Reply To: The Power of the Personal,” with Mythologist Dennis Slattery, Ph.D.”
Dear Dr. Dennis Slattery,
So honored to be writing to you in this interactive session, and for jcf.org to make this interaction possible from the ease and comfort of our homes — Is this not our our new myth, aka as our new technology? This is our new landscape, the sun or the moon above, our cyber cloud which is now also the very essence of our beings. Our lives run around it, and in this pandemic, so do our livelihoods. I’ll touch upon it a bit later as well.
You wrote, “Here is my image: the invisible lining of a jacket or coat is what I would call history’s inner myth; it gives shape and contour to the outer sleeve, which is history itself. Yes, the sleeve can be turned inside-out to reveal the hidden myth, and that is part of Campbell’s mode of excavation: he turns the sleeve inside-out in order to explore the mystery shaping history.” I love your example — the ‘fabri-cation’ as you well describe. There is a time-lapse between the inside and the outside of the sleeve, and would I be correct in saying , when it’s turned outside it becomes a myth. Two thoughts came to my mind, with your example:
1) Alan Watts’ on myth: ” that myth is that whose time has yet not come.” or as in Joe Campbell quoting Alan Watts: “Alan Watts used to tell the story of the Apollo astronaut who came back from space; some smart-aleck reporter asked, since he’d been to heaven, had he seen God? ‘Yes,’ answered the astronaut, ‘and she’s black.” Myth is divined and not stated, said Watts.
2) Ray Grasse in his essay (Grasse, Ray, “The Mythologist: Brief Encounters with Joseph Campbell” Quest 106:3, pg 26-29 ) comes upon the same idea as he tries to decode Joe’s offhand remark, for example, “ Trying to digest it all sometimes felt like trying to drink from a fire-hose. Even his passing asides were provocative—intellectual depth charges that released their power only later on. Like his offhand remark that ‘Hitler set out to create the Third Reich but gave birth to the state of Israel instead.’” A sleeve inside out, or the myth of creating manifestation.
Again, I love what you wrote, “Nor can myths be divorced from the inventions and discoveries of the time in which they surface. Indeed, I sense in Campbell that myths survive by accommodating such discoveries, especially those of science. This discipline has knocked down the walls “from around all mythologies—every single one of them—by the findings and works of modern scientific discovery.” (81) Yes indeed, Campbell said it on his famous PBS series with Moyers, “Computers are old testament gods, lots of rules and no mercy” from jcf.org quotes.
Allow me to elaborate a few lines from my thesis. Around 1999, I worked on my Master’s thesis where my core argument was that internet technology is not just a mere modern scientific discovery, but fits right in with the sociological function of mythology as described by Joe Campbell. The sociological function, according to Campbell, is the way we write laws and the way we do business, or better put, “sociological function is to pass down “the law,” the moral and ethical codes for people of that culture to follow, and which help define that culture and its prevailing social structure. “ So, my argument was that the new technology (our new mythic landscape) will soon drive the way we do business and the way we write laws. I was able to project this much before the era of youtube (circa 2005) videos (as evidence in law suits). Intellectual Property Law has been rewritten and is being rewritten. Facebook (2004) –Our business advertising model has been turned upside down with Facebook. Amazon (1994) — ‘we dance to it, even when we can’t name the tune’ (Joe Campbell- Power of Myth). Although Campbell did say, “ You can’t predict what a myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you’re going to dream tonight ” (jcf.org) Yet, I can argue, one can view the sleeve turned inside out, and imagine the impact of the new landscape on our lives, on the myths we live by.
Ray Grasse: “For a man in his late seventies, his vitality and enthusiasm were remarkable, as was his ability to rattle off volumes of information on a wide range of topics without ever relying on notes. Trying to digest it all sometimes felt like trying to drink from a firehose. Even his passing asides were provocative—intellectual depth charges that released their power only later on.” Drinking from a fire hose is not easy, but we can take a few drops here and there and rejoice in what we think we saw.
Returning to the intro part of your essay, “I feel like I am in a personal conversation with a priest or a confessor, one who understands the need for the transcendent in our lives and is prepared to point me in the right direction. I think this feeling emerges because Campbell’s storytelling gene is a part of all of his utterances, but especially when he works a concept by morphing it into a narrative. ” Campbell has pointed so many of us in some direction and which years later they can view as sleeves turned inside out. Ever so grateful to this thinker, scholar, poet-seer.