Wild Criticism of the monomyth

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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Faolan
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Wild Criticism of the monomyth

Post by Faolan » Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:45 am

I was reading somebody's opinion on the Star Wars trilogy, and he said he didn't like it because it taught the wrong lessons to kids. I was taken aback by reading that, so I read a bit futher, and somebody responded, and mentioned Campbell: "I read somewhere that it was meant to be so, a simple future retelling of what Joseph Campbell describes as our mythic hero's journey in 'Hero with a thousand faces'. It was meant to simply speak to a heroic journey that resonates with almost every culture on earth, and just set it out there"

That sounded right to me, but then the original poster, who styles himself as an expert on Campbell, said this:

"Joseph Campbell was whitewashing nonsense. The monomyth is a very male-centric, and doesn't hold up to much scrutiny except as a tool to hamfist many cultures into a western framework that doesn't actually apply. This erases identifying features that actually make those cultures significantly different, and seeks to let us assume all people share identical follies, which allows us to excuse repeating past mistakes. Women in the monomyth exist exceptionally, only as tools to serve the male plot. The monomyth glorifies fascism, terrorism, zealous nationalism, and tyranny.
Like Frank Herbert said, "Beware of heroes. Much better to rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes. I'm very aware that Star Wars is modeled after the monomyth. And that's the problem".

WOW...that is an incredible diatribe. I didn't engage with this person, because it wouldn't be worth it. Yet, if one person believes this, I wonder how he came to that opinion? I am very curious to hear the opinion of this community on this severe opinion on Campbell's work.

I wouldn't even know where to begin with that. Certainly I'd be curious to know how anybody could justify viewing the monomyth as an endorsement of terrorist action! I mean...wtf? Does the recent book on the Goddess from Campbell's archive address any of the criticisms of the female being excluded from the adventure? What was Campbell's take on women with the Hero's Journey? That they could not be heroes? Really?
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:40 am

I think, Faolin, that this poster misses the point of Campbell's thesis altogether and relies on a literal interpretation of a metaphorical/psychological paradigm. This is the argument of an orthodox mindset, seems to me, that requires exclusivity to allow for its superiority over others.

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Clemsy
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Post by Faolan » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:16 am

Clemsy wrote:I think, Faolin, that this poster misses the point of Campbell's thesis altogether and relies on a literal interpretation of a metaphorical/psychological paradigm. This is the argument of an orthodox mindset, seems to me, that requires exclusivity to allow for its superiority over others.

Cheers,
Clemsy
I agree. I believe that Campbell acknowledged the male perspective of much of the Hero's journey. Maureen Murdock wrote a book called The Heroine's Journey, and claimed that when asked about the female's call to adventure, Campbell had told her, "Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”

I'm not sure if he is being quoted accurately there. Does the new book on the goddess (published by JCF) deal with this issue at all?
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:44 am

My ex-wife once told me that women don't have to go out and slay dragons. They give birth. I think that's key in the centrality of the feminine impulse in myth.

Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine does address the new role of women in society. They have been freed from their traditional roles to find their own fulfillment in the world, but this is a very recent development.

I'll try to post some quotes later today.

Cheers,
Clemsy

PS: I recently finished reading Goddesses, and highly recommend it. It is very well done!
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Post by Faolan » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:13 pm

Sure, I'd like to see some quotes addressing this.
Clemsy wrote:My ex-wife once told me that women don't have to go out and slay dragons. They give birth. I think that's key in the centrality of the feminine impulse in myth.

Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine does address the new role of women in society. They have been freed from their traditional roles to find their own fulfillment in the world, but this is a very recent development.

I'll try to post some quotes later today.

Cheers,
Clemsy

PS: I recently finished reading Goddesses, and highly recommend it. It is very well done!
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Post by Cindy B. » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:43 pm

Hi, Faolan.

Faolan wrote:WOW...that is an incredible diatribe. I didn't engage with this person, because it wouldn't be worth it. Yet, if one person believes this, I wonder how he came to that opinion? I am very curious to hear the opinion of this community on this severe opinion on Campbell's work.
Consider having a look at this article, a bit long but a very easy read. Please let us know what you think if you'd like:

The Lunar and Solar Hero
By Anne Baring (2005)
http://www.annebaring.com/anbar12_lect18_lunarhero.htm

...In this paper I would like to share with you my fascination with the myth of the solar and also the lunar hero, reflect on the influence they have had on our psyche and draw attention to the danger of mythic inflation when we identify ourselves with the role of the solar hero without being aware of its shadow aspect...


Faolan wrote:What was Campbell's take on women with the Hero's Journey? That they could not be heroes? Really?
Also, this thread might interest you:

Matriarchal and Patriarchal Consciousness and Culture
http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... sc&start=0



:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by Myrtle » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:40 pm

Faolan,

In Reflections on the Art of Living (pgs 226-227), Campbell says:
The question that comes - always, always, always - is: "What about the woman's journey?" The woman's life, if she is following the biologically grounded norm, is that of life in the world, in one relationship or another to a family. Then when the retirement time comes, the normal passage is into the stage which can be pictured as the Grandmother, of giving advice to the new life coming along. One can be in a position of being a grandmother to the grandchildren of the world. One is in a role, then, of mature, life-fostering advice. The woman brings forth life in one way or another, either biologically or socially, and then, in the latter stage, is life-fostering and life-guiding. The man is more inward than the woman in that last stage...

...In cases throughout history, however, where there have been inadequate responses to what the woman is doing - that is to say, she is doing what nature and society expect, but it's an arid and bad situation - this is what I would term a "call to adventure." And if a woman engages in the man's task of entering the field of achievement, then her mythology will be essentially the same as that of the male hero.

The heroine will, of course, encounter difficulties and advantages which are not those that the male meets, but whether one is male or female, the stages of the inner journey, the visionary quest, are the same, even though the imagery is going to be a little different...
Last edited by Myrtle on Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Clemsy » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:53 pm

This is from the book's conclusion:

"I taught at a women's college for nearly four decades, and as i said to my students, all I can tell you about mythology is what men have said and experienced, and now women have to tell us from their point of view what the possibilities of the feminine future are." ~Joseph Campbell

This from the Editor's Forward:

"...The mid-twentieth century conversation from which this volume springs is representative of elements that have only been deepened in terms of how we see and understand ourselves individually and collectively. These lectures show his (Campbell's) sensitivity to the uniqueness of the feminine form in mythology, and what that could mean to women. Further, Campbell understood and honored the vital importance of the female spirit and its creative potential to birth the meaning of women's experiences into mythic and creative form. He saw this as the gift and challenge of our age and honored women in their visioning and forming of the journey." ~Safron Rossi, Editor

Interestingly, the essential theme of this work is that everything, everything, is founded in and of the feminine, goddess impulse.

"...We are as it were within the womb of the Goddess, and within that womb dwell all beings that have form and that have names, and this includes the gods. So when Mary is called the Mother of God, she's promoted, and in the old tradition it means not only the mother of the incarnation but the Mother of the Universe, and of all the powers that operate within the universe and are given names and forms, whether they are concrete or mythological. In these traditions, the gods exist within the field of the Goddess; they are all merely manifestations of aspects of Her." ~ Joseph Campbell, pg.17

I do wonder about the impulse behind that poster you quote. Indeed, what "white-washing" could possibly be involved. This person certainly doesn't give explanation as to what may have been washed out to the detriment of the feminine impulse.

Chapter 6, Iliad and Odyssey: Return to the Goddess, is fascinating and brought much more clarity to the story then I was aware of. Mythologically, the Trojan War was started by a beauty contest: the Judgement of Paris, which degraded the significance of the goddess altogether. But then we see the that it is the male response to the female that drives the whole bloody story, and the purpose of the Odyssey is to balance out the degradation of the goddess by putting Odysseus through a series of initiations in order for him to go home and be worthy of the titles king, father and especially husband.

The author of that diatribe is, well, painfully ignorant of the significance of Campbell's monomyth.
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Post by Faolan » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:12 pm

Those are great quotes. It seems that Campbell understood perfectly well that women were beginning into the field of action, and while entering into what was traditional a male oriented course of action, there's a need for the feminine spin on things.

I asked the original critic (whose name I'm not revealing for the sake of privacy since it was not a public FB post) to substantiate his claims that Campbell's monomyth (Hero Journey) "glorifies fascism, terrorism, zealous nationalism, and tyranny".

He responded, "monomyth always glorifies "one great man", who solves all problems with violence. That kind of hero worship and glorification of violence is at the heart of fascism".

I believe he is unaware of the Jungian interpretation of the journey, and is taking it literally. Therefore, I think the opinion is wrong on the face of it. Also, the violence is not the endgame in the journey, and the monsters battled symbolic of forces in the mind and psychology. Right?
Clemsy wrote:This is from the book's conclusion:

"I taught at a women's college for nearly four decades, and as i said to my students, all I can tell you about mythology is what men have said and experienced, and now women have to tell us from their point of view what the possibilities of the feminine future are." ~Joseph Campbell

This from the Editor's Forward:

"...The mid-twentieth century conversation from which this volume springs is representative of elements that have only been deepened in terms of how we see and understand ourselves individually and collectively. These lectures show his (Campbell's) sensitivity to the uniqueness of the feminine form in mythology, and what that could mean to women. Further, Campbell understood and honored the vital importance of the female spirit and its creative potential to birth the meaning of women's experiences into mythic and creative form. He saw this as the gift and challenge of our age and honored women in their visioning and forming of the journey." ~Safron Rossi, Editor

Interestingly, the essential theme of this work is that everything, everything, is founded in and of the feminine, goddess impulse.

"...We are as it were within the womb of the Goddess, and within that womb dwell all beings that have form and that have names, and this includes the gods. So when Mary is called the Mother of God, she's promoted, and in the old tradition it means not only the mother of the incarnation but the Mother of the Universe, and of all the powers that operate within the universe and are given names and forms, whether they are concrete or mythological. In these traditions, the gods exist within the field of the Goddess; they are all merely manifestations of aspects of Her." ~ Joseph Campbell, pg.17

I do wonder about the impulse behind that poster you quote. Indeed, what "white-washing" could possibly be involved. This person certainly doesn't give explanation as to what may have been washed out to the detriment of the feminine impulse.

Chapter 6, Iliad and Odyssey: Return to the Goddess, is fascinating and brought much more clarity to the story then I was aware of. Mythologically, the Trojan War was started by a beauty contest: the Judgement of Paris, which degraded the significance of the goddess altogether. But then we see the that it is the male response to the female that drives the whole bloody story, and the purpose of the Odyssey is to balance out the degradation of the goddess by putting Odysseus through a series of initiations in order for him to go home and be worthy of the titles king, father and especially husband.

The author of that diatribe is, well, painfully ignorant of the significance of Campbell's monomyth.
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Post by Clemsy » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:41 pm

Also, the violence is not the endgame in the journey, and the monsters battled symbolic of forces in the mind and psychology. Right?
Precisely. We are in the realm of archetypes, symbols and metaphors here. Our wonderful associate, Cindy B, share this link some time ago. It really illustrates the Jungian foundation of Campbell's work. I adopted this paper into my senior class, where the emphasis is on the symbolic interpretation of stories, especially myth. it also demonstrates that the monomyth isn't Campbell's creation. Perhaps you might share this with your correspondent.

Myth and Psyche: The Evolution of Consciousness
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Faolan » Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:47 pm

That looks great. I'll add it to my "Readability" app (which, by the way, I recommend, especially if you have a kindle www.readability.com)
Clemsy wrote:
Also, the violence is not the endgame in the journey, and the monsters battled symbolic of forces in the mind and psychology. Right?
Precisely. We are in the realm of archetypes, symbols and metaphors here. Our wonderful associate, Cindy B, share this link some time ago. It really illustrates the Jungian foundation of Campbell's work. I adopted this paper into my senior class, where the emphasis is on the symbolic interpretation of stories, especially myth. it also demonstrates that the monomyth isn't Campbell's creation. Perhaps you might share this with your correspondent.

Myth and Psyche: The Evolution of Consciousness
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Post by Cindy B. » Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:02 am

Clemsy wrote:Interestingly, the essential theme of [Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine] is that everything, everything, is founded in and of the feminine, goddess impulse.


I thought of this thread while going through saved images today so thought I would share. Consider the "Christian Goddess," for example, via The Shrine Madonna:


Image

Image

Image


:)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:38 pm

Precisely, Cindy. Campbell used this image in his work and it does appear in Goddesses.
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Post by Cindy B. » Fri Mar 21, 2014 9:36 pm

8)
If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. --Jung
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Post by lancimouspitt » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:32 pm

I never got this criticism of Campbell.
In POM,when talking about Arabian Nights Campbell mentions (i'm recalling from memory) that "their should be more stories like this" when speaking of the woman doing the fighting as opposed to the man.

Campbell didn't write the stories,he gave for lack of a better word, his interpretation of them.
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