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Reply To: What Happens After This Life?


androoshka writes:

Hey Stephen, I followed this link, and it eventually took me to a page on Amazon where the book can be bought – is this what you intended?

Not exactly – my intention was simply to draw attention to the description of the Mythological Resource highlighted that week on JCF’s home page (I am fascinated by Egyptian mythology, with several works on hieroglyphs as well as myths on my shelves – including the German text of Adolf Erman’s 1909 Die Ägyptische Religion). However, I don’t select each week’s resource; I assume the inclusion of the Amazon link was to provide the easiest and most ubiquitous access to the resource (given my druthers – and Amazon’s dominance of the booksellers’ market – I would prefer including a link or two as well to other independent online bookstores, like Powell’s).

Of course, that depends on the nature of the selection: this week’s resource – SurLaLanne Fairytales – is a website, so no direction to a bookstore at all.

Your mention of Joseph Campbell’s “new agey” following is well taken. Campbell wrote for a popular audience, but grounded his work in scholarship, and in science – so at JCF we sometimes walk a fine line between the two.

Certainly Joe had no problem with “things that go bump in the night”: he cast his own astrological chart, as well as that of  others, “as a kind of mythological Rorschach” in the words of his biographers – which helped affirm his and Jean’s compatibility in his mind before they were married (eventually giving up that practice because “they gave me a feeling I knew too much about people; you know you get these intimate things. . .”); Campbell also observed a Pueblo rain ceremony that began with nary a cloud in the sky and ended with a drenching downpour; and he was surprised, after participating in a yamabushi fire walk ceremony in 1955 in Japan (decades before fire walking became a New Age trend in Marin County), to realize his sprained ankle was healed and the swelling gone.

However, in his work his scholarship was rigorous – an approach reinforced by his work editing Heinrich Zimmer’s notes:

[T]he mistakes of Zimmer that I had to correct while writing and that I have discovered since, have discredited for me, as a final attitude, the rather slapdash intuitivism of my dear master. I am now for a very careful, meticulous checking after all the lovely intuitions: we have got to have both, if we are going to have a book.” (Asian Journals, 501)

Campbell also occasionally lamented “the women who suddenly discover the goddess, they know all about the mythology of Greece and Rome and everything within all of 20 minutes, because they are themselves ‘the goddess’ and they know by intuition all these things” (from an interview July 2, 1984, on WBAI’s “Natural Living”).

Some years ago JCF granted permission to use a Joseph Campbell quote to the author of what was eventually published as The Secret – which spawned a movement that associated Campbell, along with other teachers and thinkers, with what I think of as “wishcraft” (or “blisscraft”). Of course there is some overlap with “New Age” thought, but in my mind the primary difference between Joseph Campbell’s perspective and much of what has been identified as New Age philosophy is that Joe is not afraid of the dark: he says “yea” to life in all its ecstasy and its agony.

The Foundation finds the best way to provide pushback against those who would co-opt Joe’s message to fit a “happy happy joy joy” philosophy is to follow his scholarship (“a very careful, meticulous checking after all the lovely intuitions: we have got to have both”).