Practical Campbell Essay: This Flower of Creation – Joseph Campbell’s Modern Mind

Date of Publication: December 30, 2006

Author: Dixie Hass

In this Practical Campbell essay, guest columnist Dixie Haas discusses the tension between “the old soul and the new universe,” and explores how Joseph Campbell reconciles this dichotomy in the deeper harmony found between ancient wisdom and the modern mind, thus invoking our shared humanity.

Perhaps never before in the history of the human species have so many known so much and yet so violently shirked the call and claim, the unquestionable obligation, of the facts of life in this day and age.

In a world where cracking the conundrums of the human genetic code is frequent news, nearly instantaneous global communication is widely available, and the senses of the body have been mechanically augmented to observe both the microcosmic, momentary creations occurring in particle colliders and the nascent dawning of new stars in far-flung nebulae, it would seem plausible to assume that the majority of the human population has acquiesced to the reality of Earth as a single village, one community, inextricably linked and interconnected. But the same news sources that acquaint the public consciousness with ever more complex understandings of the workings of our universe and our commonalities as people, also bear witness to the propagation and continuance of age-old divisions, prejudices, hatreds, suspicions, and fears – all evidence of the intractability of archaic feelings bound to organizations of archaic images. The modern mind may be adept at absorbing the glorious advances of scientific discovery but the modern heart and spirit seem bent on continually erecting boundaries differentiating “us” from “them,” maintaining barriers built on outmoded, lingering perceptions.

Yet Joseph Campbell, a man born near the turn of the last century, embraced humanity’s inevitable free fall toward a new view of others synonymous with the unbounded horizon of a new universe. Throughout Campbell’s long career as scholar, educator, author, and mythologist, his vision of contemporary life as a state of being in which the universal is inseparable from the personal and the personal inseparable from the universal unerringly guided his path through a rapidly changing present. Campbell faced the rush of modern life with characteristic aplomb, unabashed humor, and abiding love and compassion for humankind’s frailties, failures, and flaw.

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