the mythic dimension

Download The Mythic Dimension

Post on 01-Dec-2014




3 download

Embed Size (px)


In these pages, the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell presents twelve eclectic, far-ranging and brilliant essays exploring myth in all its dimensions: its history; its influence on art, literature, and culture; and its role in everyday life.This second volume of Campbells essays (following Flight of the Wild Gander) brings together uncollected writings from 1959 to 1987. Written at the height of Campbells career and showcasing the lively intelligence that made him the twentieth centurys premier writer on mythology these essays investigate the profound links among myth, the individual, and societies ancient and contemporary. Covering diverse terrain ranging from psychology to the occult, from Thomas Mann to the Grateful Dead, from Goddess spirituality to Freud and Jung, these playful and erudite writings reveal the threads of myth woven deeply into the fabric of our culture and our lives.


From :,,, until his death in :,;, Joseph Campbell wrote three majorworks. The multi-volume works The Masks of God and the Historical Atlasof World Mythology, and the vast The Mythic Image are not books about justmythology, they are books about all mythology, large-scale attempts tocomprehend the religious expression of the human species. In them Camp-bell introduced many facts, stories, images, and ideas to serve his larger ar-gument, only to let them go after they had served his purpose, frequentlyto the secret disappointment of his newly intrigued reader. During thesemost productive years of his career, however, Campbell did write aboutmuch of the material that he only touched on in his major works. He lec-tured prodigiously and wrote numerous essays that were either early explo-rations of or mature reections upon material that appeared in his largerventures. These essays were published in small-circulation magazines andjournals, or as introductions or chapters in others books. The best of themare collected here.The essays themselves need little introduction. Written independentlyof each other, each can be read separately, in any order. The essays fall nat-urally, nonetheless, into two categories. In Mythology and History, Camp-bell writes about mythology from a historical perspective: its development,e d i t o r s f o r e wo r dxiits uses in the past, and the mythological themes dating from early timesthat inform our lives today.Mythology and the Arts collects the essays in which Campbell ad-dresses his lifelong interest in how mythology is used in art to address theuniversal concerns of human consciousness.As the rst essay in the book, I have also included ComparativeMythology as an Introduction to Cross-Cultural Studies, Campbells in-formal look at his teaching method for the hugely popular course onmythology he gave for thirty-ve years at Sarah Lawrence College. Readerswho wish they had been present for those invigorating lectures can consult,as the next-best thing, the appendix that lists the books Campbell regularlyassigned to his class.Notes on the TextThe essays are presented with a minimum of editorial change. I have notattempted to correct Joseph Campbell. He himself saw the essays presentedhere into print on the occasion of their initial publication, so except for thecorrection of infrequent spelling mistakes and other obvious errors, the es-says appear as they did upon their rst printing. I have, however, addednotes where I felt an explanation would help. Notes that are not Camp-bells I have enclosed in square brackets. Since the notes added for this edi-tion make frequent reference to Campbells other works, I have included aselect bibliography of Campbells works as an appendix. References to therst appearance of the essays in this edition may be found here.AcknowledgmentsJohn David Ebert was an essential collaborator from the inception of theproject. He collected the originals of all the essays included here and assistedin verifying that the transcriptions were accurate. He composed the initialversions of many of the notes, and he read the manuscript and made sug-gestions and corrections at every step. Stacey Feldman did most of the tran-scribing and helped with the early stages of the page layout. Erik Rieselbachdid the bulk of the page layout and made sure that the images were prop-erly prepared for printing.The Myt hi c Di mens i on xii MYTHOLOGY AND HISTORY QIn teaching women one is confronted with different sets of academic de-mands from those of men. Whereas men generally are preparing forspecialized careers, the demands of which determine the order and organi-zation of their studies, women are comparatively free to follow the leadof their own interests. In a womens college (at least, of the kind in whichI have been teaching), there is, so to say, an open-eld situation. We donot have required courses; nor do we have examinations. On the otherhand, we do have a strict and very demanding system of education by dia-logue and discussion. I see every one of my students individually, in con-ferences, for at least one half-hour every fortnight. This makes it possibleto follow the growth, direction, and dynamics of each students individualdevelopment.The instructor in such a situation has to be willing not only to givegenerously of his time but also to participate in the students discovery ofinterestseven to the point, on occasion, of abandoning his own academicplans and point of view. It was in such a uid environment as this, then,that the course which I am going to describe came into beingin relationto a context of interests not primarily academic but experimental.Comparative Mythologyas an Introduction toCross-Cultural Studies,During my rst two or three years, I taught a survey course in com-parative literature, but at the close of the second year, three students cameto me, separately, to ask for a course in mythology. Apparently my interestin this subject had become more evident in my teaching than I had sup-posed. I was excited by the idea and decided to give three separatecoursesone to eachthe following year, based on three quite differentreading lists from three different approaches.At the end of that year, four students came to me for such a course. Ibrought them together in one classroom, basing the readings and approachthat year on what I had learned the year before. Then the year following,there were seven; and from that time on, this course has been both an es-tablished part of our curriculum and one of the great joys of my life. I havegiven up teaching anything else, and since about :,,,, have been busilytrimming it here, expanding it there, and keeping it up to date.The departmental organization of Sarah Lawrence College is somewhatatypical. We do not have strictly separated departments. There is a litera-ture and language faculty, which is the group with which I am ofciallyassociated. Since Sarah Lawrence students have generally professed great in-terest in the arts, we have strong departments in the elds of dance, theater,music, painting, and sculpture. There is, of course, a large and rather ag-gressive department in social science, which includes, for some reason orother, philosophy. Psychology is strong and important at Sarah Lawrenceparticularly in relation to a greatly appreciated nursery school. And -nally, there is a faculty of mathematics and natural science.In describing this course, I shall be dealing with something out of anage that is long past. My observations about this courseantecedent andindifferent as it is to all academic departmentalizationmay be of some useafter all even to those faced with the problems of an elaborately structureduniversity.The course is conducted in lectures. About ,c per cent of each stu-dents reading is directly related to the topics of the lectures. Each, how-ever, meets me in conference at least once a fortnight, and for thesemeetings she reads according to her own special interest in whatever direc-tion she has chosen to go. During the rst month or so, about half the classwill be at a loss. The other ,c per cent, however, will know very well whatThe Myt hi c Di mens i on they want to do and will be off with the gun. As the year proceeds, the oth-ers gradually nd their bearings.The individual projects often are developed in relation to some aspector other of another course, for the material can be approached from manypoints of viewliterary, anthropological, psychological, religious. Thecourse has served, in fact, as an effective coordinating aid for many stu-dents. And on the other hand, for those already strongly directed, there isplenty of occasion for more specialized study. I can report that a good manyreally impressive productions have come onto my desk. One of the most re-cent is now at the Viking Press and will appear as a book next year.The readings for the class begin with Ovids Metamorphoses.:Moststudents think of mythology as classical mythology, and so it has seemed tome that the logical eld for a beginning would be here. Besides, Ovids styleis uent and delightfulnot a boring line in the book. The index to thevolume, furthermore, provides as good a guide to classical myths as a be-ginner could require. But the main value of the work, from my point ofview, derives from the fact that Ovid grouped his tales in clusters accord-ing to theme, so that the student sees immediately how one essential plotcan be told and retold with a variety of turns and ascribed to many differ-ent heroes. Certain patterns, certain principles, a morphology, can be rec-ognizedthe kind of situation that I have expounded in my Hero with aThousand Faces. There is a general pattern to the hero journeythe questof the hero into unknown realms, the powers that he meets there and over-comes, the stages of his crises of victory, and his return then, with someboon that he has gained, for the founding of a city, religion, dynasty, orwhatnot; or, on the other hand, his failure and destruction. Also in Ovidright at the beginning, parallels with the Book of Genesis are evident withthe cosmogonic cycle, the formation of the world, creation of man, theood, the restoration of the earth, and so on.Next, after Ovid has set us right in the middle of our subject, we goback to the Odyssey, as a great example and test case of what we have learnedabout the archetypal hero journey. And we are now being introduced, aswell, to the historical backgrounds of the classical tradition. After that, wego back one great step further, with Frazers Golden Bough, to pre-Hellenictimes., Comparat i ve Myt hol og y as an Int roduct i onFrazer is considered by some to be a bit old-fashioned today. At