The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by ando here, Oct 31, 2017.

  1. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    [​IMG]
    In 2018 it will have been 30 years since this groundbreaking series first aired on PBS stations across America. Bill Moyer's sat down with the late reknown teacher, scholar and writer of Comparative Religion, Joseph Campbell, to talk about the role of myths in the lives of people in cultures around the world. I was glad to see that the mini-series, long unavailable to stream for all, has been posted by The Internet Archive in it's entirety.

    [​IMG]
    A diagram of Campbell's Heroes Journey

    Campbell, of course has inspired innumerable creative types from George Lucas to Viola Davis. Does anyone have a favorite episode or Campbell anecdote? Any students here from Sarah Lawrence who attended his courses? I think it's safe to say he was one of the great teachers in our time.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2017
    Electric, Tanx, Wingman and 7 others like this.
  2. dougotte

    dougotte Vague Waste of Space-Time

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I've never seen the series, but I had a Mythology class in college with a wonderful professor. She used '1000 Faces' as one of the texts. Both her teaching and the book made a deep impression.
     
  3. EC3970

    EC3970 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    I had just finished reading Ulysses when the series first aired, it inspired me to go back to college and get a Ph.D. in Comparative Arts.
     
  4. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    Wow. Do you teach now?
     
  5. EC3970

    EC3970 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    ha, no, i taught humanities, art history, and drawing for ten years as an adjunct until that about bankrupt me.
     
  6. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    That series inspires me to this day.
     
    Spadeygrove and ando here like this.
  7. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    I watched the DVD set and it was a great experience. I like life simplified.
     
    Nico and ando here like this.
  8. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    Well, of course, the DVD is the preferred way to receive it! I've worn my set out (loaning it out probably too often). I wonder if there's a Blu-ray edition, though on second thought (considering the format) this really isn't necessary. :p

    I've also attempted to read Campbell's book of the same title but found it little more than a transcription of the tv series. A Hero With A Thousand Faces and The Inner Reaches of Outer Space are favorites.
     
  9. EC3970

    EC3970 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
    There is also his helpful A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake and the four volume The Masks of Gods although I always enjoyed hearing him more than reading him.

    I had gotten some cassettes of his Esalen lectures: 4 tapes of The Novels of James Joyce, 2 tapes of Psyche and Symbol, and my favorite 1 tape of The Way of Art.
    I've been meaning to transfer them to CD-R but never get around to it.
     
  10. Nico

    Nico Forum Resident

    I saw the broadcast, own the dvd ( if my memory serves me, the dvd did miss some exchange made at the end of the series, where Bill asked Joseph about what he believed) and will check this out for sure :)
     
  11. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    One of the many intriguing points Campbell makes in the program is that the times we're currently in cannot support functioning myths. I believe his opinion was that our environment and manner of living is too much in flux to sustain them but I'm not so sure. Sports, to name one secular ritual, can provide what myth did for previous generations. People actually personalize their favorite teams to the extent that it effects their emotional lives. I think observance of sports goes beyond mere escapism and veers into the kind of validation of life that the best myths can render. I realize, of course, that at the center of every myth is a universal truth. And sports, at the first take, may not appear to be able render an experience of truth but bear with me.

    I think, for instance, that fantasy sport participation can be a good contemporary illustration of what may have replaced what myth used to be able to render. After all, if you have created your own mythical team from draft time and really stick with the team you've created through injuries, trades, mishaps, league disruptions, personal crises etc., and finish the season after having given your best there's no outward reward that can match that inner sense of accomplishment. If you've really put everything you could into it chances are you're a finalist of some kind. But you can't drop off. The day or week you drop off - and only you know if you have - you've lost it. For me a losing season after a hard fought struggle is preferable to a championship season where I simply got lucky and put in a half effort. The whole point is to engage you in life. Myths are designed to do this - or at least illustrate that a new life or a kind of life is found with such an engagement. Now you can argue that fantasy football is a total abstraction but aren't myths as well? And in a world where our distractions increasingly isolate us this engagement can bring people together in ways unbeknownst to anyone at the outset.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2017
    Gumboo and Hot Ptah like this.
  12. rburly

    rburly Sitting comfortably with Item 9

    Location:
    Orlando
    It was a powerful and important series. Having worked in mental health, it fit in and explained many things that Karl Jung would certainly agree with. I need to watch the series again I loved it so much. His knowledge is amazing.
     
    ando here likes this.
  13. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    Also, I'm using the sports example in cases where people don't play for money. Once money comes into it The Hero's Journey is out. :laugh:
     
  14. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    The Joseph Campbell thread has turned into a sports discussion?


    I propose we ban religion, sex, politics, and sports from the SHF, since sports and religion are practically the same thing, as spotlighted by this thread.
     
    Gumboo, Wingman and MoonPool like this.
  15. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    The sport isn't the point - the level or quality of engagement is the point. Banning any activity won't result in much save a nostalgia for the engagement. And if the activity is merely a distraction and/or profit seeking activity it can surely - and just as easily - be replaced by something else. No, what I was referring to was a kind of full engagement with whatever activity your involved with; where you're so aligned with what your doing that you (as you've known yourself) ceases to exist - a oneness, if you will. Campbell talks about experiences like this in the series, for instance, when he ran track for Columbia; he knew from start to finish he was going to win this particular race, not because of the quality of competition, but because he was in complete accord with what he intended to do in that race. What it ultimately gave him was something beyond pride or goal achievement. That state of being in the moment completely was what I meant to convey. All words can do if qualify it - or disparage it as what has apparently occurred.

    The overall message, though, was that such engagement is really only possible when you're following your bliss, as Campbell liked to term it. It doesn't mean, as many have misread it, doing whatever you want, but following a pursuit which is fearless, desireless and in accord with a calling beyond the self. And I think only the person aware of is able to realize it. Confirmation from others or some kind of reassurance is beside the point. There's no reward for doing whatever it is save the actual doing. Kind of Zen, I suppose, but that's just another qualifier. It means connecting with the deeper mystery of living which does require a certain level of seriousness, certainly.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2017
  16. rburly

    rburly Sitting comfortably with Item 9

    Location:
    Orlando
    The thing that first pulled me into watching the series (originally) was that it explained so much about our world with respect to how the past affects the present. I'll watch it again since it's in archive.org.
     
    ianuaditis likes this.
  17. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    [​IMG]
    Think I'll need to reflect on this chart a bit before it actually makes intuitive sense to me. It's from Campbell's book, Hero With A Thousand Faces, the substance of which is expounded in Episode 1, probably the most popular in the POM series; The Hero's Journey. Watching a nice streamer copy now. (The IA version posted above was taken down so I'll post the eps as I find them.)

    It seems to me thay the hero paradigm may be somewhat outmoded in this age of "personal growth", particularly with regard to the reliance on an outside agency for a model for heroic behavior. I think we've become so individualized - and simultaneously, subject to global influences - that collective models of heroic behavior are too much in flux (as Campbell admits) to take hold. Responses to national and global disasters have been the prevalent form of a collective model of heroic behavior; perhaps it's why Superheroes have figured so prominently in this early part of the 21st century.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
    Vidiot and MagicAlex like this.
  18. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    The entire series is now on Netflix.

    [​IMG]

    Hope it sticks around a while.
     
    Chris Gerhard and jpelg like this.
  19. boyjohn

    boyjohn Forum Resident

    Thanks for the heads up. Truly one of the best TV series of all time.
     
    ando here likes this.
  20. MagicAlex

    MagicAlex Gort Emeritus

    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    I think, given the modern 'death of God' the role of government is the 'new' outside agency and that may be a clue as to why the model does not work on the collective resolution. On the individual level it's played out all the time.
     
    ando here likes this.
  21. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    Didn't government - as the ultimate, or at least practical authority - usher in the modern era? I'm thinking of 16th and 17th century Europe when The Pope and The Divine Right of Kings (who had the ear of God (well after Martin Luther)) gave way to government as Empire. In other words, the state became all powerful. That model of government is definitely on the way out. Or are you speaking of a different model of government?
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
    Panama Hotel and MagicAlex like this.
  22. MagicAlex

    MagicAlex Gort Emeritus

    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    I am referring to the Nietzschean age proclamation of the 'death of God' so I probably should have said post-modern rather than modern. It was on the cusp. Without an 'unknownable' higher power (imagination) the role is assumed by the state which is at best faulty and unable to sustain a usable collective myth.
     
  23. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    Oh, I think there have been several writers, particularly in the 20th century (Orwell, Kafka, for example), who have attempted to mythologize the role of the state. Certainly George Lucas did it with Star Wars. By faulty I assume you mean failing to encompass the spiritual, emotional and civic functions of the old religions. That's certainly true; even in Lucus' conception of a future universe The Empire has dominion over only those who succumb to one aspect (the dark side) of the force.
     
  24. ando here

    ando here Sitting Weed Floating Bull Thread Starter

    Location:
    new york, ny
    It's interesting to consider The Matrix in this context, too. Obviously, our reality is becoming increasingly similar to the condition under which the rebels find themselves in that film; the Matrix is The State. Every day in our current world there's some new development or (more prevalent) distraction that ties us to the network of information. Will the connection keep us irrevocably tied - and ultimately ruled by its strictures to the point where armed police enforce your escape and/or entry?
     
  25. Panama Hotel

    Panama Hotel Forum Resident

    I need to note that this discussion stepped into the religious realm from the outset; and at this point, it's been directed in the direction of politics and ideology. I thought that was forbidden in this Forum. But, since it's already gone there:

    Nah.

    I notice several weaknesses in that thesis:

    Theocracies and "divine right" monarchies are a form of The State, too.

    Moreover, the rulers of ostensibly "secular" States have proved entirely capable of inventing quasi-theocratic mythologies to sustain "usable collective mythos", usually based around cults of personality. The only examples I can think of fall somewhere between proto-fascistic (D'Annunzio's short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro, 1919-1920, a principal inspiration for Mussolini) and lockstep totalitarian (the "divinely ordained" Kim il-sung/Kim jong-il/Kim jong-eun dynasty ruling North Korea, still in full effect.) With everything from Peronism to Stalinism somewhere in between.

    I notice minimal Nietszchean influence on the paradigm presently underpinning Western liberal democracies and social democracies. For example, Nietzsche would have been disdainful of any government support for a common social safety net (which is still the prevailing consensus; the disputes are over how much to provide) as a hangover of Christian sentimentality.

    The secular trend in government- the notion that separation of church and state is a profoundly important principle, even an imperative- began with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, 100 years before Nietszche. It was followed soon after by the French Revolution, which was considerably more radical in that regard. The Jacobins weren't merely neutral on the role of religion, they were avowedly hostile to it. Although the initial result of that effort wasn't the abolition of religion; the revolutionaries merely substituted their own formulation, mostly borrowed from Classical Hellenism, while forbidding the formerly prevailing Roman Catholic religion and persecuting its adherents as victims of the Reign of Terror. Nonetheless, when French notions of politics finally returned to some semblance of consensus agreement on the role of government at the end of the 19th century (following some rather extreme experiments, such as Bonapartism and the Paris Commune), they did uphold and sustain the practice of laicite- an insistence that government take an active role in prohibiting any official government support for religious institutions, or deference to them- financially, symbolically, or in terms of the statutes. (The USA has stopped well short of that, of course.) But the support for laicite has its roots in the Revolution of 1789, not Nietzsche.

    The notion that the Roman Catholic church provided a Golden Age of common social values that provided peace and prosperity for Europe prior to the modern triumph of secularism is also a fantasy, easily disproved by the study of history. Although I take some of Nietzsche's points about the iconoclastic role played by scientific advance in eventually undermining the importance of religious faith- and hence a foundation for communal mythos- in the West. At least in the absolutist and frequently superstitious manifestations that had so long been accepted as bedrock truth upheld by official religious dictates- precepts that were often enforced by penalty of law when challenged. I think Nietszche is wrong in a lot of his conclusions- including those about theism and Christianity- but I also think he has his share of valid insights. That said, I don't notice his philosophical iconoclasm having much direct influence on the political institutions of Western democracies, like the governments of the USA, Canada, the UK, and the EU nations.

    This could change, of course. I think Nietszche understood a lot about the way politics works. That it isn't a domain where superior rational intelligence, long-term planning, and fidelity to the highest principles of moral idealism simply prevails, because intrinsic merits.

    I think the principal driver of strains and stresses on social cohesion is the continuing increase in the human population, and its impacts on the challenges of fulfilling basic human needs, and providing for a future for humanity that's going to get better instead of worse. In that respect, I'm dubious about the notion that Campbell's mythological outline of "the hero's journey" is of some bedrock importance in addressing those challenges. I think it's thought-provoking for what it is, but it's a little too facile to provide the bedrock common ground for the experience of humanity.

    I'd argue that John Steinbeck's Tom Joad is an order of magnitude more heroic than the celebrated Heroes of Legend. But Tom Joad's journey isn't all about him, and his personal process of transformation into a self-realized being. People facing the challenges faced by Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath are living a lot more close to the bone than that. Their goals and achievements are of an entirely different order than idyllic goals like winning the hand of the princess, or returning to one's tribe to assume the mantle of philosopher king and preside over a Golden Age, or even the conscious pursuit of "personal growth." Those are goals for people with more options.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    rburly, ando here and beccabear67 like this.

Share This Page