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Myth in Pop Culture

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  • #72056

    Hi Everyone,

    It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the forums, and I’ve been lurking Facebook for ages. Thank you to Stephen for the nudge and to the folks at the JCF for the revamp!

    I would describe myself as a postmodernist mythologist. I celebrate the foundation laid by scholars and storytellers, but focus my energies on contemporary popular culture and the myths we live today, with emphasis on the experience of the myth.

    I’m a Pacifica Alum (and I know there are a number of us hanging out on these forums), and work as an Associate Dean for a very, very large university (thanks mostly to the strength of our online program—especially in times like these!).

    I’m a certified (or perhaps, certifiable) Disney geek, Potter enthusiast, sometimes Whovian, life-long Trekkie, and whatever else my Mini-Me is interested in at the moment (currently, it’s space and biographies. Kids are cool).



    Toby Johnson

      Hi Priscilla, you wrote that you are interested in contemporary pop culture myths. Are you familiar with the work of Jeffrey J Kripal?

      Kripal is a professor of Comparative Religions at Rice University. He is a very prolific writer. He writes a lot about how the study of religion and myth necessarily changes how one understands the nature of religious/mythological truth (i.e., into a kind of neo-gnosticism). I think these discussions resonate with Joseph Campbell’s thoughts about “the new myth.”

      Kripal also writes about comic book heroes and character in pop culture. One of his titles, for instance, is Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal.

      He has also written a (very thick) definitive history of Esalen Institute. Of course, Campbell has a place in that discussion, both as an historical character who presented at Esalen but also as a contributor to what Kripal calls “the religion of no religion” (quoting Frederic Spiegelberg).

      I’ve read a number of Kripal’s books and have learned from them all.



      Hi Priscilla,

      It is nice to see/meet you again! I have yet to read your book on Disney!

      In mythic bliss,

      Mary Ann



      The only work by Jeffrey Kripal I’ve read is his comprehensive Esalen: The Religion of No Religion – which also served as my introduction to the thought of Frederic Spiegelberg.

      Thanks for reminding me of both these thinkers.

      Toby Johnson

        I think the most immediately relevant book is Jeffrey Kripal’s The Serpent’s Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion.

        The Serpent's WisdomThe basic theme is that the study of religions from over and above naturally results in a kind of gnosticism, i.e., an intuition that you now know something more about all the religions because you understand what they are, not just what they say. That is certainly what I got out of reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Here’s how Campbell said that:

        And so, to grasp the full value of the mythological figures that have come down to us, we must understand that they are not only symptoms of the unconscious (as indeed are all human thoughts and acts) but also controlled and intended statements of certain spiritual principles, which have remained as constant throughout the course of human history as the form and nervous structures of the human physique itself. Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world—all things and beings—are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they arise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve.

        …The function of ritual and myth is to make possible, and then to facilitate, the jump—by analogy. Forms and conceptions that the mind and its senses can comprehend are presented and arranged in such a way as to suggest a truth or openness beyond. And then, the conditions for meditation having been provided, the individual is left alone. Myth is but the penultimate; the ultimate is openness—that void, or being, beyond the categories—into which the mind must plunge alone and be dissolved… Therefore, God and the gods are only convenient means… mere symbols to move and awaken the mind, and to call it past themselves.

        Understanding that that last sentence transforms you forever, and initiates you in a new wisdom–that’s what neo-gnosticism means.


        Thanks for the recommendation (so many scrumptious choices scrolling through the list of Kripal’s works on Amazon)!


        Hi Priscilla,

        Looks like your “hello” post inspired a few responses, though, somewhat typical of discussion forums, they have wandered off on intriguing tangents.

        I’m curious if you have taken your “min-me” to any of the Disney theme parks yet (might depend on how old she is – but I assume if she’s enjoying space and biographies, she’s probably of an age to enjoy the immersive Disney experience).

      Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
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