Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

Reply To: Artistic Origins, with Professor Andrew Gurevich



Thank you so much for your rich, detailed, elegant reply to my initial questions. It’s a joy to read, and re-read, savoring every sentence, every paragraph, and then taking the time to absorb the thoughts you share, allowing them to sink in and simmer on the periphery of consciousness for a few days

. . . which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to respond – that, plus my tendency towards excessive verbosity, which can sometimes drown out other voices – so I thought I would hang back for a bit and give others a chance to speak first.

You write

As for the role of ritual in enabling the individual to participate fully in the mysterium tremendum, some wonderful insights come to us from the world of anthropology. I work with a research organization called The Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness. Our work is centered on exploring all of the ways humans interact with, define, engage, and interpret the contours of individual and collective consciousness. And several of our founders were insistent on the vital role of direct experience in the process of encountering and relating to nonlocal consciousness. In other words, the vital role of ritual in the process of the transformation of self. Scholars from our group like Edith Turner and Carlos Castaneda insisted that many of the deepest truths of our human journey could not be understood unless directly experienced. To know them intellectually was only a small part of encountering their full transformative potential.”

Intriguing to me how the study of mythology has come to be so closely associated with depth psychology today (understandably so, given Jung’s earnest attention to the archetypal imagery of myth), yet often glosses over the contributions of anthropology – a mistake Joseph Campbell does not make; in fact, his identification of the Hero’s Journey trajectory recurring throughout the myths of so many different cultures owes much to ethnographer/folklorist/cultural anthropologist Arnold van Gennep’s 1909 work, Les Rites de Passage (Rites of Passage); on a related note, Victor Turner is one anthropologist whose fieldwork among the Ndembu in Zambia (e.g. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure) independently arrives at – and serves to confirm – many of the same observations, though without seeming to take any notice of Campbell’s work.

Your observations in your reply to Mythicwarrior, re the intersection of dreams and culture, also relates to the above. I have a whole shelf of volumes on dreams and dreamwork, most written either by Jungians (and a couple Freudians, including, of course, Sigmund himself) or lay people heavily influenced by Jung – but one of my favorites is a collection of essays published by the School of American Research and edited by Barbara Tedlock (Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at SUNY, Buffalo), titled Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations: eleven anthropologist share papers describing their observations of how indigenous peoples, from the Zuni in New Mexico to the Kalapalo of Brazil or the Sambia in Papua New Guinea, experience, share, and work with (or sometimes ignore) dream experiences (which are often closely entwined with their mythologies).

Many of these essays, at least to my mind, go beyond Jung – not to diss Carl Jung’s contributions, which have brought dreams out of the shadows and legitimatized this field of study in the modern world – but these are cultures that have been working with dreams for hundreds if not thousands of years. Understanding, at least to the limited degree I am able, how different cultures have worked with, ritualized, and embodied the imagery they encounter in dream has helped enhance the way I engage my own dream images.

In another post I’d like to follow-up on a few of your observations, but I’d like to take a personal turn here and ask what first drew you to the field of anthropology? How much of your choice was conscious, and how much serendipity?  And was your initial focus on “exploring all of the ways humans interact with, define, engage, and interpret the contours of individual and collective consciousness,” or did that emerge gradually over time for you?

I hope you don’t mind the personal questions – but, since we are all drawn here because of Joseph Campbell’s inspiration, I’m trusting taking a brief tangent into how you discovered and followed your bliss (e.g., was it full blown from the beginning, or did it slowly dawn on you as you followed bits and pieces into your future) might shed some light on an important but much misunderstood Campbellian insight.