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Joseph Campbell

Pathways To Bliss – Joseph Campbell (2018)

Another collection of lectures of Campbell. I thought this title would be how Campbell views the incorporation of myth in daily life. In a way it it.

The “remarkable storytelling” from the cover again works on my nerves a bit. Indeed, also this title reads like Campbell is talking by heart in front of a group, which in most cases is true.

Campbell talks about things I do agree with. “The necessity of rites”, the importance of mythology, etc. He makes valid points every so often. Quite soon he starts talking about Freud and Jung. Initially it is amusing how he compresses the ideas of Freud into a page and a half, but especially when it comes to Jung, Campbell’s psychological approach to his subjects annoyingly starts to surface. Way too many pages are spent on psychology instead of mythology. After a mildly interesting interlude, follow boring “dialogues” in which Campbell talks with a “man” and a “woman” talk about the difference men and women.

I think this will be the last title of Campbell that I read until I forget again that he is not really my author.

2018 New World Library, isbn 9781577314714

Romance of the Grail – Joseph Campbell (2022)

I have never been much fond of Joseph Campbell (1904-1987). In the Amazon Kindle Store (but you can also get this book as a soft- or hardcover or audio book) I ran into a stack (18 so far) of titles in a series of collected works. Since it never hurts to learn of other opinions and because the subject of the present title is interesting, I decided to read me another Campbell.

The collected works series are compilations of articles, essays, lectures, etc. of Campbell, given sometimes over the course of decades and then compiled and ordered per theme. Therefor it is not a work by Campbell, but a book edited, in this case by Evans Lansing Smith.

In the introduction we read how the editor as a student got acquainted with Campbell, first on an excursion later attending lectures at universities and other occasions. Campbell is presented as a story teller and that is exactly what he is in this book.

After a general introduction into the (pre)history of the Arthurian myths follows a long and detailed retelling of the Parzival story of Wolfram von Eschenbach, but in the words of Campbell. This is amusing here and there, but in general I find it too popularly. With the Tristan story things become more informative and part three even has a theme: “the waste land”.

The first appendix is Campbell’s dissertation and I prefer the (somewhat) more academic presentation over the previous parts. The text about the “dolorous stroke” is -in my opinion- also the most interesting part of the book, even though it is a text of a young Campbell.

Overall I can only repeat once more that Campbell’s approach often is not mine. Blunt statements such as “he was a sun god”, following Frazer in seeing “fertility gods” everywhere, the stress on the psychological approach, I prefer Campbell’s colleagues with other nuances.

But, the book shows that Campbell spent decades on the subject, returning to it, evolving in his thinking, mirroring it to new discoveries either or not from other cultures. He obviously had a wide interest and he seems to present all information and comparisons straight from his head. He also has many things that I do agree with. Overall, Romance of the Grail made an alright read.

2022 New World Library, isbn 1608688283

Man And Time * Joseph Campbell (editor) (1957)

A while ago I was looking for a new title of Mircea Eliade. I ran into “Man and Time”, a title with essays of a variety of authors including Eliade. My eye fell on the names Gilles Quispel and Gerardus van der Leeuw, which made the title even more interesting. Oh yes, Carl Gustav Jung is also in it. Oh well. When I received the book I saw that it has been published in a series (number 3) as English versions of the famous Eranos Jahrbücher, so certainly Jung was in it! I never knew that these Eranos books were available in English. “Man And Time” contains texts from the meetings of 1949 and 1951.
The Eranos group was a group of scholars who came together once a year. I always thought that these meetings took place in the house of Jung and that the scholars were psychologists with a black sheep here and there. Actually it was a group of scholars of a varried breed, meeting in the house of Olga Froebe-Kapteyn with as goal to get to know each other’s disciplines and learn from each other’s insights. A good initiative!
“Man and Time” contains lectures of Henry Corbin, Erich Neumann, Henri-Charles Puech, Louis Massignon, Helmut Wilhelm, Helmuth Plessner, Max Knoll, Adolf Portman and the authors that I already mentioned. You get very different views on the concept of time. From the concept of time in different religions/currents (Gnosticism, Puech; Patristic Christianity, Quispel; Islam, Massignon; Mazdaism and Ismailism, Corbin; Indian thought, Eliade and the I Ching, Wilhelm), relations between time and art (Neumann) and time and death (Plessner) and a highly scholarly scientific history of Knoll. The latter is so technical that I have not even read it entirely, but Knoll perfectly shows what the Eranos group is all about when he flies from psychology to biology to mythology to meteorology.
I personally prefer the Eliade approach with mythological time and Gerardus van der Leeuw at the end has a very nice lecture of primordial time. A thing to note is that this book contains Jung’s famous text On Synchronicity and I must say that in most essays the psychological undertone is quite heavy, so my prejudice was not entirely unfounded. Nonetheless an interesting book to read when you are interested in scholars who threw away their blinders.
1957/1983 Bollingen, isbn 0691097321

The Power Of Myth * Joseph Campbell / Bill Moyers (1988)

The Power Of MythI bought this book when I was ‘in between literature’. It is not really a book by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), but rather the written result of a series of interviews by his former student Bill Moyers that were broadcasted on TV. My Dutch translation has a title translating as “myths and consciousness”, I think the original title fits the content a lot better. Campbell might have had ideas that I do not agree with, but as the introduction to this book says:

He was, of course, criticized for dwelling on the psychological interpretation of myth, for seeming to confine the contemporary role of myth to either an ideological or therapeutic function. I am not competent to enter that debate, and leave it for others to wage. He never seemed bothered by the controversy. He just kept on seeing, opening to others a new way of seeing.

And Campbell doing what he thought he ought to be doing can easily inspire both people who follow his ideas as those who do not (entirely). And inspire is exactly what this book does. Campbell may have been a scholar, a writer of books, a teacher at universities, but this man lived myth. Already in the first minutes of the first interview, he says:

One of the problems of today is that we are hardly acquinted with the literature of the mind. We are interested in the daily news and problems of the moment.

Campbell had a fixed period of time in each day to read, both to keep up with the literature in his field, but mostly to be continuesly inspired. The way Campbell in the interviews flies from one mythology to another, from Amerindian stories to Star Wars, from daily things to the Vedas is amazing. Subjects dealt with vary from heros to goddesses to marriage. What I liked most about this book is that time and time again Campbell shows the importance of myth for our daily lives. A whole range of nice tales, anecdotes and interesting pieces of information pass, but the parts in which Campbell shows what the subject of his lifelong studies meant to him make this little book worth reading to anyone who is interested in religion and mythology.
1988 apostrophe, isbn 0385418868 (of the anchor editions)

The Hero With A Thousand Faces * Joseph Campbell (1972)

A Hero With A Thousand Faces

The modern intellectual will without hesitation admit that the symbology of mythology has a psychological meaning. Especially since the work of psychoanalysists there can be little doubt that myths are of the same breed as dreams and that dreams are the driving force of the psyche.

I did not really plan on reading this book, but I ran into second hand and also I was a little curious about this often-mentioned writer. Campbell has an approach that is not mine. As you can read in the opening quote, he finds modern psychology to be a good starting point to explain mythology and on many occassions, Campbell goes even so far to compare myths with dreams. Especially in the beginning of the book, this view comes around the corner irritatingly often, but this becomes less furtheron. As a matter of fact, Campbell differentiates his ideas a little. However I do not agree with the approach, I still find the book recommendable. Somewhat thematically Campbell displays a massive amount of myths, fables and folklore, making comparisons and giving interpretations. I noticed some sloppy mistakes in the Norse parts, so I cannot guarantee that the writer is 100% accurate in his retellings, but A Hero With A Thousand Faces is a very nice read.

Mythology is often understood by the modern mind as a primitive, clumsy attempt to explain the world of nature (Frazer); as a product of poetic fantasy from prehistoric times, that in later centuries was understood incorrectly (Müller); as a reservoir of allegorical lessons, meant for the individual to adjust to the group (Durkheim); as a collective dream, symptomatic for the primal urges in the depths of the human psyche (Jung); as the traditional means to convey metaphysical awareness (Coomaraswamy); and as the Divine Revelation to His children (the Church). Mythology is all this at the same time.

(My translation of the Dutch translation back to English…)

The writer even says that mythology has a function in our time and age and describes the downfall of our society to the loss of mythology. That is something that I agree with wholeheartedly!

princeton university press, isbn 0691017840