Joseph Campbell

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Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, circa 1984
Born Joseph John Campbell
March 26, 1904(1904-03-26)
White Plains,
New York,
United States
Died October 30, 1987 (aged 83)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Occupation Scholar
Nationality American

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss."


[edit] Life

[edit] Early education

Joseph Campbell was born and raised in White Plains, New York[1] in an upper middle class Roman Catholic family. As a child, Campbell became fascinated with Native American culture after his father took him to see the American Museum of Natural History in New York where he saw on display featured collections of Native American artifacts. He soon became versed in numerous aspects of Native American society, primarily in Native American mythology. This led to Campbell's lifelong passion for myth and to his study of and mapping of the cohesive threads in mythology that appeared to exist among even disparate human cultures. He graduated from the Canterbury School (Connecticut) in 1921.

While at Dartmouth College he studied biology and mathematics, but decided that he preferred the humanities. He transferred to Columbia University, where he received his B.A. in English literature in 1925 and M.A. in Medieval literature in 1927. Campbell was also an accomplished athlete, receiving awards in track and field events. For a time, he was among the fastest half-mile runners in the world.[2]

[edit] Europe

In 1924 Campbell traveled to Europe with his family. On the ship back, he encountered Jiddu Krishnamurti; they discussed Asian philosophy, sparking in Campbell a life-long interest in Hindu and Indian thought. Following this trip, Campbell ceased to be a practicing Catholic.[3]

In 1927 Campbell received a fellowship provided by Columbia University to study in Europe. Campbell studied Old French, Provençal and Sanskrit at the University of Paris in France and the University of Munich in Germany. He quickly learned to read and speak French and German, mastering them after only a few months of rigorous study. He remained fluent in these languages for the remainder of his life. (Already fluent in Latin, he would go on to add Japanese to his linguistic arsenal.)

He was highly influenced while in Europe by the period of the Lost Generation, a time of enormous intellectual and artistic innovation. Campbell commented on this influence, particularly that of James Joyce:

CAMPBELL: And then the fact that James Joyce grabbed me. You know that wonderful living in a realm of significant fantasy, which is Irish, is there in the Arthurian romances; it's in Joyce; and it's in my life.
COUSINEAU: Did you find that you identified with Stephen Daedalus... in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?
CAMPBELL: His problem was my problem, exactly... Joyce helped release me into an understanding of the universal sense of these symbols... Joyce disengaged himself and left the labyrinth, you might say, of Irish politics and the church to go to London, where he became one of the very important members of this marvelous movement that Paris represented in the period when I was there, in the '20s.[4]

It was in this climate that Campbell was also introduced to the work of Thomas Mann, who was to prove equally influential upon his life and ideas. Also while in Europe, Campbell was introduced to modern art, becoming particularly enthusiastic about the work of Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. A new world of exciting ideas opened up to Campbell while studying in Europe. Here he also discovered the works and writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

[edit] Great Depression

On his return from Europe in 1929, Campbell announced to his faculty at Columbia that his time in Europe had broadened his interests and that he wanted to study Sanskrit and Modern Art in addition to Medieval literature. When his advisors did not support this, Campbell decided not to go forward with his plans to earn a doctorate and never returned to a conventional graduate program. He was very insistent, in later life, that he be addressed as Mr. Campbell, not Dr. Campbell. [5]

A few weeks later, the Great Depression began. Campbell spent the next five years (1929–34) figuring out what to do with his life,[6] while engaged in intensive and rigorous independent study. He later said that he "would divide the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four hour periods, and free one of them... I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight."[7]

Campbell traveled to California for a year (1931-32), continuing his independent studies and becoming close friends with the budding writer John Steinbeck and his wife Carol. On the Monterey Peninsula he worked as an assistant to marine biologist Ed Ricketts (the model for "Doc" in Steinbeck's novel, Cannery Row), helping collect samples up and down the coast of the Pacific Northwest.[8]

Campbell also maintained his independent reading while teaching for a year in 1933 at the Canterbury School, during which time he also attempted to publish works of fiction.[9]

Campbell's independent studies led to his greater exploration of the ideas of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, a contemporary and estranged colleague of Sigmund Freud. Campbell edited the first papers from Jung's annual Eranos conferences and helped Mary Mellon found the Bollingen Foundation's Bollingen Series of books on psychology, anthropology and myth. Many of Campbell's books would be published in this series.

Another dissident member of Freud's circle to influence Campbell was Wilhelm Stekel (1868–1939). Stekel pioneered the application of Freud's concepts of dreams, fantasies of the human mind, and the unconscious to anthropology and literature.

[edit] Sarah Lawrence College

In 1934 Campbell was offered a position as professor at Sarah Lawrence College (through the efforts of his former Columbia advisor W.W. Laurence).

In 1938 Campbell married one of his former students, dancer and choreographer Jean Erdman.

During the early years of World War II, Campbell attended a lecture by Indologist Heinrich Zimmer; the two men became good friends. After Zimmer's death, Campbell was given the task to edit and posthumously publish Zimmer's papers, which he would do over the following decade.

In 1955-56, as the last volume of Zimmer's posthuma (The Art of Indian Asia, its Mythology and Transformations) was finally about to be published, Campbell took a sabbatical from Sarah Lawrence and traveled, for the first time, to visit Asia. He spent six months in southern Asia (mostly India) and another six in East Asia (mostly Japan). This year had a profound impact on his thinking concerning Asian religion and myth, and also on the necessity for teaching comparative mythology to a larger, non-academic audience.[10]

In 1972 he retired from Sarah Lawrence College, after having taught there for 38 years.

[edit] Public outreach

After he returned from his trip to India and Japan in 1956, Campbell felt that Americans—both the general public and professionals who worked and studied overseas—were woefully uninformed with regard to the world's myths and cultures. He began to work on a number of levels to change this state of affairs. First, he began writing his magnum opus, The Masks of God, which explored the myths of the world's cultures across the millennia and around the globe.

At the same time, he began teaching courses at the US State Department's Foreign Service Institute, lecturing on comparative myth and religion.

Finally, he began to speak publicly on world myth. He would continue to do so—at colleges, churches and lecture halls, on radio and on television—for the rest of his life.[11]

[edit] Death

Joseph Campbell died at the age of 83 on October 30, 1987, at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii, from complications of esophageal cancer[12] shortly after he had completed filming The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers.

[edit] Work

[edit] Influences on Campbell

[edit] Art, literature, philosophy

Campbell often referred to the work of modern writers James Joyce and Thomas Mann in his lectures and writings, as well as to the art of Pablo Picasso. He was introduced to their work during his stay as a graduate student in Paris. Campbell eventually corresponded with Mann.[13]

The works of German philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche had a profound impact on Campbell's thinking; he quoted their writing frequently, often in his own translations from the original German.

The "follow your bliss" philosophy attributed to Campbell following the original broadcast of The Power of Myth (see below) derives from the Hindu Upanishads; however, Campbell was possibly also influenced by the 1922 Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt. In The Power of Myth Campbell quotes from the novel:

Campbell: "Have you ever read Sinclair Lewis' Babbit?"
Moyers: "Not in a long time."
Campbell: "Remember the last line? 'I have never done the thing that I wanted to do in all my life.' That is a man who never followed his bliss."[14]

[edit] Psychology, myth, anthropology

Campbell's thinking on universal symbols and stories was deeply influenced by James Frazer (The Golden Bough), Adolph Bastian and Otto Rank (The Myth of the Birth of the Hero), among others.

Anthropologist Leo Frobenius was important to Campbell’s view of cultural history. Campbell often indicated that the single most important book in his intellectual development was Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West.

Campbell's ideas regarding myth and its relation to the human psyche are dependent in part on the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud, but in particular on the work of Carl Jung, whose studies of human psychology, as previously mentioned, greatly influenced Campbell. Campbell's conception of myth is closely related to the Jungian method of dream interpretation, which is heavily reliant on symbolic interpretation.

Jung's insights into archetypes were in turn heavily influenced by the Bardo Thodol (also known as the The Tibetan Book of the Dead). In his book The Mythic Image, Campbell quotes Jung's statement about the Bardo Thodol, that it "belongs to that class of writings which not only are of interest to specialists in Mahayana Buddhism, but also, because of their deep humanity and still deeper insight into the secrets of the human psyche, make an especial appeal to the layman seeking to broaden his knowledge of life... For years, ever since it was first published, the Bardo Thodol has been my constant companion, and to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but also many fundamental insights."[15]

In 1940 Campbell attended a lecture by Professor Heinrich Zimmer at Columbia University; the two men became friends, and Campbell looked upon Zimmer as a mentor. Zimmer taught Campbell that myth (rather than a guru or spiritual guide) could serve in the role of a personal mentor, in that its stories provide a psychological road map for the finding of oneself in the labyrinth of the complex modern world. Zimmer relied more on the meanings of mythological tales (their symbols, metaphors, imagery, etc.) as a source for psychological realization than upon psychoanalysis itself. Campbell later borrowed from Jung's interpretative techniques and then reshaped them in a fashion that followed Zimmer's beliefs—interpreting directly from world mythology. This is an important distinction, because it serves to explain why Campbell did not directly follow Jung's footsteps in applied psychology.

[edit] Campbell's original voice

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 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 to 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.

[edit] Heroes and the monomyth

The role of the hero figured largely in Campbell's comparative studies. In 1949 The Hero with a Thousand Faces introduced Campbell's idea of the monomyth (as stated above, a word borrowed from Joyce), outlining some of the archetypal patterns that Campbell recognized. Heroes were important to Campbell because, to him, they conveyed universal truths about one's personal self-discovery and self-transcendence, one's role in society, and the relation between the two.

[edit] James Joyce; Navajo rites

The first published work that bore Campbell's name was Where the Two Came to Their Father (1943), a Navajo ceremony that was performed by singer (medicine man) Jeff King and recorded by artist and ethnologist Maud Oakes, recounting the story of two young heroes who go to the hogan of their father, the Sun, and return with the power to destroy the monsters that are plaguing their people. Campbell provided a commentary. He would use this tale through the rest of his career to illustrate both the universal symbols and structures of human myths and the particulars ("folk ideas") of Native American stories.

As noted above, James Joyce was an important influence on Campbell. Campbell's first important book (with Henry Morton Robinson), A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944), is a critical analysis of Joyce's final text Finnegans Wake. In addition, Campbell's seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), discusses what Campbell called the monomyth — the cycle of the journey of the hero — a term that he directly attributes to Joyce's Finnegans Wake.[16]

[edit] The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Originally titled How to Read a Myth, and based on the introductory class on mythology that he had been teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, The Hero with a Thousand Faces was published in 1949 as Campbell's first foray as a solo author; it established his name outside of scholarly circles and remains, arguably, his most influential work to this day. Not only did it introduce the concept of the hero's journey to popular thinking, but it also began to popularize the very idea of comparative mythology itself—the study of the human impulse to create stories and images that, though they are clothed in the motifs of a particular time and place, draw nonetheless on universal, eternal themes.

[edit] The Masks of God

Campbell's massive four-volume work The Masks of God covers mythology from around the world, from ancient to modern. Where The Hero with a Thousand Faces focused on the commonality of mythology (the “elementary ideas”), the Masks of God books focus upon historical and cultural variations the monomyth takes on (the “folk ideas”). In other words, where The Hero with a Thousand Faces draws perhaps more from psychology, the Masks of God books draw more from anthropology and history. The four volumes of Masks of God are as follows: Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, and Creative Mythology.

[edit] Historical Atlas of World Mythology

At the time of his death, Campbell was in the midst of working upon a large-format, lavishly illustrated series entitled The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. This series was to build on Campbell’s idea, first presented in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, that myth evolves over time through four stages:

  • The Way of the Animal Powers -- the myths of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers which focus on shamanism and animal totems.
  • The Way of the Seeded Earth -- the myths of Neolithic, agrarian cultures which focus upon a mother goddess and associated fertility rites.
  • The Way of the Celestial Lights -- the myths of Bronze Age city-states with pantheons of gods ruling from the heavens, led by a masculine god-king.
  • The Way of Man -- religion and philosophy as it developed after the Axial Age (c. 6th century BC), in which the mythic imagery of previous eras was made consciously metaphorical, reinterpreted as referring to psycho-spiritual, not literal-historical, matters. This transition is evidenced in the East by Buddhism, Vedanta, and philosophical Taoism; and in the West by the Mystery Cults, Platonism, Christianity and Gnosticism.

Only the first two volumes were completed at the time of Campbell's death. Both are now out of print.

[edit] The Power of Myth

Campbell's widest popular recognition followed his collaboration with Bill Moyers on the PBS series The Power of Myth, which was first broadcast in 1988, the year following Campbell's death. The series exposed his ideas concerning mythological, religious, and psychological archetypes to a wide audience, and captured the imagination of millions of viewers. It remains a staple of PBS television membership drives to this day. A companion book, The Power of Myth, containing expanded transcripts of their conversations, was released shortly after the original broadcast and became a best-seller.

Collected Works

[edit] Posthuma: Collected Works

The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series is a project initiated by the Joseph Campbell Foundation to release new, authoritative editions of Campbell's published and unpublished writing, as well as audio and video recordings of his lectures. Working with New World Library, Acorn Media and Roomful of Sky Records, as of 2009 the project has produced seventeen titles. The series' executive editor is Robert Walter, and the managing editor is David Kudler.

[edit] Print titles

  • Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor (2001)--An exploration of the myths and symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition

The first title in the series, this book compiled many of Campbell's ideas on the mythic underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In it he writes, "Mythology is often thought of as other people's religions, and religion can be defined as mis-interpreted mythology." In other words, Campbell did not read religious symbols literally as historical facts, but instead saw them as symbols or as metaphors for greater philosophical ideas. Campbell had previously discussed this idea with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth:

CAMPBELL: That would be a mistake in the reading of the symbol. That is reading the words in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation. MOYERS: And poetry gets to the unseen reality. CAMPBELL: That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought. The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are.[17]

  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (2002)--The last book that Campbell completed in his lifetime explores the nascent mythology of the modern age.
  • The Flight of the Wild Gander (2002)--A collection of some of Campbell's most far-reaching essays
  • Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals--India (2003)--The thoughtful diary of Campbell's life-changing trip to India
  • Sake and Satori: Asian Journals--Japan (2002)--The continuation of Campbell's 1955 trip, including his eye-opening experiences in Japan
  • Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal (2003)--An exploration of the central myths and symbols of the great Asian religions
  • The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work (2003)--A wonderful series of conversations between Campbell and many of his associates and friends
  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (2004)--An exploration of the mythic impact of the twentieth century's greatest novelist
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (2005)--co-written with Henry Morton Robinson and newly edited by Joyce scholar Edmond Epstein, this remains the seminal analysis of Joyce's masterpiece
  • Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (2005)--In this work, Campbell explores myth as it pertains to the individual
  • The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987 (2007)--A new volume of Campbell's far-ranging, thought-provoking essays
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (2008)--A new edition of Campbell's classic exploration of the universal monomyth of the Hero Journey, and of its cosmic mirror, the Cosmogonic Cycle

[edit] Video titles

  • The Hero's Journey (film): A Biographical Portrait--This film, made shortly before his death in 1987, follows Campbell's personal quest—a pathless journey of questioning, discovery, and ultimately of delight and joy in a life to which he said, "Yes"
  • Sukhavati: A Mythic Journey--This hypnotic and mesmerizing film is a deeply personal, almost spiritual, portrait of Campbell
  • Mythos--This series comprises talks that Campbell himself believed summed up his views on "the one great story of mankind."

[edit] Audio titles

  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell, Series I--Recordings of lectures from Campbell's early years as a public speaker
    • Mythology and the Individual
  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell, Series II & III--In the coming years, the Joseph Campbell Foundation plans to release another sixty hours of recordings of Campbell at his finest, exploring myth, religion, history, literature and personal growth as only he could.

[edit] Lasting influence

[edit] Joseph Campbell Foundation

In 1991, Campbell's widow, choreographer Jean Erdman, worked with Campbell's longtime friend and editor, Robert Walter, to create the Joseph Campbell Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to preserve, protect and perpetuate Campbell's work, as well as supporting work in his field of study.

Initiatives undertaken by the JCF include: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, a series of books and recordings that aims to pull together Campbell's myriad-minded work; the Erdman Campbell Award; the Mythological RoundTables, a network of local groups around the globe that explore the subjects of comparative mythology, psychology, religion and culture; and the collection of Campbell's library and papers housed at the OPUS Archive and Research Center (see below).[18]

[edit] Joseph Campbell Collection

After Campbell's death, Jean Erdman and the Joseph Campbell Foundation donated his papers, books and other effects to the Center for the Study of Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. The 'Center' became OPUS Archives and Research Center and is the home of the collection. Campbell had frequently lectured at Pacifica, a private school that supports graduate work in mythology and depth psychology. The founding curator, psychologist Jonathan Young, worked closely with Ms. Erdman to gather the materials from Campbell's homes in Honolulu and Greenwich Village, New York City. The Campbell Collection features approximately 3,000 volumes and covers a broad range of subjects, including anthropology, folklore, religion, literature, and psychology. The collection also includes audio and video tapes of lectures, original manuscripts, and research papers. The current curator and librarian is Richard Buchen.[19]

[edit] Popular culture

[edit] Film

George Lucas was the first Hollywood filmmaker to credit Campbell's influence. Lucas stated following the release of the first Star Wars film in 1977 that its story was shaped, in part, by ideas described in The Hero With a Thousand Faces and other works of Campbell's. The linkage between Star Wars and Campbell was further reinforced when later reprints of Campbell's book used the image of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker on the cover.[20] Lucas discusses this influence at great length in the authorized biography of Joseph Campbell, A Fire in the Mind:

I [Lucas] came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is...around the period of this came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology...The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature we were going off into science that's when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe's books. Before that I hadn't read any of Joe's books...It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic I modified my next draft [of Star Wars] according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent...I went on to read 'The Masks of God' and many other books.[21]

It was not until after the completion of the original Star Wars trilogy in 1983, however, that Lucas met Campbell or heard any of his lectures.[22] The 1988 documentary The Power of Myth was filmed at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. During his interviews with Bill Moyers, Campbell discusses the way in which Lucas used The Hero's Journey in the Star Wars films (IV, V, and VI) to re-invent the mythology for the contemporary viewer. Moyers and Lucas filmed an interview 12 years later in 1999 called the Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers to further discuss the impact of Campbell's work on Lucas' films.[23] In addition, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit during the late 1990s called Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, which discussed the ways in which Campbell's work shaped the Star Wars films.[24] A companion guide of the same name was published in 1997.

Christopher Vogler, a Hollywood screenwriter, was also highly influenced by Campbell. He created a 7-page company memo based on Campbell's work, A Practical Guide to The Hero With a Thousand Faces,[25], which led to the development of Disney's 1994 film The Lion King. Vogler's memo was later developed into the late 1990s book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.

Many filmmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have acknowledged the influence of Campbell's work on their own craft. Among films that many viewers have recognized as closely following the pattern of the monomyth are The Matrix series, the Batman series and the Indiana Jones series—not to mention the book-based Harry Potter series.[26] Of course, the question remains open: Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces describing what he felt to be a universal story motif. Are the patterns that viewers and critiques have noticed evidence of the filmmakers having read (or been indirectly influenced by) Campbell's work, or are they simply manifestations of the very archetypes that Campbell was attempting to study? It is difficult if not impossible to tell.

[edit] Other media

After the explosion of popularity brought on by the Star Wars films and The Power of Myth, creative artists in many media recognized the potential to use Campbell's theories to try to unlock human responses to narrative patterns. Novelists,[27] songwriters,[28][29] computer-game designers[30] and even amusement park ride designers have studied Campbell's work in order better to understand mythology—in particular, the monomyth—and its impact.

Author Neil Gaiman, whose work is frequently seen as exemplifying the monomyth structure,[31] says that he started The Hero with a Thousand Faces but refused to finish it: "I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true — I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is."[32]

[edit] "Follow your bliss"

One of Campbell's most identifiable, most quoted and arguably most misunderstood sayings was his admonition to "follow your bliss." He derived this idea from the Upanishads:

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture. I thought, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being." I think it worked.[33]

He saw this not merely as a mantra, but as a helpful guide to the individual along the hero journey that each of us walks through life:

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are -- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.[34]

Campbell began sharing this idea with students during his lectures in the 1970s. By the time that The Power of Myth was aired in 1988, six months following Campbell's death, "Follow your bliss" was a philosophy that resonated deeply with the American public—both religious and secular.[35]

During his later years, when some students mistakenly took him to be encouraging hedonism or materialism, Campbell is reported to have grumbled, "I should have said, 'Follow your blisters.'"[36]

[edit] Posthumous controversy

After Campbell's death, cultural critic Brendan Gill published an article in the New York Review of Books entitled "The Faces of Joseph Campbell" in which Gill accused Campbell of antisemitism.[37] Gill, who identified himself as a friend of Campbell from the Century Association in New York City,[38] notes in the article that he wrote it in reaction to the enormous popularity of The Power of Myth series in 1988.

Professor of religion Robert Segal countered Gill's accusation of antisemitism in his article, "Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism."[39] In the article Segal suggests that this view of Campbell stems, at least in part, from his tendency to be perhaps blunt at times in his critique of certain aspects of various organized religions, which Campbell, in his valedictory series of lectures, Transformations of Myth Through Time, had stated was his job.[40]

Other scholars disagreed both with Gill's general critiques as well as the accusation of antisemitism. A few months after Gill's article appeared, the New York Review of Books published a series of letters: "Brendan Gill vs. Defenders of Joseph Campbell" (cover title), "Joseph Campbell: An Exchange" (article title).[41] A number of the letters from former students and colleagues argue against the accusations. In particular, Professors Roberta and Peter Markman argue that "we were dismayed because this piece of character assassination was unsupported by any evidence." Gill continued to uphold his claims.

Stephen Larsen and Robin Larsen, authors of the biography Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind (2002), also argued against what they referred to as "the so-called anti-Semitic charge". They state: "For the record, Campbell did not belong to any organization that condoned racial or social bias, nor do we know of any other way in which he endorsed such viewpoints. During his lifetime there was no record of such accusations in which he might have publicly betrayed his bigotry or visibly been forced to defend such a position".

[edit] Works by Campbell

[edit] Books

  • Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial (1943). with Jeff King and Maud Oakes, Old Dominion Foundation
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944). with Henry Morton Robinson, Harcourt, Brace & Co.
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Pantheon Books. Princeton University Press 1968: ISBN 0-691-01784-0; Bollingen 2004 commemorative hardcover: ISBN 0-691-11924-4; New World Library, 3rd Edition, 2008: ISBN 978-1577315933
  • The Masks of God (1959–1968). Viking Press:
    • Volume 1, Primitive Mythology (1959)
    • Volume 2, Oriental Mythology (1962)
    • Volume 3, Occidental Mythology (1964)
    • Volume 4, Creative Mythology (1968)
  • The Flight of the Wild Gander:Explorations in the Mythological Dimension (1968). Viking Press
  • Myths to Live By (1972). Viking Press
  • Erotic irony and mythic forms in the art of Thomas Mann (1973)
  • The Mythic Image (1974). Princeton University Press
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor As Myth and As Religion (1986). Alfred van der Marck Editions
  • Historical Atlas of World Mythology
    • Volume I: The Way of Animal Powers (1983). Alfred van der Marck Editions
      • reprint in two parts: Part 1: Mythologies of the Primitive Hunters and Gatherers (1988)
      • Part 2: Mythologies of the Great Hunt (1988)
    • Volume II: The Way of the Seeded Earth
      • Part 1: The Sacrifice (1988). Alfred van der Marck Editions
      • Part 2: Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The North Americas (1989). Harper & Row
      • Part 3: Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The Middle and Southern Americas (1989). Harper & Row
  • Transformations of Myth Through Time (1990). Harper and Row
  • A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1991). editor Diane K. Osbon
  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce (1993). editor Edmund L. Epstein
  • The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays (1959–1987) (1993). editor Anthony Van Couvering
  • Baksheesh & Brahman: Indian Journals (1954–1955) (1995). editors Robin/Stephen Larsen & Anthony Van Couvering
  • Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor (2001). editor Eugene Kennedy, New World Library ISBN 1-57731-202-3. first volume in the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell
  • Sake & Satori: Asian Journals - Japan (2002). editor David Kudler
  • Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal (2003). editor David Kudler
  • Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (2004). editor David Kudler

[edit] interview books

[edit] Audio tapes

  • The Power of Myth (With Bill Moyers) (1987)
  • Transformation of Myth through Time Volume 1-3 (1989)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces: The Cosmogonic Cycle (Read by Ralph Blum) (1990)
  • The Way of Art (1990—unlicensed)
  • The Lost Teachings of Joseph Campbell Volume 1-9 (With Michael Toms) (1993)
  • On the Wings of Art: Joseph Campbell; Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (1995)
  • The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell (With Michael Toms) (1997)
  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell:
    • Volume 1: Mythology and the Individual (1997)
    • Volume 2: The Inward Journey (1997)
    • Volume 3: The Eastern Way (1997)
    • Volume 4: Man and Myth (1997)
    • Volume 5: The Myths and Masks of God (1997)
    • Volume 6: The Western Quest (1997)
  • Myth and Metaphor in Society (With Jamake Highwater) (abridged)(2002)

[edit] Video/DVDs

[edit] Books edited by Campbell

  • Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (1942) (translation from Bengali by Swami Nikhilananda; Joseph Campbell and Margaret Woodrow Wilson, translation assistants - see preface; foreword by Aldous Huxley)
  • Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Heinrich Zimmer (1946)
  • The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul's Conquest of Evil. Heinrich Zimmer (1948)
  • Philosophies of India. Heinrich Zimmer (1951)
  • The Portable Arabian Nights (1951)
  • The Art of Indian Asia. Heinrich Zimmer (1955)
  • Man and Time: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Man and Transformation: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • The Mystic Vision: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Spirit and Nature: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Myths, Dreams, Religion. Various authors (1970)
  • The Portable Jung. Carl Jung (1971)

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Joseph Campbell Foundation website
  2. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, third edition, edited by Phil Cousineau. Novato, California: New World Library, 2003, p. 25
  3. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, edited by Phil Cousineau, New World Library, 2003, p. 29.
  4. ^ Op. cit., p. 27.
  5. ^ The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, 1990, first edition: 54
  6. ^ (Larsen and Larsen, 2002, p. 160
  7. ^ The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, first edition, 1990, pp. 52-53.
  8. ^ Larsen and Larsen, 2002, chapters 8 and 9.
  9. ^ (Larsen and Larsen, 2002, p. 214; Pacifica Graduate Institute | Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library | Joseph Campbell - Chronology
  10. ^ See Joseph Campbell, Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals—India and Sake and Satori: Asian Journals—Japan, New World Library, 2002, 2003.
  11. ^ Joseph Campbell, Sake & Satori: Asian Journals—Japan, edited by David Kudler. Novato, California: New World Library, 2002, pp. xiv
  12. ^ "Joseph Campbell - A Scholar's Life",
  13. ^ Joseph Campbell Collection at the OPUS Archive.
  14. ^ The Power of Myth, Doubleday and Co., 1988, p. 117
  15. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974, ISBN 0691018391, p. 392.
  16. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Bollingen Foundation, 1949, p. 30, note 35. Campbell cites James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, New York, Viking, 1939, p. 581.
  17. ^ Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Doubleday & Co., 1988, p. 54.
  18. ^ The Joseph Campbell Foundation Website
  19. ^ OPUS Archives and Research Center on the campuses of Pacifica Graduate Institute
  20. ^ Campbell, J.: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
  21. ^ Stephen and Robin Larsen, Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. 2002, p. 541.
  22. ^ George Lucas Interview: Well Rounded Entertainment
  23. ^ Films for the Humanities and Sciences - Educational Media - The Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas and Bill Moyers
  24. ^ Star Wars @ NASM, Unit 1, Introduction Page
  25. ^ Pacifica Graduate Institute | Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library | Joseph Campbell and the Skywalker: Meetings with George Lucas
  26. ^ James B. Grossman, Princeton University, "The Hero with Two Faces"
  27. ^ James N. Frey, How to Write Damned Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, Griffin; 1st edition edition (Jul 16 2002)
  28. ^ SubMerge, "Repairing Broken Molds"
  29. ^ Steven Daly, "Tori Amos: Her Secret Garden" Rolling Stone, June 25, 1998
  30. ^ Game Designer's Radio, "A Practical Guide to the Hero's Journey"
  31. ^ See Stephen Rauch, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Joseph Campbell: In Search of the Modern Myth, Wildside Press, 2003
  32. ^ The Wild River Review, "Interview with the Dream King"
  33. ^ Campbell, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, edited by Betty Sue Flowers. Doubleday and Co, 1988, p. 120.
  34. ^ Op. cit., p. 113
  35. ^ Joseph Berger, "A Teacher of Legend Becomes One Himself", The New York Times, December 10, 1988
  36. ^
  37. ^ New York Review of Books, Vol. 36, Issue 14, September 28, 1989, pages 16–19
  38. ^ This identification has been disputed by others of Campbell's close friends and associates.
  39. ^ Religion Volume 22, Issue 2, April 1992: 151-170
  40. ^ Transcribed in book of same name [ISBN 0-06-096463-4]. These lectures (which were never so titled by Campbell) are being re-released as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series by Acorn Media as Mythos in a significantly less expurgated form.
  41. ^ New York Review of Books, Volume 36, Issue 17, November 9, 1989, pages 57–61

[edit] References

[edit] On life and work


  • Segal, Robert. Joseph Campbell an Introduction, (1987)
  • Larsen, Stephen and Robin. Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. (1991)
  • Golden, Kenneth L. Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell (1992)
  • Manganaro, Marc. Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority: A Critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye, and Campbell. (1992)
  • Madden, Lawrence. (Editor) The Joseph Campbell Phenomenon: Implications for the Contemporary Church (1992)
  • Noel, Daniel C. (Editor) Paths to the Power of Myth (1994)
  • Snyder, Tom. Myth Conceptions: Joseph Campbell and the New Age (1995)
  • Henderson, Mary. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (1997)Smithsonian Exhibit
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. (1998)
  • Ellwood, Robert. The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell (1999)


  • Man and Myth: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Sam Keen. Psychology Today, v. 5 (1971)
  • Living Myths: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Lorraine Kisly. Parabola, v. 1 (1976)
  • The Professor with a Thousand Faces. Donald Newlove. Esquire, v. 88 (1977)
  • Earthrise: The Dawning of a New Spiritual Awareness. Eugene Kennedy. New York Times Magazine. (April 15, 1979)
  • Elders and Guides: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Michael McKnight. Parabola, v. 5 (1980)
  • The Masks of Joseph Campbell. Florence Sandler and Darrell Reeck. Religion, v. 11 (1981)
  • The faces of Joseph Campbell. Brendan Gill. New York Review of Books, v. 36, number 14 (September 28, 1989)
  • Brendan Gill vs Defenders of Joseph Campbell-An Exchange. Various Authors. New York Review of Books, v. 36, number 17 (November 9, 1989)
  • Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism. Robert Segal. Religion, v. 22 (April 1992)
  • “Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?’’ Joseph M. Felser. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 64 (1998)
  • Why Joseph Campbell's Psychologizing of Myth Precludes the Holocaust as Touchstone of Reality. Maurice Friedman, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 67 (1998)
  • Joseph Campbell as Antisemite and as Theorist of Myth: A Response to Maurice Friedman. Robert A. Segal, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 66 (1999)
  • A.-M. Bilodeau, "Joseph Campbell: le jeu de l'éternité dans le temps", Religiologiques, 8 (1993), p. 182-203.

[edit] Secondary references


  • Pearson, Carol and Pope, Katherine. The Female Hero in American and British Literature. (1981)
  • Ford, Clyde W. The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa. (2000)
  • Jones, Steven Swann. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of the Imagination. (2002)
  • Erickson, Leslie Goss. Re-Visioning of the Heroic Journey in Postmodern Literature: Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Arthur Miller, and American Beauty (2006)
  • Joiner, Ann Livingston. A Myth in Action: The Heroic Life of Audie Murphy. (2006)

[edit] External links




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