myth of morality

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.

Moderators: Clemsy, Martin_Weyers, Cindy B.

hyeyong
Associate
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 5:00 am

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

I have recently started reading the books of Joseph Campbell and watched some of the interviews with him on DVD. He encourage us to follow our own bliss. And I agree with his idea. However, I wonder if he ever addressed issue of morality at all in the scope of mythology.

Sometimes, consciousness of morality works as restraint of our exercise of freedom. I mean that Joseph Campbell said that our knowledge of good and evil, in Christian context, gets in the way of our experiencing the life eternity as it is.

I am confused how that can explain the importance of morality in our life, which I consider comes from our conscious judgment of good and evil in our actions. Passion needs to be restrained and expressed in a controlled manner in a community living that we can never avoid.

I would like to know if Joseph Campbell had ever addressed anything in this regard.



Liminal
Web Developer
Posts: 107
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2003 5:00 am
Location: Morristown, Tennessee, USA
Contact:

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

This topic is near and dear to my own heart. It has been the subject of a great deal of my attention in recent times. For me, the key came in watching The Power of Myth series. At one point, a younger Campbell poses what amounts to the same question to a renowned spiritual leader. He asks (I'm paraphrasing, I can neither remember the exact quote nor immediately locate it), if the divine is manifest in all things, how are we to say no to cruelty, say no to bigotry, say no to malice? To which he is answered, "For you and me, we must say yes."

Goodness, what an answer! Is he saying that we should embrace our cruelty, that we should delight in our malice? Not at all. He is saying that what we judge as "bad" is as much a part of the fabric of the universe as that which we judge "good". It is pointless to try to fight or deny the bad, as it will always be precisely what it is. And so, in both ourselves and in others, we must accept the bad. We must choose the cruelty. We must say yes to the malice. To do otherwise is to deny reality, which really never works out very well.

Now, how does this relate to "follow your bliss"? Campbell means this in a much deeper and far more direct way than is often interpreted. To truly follow your bliss, you must put aside those denials. Our passions do not need to be restrained when we see them clearly. When we choose to accept that there is cruelty in us, then we will not take pleasure in it. When we say yes to the malice in our own heart, it will bring us no bliss. In this place of clarity, our bliss will lead us to an ever greater vision of our life and our being.

Another important point to make is that bliss in this sense does not mean happiness or pleasure (again, the references escape me, anybody fill it in?). Bliss is an inner centering, an internal certainty of "yes, this is my path" that feels totally right. You could be cold, hungry, and in pain and fully immersed in your bliss. You could be warm, full, and delighted and have never felt it.

I think, in the end analysis, the question is not how can one follow their bliss and still be moral, the question would be how can one follow their bliss and not be?

--
Liminal
http://www.vitalumen.org/

"There is only one of us."
Richard Bach - One


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Liminal on 2003-05-20 10:30 ]</font>
David_Kudler
Working Associate
Posts: 924
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2001 5:03 am
Location: Mill Valley, California
Contact:

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

Heyyong--
Thank you for the excellent question, and welcome to the Conversations.

Thank you, too, Liminal.

I have a short-ish thought to add: as Campbell conceived it, mythologies/religions serve four seperate though interrelated functions?the metaphysical (giving some sense of connection to what he called the mysterium tremendum); the cosmological (connecting the phenomonological world to that mystery); the sociological (connecting the culture to the myster); and psychological (connecting the individual to the mystery, and sustaining him/her throughout his/her life). Of these, Campbell conceived of the third, sociological function as having ethics and morality at its center. Much of the mythology of what Campbell called (after the Tantric yogis) 'the left-hand path' of personal transformation is precisely about going beyond ethics and morality--that's what he was talking about in the material mentioned by Liminal. If God/the transcendent/Brahman/the Buddha mind/whatever is beyond all dualities--including good and evil--how can we seek transcendence and still focus on those boundries?

Campbell felt that the Western religions-Judaism, Christianity, Islam-focused too much on ethics and not enough on what is beyond ethics. In this he was very much influenced by the great Romantic philosophers, such as Nietzche. (See Thou Art That, an exploration of the Judeo-Christian mythos, for a fuller exploration of these ideas.) This didn't mean that he didn't think that morality wasn't an essential part of social life. He just didn't feel that it was a central part of individual mystical/transformative experience.

Here's a quote from the newly released volume on the great Asian religions, Myths of Light. He's describing an encounter during his trip to India in 1954-55, which is detailed in his travel journal, Baksheesh & Brahman:
When I was in India, I listened around awhile to see who the wise man would be that I would choose to have my principal mystical discussion with. And I chose one who lived in the world, eyes open.
His name was Sri Krishna Menon. He had been a policeman, not a very highly regarded profession in India, and he was, nevertheless, a great saint. I was introduced to him and went into the room where he was sitting, and there was a chair for me to sit in, so I sat. We greeted each other respectfully, and he asked, ?Do you have a question?? Then I had the good fortune to ask him the question that he had asked his guru when he first came to him. And so we had a fine conversation.
What I asked him was, ?If, as we know, all things are Brahman, are this divine energy, then why do we renounce the world, why do we renounce vice, why do we renounce stupidity? Why do we not see the divine shining through the most brutal, the most horrendous, the most stupid, and most dark??
He responded, ?For you and me, that is where it is.?
David Kudler<br>Publications<br>Joseph Campbell Foundation<br>publications at jcf dot org
User avatar
JR
Associate
Posts: 720
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2002 6:00 am
Location: transition to permanence
Contact:

Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

(Campbell) The realization of your bliss comes when you put aside what might be called the passing moment with its terror, and with its temptations, and its statements of requirement, that you should live this way (and not that way).*
...
I always tell my students to follow their bliss
(Moyers) Follow your bliss?
(Campbell) Your bliss; where the deep sense of being informed and going where your body and soul want to go. When you have that feeling, then stay with it and don't let anyone throw you off.
*This viewpoint is inclusive of morality and dogmatic society. Campbell used the Sanskrit maxim Sat Chit Ananda to determine his life path and develop the idea of bliss. Being, full consciousness, and rapture; as Campbell described them, the terms that describe "the brink, the jumping off point into the ocean". He believed that the three were integral and thus to find one eventually meant to find them all and in so doing find “the jumping off point”. He knew that his bliss was already at hand through the pursuit of mythology and surmised that if he followed that he would eventually arrive at true being and full consciousness. The reason I bring all this up is to note (again) that the three are integral, that is if one’s bliss is not in accordance with full consciousness or true being, (or transcendent of the passing moment) then it is not a path to the jumping off point, and thus not a valid pursuit. This of course is irrespective of dogma and thus morality, but one finds that in following the way of Sat Chit Ananda morality and ethics often run parallel.
When a Superior man hears of the Tao he immediately begins to embody it;
When an Average man hears of the Tao he half believes it and half dismisses it;
When a foolish man hears of the Tao he laughs out loud.
JR
Susie
Associate
Posts: 241
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2002 5:53 pm
Location: Ohio

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

But if we beieve that all humans are the manifestation of the creator, how can some of them be so foolish???
...with the heart and mind united in a single, perfect sphere
User avatar
JR
Associate
Posts: 720
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2002 6:00 am
Location: transition to permanence
Contact:

Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

who believes such foolish things? If I were a manifestation of the creator I would create my own world and live there.

_________________

_______<font size=1><b>JR</b></font>_______
<font size="1">Wherever I go, there I <a href="mailto:[email protected]"><b>am</b></a></font>.
¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JR on 2003-05-21 16:26 ]</font>
Liminal
Web Developer
Posts: 107
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2003 5:00 am
Location: Morristown, Tennessee, USA
Contact:

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

On 2003-05-21 15:52, Susie wrote:
But if we beieve that all humans are the manifestation of the creator, how can some of them be so foolish???
If foolishness was not manifest of the creator, just where would it come from?

--
Liminal
http://www.vitalumen.org/

I am that.
Liminal
Web Developer
Posts: 107
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2003 5:00 am
Location: Morristown, Tennessee, USA
Contact:

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

On 2003-05-21 16:25, JR wrote:
who believes such foolish things? If I were a manifestation of the creator I would create my own world and live there.
Exactly. :smile:

--
Liminal
http://www.vitalumen.org/

"You won't believe just how good it can get.
We'll make a lover out of you yet."
The Wallflowers - How Good It Can Get, Red Letter Days
Ted
Associate
Posts: 105
Joined: Thu May 15, 2003 5:00 am
Location: California
Contact:

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

Dear Friends and Lovers,

I hope I am on the right thread for this, the correct genre, but something has come to my attention this very night which I think I should share.

Being a staunch Hillmanian at heart and a "child of Hekate" by calling, I delight in the fact that Hekate's is an amoral cult, taking no notice whatsoever of xian morality.

I say that to say this:

T.S. Eliot has said that "at the stillpoint is the dance, and there is only the dance."
Hillman has said "There is a dance in death."
Jung, by the way, has said, "Death is a festive occasion."

Pondering these things nightly, aware that Marion Woodman often refers to "dance," as some form of therapy or spiritual exercise, I was delighted to come across this gem:
Trance Dancing and the Cult of the Zar
Some oriental dancers perform a stage version of a "Zar" dance which usually involves
hair tossing and swaying. It is perfectly acceptable to do this. But it is important to understand
that trance dancing is much more than this theatrical interpretation. It is part of a religious
ceremony intended to cure an illness caused by a demon. While it is possible, and very dramatic,
to do a Zar type dance as entertainment, the true Zar is a religious ceremony. To make this more
clear, the following explains what a Zar ceremony involves.

The use of acting-out or possession trances has a history going back to the cult of
Dionysos and the Corybantes. What little we know of these cults strongly resembles the zar cult
as practiced in modern Christian Ethiopia, as well as in the Sudan and throughout the middle
east. This kind of trance is also related to the fire walking still practiced in Thrace, one of the
homelands of Dionysos. The whirling dervishes of Konya in Turkey also enter a type of trance
while dancing. Konya is also one of the ancestral homes of Phrygian Dionysos.

Zar cults involve groups with specific membership, generally women, which require an
initiation process. The trancers impersonate various spirits and act out their roles, often in detail.
Each Zar spirit has his or her characteristic whirl called gurri which includes a series of rapid
turns. The intent of the ceremony is not to exorcise the demon, but to work out an
accommodation with it. These societies provide women both entertainment and religious
consolation. These cults thrive despite traditional Islamic beliefs. In fact, religious clerics in the
Sudan consider the zayran (zar demons) to belong to the class of spirits known as jinn, whose
existence the Quran substantiates. They are generally considered to be amoral, capricious,
hedonistic and self-indulgent. Zar cults in the Sudan thrive in both city and country, although the
city groups may be better organized. In Khartoum and Omdurman there are a number of full-
time, professional zar practioners, male (homosexual and therefore sexually neutral), and female
dancers (shaykha) who are paid for their services and attract large followings of the possessed.
This is a very serious procedure, according to an American woman who was allowed to see one
of these ceremonies, and the participants are genuinely afraid when a spirit appears.
Because the article goes on at some length, I provide an URL for those who wish to know more about this:

http://joyfuldancer.home.attbi.com/writ ... tory7b.htm


Definition:
The term amoral is distinct from the terms moral and immoral, and simply refers to the state of lacking any moral characteristics. An amoral act is not morally good nor is it morally bad - it simply is. An amoral man is one who has no conception of morality or moral judgements. Babies, for example, are amoral.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Ted on 2003-05-23 06:26 ]</font>
Richard Arthur
Web Developer
Posts: 138
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2002 6:55 pm

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

>I delight in the fact that Hekate's is an amoral cult.

So is Enron's, but I'm not sure that that's a reason to delight in it.
David_Kudler
Working Associate
Posts: 924
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2001 5:03 am
Location: Mill Valley, California
Contact:

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

OK, Richard, I'm laughing. I don't think that's what Ted means, though--he seems to be drawing a distinction (if I follow him) between a mythos that is beyond ethics and one that is simply unethical, ie consciously bad. I think we would agree that the folks at Enron (and their brethren at WorldCom, Tenet Health and the rest) weren't egaged in journies of personal transforamation, they were out to squeeze as much cash as they could out of the general public, laws, ethics and common courtesy be damned. That's being greedy and unethical, but not amoral, in Ted's definition.

I think the minute you get into social (and financial) interactions, ethics become an essential tool. That's what morality is there for--to regulate the society so that people treat each other in the way that society deems appropriate. (This is the 3rd function of myth that Campbell was always on about.) But whether morality is or should be an aspect of personal/mythic/mystic/religious growth is an open and on-going question. In other words, are the Ten Commandments of Judeo-Christianity (well, a majority of them--say, the last six) and the Five Precepts of Buddhism (as opposed to the Four Noble Truths) truly religious tenets, or are they simply social laws? If you follow "Thou shalt not kill" as a religious stricture, as a spiritual discipline, it seems to me that you end up a Jain, seeking to avoid killing in any way, eating only fallen fruit, walking as little as possible so as not to kill the bugs and worms, wearing a mask so as not to inhale some flying creature. One is a moral judgment--killing people is bad because then we'd end up with nothing but bloodshed (cf. Israel circa 2003). The other is a spiritual exploration--what does it really mean not to kill?

Does this make sense?
Richard Arthur
Web Developer
Posts: 138
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2002 6:55 pm

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

I will admit I can get a little impatient with claims to be beyond good and evil, since such claims can be a rationale for apathy, selfishness, or even cruelty.

Ethics, or morality, used to be called Practical Philosophy. Though it has its theoretical and speculative side, it exists for one purpose, to assist one in knowing what he ought to do.

To talk about evil as that which must be faced, or accepted, or integrated, as a way of coming to terms with the whole, which undoubtedly includes both good and evil, is something I can understand as a way of knowing.

If, however, it means that one can somehow escape the dilemmas life places before us, I think it's just a dodge.

So, yes, I know I was being a little glib about our friend's amoral cult. I guess my point was, first, the (culpable) people at Enron didn't start out wanting to be evil. They wanted things we all want, if perhaps a little more. They may not have seen what they were doing as wrong. Taking care of business was, at worst, morally neutral. But their perception was not the reality.

And with that I guess I show my hand with the second point, that right and wrong, good and evil, are not something entirely "in here," not a personal preference or prejudice. If a particular cult, religion or philosophy has nothing to say about ethics, I guess that's possible. But one's ethics--the touchstone by which one acts when acts do have moral consequences--still has to be based on something, either utilitarianism, or the categorical imperative, or a thoroughgoing egotism, or some set of standards derived from someplace.

Whether the practice of those ethics will lead one, in fact, down the right path, is, of course, an entirely different question.
User avatar
Clemsy
Working Associate
Posts: 10645
Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2002 6:00 am
Location: The forest... somewhere north of Albany
Contact:

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

Enron may prevaricate about being 'amoral', if Kenneth Lay would present such an argument, but I wouldn't buy it. Ted is correct in using the baby as an image of amoral behavior. Adults know better, at least adults socially and emotionally integrated. There are disorders in which such social parameters as 'morals' just aren't processed. Such people will usually find their way into some sort of, mandated, structured setting. The rest of us know what we are doing. Much of this is opinion, and I label it as such, I base it on 20 years of professional experience in dealing with 'normal' and 'abnormal', including deviant, behavior.

An esteemed associate has raised the idea of the 'dicta of experience' and the 'dicta of authority'. I have a feeling, and I label it as such, that morals are behaviors that are found by a society to maximize the survival and well being of the group (dicta of experience). These behaviors become codified, as in the Ten Commandments, and become law (dicta of authority). Such laws may become obsolete as the situation changes. Things may be a bit confusing today as we struggle with obsolete systems.

But right and wrong we all learn as we mature (dicta of experience). I am convinced that corporate criminals are very much aware of the harm they are doing. Just because they don't care, doesn't mean they are amoral. The same could be said for any number of antisocial or immoral behaviors.

Just my opinion, but it seems to jive well with Arthur's.

Clemsy



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Clemsy on 2003-05-23 18:05 ]</font>
hyeyong
Associate
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 5:00 am

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

Thank you all very much for the sincere responses and discussions I find here. It is true that we find numerous ethical codes in the various religious precepts that are universal among them, rather than unique to any particular sect of religion. That's actually where I find the possibility of ecumenism or interreligious dialogues that may be eventually stretched out to dialogues with mythology.

It actually did not bother me to hear Joseph Campbell saying that Christianity is also a form of myth and full of metaphors. What is different in Christianity is that Christians have been taught to take metaphors almost literally as facts. Thus, theologians have striven to reason out the metaphors as rational, absolute possibilities or historical facts or realistic predictions for the future events for the humanity.
Strict applications of the religious or ethical codes of conduct has its appeals to most people because of the fear of the divine or judicial punishment and also because of the desire for eternal rewards or the peace and happiness in their lives as legitmate rewards.

Campbell encouraged us to trascend the restrictions of the socially, culturally, or religiously imposed values and ethics. He also mentioned that our knowledge of good and evil tends to put before us the illusional fear when following our bliss. Then again, he told us that we must follow our bliss while living in the system, instead of trying to change the system or the structure of the society we find ourselves in. However,Campbell did not deny the validity of the inherited knowledge or wisdom within our society or within our culture in their function to help us manage our lives as our lives unfold themselves.

So, when I put all his sayings together, I come to a conclusion that he may have meant to say that only the person who have truly understood the connotations of the wisdom and the knowledge we receive through the channels of education, religion, and culture, may be able to transcend the metaphors in them when following their bliss. After all, knowledge of good and evil functions as a stepping stone of our growth both in individual and communal aspects. What hinders our growth may be the internal conflict or fear that comes from incomplete understandings of the connotations of the knowledge, or it may be our failure to exercise our true freedom that entails the ability to restrain ourselves when foreseeing the obvious damage on the life of another's by our actions. Judeo-Christianity and Buddhism highlight compassion as the attitude of the child of God or of the enlightened one.

Therefore, what Campbell meant to say is not that we should disregard the structured social conditions that appear to limit us, nor should we deny the validity of the knowledge of the good and evil, but rather that we should fully understand what lies beneath all these metaphors and then listen to the voices of our own deep within. Our voices will open our minds and hearts to the deeper truth and arouse in our hearts deep compassion that help us to avoid consciously inflicting sufferings on others for the sake of the immediate pleasures. Wouldn't that be the way through which we live our lives to the fullest within the world in which we find ourselves? Following the bliss cannot be the same as blindly pursuing indulgence.

It is my mere speculation.
Ted
Associate
Posts: 105
Joined: Thu May 15, 2003 5:00 am
Location: California
Contact:

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

By a monster I mean some horrendous presence or apparition that explodes all of your standards for harmony, order, and ethical conduct. For example, Vishnu at the end of the world appears as a monster…God in the role of the destroyer. Such experiences go past ethical or aesthetic judgments. Ethics is wiped out. Whereas in Western religions with their accent on the human, there is also an accent on the ethical – God is qualified as good. No, no! God is horrific.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers
Thanks for the above input and remarks, friends, appreciate variety.

By the way, Ted did not say that "babies are amoral," the Encyclopedia Brittanica did. In fact, if you read my entries carefully, you will see that Ted says very little, but sure quotes a lot, like a parrot.

Anybody got a cracker?

Ted Laurence
Locked