"Follow your bliss" was his lifelong motto.  Words to live by, my friends.  It was his conviction that if you followed this ethic austerely and truthfully, then the world (or at least your perception of it) would coincide to suit your needs and wants.  Naturally Campbell's seemingly temperate nature, popular accessibility and astounding wealth of knowledge led many to consider him a guru of sorts (re: Carl Sagan, Noam Chomsky, Ashley Montagu, Bertrand Russell).  The search for spiritual and symbolic significance was a recurrent theme within Campbell's works and he scrutinized the essence of myths and religion in his lifelong quest; his was a familiar and intimate pursuit, shared by countless readers and students.

One of my favorite stories of his (this is a paraphrase) comes from a personal account to Bill Moyers in "The Power of Myth."  He recounts a tale of attending a convention where a great many of the worlds religions are represented.  The administrators of the disparate religions are butting heads on all sorts of issues and can't seem to agree on anything, whereas those "spiritual" and "mystics" of the differing religions seemed to be on the same wavelength throughout the conference, evidently getting along perfectly without the need to express more than a few words to each other.  He implies that among the mystics there was a similar spiritual connection, something which they all understood and recognized regardless of their specific religion.

Among his more significant works:

Joseph Campbell, 1904-1987

Joseph Campbell, born in 1904 in New York City, was first exposed to mythology when his father took him, and his younger brother, to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden in 1910. This sparked an interest in Native American Culture, partially fueled by the belief he had Native American blood, so strong that by 1913, at age nine, he had started reading through the entire selection of children's books on Native Americans, and at age eleven, was allowed to check out books from the adult section to keep reading.

Eventually he entered Dartmouth College to study biology and mathematics. However, after discovering The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, he transferred to Columbia University and entered the English Department. While on a ocean voyage to Europe, he met and made friends with Jiddu Krishnamurti, who exposed him to Oriental philosophy. During the years, he also ran on the track team and played in a jazz band on weekends.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he enrolled in the graduate program at Columbia in 1926 to study Medieval Literature. In 1927, he earned a Proudfit Traveling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to the Unveristy of Paris, where he studied Romance philology and old French. In this time he discovered modern literature, including most notably James Joyce. He then transferred to the University of Munich to study Sanskrit literature and Indo-European philology.

In 1929, he returned to America, two weeks before the stock market crashed. He soon found that because of the depression, there were no job prospects and gave up doctoral work to rent a cottage in Woodstock for $20 a year, spending a large amount of time continuting his studies, especially reading.

In 1934, he accepted a job from his old headmaster at Canterbury prep school. He only taught for a year, returning back to reading and writing afterwards. He was then invited to teach at Sarah Lawrence College, where he would spent the next 38 years in their literature department.

Over the years, Campbell worked with a huge number of people, authoring, contributing, and editing a large number of works.

On October 30, 1987, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Joseph Campbell passed away. He left behind both the Joseph Campbell Foundation and the Campbell & Gimbutas Library.

Campbell worked extensively with mythology over the years, and is considered by some people to be the world's best scholar in comparative mythology. He analyzed both myth and religion, looking at the meaning and not the literal text.

Over the years, he drew many parallels among all of the world's mythology and religion, and encouraged people to find those parallels, those meanings, and use them to look at life, even modern life, with some of the same perspectives. To see the mythical in everyday life. He also pointed out the importance in ritual, as a way of connecting - he recommended to one person who missed saying grace before meals (due to no longer being religious) to say thanks to the plants and animals who had given their lives so his could continue.

It seems that any person who is familiar with Joseph Campbell's works is profoundly affected. Many have even been affected by him without even realizing it - one of the inspirations for George Lucas's Star Wars was Joseph Campbell. The experiences, obstances, and path of the hero, Luke Skywalker, covers the journeys mentioned in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In fact, Campbell at times, late in his lifetime, used Star Wars as a great example of the hero, of mythology.

Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Myth:

  1. Read myths with the eyes of wonder: the myths transparent to their universal meaning, their meaning transparent to its mysterious source.

  2. Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.

  3. Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses of ancient mythology still live within you.

  4. Any myth worth its salt exerts a powerful magnetism. Notice the images and stories that you are drawn to and repelled by. Investigate the field of associated images and stories.

  5. Look for patterns; don't get lost in the details. What is needed is not more specialized scholarship, but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections; break old patterns of parochial thought.

  6. Resacralize the secular: even a dollar bill reveals the imprint of Eternity.

  7. If God is everywhere, then myths can be generated anywhere, anytime, by anything. Don't let your Romantic aversion to science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.

  8. Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a vacuum; they are the connective tissue of the social body which enjoys synergistic relations with dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of myth).

  9. Expand your horizons! Any mythology worth remembering will be global in scope. The earth is our home and humankind is our family.

  10. Read between the lines! Literalism kills; Imagination quickens.

Here is a list of major works authored and edited by Joseph Campbell. Bibliographic data (where available) is about the first edition.






Joseph Campbell Foundation, Mediagraphy - http://www.jcf.org/mediagraphy.htm
Joseph Campbell - http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/campb.htm
Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Myth - http://freenet.msp.mn.us/org/mythos/mythos.www/TENCOM.HTML
Campbell & Gimbutas Library - Joseph Campbell - Chronology - http://www.pacifica.edu/cglibrary/campchron.html

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