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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FourSwords
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Post by FourSwords » Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:00 pm

Wow. This is beginning to remind me of why I don't smoke marijuana - I mean it just confuses me too much, like this thread is doing to me now...

(...gets up and opens bag of potato chips...)
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Post by WRS » Wed Dec 14, 2005 5:46 am

On 2007-01-10 05:53, Evinnra wrote:
Macsam,
On 2007-01-09 23:51, macsam wrote:

I last read Campbell about ten years ago, and one item I recall was when he was giving a talk in New York, afterwards a nun came up to him and said after listening to him she had decided to leave her order. Campbells was happy for her, judging by your posts he would not be happy for you. Maybe your cat can read it for you it is about people from indocrinated faiths who try and bully their way around the world. Which raises the question why would a confirmed catholic be such a rabid poster on Campbells site.
HA! *Patting self on the shoulder* Finally I’ve managed to get a clear statement out of you; you think those who call Professor Campbell ‘anti-Semite’ are doing it because they are ‘indoctrinated’. Hence in your mind perhaps all people who have ever been ‘indoctrinated’ into a system of religion are (a) calling others names, (b) bully their way around the world. Do you see how your statement generalise everyone under the same assumption? You have made an assumption on other people’s stance based on some experience you’ve had with ‘indoctrinated’ people. That is the same attitude as not giving a job to a person because of the colour of his/her skin; in short this attitude is discriminatory and prejudiced. Of course you are free to do that, only don’t be surprised if people will treat you the same way in response.

Then you raise the question: ‘why would a confirmed Catholic be such a rabid poster on Campbell’s site’? Again, this statement reveals a set mind intent on dishing out prejudice to be shared around. Have you heard that in the last twenty or so years the Catholic Church made a number of attempts to open up conversation with different religions? And by the way, Professor Campbell was Catholic. It would be rather strange if people received prejudiced treatment on a website that is dedicated to a Catholic person’s work and legacy.

Evinnra

p.s. Why do I get the feeling that I am speaking to the same person over and over again? Its becoming very very boring and at the same time frightening.

I have been making clear statements all along. Unlike you you have given out information about yourself of which I referred to. You on the other hand know nothing about me and yet you are prepared to jump to sterotyped conclusions all of which are wrong.
As for the other I am sure the term was raised a catholic, at what point "he" decided he wasn't is neither here nor there the fact he "was" rather then "is", is of ctitical significance on his journey through life as he so stated himself. He was as much catholic as Krishnamurti was buddist.
The fact that religious groups are now opening dialogue with others is of little significance when they remain stedfast in their stated position and as I recall the previous Pope had issues with the Dali Lama, not to mention the current ones woes with the muslims.
Now for the website query I have noticed the strong catholic infulence "throughout" the site and I've been pondering how many revolutions Cambell must be doing in eternity to have his life work and beliefs termed Catholic. Especially so when he stated he loved to un convert the converted. So if anything I am looking at a website that it was my understanding to be something else. I used to cover the spectrum years ago but more as an observer then a commentator now I have the time to look at these websites I am finding all is not what it seems. So it would seem I am in error you are in the right place and I am not.
Because I have been a traveller quite often near the seeker world Campbell was more regarded as a spiritualist and if asked about his catholic roots the answer more often then not was "ex".
As for the frightening bit I will now make a presumption you have never seen frightening, where as I have seen plenty of absolutely terrifying.

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: macsam on 2007-01-10 23:10 ]</font>
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Post by WRS » Sun Dec 25, 2005 7:33 pm

On 2007-01-10 03:02, nandu wrote:
Mac,

From reading your posts in different threads, I think the point you are trying to make is that the dogma of the monotheistic religions is preventing a proper appreciation of myth as Campbell understood it. Since you feel so strongly about it, why don't you start a separate thread in "Conversation with a 1000 faces"? There are many here who are interested in the question, and we are sure to get insightful replies.

And we can leave Evinnra's cat alone! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif">

Nandu.
Well done Nandu, that is another way of putting it that is worthy of exploration and I have my own clever cat.
PS Evinnra brought her cat in why can't it stay, only just the other day in Australia where we both live a cat got a credit card with a $4000 something limit, so you see cats are going up in the world.

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: macsam on 2007-01-10 23:14 ]</font>
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Post by Raphael » Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:20 am


So this is what happened when you opened the door to toss Raphael out for a month?
Look what the cat dragged in...

Hello Mac, welcome to Joe's Place.

namaste

Raphael

ENERGY = GOD ... Share Him is the Message...<br>God can be neither created nor destroyed; he can only be transformed into other forms of God. However there is a penalty for committing sin, for transforming God and it is called Entropy.
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Post by noman » Tue Jan 17, 2006 11:06 pm

The vast majority of references I could find were simple statements of the "fact" that Campbell was an anti-Semite without any mention of sources or evidence. To me, this prevalent lack of interest by those making the claim in lending any credence to their statements is pretty telling all by itself. It amounts to nothing more than name-calling.
- Liminal

I didn't know Joe personally, so I can't really say, with conviction, that he wasn't an anti-Semite, however you want to define that. I have to say that I haven't seen anything that the man said that makes me believe that particular accusation to be true
- David Kudler

Those people who are making accusations have to prove their point of view, not the defenders.
- Martin Weyers

I wish this would die other than have more accusations against him or have people blindly defend him.
- November 17

In my judgment, the accusation of Anti-Semitism is one capable of rendering in the mind of the unconscious listener a simultaneous verdict of guilty. I can think of no more effective way in our current society to instantly discredit an individual's reputation, aside from accusing him with the mistreatment of children, than to levy the brand of "Anti-Semitic."
- Manny Otto

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.
- Ted

Whether Campbell was an anti-Semite is an interesting aspect of his biography. Its relevance beyond that is questionable, even assuming, without any proof I've seen, that he did have such a character flaw.
- Richard Arthur

If he's "tarred with the brush", maybe the purpose of those who do the tarring is to keep the next generation from being interested in reading his books. Reading Joseph Campbell is enough to make a lot of young people break out of the paddock, so to speak; and forget about being observant Jews.
- Felicity

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."
- ikiru

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.
- Dave Spiro

I believe Joe was usually taking part in an academic conversation rather engaging in social commentary such as making anti-Semitic statements.
-mhoyt3

I don't understand this "anti-Semite" c**p at all.
… 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!
- Billeen

Anti-Semitism is an easy allegation to make. And Campbell's work sets him up for it…. I don't believe Campbell was anti-Semitic 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.
- Ken O’Neill

I absolutely do not believe Campbell was an anti-Semite, or that he could be construed as one. It's an ugly and ridiculous accusation to make on such a wonderful person who has obviously inspired so many in a positive way.
- Porcupine

This charge has gotten out of hand when a college professor who had used Campbell's work in a class would make this damning claim based on these stories of Campbell's alleged bigotry and refer to the man as a "vicious anti-Semite"… I find these charges profoundly unfortunate.
- Om Shanti

BodhiBliss writes:
I have noticed that those who most often claim Joseph Campbell was an anti-Semite aren't very familiar with Campbell's work, but uncritically latch on to the suggestion as if it is etched in stone….

If Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell are anti-Semites, then it's easy to discount their contributions - which provides an unconscious rationale for those already disinclined to devote the time and energy to explore their exhaustive bodies of work. The mostly unconscious logic seems to be "If it's tainted, we don't have to go there, and we can throw out everything they've ever done, and simply ignore their influence ..."

…anti-Semitism has such a high emotional charge to it, conveys such negative, shadow qualities, that all conversation ends there. We couldn't discuss any of the esoteric and metaphysical observations Campbell makes regarding the role of the Chosen People as a collective Hero…
- BodhiBliss
Hello All,

There seems to be a unanimous decision here by this most honorable panel. I apologize in advance for the agonizingly long post, but I just could not address this issue in the typical two-minute drill.

The Challenge of the Accusation of Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism may not be the most important issue of Campbell’s life and work. But I’ve found it to be, by far, the most challenging. It’s challenging for three reasons.

First, it forces us to define anti-Semitism. Someone can dislike the Mormon Church and its doctrines. Does that make him an anti-Mormon? Where does one draw the line between a genuine disagreement, and a malicious heart-felt hatred of a people? Friedrich Nietzsche was an out spoken anti-Christian. He even called himself the anti-Christ. But somehow, we readily accept that he was objecting to a doctrine and that he wasn’t expressing malicious hatred against the Christian people.

Second, it’s challenging because it demands that we interpret the personal sentiments of a man from his corpus of writings and lectures, and the personal opinion of people who knew him. It’s not always easy to interpret the private feelings of someone. It would be easier if Campbell blatantly expressed his hatred for all Jews, or if he were a member of the American Nazi party.

Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford was extremely anti-Semitic and there is evidence for his support of Nazi Germany. Harry S. Truman, prior to becoming President, donned the hood and robe of the Ku Klux Klan for a very brief affiliation with this organization. But there is no such ‘hard evidence’ with Campbell. We are attempting a litmus test of Campbell’s personal feelings largely by interpretation.

Thirdly, and most challenging of all, it forces us to confront something ugly from our recent past; this episode we call the Holocaust. In the long, painful history of Europe, there have been many dark episodes and failures of human decency. But the Holocaust stands out as one of the darkest, if not thee darkest episode – eleven million, Jews, Poles, Gypsies, and other ‘undesirables’ rounded up and slaughtered for no practical reason but out of shear malevolent hatred, cruelty, and a desire for ethnic cleansing. Consider the amount of time and energy involved while this country was fighting a war on two fronts.

It’s not something we Westerners really like to think about; that is, the mythology that is part of our heritage as well as Germany’s. Richard Wagner, whose work Campbell greatly admired was extremely anti-Semitic. So was Martin Heidegger. So was the American Ezra Pound. Ernest Hemmingway used the ‘k’ word all the time. It’s hard to get a handle on how widespread this was – and why? If you’re American, like me, we tend to see the Holocaust as something ‘those’ people did, and that we Americans, whose hearts are as pure as the head waters of the Missouri River in springtime, and whose motives completely altruistic, heroically marched into Europe and by divine grace ended the nightmare.

I’m talking mythology here folks. It’s not my intention to discuss blame. Only to point out that the Holocaust, weighing so heavy on our minds, has a drastic effect on how we feel about having our beloved Joseph Campbell accused of anti-Semitism. Never mind that Campbell has made anti-Catholic remarks, or anti-Christian remarks, or even anti-Hindu remarks, as witnessed in his Indian Journal, Baksheesh and Brahman. But hearing the accusation of anti-Semitism puts many of us in a crouching tiger mode. How could anyone accuse such a good man of such vile thoughts?

The Accusations of Anti-Semitism

The first time that I heard about the accusation of anti-Semitism I was listening to a Michael Toms interview The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell. At that time, I was deeply immersed in Campbell’s work, had read all of his books twice or thrice, and had listened to many of his lectures on tape several times. Toms mentioned the Brendan Gill article, and said that he could not speak to Gill’s particular accusation but that he found no evidence in all of Campbell’s published works or lectures that supported such a claim.

But I had a perverse smile of satisfaction upon hearing about Campbell’s alleged anti-Semitism because it was a conclusion I already arrived at on my own. ‘I knew it!’ I said to myself. Somehow I sensed that Campbell had a genuine, heart-felt contempt for the Jewish people and their religion; that it was more than a mere disagreement over doctrine.

That is how I felt, although, I never used the word anti-Semitic, because, for one thing, I think it’s a stupid word. What we really mean is anti-Jewish. But for another reason, the word anti-Semitic, with its Nazi associations, is just too harsh a word for a man who spent thirty-eight years dedicated to teaching Jewish college students. I would just say in casual conversation that Campbell never had anything good to say about the Jews or Judaism.

Since then, I’ve learned that I was not alone in my opinion. Besides Brendan Gill, Robert Segal and others have weighed in on the issue:
There are those who like both Jews and Judaism. There are those who dislike Jews but like Judaism. There are those who like Jews but dislike Judaism. …Finally, there are those who dislike both Jews and Judaism. Sadly, Joseph Campbell, the celebrated scholar of myth, falls here.

Since Campbell’s whole corpus contains nary a neutral, much less a kind, word about Judaism, Campbell’s dislike was no late acquisition.

Campbell contrasts outright the literalism of mainstream Judaism and Christianity to ‘the Gnostic traditions of Judaism and Christianity’. But he nevertheless severs Jewish mysticism from the rest of Judaism, which he is then free to deplore. Jewish mysticism is for him a wholly medieval, anomalous strain of Judaism. There is for Campbell no continuing Jewish mysticism, let alone any modern, secular variety of Judaism.

- “Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism.” Religion Volume 22, Issue 2 , April 1992, Pages 151-170.

* * * * * * *

P177 The recent controversy over Campbell’s alleged anti-Semitism, surfacing in editorials in The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker, is then nothing new to one who has read with care Campbell’s corpus. And yet the point really is not that Campbell, in what he thought were small and safe private audiences, seems to have passed on anti-Jewish anecdotes; more pressing and fundamental is the kind of dichotomizing that constitutes and remains inscribed in his extremely popular writings.

- Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority : a critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye & Campbell Marc Manganaro (1992)

* * * * * * *

“…to differentiate the freedom-loving non-state-forming Germano-Celtic type from the state-and-priest-ridden Levantine is so transparent a revival of the old prejudice of Aryan culture against Jewish that one blushes for an author so disingenuous, especially when that author knows and deplores Nazi politics”

- Sandler, Florence and Darrell Reeck. “The Masks of Joseph Campbell.” Religion. 11 (1981): 1-2
Maggie Macary who received her Ph.D. in mythology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, wrote a blog titled, “Joseph Campbell and Anti-Semitism, The Politics of the Matter”. In it she says:
I came across a rather famous anthropologist last night, and in our brief conversation, when he found out I was a mythologist, he mentioned Joseph Campbell and then added, “He was anti-Semitic you know.” I was very taken aback by this pronouncement, not because I hadn’t heard it before, but because it came from someone who was obviously very intelligent, well educated, and used to a certain level of academic discourse. I briefly responded. But the discourse bothered me.
Joe Campbell has been dead for over 20 years, and yet the idea of his anti-Semitism still seems to have some level of vitality…

…There is always some truth hidden in such controversies—truths that seem to surface from time to time even twenty years later. So, over the next few days (because I’m already finding this topic is too large for one blog) I’m going to explore the roots of the allegations against Campbell.

- Maggie Macary PhD. (December 28, 2004)
Unfortunately, we can no longer read Dr Macary’s blog. Sadly, she passed away on Easter Sunday 2006. A few months later her web site shut down. I remember reading her wonderful musings on myth now and then. And I remember this particular blog concerning Campbell and anti-Semitism was well written and informative. But I was only able to ‘capture’ the first page, so I can’t go into what she said. But I remember her saying that ‘no evidence ever accompanied these accusations.’

The wide variance of opinion says a great deal about us, since we all have access to the same information about Campbell. The exception would be information gleaned from those who knew him personally. But I’m interested in the evidence, however weak or insubstantial, found in his books and lectures, and not personal testimonials.

So in an effort to address the discrepancy between Michael Tom’s/Maggie Macary’s interpretation of no anti-Semitism in Campbell’s work, and Robert Segal’s/Marc Manganaro’s interpretation of quite obvious anti-Semitism in Campbell’s work, I’ve made it my task to weed out from Campbell’s work, instances that gave me the idea that this man harbored anti-Semitic feelings, and to explain as best I can, what specifically it was that convinced me.

(continued)
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Post by noman » Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:53 pm

(continued from previous post)

Intimations of Anti-Semitism in Campbell’s Work

From Hero:
P63 And there is the tale of the Wandering Jew, cursed to remain on earth until the Day of Judgment, because when Christ had passed him carrying the cross, this man among the people standing along the way called, “Go faster! A little speed!” The unrecognized, insulted Savior turned and said to him, “I go, but you shall be waiting here for me when I return.”
Campbell uses this as one of many examples of the ‘refusal of the call’. It is an authentic story, a popular story, and part of the Western tradition. It is also a very racist story, in that it promotes the attitude of Jews as people who stubbornly refuse to accept Christ and Christianity, and that their refusal is an act of callousness to human suffering.

It is a myth. It is a racist myth. It is not, IMO, a good example of ‘the refusal of the call’. A Jew who refused to practice Judaism would better illustrate a refusal of the call for a Jew. This would be like using a Native American, who refuses to become a Christian, as an example of a person who refuses the call.

But more importantly, I get this feeling of insensitivity in Campbell using this story. This book was written during the five-year period just after the concentration camp furnaces stopped operating in Europe, the Western conscious still stunned by the episode. Jewish scholars had not even begun to address the issue out of complete shock.

The story is legitimate, it follows in the context of what he was illustrating – but it also was, I think, insensitive of Campbell to use it.

* * * * * * *

From the Mythos Series, End of Volume IV:
This struck me when I was teaching at Sarah Lawrence College where I think more than half of my students were Jewish girls – one young woman who had been one of the, really, most remarkable members of the class that year – in her last conference she said to me, ‘you know Mr. Campbell, if I didn’t think of myself as Jewish I wouldn’t know my identity.

I was stunned – I said, ‘Rachel, what are you saying – I’ve never thought of you as Jewish or any thing else – but as Rachel - and uh - suppose I were to say to you – if I didn’t think of myself as Irish I wouldn’t know my identity. I said that wouldn’t make sense, would it.’

These are two totally different ways of relating to race. One in the way – oh yes – that’s what I am and all of my peculiarities come from that misfortune – the other is – no – this is my being.

This is important to realize about the Jewish tradition. It has its roots here in the idea of a people.
Again, what Campbell has to say here is true. A woman that age, raised in a Jewish tradition, has to go through an identity shift to emerge from a parochial upbringing.

But I also have no doubt, that when Campbell was Rachel’s age he had to go through a similar identity crisis to shake off the yoke of Catholicism. As a young man in Paris he was still participating and loving the Catholic Mass until he was about twenty-five.

This is a tough transition to make, if it is made, and I don’t see why Judaism should be singled out over any other race or religion in this respect. It’s just that the transition is more difficult in proportion to the amount of prejudice and persecution the young person was raised in. In America, it’s more difficult, for Blacks, and Native Americans. In Campbell’s time it was more difficult for an Irish Catholic than a Protestant.

There are Amish that make the transition, there are Mormons that make the transition, there are African-Americans that make the transition and so on, and so on…But to use a twenty-one year old Jewish woman in transition to illustrate that this is how Jewish people think compared to others is a touch unfair.

* * * * * * *

When Campbell was in India, he visited a Jewish community it Cochin. In the home of a wealthy old Jew he records this in his journal Baksheesh and Brahman
P250
The old man, after a few preliminary words with me, moved into position and launched his attack on the United States.

“Why were we supporting both the Arabs and the Jews? The right to Palestine lay clearly with the Jews: God had given it to them thousands years ago, as documented in the Bible. Did we not still read the Bible in America? …
… Why does America not give more of its money to Israel? True, the American Jews are giving a lot of money; but why not the American Christians also? Were they not reading the Bible any more? Did they not realize that the right to Palestine belonged to the Jews?”

I must confess, when the old man started, I thought him rather cute, but when he continued and I could see, not only that he was dreadfully serious, but also that he represented a point of view held by millions of his like, I began to feel a bit sick at the stomach, and I was glad when it was time to go.
I know what your thinking. This passage in no way illustrates Campbell was Anti-Semitic – and I totally agree. I too, would have gotten sick having to listen to this as an American guest in someone’s home in a foreign country. I merely thought I’d throw it in to help understand Campbell’s thoughts on Judaism. I’m more interested in understanding than defending my position.

* * * * * * *

From Occidental Mythology:
P138 …in contrast to all other myths of this order, the hero here is not an individual – not even Moses – but the Jewish folk….
…Thus a fundamental distinction emerges, which throughout the history of Judaism has remained its second point of high distinction among the religions of the world: namely, that whereas elsewhere the principle of divine life is symbolized as a divine individual, in Judaism it is the People of Israel whose mythic history thus serves the function that in other cults belongs to an incarnation or manifestation of God.
- Occidental Mythology
If you compare Judaism to Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam - then yes, Judaism is much more exclusive, and socially oriented rather than individually oriented. But ‘among the religions of the world’ are ethnic religions such as Hindu and Shinto that also have this typical in-group/out-group characteristic. The Parsis in India, remnants of the Zoroastrians of Persia only marry within their religion. They remain a very small religion, 100,000 or so.

There have been many tribal religions. Most of the tribal religions of the Americas that Campbell gushed over had this in-group attitude. They too, thought of themselves as the chosen people. But it’s all right, because they were chosen by a god less familiar and less intimidating than the one Campbell grew up with. But Campbell would constantly harp on this exclusivity in Judaism.

* * * * * * *

From Myths to Live By:
P96 So, then, what is it that our religions actually teach? Not the way to an experience of identity with the Godhead, since that, as we have said, is the prime heresy; but the way and the means to establish and maintain a relationship to a named God. And how is such a relationship to be achieved? Only through membership in a certain supernaturally endowed, uniquely favored social group. The Old Testament god has a covenant with a certain historic people, the only holy race – the only holy thing, in fact – on earth. And how does one gain membership? The traditional answer was most recently (March 10, 1970) reaffirmed in Israel as defining the first prerequisite to full citizenship in that mythological inspired nation: by being born of a Jewish mother.
True again. But Campbell makes it out to be the worst crime in the history of religion. Something comes through in his voice.

* * * * * * *

From POM:
P215 (small book)

Moyers: There’s this ethical contradiction mentioned in your book, quoting Exodus: “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife – except abroad. Then you should put all males to the sword, and the woman you shall take as booty to yourself.” That’s right out of the Old Testament.

Campbell: Deuteronomy. Those are fierce passages.

Moyers: And what do they say to you about women?

Campbell: They say more about Deuteronomy than about women. The Hebrews were absolutely ruthless with respect to their neighbors.
Now, I am quite the novice of Near Eastern history. But nowhere have I’ve heard or read that the Hebrews were any more or less ruthless than any other tribe or nation of this same period. Though I once read, perhaps in one of Campbell’s books, that the Assyrians were particularly harsh and that is why we have scant archeological evidence for their success. When they finally were overthrown, the liberated cultures totally destroyed most of the evidence of their rule out of hatred.

But Campbell, I think, is expressing his contempt for the success of a scripture many people still revere that preaches about how Yahweh and the Hebrews beat up on other tribes and were proud of it. Is it necessary to say that the Hebrews were absolutely ruthless? The Persian Empire was ruthless in its conquests. So were the Greeks – and then the Romans. Ruthlessness was the status quo and was the way to expand an empire. And the Hebrews weren’t one of the most successful in that respect. Instead, Campbell could have said that these passages illustrate the ruthlessness of the period.

* * * * * * *

This next famous exchange is best told in the book ‘The Heroes Journey’:
P135 [Martin Buber] stopped at one moment and said, “It pains me to speak of God in the third person.” (When I told this to Gershom Scholem he said, “Sometimes he goes too far.”)

So I’m sitting there and I raised my hand and he very politely said, “What is it?” And I said, “There’s a word being used here this evening that I’m not understanding.”
And he said, “What is that word?” And I said, “God.”

“You don’t understand what God means?”

“I don’t understand what you mean by God. You tell us God has hidden his face. I’ve just come from India where people are experiencing God’s face all the time.”

It was as though I’d hit him with a brick.
He said, “Do you mean to compare…?” [Buber was not allowed to finish]

That’s monotheism. We’ve got it. No one else has it.
And then the next week, this wonderful little man, he’s marvelous; he’s saying very nasty things about the Phoenicians because they’re killing their eldest sons for Moloch. Sacrificing their eldest sons to Moloch: terrible thing to do. Fifteen minutes later he gets around to Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac – and now this is the greatest act anybody in the world had ever given himself to. This is the key act indicating what a wonderful man Abraham was. And so I couldn’t help it. I raised my hand again and I said, “Dr. Buber, how does one distinguish between the divine and a diabolical invitation?”

He said, “What do you mean by that?”

I said, “Fifteen minutes ago you were excoriating the Phoenicians for sacrificing their eldest sons to a deity. Now you’re praising Abraham above all living for having to do the same thing.”

Now comes the answer.
“We” ---capital W---“believe that God”---capital G---“spoke to Abraham.” That’s his answer. So where are you? This is the problem in dealing with mythology in a monotheistic community. It’s not myth; it’s fact. This is the concretization of a symbol and it’s losing the message in the symbol. You’ve lost the message. All you’ve got is a symbol.
Campbell could not tolerate exclusivity or literalism, not from a Jew anyway. From an Aborigine or a Navaho it might be just fine. But is it the fault of Jews and Judaism that Christianity and Islam partially adopted their exclusive monotheism? Is it?

(continued)

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Post by noman » Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:40 am

(continued from previous post)

From On the Wings of Art:
Now Cromwell made Hitler seem like an amateur. And I can remember when Hitler came into control in Germany there were three biographies of Cromwell that were written. He extinguished the population in the North of Ireland and moved a lot of Scottish Protestants in – this was known as ‘the plantation’. And it’s at that time, that the Irish that could escape the - Holocaust - took flight to Spain, and the Spanish colonies.
There are a number of serious problems with Campbell comparing Cromwell’s Irish campaign with Hitler’s Holocaust. This is what I found on the Web about ‘the Plantations’ and Cromwell:
Though there were some atrocities committed, it was not an act of genocide against the Irish.

It is clear that Cromwell saw the Irish Catholics in general as enemies. During the civil wars, the Parliamentarian side in particular nursed a hatred towards the Catholic Irish, who were long seen as “savages” and inferior by the English. A desire for revenge for the massacres of the 1641 Irish Rebellion against English rule added to the general climate of Protestant hostility Cromwell’s hostility to them was religious as well as political.

He was passionately opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, which he saw as denying the primacy of the Bible in favor of papal and clerical authority, and which he blamed for tyranny and persecution of Protestants in Europe. Cromwell’s association between Catholicism and persecution were deepened with the Irish Rebellion of 1641. This rebellion was marked by massacres by native Irish Catholics of English and Scottish Protestant settlers in Ireland, which were wildly exaggerated in puritan circles in Britain (from 4,000 killed to 120,000). These factors contributed to Cromwell’s harshness in his military campaign in Ireland.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Cro ... in_Ireland

* * * * * * *

Around 3,500 people died in the storming of Drogheda; many of those who survived were transported to Barbados. Parliamentarian losses were around 150.
Cromwell regarded the massacre at Drogheda as a righteous judgment on the Catholics who had slaughtered the Protestant settlers in the Irish Uprising of 1641. This view was shared by most English and Scottish Protestants. According to the conventions of 17th century warfare, a besieged city that refused a summons to surrender and was then taken by storm could expect no mercy. Despite the massacre of its defenders, Drogheda was not regarded as an atrocity at the time. However, it has lived on in Irish folk memory, making Cromwell’s name into one of the most hated in Irish history.
http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/mil ... reland.htm

* * * * * * *

Plantations in 16th and 17th century Ireland involved the seizure of land owned by the native Irish and granting of it to colonists (“planters”) from Britain. This process began under the reign of Henry VIII and continued under Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, and Cromwell.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantations_of_Ireland
First of all, there is quite a difference in shear numbers, even considering the difference in total population. Between the 5-11 million people died in the Holocaust and so many thousand people died in the Plantations of Ireland. There is also quite a difference in the area involved. The Plantations happened in Northern Ireland. The Holocaust encompassed what are now 35 countries of Europe and Eastern Europe.

Secondly, the standards of ethical conduct in war and in civil justice have changed quite a bit between the 17th century and the 20th century.

Thirdly, the Holocaust didn’t have any military, political objective, even as punishment against a rebellion as did the massacre at Drogheda. The Holocaust served no purpose outside of ‘ethnic cleansing’. There was no uprising to squelch, no threat of a revolution to overthrow the German government. The people wishing to overthrow the German government were the allies. The victims of this Holocaust were, non-combatants, entire families, dragged out of their homes, thrown into railroad cars, and taken to a concentration camps specifically designed to maximize the efficiency of extermination.

Fourthly, Cromwell was part of a larger process that started the century before him with Henry the VIII and continued after him into the 18th century. Hitler, on the other hand, and his close associates made decisions over just a few years - decisions that were so radical, that people could scarcely believe it was actually happening.

No doubt Cromwell made some nasty decisions in the heat of a bloody civil war and reconstruction - but there is just no way to compare his decisions and responsibility to Hitler’s. And yet, Campbell claims Cromwell was worse than Hitler; that Cromwell made Hitler seem like an amateur.

Perhaps just hyperbole on Campbell’s part – but for me, something comes through. Campbell suggesting Hitler wasn’t all that bad.

* * * * * * *

Campbell would always focus attention on the negative aspects of Judaism, it’s exclusivity, it’s anti-nature and anti-feminine qualities; things that he knew would be distasteful to twentieth century folks yearning for a more inclusive, environmentally friendly, and pro-feminine mythology. Yet none of these negative qualities were peculiar to Judaism.

But I suppose the greatest clue to Campbell’s sentiments comes not from what he said but from what he didn’t say. The mythology responsible for the Holocaust seems glaringly obvious. Hatred that is that deeply felt must necessarily come from a powerful inner source. But he never spoke to this issue. I think, because, it was, in a way, too close to home.

One of my pet peeves is that Campbell never mentions Baruch Spinoza. I think of Spinoza work as right in line with Campbell’s thought and philosophy of life; an exquisite combination of no-nonsense reasoning and a full appreciation of the value of the spiritual life as a self-realization, free from the burden of religion doctrine. Professor David B. Ruderman of the University of Pennsylvania says, ‘ Spinoza disputed Maimonides’s belief that reason and faith could be reconciled. This argument was devastating to the question of Jewish identity. Essentially, it negated God, Torah, and Israel, denying any rationale for Jew to think of themselves as the chosen people, to observe ceremonial laws, or to accept the authority of the rabbis.’

But there is scarcely a word about Spinoza from Campbell, and no acknowledgement of Spinoza’s contributions and his break with traditional religion. There is only one vague reference to Spinoza that I found in Campbell’s work.
P58 A Jewish philosopher of the seventeenth century said, “We come to know God not through contemplating the universe, but through contemplating the history of the human race.” This Jewish history is so powerful because it offers a realization of a divine principle working in a holy people. Thus it is a God-given religion of participation, not of identification.
- Thou Art That:
If Campbell is referring to Spinoza (and if Spinoza actually said something like this) it is not the most flattering quote from one of the greatest philosophers of all time. It could be construed that Campbell is saying that the mystical experience of union with God is not for Jews because they’re just too wrapped up in historical identity. Only Christian mystics, such as Miester Eckhart, have this option.

But the strongest clue of omission Campbell offers is that he never gave Judaism credit where credit was due. Those, rules, rules, rules, of the Old Testament that he spoke about and sometimes complained about are an important contribution to global mythology and I believe he knew it – but he never wanted to admit it. There’s a reason half the globe is dominated by Abrahamic religions. A new kind of morality emerged in the West in the first few centuries of the Common Era that had as its influences the Greco-Roman philosophers; the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Stoics, and the religions of the Jews and then Christians. Contrast that to what Heinrich Zimmer had to say about India:
P83 India’s propensity for transcendental pursuit and the misery of India’s history are, most certainly, intimately related to each other; they must not be regarded separately.
- The Philosophies of India Heinrich Zimmer, Edited by Joseph Campbell
Campbell understood the difference between East and West, and this advantage of the West in terms of ethics, but downplays any contribution made by Judaism. Instead, he gives Europe full credit.

From Occidental Mythology:
P522 One may take it as a point in evidence of the advanced position of Europe in the way of respect for the individual that, whereas Hitler’s massacre of some 5,000,000 Jews evokes (and properly so) horror from all sides, Stalin’s of 25,000,000 Russians passes almost without notice, and the present Chinese orgy is entirely overlooked. Both by the Orient and by the Occident such inhumanity is recognized as normal for the great East, whereas better things are expected of ourselves – and rightly so.

For it was in Europe alone that the principle of individual judgment and responsibility was developed in relation not to a fixed order of supposed divine laws, but to a changing context of human actualities, rationally governed. The fostering in Europe, first among the Greeks, then the Romans, of the principle of ego – not as the mere “I will,” “I want,” of the nursery (Freud’s “Pleasure Principle”), but as the informed, rational faculty of responsible judgment (“Reality Principle”) – has endowed us and our particular world with an order of spirituality and psychological problematic that is different in every way from that of the archaic Oriental mind.
- Occidental Mythology
Yet Campbell never tries to explain why Europe, so morally enlightened - allowed the Holocaust, only that it was not as bad as other ‘holocausts’. Then - he commends Europe’s mythology, and not Levantine mythology, for it not being worse.
- sigh -

Conclusion

I trust that, Michael Toms, Maggie Macary, and many of you are being honest saying that you just can’t see any sign, whatsoever, of anti-Semitism in Campbell’s work. I grant that it is a matter of interpretation. There’s no evidence.

But I felt vindicated when his friend, Brendan Gill, in his second article, said that while watching a moon landing, Campbell reportedly said, ‘the moon would be a good place to put all the Jews’.

I believe, despite the mudslinging, Brendan Gill was a friend of Campbell’s. It’s not easy to see a friend of yours with all their disagreeable little quirks raised to the status of venerated Saint. In Campbell’s biography, Fire in the Mind, Campbell is quoted as saying he didn’t want to be lionized. Well - friends don’t let friends become lionized. And it doesn’t make sense that Gill would lie about something that has so little to do with the objections to Campbell’s philosophy and popularity that motivated Gill to write the article.

No one has ever accused me of being a bigot. But I, a Euro-American, have told jokes, privately, now and then about Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Native Americans, and gays. (California offers a wide variety of choices.) And how many of you do not laugh at a comedian’s racial jokes. But Campbell’s jokes made privately among friends are so notorious, that we are still talking about its controversy forty-seven years after the fact and eighteen years after we were made aware of it through Gill’s article. Why?

I see two possibilities.

The first possibility is that the thought of the Holocaust still makes us a little queasy? I don’t think we’ve really come to terms with it – how such ‘civilized’ folks like ourselves could stoop so low. I think we’re still in the process of purging manifest destiny, social Darwinism, and of Aryan supremacy, from our collective conscious.

It reminds me of something I was told about the witch burnings. Though we think of the witch-burnings as medieval, they in fact, reached their peak during the painful transition of the Reformation. In Germany, predominantly Catholic communities were likely to have Protestant witches burned and predominantly Protestant communities Catholic witches burned. Some have suggested that the anxiety and uncertainty of the Reformation was the root cause.

I suggest that another great mythological transition for Europe took place between 1850 and 1950. Europe now had to go from a mythology of Christianity to one of Secularism. The fall of European empires, could not by itself, explain the extremes of the Holocaust. There had to be some powerful mythology at work in order for this scenario to unfold. A mythological transition had to be made, and there was a great deal of anxiety and disturbance of the soul. And just as an individual may lash out at innocent victims during a time of insecurity and distress, the West lashed out against Jews over the insecurity that was, in part, due to the loss of its mythology. And I believe Joseph Campbell was not immune to this mythically inspired urge - despite his wealth of knowledge and best intentions.

The second possible reason we’re still talking about Gill’s accusation is that we hold the man, Joseph Campbell, to a standard of morality so ridiculously high, that no human being could ever live up to it.

I believe Joseph Campbell had this prejudice against Jews and Judaism. I speculate that it wasn’t an overwhelming force in his life, but it was, nevertheless, part of his character. I also believe that it stems from the same mythic roots that characterize the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and Eastern Europe from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, but that Joseph Campbell had such a noble sense of ethics that he would not allow this prejudice to compromise his fair treatment of those Jews he associated with. How could he? Half his students were Jewish. I mean, how could he for thirty-eight years and get away with it without constant grumbling from his students or former students.

No, Joseph Campbell was very much a human being, and he had his prejudices as we all do, and he dealt with those prejudices in a most honorable and graceful fashion – at least in public.

But our reaction to what I see as a regrettable flaw in character, is most telling – about us. Americans especially, are hypersensitive to the racist charge. To that, all I can say is - let him who is free of racism or bigotry cast the first stone.

I’d like to add one more word of preachment to my fellow Campbell fans. If you get angry at the accusation of anti-Semitism, it only fuels the controversy, and leads to a more divisive image of Campbell. And I just can’t see Campbell as a polarizing scholar. He’s just too – open, and vague at times - too accepting of differing opinions.

- NoMan (Formerly ShantiSong)

Maggie Macary

The Faces of Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell: an Exchange
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Post by nandu » Tue Feb 21, 2006 4:26 pm

I didn't have the time to read all of your posts, noman - but they were very illuminating.

I am labelled anti-Christian by some in these forums, and it used to hurt a lot: but not now. If you can judge Campbell to be Anti-Semitic from the examples you quote, then I am anti-Christian-Muslim-Jewish-Vedic <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif"> .

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Post by Evinnra » Sun Mar 05, 2006 6:13 am

Shanti,

I've read all three posts above and appreciate the effort you made to express your view as clearly as possible. As I gather from your posts, your main premises supporting your claim that Professor Campbell was anti-Semitic are:

- lack of appreciating comments explicitly put forward by Professor Campbell on the significant part which was played by Judaism,
- Professor Campbell pointing out the exclusive nature of Judaism, ( that one can only be Jewish if one's mother is Jewish)
- and making a comment to a friend (who's intentions are rather questionable as he published this comment after Professor Campbell had passed away) that the Moon would be a good place to put all the Jews.

To the first premise, I would think the answer will suffice that Joseph Campbell's entire life's work aimed at finding similarities between Myths and religions on a global scale. Hence it does not seem surprising if he did not 'pay due respect' by heralding the supremacy of Judaism over other religions, if he did not single out a race as the 'chosen nation'. I believe it does not make him an anti-Semite, it merely makes him 'not pro-Semite'. Perhaps the necessary logical difference between the two distinct terms is discernible to you.

The second premise that Professor Campbell pointed to the exclusive nature of Judaism is a fact, discernible in his writings. Although I think that today anyone can become Jewish if decides to receive the required spiritual preparation, perhaps it is a new phenomenon that was not in practice at the time Professor Campbell taught. Does it make someone an anti-Semite if pointing to a true fact of a Semitic religion?

The third premise referring to a comment made by Professor Campbell indeed sounds pretty anti-Semitic. But how do we know for sure if he had really made this comment?! Can we believe a person who publishes this comment about someone else who is not present to defend his view? Ultra sensitive people would perhaps take such comments seriously, but as far as I know, intelligent and well-balanced people often dismiss information that cannot possibly be verified in case this information creates unnecessary strife.

Evinnra


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Post by bodhibliss » Thu Mar 16, 2006 8:00 pm

Noman writes:

One of my pet peeves is that Campbell never mentions Baruch Spinoza. I think of Spinoza work as right in line with Campbell’s thought and philosophy of life; an exquisite combination of no-nonsense reasoning and a full appreciation of the value of the spiritual life as a self-realization, free from the burden of religion doctrine. Professor David B. Ruderman of the University of Pennsylvania says, ‘ Spinoza disputed Maimonides’s belief that reason and faith could be reconciled. This argument was devastating to the question of Jewish identity. Essentially, it negated God, Torah, and Israel, denying any rationale for Jew to think of themselves as the chosen people, to observe ceremonial laws, or to accept the authority of the rabbis.’

But there is scarcely a word about Spinoza from Campbell, and no acknowledgement of Spinoza’s contributions and his break with traditional religion. There is only one vague reference to Spinoza that I found in Campbell’s work.
P58 A Jewish philosopher of the seventeenth century said, “We come to know God not through contemplating the universe, but through contemplating the history of the human race.” This Jewish history is so powerful because it offers a realization of a divine principle working in a holy people. Thus it is a God-given religion of participation, not of identification.
- Thou Art That:
If Campbell is referring to Spinoza (and if Spinoza actually said something like this) it is not the most flattering quote from one of the greatest philosophers of all time. It could be construed that Campbell is saying that the mystical experience of union with God is not for Jews because they’re just too wrapped up in historical identity. Only Christian mystics, such as Miester Eckhart, have this option.
As long as we're speaking about Spinoza, in Creative Mythology, p.27 (after noting Novalis celebrated Spinoza as ein gottbetrunkener Mensch, "a God-intoxicated man"), Joseph Campbell comments:
...Spinoza represents as courageously and splendidly as anyone in the European record those principles of enlightenment and integrity that he stood for. His own writing was denounced in his time as an instrument "forged in hell by a renegade Jew and the Devil." In a world of madmen flinging the Bible at one another - French Calvinists, German Lutherans, Spanish and Portuguese inquisitors, Dutch rabbis, and miscellaneous others - Spinoza had the spirit to point out (what should have been obvious to all) that the Bible "is in parts imperfect, corrupt, erroneous, and inconsistent with itself," whereas the real "word of God" is not something written in a book, but "inscribed in the heart and mind of man."
Yes, I guess Joseph Campbell displays his antisemitism by ignoring Spinoza, and offers "no acknowledgement of Spinoza’s contributions and his break with traditional religion."

But wait - seems he does - which kind of punctures that pet peeve ...
Noman also writes:

From Occidental Mythology:
P138 …in contrast to all other myths of this order, the hero here is not an individual – not even Moses – but the Jewish folk….
…Thus a fundamental distinction emerges, which throughout the history of Judaism has remained its second point of high distinction among the religions of the world: namely, that whereas elsewhere the principle of divine life is symbolized as a divine individual, in Judaism it is the People of Israel whose mythic history thus serves the function that in other cults belongs to an incarnation or manifestation of God.
- Occidental Mythology

If one reads the entire context of the many pages Campbell devotes to this theme, it's quite a leap to assume he's putting down the Jewish people. Quite the opposite. He is making a point about what is unique to the Hebrew scriptures and Jewish mythology - the Old Testament offers one of the few mythologies where the people are the collective hero of the story, rather than a deity or an individual hero.

Campbell clearly traces this theme as it plays out, with the sojourn in the underworld of Egypt (entered through a well - where Joseph's brothers imprisoned him), and emerging through water (the Red Sea) to traverse the Wasteland (40 years in the wilderness). Campbell identifies the major elements and transitions of the hero quest, as laid out in Hero with a Thousand FAces - but all these elements apply not to a single hero, but to the children of Israel - and no wonder, for it is indeed the story of the children of Israel.

It's not that there are no stories of individual hero quests contained within the larger story of the Old Testament, but the Separation, Initiation, and Return of the Hero's Journey applies on the macro scale to the Jews themselves - and Campbell wonders if that mythic dynamic, a mythological identification with a collective rather than an individual hero might have helped forge the powerful collective identity that has been maintained through a diaspora of 2000 years without a homeland - an unprecedented feat for any people.

How is that anti-semitic?

Where are the Scythians today? Where are the Cimmerians and the Visigoths and others who moved from their homelands? Unlike these other groups whose identites dissipated with displacement and time, the Jews maintained their identity for millennia on the strength of their mythology - talk about the power of myth!

I don't read that as a negative statement.

I find it hard to miss Campbell's admiration and wonder at this unique expression of the hero motif - but he ain't making it up. It's there, in the book, and would be disingenous to ignore it just to be politically correct.

It's a bit of a stretch to project anti-semitism into these chapters in Occidental Mythology when the sentences cited are read in context.
Noman also writes

If you compare Judaism to Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam - then yes, Judaism is much more exclusive, and socially oriented rather than individually oriented. But ‘among the religions of the world’ are ethnic religions such as Hindu and Shinto that also have this typical in-group/out-group characteristic. The Parsis in India, remnants of the Zoroastrians of Persia only marry within their religion. They remain a very small religion, 100,000 or so.
Joseph Campbell isn't stating this is a characteristic only of the Jews - in fact, throughout his works, when identifying ethnic religions he almost always mentions Judaism and Hinduism as the two prime examples

- except in Occidental Mythology, which, of course, is occidental mythology - there's no point in working Hinduism into the discussion, especially when he discusses it as an ethnic religion in Oriental Mythology (which, shocking as this may be, doesn't really discuss Judaism at all ...).

Nor do i see how helping a young woman expand beyond identifying exclusively with her race to an identification with all of humanity - without discarding her racial heritage - is a bad thing. In fact, in other contexts such sentiments are identified as wisdom

(even in A Joseph CAmpbell Companion, Joe makes a similar point to a troubled black diplomat, who appreciates Campbell relating to him not as a black man, but as a man - and, like the young lady, the gentleman received Campbell's advice in the spirit in which it was intended).

Odd, in fact, that we're told Campbell speaks truth to this young woman, but that's still somehow evidence of antisemitism ... which i just don't get.

Of course, we all draw our own conclusions - but it seems to me one has to dig really really hard, then stretch a few points, extract a few sentences here and there and maybe even make a claim that ain't so (like the failure to mention individuals and ideas that in fact are mentioned) to even begin to build a case that Joseph Campbell was an anti-semite

... and when it's that hard to find something, i'm left to conclude that either a near godlike being has executed an incredible cover-up - or maybe it's just not there.

It's not that there aren't any hooks at all for such projections (I discount Gil's anecdotal memory, considering mistatements he makes and things he says that just ain't so ... ), but that doesn't add flesh to the illusion.

McCarthy found communists where there were none with less digging and better evidence than what we've seen from anyone so far.
Of course, McCarthy and cohorts spent a lot of time digging up what turned out to be mostly inferences, with an occasional hook on which their shadow projections could catch, allowing them to ignore context and add narrative to make connections that weren't evident - but they focused so much time and energy into building a case that they had little choice but to find what they were looking for.

That isn't to compare Noman to McCarthy, for i doubt McCarthy was sincere - but when one has to use a fine tooth comb to sift through bits and pieces and construct a case for anti-semitism based on "insensitive" true statements (in an age before anyone knew there was such a thing as politically correct), when we can find real racism right out our own door today, both blatant and subtle, yet nevertheless far more obvious than what does not leap out at us in Campbell or his work, i have to wonder if we're not trying too hard ...

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Post by noman » Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:46 am

Thank you, Nandu, Evinnra, and Bodhi for commenting on my marathon post.

Nandu wrote:
I am labeled anti-Christian by some in these forums, and it used to hurt a lot: but not now. If you can judge Campbell to be Anti-Semitic from the examples you quote, then I am anti-Christian-Muslim-Jewish-Vedic :smile
Nandu,

Well – it’s only human to stereotype and dislike certain groups. But there’s a big difference between having your own little prejudices and taking action that would be morally wrong under any set of circumstances. It’s a person’s moral code that’s important – not his or her prejudices. A person would be a bore if they weren’t anti-something. But because of hate crimes, because of suicide bombers, and because of ethnic cleansing, words like anti-Semitic become ugly shadows that embarrass us when we are sometimes inadvertently made aware of them. It’s happened to me. That’s life.

*******

Evinnra wrote:
Joseph Campbell's entire life's work aimed at finding similarities between Myths and religions on a global scale. Hence it does not seem surprising if he did not 'pay due respect' by heralding the supremacy of Judaism over other religions, if he did not single out a race as the 'chosen nation'. I believe it does not make him an anti-Semite, it merely makes him 'not pro-Semite'. Perhaps the necessary logical difference between the two distinct terms is discernible to you.
As a myth watcher, you must agree that it is dangerous business to start ranking one myth/ritual system over another. They each serve their purpose, for their time and culture. But, Campbell’s technique, something I’ve called his ‘salad bar approach’, allows that we pick and choose different aspects of different mythologies from around the world. In doing so we are all the time making judgments – but it’s not the same as ranking whole mythologies as superior or inferior to others. I just don’t think that can be done – by a true Campbellist.

But Campbell had no trouble pointing out what he thought were interesting aspects of the myth/ritual systems he studied all of his life. It’s just that the interesting aspects of Judaism were usually negative. Those of the Greeks and Celts were almost always positive. He definitely seems pro-Greek, pro-Celtic, pro-Germanic, pro-Hindu, pro-Buddhism,and pro-Pagan. And anti-Judeo-Christian.

Evinnra wrote:
Does it make someone an anti-Semite if pointing to a true fact [of exclusivity] of a Semitic religion?
No – but I sensed that the exclusivity of Judaism really irked him, in a way that other exclusive religions did not.

Alan Watts pointed out in a book he wrote titled, “The Book” that while adhering to a doctrine of an exclusive in-group displays an attitude of one-upmanship, adhering to the doctrine of a non-exclusive group also implies one-upmanship. It’s the idea that being less exclusive makes us superior to all these other folks with their exclusive in-groups.

I don’t know what’s best. It depends on the individual.
One of my pet peeves is that Campbell never mentions Baruch Spinoza…

- NoMan

P27 ...Spinoza represents as courageously and splendidly as anyone in the European record those principles of enlightenment and integrity that he stood for. His own writing was denounced in his time as an instrument "forged in hell by a renegade Jew and the Devil." In a world of madmen flinging the Bible at one another - French Calvinists, German Lutherans, Spanish and Portuguese inquisitors, Dutch rabbis, and miscellaneous others - Spinoza had the spirit to point out (what should have been obvious to all) that the Bible "is in parts imperfect, corrupt, erroneous, and inconsistent with itself," whereas the real "word of God" is not something written in a book, but "inscribed in the heart and mind of man." – Creative Mythology

- BodhiBliss
I was so careful with the references in my long post, but not careful enough to check the index in Creative Mythology for Spinoza’s name. He wasn’t in Occidental Mythology where I expected him to be.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Campbell at least mentions Spinoza. But even without this one reference, I knew when I wrote it, my complaint about Campbell not mentioning Spinoza was quirky to say the least. I could probably name a couple dozen names from history’s parade of great minds that Campbell says little or nothing about. He had his favorites. It’s just that, nine out of ten of Campbell’s favorites – were German.

From what I know about Campbell’s work, and what little I know about Spinoza’s work, I would expect Campbell to be raving about Spinoza. Schopenhauer acknowledges Spinoza. Goethe and Einstein comment on Spinoza’s influence.
Arthur Schopenhauer wrote of Spinoza in his book The World As Will and Representation, Volume II In consequence of Kant's criticism of all speculative theology, almost all the philosophizers in Germany cast themselves back on to Spinoza, so that the whole series of unsuccessful attempts known by the name of post-Kantian philosophy is simply Spinozism tastelessly got up, veiled in all kinds of unintelligible language, and otherwise twisted and distorted.
http://users.cyberone.com.au/myers/spin ... heism.html

Goethe wrote:
" After looking around me in vain for a means of disciplining my peculiar nature, I at last chanced upon the Ethica of this man. To say exactly how much I gained from that work was due to Spinoza or to my own reading of him would be impossible; enough that I found in him a sedative for my passions and that he appeared to me to open up a large and free outlook on the material and moral world. But what specially attached me to him was the boundless disinterestedness, which shone forth from every sentence. That marvelous saying, Whoso truly loves God must not desire God to love him in return,' with all the premises on which it rests and the consequences that flow from it, permeated my whole thinking.”
http://www.oldandsold.com/articles11/goethe-11.shtml


In a letter in 1929 [Albert Einstein] spoke of himself as a ‘disciple’ of Spinoza, who looked upon all nature as God. When asked … if he believed in God, he … replied, ‘I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.’ His attitude toward Spinoza was one of profound reverence."
http://www.hal-pc.org/~wtb/einstein'sre ... views.html
What sort of thinker could appeal so, to a philosopher, a poet, and a physicist? And you know how much Campbell admired Schopenhauer and Goethe. Spinoza was just so very - Campbellesque.

Nevertheless, you’re right. Concluding that the reason Campbell doesn’t talk enough about Spinoza is because he never spoke highly of Jews or Judaism is as ridiculous as Brendan Gill saying Campbell chose Jung over Freud because Freud was Jewish. You know as well as I how much Campbell admired Freud.
Of course, we all draw our own conclusions - but it seems to me one has to dig really really hard, then stretch a few points, extract a few sentences here and there and maybe even make a claim that ain't so (like the failure to mention individuals and ideas that in fact are mentioned) to even begin to build a case that Joseph Campbell was an anti-Semite.

- Bodhi
One of the problems in this difference of opinion, I think, is the tendency to see it as a one-dimensional phenomenon. This is how the adjective ‘anti-Semitic’ – as in, ‘a person with anti-Jewish sentiments’ becomes the noun, ‘an anti-Semitic’. Either the man had type O positive blood or-he-did-not. And he either was ‘an anti-Semitic’ or-he-was-not. Casting a vote will determine whether you are with Joseph Campbell or agin’im. It is an unfortunate situation we’re in. As Bodhi pointed out in an earlier post, some people are so turned off by the accusation of anti-Semitism they won’t bother discovering the true gems of Campbell’s thought.

But my purpose is not to convince anyone that Campbell harbored feelings of hate against the Jewish people, but merely to explore the wide gulf of opinion on this issue. Maurice Friedman, a Jewish colleague of Joseph Campbell’s at Sarah Lawrence, wrote an article on Campbell and anti-Semitism. Robert Segal answers Friedman in the same publication:
Maurice Friedman, writing with a passion for which he is celebrated, argues that Joseph Campbell’s shocking indifference to the Holocaust stems not only from Campbell’s personal anti-Semitism but, even more, from Campbell’s psychological theory of myth: “The psychologizing of myth coupled with a liberal dose of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, preclude him from finding in the holocaust a touchstone of reality.

Joseph Campbell as Antisemite and as Theorist of Myth: A Response to Maurice Friedman
Robert A. Segal
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 461-467

AAR
I never have called Joseph Campbell ‘an anti-Semitic’. A racist, by my definition, is someone who openly and unashamedly says they hate all Tralfamadorians and thinks they should all be destroyed or exiled to an island. I don’t think Campbell was ever ‘a racist’ of this sort.

I tried to be honest with myself and ask myself why I had come to the conclusion I came to on my own, before I became aware of the controversy. As I stated before, there is no evidence – only clues. And I wouldn’t have even bothered if I were alone in my opinion. But, Robert Segal, Maurice Friedman, Marc Manganaro, Sandler and Reeck, had similar impressions from reading Campbell’s work.

The most difficult thing for me to grasp is why this is such an issue. The accusation of anti-Semitism really irks people. Do you think the man lived for 83 years without ever telling a racial joke? Do you believe George Washington never told a lie? I agree with Richard Arthur who posted in this thread:
Whether Campbell was an anti-Semite is an interesting aspect of his biography. Its relevance beyond that is questionable, even assuming, without any proof I've seen, that he did have such a character flaw.
- Richard Arthur
Honestly, I couldn’t care one way or another whether Campbell had this character flaw. I see Campbell as a scholar, not a prophet.

However, there’s an issue that I touched upon that is much, much greater than Campbell’s personality.

I was watching a show on Germany in the 30s and 40s and the commentator mentioned Campbell’s name in trying to explain the psychology of the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He was seeing it, as I do, as an extremely mythically inspired episode. As I said before, Europe was making the transition to secularism. That is my crude assessment of the spirit of the times.

And it sometimes haunts me to think - that America – has yet to make that transition. Topic for another thread.

Thanks again, Nandu, Evinnra, and Bodhi, for responding.

- NoMan


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Post by bodhibliss » Sat Apr 08, 2006 11:33 pm

A wonderful summation, Noman - and your earlier, detailed posts are a welcome addition to the discussion. I applaud your courage in addressing the topic, given possible reactions ...

What i take away from your contribution is not any intention to tar the man with the taint of anti-semitism, but merely to point out that Joseph Campbell was a complex individual, like all of us, a mix of conscious aspirations and ideals, colored by unconscious assumptions and the limitations of his culture, time, and background.

It's a complicated subject, reconstructing the workings of someone's psyche from rumor, anecdote, and a body of work that is well supported, but may contain shadows if one can read in between the lines.

Joseph Campbell certainly didn't feel he was anti-semitic.

In his journal during the Nazi years he makes clear his contempt for fascism, rues the anti-semitism Freud faced, and expresses sympathy for the plight of the Jews in Europe. He does mention that maybe the United States should tend to its own racist policies first, before saving the rest of the world - but then, most Americans at the time, including our young literature professor, had no clue Hitler was actively exterminating the Jews.

Colleagues, friends, and students tell stories that just don't jibe with anti-semitic tendencies. Eve Ilsen, for example - a student interested in Jungian psychology and mysticism, tells of Campbell steering her toward Hebrew to supplement her studies; twenty years later, after she had been living in Israel for seven years, Campbell tells her, "I'm so glad you went to live in Israel. You needed to recover your roots."

Similarly R. Wallach, in a personal communication, points out that Campbell appointed him director of his seminar series schedule in 1975, when Wallach was a practicing Jew, and relates how "we were able to have frequent conversations comparing the John Woodruffe illustrations of the kundalini yoga to a series of classic representations of the sefirotic tree in several kabbalistic traditions without him bursting into 'anti semitic diatribes.'"

And yet there's no denying many people do see anti-semitism in Joseph Campbell's work or life - and you highlighted some of the hooks that open one to that possibility

(e.g., the Cromwell comparison to the holocaust - though it certainly seemed a holocaust to those who experienced it, despite historians' later interpretations, it does seem overstated - though i count that hyperbole rather than anti-semitism, others could certainly see it differently).
On 2007-01-27 22:26, noman wrote:
But Campbell had no trouble pointing out what he thought were interesting aspects of the myth/ritual systems he studied all of his life. It’s just that the interesting aspects of Judaism were usually negative. Those of the Greeks and Celts were almost always positive. He definitely seems pro-Greek, pro-Celtic, pro-Germanic, pro-Hindu, pro-Buddhism,and pro-Pagan. And anti-Judeo-Christian.
Campbell's critique of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is well known, but even though most of his observations apply to all three religions (and to Zorastrianism as the source of much of this dysfuntionalism - a religion with no Semitic origins), critics zero in on Judaism.

Nevertheless, Campbell's conclusions ring true (though some may as a result think me anti-semitic by association, given a tendency to treat anti-semitism like urine - only takes one drop in a bucket of clear water to deter thoughts of quenching one's thirst), and are grounded in the literalism that has propelled these faiths.

Joseph Campbell does make positive statements about Buddhism, Greek and Celtic and other mythological systems - primarily when discussing their recognition of the symbolism of their mythic images, as opposed to an exclusively literal reading. He makes similarly positive statements about movements and sects within Christianity that similarly transcended an exclusively literal reading of symbols.

But he makes negative statements as well.

Campbell offers similar criticisms of literal beliefs of Hindu devotees in bhakti cults (numbering in the millions in India), and also expresses disgust with the practice of sacrifice (personally declining to even witness a ritual of goat sacrifice), while nevertheless finding the beauty in the metaphor - the transcendent reference of sacrifice. He also points out that the Mesoamerican civilizations, specifically the Maya and Aztec, were bloodthirsty, having misread the metaphor. Campbell is certainly clear that the Indo-European invasion of the Balkans and Greece conquered a thriving, goddess-oriented culture, a violent subjugation of the local beliefs to the dominant patriarchal pantheon headed by Zeus. And he was vociferously opposed to the Hindu caste system and cultural attitudes and behavior toward Untouchables, and categorized Hinduism, with Judaism, an ethnic religion.

(I've joked before that if Campbell had lived in India rather than America, he would have been criticized for his anti-Krishna tendencies.)

Yet we don't find these negative observations of other cultures redflagged by critics, apparently because they don't touch a tender spot. We don't have any backlash from Aztec or Mayan priests, or from Hindus complaining of Campbell's anti-Indian prejudice, nor even any Zeus devotees grousing that Campbell should be sensitive and censor his observations.

That's what bothers me about such charges - not the fact that someone believes Campbell is biased (you've demonstrated how a reasonable person can arrive at such an interpretation), but that often such beliefs are coupled with an expectation that to be sensitive, there are certain topics Joseph Campbell should have avoided - even if his observations happen to be true.

That's an intriguing form of censorship.

Beyond that, it's certainly understandable that reasonable people arrive at differing conclusions, and that holds as much for this issue as any other.
Noman adds:

The most difficult thing for me to grasp is why this is such an issue. The accusation of anti-Semitism really irks people. Do you think the man lived for 83 years without ever telling a racial joke? Do you believe George Washington never told a lie?
Why does it bother people so?

Well, there's a difference between acknowledging George Washington no doubt told a lie on occasion, and writing articles denouncing the man as a liar; similarly, most people who may have privately shared an ethnic joke at some point in their lives aren't generally denounced before millions as racist.

Hence the negative reaction to the term - most people who claim Campbell was anti-semitic aren't saying the man was occasionally politically incorrect in his phrasing - they're saying his observations and conclusions were shaped by racism - and i just don't see that in his treatment of Judaism in Occidental Mythology, nor do i underestand how, when he notes Judaism's and Christianity's tendency to read their myths literally, it's a racist observation.

(Maurice Friedman, a colleague of Campbell's, for example, finds anti-semitism not in Campbell's life but in his theory of myth - which Robert Segal disputes in the link you provide)
Noman adds:

Honestly, I couldn’t care one way or another whether Campbell had this character flaw. I see Campbell as a scholar, not a prophet.
I don't think it's worth making a big deal over, but that's because i don't think there's much to the assumption.

On the other hand, if i found evidence of serious anti-semitic tendencies in Joseph Campbell, even if unconscious (a` la Mel Gibson), i would be extremely skeptical of his work - especially any analysis of Hebrew mythology and its origins - in the same way i'd be skeptical of a homophobe's description of gay culture.

Fortunately for me, i don't see such evidence in Campbell's work

... but i have met many individuals, in person and in cyberspace, who have never read Campbell yet dismiss his entire body of work because they have it on good authority that he hates Jews (which appears to be news to many Jews who knew him well).

R. Wallach, the friend and colleague mentioned above who used to discuss the Kabbalah with Campbell, offers an example of how this charge was substantiated:
I recall that in the months after Campbell's death, this issue of his presumed "anti semitism" came up on a number of occasions, and on each, the examples offered for it were pretty farfetched. I don't recall a single concrete citation of a comment he had made, nor, certainly, of anything he had ever written, that you could call "antisemitic" in the mindless sense of the term.

I do recall one prominent New York rabbi being interviewed about it -- I believe he was a ranking official of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, though I don't remember his name anymore. He was asked if Campbell was anti-semitic and he replied -- and this is verbatim, it stuck in my mind -- "Yes, in the sense that he was anti-sectarian."

Good grief - what a slovenly standard for imposing such a vicious pejorative on someone's reputation. It's as if that clown was already working for a Rupert Murdoch news channel.
That's sad ... I wonder how many people have never opened a Joseph Campbell book because of that broad indictment ...

Again, i think of this question as a tempest in a teapot. Anti-semites, oddly enough, do not count Campbell a fellow traveler, nor embrace his work - and that speaks volumes ... so i don't quite understand what the big deal is. Seems there are people in a snit over this, but like you, i'm not clear on why they're so worked up over it (though there did seem a lot of personal animus poking through Gill's original accusation).
Noman concludes:

However, there’s an issue that I touched upon that is much, much greater than Campbell’s personality.

I was watching a show on Germany in the 30s and 40s and the commentator mentioned Campbell’s name in trying to explain the psychology of the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He was seeing it, as I do, as an extremely mythically inspired episode. As I said before, Europe was making the transition to secularism. That is my crude assessment of the spirit of the times.

And it sometimes haunts me to think - that America – has yet to make that transition. Topic for another thread.
And yet it's certainly relevant. Let me quote R. Wallach once more:
What Campbell loved about German culture (which until 1938 included an immense Jewish contribution, of which he was well aware and of which he was appropriately appreciative) was its passion for precision, its curiosity, its creative richness and its singular capacity to acknowledge and keep in balance the dark side of the human psyche.

One of the questions that drove his own curiosity was how such a culture could, finally, collapse into such a nightmare. "The Masks of God" was in no small part an attempt to answer that question, and the introduction to the series is a pretty clear and forthright attack upon bigotry justified by myth, and a tonic exposition of the dangerous forces operating within mythological systems, especially sectarian ones.
Intriguing glimpse into how Joseph Campbell viewed his work - as an answer to the Holocaust.

I believe he's right.

namaste
bodhibliss

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Post by nandu » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:20 pm

You struck the nail on the head, Bodhi. In the West, if you criticise anything remotely Jewish, you are labelled anti-Semitic.

The same is now happening in India: if any Hindu criticises any facet of the Islamic religion, he is labelled a Hindu fundamentalist. Funny, this doesn't apply to critics of Hinduism.

Maybe it's all a question of political correctness. The liberal Indian is supposed to support the minorities and denigrate Hinduism for its inhuman caste-system. Any spirituality in the Indian civilisation is attributed to Buddhism. If you don't believe this, you are considered a bigot.

Nandu.
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Post by noman » Tue May 02, 2006 3:06 am

On the other hand, if i found evidence of serious anti-semitic tendencies in Joseph Campbell, even if unconscious (a` la Mel Gibson), i would be extremely skeptical of his work - especially any analysis of Hebrew mythology and its origins - in the same way i'd be skeptical of a homophobe's description of gay culture.

-Bodhi
This is the one major difference I have on this issue. Bodhi, Evinnra, and Nandu have all complained that a person should be allowed to make derogatory remarks about a group of people without being labeled a racist, if the criticism is fair and true. But I contend that a person can have anti-Semitic sentiments, or even be a flagrant racist (which I don’t believe Campbell was) and STILL - be capable of making true and fair statements about a people. We gather information from many sources, weigh the evidence considering the credibility from each source, and arrive at a conclusion.

Most baby-boomers and younger have no idea the tremendous culture of racism and anti-Semitism that was sweeping the West at the time of Campbell’s birth and coming of age. The Holocaust didn’t happen because there were a few amoral sadistic folks who came to power. It was due to an extremely pervasive and powerful undercurrent of respectable and knowledgeable thinkers. It’s not so much guilt by association as David Kudler suggests on the first page of this thread. But, I think, it takes a foolish naivety to think that Joseph Campbell was unaffected by the overwhelming racism that prevailed during his maturation. As though this man experienced some sort of social and intellectual Immaculate Conception.

This is from a book I’m reading titled The Idea of Decline in Western History Arthur Herman (1997)
P54 In 1853 the idea of “race” was still relatively new.

Footnote: Until the eighteenth century the term [race] was a synonym for “lineage,” or persons descended from a single individual, as in “the race of Abraham” or the French concept of noblesse de race, the idea being that true nobility (as opposed to noble status acquired by office or purchase) was based on the transmission of certain key aristocratic virtues, such as a sense of honor, through the generations.

At the very beginning of the nineteenth century, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and Georges Cuvier had both proposed a threefold division of humanity into the Oriental or Mongol, Negroid or “Ethiopian,” and White or Caucasian races. The scholarly discipline Blumenbach and Cuvier created, anthropology, tried to understand the origins of these essentially physiological differences and to decide whether the races were in fact distinct species or merely variations on the same human type.

P92 Schopenhauer was particularly antagonistic toward the Jews in this regard. Judaism, Schopenhauer believed, had permanently infected Christianity with the illusion of “will as idea” the striving to change or alter the world to fit a set of religious and moral preconceptions, which the Jews and then the Christians called the laws of God.

Wagner, like Karl Marx, despised Europe’s Jews as symbols of soulless commercial society. The hooknosed dwarf Alberich in Wagner’s Ring, who renounced love and beauty out of greed for gold, became the enduring symbol of the antinatural, antispiritual Jew.

P116 Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) considered Africans to be the original humans, but then the species followed an inevitable upward development, from black and brown through yellow to white. Racial developments paralleled the course of civilization from primitive to modern.

P135 After 1880, and particularly after the trial of Dreyfus in 1893, the Jews were increasingly identified as Europe’s leading degenerates. …The charges became so prevalent that Cesare Lombroso, who was Jewish, was forced to refute them, arguing that anti-Semitism was itself a form of degeneration.

Footnote: That storm grew fiercer in 1903 when Otto Weiniger published his Sex and Character. Weininger stridently proclaimed that Jews were an effeminate and degenerate race that was currently spreading its sickly lack of spiritual and national feeling through modern society. Like women, Jews were “emotionally, sexuality, and irrationality incarnate.” What made Weininger’s fierce anti-Semitic claims particularly chilling – and convincing to some – was that he was himself Jewish.


Ernst Haeckel’s The Riddle of the Universe sold a hundred thousand copies in its first year of printing. By the end of the First World War it had gone through ten editions and had been translated into twenty-five languages. Haeckel founded the Monist League, which spread the gospel of evolution and natural selection in German lower-middle and working-class circles. Haeckel also became a leading spokesman for eugenics as the key to a new unified and biologically fit humanity. Selective scientific breeding, euthanasia, and defenses against degenerate elements such as Jews and Negroes became social imperatives, which the modern state would have to turn to in order to save civilization.

P137 …German armaments magnate Alfred Krupp sponsored an essay contest in 1900 on the question, “What can we learn from the principles of Darwinism for application to domestic political development?” Almost every contestant stressed the importance of expanding the role of government in order to transform the physiological destiny of the German race.

P147 I am myself more than ever at odds with my time. I detest it, and everything that belongs to it, and live only in the wish to see the end of it, with all its infernal Jewry. I want to put every moneylender to death, and to sink Lombard Street and Wall Street into the ocean. – Henry Adams, (1894)

P192 Thomas Dixon’s best-selling novels romanticizing the Ku Klux Klan, such as The Leopard’s Spots: A Tale of the White Man’s Burden (1902) and The Clansman (1905), and the national fascination with D.W.Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in 1915 reflected flourishing fears about “race suicide.”
Here is a review of the book Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews, Albert S. Lindemann, (1997)
Lindemann makes it clear that the rise of the Jews was an extraordinary and positive development and he agrees with Paul Johnson that the intellectual role of Jewish thinkers was of "shattering importance to modern history." Indeed, so swift and dramatic was this change in Jewish fortunes that for millions of people in the western world the Jews appeared to be the supreme incarnation of modernity. But for many who felt cut loose from traditional spiritual moorings and shunted aside by the newly emerging mass urban society these changes were traumatic.

Anti-Semites, targeting their audiences carefully, defined the problem of modernity in moral terms and often posed as the champions of traditional values against "alien influences." The message they conveyed was that the Jews challenged all of the time-honoured beliefs about God and home, man and society. On a cultural level Freud did it in psychology, Marx in economics, Einstein in physics. Anti-Semites insisted that as carriers of decay the Jews and their genius for innovation not only challenged the status quo but polluted every national culture and subverted all that was best in the Christian world. "We are in the hands of the Jews," wrote Henry Adams. "They can do what they please with our values."
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/ ... i_n8832220
I gather that anti-Semitism during this period was the result of three factors:

1.) The decline of traditional religion that had its roots in Judaism.
2.) The unprecedented success of Jewish innovation and resourcefulness.
3.) The emerging idea of race and belief in social Darwinism.

It’s challenging for me, because, in believing that Campbell harbored anti-Semitic feelings I must consider it in his over all assessment of the Jewish religion and culture. I’m not ‘extremely skeptical’ of Campbell’s opinion on the subject, but I maintain a healthy skepticism of all scholars. For that, I think Campbell would approve.

I am skeptical of Robert Segal saying:
“there are those who like both Jews and Judaism. There are those who dislike Jews but like Judaism. There are those who like Jews but dislike Judaism. …Finally, there are those who dislike both Jews and Judaism. Sadly, Joseph Campbell, the celebrated scholar of myth, falls here.”
- Robert Segal
Robert Segal needs to answer some questions - such as why a person who dislikes Jews and Judaism would choose to teach Jewish students for thirty-eight years, and why there weren’t overwhelming complaints from half of his students that they were being treated differently. I sense a peculiar love/hate relationship Campbell had with Judaism. Mine is a difference of opinion with Segal about quality and magnitude, not conjecture.

And I don’t share Segal’s sadness. Every human being deserves to be judged in the context of his or her own time. As I said before, morality is more important than prejudices.

I’m skeptical of Maurice Friedman speaking of Campbell’s ‘shocking indifference to the Holocaust’:
“The psychologizing of myth coupled with a liberal dose of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, preclude him from finding in the Holocaust a touchstone of reality.”
And I am also skeptical of R. Wallach saying:
One of the questions that drove his own curiosity was how [the German] culture could, finally, collapse into such a nightmare. "The Masks of God" was in no small part an attempt to answer that question, and the introduction to the series is a pretty clear and forthright attack upon bigotry justified by myth, and a tonic exposition of the dangerous forces operating within mythological systems, especially sectarian ones.
- R. Wallach
This is quite a variance of opinion from highly credentialed sources. One speaks of Campbell’s ‘shocking indifference to the Holocaust’ and another claims that four volumes and ten years of his life was spent ‘in no small part’ to address a nightmare of which the Holocaust was its most glaring symptom.

As I stated before, this variance of opinion says loads about us.

In a way, I’m trying to accomplish the impossible by saying that Campbell may have had some prejudice against Jews and Judaism but lets not make too much of it. (‘one drop of urine…’ Bodhi made me laugh out loud.)

It’s like trying to say in the Mia Farrow/ Woody Allen episode that Woody may have made a few inappropriate physical gestures with Mia’s children, and Mia may have told a few lies - but - lets not make too much of it.

Or in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill episode saying that Clarence may have made a few inappropriate statements in the course of their working relationship, and Anita Hill may have told a few lies under oath – but – let’s not make too much of it.

These episodes touch on sensitive issues. But I think the true source of our present problem and difference of opinion concerning Campbell and rumors of anti-Semitism has less to do with Campbell’s personality and more to do with us, and how to deal with our mythic past, our mythic present, and our mythic future.

From the Cyclop’s Chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses:
But begob I was just lowering the heel of the pint when I saw the citizen getting up to waddle to the door, puffing and blowing with the dropsy and he cursing the curse of Cromwell on him, bell, book and candle in Irish, spitting and spatting out of him and Joe and little Alf round him like a leprechaun trying to peacify him.

-- Let me alone, says he.

And begob he got as far as the door and they holding him and he bawls out of him:

-- Three cheers for Israel!

Arrah, sit down on the parliamentary side of your arse for Christ' sake and don't be making a public exhibition of yourself. Jesus, there's always some bloody clown or other kicking up a bloody murder about bloody nothing. Gob, it'd turn the porter sour in your guts, so it would.

And all the ragamuffins and sluts of the nation round the door and Martin telling the jarvey to drive ahead and the citizen bawling and Alf and Joe at him to whisht and he on his high horse about the jews and the loafers calling for a speech and Jack Power trying to get him to sit down on the car and hold his bloody jaw and a loafer with a patch over his eye starts singing If the man in the moon was a jew, jew, jew and a slut shouts out of her:

-- Eh, mister! Your fly is open, mister!

And says he:

-- Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mercadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew. Your God.

-- He had no father, says Martin. That'll do now. Drive ahead.

-- Whose God? says the citizen.

-- Well, his uncle was a jew, says he. Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me.

Gob, the citizen made a plunge back into the shop.

-- By Jesus, says he, I'Il brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name. By Jesus, I'll crucify him so I will. Give us that biscuitbox here.

-- Stop! Stop! says Joe.

- James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
One closing thought.

Campbell’s work wasn’t intended to sit like a vase of plastic flowers in the corner – a lovely but lifeless addition to the décor. Much of his work and life was designed to stir the fires of religious or mythic passion, to cut into the most sacred and sensitive places of our souls. I hope the readers of this thread can appreciate that - regardless of where they stand on this issue.

aum shanti

- NoMan



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Post by bodhibliss » Sat May 13, 2006 4:53 pm

On 2007-02-03 01:09, noman wrote:

But I think the true source of our present problem and difference of opinion concerning Campbell and rumors of anti-Semitism has less to do with Campbell’s personality and more to do with us, and how to deal with our mythic past, our mythic present, and our mythic future.


I believe that sums it up succinctly!

Joseph Campbell paints with broad strokes - and the result is in many ways a Rohrshach inkblot that mirrors back to us our projections - your skepticism, my naivete - and then we're like the two farmers on opposite sides of the road watching Edshu stroll past in his two-colored hat, arguing over whether God's hat is red or white

... depends on where we happen to be standing.

It is interesting that this very moment a debate is raging in the American Jewish community over whether liberal Jews are anti-Semites if they oppose Israel's policies ... which stretches the envelope a bit.

By the way, i'm still smiling from the end of your post - takes a certain combination of audacity and insight to quote Finnegans Wake as supporting evidence ... elegant and effective!

I don't really think of this as an argument so much as a discussion - an explication and exchange of differing points of view. It's not a case of right or wrong, win or lose - I believe our perspectives complement one another, adding to and fleshing out the image of Joseph Campbell.

Of course he was a blend of light and shadow, as are we all, and certainly was moved by internal contradictions and external influences of which he was not fully aware. To suggest Campbell had no shadow would be a dangerous step toward deification.

From what i know of Campbell, it's no big deal to me. One might see traces of antisemitism, but it's far from evident - one must "make a case for it"

(i'm not talking specifically about you here, Noman - you'll notice those who have seriously leveled this charge can't point to a smoking gun, but must sift and sort and build a case based on "intimations of anti-semitism" - that's a lot of work to go through if it's no big deal).

I'd be perfectly happy to let folks go on building these cases unchallenged (kind of like fundamentalist Dr. Snyder's criticisms of Joe), if it weren't for the truth behind the "drop of urine" metaphor. Just leveling the accusation is proof enough in so many eyes today - and though you may think it's no big deal, it's a horrendous charge to make, horribly explosive

- as we're seeing now in the bad feelings roiling segments of the American Jewish community in the wake of Jews accusing Jews(Semites) of anti-semitism.

It works like child molestation in many people's minds - just hearing it, many assume the worst.

And, knowing that's how the term is perceived, it strikes me that many of the critics who go out of their way to tar Campbell with that pejorative, based on what ultimately are subjective readings of the material, are simply intent on damaging Campbell's reputation and limiting access to his work.

That might not always be their conscious intent, but it is the effect.

Differences of opinion are indeed valid - but given the application of the label itself can be described as exercising the nuclear option, i generally jump into such discussions to provide balance and perspective in hopes of extending discussion beyond a simple yes/no, black/white choice.

Which isn't that far from your sense that shades of gray have their place in every life ...

bodhi

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