Questions About The Affirmation of Life

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.

Locked
Panthael
Associate
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 5:00 am

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

Recently I sat down to view “The Power of Myth.” I had heard of Joseph Campbell long before I watched this series and have always intended to get to know his works. Watching this video moved me in many ways, and I can already feel my views about the outside world, consciousness, and even the transcendent or “God” (an idea that I usually reject) changing as a result of it. Yet I do not fully understand what he is saying about how we should live our lives. I was wondering if any of you could help me understand more adequately his philosophy before I attempt to fully immerse myself in his work.

What confuses me the most is how Campbell expects as to accept the non-dual into our lives when he readily admits that we live now with a consciousness of oppositions. He seems to believe that the non-dual consciousness is the true one - the transcendent. This view leads him to his idea that we should affirm life and all of its horrors. He truly believes that we should not judge others, especially our enemies. He likes the idea that we should love them. Yet he is a proponent of the hero - those who battles his enemies to promote the side of good (something he denies exists). My question is this: How are we to embrace and incorporate the non-dual consciousness into our lives and affirm all of life when we live in the world of opposition?

Lets look at World War II – are we to see Hitler and his minions and see humans? Do we look at them and believe that they are no different from those fighting on the side of good...do we find compassion for them, though they would never desire it from us? I think Campbell says we should do that - we should not say a single bad thing of them as the Tibetans refused to say of their oppressors. However are we also supposed to look at the situations that they are creating and say resoundingly “No” to those situations? Are we supposed to act against those on the side of alleged “evil” without judging them? Is that how he believes we should act? Or does he not care what people do, good or evil, because he does not believe there is a good and an evil?

Of course that is a very epic and extreme example. Yet how about in everyday life - are we to be constantly participating in the duality of life, fighting for what we believe to be just, necessary, and decent while still believing that those whom we fight against are acting just as naturally as we are? How do we affirm that those who attempt to destroy nature are those whom are acting in as much a harmony with it as those who attempt to save nature are?

Does Campbell believe that we should act in this dual society - fight our current government, stick up for those who are bullied in the playground, and defend nature against all those who attempt to corrupt and destroy it, while still looking at these enemies and acknowledging to ourselves that those enemies are just as natural and deserving of our love as we are, while refraining from saying, thinking, or believing: “what a JERK!”?

I may have just answered my own questions, but I still want all of your thoughts on what he was saying. Also –

Does Campbell believe, as I do, that eating the apple and separating ourselves from eternal non-duality was the best thing to ever happen to us? That in doing so it has given us such a wonderful adventure? If he does, then why must we accept that non-duality, why must we try journey towards it – it seems ever so much more boring then duality and it seems like something that I should dread returning to rather then desire to return to? What does he mean when he says that Jesus’s resurrection is a journey inward? Is it our goal to return to Eden - or just to find its transcendent truths in our lifetime so that we may live in bliss before returning to its unanimous bliss – before becoming one with the force?

Please give me some answers!! THANKS!.
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

Welcome Panthael! You have a fantastic opening post here, full of great questions and an obviously genuine interest in Joseph Campbell’s work. “The Power of Myth”, is a great introduction to Campbell, it covers just about all of his most common topics and stories, as you’ll find out when you read more of his work. But, for all the benefits of this catalogue of Campbell, and the very large benefit of actually hearing him speak in his appealing manner, the finer points are definitely to be found in his books and lectures. And what’s more, at least this has been my experience, you really can’t know Campbell’s entire message until you immerse yourself in it, as you are on the brink of doing.

As for your confusion and the questions you pose, it is worth keeping in mind that Prof. Joe didn’t have a program of thought, or a message of action.
I do not fully understand what he is saying about how we should live our lives.
And so, he, doesn’t say anything about <I>how</I> we should live our lives, or that he <I>expects</I> us to embrace anything, least of all non-duality. Campbell simply pointed out the commonality of mythology world wide, and juxtaposed an understanding of archetypal human psychology over this to bring the meaning of our most common and primordial concepts into the light. There is nothing Campbell says, that hasn’t been said a hundred times already, in fact, that is precisely <I>what</I> Campbell pointed out, that which we all already know on some level or another.

Having said this, I will say that Joseph Campbell <I>found</I> a tool for living within mythology, that tool being the four functions of myth. And like any other tool, it can’t tell you what to do, but it can help you to do it.

Good luck with your further interest, hopefully we'll see you around here often.
JR
Faolan
Associate
Posts: 55
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:00 am

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

My question is this: How are we to embrace and incorporate the non-dual consciousness into our lives and affirm all of life when we live in the world of opposition?
Acceptance without resignation, I think. Saying "yea" to it all seems possible without consigning ourselves to worldly hades; for instance, we can accept life as suffering without contributing to that suffering. We do not need to condone violence, for example, in order to accept it as a fact of life.

Those who yearn for some other world, who feel that they do not belong to this earth, are not in a place where compassion will be born for them through identification with the "other". They live in a world I call "Oughtland"; torturing themselves always over the issue of how life "ought to be". In other words, one must accept that he is in a world of suffering, divorce himself from fear of death and deny lust and desire as the only motivating factors in life. Eliminating such powerful emotional polarities in ones own psyche can only clarify actions and contribute to serenity.
Lets look at World War II – are we to see Hitler and his minions and see humans? Do we look at them and believe that they are no different from those fighting on the side of good...do we find compassion for them, though they would never desire it from us?
Good and Evil in such an absolute sense often misleads the thinker, and I do think there is a better question: That is, "what sort of a world do we wish to live in"? Campbell suggests we accept life As It Is, without feeling sorry for ourselves, like the Stoics, but he never suggested we ought to do nothing to improve ourselves or the world. It just wouldn't do to take it only that far; that is, a shallow acceptance of the world and all of its horrors, if that realization were devoid of the corresponding mystical identification with the other: Thou Art That.
I think Campbell says we should do that - we should not say a single bad thing of them as the Tibetans refused to say of their oppressors.
Tibetans have plenty of nasty things to say about the Chinese :smile: Okay, some of the monks refuse to get sucked into the afflictive emotions of revenge and hatred, which is well and good, but I do not agree with total pacifism and neither did campbell. The Tao Te Ching states that one ought to enter into battle as if going to a funeral, with a heavy heart and great sadness, but it does not council one to avoid battle altogether. Campbell, incidentally, supported the Vietnam war because he found communism abhorrent.
Or does he not care what people do, good or evil, because he does not believe there is a good and an evil?
I believe Campbell would have condemned acts which were not perpetrated out of a sense of compassion. At the same time, I believe he would tell one not to lament the fact that natural evil is in the world, or to react vengefully or out of hatred. A good soldier does not "hate" his enemy, I'd hope, so much as kill the other because he is acting in accordance with a persona (the Soldier). As Arjuna the Hindu warrior killed impersonally as commanded by Krishna, so the soldier kills as a function of the state. Quitism or pacifism does not have to follow acceptance of the relativity of good and evil. Practical concerns remain because we collectively choose the sort of world we live in.
... fighting for what we believe to be just, necessary, and decent while still believing that those whom we fight against are acting just as naturally as we are? How do we affirm that those who attempt to destroy nature are those whom are acting in as much a harmony with it as those who attempt to save nature are?
Nature, human or Mother Nature, "is" neither Good nor Evil. Acting intelligently to promote our species survival seems the more intelligent choice than to destroy the environment in which we live. Think of it in more "spock terms". What is logical? The majority of sheeple argue only what the media tells them, so they are not acting out of their own centers. Most fail to realize that what is "natural" cannot always be what is good, as we've often seen growing up. After all, we defecate in our pants, yet are potty trained. So the natural may not be a good guide to action in all circumstances. Again, a point I harp on, it depends on what kind of a world we want to live in.
Does Campbell believe that we should act in this dual society - fight our current government, stick up for those who are bullied in the playground, and defend nature against all those who attempt to corrupt and destroy it, while still looking at these enemies and acknowledging to ourselves that those enemies are just as natural and deserving of our love as we are, while refraining from saying, thinking, or believing: “what a JERK!”?
These potentialities, destructive and selfish behaviors, pervasive ignorance causing acts of violence, most perpetrated out of fear of death, or excessive desire (greed) are but mirrors of the darkest side in each of us. We can accept it on a metaphysical level, saying "indeed this is humankind", and then fight to transcend our own nature. If we want to survive that is...sort of like the Gnostics...we can "accept" (say 'yea to it all') that there are jerks in the world and then fight to improve our lot without attaching ourselves to any utopian ideal or inflating our importance as a species (or any particular group).

However, Campbell did say "the world is a mess, has always been a mess and will always be a mess. You're not going to fix it up, so go your own way [follow your bliss]." The point is one should not crusade only out of a sense of societal duty, but rather because it feels right to you. Better to be an authentic crusader than a corrupt politician (can one be the other?). Improving yourself can only improve the lives of those around you, hence you are doing something positive for the world. One may choose to do the opposite, but then that person is ignoring another core concept of Campbell's: avoid acting solely out of the first three chakras or suffering will surely follow. Ignore the advice of the Buddha at your own peril. :smile:
then why must we accept that non-duality, why must we try journey toward it – it seems ever so much more boring then duality and it seems like something that I should dread returning to rather then desire to return to?
I believe non-duality is a state of mind wherein one is no longer pulled apart by the conflicts of the 'organs' (brain, heart, or groin).
What does he mean when he says that Jesus’s resurrection is a journey inward? Is it our goal to return to Eden - or just to find its transcendent truths in our lifetime so that we may live in bliss before returning to its unanimous bliss – before becoming one with the force?
He liked to interpret Christianity in terms of Eastern thought. I don't know that his interpretations are correct in the sense of a good exegesis, but they are consistent with Gnosticism and buddhism, and often helpful. Campbell often interpreted myth in terms of psychology (mainly Jungian), so these images represent spiritual birth from the animal foundation of our being, usually in the form of compassion through identification with the other as being of one essence. I don't think there is any goal other than experiencing the sort of life one wishes to live, hopefully in accordance with higher motivations than revenge, lust, hate or other unfortunate states of mind.



_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Faolan on 2003-08-16 22:03 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Faolan on 2003-08-16 22:05 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Faolan on 2003-08-16 22:06 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Faolan on 2003-08-16 22:08 ]</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

Pantheal--Welcome to the Conversations, and thanks for asking such sticky questions as this and the one about Campbell's leanings on the issue of abortion (the two questions seem related, in fact).

By way of answering this question, let me quote Campbell himself. This comes from the introduction to Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal:
All of our problems about atom bombs blowing up the universe, so what? There have been universes and universes before, every one of them blown up by an atom bomb. So now you identify yourself with the eternal that is within you and within all things. It doesn’t mean you want to see the atom bomb come, but you don’t spend your time worrying about it.
One of the great temptations of the Buddha was the temptation of lust. The other temptation was the temptation of the fear of death. This is a nice theme for meditation on the fear of death. Life throws up around us these temptations, these distractions, and the problem is to find the immovable center within. Then you can survive anything. Myth will help you do that. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out on picket lines about atomic research. Go ahead, but do it playfully. The universe is God’s play.
He goes on to discuss the idea of life-as-play later on in the book.
David Kudler<br>Publications<br>Joseph Campbell Foundation<br>publications at jcf dot org
Locked