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Reply To: Who is the next Joseph Campbell?


Over the years I have heard from more than a few persons claiming to be Joseph Campbell’s successor (which to me is a major red-flag).  Ironically, there are quite a few individuals furthering Campbell’s work in the fields of mythology, comparative religion, depth psychology, the creative imagination, self-development, and more – but none of those doing the heavy lifting are claiming to be the new Joseph Campbell. They are simply following their passion.

I am reminded of something Joe’s friend and colleague, Professor of Comparative Religion David Miller, said during a conference in 1992 titled “A Fire in the Mind: An Evaluation of Joseph Campbell’s Creative and Intellectual Influence”, that begs repeating:

. . . as one reflects on Joseph Campbell’s work, the question becomes:  Who is the true follower of Joseph Campbell?  Jesus preached the Kingdom and got the Church.  Jung proclaimed the soul and got the Jung Institute.  Campbell told us to follow our own bliss . . . it would be an extreme irony if, in attempting to follow his advice, we ended by following his bliss!

The question – Who is the true student of Joseph Campbell? – is like a Zen question.  It is a bit tricky.  One should not imagine too quickly, if ever, that one knows the answer to it.  Is the true follower of Joseph Campbell the one who follows Joseph Campbell, or is it the one who follows his or her own true self?

You can find a print edition of Miller’s remarks here