The Individual in Oriental Mythology (Audio: Lecture I.1.2)
In the wonderful Inferno of Dante, as he wandered through these hell pits, he recognized all of his friends. In the Greek world, when the heroes go to the underworld, they recognize their friends, However, in the Oriental hells and heavens–whether of the Buddhist, or the Hindu, or the Jain type–you do not recognize anybody. They are not the same person they were on earth…. This is a continuing theme in the farther Orient; you are not this body, you are not this ego, you are to think of this as something merely put on to be thrown away again. — Joseph Campbell
In Western mythologies, the individual personality is a permanent entity, surviving as a distinct and definable self even in the afterworld. In Oriental mythologies, there is no enduring personality, but rather a “reincarnating monad,” an entity which goes through a series of bodies, putting them on and taking them off as if they were clothes. In this lecture, Joseph Campbell illuminates this fundamental difference between Eastern and Western beliefs and explores the way in which these ideas influence us today.
Running time: approx. 60 minutes