Campbell and Rumors of Anti-semitism

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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Mike D
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Post by Mike D » Tue Jun 29, 2004 8:00 pm

On 2003-05-27 23:28, Ted wrote:
If I remember correctly, the charge of anti-semitism was also leveled at Jung, for the same reasons. It's all a bunch of BS, of course, hardly worth discussing, simply a matter of non-knowers yakking away.
Actually, no. The charge arose against Jung not because of non-literal interpretations of Jewish scripture - people might dispute that but who could reasonably object to it? - but for two quite specific reasons.

First, he wrote a paper on the differences between Jewish and "Aryan" psychology. Secondly, there is <em>that</em> chairmanship at <em>that</em> time. There are brief - apologetic - accounts of both episodes in van der Post's book and in Stevens short guide.

I think in the end the "charge" is mistaken, but it is not quite what it is being made out to be here.

Having read this thread carefully and thought about this one, I'd be inclined <em>vis a vis</em> Campbell to raise the matter of what he says about "Nature".

What he says in effect <em><strong>makes Jewish mythology ultimately responsible for environmental devastation</strong></em>. That is a serious charge. I don't think it holds up. I've already explained in the "21st century" mythology thread why I think so.

I don't actually believe it is anti-semitism: rather I think it is honest but incorrect assumption. In essence it is bald assertion arising from incautious association of ideas and can't be substantiated either logically or historically. It is also rather peculiar to find him levelling the charge at Roman Catholicism - on the basis of its inheriting this myth - since he must be aware of the Aristotelianism of the RC church. "Nature" is for sure a guiding concept in Aristotle - and for that matter in Aquinas.

Campbell even goes so far as to assert that nature is "evil" in Judeo-Christian belief. I find that odd. "Nature" is a difficult concept anyway - and one that arrives late - and care with concepts is paramount, if we are going to make accusations. But let us substitute the word "creation" here. The created world is <em>not</em> "evil" in Jewish belief.

I mean - good grief - is he confusing Jewish belief with that of the Cathars, or something!

Since I'm reading Mann's <em>The Magic Mountain</em> just now allow me to point out that it is Settembrini, described by Hans Castorp as a "radical" and a "windbag" who speaks of the "subjugation" of "nature".

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Post by Martin_Weyers » Thu Jul 22, 2004 11:33 pm

Hello James,

good to see you still being around!
On 2004-02-11 07:48, Mike D wrote:

The charge arose against Jung not because of non-literal interpretations of Jewish scripture - people might dispute that but who could reasonably object to it? - but for two quite specific reasons.

First, he wrote a paper on the differences between Jewish and "Aryan" psychology. Secondly, there is <em>that</em> chairmanship at <em>that</em> time. There are brief - apologetic - accounts of both episodes in van der Post's book and in Stevens short guide.


Hello Mike,

Jung as the author of a paper about the differences between Jewish and "Aryan" psychology - this sounds from the perspective of today as if Jung had had a thesis about the inferiority of Jewish people. I'm sure you did not intend that, Mike, but we should be aware that Jung just attributed different psychological characteristics to different cultures. This was usual at the time he wrote that paper. Even Jewish authors like Freud did the same.

"Secondly, there is <em>that</em> chairmanship at <em>that</em> time." - What kind of chairmanship are you talking about?

I agree that some of Jung's ideas during that period of time were quite odd. Some of them might have been conducive to the anti-semitic athmosphere of that period of time in whole Europe. That's what he apologized for later. Because his attitude had been naive, not antisemitic. That he apologized, shows this man's greatness of mind, not his guilt. From my point of view we should be more lenient with people who had to live and work under such difficult political circumstances.

I don't have read those books about Jung, your mentioning, and so I willing to learn, if there are more concrete accusations against Jung. Up to now, nobody was able to concretize the accusations. We already had a thread about Jung's history.
Campbell even goes so far as to assert that nature is "evil" in Judeo-Christian belief. I find that odd. "Nature" is a difficult concept anyway - and one that arrives late - and care with concepts is paramount, if we are going to make accusations. But let us substitute the word "creation" here. The created world is <em>not</em> "evil" in Jewish belief.

I mean - good grief - is he confusing Jewish belief with that of the Cathars, or something!
I don't remember Campbell talking about "evil nature" as a Jewish belief. If I remember correctly he was talking about fallen nature in Jewish/Christian mythology. Nature as fallen, nature as corrupt - the propaganda against the "evil" serpent, which had been a sacred symbol before, and against Eve. "What a terrible tradition", he says, and I do agree. However I can not remember hearing him talking about nature as being "evil" in Jewish and Christian religion. But, of course, I haven't read everything, and so - again - I'm thankful for any concrete references.

BTW, I have enjoyed your comments about the concept of nature in another thread:
On 2004-02-02 01:49, Mike D wrote:
"Nature" is not merely a word but a concept. There is no discussion of the concept "Nature" in the Old Testament - it isn't written in that way, and they had no concept of "Nature". Myth is picture-thinking: it doesn't translate into concepts. There seems to be <em>some sense</em> in which Jehovah is "outside" his creation. But really this is picture-thinking, and it doesn't translate into concepts.

The concept arrives with the Greeks and is inherited by the medievals <em>via</em> Rome.

It is surmise on Campbell's part to say that the picture in Genesis determines the attitude of modern man to "Nature". His surmise doen't stand up.
I think the point is, that we are always relating to nature, no matter if we have a concept of it or not.

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Post by Ikiru » Tue Aug 03, 2004 1:20 pm

Greetings Folks,

I just had someone slamn my quoting of Campbell and Jung for being "racist." Thought I'd look here to see what might match my old research.

I think the charges are primarily in response to Campbell's criticism of political policies of Israel and his criticism of the Catholic church. Some people seem to think any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Actually, if you are a real friend of the State of Israel, you will criticize it when it is wrong.

It is similar to how the current American administration calls anyone who criticizes them "Anti-patriotic."


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Post by Clemsy » Sun Aug 15, 2004 3:06 am

Hi Ikiru and welcome to the JCF Forums!

Personally, I'm not aware of any critisisms of Israeli policy by Campbell, though I can imagine where he would level such criticism.

Campbell quite openly expressed exasperation at the concrete literalism of the Judeo-Christain tradition. For example, the claim that Israel, as the promised land, was a gift from God to a chosen people. Campbell professed that the 'promised land' should be read metaphorically. He liked to quote Thomas... "The Kingdom of God is spread upon the earth but men do not see it."

The Palestinian - Israeli conflict will find no resolution as long as there are those who are trapped in the Biblical fairy tale, hell bent on making it reality. That Christian fundamentalists have jumped into the mix to ensure Jerusalem becomes the capitol of Israel, that the Dome of the Rock be torn down to make room for the rebuilt Temple to pave the way for the Second Coming all to realize a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations... hey, that exasperates me too.

All this blood over who's is the true religion. Sheesh.

You are correct though, criticising Israel results in accusations of anti-semitism. Except if you're a Jew criticising Israel. Then you're accused of 'self-loathing'.


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Post by Bludhall » Thu Aug 26, 2004 4:53 pm

haha i bet Joe Campbell listened to Wagner and had a picture of Hitler on his night stand. :smile:
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Post by Dave Spiro » Tue Sep 07, 2004 6:40 am

On 2004-06-17 14:57, Bludhall wrote:
haha i bet Joe Campbell listened to Wagner and had a picture of Hitler on his night stand. :smile:
2 things:

1. If this was a serious comment, why was it allowed through. (I hope that smiley face was an attempt at humor, poor as it is)

2. If it was a serious comment, then it is one of the more ignorant ones I have read in a long time.

As one who was brought up Jewish, I find no evidence, in anything that I have read of Campbell's that even smacks of being anti-Jewish. He may have been anti-Hebrew, with respect ot the literalism of the faith, (which has already been expressed here.)but I have never read anything that suggests that he had a general dislike for Jews. That whole Martin Buber conversation that was documented in "Thou Art That" and "Myths to Live By", as I read it, was nothing more than an honest attempt at posing a rational question.

Those critics who claim he was anti-Semetic, in my view, are simply looking for an excuse to knock down his views because they didn't fall in line with established theological teachings.
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Post by Lizpete » Sat Sep 18, 2004 8:26 pm

Okay, I've just read the first page and a half of comments so please bear with me...

I think the thing to do when facing this question is to look at Campbell's writings. And since I just happen to be doing the reading group thread...

I would note that very early in "The Hero with A Thousand Faces" (p. 34-35 my copy) Campbell deals with Jewish folk tales. In his summary paragraph on these tales he writes:
God did not appear from one direction, but from all simultaneously, filling heaven as well as earth with glory.
That does not sound anti-Jew to me.

I kinda believe that Campbell's statement given in the Moyers interview of the negative father being "Some old testament god" that triggers some misunderstanding. And it might only confuses a person who comes from the simplistic perspective that the Jewish faith is merely the Bible's Old Testament (without inclusion of the New Testament teachings) or additional stories & teachings.

I would note the phrase "Some Old Testament God." Campbell is famous for responding to a question about "God" by saying "Which god? You know there have been thousands." And the bible mentions or at least refers to the fact that there are/were other false deities out there.

In Hero... chapter 2.4 "Atonement with the Father", Campbell's example of the too harsh father deity does not come from the Jewish faith, but the Puritan!- a defunct form of *Protestant Christianity*.



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Post by mhoyt3 » Thu Sep 30, 2004 10:13 am

Let us remember that first and foremost, Joe was an academic commentator on myth, religion, and God. The process of academic commentary is often compared to 'taking part in a conversation.' The Conversation's style is of a debate. A scholar such as Campbell puts a hypothesis such as 'ancient Judism eliminated the role of the Goddess in its mythology that lead to a patriarchal religion that influenced Christianity and Islam.' Other academics take part in the conversation through critiques. At some point Campbell may write response to the ideas presented by critics of his viewpoint. The Academic process moves the body of knowledge forward this way (paradigm wars!). My point is that I believe Joe was usually taking part in an academic conversation rather engaging in social commentary such as making anti-semetic statements.
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Post by Shane Odom » Tue Oct 12, 2004 12:00 am

Hello all,
I realize this is rather old thread, however, as these rumors were the first I had ever heard of this, I found it very interesting. I have some personal experience with many close-minded religious fervor types and their feelings about Campbell. Within my own family, extremely conservative southern Baptists, I was shocked when a left a copy of a Campbell book out that I was reading and my uncle, a Baptist minister, expressed his displeasure and asked me to put it away. I was surprised by it, but not confused. Ideas such as JC expressed are threatening to the established control of this sort of closeminded thinking. What they do not realize, is that they have so little to fear, as Campbell's ideas are not really ascessible to folks without at least a small education on the subject. I have much experience with close-mindedness and religious intolerance and learned that most fundamentalist tend towards deep mis-informed opinions and a fear of knowledge, and need for a safe explanation. They really are FEAR based. And I am quoting Yoda here, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." A simple search of the net of Christian views of Campbell will reveal several strange sites against JC's ideas. I went and read up on some of this to understand this the next time I was confronted by it.

And on another note, "Joe was no saint.."
None of us are. I am not sure how Dr. Campbell would feel about this, but I have something of an affection for him as a "Guru". After my experiences studing in Hindu settings, I picked up the habit of keeping pictures of my teachers together as a form of respect and rememberance. After hearing JC mention his connection to folks as Gurus, even those he has never met, I started including a picture of him in my collection. So there it is, on the way to veneration. But always with the tongue in cheek, simalar to what Zen saying about the Buddha, also known as Sakmuni...
"old man Sakmuni, he is only half-way there."
Peace,
Shane
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Post by Billeen » Sat Oct 23, 2004 1:46 pm

This whole discussion is the nastiest case of sour-grapes in history. Unless one counts that bit of business between Elijah and Jezebel.
Ideas such as JC expressed are threatening to the established control of this sort of closeminded thinking.
I don't understand this "anti-semite" c**p at all. When some one stands up and says "female circumsision is wrong" people don't point fingers and say "racist."

Joe Campbell stood up and said that writing a myth "in stone" causes problems for people down the road. He picked on Judaism because that is one of the major spiritual traditions Western Civ is built on. If he had been Chinese he would probably have picked on the hide-bound intricacies of ancester worship and Confucionism.

I get so angry about this. He introduced concepts that pretty much kicked the feet out from under fundamentalist religions and patted them on the head at the same time. Insult to injury for people who take themselves too seriously, I guess. And for the scholarly world, who exist in the realm of academic fashion, to pussy-foot around one of the greatest minds of the last century because of a bunch of neurotic malingerers... Aargh!

But then, what do I know? I'm just some Alaskan, red-neck undergraduate from a Mormon family. That makes me racist, anti-semetic, mysogynistic, inbred, and stupid. But I won't be any of those things until I publish something controversial and tick off a bunch of people who half wish they'd published it first.

I am proud to say, as a conservationist, woman, and human, that I, too, am very ANGRY with the Levites. I think that business in Jericho was absolutely abominable, and before people throw around the "racist" and "genocide" cards they ought to take a long hard look at their own history they are so dang proud and protective of.

I myself would like to apologize to the people of Western and Southern Europe for what my ancestors did. Give a guy a sword and a dragon-prowed boat and they think they are the chosen of God. Or maybe they just need a sturdy set of sandals and a couple of goats to feel justified in committing murder, rape, kidnapping, and theft.

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Post by Vissi » Thu Nov 04, 2004 3:33 am

Billeen,

Excellent rant! I love reading what impassioned people have to say. In the event any of my ancestors came from areas your ancestors decimated, I'll gladly accept your proffered apology and give you one in exchange as it seems humans are always smiting one another for reasons that don't stand close scrutiny so it's just as likely my ancestors whacked yours at some point. I have thoroughly enjoyed your contributions to the forums. A whole segment of my family lives in Alaska and your writings remind me of their incredible photos and stories.

Not being of the discernment level of Joseph Campbell, I cannot say how I would have reacted in his place. I do know that another man I revere greatly, the Dalai Lama, recently gave a speech at Rutgers University in which he told the students that war was outmoded and young people should find some other means of settling conflict, particularly international conflicts. This is a relatively simplistic answer to a complex problem but it's the spirit of it I like. Want peace? End war. Sort of makes sense to me. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif"> Much of Joseph Campbell's genius makes the same sort of spirited, simple, sense particularly his beautiful pronouncements on "Thou Art That," that acknowledge our close ties to one another, planet-wide.

Happy to have you here, and happy to read your thoughts,

Dixie

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Post by JoeBlo » Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:20 pm

Quote:
He introduced concepts that pretty much kicked the feet out from under fundamentalist religions and patted them on the head at the same time. Insult to injury for people who take themselves too seriously, I guess.
I just read this whole flippin' thread top to bottom, all four pages, and Billeen, your post was the best one of the bunch. I just registered this very moment to say that. Perfect blend of indignation, insight, humor and humility. I think that should be the last word on the subject.

Can't believe "JoeBlo" wasn't taken!

Peace.
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Post by Ken O'Neill » Sat Nov 27, 2004 7:06 am

Going back to the late 80s, as best I recall Brendan Gill initiated charges that Campbell was anti-Semitic. Based on what, I've never been sure.

I read Gill's material at that time. And I was deepy unimpressed. It seemed to me that Gill, a self-professed long time friend of Campbell, found a strawman to beat upon in a time when Campbell was both deceased and enjoying unprecedented popularity and influence thanks to two PBS series, and two transcripts from those series for more than a year apiece on the New York Times Bestselling non-fiction lists - both paper and hardbound.

Anti-semiticism is an easy allegation to make. And Campbell's work sets him up for it. Might just as well deem him anti-Christian, anti-Papist, and anti-Muslim while you're at it. Especially with respect to his comments in the last of his published works, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space. He makes no bones about the clear and present danger to planetary survival being the monotheistic myth when read as literal, factive, and historically true.

Extending the allegations against Joe a bit further, it's equally possible to use a search engine to discover he's also regarded as anti-Christian. And for the same reasons as he's regarded as anti-Semetic: stressing The Book as myth and metaphor rather than literal history and the revealed word of a skygod. It's really that simple.

I learned this bitter lesson the hard way through also being labelled as anti-Semetic. And that was for treating Judaic claims of historicity as myth and metaphor. You might not believe the wrath unleased against me on one listserv years ago. Nor by a certain well known Buddhist scholar who will remain nameless.

If you've seen the infocom for a certain organization raising money to send Jews to Isreal - refugees from Russia and Africa - you find both Sharon, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson supporting it. For them all, they are supporting Biblical prophecy. For the Christian fundamentalists, stirring things up in the Middle East gives them headlines for their televangelism, converts and cash. For the true believer of the Judaeo-Christian bent, Israel is prophesized, gathering Jews there in mandatory for Christ's return.

I've wondered what effect reading Said's wonderful Orientalism would have had on Joe's work. Probably would have only gotten him in more trouble along the way!

So his "anti-Semeticism" is an instance of a new heresy contradicting fundamentalist hermeneutics. Like the scientific heresy of the Latin Renaissance, it forces facing the awful truth.

I don't believe Campbell was anti-Semetic in the sense that Gill and others have held out. I do believe he was drawing conclusions any rational person would draw in doing comparative mythology. So let's keep the flame alive.
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Post by Raphael » Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:53 pm

On 2004-02-11 07:48, Mike D wrote:

Having read this thread carefully and thought about this one, I'd be inclined <em>vis a vis</em> Campbell to raise the matter of what he says about "Nature".

What he says in effect <em><strong>makes Jewish mythology ultimately responsible for environmental devastation</strong></em>. That is a serious charge. I don't think it holds up. I've already explained in the "21st century" mythology thread why I think so.

I don't actually believe it is anti-semitism: rather I think it is honest but incorrect assumption. In essence it is bald assertion arising from incautious association of ideas and can't be substantiated either logically or historically. It is also rather peculiar to find him levelling the charge at Roman Catholicism - on the basis of its inheriting this myth - since he must be aware of the Aristotelianism of the RC church. "Nature" is for sure a guiding concept in Aristotle - and for that matter in Aquinas...

...Since I'm reading Mann's <em>The Magic Mountain</em> just now allow me to point out that it is Settembrini, described by Hans Castorp as a "radical" and a "windbag" who speaks of the "subjugation" of "nature".
Allow me to be a windbag Mike and point you in the direction of a thread that supports Campbell and his assertions that Jewish mythology supports environmental carnage and the plundering of Gaia.

http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... 34&forum=3
(my thread appears on page 29)

You will love the fact that I position the swastika against the crucifix, these two symbols engaged in an archetypal battle for our hearts and minds.
And I use science, the constellations, the patterns within the Creation to expose this esoteric connection.

And I believe that encoded within myth and scripture lies a GREEN message.

Do you comprehend how profound my signature below is Mike, in the balance between energy and matter, that which comprises the Creation?
I simply re-wrote the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics and substituted the word God for Energy.

namaste

Raphael


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