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Reply To: wounded king and Trumpism


Intriguing question.

However, we do need to be cautious and adhere to forum guidelines:

5. Avoid Contemporary Politics

Given the volatile nature of contemporary political discourse, we ask that members steer clear of candidates or current political controversies. Forum members come from across the political spectrum. There are other fora across the internet for discussing myth and politics.

As in any discussion forum, there are likely participants on all sides of current controversies – there is no political test required for exploring myth; Joseph Campbell’s work is admired by liberals, progressives, populists, conservatives, communists, and libertarians alike. However, in my experience administering multiple myth-oriented discussion boards on a variety of platforms for more than two decades, any discussions of the mythological dynamics driving current politics, no matter how reasonable the participants are and how civil they begin, soon strike archetypal nerves and trigger shadow projections, drawing reactions pro and con outside rational discussion.

That way lies flame wars — and we are not going there.

That said, in my mind I see a distinction between what you describe as “the cult following the President” (those who, to use his example, would support him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight – the hardcore base or personality cult, many of whom did not get involved in politics before his candidacy), and those whose politics generally align with his.

I wouldn’t say the myth of the wounded king is a basis for the president’s fanatical following – just don’t see that parallel. Amfortas did not have a fanatical following who claimed his wound was inflicted by another so not his fault, nor did Amfortas complain about his wound – no “public declaration of his suffering and ill treatment”: unless asked about it, he suffered in silence.

Amfortas (or Anfortas, in some versions) was raised from an early age for the role of Grail King. He becomes the Maimed King because of his personal failure to live up to the role. The wound he receives as a result is, in Campbell’s words, “in a magical way associated with the waste and sorrow of his land” (Creative Mythology, p. 391).

Plenty of waste, sorrow, pestilence, and grief in our land today (speaking specifically of the United States), but the president’s most fanatical followers do not associate that with any failing on his part. (On the other hand, many of his opponents do.)

There are a number of mythic associations one could make to the current administration drawn from many myths (the Grail King, yes, or the myth of King Minos as Campbell recounts in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, or elements of the hero journey arc in general, and more), but to go there calls up opinions, pro and con, about the policies and controversies of this presidency.

As an aside, though Joseph Campbell had strong political opinions (see the letter he wrote to President Nixon supporting the secret bombing of Cambodia, a neutral nation, once that was exposed: Correspondence: 1927 – 1987, p. 242), he avoided all mention of political candidates or current political controversies, much less what side he might favor, in his writings or his lectures.

Mythology, like biology, is nonpartisan