Flight of the Wild Gander

Are you looking for a quotation that you can't quite place? Trying to track down a hard-to-find publication? Here, folks can help you find the answers, or discuss ways for you to discover them for yourself.

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Brian Welling
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Post by Brian Welling » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This quote is extremely important to me. I am doing a BA in religious studies and anthropology right now, and I am very frustrated by the the mainstream approaches to these fields. Campbell's quote pinpoints exactly how those appraoches got their start. Or at least he gives me a general pointer.

I am not entirely clear on the meaning of the last paragraph however. He is alluding to the budding science of depth (psychodynamic)psychology, and how it was dismembered by this false turn in anthropology and sociology. In his description of the the mix up in these fields btwn function and morphology, I get a little mixed up myself. Is he meaning something like this: "Although certain features of various animals are not FUNCTIONALLY alike or homologous, they are STRUCTURALLY analogous. The same is true of the minds of humans in different cultures. Our thoughts are put to widely different religious or mythological functions or ends, depending on the culture we are in, but the underlying structure of our thoughts are analogous, irrespective of our cultural differences. Anthropologists fail to recognize this." I think perhaps I only have part of this right, and that some of my words should be tweaked. Could you help me? Also, I would like to know if Campbell ever said anything about Levi-Strauss and his ideas of structure.

p.s You called me "Brad" accidentally. My name is Brian.
Brian Welling<br><br>"If we were consciously aware of what we really know about ourselves and others, we could not go on living as we do, accepting so many lies." - Erich Fromm<br>
Robert G.
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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for the reference David, I came across that thread early on but did not have the patience to read past the first few pages, 'heated debate' tends to leave me cold. Besides I've read most of Campbell's work for myself and was pretty sure there was no definitive answer to be had. In the lecture Interpreting Symbolic Forms Campbell points out that there is no single way to read a rich symbol, and I would say something similar applies to his own work. Particularly on this very point. However, with your reminder I might take another look at that thread, as this is an area that fascinates me. I'll admit to occasionally daydreaming about what an afternoons conversation with Joe might be like, and this issue is usually at the heart of my questions for him.

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bodhibliss
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2004-10-02 16:09, Brian Welling wrote:
I would like to know if Campbell ever said anything about Levi-Strauss and his ideas of structure.
I've come across a number of people who lump Joseph Campbell in with the Structuralists - and there is certainly some evidence that he's far from hostile to structuralism. He often points out that the human brain is essentially unchanged from thirty thousand years ago, and that we all face the same major life-crises, whether Habsburg or Hottentot, whether neolithic hunter-gatherer or twenty-first century computer programmer ...

Campbell grounds mythology in biology and the structure of the human psyche (a case cogently made in the first hundred pages of The Masks of God, Vol.I: Primitive Mythology); hence, it's not surprising to see parallel motifs arising in cultures distant from one another in time and in space.

At the same time, Campbell's primary criticism of the Structuralist school seems to be its monotheistic approach - there's only one way of looking at things, and nothing else counts. He offers similar criticisms of functionalism, Marxism, Freudian theorists, and other single-minded approaches (and i presume would say the same thing about those who fanatically adhere to Campbell's own theories).

Interviewed by a panel of scholars at Goddard College, Campbell uses Levi-Strauss to illustrate this point:
I am very much against methodology because I think methodology determines what you are going to learn. For instance, Levi-Strauss's structuralism. All you can find is what structuralism is going to allow you to find. And an open-ended approach to the facts in front of you is going to be impossible there. He insures himself against illumination, it seems to me ...

[T]he flexible way is all right. You have to know how to run, walk, stand, and sit down. But if all you know how to do is sit down, then you're limiting your experience.
Hence, though Campbell respects Levi-Stauss's contributions and his knowledge - particularly of the primal cultures in South America - he is not a structuralist.

In Parabola, from 1976, Campbell further distinguishes himself from Levi-Strauss:
One comes to a rather different point of view with respect to mythological principles through a study of non-literate mythologies from the one that one arrives at through a study of the great literate systems. The great literate systems are magnificent poetic images and they're more or less consistent within themselves, whereas within a non-literate community the sort of material that an anthropologist who hardly knows how to speak their language can collect gives an impression of fragmentation and little parcels of strange myth that you don't know how to relate to larger images.

Now on the basis of a whole multitude of examples of these fragmentary mythic moments, Levi-Strauss goes to work, and the way he works is by breaking them up into still smaller pieces and then reassembling these to accord with what I take to be an already fixed theory. (The discovery of pairs of opposites as being implicit in all mythological systems, furthermore, is not Levi-Strauss's discovery. It is something that has been known for a long time. What Jung has called the coincidence of opposites, for example, is exactly that.)

The other thing about Strauss, where I really put myself on the other side of the fence, is his idea of mythology as a kind of proto-science. My idea is that the basic thing about myth is that it is visionary. A mythology is a system of affect-symbols, signs evoking and directing psychic energies. It is more like an affective art work than like a scientific proposition. Levi-Strauss is saying that something like verbal grammar is the structuring form of myth, and this seems to me just wrong, that's all. The logics of image thinking and of verbal thinking are two very different logics.
Not only does this passage detail differences with Levi-Strauss, but also offers insight into Campbell's own perspective of myth ... more art than science (reminds me as well of James Hillman's view of archetypal psychology as more art than science and rooted in image ... ).

One more passage, from an obscure interview with Dr. Costis Ballas in 1985, in Greece, who asks Joe his view of the Structuralist interpretation of myth:
Well, I'm sorry to say that I don't think I understand Claude Levi-Strauss very well. He is a graceful writer, and takes delight at times, it seems to me, in the play of his verbal virtuosity. I'm not sure that I always understand him. But, if I am not mistaken, his emphasis is placed on the verbal aspect of mythology. I'm not sure that I am correct here. My own view, on the contrary, is that the visual aspect of myth is what is primary. Myth derives, it seems to me, from envisionments, from visions, and vision is trans-cultural, trans-linguistic.

The fact that we find the same myth motifs all over the world seems to me to break down the verbal, philologic argument. The verbalization is then local, in terms of local interests and concerns, so that, although the local mythology has certainly been verbalized, the archetypes our of which the verbalizations have been drawn as secondary formations are pre-verbal. The structure out of which the myths come, therefore, is the structure of the human body and of the relationships to each other of the energies of the organs of the body as impulse-givers, whether in conflict with each other, or in harmony.

This may be what Levi-Strauss is finally talking about. But if it is, then I do not know what the great difference is between his Structuralism and Jung's idea of the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious.
I hope this helps (and here i thought Levi Strauss just made great jeans! :razz: ).

namaste
bodhibliss

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CarmelaBear
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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

If we are re-born from the social womb of mythology, do we leave the visual-myth world for something else or do we simply incorporate what we experienced into a more enlightened view of the universe?

Put another way...do we abandon myth as a psychological/sociological grounding and go on to another way of seeing or do we develop new stages of mythology as our needs change?
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
Robert G.
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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

BodhiBliss, your quotes are terrific. Can you identify the sources for the two that are not sourced?

Thanks
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bodhibliss
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Robert

The Goddard College interview appears in The Goddard Journal, 1968 (not sure which month); the interviewers are Norman Unruh, Ernest Boaten, and Allen Cobb, and the printed excerpts appear to be part of a longer interview on tape available through the Goddard College Learning Aids Center - or at least it was thirty-six years ago...

I have only a transcript of Campbell's interview in 1985 with Professor Costis Ballas (University of Athens, and subsequently Mental Health Advisor for Greece's Ministry of Health), and am as yet unable to pin down where this was originally published - or if this is a transcription of a recorded interview. In the mid-seventies Professor Costis Ballas conducted studies of hashish and marijuana use in Greece, and by the mid-nineties he was an expert on health concerns of migrant populations in Greece, as well as coordinating a major medical and scientific conference at the request of the Hellenic Center for the Control of AIDS and STDs (Greek Acronym: KEEL) in Athens

... but i'm hazy at the moment as to the circumstances of his interview of Campbell, or where he might be found today, though i am working on it.

I am fascinated, though, by Joe's remarks - not just on Levi-Strauss, but how the contrast between his and Levi-Strauss's approach to myth highlights Campbell's emphasis on the visual - and visionary - origins of myth ... to which image - and imagination - is central ... and seems to me to relate to the question with which November 17 opened this discussion about Campbell's reference to myth as "the picture-language of the soul."

metaphorically yours
bodhibliss

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