Joseph Campbell and Feminism

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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

This may be something that many visitors to these forums have already discussed and finished with, so I apologise if I'm several pages behind everybody else.



Mr. Campbell's work has obviously meant a lot to my life so far, or I wouldn't be here. I've read The Hero With A Thousand Faces, some of his shorter, later works, and I'm now partway through The Masks Of God.



I just finished watching the third episode of Mythos on video, and one thing I've not been able to fully understand, so far, are Mr. Campbell's thoughts on gender issues - particular as they relate to "progress" and the direction in which our world is headed.



Personally, I come from a background of some feminist thought. That said, Mr. Campbell's exploration of the past has helped me to understand gender differences, and how they're being played out in the modern day. What struck me in this latest video, however, is his remark about the "sadness" he feels at the thought of female scholars in a Princeton men's club. I found it hard to reconcile that sentiment with the fact that a prominent female scientist like Jane Goodall figured so heavily into the rest of his discussion. (I apologise if I have misunderstood his comments here.)



I am wondering what Mr. Campbell thought about the "progress" being made with regards to gender relations in the present day. Did he feel that these were hard-coded differences between men and women, and that having women "invade" men's clubs was yet another sign of where our world has gone wrong?



How did Mr. Campbell feel about the feminist movement? Or, for that matter, how did he feel about homosexuality and its place in the modern world?



Any comments or direction to an existing part of Mr. Campbell's body of work would help me very much in my own thinking. Thanks.
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Post by Guest » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This is an interesting question, one that I struggle with every day as I edit Campbell's work for publication.



Here's the thing about Campbell: he himself recognized that he was a product of his time and upbringing. He grew up in the early twentieth century, and so never learned to eschew the generic "he," never learned that an Oriental is a rug, not a person from Asia. His point about the men's club (and I found my ears prick up at that section too) is merely a sadness at the passing of a ritual place; there's no anger that women have invaded the place, just a recognition that an old indigenous tradition, the men's club, was being destroyed. He expresses the same mood, though with more vehemence, when he describes the Catholic church having the priests face the congregation as turning them into the equivalent of Julia Child--erasing the mystery.



Campbell taught women at Sarah Lawrence for thirty-five years. He had many respected women colleagues. He loved and respected women, both in the particular and general case. But he was the product of a less gender-equal time, and sometimes his own predispositions show. (This is the same argument I make with people who state that Campbell was anti-Semitic. Sarah Lawrence was a largely Jewish school. His perceived criticisms of the Jewish faith were leveled also at Christianity, and, in some cases, the Hindu religion.)
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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Oops. That was me.
David Kudler<br>Publications<br>Joseph Campbell Foundation<br>publications at jcf dot org
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Post by AdamSantangelo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for your reply, David.



I have a similar sense about Mr. Campbell, and it's reassuring to see that I'm not alone. One thing I love about his writing and lectures is that he approached mythology as a well-informed scholar, and not as an indisputable, infallible authority figure. The beautiful thing underlying all of my reading has been the thought that Campbell himself is yet another human player in the cosmic mystery of which he writes.



And even then, it's not as though his comments in the Mythos video (or elsewhere) cannot be justified on the specific grounds that you mention.



I have not read as much feminist writing as I would like, but it seems to me that mythological research opens-up a quite valid line of thought on gender relations that Mr. Campbell never had the opportunity to fully address.



Thanks again for your thoughts on the subject. This was my first posting in these message boards, but I'm looking forward to much more conversation as I continue to spend time with Joseph Campbell's work.



Adam
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Post by Barry Stephens » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Adam,



If you are interested in another view of Campbell with females, I would strongly recommend "A Fire In The Mind" by Stephen and Robin Larsen. I have just finished it. I have a new view on Campbell the PERSON, and a new respect for the dedication and commitment to his work. I suppose no one becomes an encylopedic expert without that, but the scope of his studies is simply fascinating. And women play a most prominent role in his life.



Also, I had heard rumors about his being prejudiced against different groups (women, Jews, etc), all of which reading his biography dispells.



Just a thought...
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Post by AdamSantangelo » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks, Barry. I will have to check that out.



My only biographical knowledge of Campbell, so far, comes from The Hero's Journey (both book and film), and I suspect that the book you mention may go into further detail still.
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Post by Stone_Giant » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Adam,



Found this at: http://www.angelfire.com/sc/rainingthun ... sweat.html



I thought it was a succinct comment on "single gender-bonding" (treading carefully here :eek:) and may shed light on Joseph C's (mythos-informed) attitude.





Who Sweats and Why?



The "Sweatlodge" usually occurs before and after other major rituals like the "Vision Quest" for example. It’s aim is to purify your mind, body, spirit and heart. It is also a "stand alone" ritual meaning that it occurs whenever it is needed. Grandmother sweat lodge essentially translates into returning to the womb. The lodge is dark, moist, hot and safe. The women gave Sweatlodge to the men because Women already had their "moon time" each month and thus had the ability to cleanse themselves. Men not having this gift needed something to aid in removing impurities from the body thus the lodge was born.





Traditionally it was only the men who would sweat. As time has passed and the lodge has evolved other levels have been shown. The lodge has given more gifts and shown herself as a way to not only cleanse but additionally to release anger, guilt and shame in a safe way. These days women sweat also provided they are not on their moontime or cleansing time already. Men can sweat separately and women can sweat separately OR there can be what we call mixed sweats where men and women both participate. The Elder or Lodge Keeper running the ceremony according to their teachings will determine all this

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

I just thought I would add my thoughts, even though there hasn't been a post here for awhile.

As a woman, I've always been a bit feminist. In college, I started reading alot of books that explored the ancient goddess cults such as THE MYTH OF THE GODDESS by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.

It was fascinating to learn that in ancient times, the personified spiritual deity was actually feminine such as the palaeolithic mother goddess, who works her way up through time in many masks and cultures, to the popularity of the Virgin Mary in the christian Church.

I got a bit carried away, but my husband pulled me down out of my illusions of a world ruled by a 'goddess'. Campbell helped too! He saw the traditions for what they were...symbols and metaphors...woman were life givers...they were mysterious and beautiful like the stories in our myths. And of course he goes more in depth than that.

Reading Campbell has given me a new appreciation for the expereinces I have as a woman such as being a mother and a wife.
I think he saw the whole picture, not just the masculine or feminine side of the issue.

Who cares if he missed the men's club, I miss (even though I was never present :smile: ) the days the prime deity was a woman!!!!

Now, we can look past (or try our hardest to look past) the opposites and look to something more whole. We look to 'God' as woman, man, creator, destroyer, you and I.

Thanks for reading :smile:

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

I got a bit carried away, but my husband pulled me down out of my illusions of a world ruled by a 'goddess'. Campbell helped too! He saw the traditions for what they were...symbols and metaphors...woman were life givers...they were mysterious and beautiful like the stories in our myths. And of course he goes more in depth than that.

Scarlett - yes - but isn't it a bit depressing that after many thousands of years society seems to be finding it really hard to come to the same conclusion with regard to the illusion of a masculine God?
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Post by Scarlett » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Yes Wynne,

Since I recently seen these metaphors in a new light (masculine and feminine as being parts of a whole)...well I do wish others could see it that way. I'm speaking from my experiences as growing up as a Christian. A lot of my friends and family read the Christian Bible very literally...I wish they would open up to the idea of learning from other myths. Then maybe the ideas of masculine and feminine would change for them. To them, the goddess mother cultures right now, are a bunch of fake pagan religions...they look at me like I'm crazy when I talk about all of this!

I do have a friend (Christian) who believes most woman are pretty devious and sly. He loves to use the arguement of Eve tempting Adam. Sighhhhh
I'm still trying to introduce him to other creation myths, so he can see the comparisons...but I don't believe in forcing my beliefs on anyone.
he love discussion/debates though...so we can talk to each other with respect.

As for the rest of the world....well I think there are a lot of people still confused. Hec! I don't even have eveything figured out.


For all men live by truth and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Post by dharvilicz » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Hi, I just thought I would add my thoughts - especially since I just watched that section of the Mythos DVD yesterday where JC talks about the Princeton club.

I also was a little shocked and had to think about what he was saying.

The context was an analogy with the chimpanze males who have so much free time when not defending against attacks or looking food that they simply hang out together (grooming etc.)

JC then said that the Princeton club was a place for men to fulfill these desires which are in our unconscious rooted in our animal past.

This raises one of the most fundamental topics that JC has helped me with: the problems that come from our minds are stuck (I would say trapped) in these bodies.

Here is my take:

There is a balance and harmony you need to find b/t your mind and your body; between your innate animalistic urges and more advanced human ideals - for me this is still difficult to do.

So, ceteris paribus, IF men didn't make contacts that helped them advance their careers (which I think JC would argue shouldn't happen if everyone were treated justly) and if the men didn't turn their "guy nights out" into strip-clubs and immoral behavior, then perhaps allowing men to hang out would fulfill some deep-seated need and make them, overall, happier people and make their marriage better in the process.

Unfortunately, reality steps in and ruins everything as usual: contacts are made that act to disadvantage women and men do tend to reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator of a group- so in the end, I think Princeton and that silly golf course place should open to women - and I would bet you JC would agree in the end if given all the facts - I bet you he doesn't really understand that jobs and promotions really are made in these elite little places.

Just my opinion...

David
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Post by Painted Owl » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi,actually I know this is going to prove unpopular but,we are all products of our time and place.To think that everything which is now political correct is in harmony with our biology and psychological makeup is absurd.The changes which have occured in the structure of society for better or worse we live with it,certainly all the changes which have taken place are not all positive.
"Those whom know the most must mourn the deepest orr the fatal truth, the tree of knowledge is not that of life." Goethe
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Post by Scarlett » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Painted Owel,

Do you think their was ever really a time during human evolution that everything was in "harmony"
I see these ever changing ideals and concepts effect society. People usually are products of their time. However, I think these phases -- one might call them -- are part of human growth.

I have hope that someday we will find something more unifying than a men's club or a world ruled by goddesses (as nice as that sounds--just kidding :smile: )

We are growing, growing....

Scarlett

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

Scarlett,You make an excellent point,no I don't believe there ever was a time when all things were favourable to our biology and psychological makeup-kind of utopian.I don't necessary see it either as human growth or development any more today then in the past.Society in a sense has a life of it own and the various aspect will develop in a corelated manner,not necessariy progress.Personally,I don't believe there is anyone at the helm.

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

Painted Owel,

I like to think that human growth is part of a journey or return to "the garden"
In a symbolic sense of course.

Scarlett

For all men live by truth and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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