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“Myth-Construing” and other puns

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    Originally was going to add this to Joseph Campbell in culture, but no longer see that link.
    Discussions about mis-understandings are something ringing in the collective consciousness…but my thought this time around is less personal and more based on immediate perspective.

    Three myth puns have been rumbling in my mind. Just silliness perhaps.
    One is the above “Myth-construing,”

    and the other two are “Myth-understanding,” and “Myth-communicating.” They each could have a positive or negative take depending on perception.

    But for now Myth-construing…

    This was triggered by an article paper, which took a derisive view of “the hero mindset.” I can understand that especially with the glorification and commercialization of “super heroes,” etc.

    But there appeared to be an issue with the idea of “the hero/heroine quest.”

    My sense was the paper Broadbrushed everything and made oversimplification of the view.
    In short Heroes are always in it for themselves, see themselves as saviors, and will not take advice from others but will  force their advice on others.
    (this completely ignores the deeper aspects of quests which lose ego and return to heart…or that not all adventurers go on adventures just to be heroes)

    It seems like a dose of Joe Campbell would make for some nice grounding here heh heh.

    Yet everything from colonization to other aggressions is blamed on “the hero quest,” which has been misunderstood and simplified to always mean the Ego Quest.
    The answer therefore is to “lose the hero/heroine quest,” in order to attend to a collective philosophy which is assumed to be healthier.
    Yet the irony remains that the individual quest and realization of the universal consciousness shared by ALL are not antithetical to each other.
    But the new take is somehow they are.
    Wonder what Joe Campbell would make of these days?


    ”Myth Communicating” and “Myth Understanding”

    So some apologies…the above was a little bit of a rant…grin…though there have been times, I have wished to challenge Campbell on some perspectives…just for fun/lively debate.

    “Myth Communicating”  is about the challenge of talking about myths or from a mythic take to others with different life experiences.
    I was thinking about kindness/etiquette and compassion. But can see that everyone here is very respectful so I’m talking to the choir.
    The moments which have challenged me are when I’m expressing something from Campbell about various myths sometimes that goes well and other times I’m reminded it’s just someone’s opinion. So that’s interesting…
    And I also sense especially because there are a lot of lonely people in the world some even without pets…they need an invisible “concrete” Presence to lean on for comfort. By whatever name Jesus…etc. And who am I to take away their comfort of spirit? What gives them hope for each day? (Understanding this is not the same as evangelizing/or crusading-what undoubtedly set Campbell and others away from their birth religions)

    Everyone has his/her/their journey.
    And I can no more put my face on them than they can on me.

    The Other Challenge is what can be accepted as Myth?
    Campbell made a stretch In Occidental Mythology because he crossed over into Mainstream religions of today. I thought nothing of it twenty years ago…understanding he was speaking of all the “Stories/Symbols/Psyche/Perspective,”through thousands of years in Mid and Near East.
    Sometimes I think what is considered Myth is much more narrow today.
    Everything from Sumer/Egypt/Greece and Rome/Vikings/Gaels can be considered Myth.
    But Religions probably are retaining a not-myth status…as being Religions.
    The East might be more open but not sure.

    Then there is the whole other subject of the indigenous cultures around the world who now have the ability to tell their stories “in their own ways.” There has been some friction over those scholars more than just  Campbell who studied their cultures as “Outsiders,” for many the “Inside View,” was/is the most important because it’s their right to tell their own stories without any “white-eye” or “outsider,” interpretation. And I’m sure some would also argue “our stories aren’t myth”…except not all natives are traditionalists it’s a mix. But they are reclaiming their culture.
    Wonder what Campbell would make of a book written by a modern indigenous person from their inner perspective?
    (Understanding Native also means “modern,” not a relic of the past)

    I’m sure it might be a challenging navigation but challenges can still be fun with a good mindset.

    And then there are some who see the word “Goddess,” not in a metaphoric or empowering way but instead see it as a superficial description. That one surprised me…related to Mary in Catholic tradition…that the idea of her as a Goddess was to put her on a pedestal apparently a very patriarchal thing to do…where a woman has all this pressure to live up to some perfect ideal.
    I never thought of it that way but always a different perspective out there chuckle.

    Yet Mary still has a strong presence but more as a Woman. So definitely respect there. But it is her “Yes,” which makes her deed profound because it echoes around the world. And is positive for all women.
    Because there is a strong women’s movement in the Church but not exactly as one might expect…heh heh.

    So myth-navigation can be quite the journey!!! Since everyone has a different view! That’s life!



    Hey There, Sunbug,

    Nothing wrong with challenging Joseph Campbell – that was something he expected as a scholar, and embraced. Indeed, as his colleague David Miller (author and professor of comparative religions) has pointed out, on more than one occasion Campbell was delighted to discover he had been in error. (Miller offered an example of bumping into Campbell right after Joe learned he had been wrong in his understanding and interpretation of Melanesian myths and rituals – the man was almost ebullient; Campbell’s bliss wasn’t to be right, but to increase his knowledge and understanding).

    Briefly, identifying “the hero” with the muscular ego is not at all unusual. James Hillman – friend and colleague of Campbell – does exactly that, and I believe Joe himself had no trouble with that sense, especially at the start of the journey (when most heroes-to-be, from Luke Skywalker to Moses to King Arthur are most pre-occupied with ego concerns).

    In conversation with Bill Moyers, Campbell observes, ““A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” That can be someone who risks their life or sacrifices oneself for others, or for an ideal. As any good scholar, Campbell defines his terms to distinguish this usage of “hero” from popular usage, as well as that of other thinkers. (Ayn Rand, for example, is also closely identified with “the hero” – but in her conception, a hero never sacrifices him or herself for others, always acting out of self-interest – a polar opposite to Campbell’s reference to heroes in myth).

    So, from one perspective, over the course of the hero’s journey, an individual ego (someone pre-occupied with his or her own ego concerns) is challenged and transforms as that ego dies and is reborn as a Self, focused more on wholeness and concerns beyond just one’s own ego.

    Sure, many critics fall back on stereotype and claim “Heroes are always in it for themselves, see themselves as saviors, and will not take advice from others but will  force their advice on others” – which seems more the description of a narcissist – no surprise . . . more than a few narcissists in their megalomania see themselves as heroic figures; nevertheless, I would take issue with projecting that pathology onto the concept of hero, any more than one would project the pathology of authoritarian control-freaks onto everyone who is a father.

    (That criticism also ignores the fact that many of the “heroes” of literature and myth that Campbell references do not recognize themselves as heroes.)

    I do understand the criticism of the hero going it alone. The hero is often left outside the dominant culture, and finds her or himself up against prevailing societal norms (from Jesus, for example, to the Buddha, or Picasso, or Martin Luther King, Jr.); naturally, those invested in the society prefer everyone go along to get along and simply conform.

    But there is something to be said for the collective hero (e.g., Campbell notes the primary hero of the Tanach – or Old Testament – isn’t Abraham or Joseph or Moses or King David, but the children of Israel – a collective hero: the Chosen People, who conform to the trajectory of the Hero’s Journey). As Campbell’s friend and publisher (and JCF president) Bob Walter noted in conversation with William Shatner, Captain Kirk was not the hero of Star Trek; rather, the hero was the Enterprise – and her crew – which kept being reborn in future iterations in the Star Trek films and The Next Generation television series

    . . . but the individual and the collective hero need not be mutually exclusive. As you point out, “the irony remains that the individual quest and realization of the universal consciousness shared by ALL are not antithetical to each other.”

    However, I have over time come to realize it’s not necessary to rebut those who critique Campbell or come at myth from a different point of view. Sometimes those differences are a result of misunderstanding what Campbell is saying, and sometimes just a question of vocabulary – so the best approach, in my mind, is not to argue in a specific forum with those who take a contrary position, but do my best to convey Campbell’s perspective as clearly as possible (preferably in his own words), and let others take from that what they will.

    Thanks for initiating this discussion, Sunbug. I have thoughts on your other post as well, but domestic responsibilities, alas, are calling. (I’m afraid my wife won’t allow me to refuse that quest . . .)


    Hello Sunbug,

    You bring such rich and robust points here, “Everyone has his/her/their journey.
    And I can no more put my face on them than they can on me.

    I agree with you there> No one seemed to understand my personal journey in my own household, and some still think, I had lost my mind, when I thought I was following my bliss, but I didn’t think so on some issues, and on others, I might have. (In hindsight I can just laugh and take a comedic view of things). When things got tough, I kept Campbell’s words very close to my heart, “As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don’t bother to brush it off”

    That said, Joe Campbell’s hero/heroine cues for one’s hero path are all  here, and I think, for you too. You write, “Yet the irony remains that the individual quest and realization of the universal consciousness shared by ALL are not antithetical to each other. But the new take is somehow they are.”

    The Hero Path

    And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
    — Joseph Campbell
    The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 18)
    Find more quotations at
    For me that has been the best guide

    So, I think, “where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” is the line where the individual and the All seem to merge. And the individual hero does not exclude the collective hero, I think.

    My personal take on Joe’s Hero path, is a “Road to the Land of Surprises”– what else?  And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god” That’s surprise number 1. where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Surprise number 2. And on and on.




    Stephen what you wrote resonates exactly with all those thoughts rumbling in my head…

    And so too Shaahayda…

    That is it to a T!

    And yes Stephen I’ve learned not to engage in rebuttals, which would be the equivalent of a tangle of Ariadne’s thread! Though if I allow enough time and space might be interesting to think on the Challenging Campbell aspect.
    My ornithologist friend in Maine has the same love of a challenge and being surprised in his studies and even thrilled to be wrong because of discovery! (Just as you referenced Stephen) and you emphasized Shaahayda!

    My gut pause was not so much on the opinion. We all have those…heh heh.
    But what seemed to be a call for re-education or reform to dump the hero quest. When I would see it more to dump the “narcissist quest.” Understandable. Though there was also a take the “hero quest is a primarily European thing.” So yeah can definitely see the complication and reasoning there. Yet non-European indigenous cultures still have vision quests/walk abouts in their history.

    And yes Stephen I do remember Campbell referencing in wonder how the hero became the “people” In Jewish history. I can relate vicariously having played the fiddler on the roof twice, which becomes a symbol for Anatevek sp? And the people in that town…

    And Star Trek too…the Enterprise…the crew as the hero,…My mom loved Star Trek.
    I think Kirk and Spock could also be like the Twin Quest of the Navajo…

    Or the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings.
    But kind of interesting too as that team comes more out of the forest…than the center. Up Campbell’s alley.

    If you have ever seen the Star Trek remake from 2009…Kirk does have a moment where even though the trickster and troublemaker he has information no one is interested in hearing because he’s still smart and remembers what he hears…and that info is vital to keeping the team on the enterprise alive…then it moves back into everyone’s story. Spock…has his reckoning too. And the time element allows the original Leonard Nimoy to make a lovely cameo (if sad)

    But away from that tangent…my take is that sometimes there is something in the collective human psyche that grasps onto “absolutes,” or “absolutism,” even without religion… absolutes, which often have very little to do with intuition or reason individual/team hero/heroine.

    That is why I love Campbell’s view to surprise and my naturalist friend, Bernd Heinrich and Clarice Bowman who spoke of not caging oneself from God’s surprise!!


    Dear Sunbug,

    Now onto your point number two:—

    The Other Challenge is what can be accepted as Myth?
    Campbell made a stretch In Occidental Mythology because he crossed over into Mainstream religions of today. I thought nothing of it twenty years ago…understanding he was speaking of all the “Stories/Symbols/Psyche/Perspective,”through thousands of years in Mid and Near East.
    Sometimes I think what is considered Myth is much more narrow today.”

    Sunbug, I had a number of answers from Joe’s various texts, but today, listening to Joe’s podcast on “living your Personal Myth”, hosted by @Brad Olson, I landed on the right words — words that seemed perfect for an answer to your question, and mine too. (Link Posted by Stephen in the category: Exploring Your Personal Mythology,  and here I’ll repost:  “Living Your Personal Myth” (click on title to listen or learn more – it’s free – or find this series on whatever platform you listen to podcasts).

    What can be accepted as a Myth: Essentially, a myth begins when you are seized by something much larger than yourself, and for which you are willing to surrender comfort, safety, security (all of Maslow’s basic needs) and you shoot right to self-actualization. Such a seizure ushers in what Joe calls  a Mythic Life. The seizure creates a condition where one appears deluded, disconnected, loses interest in all the basic needs,  and self esteem is out the window. Here, you live the deep mystery of life, and can become disconnected. Your dreams, and your dream world can reconnect you to every day life once again.  (Just a brief summary of Joe’s lecture) I know you will enjoy it if you have not already listened to it.

    Brad Olson adds, “perhaps one’s personal myth is known retrospectively, as one nears the end of one’s life”




    Thanks for the link Shaahayda!

    That was great! Both Bradley Olson and Joe Campbell round up most of the thoughts bumping around in my psyche! Heh heh.

    Brought back memories of listening to the Power of Myth too!

    Myths open us…they do not define us.

    Love that!

    I want to be more succinct (good luck sun bug har har!)

    There are many nuances to Campbell, much to ponder and reflect…and challenge…but I think there was always enough that resonated with me… and I still feel a jist of what he expressed.

    My thoughts were on the sensitivities needed today even communicating about myth (not rebuttals-Stephen is right that’s a tangle of Ariadne’s thread best let be!)

    But to the point: some would be offended to have their Religion or any “Main Religion”  Ever equated with myth.

    I am thinking in terms of Semantics, but a serious take albeit with exceptions to the rule.
    There is one Episcopal Preacher, who quotes Campbell all the time!

    But it’s the idea that there is Comparative Religion (real belief systems)

    And then there is “Mythology” and the Twain can never meet!!
    But I imagine it’s based on a broadbrushed definition of Myth: made up stories usually Greek etc. 

    When Campbell mentions
    The Universal Aspect and the Local Aspect…that helped clarify my other thoughts.

    The Eastern traditions seem to have a grasp on this…

    But today because of cultural sensitivity Highly Understandable.

    And because of Conquering/Colonization and other past sorrows…:(

    Compassion must allow the Local view of various cultures the first respect and yield to it. Maybe there is a Universal view within a Local view….

    But the point is that the stories of many cultures were written down from the outside-in…by “outsiders,” so NOW that communication is much broader each culture can tell their stories in their OWN way with their OWN voices…

    I could see that being a challenge for Campbell…

    Though interestingly, someone like Robert Mirabal because of travel also had a Campbell like perspective even though he also carried the traditions of his Pueblo culture.

    Well it’s all interesting and maybe this time around I’ll close more succinctly!!



      Some thoughts to your initial post:

      The triplet of ‘myth-construing’, ‘myth-understanding’, and ‘myth-communicating’ are a three-bond inseparateble. The myth story is mirroring, it counters backwards too. Telling a story (any story in whatsoever form) is a distancing bridge between teller/writer ad reader/listener, rendering one’s experience into one’s other one. A rough translation will happen, but very doable as there was not so a distance as might appear. We’re stepping willingly into others former steps.

      This superhero-thing is very, very much painted by the last few centuries, where the occidential (western) ‘civilization’ has smothered all others, narrowing the broad spectrum to a singularity of greed, conquer and envy. But that’s not the whole story, it’s a minor contempoarly chapter actually. The current ‘white-eye’ view prooves rather inappropiate, to name global warming just one. A reform of this dominating culture can only come from within, after a fundamental confrontation, the opponents east and (more) west are preparing peacefully. The key to this counts for every domination throughout time and space: authenticity.

      We’re left to interpret the current ‘view’ into a more global, timeless perception and adopt local variaties accordingly, not to loose this authentical view.

      And the ultimate challange? How did it happen that this free-minded individual occidental viewpoint and way of life, overwhelmed the oriental subjugate-minded common-mode stasis? What did happen the last two odd centuries, one both opposites? There is very much to say about this issue and I’m really not able, nor willing, and not capable to judge whatsoever.


      Thank you Mars for that excellent reflection!
      As I wrote the word play, that inseparableness of the three felt woven together! You are right!
      I love your use of “mirroring,” to describe the mythic story…and “bridging the distance,” between the “teller/writer,” and “reader/listener…”

      “Rendering one’s experience into another one’s.”

      It gives the experience/story life and energy, which is shared or re-experienced in a new way across that bridge.
      I have mostly experienced positive in occasionally referencing Campbell or myth in conversation…very much what you describe above as far as crossing the bridge…doable.

      “Myths open us…they do not define us…”

      That line sticks in my mind because of

      also deducing a closing aspect in response to some “mythic communication.”
      Mainly, I think due to Myth being perceived with a more shallow or general definition. (Old Made up Stories)

      When you write of Occidental “civilization,” smothering all others narrowing the broad spectrum to a singularity of greed,” 

      It is difficult not to imagine a lament for all those individuals (not ego-driven) hidden and buried under “the broad spectrum,”

      Very little room for Thoreau’s living with the land…or John Denvers or  Mirabal the Taos Pueblo …or Jane Goodalls, or Judith Jameson (Alvin Ailey) following individual unique roads, which still reach out beyond themselves making that bridge to others not out of greed but a desire to experience/share something deeper.

      It feels too easy to see ALL the negative aspect especially when grouped up but as you said it’s a small chapter.

      A reform from within makes sense. But alas…human nature throughout history has a pattern of attachment to the Reform from without. And that has played out in myriads of ways and reflected in our stories and histories.
      It will be interesting to see how it will go…within/without…

      Then there are the myths and stories which throw in some odd tangent or unexpected path into the woods as an unexpected key to some puzzle or another. Just to confuse the trip planner…kidding.

      I’m sure the poets would prefer one pebble in the water… and the ripple effect…but Campbell would probably say life is “Messy.”

      I don’t blame you on that last summary paragraph. It is a cavern best observed at a distance… and threads perhaps best not followed…you have knowledge of them but also are aware of the tangles that might ensue…

      good counsel.




        …path into the woods…

        Reminds me about Frazer’s Golden Bough, an accumulation of assumptions and speculations, but at least showing us a perspective of the unwritten and distant ancient life. (He’s even been knighted for it!) It is all and about to explain what the priest in the wood holds for what purpose. Although written as late 19-century science (hmm…), one can better read it as modern myth. It is a ‘forbidden’ book! Diana’s temple there is a ruin, Turners painting an artistic rendition (approx in the same time), Macaulay’s poem a haunting echo: Those trees in whose grim shadow / The ghastly priest doth reign / The priest who slew the slayer / And shall himself be slain.

        …as an unexpected key…

        Another jump in my memory: a science fiction book (name and title forgotten) where a ‘mule’ (a somesort gifted person) changes unexpected the predicted and firmly course set evolution of a vast civilisation. It takes a very long time before the ripples have disappeared. Like a former guy in a white house, in another direction though.


        The Golden Bough - JMW Turner


        Talk about interweaving! Fraser’s Golden Bough, Turner’s painting (love that!  Eerie and luminous at once) And the lines from MacCauley’s poem!
        Thank you for sharing that Mars!!

        Thinking of Diana and the luminous moon which also has its shadow side..

        How the rough craters loom into a new perspective with the help of refractor telescope a terrain of different stories…

        New knowledge through measurements and precision…ongoing…

        Yet I think there is still a wonder held in balance alongside all the acquired knowledge and knowledge yet to be…the discoveries waiting to be noticed…

        Or gaining that horizon to see the earth from the moon.

        My Mother taught astronomy and had the wonderful experience of teaching astronomy at Fernbank and seeing the Lunar Module through the big telescope in 1969…when NBC covered Apollo 11…(there again a metaphor Diana’s brother!)

        Mother later had a small observatory and the people who saw sights through  that telescope said it blew their mind…

        (The Messier objects, Nebulas and Galaxies as well as close ups of the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.)

        Some were inspired to a love of astronomy because of that.

        It’s almost like having two experiences

        Seeing the moon with all the new discoveries and studies that have unlocked the mysteries of old

        AND imagining what it was like for the ancestors of the past to behold this bright yet shadowed orb shifting through its phases in the sky and an occasional eclipse.

        Or to celebrate the landing of the parachuted Rover on Mars!

        The unexpected comes in many forms.
        And we all hope for that which brings positive ripples even if the journey brings a metaphoric unexpected key.

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