Campbell: Psychological vs. Metaphysical

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

Fellow Associates:

A while back, David Kudler wrote the following comments:

"Campbell's basic thesis is that all of the religions and mythic systems share common themes. Because his field was comparative mythology, as opposed to religious studies or anthropology, which tend to focus on the ways in which religions and cultures differ, he was interested in the basic psychology of the human religious impulse. He wasn't interested in metaphyics--except as a vehicle for understand the human mind. And he wasn't as interested in questions of theology as he was in how and why the rites and myths of various religions affect (or fail to affect) their adherents."

David's take on Campbell concurs with my own. Indeed, that is the way I have viewed Campbell since I first came across him when I was 11 years old.

Our associate Martin views Campbell quite differently. Martin finds it astonishing that David and I believe Campbell was interested in the psychological, rather than the metaphysical.

Martin and I would like to invite our fellow associates to join us in a genteel, civil discussion of this issue. In other words, we would like to share our ideas and experiences rather than engage in a debate to prove one side is righteous and the other side are a bunch of idiots.

We have probably all projected our selves, our ideas, beliefs, fears, and desires onto Campbell. Therefore, I believe, that our individual take on Campbell says much more about us than it does about the good professor. My hope is that this discussion can help each of us wake up a little, open up, and come alive to what's inside us, making us tick. There are no right or wrong answers to that.

One ground rule, please: Let's avoid ad hominem attacks against Campbell and each other. Thank you.

Tree Hugger


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

Tree Hugger,
it's funny, I have written the following lines to start a new topic and was searching for a title, when I regarded, that you were faster than me! I just want to add, that I don't think we have to read Campbell in a psychological OR in a metapysical way. I think of his writings to be comparative mythology from a mainly psychological point of view. But, in difference to David and you (if I do not understand you wrong), I think, that he believed in the deeper religious or transcendental contents of mythology - not in the folk ideas, but in some kind of a transcendental mystery of consciousness.

Here is, what I prepared to post as a new topic:

David really confused me a little bit, saying that Campbell
wasn't interested in metaphyics--except as a vehicle for understand the human mind
,that
Campbell himself was not a religious man
, but someone, who is
trying to discuss a human mode of experience, without getting too deeply into the question of whether that experience came from an actual connection to the divine or a psycho-biological reaction.
On another thread, called “Campbell’s personal beliefs”, Ruiz is explaining his own point of view, that is identical with mine. Ruiz quotes Campbell from the “Hero’s Journey film”:
"The thing that saved me was the Upanishads, Hinduism, where you have practically the same mythology, but it has been intellectually interpreted. That is to say, already in the ninth century B. C. the Hindus realized that all the deities are projections of psychological powers, and they are within you, not out there.They're out there also in a certain way, in a mysterious way, but the real place for them is in here [points to heart]. Boy, that saved the whole day.”
Of cause, Campbells profession was comparative mythology. But doesn’t the quotation above show, that he indeed was believing in a religious or metaphysical way on what he told about the plane of consciousness, that is supporting ego consciousness and the visible world , about eternity and transcendence , about the mystery, that is beyond all categories of thought, even beyond the categories of being and non-being ? Or is everything reducable on a psychological point of view, without any metaphysical, mystical or religious aspects?

I would like to understand David and Tree Hugger, who seem to think, that not only in some of his books, Campbell tries to be the objective scientist, but that everything he was saying about consciousness, transcendence and eternity has to be interpreted in a psychological way.




<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin on 2002-08-08 11:50 ]</font>

Just an edit od a little mistake: turned "merely" into "mainly" psychological point of view):

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

On 2002-08-08 10:50, Tree Hugger wrote:
Fellow Associates:
We have probably all projected our selves, our ideas, beliefs, fears, and desires onto Campbell. Therefore, I believe, that our individual take on Campbell says much more about us than it does about the good professor.
That is a point, David also mentioned, talking about "Campbells personal mythic believes", and it's a good one. Indeed, I was pondering, if I am projecting my own ideas, that I have created during three decades, on the poor professor, whom I am reading since about some lousy 3 or 4 years. (I think it was in 1999, when I discovered "Power of Myth".)

Your statement above, Tree Hugger, I don't find so much controversal, than it seemed in the previous discussion. Maybe we were just stressing different aspects? But I am still wondering about David's comments, because, for me, his statements sound like if Prof. Joe had been a kind of nihilistic scientist -or just someone with great knockledge, but small opinion.

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

Sorry, it's me above, again like having been forgotten my name.
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

metaphysics
SYLLABICATION: met·a·phys·ics
PRONUNCIATION: AUDIO: mt-fzks KEY
NOUN: 1. (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
2. (used with a pl. verb) The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.
3. (used with a sing. verb) A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
I just want an answer to one question before I say anything else on this thread. How could you read, watch or listen to Joseph Campbell and not associate this term with his words?

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

AL,

I'm asking you to honor the spirit in which this thread was started. We're seeking a genteel and civil discussion in which associates share their ideas and experiences. We intend to avoid debate and personal rancor. The goal is self-knowledge.

Right now we're talking about the way we may project our own fears and desires onto Campbell. How does that affect our interpretation of Campbell's teachings? As I said when I initiated this thread, there are no right or wrong answers here.

If you or any other associate has a personal story or personal insight about how your own projection of self may have colored your interpretation of Campbell's message, please share it with us in a non-rancorous manner.

Best Wishes, Tree Hugger
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

What, are you my mother? You know full well which side of the fence I'm on in this issue. I have poured out my soul in these threads...and you playing therapist is just putting a wet blanket on the whole view that I'm expressing. We cant raise our hands to ask permission to speak. I just asked a simple question.

With no rancor intended,
AL

P.S. If one has never intentionally engaged one's self in "A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment" and always lived within the boundaries set by scientific minds, then it would be hard to understand this manner of inquiry.
PSS. TH, you titled this thread "Campbell:Psychological vs. Metaphysical." Are we to assume projection of self has some metaphysical significance? It seems a bit limiting for those of us who see Campbell's metaphysical insights outweighing his elaborations on the psychological implications of "following your bliss."
PSSS. How is "a genteel and civil discussion in which associates share their ideas and experiences" possible without you first surrendering your limited psychological interpretation of Joseph Campbell's work?
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

-Aristotle
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Prof. Joe said in one of the Mythos 2 tapes something to the effect, "thats your god, not my god..dont project your god onto me." That is something the individual must do for him/herself, make that connection.

It would be impossible to ascertain for one's self an A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment without going on the hero's journey.

To me, the Hero's Journey represents an evolution of the human spirit, an ongoing process of religious experience.

If you ain't sure of that, then you ain't been on it.

AL


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

Hi Tree Hugger, Martin, and ALOberhoulser!

Great topic!

I tend to agree with Martin in my interpretation of Joseph Campbell.

According to my interpretation, Joseph Campbell was saved by the Hindu mythological notion of an eternal consciousness in nature of which we are all manifestations.

I'm aware that the Upanishads presented this notion of a consciousness in nature in the form of a metaphor that only suggested such a metaphysical reality, but I feel Joseph Campbell embraced this metaphor and took it to heart; It guided his life and affected his work.

I suspect that Joseph Campbell felt that one of the most liberating myths for releasing the human psyche from the emotional and spiritual distresses that Tree Hugger mentions is the Hindu myth of such an eternal consciousness in nature. Many of the myths of the world are saying the same thing the Hindu myth is saying and Joseph Campbell never ceased to point this out in his conversations and lectures. His study of comparative mythology revealed that man throughout the ages has embraced this notion of an eternal consciousness, spirit, or mystery that throws up forms and takes them back.

Yes, Joseph Campbell was interested in the psychological effect of the various myths of the world and man's religious impulse but that wouldn't have meant a great deal to him without the metaphysical realization that we are all one and that our sense of separateness is really an illusion; or that we are in our very essence this eternal consciousness suggested in the Upanishads.

It seems that it's the "metaphysical" realization of our identity with this eternal consciousness that is the liberating force that purges our soul from spiritual distress or the fear of death. It's the conformity of our psychology with this metaphysical principle that puts us on the same level with Jesus or the Buddha.

I vote metaphysical over psychological in answer to this topic.

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

... an eternal consciousness, spirit or mystery that throws up forms and takes them back.
Surging like the waves of the sea... This is certainly familiar territory for me. I concur thoroughly, Ruiz. Great post.

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

Ruiz, it's great to see you back. :smile:

As I said previously, since joining these forums I have been astounded by the way most other associates view Campbell. It's as if we're not reading the same books or listening to the same lectures. Campbell has become a smokey mirror of our own reflections and this is something I find fascinating.

Campbell urged students to not get stuck in the details, to look for patterns, and -- perhaps most importantly -- he said literalism kills.

Perhaps Martin has pinpointed the most important aspect of this discussion. Did Campbell believe. I hope Martin will expand his ideas.

I've always viewed Campbell as a scientific naturalist. Yes, he pondered that which is beyond or transcends the physical plane. He talked regularly about the discovery and recognition of the dimension of the mystery of being, about the mysterium tremendum of the universe, about Brahman, about becoming transparent to the transcendent.

He also talked about metaphors and warned his students to not read myths literally. So, it astounds me that anyone would think that Joseph Campbell read myths literally, that he believed literally in one myth or another, whether it be the Upanishads or any other mythology.

Really, I'm stunned. Campbell was so frustrated by the public's inablility to grasp the concept of the metaphor that he took time out from writing his Historical Atlas to write a book on the subject.

What does that suggest about Campbell's understanding of the importance of the metaphor to his life's work?



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

That's exactly why I provided the definition in my first post here. Perhaps I should provide another definition:
a priori
SYLLABICATION: a pri·o·ri
PRONUNCIATION: AUDIO: ä pr-ôr, -r, pr-ôr, -r KEY
ADJECTIVE: 1. Proceeding from a known or assumed cause to a necessarily related effect; deductive.
2a. Derived by or designating the process of reasoning without reference to particular facts or experience. b. Knowable without appeal to particular experience.
3. Made before or without examination; not supported by factual study.
This is a lot more than simple belief.

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

Tree Hugger, your interpretation of Joseph Campbell is correct. I've always been impressed by your depth of understanding of Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell had to have known that the Hindu myth was a metaphor and not to be taken literally but only as suggestive. Knowing this he still talked about this metaphor "as if" it was a literal metaphysical reality.

He loved the work of Arthur Schopenhauer because Schopenhauer tended to embrace the Hindu metaphor of a will or consciousness in nature.

What are we to make of Joseph Campbell?

Maybe he was human and needed his own spiritual metaphor like we all do. Can we truly run away from our quite natural religious impulse to live by a metaphor? Maybe being objective or scientific is great in theory but can we truly live and die without a metaphor that guides us in our life and also prepares us for death?

Clemsy, It's fun to see how we all interpret Joseph Campbell. It gives us a reality check on our interpretive skills.

ALOberhoulser, thanks for the definitions that help us come to terms on this matter.

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

That's what I call "ego imperialism". Trying to impose your idea on the universe. That's what's got to go. The whole sense of the oriental reincarnation is that the ego has to be thrown off and these potentialities come through with ever more illuminated embodiments. Your ego is your embodiment and your self is your potentiality and that's what you listen to when you listen for the voice of inspiration and the voice of "What am I here for? What can I possibly make of myself?"

You're already made up to a certain extent and to try to hang on to that is egoism. Egoism is tightening. And so The Tibetan Book of the Dead keeps talking about ahankara, Making the noise "I" as the thing that holds you back.

Now there's a certain danger in that. Freud's definition of ego is excellent. It is what he call the "reality function". It is the function that puts you in touch with your personal relationship to tima and space, here and now as you know it. That's the ego. Your judgement of things, also your evaluation of the moment. This is all ego stuff. The problem is not to eliminate ego, it's to turn ego and the judgement system of the moment into the servant of the self, not the dictator, but the vehicle for it to realize itself. It's a very nice balance, a very delicate one. And an awful lot of so-called "spiritual people" are very much against the ego and they turn themselves into-

Well, one of the problems about being psychoanalyzed is, as Neitzche said, "Be careful lest in casting out your devils that you cast out the best thing that is in you." So many people who are really in deep analsys look as though and act as though they have been filleted. There's no bone there, there's no stuff! How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.
What's the trick he's referring to? Can this throwing off of the "ego as dictator" happen simply? Or is there a process, or a journey that one must go through in order for this to happen?

AL
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