Chaldean observation. In all religions of the age, the zodiac had come to represent the bounding, ever-revolving sphere of time-space-causality, within which the unbounded Spirit operates – unmoved yet moving in all. The orbits of the seven visible spheres – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – were conceived as so many envelopes around the earth, through which the soul had descended when coming to be born. The individual had derived from each a specific temporal- spatial quality, which on the one hand contributed to his character, but on the other was a limitation. Hence, the seven stages of initiation were to facilitate passages of the spirit, one by one, beyond the seven limitations, culminating in a realization of the unqualified state…
…But this myth and ritual of the initiate “washed in the blood of the bull” was only intoductory to a deeper, larger mystery symbolized in the second major apparition of the cult Zervan Akarana, “Boundless Time” … …Do we not recognize our very lion-man in the popular Hindu figur of Vishnu as the Man-Lion, Narasimha? … Comparing we see that Zervan Akarana is also a dual god:
a naked lion-man enveloped by a snake of seven folds. The lion is symbolic of solar light, which is eternal; the serpent of the rythmic, circling round of the lunar tides of time, which never cease. Thus the figure is precisely what its name tells: Zervan Akarana, “Boundless Time,” in which eternity and time are one, yet two. but if anyone should suppose that he would ever meet this figure anywhere beyond the bounds of time (which is boundless), he would have missed the point of his initiation, and would have to be sent back, I should think, to his Raven suit…
There is a lot more to be told; but we have already followed the subject about as far as is appropriate for a work of the present scope. And I would hope to have made it perfectly clear, at least, that if certain scholars of this subject have found it difficult to recognize anything but a hotchpotch of puerilites in the sycretistic mystery cults of the Hellenistic period, the fault lies not altogether in Antiquity. The function of these cults was to bring about, by one means or another, a psychological transformation in the candidate for knowledge, as a result of which his mind should come to rest in the realization that divinity inheres in, as well as transcends, every particle of the universe and all its beings; the realization that duality is secondary; and the realization that man’s goal cannot be to make duality disappear at the end of time, as in the ethical dualistic teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, since time, being boundless, never ends. Boundless Time, Zervan Akarana, holds everything in its tongs; shapes all things with its hammer; yet yields through its hard initiations knowledge of the adamantean reality, which is here and now, beyond the obscuring veil of duality, the true eternity of us all.
This teaching is the same, essentially, as that of the yogic schools of India; and a particular striking analogy is the Kundalini Yoga of the Gupta and the post-Gupta periods. For there the aim was to bring the “Serpent Power,” the spiritual force of the yogi, from its lowest seat at the base of the spine, up an interior path to the crown of the head, completing seven stages, at each of which the psychological limitations of the lower planes of commitment are surpassed. As in India so in these Hellenistic mysteries, the accomplished initiate both realized his own divinity and was honored as a god: for what better sign of godhood could there be than a human being in whom his own godhood had been realized? or what better guide to one’s own perfection? Nor was the impact of the pagan mystery cults of this age felt only by such confused minds as, dear reader, you and I might be warranted to pity or despise. No less a one than Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) wrote in his “De Legibus” of the Greek mysteries of Eleusis:
Among the many excellent and divine institutions that your
Athens has developed and contributed to human life, there
is none, in my opinion, better than these mysteries, by
which we have been brought forth from our rustic and savage
mode of existence, cultivated, and refined to a state of
civilization: and as the rites are called “initiations,” so,
in truth, we have learned from them the first principles of
life and have gained the understanding, not only to live
happily, but also to die with better hope.
The rites of Demeter and Persephone of Eleusis, Isis of Alexandria, Mithra of the Persians, and the Great Mother, Cybele, of Asia Minor, mutually influenced and enriched each other in the course of centuries – all in terms of a common ability to sense and experience the miracle of life itself as divine, and wonderfully so. In contrast to which we find that in the orthodox Zoroastrian church, as well as in Judaism and, later, Christianity and Islam – where the ultimate view was not of boundless time but of a time when time began, as well as of a time when time would end: moreover, where it was supposed that the world and its inhabitants might be judged as, for the most part, evil, yet susceptible of some sort of ontological correction: and finally, where (particularily in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) no immanent divinity was recognized in the material world, but God, though omnipresent and (in the phrase of the Koran) “closer to man than his neck vein,” was absolutely other and apart – the ultimate goal was not, and could not be, the realization of eternal life in this world. Consequently, whereas in pagan mysteries the symbolism of world annihilation always applied, finally, to a psychological, spirtual crisis in the initiate, whereby the shadowplay of phenomenality was annihilated as by a thunderbolt [vajra] and the adamantean Being of beings realized immediately and forever, in the orthodox, ethically scaled Levantine religions, the same symbolism of world annihilation was applied, rather, historically, as referring to a day to come of terminal doom.
In the earliest Jewish writings of the Day of the Messiah, the underlying notion had been simply of the restoration of the Jewish state under a king of the line of David, and the willing recognition, then, by all nations, of the truly Chosen People of God. However in the Hellenistic period, notably from c. 200 BC to c. 100 AD, there burst upon certain Jewish minds the highly thrilling idea that their own national Messiah would be, in fact, the cosmic Messiah at the end of time (like Saoshyant [in Zoroastrianism] ) – upon whose appearance there would follow gloriously, amid thunderous phenomena, the resurrection of the dead, liquidation of time, and all the rest. Moreover, that day was at hand. An abundant, imaginative Apocalyptic literature burst into bloom, first among Jews, but then also among Christians: the Book of Enoch, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Apocalypse of Baruch, Assumption of Moses. et cetera; and above all, in the Christian series, the words attributed to Christ himself, touching the end of days and his own return in glory. It is well worth repeating these here in full; for, in direct contrast to the intiatory symbolism of the mystery cult just studied, they bring out very clearly the typical point of view of an Apocalypse – besides revealing fully the cosmology of bounded time of the early Christian church and (apparently) of Christ himself. For, as we read: …
“As Joseph Campbell says in _Hero With A Thousand Faces_: “A schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of a return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to weld together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death-the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new.”
– Lord British aka Richard Garriott, creator of Ultima
“If you want your children to be brilliant, teach them myths. If you want them to be very billiant, teach them more myths.”
“The function of an artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world.” – Joseph Campbell
- Marjorie Cameron was a protege
- authored book _Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake_
- _Finnegans Wake_ authored by James Joyce
- documentary _Hero’s Journey_ (vhs/ntsc)
- videos _Power Of Myth_
- 1.4 – _From Goddesses to God_ (vhs/ntsc) hosted by Susan Sarandon
- 2.5 – _Experiences of God_ (vhs/ntsc) hosted by Susan Sarandon