Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell

Books Reviewed

The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1973)

Occidental Mythology (1991)

Oriental Mythology (1991)

The Power of Myth (1988)

Joseph Campbell was an important discovery for me. I found his books back in 1998, through a reference in the book The Great Mother, by Erich Neumann.

His work assumes for me the same importance as, for example, the work of Carl Jung. His books give us insights about the development of the collective unconscious, just as Jung’s—but from a mythological, not psychological, perspective. However, his books contain a common thread, a basic message, and this message is that patriarchy is a form of life-denial, a collective neurosis—not a lifestyle, not a philosophy, not a Weltanschauung, but rather a twist given to life and that distorts our very nature. And ultimately, therefore, it’s a refusal of true humanity. Campbell develops the theme further with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth (1988), by alluding to the Star Wars plot.

Darth Vader has not developed his own humanity. He’s a robot. He’s a bureaucrat, living not in terms of himself but in terms of an imposed system. This is the threat to our lives that we all face today. Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes? How do you relate to the system so that you are not compulsively serving it?/54

Patriarchy, with its craving for obedience to the father, is a sort of compulsion neurosis. Not only are individuals flattened out by systems that are eternal replacements of real fathers—those who typically abandoned their roles as true caretakers, but authority-craving individuals also have flattened out their better halves, their right brains, so as to serve the system even more diligently. In this sense, as a sentinel for attention to the signals pointing to a possible coming of Orwellian times, Campbell’s oeuvre cannot be underestimated. It should be read in all schools, also because it’s essential to train the right brain capacities of associative, symbolic thinking from early age.

Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell


In fact, these capacities were highly developed in the great scholar, next to his poetic understanding and word magic, which is why his books are great reading, and not dry scholarly pamphlets. And then we might finally ask the pertinent question: ‘How has patriarchy come about—and what was before?’ It all started with a murder. The murder of the Goddess. And it became the foundation of what is called a culture. It became the foundation of what is called a religion.

In biblical times, when the Hebrews came in, they really wiped out the Goddess. The term for the Canaanite goddess that’s used in the Old Testament is the Abomination. Apparently, throughout the period represented in the Book of Kings, for example, there was a back and forth between the two cults. Many of the Hebrew kings were condemned in the Old Testament for having worshiped on the mountaintops. Those mountains were symbols of the Goddess. And there was a very strong accent against the Goddess in the Hebrew, which you do not find the Indo-European mythologies. Here you have Zeus marrying the Goddess, and then the two play together. So it’s an extreme case that we have in the Bible, and our own Western subjugation of the female is a function of biblical thinking./215-216

It seems that when man began to preach high morality and confessed to strife for goodness, he began to really become diabolic. Campbell remarks that the vandalism involved in the destruction of the pagan temples of antiquity is hardly matched in world history./248

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