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

James, you're not showing ignorance at all. Sometimes it takes a simple man to say, "The emperor has no clothes on, except for that funny, many-colored hat."

There's no reason at all to make it an either/or situation, except ....

Well, I was being naughty. Martin and I decided together to start a thread to discuss this issue in a civil and genteel manner. After we decided that, I raced to this forum to state the question using the little word "vs."

For months, other associates had been trying to debate and argue with me. I kept saying I didn't want to debate, I didn't want to argue. I was here to share my ideas and experiences as they related to myth and the teachings of Joseph Campbell and to learn from others. I consider debate to be an activity that flows from the energies of the third chakra. I have plenty of that naturally. I see no reason to cultivate it by arguing with other people for recreational purposes. But my ideas and experiences must rub people wrong because it seemed like somebody or other was always wanting to argue with me.

When I started this thread, I said to myself that if people want to argue, okay, let's go.

I put on Edshu's hat just to see if anyone would recognize it. If you want to debate me on the teachings of Joseph Campbell then you had better be able to recognize his stuff. Edshu and his many-colored hat was one of his favorite stories. Is the hat red or white? Is Campbell psychological or metaphysical?

So, James, you saw the hat. There's absolutely no reason a discussion of the psychological and metaphysical aspects of the teachings of Joseph Campbell has to be an either/or thing.

For all of the associates here who sincerely argued that Campbell's teachings are metaphysical in nature I would like to say that I fully respect your opinion.

If the mystical function of myth speaks to your heart then that's probably the area that is most important for you to pay attention to. If you want to say, "That poor ol' Tree Hugger, she sure is misguided with all that psychology stuff," well ... that's great.

It's all right to disagree with me. Or to think that I'm bloody hell wrong. I don't mind. What's right for me may be wrong for you. I may be looking at a different side of the hat than you. The lesson here is that we can all be right in our own way and for our own lives, and that it's a many-sided hat we're looking at.

Hmmmm? Edshu's hat had four sides -- red, white, green, and black. Sort of like the four functions of myth. Is any one of the colors the right color or the only color? The farmers were willing to come to blows over that. How about us?

The story of Edshu is in the World Navel chapter in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, pages 44-45 in my edition.




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

Tree Hugger,thanks for the reasurance,I found it difficult to think that anyone would believe that the metaphysical could have its orgin in anything but the psychological.It is what one does with the psychological,that brings about the wonder,or the metaphysical.



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

But no one cares to discern folk beliefs from Philosophical truths? :lol:

Metaphysical from the psychological, huh James? Didn't we go on for 5 pages, or so, about that somewhere else?
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Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-02-04 20:05, Painted Owel wrote:
You will please excuse my ignorance on this topic,but I don't really understand why the psychological vs metaphysical is an either or situtation,without the psychological there would be no metaphysical.
Painted Owel,
I like to say it's exactly just the other way round: without the metaphysical there would be no psychological. Remember: The mystical function is told to be the FIRST function of mythology. Why?

I have never claimed, that Campbell's approach is not psychological, but that it refers both to the phenomenal AND the mystical. Talking about the mystical in terms like ETERNITY or UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS, even if you reject detailed philosophical speculation, is called METAPHYSICS.

The misunderstanding concerning the value of the psychological research for Campbell's teachings results from Campbell's inconsistent use of that term: Sometimes he speaks about the psychological research; The other time he talks about the inner experience. The mystical view is an inner experience, so you can call it psychological, but in this case, misunderstandings are guaranteed.

Tree Hugger,
I like the trickster story with the different-coloured hat too, but it does not make sense to put on the trickster's hat and apply it to a "metaphysics vs. psychological"-discussion. It would be appropriate in a trickster's way if there was a fundamentalist belief in a specific metaphysical teaching, but we did not start with a special mystical belief or a concrete metaphysical position, but with the following questions: Was Campbell interested (also) in metaphysics or (more) in the human condition? Was he a neutral oberserver of the people's myths and beliefs or did he have an own mystical/metaphysical point of view or belief?

I told you before, that I never liked the title of the thread very much, because a polarization - metaphysics here, psychology there - does not make sense. Metaphysics - if it's not meant as a waste of time, some Eggheads like to play with, TRANSCENDS the phenomenal world WITH WORDS, like the mystical view does WITHOUT WORDS. So the mystical/metaphysical content of Campbell's teachings does not refer to any colour or point of view, it refers to the center, to a non-perspective inner view, and if to any specific colour, than to the colour white - all colours included, even the psychological! :wink:


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

Martin, right from the very beginning of this thread you said, "I don't think we have to decide between a psychological and a mystical or metaphysical way of reading..."

I consider that to be an extremely wise statement. And as you say, Edshu is, in Campbell's words, "a personification of the Center, the axis mundi, or the World Navel..." (Hero, p. 45.)

But I'm not in agreement with this statement that has been made by others as well as you.
without the metaphysical there would be no psychological. Remember: The mystical function is told to be the FIRST function of mythology. Why?
I may be wrong, but I don't remember Campbell ever saying he put the mystical function of myth first because it was the most important and the psychological function of myth last because it was the least important.

Maybe all four functions of myth are equally important, but not for the same reasons or at the same time or in the same place. That's why I compare it to Edshu's hat with its four sides and four colors. Edshu represents the Center, the colors represent the four directions. And ol' Edshu can spin that hat, turn it around at will, and get us all confused when we start arguing over which color or side or function is first or least or in between or best or most important.

It's all right with me if the metaphysical function is the first and most important function to you and if you believe that the other functions flow form the metaphysical or mystical. But I don't think your answer is the right answer.

And if I say the same thing about the psychological function, I don't think my answer is the right answer.

In my opinion, there is no right answer to this particular issue.
But I could be wrong.

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

On 2003-02-05 20:20, Tree Hugger wrote:
Maybe all four functions of myth are equally important, but not for the same reasons or at the same time or in the same place. That's why I compare it to Edshu's hat with its four sides and four colors. Edshu represents the Center, the colors represent the four directions. And ol' Edshu can spin that hat, turn it around at will, and get us all confused when we start arguing over which color or side or function is first or least or in between or best or most important.
Okay, here's another suggestion: Edshu represents the center (MYSTICAL), the colors represent the four directions (METAPHYSICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, COSMOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL).

So I like to correct Campbell, if that's allowed at this place: The first function of myth is the mystical function: It relates you, your cosmos, your society, and your psyche at the different stages of your life to the mystical center. The functions 2,3,4 and 5 (the order is exchangeable and depends on individual preferences, needs and situations) are secondary and of the same importance.

Your extremely wise Martin :lol:

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

Of course, one is always allowed to correct Campbell--or anyone else--in this space, as long as one is polite. :wink:

Still...

Five functions? Wasn't Campbell's first function of myth, the metaphysical function, precisely that center that you described? And then each of the other functions related a different aspect of the sublunary universe to that center? The cosmological function relates the mystical center to the phenomenal universe of observable fact. The sociological function relates the center (the mysterium tremendum et fascinans) to the social structure. And the psychological function relates the center to the individual psyche over the course of a lifetime.

Right?

I think, maybe we need a new "call to adventure" discussion--or four! Back to basic concepts?
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Post by Guest » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Back to basic concepts sounds like a great idea, David.

The thing I've liked best about this thread over the months is that it's taken some of us right up against our most cherished notions about myth, our own spiritual beliefs, our ideas about Campbell, and the way we relate to each other.

I've mentioned in several threads that I do a little political rabble rousing as part of my bliss. One of the first rules of rabble rousing is this: If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you don't have the facts, pound the table.

This thread has been mythologically rousing, accompanied by the pounding of both facts and tables (or more accurately, keyboards.) One of the things that happened here is that some of us really hit the books for this discussion so that we could use quotes and references in our posts.

One of Martin's posts was so well researched and referenced that the rest of us gasped in awe at his late night labor. That motivated all of us to write posts that were worthy to stand alongside Martin's. We worked hard and thought hard, bringing our ideas together in new and exciting ways. That was fun. Some of our posts were a thousand words long and I think we all waited eagerly for new messages to appear.

I want to thank James again for the way he openly challenged us (in another thread) to show a little mercy to the newcomer by giving book names and page numbers along with our quotes. I sometimes paraphrased because I was too lazy to get a book off the shelf and look up the direct quote. I've made an effort in the last few weeks to give more book and page references than I ever did before.

At the moment, I have 13 different Campbell books stacked in piles on and around my desk so that I can have them within easy reach in case I want to make the odd quote.

This thread, more than any other, inspired me to read and re-read and study my Campbell books before I posted. In all honesty, I think I have to thank each and every person who disagreed with my stubborn psychological outlook because you motivated me to study and ponder and re-read my Campbell books.

Every time I open a book, no matter which book and no matter which page, I always find something truly delicious and fascinating, something that is always new and fresh, no matter how many times I've read it before.

So, as I've said, it's okay to disagree with my ideas (in a civil manner, of course) because that's a pretty darn good motivator to get me back to my Campbell basics. I hope other associates feel a little bit motivated by my posts, too. One can always hope. :smile:



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

Thanks for the beautiful compliment regarding one of my late-night-posts, Tree Hugger!
On 2003-02-05 22:57, David_Kudler wrote:
Five functions? Wasn't Campbell's first function of myth, the metaphysical function, precisely that center that you described? And then each of the other functions related a different aspect of the sublunary universe to that center? The cosmological function relates the mystical center to the phenomenal universe of observable fact. The sociological function relates the center (the mysterium tremendum et fascinans) to the social structure. And the psychological function relates the center to the individual psyche over the course of a lifetime.

Right?
VERY right, David!
But if the mystical function is the center, the trickster's hat has only three directions! So I thought, Tree Hugger would possibly feel more comfortable with a differentation between the mystical function and the "metaphysical".

I can not remember Campbell talking about a metaphysical fiunction at all. I think he called it "mystical function", because the (mystical) experience is more important than the (metaphysical) discourse.

Tree Hugger,
I think I've tried to put on the trickster's hat in my last two post, but it did not fit very well. I like to give it back to you! :wink:

Back to the basics!

I have a hunch, that sometimes Campbell spoke of the fourth function as the "pedagogical function" (instead of psychological), because the fourth function is about the psychology of individual growth and has to be differentiated from Campbell's "psychological approach" which refers to all four functions.

Tree Hugger,
short after I had posted my last message, I deliberated about your thoughts regarding a (non-existent) order of those four functions of mythology. I had never thought about it - but it's so easy!

The order goes conform to the size of its frame of reference:

4. The smallest unit is your body and the life of your body - Function 4 refers to that which you are as an individual.

3. The next unit is that of society - to vicinity.

2. The next bigger unit is that of the whole planet or comsmos - to the totality of time and space.

1. And the mystical function at last goes beyond time and space - it refers to the infinite.

Are these insights trivial? Perhaps, but they absolve us from asking, if Campbell measured the order of the four functions according to their importance.


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

Martin,I appreciate the tone and manor of your mentoring,and it is appreciated!The novice I think should be allowed to make statements without drawing hostility,or the anger of more seasoned associates.

The statement I made at the time I believed a crediable point of view given my degree of the understanding of the subject.This situtation reminds me of a men's group I attended when femenism was reaching it high point.To my astonishment these men got together to beat themselves for being men.One chap in this group that I clashed with,shouted angerly at me," we are not here to think,we are here to get in touch with our femaine- side,to feel, not to think!!!" My response to this chap was,with what do you intend to get in touch with your feelings with.I still may be missing something,but somehow I still feel that thinking is the only way to understanding,the psychological aspect,it is only then one can hopefully incorporate that understanding, be it mystical,or simply understanding the phenomanal world.I appreciate I may still be confused,but I hope that, that is perfectly all right,to be wrong,to make mistakes!

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

Painted Owel,
David Kudler a while ago stated, that since these forums started, not one participant has really changed his opinion. (Maybe, I would add, without one opinion. The associate I'm talking about deleted all his posts in one specific thread - and it was NOT Tree Hugger, who is famous and dreaded for that - and explained explicitly that he had done it because he had changed his opinion! HE is the one who earns our respect!)

To be honest, I have never changed my opinion because of anyone's replies in these forums, but I have learned a lot to develop and clarify my opinion - for instance, by making mistakes - why not? Those associates, who criticize my view, are regarded by me as those who are asking the right questions. At Socrates' times a philosopher was not regarded to be someone who gives the right answers, but as someone who asks the right questions!

You were right with your reply to that guy in your men's club, who said: "We are not here to think, we are here to get in touch with our femaine- side, to feel, not to think!"

We are definitely NOT here to do what is expected from us - and not to change our opinion, if not necessary! - but to do what brings us forward, whatever it may be! Even if it's not a reply at all, but a question, a mistake or a so-called "stupid" question!

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

Was Campbell opposed to the Phenomenological Approach??

This is a very serious question, BTW, in an attempt to put Campbell somewhere on the map in the history of the Philosophy of Mind.

Here's more on existential phenomenology and drawing from this : http://www.mythosandlogos.com/ep.html
I just can't see how he could have been opposed. Rather, I see him firmly planted in the tradition.

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

<font face="verdana" size="-1"> wow! this one long thread. i confess to not yet being able to read the whole topic, so please forgive me if my ideas have already been covered.

this is a very interesting topic and i do find myself wondering exactly where campbell's ultimate passions were. the first image that is called to mind is campbell's rather amazing recounting of a story he read in a hawaiian newspaper (source: power of myth). it was about a guy on a bridge about to commit suicide. i am sure most here know the details of the story.

campbell called into play schopenhauer's metaphysics by recounting the german philosopher's premise that the "other" was a part of ourselves ... and further that all things are connected. of all the videos i've seen, books i've read, and lectures i've listen to, i would say that this metaphysical assumption of schopenhauer's was one that campbell took as a priori. i believe that this a priori assumption was vindicated time and time again throughout campbell's life by evidence collected throughout the world.

i'm not sure that you can really separate out metaphysics from religion and mythology, but if you could i would say that campbell is a closet philosopher that was just too much of a pragmatist to allow his deep beliefs to stand on their own as schopenhauer did. campbell wanted evidence for his metaphysical assumptions and i believe he found it.

campbell was a close follower of c.g. jung and agreed in principle that these underlying (a priori) structures were archetypes. i think that campbell had a much more practical approach to archetypes than jung did, but he nevertheless embraced the idea. again, though the idea of archetypes could, in principle, be proven as an empirical fact it nevertheless, stands a metaphysical belief that one either accepts or does not. many of campbell's, and jung's, observations follow from this metaphysical assumption. indeed, if campbell and jung had not begun with this position in mind much of their subsequent work would not have followed ... they would have reached much different conclusions.

my conclusions is that campbell was first and foremost an empiricist, but like einstein, heisenberg, jung and many other brilliant intellectuals of the 20th century, they began with an intuition (or metaphysical presupposition) about that way the universe ought to be - the evidence followed from there. einstein, as a child, imagined riding on a beam of light; heisenberg came up with the uncertainty principle, not while doing mathematics at the chalkboard, but while sitting overlooking the mountains; jung had almost no evidence for archetypes or the collective unconscious, yet his entire body of his work post 1918 stand upon this premise. these are people that held very strong convictions about the world and the natural order of things. they did not spend alot of time trying to substantiate their metaphysical assumptions. nevertheless, they held them strongly and much of their passion was derived from exactly these metaphysical presupposition.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Matthew,
You have voiced a most interesting perspective on this matter, which has been the subject of some debate in threads other than this. I look forward to reponses from other associates.

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

Welcome Nautis! I can not read in this thread without a little bit nostalgia.
On 2003-07-14 16:51, nautis wrote:
campbell called into play schopenhauer's metaphysics by recounting the german philosopher's premise that the "other" was a part of ourselves ... and further that all things are connected.
Schopenhauer's view, which is coinciding to a large extent with that of the Upanishads, is a metaphysical assumption which is popping up again and again in the works and comments of the late Campbell. It seems to have been that metaphysical insight Campbell was exceedingly fond of.
they did not spend alot of time trying to substantiate their metaphysical assumptions.
That is true for Campbell at least. It seems that he did not spend much time to substantiate the assumption of metaphysical identity of all phenomena. Schopenhauer once was joking about German philosophers. He said that outside of Germany there is no philosopher who would ever contemplate the meaning of the word to be. (Bill Clinton is an exception, I suppose.) Probably Campbell's metaphysical assumption can be specified by enlightening the term to be. Campbell's postulation of an undifferentiated consciousness, or his idea (inspired by the Upanishads), that "in deep sleep consciousness is still there, but consciousness of no specific thing"
Works of art are indeed always products of having been in danger, of having gone to the very end in an experience, to where man can go no further. -- Rainer Maria Rilke
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