Criticism about Bliss or Joseph Campbell

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

I am doing research on JC's concept of bliss. I am looking for material/authors that is critical of JC or the concept of "following your bliss." Any suggestions?

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

Loren,

the concept of follow your bliss has been misinterpreted by some of Campbell's critics. Some people thought it's a selfish idea, because they had not read the books carefully enough or were prejudiced in an unhealthy way.

My suggestion is to start reading the following thread, which touches the problems of follow your bliss without Campbell bashing:

http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... orum=28&28

I have read about a despiteful article by Brendan Gill in New York Review of Books from 1989.

Tom Snyder seems to be a kind of Christian fundamentalist who tries to bash Campbell rather than he is criticizing him. His text sounds like a demand for book burning. His "suggestions for action" are, among others:
Write your local PBS station and request they discontinue showing The Power of Myth interviews.

Contact your local college or university that uses Campbell's books as texts. Ask the professor, department, and administration to drop the books as texts.

[...]

Check your local bookstores. Suggest responsible titles to stock along with or in place of Campbell's books.

Check your local libraries. Suggest responsible titles to accompany or replace Campbell's books. Donate a copy of this book.
http://logosresourcepages.org/campbell.html

A more reliable criticism you can find in The Politics of Myth by Robert Ellwood and Paths to the Power of Myth, edited by Daniel C. Noel. Robert Segal is another prominent critic of Campbell.


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

I gathered quite a few papers that argued critically about Campbell, when I went through my super-Campbell craze (I just grabbed anything with his name somewhere on it, and ended up with quite a lot of CRITICAL material).
Brendan Gill's articles is prominent among them, but also one called "God's True Brew: some soups can't be watered down" (don't ask me where these can be found, I just remember the names) and also a book review of a Campbell biography by the infamous Mortimer J. Adler (whose How to Think About God is a good read for the mythological-minded, but who definitelyt bashed Campvell in this review).
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Post by cadfael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well the only criticism that I have regarding Campbell is that his ideas are nothing new really.I find the same ideas in in a book called Albert Eintein Ideas and opinions.Einstein covered in my opinion a great deal in shorter essays and speeches concerning the same ideas the Mr.Campbell put forth.It is interesting to take note that the grand eucemenical ideal at the end of Heros Journey(Power of Myth)had been used by Charlie Chaplin when he was being interrogated by the U.S. government back in the 1950's.He said something like he was not patriotic(Great Britain)but that he was a part of the whole world.

My point is that people act like Mr.Campbell is the next thing to sliced bread,but really if Mr.Campbell's works disappeared tommorrow the ideas fostored here would still exist in the world.

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

Uh oh before I am accused of Campbell bashing I would like to point out that I like Mr.Campbell and his approach to this subject.I believe Mr.Campbell would have probably agreed with me though.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Cadfael! Nice to see your name on the boards. I don't think you are bashing Campbell at all. You are quite correct, I think. When it comes to Bliss and the Hero's Path, Campbell elucidated on known topics... from his particular perspective.

That there is nothing new under the sun is mostly true, though there is a surprise now and then. Campell's work made these ideas accessible to many people... something that he has been criticized for by some in the academic community. Making knowledge available to people is the noblest of paths, especially when it is accompanied by wisdom.

That's why we love Joseph Campbell.

Clemsy

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Post by Bliss 5150 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Just like if Einstein disappeared. Remember his EARTHSHATTERING QUOTE as this:
"The atoms that make up dynamite, are the very same that make up a pile of mud." At the time of Al's quote, EVERYTHING in the WORLD changed, and at the same time, nothing in the world changed. It was what got Albert the person of the century. It was the ideas he stood behind him, not his formula. People admit, they would of come up with these theories, in a few years from Einstein. But hey if we're comparing Joe Campbell and Albert Einstein, well...he's in good company. However, I would disagree with what you say about his work, if it disappeared. Maybe his life, would of went unchanged, but the lives he touched (mine being one he did change) would of been profoundly different.
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Post by cadfael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Clemsy is correct in that Mr.Campbell made accessible all of this important knowledge to a vast audience. I do believe that I rubbed Bliss the wrong way. Yes, if Campbell's thoughts had vanished before you came upon them then your life would maybe have been different. In that situation you would have had to have done what Campbell did and thought, and studied and been your own Mr.Campbell.

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

Here is a little something I came across just this morning while doing a quick search for the Foundation link from another computer:

http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/notebo ... pbell.html

"I used to think very, very highly indeed of Joseph Campbell's work, and in consequence was very trying to my humanities teachers. Eventually one of them challenged me to make out the strongest case against Campbell that I could, just as an exercise. I found the case convincing. "

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

Interesting. The quote at the end of the essay leaves me wondering about the skill of the writer. Quite a bomb to drop and leave unexplained...
His personal politics were however definitely very right-wing; he was, for instance, opposed to the US entering World War II --- at least on the side that we did.
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Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-07-22 17:26, Clemsy wrote:
Interesting. The quote at the end of the essay leaves me wondering about the skill of the writer. Quite a bomb to drop and leave unexplained...
His personal politics were however definitely very right-wing; he was, for instance, opposed to the US entering World War II --- at least on the side that we did.
Perceptive observation.

I came across this and printed it out a while back. I was struck by the sophomoric tone - dismissive, yet vague. As you note, the closing comment is stated as if fact, yet absent any reference - nor do the references listed at the end of the article address this perception (i would have expected some reference to the Campbell biography A Fire in the Mind, which explores this period at length - but such a reference would mean the author was aware of evidence contradicting her position, which i doubt as she seems sincere).

She also mentions more than once that Campbell believes all myth supports the teaching "of a certain school of metaphysical Hinduism," yet never gets around to identifying "that school of Hinduism." Wonder why she doesn't want to reveal which of hundreds of divisions of Hindu thought this might be? Is she protecting the faith? Avoiding a lawsuit launched by angry devotees?

Or maybe she doesn't know, but just is accepting what she's heard someone (like her humanities teacher) say? After all, seems relevant to tell us what Hindu sect Campbell is shilling for ...

I imagine she is confusing this with "the Perennial Philosophy," elements of a pattern which philosopher Alduous Huxley and historian Ananda Coomaraswamy identified as underlying a number of mystic traditions. Huxley had studied Vedanta, as well as Krishnamurti (who was no Vedantist), and so was exposed to ideas he found paralleled other philosophical traditions. However, the "perennial philosophy" can't be traced to any one school of Hindu thought, but includes ideas expressed in mystical traditions in East and West.

The same author claims G.S. Kirk provided "a systematic attempt to test the idea that myths are archetypal symbols," which proves that archetypes "are not important to myths." Oddly enough, only three references to archetypes are mentioned in the index to Kirk's book, and in each instance Kirk essentially says merely that "no convincing statistical evidence has ever been presented or attempted" that supports Jung's assertion that archetypal "symbols are of frequent and universal occurrence" - and then in the most detailed reference (p.75-76) doesn't refute the presence of archetypes in myth, but attempts to explain them away:
In so far as such images do occur they may just as probably, or more probably, arise out of the common experience of all humanityduring the early years of life ...
... a line of reasoning that supports Campbell's discussion in Primitive Mythology of how experiences in infancy imprint and shape these archetypal expressions ... but hardly a refutation of either Campbell or Jung, and a far cry from "a systematic attempt to test the idea that myths are archetypal symbols."

The author's critique claims Campbell's work relies on "Jungian psychoanalysis" - which makes as much sense as "Jewish anti-semites." The author links us to an attack on Freud and psychoanalysis, which Freudians and Jungians alike would agree is quite different from Jung's analytical psychology, despite an apparent similarity between the terms.

The techniques and approach of Freud and Jung are as different as Buddhists and Hindus, or Catholics and Protestants - though the author, who claims to have debunked Campbell, doesn't seem to know this. Indeed, she demonstrates no understanding of Jung at all (her attack on psychoanalysis mentions neither Jung nor any element of his psychology, which is crucial to Campbell's perspective). She seems to assume Jung and Freud are the same, and that to the extent Campbell embraces Jung he must embrace Freud - yet even in Campbell's earliest work on myth, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, he makes clear the difference between Freud and Jung, and J.C.'s later work expresses a much greater resonance with Jung than with Freud.

This may seem minor to those who have studied neither, or have not read Campbell, but for those familiar with their work, it's as if the author of this critique is making judgments about the Orient yet has no idea there's a difference between China and Japan.

There are critiques of Campbell that i am far from happy with, and yet hold much merit (Segal's Joseph Campbell: An Introduction is one such work)

... but this author appears to lacking in discernment and the skill of critical thinking, preferring instead to skim the surface. It may be superior to the bias, hostility, and calls for censorship from the fundamentalist Dr. Snyder, but doesn't really add anything to the discussion.

On the other hand, bet she got a good grade on her paper ...

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

Great critique, Bodhi, on this no name author’s critique of Campbell’s work. I was going to agree with Clemsy and only add that this paper is “built upon a solid core of vacuity.”

I have just recently read G. S. Kirk’s 1973 book on Myth and recalled no systematic attempt to test the theory of archetypes. And to refer to Jung as a ‘Greek intoxicated’ man – the whole essay is laughable.

But – that’s the price we pay for having a free source internet.

I agree that Robert Segal is an outstanding critic, extremely intelligent and direct. Segal best exemplifies the critique from academia. Here is a sample of Segal:

http://www.religion-online.org/showarti ... ?title=766

And here is a critique of Campbell’s work from the religious side by Tom Snyder:

http://www.answers.org/cultsandreligions/campbell.html

There’s a faction of both academia and religion that hate Campbell’s work – and that’s exactly why we love it. Campbell understood the dogmatism and presumptions of these two seemingly irreconcilable approaches to life and knew that it was time for reconciliation.

There’s a book titled Uses of Comparative Mythology Edited by Kenneth L. Golden (1992)

The third essay is written by Robert A. Segal; a classic Campbell critique from academia. The fourth chapter and essay is by Gregory Salyer. It is an answer to Segal. And, for me, it is the - best – single - essay - I have ever read on Joseph Campbell’s work. For anyone concerned about the response from academia this essay must be read.
Segal’s final and most telling criticism of Campbell, at least according to his own assessment, is that “Campbell spends too much time reveling in myth and not enough time analyzing it.” This certainly is a provocative, indeed, and instructive statement. It exposes at the same time the mythologies of both Campbell and Segal. Campbell does revel in myth, and his is the mythology of the mystic (among others). The assumption behind Segal’s statement, however, betrays an equally powerful and complex mythology that goes under the name of science or objectivity. Segal is thus correct that Campbell revels in myth. The question that remains, however, is whether or not he is right to criticize Campbell for it. If we continue to probe the criticism, other questions emerge: What myth is Segal reveling in, in order to make the criticism? Which mythology is aware of its status as myth? Which mythology makes better sense of Campbell?

Segal’s mythology may be termed the mythology of the disinterested observer, and it finds its provenance in the rise of the empirical sciences over the last two centuries.

- Uses of Comparative Mythology Edited by Kenneth L. Golden (1992)
Consider this line from the Segal essay I posted above.
Like Carl Jung, Campbell dares to pronounce science itself mythic. To rationalists, nothing could be more anathema.

http://www.religion-online.org/showarti ... ?title=766
So science has no presumptions according to Segal. I have a tremendous admiration for Segal’s work. I have read some of the books on myth that he has written or edited. In my very humble opinion the academic criticism of Jung’s and Campbell’s work is sophomoric. These people have lost touch with the roots of scholarship.

In the thirteenth century it was theology that reigned as the ‘Queen’ of academic studies – not physics – not biology – not chemistry – not literature - or philosophy or anything else. The search for truth was a spiritual quest. And what are we living for? Some dry, academic truth that tells us we mustn’t revel in myth?
Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity? Humanity comes not from the machine but from the heart.

-POM
Campbell knew what he was doing. And as much as I admire their skill and intelligence, I have no envy of those academics that can’t see the forest for the trees. We are human beings, not analytical machines.

Shanti

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

Dang y'all!...lol....she probably IS a little sophmore in college somewhere. I wouldn't tear it into quite so many pieces, you might make her cry.

It does look like a paper of some sort. A start at looking at the same sort of topic, with a few references to start with.

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

I came across this and printed it out a while back. I was struck by the sophomoric tone - dismissive, yet vague.

-BodhiBliss

<> <> <> <> <>

Dang y'all!...lol....she probably IS a little sophomore in college somewhere.

-CreekMary

<> <> <> <> <>

In my very humble opinion the academic criticism of Jung’s and Campbell’s work is sophomoric.

-ShantiSong
When I used the word ‘sophomoric’ to describe the academic criticism of Campbell, I was not thinking in terms of the ordinary usage of this word. That would be presumptuous.
soph•o•mor•ic adj.

1.) Of or characteristic of a sophomore.
2.) Exhibiting great immaturity and lack of judgment: sophomoric behavior.
I was thinking in terms of the roots of the word sophomoric. I was thinking of 5th century Athens and the Sophists. They were the intellectual authorities of the time. They were the great rationalists and humanists. “Man is the measure of all things,” Protagarus would say, “of those things that are, that they are - of those things that are not, that- they- are - not.”

They excelled at rhetoric and were paid handsomely for it. They taught the youth of Athens how to win an argument, and court cases. But for all of their knowledge and skill, the Sophists were struck dumb by one man, namely Socrates, who claimed, ‘there are no teachers in Athens’.

And yet, Socrates was wrong. He couldn’t have been wronger, as he himself proved to be one of the greatest teachers of all time.

Shanti


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

I think it's a good exercise though....let's see....here's a book - The Parthenon Code (I guess like The DaVinci Code) http://www.solvinglight.com/pressreleas ... acked1.htm
with a quoted question "How does your book debunk mythologist Joseph Campbell’s notion that Greek myths are merely metaphors?"

Susan
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