Dear Dr. Slattery,
Referring to the image of the earth as seen from the moon, you wrote,
“Such a dramatic photo struck Campbell as a vision of a new myth. It also reveals his own mythopoetic way of discovering analogies that reveal relationships we might miss or ignore without his acute insights. He explores patterns closer to home–for example, between native American people and those of India–sensing “equivalences” in their images and beliefs. His method is “to identify these universals. . . archetypes of the unconscious and as far as possible, to interpret them” (69).
I have read this passage several times but this time, after reading your mythblast, it began to make a dent in my understanding of images and landscapes that shape our inner world—“recognized and mythologized by any people as home.” I reached for my copy of “Inner Reaches of Outer Space” so as to understand and link my mythologized symbol to my inner landscape.
Although I live close to a mountain called Mount Royal, and am fortunate enough to hike it often, yet my inner landscape is of the Himalayan mountain peak that was always visible to me as I stepped out my front door as a child. Why had I not thought about it much, just thought it was out there, not inside me, but lately hiking Mount Royal has brought it closer, perchance? — for me, it’s not OUT there anymore, it’s inside me too.
“God is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” The idea, it seems to me, is in a most appropriate way illustrated in that stunning photograph (Figure 2) taken from the moon, and now frequently reproduced, of an earthrise, the earth rising as a radiant celestial orb, strewing light over a lunar landscape. Is the center the earth? Is the center the moon? The center is anywhere you like. “ Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth As Metaphor and As Religion (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (pp. 50-51).
Childhood is experienced in a hundred ways, and as adults, we recall a few significant events. What comes to my mind is: birth of a sibling, my first relay race, the gentleness of a teacher, my first pet, moving from one house to another, and a few others.
Do our surroundings shape as we mythologize these symbols within us? Was one landscape more intense than the other and in what way? So, what do our childhood surroundings say about us? Is there a symbol that we carry unconsciously somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts?
For me, in my sunset years, image of the K2-Mountain’s summit pops up. From my childhood home’s verandah, I could see K2’s-summit. I also recall it was mostly clothed in snow— summer, spring winter and fall. “K2 is 8,611m (28,251ft) high – about 200m less than Everest – but is widely considered the most demanding of all in winter.”
Here is an image of the K2-peak:
Background of K2:
Climbing this mountain is no ordinary feat. George Bell, a US Mountaineer said, “ It is a savage mountain that tries to kill you…. So unforgiving are the conditions on K2, part of the Karakoram Range that straddles the Pakistan-China border, that it has long been referred to as The Savage Mountain.”
Although I have never ever climbed it, never been nearer than 200km from its base, yet the image of that summit visits me often. I have visited it in my dreams, and thought I was in Afghanistan.
Tracking back to K2’s harshness: Before arriving at the summit (which was my childhood image) mountain climbers must rest at a point called “Bottleneck”. “The Bottleneck is well into the territory above 8,000m known in mountaineering as the “death zone”, when a lack of oxygen slowly shuts down the human body.” A climber writes, “No matter who you are. No matter your experience. No matter how fit you are. This is simply our biological limit,” And another climber says, “I don’t think you can prepare,……If you take one wrong step it’s a vertical drop of about 3,000m to the crevasse and glacier below.” This is a demanding god.
“The chosen center may be anywhere. The Holy Land is no special place. It is every place that has ever been recognized and mythologized by any people as home.” Campbell, Joseph. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Myth As Metaphor and As Religion (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (p. 51).
Do our surroundings shape us by mythologizing these symbols within us? Was one landscape more intense than the other and in what way? So, what do our childhood surroundings say about us? Is there a symbol that we carry unconsciously somewhere in the deep recesses of our hearts?
Thank you Dr. Slattery for your generosity in sharing your time with us on this forum.
Shaahayda (in gratitude to you and all at jcf.org)