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Joseph John Campbell March 26, — October 30, was an American professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College who worked in comparative mythology and comparative religion.
His work covers many aspects of the human experience. Campbell's most well-known work is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces , in which he discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero shared by world mythologies , termed the monomyth.
Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces , Campbell's theories have been applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. His philosophy has been summarized by his own often repeated phrase: "Follow your bliss. Campbell's approach to folklore topics such as myth and his influence on popular culture has been the subject of criticism, including from folklorists , academics in folklore studies.
In , a fire destroyed the family home in New Rochelle, killing his maternal grandmother and injuring his father, who tried to save her. While at Dartmouth College he studied biology and mathematics, but decided that he preferred the humanities.
He transferred to Columbia University , where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature in and a Master of Arts degree in medieval literature in At Dartmouth he had joined Delta Tau Delta. An accomplished athlete, he received awards in track and field events, and, for a time, was among the fastest half-mile runners in the world. In , Campbell traveled to Europe with his family. On the ship during his return trip he encountered the messiah elect of the Theosophical Society , Jiddu Krishnamurti ; they discussed Indian philosophy , sparking in Campbell an interest in Hindu and Indian thought.
He learned to read and speak French and German. On his return to Columbia University in , Campbell expressed a desire to pursue the study of Sanskrit and modern art in addition to Medieval literature. Lacking faculty approval, Campbell withdrew from graduate studies.
Later in life he jested that it is a sign of incompetence to have a PhD in the liberal arts , the discipline covering his work. With the arrival of the Great Depression , Campbell spent the next five years — living in a rented shack in Woodstock, New York. He later said that he "would divide the day into four three-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the three-hour periods, and free one of them I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day.
And this went on for five years straight. Campbell traveled to California for a year — , continuing his independent studies and becoming close friends with the budding writer John Steinbeck and his wife Carol. Campbell was introduced to the Steinbecks by author and early nutritionist Adelle Davis whom he met and developed a close relationship with on a cruise to the Caribbean with his father in December Campbell would refer to those days as a time when everything in his life was taking shape.
Campbell, the great chronicler of the "hero's journey" in mythology , recognized patterns that paralleled his own thinking in one of Ricketts's unpublished philosophical essays. Campbell continued his independent reading while teaching for a year in at the Canterbury School , during which time he also attempted to publish works of fiction.
In , he married one of his former students, the dancer-choreographer Jean Erdman. For most of their 49 years of marriage they shared a two-room apartment in Greenwich Village in New York City. In the s they also purchased an apartment in Honolulu and divided their time between the two cities.
They did not have any children. After Zimmer's death, Campbell was given the task of editing and posthumously publishing Zimmer's papers, which he would do over the following decade. In —, as the last volume of Zimmer's posthumous The Art of Indian Asia, Its Mythology and Transformations was finally about to be published, Campbell took a sabbatical from Sarah Lawrence College and traveled, for the first time, to Asia. This year had a profound influence on his thinking about Asian religion and myth, and also on the necessity for teaching comparative mythology to a larger, non-academic audience.
Campbell attended a Grateful Dead concert in , and marveled that "Everyone has just lost themselves in everybody else here! Campbell died at his home in Honolulu , Hawaii , on October 30, , from complications of esophageal cancer. He is buried in O'ahu Cemetery, Honolulu. Campbell often referred to the work of modern writers James Joyce and Thomas Mann in his lectures and writings, as well as to the art of Pablo Picasso. He was introduced to their work during his stay as a graduate student in Paris.
Campbell eventually corresponded with Mann. The works of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche had a profound effect on Campbell's thinking; he quoted their writing frequently. The "follow your bliss" philosophy attributed to Campbell following the original broadcast of The Power of Myth see below derives from the Hindu Upanishads ; however, Campbell was possibly also influenced by the Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt.
In The Power of Myth , Campbell quotes from the novel:. Campbell: Have you ever read Sinclair Lewis ' Babbitt? Moyers: Not in a long time. Campbell: Remember the last line? The anthropologist Leo Frobenius and his disciple Adolf Ellegard Jensen were important to Campbell's view of cultural history. Campbell was also influenced by the psychological work of Abraham Maslow and Stanislav Grof.
Campbell's ideas regarding myth and its relation to the human psyche are dependent in part on the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud , but in particular on the work of Jung, whose studies of human psychology greatly influenced Campbell.
Campbell's conception of myth is closely related to the Jungian method of dream interpretation, which is heavily reliant on symbolic interpretation. Jung's insights into archetypes were heavily influenced by the Bardo Thodol also known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. For years, ever since it was first published, the Bardo Thodol has been my constant companion, and to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but also many fundamental insights.
Campbell's concept of monomyth one myth refers to the theory that sees all mythic narratives as variations of a single great story. The theory is based on the observation that a common pattern exists beneath the narrative elements of most great myths, regardless of their origin or time of creation. Campbell often referred to the ideas of Adolf Bastian and his distinction between what he called "folk" and "elementary" ideas, the latter referring to the prime matter of monomyth while the former to the multitude of local forms the myth takes in order to remain an up-to-date carrier of sacred meanings.
The central pattern most studied by Campbell is often referred to as the hero's journey and was first described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces As a strong believer in the psychic unity of mankind and its poetic expression through mythology, Campbell made use of the concept to express the idea that the whole of the human race can be seen as engaged in the effort of making the world "transparent to transcendence" by showing that underneath the world of phenomena lies an eternal source which is constantly pouring its energies into this world of time, suffering, and ultimately death.
To achieve this task one needs to speak about things that existed before and beyond words, a seemingly impossible task, the solution to which lies in the metaphors found in myths. These metaphors are statements that point beyond themselves into the transcendent.
The Hero's Journey was the story of the man or woman who, through great suffering, reached an experience of the eternal source and returned with gifts powerful enough to set their society free. As this story spread through space and evolved through time, it was broken down into various local forms masks , depending on the social structures and environmental pressures that existed for the culture that interpreted it.
These stages, as well as the symbols one encounters throughout the story, provide the necessary metaphors to express the spiritual truths the story is trying to convey.
Metaphor for Campbell, in contrast with comparisons which make use of the word like , pretend to a literal interpretation of what they are referring to, as in the sentence " Jesus is the Son of God" rather than "the relationship of man to God is like that of a son to a father". God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even the categories of being and non-being.
Those are categories of thought. I mean it's as simple as that. So it depends on how much you want to think about it. Whether it's doing you any good.
Whether it is putting you in touch with the mystery that's the ground of your own being. If it isn't, well, it's a lie. So half the people in the world are religious people who think that their metaphors are facts.
Those are what we call theists. The other half are people who know that the metaphors are not facts. And so, they're lies. Those are the atheists. Some scholars have disagreed with the concept of the "monomyth" because of its oversimplification of different cultures. According to Robert Ellwood , "A tendency to think in generic terms of people, races Campbell often described mythology as having a fourfold function within human society.
These appear at the end of his work The Masks of God: Creative Mythology , as well as various lectures. Campbell's view of mythology was by no means static and his books describe in detail how mythologies evolved through time, reflecting the realities in which each society had to adjust. In brief these are:. Initiatives undertaken by the JCF include: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell , a series of books and recordings that aims to pull together Campbell's myriad-minded work; the Erdman Campbell Award; the Mythological RoundTables, a network of local groups around the globe that explore the subjects of comparative mythology, psychology, religion and culture; and the collection of Campbell's library and papers housed at the OPUS Archives and Research Center.
George Lucas was the first Hollywood filmmaker to credit Campbell's influence. Lucas stated, following the release of the first Star Wars film in , that its story was shaped, in part, by ideas described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and other works of Campbell's.
The linkage between Star Wars and Campbell was further reinforced when later reprints of Campbell's book used the image of Luke Skywalker on the cover. I came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale , telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place.
In literature we were going off into science fiction Before that I hadn't read any of Joe's books It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic motifs So I modified my next draft according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent I went on to read 'The Masks of God' and many other books. It was not until after the completion of the original Star Wars trilogy in , however, that Lucas met Campbell or heard any of his lectures.
Many filmmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have acknowledged the influence of Campbell's work on their own craft. Among films that many viewers have recognized as closely following the pattern of the monomyth are The Matrix series, the Batman series and the Indiana Jones series. According to him, he uses a "story circle" to formulate every story he writes, in a formulation of Campbell's work. After the explosion of popularity brought on by the Star Wars films and The Power of Myth , creative artists in many media recognized the potential to use Campbell's theories to try to unlock human responses to narrative patterns.
The novelist Richard Adams acknowledges a debt to Campbell's work and specifically to the concept of the monomyth. One of Campbell's most identifiable, most quoted and arguably most misunderstood sayings was his admonition to "follow your bliss".
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Akinolmaran Kemel the s they also purchased an apartment in Honolulu and divided their time between the two cities. To kemgel this task one needs to speak about things that existed before and beyond words, a seemingly impossible task, the solution to which lies in the metaphors found in myths. Campbell continued his independent reading while teaching for a year in at the Canterbury Schoolduring which time he also attempted to publish works of fiction. These metaphors are statements that point beyond themselves into the dzizef. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, kemvel life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives becomes dissolved. Kudler, Davided. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell.