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Mythological Order and Systems

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    Tiago Alves

      I would like to know more about the concepts of the three mythological orders that Campbell talk about on “Pathway to Bliss”. There is any other book or text about these thematic?

      “The first, primitive orders of mythology are affirmative (…) So here we have two attitudes toward the great mystery. One is of complete affirmation. You don’t say no to anything. You can control your existence and you r system of values and your social role and so on, but in your heart and in your depth, you are saying yes to it a ll. The other is indeed saying no-all the way, too. And you don’t participate in the horror of it all any more than you have to. Your whole game is to get out. A third system emerges (…). These are, as far as I know, the three main mythological points of view i n the high cultures : one is altogether affirming, another altogether rejecting, and a third says, “I will affirm the world when it gets to be the way I think it should be.””
      — Joseph Campbell: Pathway to Bliss

      Thank you


      Campbell touches on this in the brief introduction to “The Cities of God,” Chapter Two of Oriental Mythology (the second volume in The Masks of God series).

      And then here is a brief statement about the transition from the earlier perspective held by primal peoples and shamanic culture to the second, world-negating reversal of that attitude:

      “From what we know of the temper of early cultures, it is safe to assume that the myths, rites, and philosophies first associated with these symbols were rather positive than negative in their address to the pains and pleasures of existence. However, in the period of Pythagoras in Greece (c. 582–500? b.c.) and the Buddha in India (563–483 B.C.), there occurred what I have called the Great Reversal.”

      Life became known as a fiery vortex of delusion, desire, violence, and death, a burning waste. ‘All things are on fire,’ taught the Buddha in his sermon at Gaya, and in Greece the Orphic saying ‘Soma sema: The body is a tomb’ gained currency at this time, while in both domains the doctrine of reincarnation, the binding of the soul forever to this meaningless round of pain, only added urgency to the quest for some means of release. In the Buddha’s teaching, the image of the turning spoked wheel, which in the earlier period had been symbolic of the world’s glory, thus became a sign, on one hand, of the wheeling round of sorrow, and, on the other, release in the sunlike doctrine of illumination. And in the classical world the turning spoked wheel appeared also at this time as an emblem rather of life’s defeat and pain than of victory and exhilaration in the image and myth of Ixion (Figure 68), bound by Zeus to a blazing wheel of eight spokes, to be sent whirling for all time through the air.” (Creative Mythology 420)

      And then in the essay entitled “Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art” in The Mythic Dimension, in the very first section on “The Four Functions of Mythology,” Campbell also addresses these three perspectives. (The third appears in the prevailing Judeo-Christian belief system that has played such a role in shaping so much of modern culture today: Christianity generally doesn’t embrace the natural world and our natural impulses – nor do they renounce it; rather, the dominant attitude is one of a need to “correct” or fix nature.)

      You can also purchase and download Audio Lecture I.2.1 – The Thresholds of Mythology – and to hear Joseph Campbell discuss this.

      I’m sure there are more, but that’s all I can come up with at the moment. I trust that helps, Tiago.

      Tiago Alves

        Thanks Stephen!
        That will be very useful for me!
        Best Regards


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