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Reply To: Who is the next Joseph Campbell?


It is fascinating, Robert, to track Campbell’s influences, which are legion. Many, such as William Robertson Smith or Arnold van Gennep, are little known, while others (Goethe, Nietzsche, Freud) had a similar galvanizing effect on their world as Campbell has had on ours.

Sticking with the theme of “who is the next Joseph Campbell,” I certainly appreciate and, to a degree, agree with your characterization of the Foundation as a supraorganism  “composed of all the individuals that enter through the portal of his teachings and find lodging and shelter as they feed on and devour his work” – sort of a womblike setting. But for JCF the question then becomes “then what?” An essential piece of the mission of the Joseph Campbell Foundation is to “further his pioneering work in mythology and comparative religion” – but hard to further that work if those most inspired to do so remain in the womb.

Part of what we wrestle with here is the tension between providing a safe space for people to explore (” . . . lodging and shelter as they feed on and devour his work”), and providing support and encouragement for people to take that mythic perspective and make it their own, stepping out  into the street and applying it in the real world.

The Foundation isn’t here to be the new Joseph Campbell; I think of JCF more as Tom Sawyer – we’re not here to whitewash that mythic fence ourselves, but to trigger your imagination and hand that brush over to you and others, so you can do the work that excites you.

That may offer a little bit of insight into the pullback from Facebook. As heady, entertaining, informative, thought-provoking and fast-moving as the Mythic Salon could be, ultimately the focus was on consumption. Nothing wrong with that – in fact, I generally immensely enjoyed myself – but those protean exchanges moved so quickly, one post (with attached comments) fading into the next, scrolling below the fold and off the screen, slipping out of awareness and into the collective cyber stew.

In way of contrast, Conversations of a Higher Order serves, at least ideally, as an alchemical retort, a container where those insights, inspirations, and concepts have the space and time to simmer and bubble and brew. You’ll notice conversations here don’t happen at the frenzied pace of social media, but unfold leisurely, over time. What matters isn’t how many emoji reactions a post gets, but actually connecting – putting your thought and reflections out there to feed another soul swimming in the same waters, who then feeds you in turn through the exchange of ideas.

(Ideally, it would be nice to have both – but given how much energy and effort and time I found myself  putting into moderating the Facebook group, that ultimately proved somewhat ephemeral. I’m at that age where time is feeling more finite than ever; far better to apply what hours and energy I have in this direction.)

I was thinking about this while reading your entries the last day or so in The Air We Breathe thread. They are the same stream-of-consciousness nuggets you’d post in the Salon, but they feel different here. Could just be me, but they come across as more substantial than on Facebook. One has the time and attention to come back to them, sample them, see how they fit into the conversation, and follow a tangent or two or three you raise off in its own direction . . . or use them as a riff into a brand new topic they inspire. And they will keep doing so: two years from now someone new to COHO will stumble across that thread, read your words, catch that spark, and add their own verse, metaphorically speaking.

And I think I’ll do something of the same, taking my reflection on your observation above to launch a new topic in the next few days, maybe in The Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, inquiring how those who come to this space imagine themselves furthering the work of Joseph Campbell.

Thanks for that . . .