Sunday, May 16, 2021
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Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth

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Author: Joseph Campbell
Title: The Power of Myth
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Anchor Books/Doubleday
Rated: * * * * *

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Based on a six-part PBS television series hosted by Bill Moyers in which Moyers interviews with mythologist Joseph Campbell and asks many questions regarding his life's study and writings regarding world myths and their meaning and influence on the human experience. My own impression was that this book (and the series of interviews) are very revealing of the human psyche and our search for the meaning of our existence, how myth is the root of all the world's religions and that mythic symbolism is the same throughout. If you wish to have a much broader understanding of world mythologies and religions then I highly suggest you first read this book. It is a true eye-opener! Campbell has a unique way of bringing the knowledge and mythology of ancient cultures into perspective for modern minds and can just as easily help the common laymen understand mythic symbols in ancient Sumerian culture as he can in George Lucus' Star Wars epic. Through the medium of mythic symbols Campbell helps display how all world religions are connected and that they are all attempting to portray an understanding of the human spiritual existence and the nature of the world around us. In other words myth portrays the unseen and sometimes 'unknown' around us but that is all part of universal or cosmic law and structure. With this understanding one realizes that all religions are valid and all religions are flawed to some extent as well. True spirituality seekers will learn to read beyond the religious dogma or mythic stories of the ages and see the universal Truths held within them all. "The main motifs of the myths are the same, and they have always been the same. If you want to find your own mythology, the key is with what society do you associate?...The only mythology that is valid today is the mythology of hte planet" If nothing else we can all learn to at least follow these words of Joseph Campbell to help improve our own quality of life, "Follow your bliss". "Are you going to be a person of heart and humanity--because that's where the life is, from the heart...". He also makes some interesting statements regarding such ancient traditions as ritual and magic which help shed some light on these subjects which remain severely clouded by those individuals in our society who are unfamiliar with it's practices. He also defines ritual as the enactment of a myth. In the following passage he discusses how these traditions differ from fundamentalist religions today in their relationship with nature. "In the nineteenth century, scholars thought of mythology and ritual as an attempt to control nature. But that is magic, not mythology or religion. Nature religions are not attempts to control nature but to help you put yourself in accord with it. But when nature is thought of as evil, you don't put yourself in accord with it, you control it, or try to, and hence the tension, the anxiety, the cutting down of forests, the annihilation of native people. And the accent here separates us from nature." There are many other aspects of the book which could keep anyone discussing the topics for ages. He discusses everything from Jungian philosophy to the Gaia Principle, Christianity to Paganism, The human psyche and the unconscious mind, various symbols and myths worldwide and how they have affected our culture both in the past and the present. You will also find much discussion about sacredness, vision quests, shamanism, and many other aspects of our human quest for the divine.


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