"The Trackless Way" and absolute truth

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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johnbrier
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"The Trackless Way" and absolute truth

Post by johnbrier » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:20 pm

Hi, I am struggling to interpret Ch 1 section III of Creative Mythology Volume IV, "The Trackless Way."

The previous section is titled "Where Worlds Turn Back" which starts with the Orphic bowl and describes several different spiritual initiations that are very specific, step by step tracks, or paths to having the veil lifted, so I feel that "The Trackless Way" must be in contrast to this, in our creative mythology we have a "pathless way" of the individual reaching this same realization or experience, or maybe something else altogether?

I notice In "The Tracklesss Way," Campbell mentions Einstein's theory of relativity and objects in space being impossible to know absolutely yet he then mentions Sir Arthur Keith's idea that "if nature cannot reproduce the same simple pattern in two fingers, how much more impossible is it for her to reproduce the same pattern in any two brains, the organization of which is so inconceivably complex!" yet Keith's quote finishes with "I marvel, then, not that one man should disagree with another concerning the ultimate realities of life, but that so many, in spite of the diversity of their inborn natures, should reach so large a measure of agreement."

The second part of this quote doesn't seem to mesh my interpetation of Campbell's overall argument. Together with the theory of relativity the first part about how fingers and brains are never alike seems to go along with the idea of how he introduces it: "Yet if there is any one thing our modern archives of anthropology, history, physiology, and psychology prove, it is that there is no single human norm." (italics mine)

Campbell summarizes this as "Thus, as in the world without, of Einstein, so in the world within, of Keith, there is no absolute rest, no Rock of Ages on which man of God might stand assured or a prometheus impaled."

But the part about how despite our uniqueness we have such common agreement about our spiritual nature, this idea doesn't seem to fit with the general argument. Does it?

In the end of the section he goes on to talk about how in our creative times we can choose to adventure into discovering the world "within and without" ourselves, or if we are fearful of independent adventure we can use a path like that provided by religions.

My confusion is about the idea that there is "no single human norm." At the same time I am reading this I am reading The Bhagavad Gita and in his introduction to it Eknath Easwaran talks about the people of the Indus river civilization, who may have provided a precursor to Indian religious faith, and that they used meditation to connect to the immanent and transcendent experience of God to find absolute truth:
Evidence suggests that they may have used a decimal system of measurement. But most remarkable, images of Shiva as Yogeshvara, the Lord of Yoga, suggest that meditation was practiced in a civilization which flourished a milleninum before the Vedas were committed to an oral tradition.

If this is so, it would imply that the same systematic attitude the Indus Valley dwellers applied to their technology was applied also to the study of the mind. This was brahmavidya, the "supreme science" -- supreme because where other sciences studied the external world, brahmavidya sought knowledge of an underlying reality which would inform all other studies and activities.

Whatever its origins, in the early part of the first millenium B.C. we find clearly stated both the methods and the discoveries of brahmavidya. With this introspective tool the inspired rishis (literally "seeers") of ancient India analyzed their awareness of human experience to see if there was anything in it that was absolute. Their findings can be summarized in three statements which Aldous Huxley, following Leibnitz, has called the Perrenial Philosophy because they appear in every age and civilization: (1) there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change; (2) this same reality lies at the core of every human personality; (3) the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially: that is, to realize God while here on earth. These principles and the interior experiments for realizing them were taught systematically in "forest academies" or ashrams -- a tradition which continues unbroken after some three thousand years.

p 16-17
So is Campbell perhaps really talking about absolute human experience and not absolute God experience, or is he saying there is no absolute truth, in contradiction to the teachings of Indian religion? or is there something else I'm missing?

Thank you for reading
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Clemsy
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Post by Clemsy » Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:12 am

Hi John, and welcome to the JCF forums. I saw your post and was hoping to compose a response today, but time didn't allow. It deserves a dedicated and thoughtful reply!

I'll try to give it a shot tomorrow!

Cheers,
Clemsy
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by johnbrier » Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:18 am

Thanks for your welcome and i look forward to any and all responses. :-)
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Clemsy
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Post by Clemsy » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:15 pm

Hi John!

You said:
So is Campbell perhaps really talking about absolute human experience and not absolute God experience,
I don't think Campbell would have seen a difference between the two questions. Campbell's keystone, as I see it, is that beyond a certain threshold, "absolute" becomes meaningless, and whether one explores the fundamental nature of the "external" or the "internal" one will come to the point beyond which words fail. The transcendental mystery of existence, as he put it, is the source of everything. Tat tvam asi.

Thus, the way is trackless because it's right here, and an experience of this mystery can be accessed through meditation, the inward journey. By contrast, as you say, the traditions of the mystery cults provide a highly ritualized series of steps to reach this experience.

Am I on track here? Let me know if I'm misreading your intent.

But I don't necessarily see a contradiction. If the goal is a transcendent experience, the potential is all around and within and either "way" can provide that moment that "stops the world" as it were.

Indeed, life as a meditation can provide the same thing.

I'll let you respond so I have an idea I'm answering your question.

Cheers,
Clemsy
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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