Joseph Campbell Notes

/ Reading Notes /

Joseph Campbell
Myths to Live By
20016 08 02
Most guardians of society have a tendency in that direction, asserting their authority not for, but against the search for disturbing truths.

Lies are what the world lives on

“facts of the mind made manifest in a fiction of matter” Maya Deren

Frazer’s explanation of magic was that because things are associated in the mind they are believed to be associated in fact. Shake a rattle that sounds like falling rain, and rain will presently fall.

Myths, according to Freud’s view, are of the psychological order of dream. Myths, so to say, are public dreams; dreams are private myths. Both, in his opinion, are symptomatic of repressions of infantile incest wishes, the only essential difference between a religion and neurosis being that the former is the more public.

Wow, he’s saying that religion is a public neurosis?!

Myths are the mental supports of rites; rites, the physical enactments of myths.

it is a curious characteristic of our unformed species that we live and model our lives through acts of make-believe.

  • Chap 3, E & W
    It is not easy for Westerners to realize that the ideas recently developed in the West of the individual, his selfhood, his rights, and his freedom, have no meaning whatsoever in the Orient. They had no meaning for primitive man. They would have meant nothing to the peoples of the early Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Chinese, or Indian civilizations. They are, in fact, repugnant to the ideals, the aims and orders of life, of most of the peoples of this earth.
  • Right o’: memorize that.

    all the members of his court played in their lives symbolic roles, determined not by their personal wishes but by the game rules of a ritual pantomime of identification with heavenly bodies — very much as in the earlier, primitive stages of human cultural mutation the rituals had been imitative of the animal species or of the life-and-death cycles of plants.

    I’m reminded of my college readings in 17th-c literature. We read Ben Jonson’s plays with some ease as well as interest but were at a loss with Jonson’s masques. But the pattern was ancient: Jonson organized Queen Elizabeth’s ladies and knights onto astrological maps: the aristocrats embodied the gods and goddesses of Ptolemaic cosmology.
    Twain, centuries later, satirized this, depicting the Countess of Bedford puking undder the banquet table then lifting her skirts and taking a dump in the corner. It was 1959 since I read that, I could have a detail wrong.

    ancient custom of ritual regicide

    when all assigned tasks shall have been perfectly fulfilled, erase oneself absolutely, slipping … like a dewdrop into the sea.

    the famous conflict of science and religion has actually nothing to do with religion, but is simply of two sciences: that of 4000 B.C. and that of A.D. 2000.

    the ultimate divine power is neither male nor female but transcendent of all categories

    some folk simply don’t know how to look within. The fault is no one’s, if not one’s own.

    A ritual is an organization of mythological symbols

    Where the synagogues and churches go wrong is by telling what their symbols “mean.” The value of an effective rite is that it leaves everyone to his own thoughts

    The idea here being that the essence of the Buddhist way is diligent purification.<br /

    [backing up a step] the preaching of identity is in our best-known view the prime heresy. When Jesus said, "I and the Father are one," he was crucified for blasphemy; and when the Moslem mystic Hallaj, nine centuries later, said the same, he too was crucified.

    Chinese term, wu-wei,” “not doing,” the meaning of which is not “doing nothing,” but “not forcing.” Things will open up of themselves, according to their nature.

    “The Tao is close at hand, yet people seek it afar”. Mencius.

    Still east versus west [p 269]:

    Every act of nature is an act of sin, accompanied by a knowledge of its guilt.

    abandon absolutely all concern for the fruits of action, whether in this world or in the next.

    Life defined is bound to the past, no longer pouring forward into future.

    p 286 for seven days, at ease beneath a fifth tree, the Buddha, considering, thought: “This cannot be taught.”

    For indeed, illumination cannot be communicated.

    I have to discuss the “truth” of Buddha’s “wisdom” is this and other of his supposed conclusions: in their own post, or series of posts, some of the posts already existing in a variety of categories.

    Buddha essence:

  • The First Noble Truth: “All life is sorrowful.”
  • The second Noble Truth: “There is release from sorrow.”
  • The Third Noble Truth: “The release from sorrow is Nirvana.”
  • I’ll come back to those.

    coincidence and transcendence of opposites

    the sacrament of marriage, and, if excluded from Heaven, then sanctified in Hell.

    ecclesiastical despotism
    People were forced to profess and live by beliefs they did not always actually hold.

    Cause & Effect
    Human thinking at its most glib.
    But this is good, very:
    Everything, all the time, is causing everything else.

    pk note: in the 1980s, camped around Main Line Philadelphia, I was targeted by a group of Buddhist missionaries, chanters: they taught chanting as a cause of good things. I loved the girl’s hips, I wanted her ass in my hands, her mons on my mouth (even though she was married: how could her husband stand her running around chanting at strangers? The group had some machine-gun-paced patter about “the universal laws of cause and effect”. Nothing can be reasonably discussed while being machine-gunned with cant.
    People assume that people are reasonable (Didn’t used to be!) People assume that things have already been reasonably discussed and they they have just to hear the result. Tain’t so. These, and other people, had no idea that I had even complained that nothing had been reasonably establsiehd, not with me participating. Every minute of everyday the Christ killers, the false Buddhists, sabotage the possibility of discussion! People assume the universities have discussed everything. No, that’s the center of the sabotage.

    Our institutions aren’t the center of wisdom; they’re the center of sabotage.

    Time counts. We say, They were the Nazis. We need to say, We are the Nazis.
    No, we’re not the Christians; we’re the Romans.
    No, we’re not the Buddhists; we’re the glib dogmatists.

    I’ve said elsewhere at K. that I sure wish my Sunday school teacher had introduced me to Joseph Campbell’s work when I was ten or so and thought along parallel lines. I’m sure my teacher is long dead by now, so’s Campbell, I will be soon, I hope. I’ve been reading Campbell in the last several years since my son gave me a kindle with a bunch of books on it, including several Campbell books. Reading him now I find it’s with extra zest. I recognize gaps that I’ve partly filled in myself, by luck, by the grace of god … whatever. My adult life has been spent catching up at least part way on things that got elided once upon a time. Part of what I’m reading in Campbell I got from Bucky Fuller, but today I see parts in Campbell that I didn’t get from Fuller: Fuller gave me the southen gods / northern gods dichotomy, but Campbell’s got extra wrinkles there: the sacrificial shepherd comes only from the southern religions, the plant eaters, not the hunters.

    Campbell cites Sir James Frazier, a god of mine: and gives me insight to that valuation I don’t think I’d fully digested before: Frazier was the ideal 19th-century mind: believing that science would prevail, religion would atrophy. No, no: Campbell is right there, Frazier had it wrong. I had it wrong too, shame on me. But: I didn’t really catch Frazier till I was in my forties and writing my novels. My beautiful blond friend, Linda, running the Environmental Library in Sarasota loaned me the one volume Frazier. Finally I was able to read all of it, carefully. Frazier fed me much of my sense of science, feeding me in the wake of Gregory Bateson feeding me.

    In some senses — cybernetic data bases, an internet, for example — I was the most 21stt-Century man in the 20th Century; in other ways I was stuck, side by side with Frazier in the nineteenth! [See Deschool Menu.]

    Cosmologic Solipsism
    2016 08 28 I’ve been out of patience for a while now with the solipsistic tinge I see in Buddhist thought. Now I’m in Campbell’s chapter 8, The Mythology of Love, and I’m out of patience with the solipsist cast to Indian myth. The primal being thinks 1) “I”. 2) Then feels fear of death. 3) Then feels solitary (and so creates gender). Thus there are now two of him: a pair, male and female. Buddha sits under a tree and draws cosmic conclusions. The upanishad dreams being dreaming solitude. Yaweh creates a world, and, with nothing to compare it to, decides that it is “good”. Maybe I’ll stop reading. Maybe I’ll stop expressing notes. I’ve dreamed of communication: but it’s a nightmare. I wish I could wake up.

    And again: “all life is sorrowful”
    Generalizations based on incomplete experience. It’s like saying no two snowflakes are identical: if you’ve examined 600 trillion, you still haven’t examined all. You haven’t examined any on Neptune, or on the moons of Canis Major.

    Notice, this religious type of thinking, jumping to generalizations, is acceptable to common thinking. We have no talent for science or reason: drives me nuts.

    ecclesiastical despotism
    “redemption” vested in sacraments administered by authorities who were themselves indeed corrupt. People were forced to profess and live by beliefs they did not always actually hold. The imposed moral order held precedence over the claims of both truth and love.

    Reading Notes A — L By Author M — Z

    About pk

    Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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