Practical Campbell Essay: Intelligible Design

Date of Publication: November 28, 2005

Author: Stephen Gerringer

Nature plays a vital role in Joseph Campbell’s approach to mythology. Nature has long supplied the raw material: the sun and moon and stars, wind and clouds, storms and rain, rivers and springs, mountains and valleys, cycles of night and day and of the seasons, the flora, the fauna, the earth itself – these elements form the bedrock imagery of myth.

For Campbell, though, mythology is not just an abstract by-product of the human imagination, but part and parcel of a larger picture. He speaks, for example, of mythology as “nature talking,” or as an “expression in personified images” of the energies of nature.

What, though, does he mean by “nature”?

Is Campbell speaking here in the voice of the Romantic poets? Is his a nature tinted in sepia tones, awash in touchy-feely New Age sentimentalities? Or are Campbell’s views grounded in scientific observation of the natural world?

Could it be a little of both?

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