Hello from a Newbie

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 KellyO » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Hi All--
I'm very new here, and to JCampbell, but I feel in many ways strongly drawn to him. He is referenced in another area of which I have stong interest, and it has led me here for further exploration. To me, when ideas intersect that is fertle ground indeed.

Can anyone make some recommendations on where a good starting place is with his work? I was thinking of "The Power of Myth".

Also, does anyone know what religion Campbell personally espoused to be (if he did at all)?

Thanks in advance,
--Kelly


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

Hello Kelly and welcome !

I don't think Joseph Campbell had any specific religion. The Power of Myth would be an excellent start though, video or book form - each is excellent.
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Post by Molly J » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi, Kathy. The video tapes or dvd's of Joseph Campbell's interviews with Bill Moyers are available and wonderful. You get to see the man himself, and that really makes a difference. His personality is priceless.
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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Kathy, welcome. I personally was introduced to Campbell through the PBS airing of The Power of Myth, and it was a great introduction to someone I had never heard of, but now having read most of his <a href="http://www.jcf.org/works.php" target="blank"><font size="4"><b>works</b></font></a> (of which there are many) I think either of the books "Myths To Live By" or "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" would be a better place to start. Then, you can familliarize yourself with the topics he referrs to in Power of Myth, opening yourself to the experience of hearing him speak rather than simply tring to keep pace.

As for his spiritual background, this is a much discussed topic. There is a wealth of information and wonderfull discourse hidden in the earlier pages of the forums, finding them is the dragon you must slay, but to help you out here are some of the pertinent threads for your question:

<a href="http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... orum=27&14" target="blank"><font size="4"><b>Science & Religion</b></font></a>
<a href="http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... orum=28&18" target="blank"><font size="4"><b>Campbell's belief system</b></font></a>
<a href="http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... 2&forum=28" target="blank"><font size="4"><b>Did Joseph Campbell convert?</b></font></a>

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

Thanks to all above for the Welcome (it's Kelly, but I'm not too fussy and I've been called worse). :smile:

Thanks too for the pointers JR. I've been pouring through them, and you're right, they would have been very hard to find with a guide...

Spirituality is the path that led me here, and I'm quite amazed at how closely his insights follow one in particular, although I have not seen it mentioned (at least I've not found it yet). I shall continue exploring. It is an enthralling journey.

thanks again--
--Kelly


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Post by JR » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Sorry <i><b>Kelly</b></i>, I must have just followed on from the post above. Glad the links helped.
Kelly wrote:
Spirituality is the path that led me here, and I'm quite amazed at how closely his insights follow one in particular, although I have not seen it mentioned (at least I've not found it yet).
I'm intrigued now as to what this one particular insight is. Would you expand on it?

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

The initial insight that aligns with my Spirituality is that of seeking bliss, and personal validation. In fact, Campbell is sited on a Gnostic website that I participate in.

Gnosticism is a very ancient religion, dating back over 8,000 years. Our writings trace back to the Sanskrit and Essenes, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi in 1945. (The Gospel of Thomas is a Gnostic Gospel). As you can imagine, they are full of myths. In fact, many myths originated in Gnostic texts (I think—still exploring). Gnostic is taken from Greek, and means knowledge, or one that seeks knowledge. Gnostics do not take things on faith, but search for answers, and for things to make sense. So, understanding the myths helps to make sense of many things that have been written.

Gnostics as a religion have a few fundamental beliefs, one is that we incarnate here for a specific purpose, and we Chart out our lives before we get here, and we have a theme to our life. When we are on that Theme, and following our Chart, life is very good. We find passion in what we do, and life “clicks”. When we are not, we are at best restless, and at times depressed and anxious, until we get back on it. So, for us, “finding your bliss” would be identifying your theme and getting on it (we believe through much research that there are 45 themes).

Campbell also references ‘forces’ that help. A Gnostic would say a “Spirit Guide”, or an entity that is with us since birth that conspires to keep us on our chosen paths (we don’t believe in coincidence). Your path (that you chose) will play out for you because of them, but free will reigns, and you can find yourself off of it. (Personally, I have met my Guide, but that is a different story).

Another belief is that God can only be found from within. And, from within yourself will you be able to find Truth, and as you ascend higher in your learning, your truths will merge with Universal Truths. This is because essentially, we know all of this since we all share a different home (this is just an incarnation), and we just journey here to experience a life for a particular reason, or lesson. Through an internal search, we can tune into these truths that will resonate with our higher conscience (which is still very much in tact here with all our memories of past lives and home), when we are ready. If these truths do resound through mythology (as Campbell asserts), then a study of them can really resonate personally.

I’m fascinated by the number of parallels even at first glance, and I have much to explore. Campbell was an incredible man. His thinking on Christ aligns as well. Gnostics believe Christ was a man, like Buddha and Muhammad, a very enlightened man yes, but a man like us. The sect of Gnostics that I belong to are in fact Christian Gnostics, as we follow Christ’s teachings as well.

--Kelly

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

Kelly, thanks for those insights into gnostic religion. I didn't even know that gnosticism as a religion does exist. (I thought it was an esoteric tradition beyond religion.)

Referring to your original question: The late Campbell showed some sympathies for Hinduism, but it would be distorting to call him a Hindu.

I have wondering much about the question if it's (maybe psychologically) necessary or an advantage to have a religion, or if its not. As soon as, like Campbell, you have found truths (and distortions) in every religion, and as soon you have discovered that you can lift up any stone and cleave any piece of wood to have the experience, I find it difficult to avow oneself to a specific tradition.

To the first part of your original request (where to begin): David Kudler, editor of Myths of Light and Sake and Satori has made some helpful recommendations on amazon.com, divided into a 1. beginner's approach, 2. an advanced approach and 3. a biographic/personal approach. To the recent approach I just would like to add Reflections on the Art of Living. A Joseph Campbell Companion, a book that David seemes not to love too much; From his point of view it's too ethereal. On the other hand, fo the case that you, like me, have a fondness for the ethereal...

(I also recommend to have a look at our Online Media Section, and to listen to some of the audio files waiting there to be downloaded ... and of course to have a look at Sukhavati. A Place of Bliss, also cut into little slices, which are available for free.)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin on 2004-01-12 17:24 ]</font>
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Post by KellyO » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Martin--
Thanks for the guidance. It is much appreciated.

Gnostism has enjoyed a resurgence lately, with at least one sect that I know of. A bit of an inside Gnostic joke...you can stone us, you can feed us to the lions...we just keep coming back. :smile:

As far as it being adventagous to have a religion...I believe that we can accomplish our goals and live a good life without it. From my persepective, it just makes the journey easier. 'Salve' for the soul (from which comes salvation BTW) if you will. However, it wasn't until I found one that resonated with me that I thought that, so I certainly can relate to your perspective.

Thanks for the pointers -- I shall head to Barnes and Nobel and get started.

--Kelly

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

As to religion: I quite agree. Even if the goal is the same, you have to buy some equipment to reach it; The best is, for reasons of compatibility, to buy your tools from one manufactorer, but to have a look what the other are producing.
On 2004-01-12 18:19, KellyO wrote:
you can stone us, you can feed us to the lions...we just keep coming back. :smile:
According to an old (only German?) proverb: You can throw them out through the door, and they'll come back through the window. :wink:

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin on 2004-01-12 18:28 ]</font>
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Post by markmc03 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Kelly,

I am fascinated to hear about the Gnostic faith. I've never been exposed to it before and yet its creed sounds suspiciously like my own, which I started developing a dozen years ago and have piece-mealed from a variety of sources ever since. Coming across the Bill Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell was one of the critical pivotal moments in my life.

Joseph Campbell, by the way, was born and raised a Catholic. He died in a Catholic hospital but I have read that, contrary to one report about deathbed conversion, his widow is adamant he did not recant his own personal beliefs and convert again to an orthodox Catholic view on his deathbed.

I believe the world religions are but branches of the same tree. Christ was a prophet as was Buddha, as was Mohammed and the multitude of other historical religious writers. I think Gandhi falls into that category as well. All religions (as with all myths - which, as Professor Campbell noted, are merely other people's religions)are metaphors for that which we cannot comprehend while in this dimension. We are capable of transcendence, however, able to experience those momentary glimpses of the ultimate reality.

As for Christ being the Son of God, I believe this. Given that God is not a biological entity, and that we each contain what I refer to as the God-spark (a very crude description of spiritual energy), we are all children of God. In fact, we are all God. As the Hindus say "Namaste", which roughly translates to "the God in me recognizes and acknowledges the God that is in you". To my mind, God is that which animates all, collectively and singularily. There is no difference. And we will return to that ultimate source when our time in this corporeal existence is complete, time itself being a concept of this dimension.

So, to satisfy the traditionalists, we can technically say Christ IS the Son of God, even as Buddha IS God and so on and so forth.

Professor Campbell proclaimed that the world needs a new paradigm if it is to make it to the next stage. The collective consciousness is growing and I believe there may come a time of critical mass when we might see some interesting developments. Our technological progress in the past two hundred years is astounding. Our spiritual progress has yet to be measured but is likewise evolving, though at a less dramatic pace (or so I fear). But therein lies the greatest divisive element, the multiplicity of exclusive religions, and therein lies perhaps the seeds of our own destruction as a species unless we can reconcile these conflicting beliefs. The conflict, I note, is largely one of form and semantics, but people hold onto them with a ferocity that rivals the power of an atomic explosion.

I would be very interested in learning more about the Gnostic faith, though not necessarily to join. I was born and raised a Lutheran, but I no long hold any loyalties to it or any other organized religion.

I agree, however, with what another said. People cannot come to this level of understanding without the tools. And religions, organized religions, offer the only starting points, the only tools, to a higher understanding. How then do we proceed?
Mark - <br><br>"To make an apple pie from scratch, first you must create the universe."<br>-Carl Sagan
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Post by KellyO » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Mark,
Well, LOL, you sound like a Gnostic to me. I too was born and raised a Catholic. One of the things that I could never get “settled with” was the idea of “Hell”, and that a loving God would ever damn His children to eternal suffering. So, one tenant of Gnosticism, reincarnation, really appealed to me. It also explains many, many phenomena (5 year old walks up to piano for the first time and starts playing Mozart, or a woman under hypnosis can speak an Ancient language that she has never heard before, and many, many others). There is so much evidence now that confirms this. A past-life regression is a fun and interesting exercise, and in some cases, very healing. (Many odd “phobias” that people have are actually results of past life trauma. E.g., people afraid of heights may have died once by falling off of something.)

Another tenant of Gnosticism is one that you find weaved through many Eastern Religions (that have their roots in the Gnostic/Essene writings, e.g. Sanskrit, dead sea scrolls…), and that is that you should seek God from within yourself, for that is the path of Enlightenment. It is very individual, for there is a divine spark of God within each of us that we can connect with. You do not need to ‘belong to’ an organized religion to attain this. Gnostics gather simply to support each other, and gain grace (when two or more are gathered…). Truth is your Truth; it can ONLY be found from within. I think that together, we seem to be able to foster this quicker by sharing the exploration and discussion.

A lot of Gnostics today that I know are “non-denominational.” That is, to say you are a Gnostic simply means that you are a seeker of Truth. As Christ said, seek and ye shall find. And, that truth will be found from inside of you. Gnostics ask questions, research, things have to make sense. Gnostics DON’T take things on “faith”, but rather seek knowledge. It is a knowledge-based religion, not a faith-based religion. We believe that you should not believe any thing because some one tells you to do so.

Gnostics do not believe Earth to be our “home”, and that home lies on the Other Side, where we reside “between lives here”, and were we are in our true form. This is simply a place where we come to “learn lessons”—then we go home. Suffering here is very real, but temporary. We are living a life that we in fact “Charted” ourselves. God does not wish us any ill here, but these are challenges that WE chose for ourselves to experience for our own perfection. The strongest souls take on the biggest challenges. (A Gnostic joke—what was I thinking when I Charted *this*?!?) Too large a challenge can result in suicide; a very bad thing. No matter what, stick it out.

Some refer to this as “destiny”, or “fate”. To a Gnostic, it is simply living our Chart. For on the Other Side, we can not experience (and therefore learn) these things because evil, death and suffering do not exist there. That makes sense to me; God does not rain down suffering because we “sin”, and God does not judge us (just like we should never judge others).

Can we deviate from our Charts? Sure, but this is not a good thing—it makes us restless/anxious/depressed until we get back on it…(Follow your bliss?). This, by the way, is actually how (genuine) psychics can tell your future—it is charted.

The “forces” that help us stay on our Chart are our Spirit Guides—entities on the Other Side that we chose to help us out, guide us, while we are here. They are ALWAYS with us, and trying to keep us on our Chart. This is why we don’t think there is ever a “coincidence”. When you “happen” to run into someone at just the right time, you had some help. Another example (I believe): “Coming across the Bill Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell was one of the critical pivotal moments in my life”. :smile:

And, it is possible to connect with your Guide (although I’ve found that they won’t give you too much information to help you make decisions [darn it]—you have to do that yourself, for your own growth).

These Gnostics beliefs do not lend themselves per se, to an organized religion, and there in lies their difficulty in ever getting an “organized” following. :smile: For a religion that is over 8,000 years old, very few people have heard about them now-a-days, and there is a reason for that.

Few know this today, but back around Christ’s day, Christianity was split between two factions—the Orthodox (what later became the Catholics), and the Gnostics. The Gnostics were in fact the Christians that were fed to the lions, etc. They often had to meet in secret. The Orthodox considered them a HUGE threat. They were labeled as “heretics” and “witches” to discredit them. After the council of Neicia in 324AD where the Orthodox were declared by Constantine (who wanted to unite his diverse empire by having a single religion) the “winner”, all Gnostic writings were ordered destroyed, and the books for the Bible were selected from the ones that matched the Orthodox thinking—history is written by the winners.

However, some monks near Egypt in a place called Nag Hammadi did not destroy them, but buried them in an urn in the desert. These scrolls were found, still buried in the desert, in 1945 and are referred to as the Nag Hammadi texts or “The Lost Gospels”, or the “Gnostic Gospels.” The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, to name but a couple. Although parts were destroyed, what remained was translated, and finally made public in the 1970’s. (Many did NOT want them published). They speak of a Mother God (as well as Father God), of reincarnation, and of Christ not as God, but as a messenger, telling us of God’s incredible love for us, and that we should not fear Him.

Most all major religions (and I believe myths), speak of a Female deity until She was “eliminated” in the last 2,000 years by the Judeo/Christians, who very much wanted a patriarchal religion. Gnostics believe (very much) in Mother God, as well as Father God--like everything else, a duality. *They* created us in *their* image.

The Orthodox did not believe that people would be motivated to do “good” when not threatened with eternal damnation, and if a religion was individual, there would be no need to come to Church and give them money. In other words, their power (which was a big part of Churches back then) lay in people coming to them out of FEAR of God and Hell/retribution. So, the Gnostics were systematically discredited and killed (especially later in the Inquisition). Christ was deified using all of the old myths, and rules established that gave the Church of Rome tremendous power and wealth. They could even forgive sins on behalf of God. (Another thing I personally always had issues with).

Much of this type of information is now starting to surface, e.g. in books like the Nag Hammadi Texts, The DaVinci Code (albeit a novel), and Holy Blood, Holy Grail, etc. My belief is that truth eventually comes out.

Gnostics believe God did (and does) send many messengers – Jesus was but one of them. Others include Mohammad, Buddha, and many others as well. We have come to know these people as Mission Life entities. These are very “advanced” entities (but entities like us) that come here on “missions” to help us get through life here. God does not leave us here without help.

Others include famous people throughout history that have helped humanity in many different ways. Some bring great art, philosophy, politics, literature, science, or other advancements. (Shakespeare, Jung, Einstein, Lincoln, Sauk, Mozart, DaVinci…). Another of these, according to our information, was Joseph Campbell, which is one thing that motivated me to seek him out, to learn more about what he had to say. With all of these people, you rarely find anything that is contradictory. It is like they all have some piece of a giant puzzle.

Does that help you understand Gnostics a bit? Personally, I believe that most of history’s religions got it a little bit right, a piece of the puzzle. If you boil them all down it becomes Love God, love yourself and others, do good things, then go home. It never seemed right to me to fear God.

Gnostics holidays are the Solstices and Equinoxes, as in the ancient days. Also, December 8th, a day that we celebrate Mother God.

No matter what we believe, a Gnostic would never try to convince anyone to believe anything. They have just gathered a body of information to assist you in determining what you believe. (So, all Gnostics do not believe exactly the same things, but we respect each other’s differences, just as we respect other religions.) Eventually, all individual truths will merge with Universal truths, but each in their own time. We are each on our own paths.

First and foremost, we encourage people to THINK. Read, explore, seek. Gnostics are vehement about this—everyone needs to find their own truth by connecting to the God spark within you. If it “feels” wrong to you, then don’t take it as truth, no matter who says it. Our group says again and again, take what you want and leave the rest.

That’s why I like them. And this time, no one is going to feed us to any lions. :smile:
--Kelly

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Post by markmc03 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thank you for the information Kelly.

I find it interesting to discover there was a Gnostic membership card hidden in my wallet. But I do lose track of things. I feel a bit like the Far Side cartoon (if I remember it correctly) of the elephant sitting at the piano just about to play a recital before a large audience and he suddenly realizes, "hey, wait a minute, I'm not a pianist. I'm a flautist!"

I would like to track down the Gnostic texts some day. I don't feel any particular urgency about that however, so it's not high on my priority list.

I've got a bone to pick with my Guide. I spent sixteen years following the wrong path, battled depression, contemplated suicide at various times. There were so many crossroads and opportunities for me to return to my proper path, but I misinterpreted the signs and always made the wrong choice. I acknowledge what you say about the Guides not usually giving helpful information, but you'd think the Guide would at least 'try'.

I do have strong feelings about suicide and am saddened to hear about Spalding Gray. As a matter of fact, I had a discussion with him last spring and he was not doing well even then. Given his mother's suicide, it is almost clear what his challenge was to overcome. I hope his next attempt at overcoming will prove more successful. The one thing he taught me is that it's okay to share even the deepest darkest secrets with the world. As long as you do it with a sense of humour.

I have a difficult time thinking of God in a feminine context. I always have to make that distinction of Mother Nature. Yet I fully understand and accept that God possesses no gender at all. And that good and evil, reward and punishment are human constructions.

It is refreshing to read your words and know that I am not alone in my beliefs.
Mark - <br><br>"To make an apple pie from scratch, first you must create the universe."<br>-Carl Sagan
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Post by guidrma » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Kelly - I enjoyed reading your replies to Mark regarding Gnosticism. Sounds like a fascinating philosophy I would like to explore myself. Could you recommend a book for someone like me who is curious and uninformed? I am on my path but searching for answers. I still have so far to go but I am starting to feel closer to my bliss. The journey, warts and all, is exciting.

Also, like you, I recently discovered Joseph Campbell. I was watching his interview with Bill Moyers on PBS (The Power of Myth) here in New York and was captivated.

Peace,

Malcolm

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

Hi Malcolm,
The best books that I can recommend are a set of 3 called the “Journey of the Soul Series”, written by Sylvia Browne. They are available as a set (cheaper), or singly. Bookstores usually have them, or I got mine on Amazon. They contain a lot of the Gnostic philosophy/information in very readable form.

1. God, Creation, and Tools for Life
2. Soul’s Perfection
3. Nature of Good and Evil

Sylvia founded the Gnostic Society that I belong to called Novus Spiritus back in the 80’s. She has posted some of the basic tenants on her web site, and also has a good recommended reading list too. If you do get interested in Novus, there are Study Groups all around the country, and even Internationally as well.

http://www.sylvia.org/home/aboutnovus.cfm

Another very good book is “Beyond Belief, The Gospel of Thomas” by Elaine Pagel.

Best wishes on your personal journey--I assure you that it will be exciting and rewarding where ever it leads you.

--Kelly


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