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What Happens After This Life?

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  • #73090

    This week’s Mythological Resource on JCF’s Homepage is Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat––A Quest for Immortality, by Theodore Act and Erik Hornung.

    The Amduat (often referred to as the Egyptian Book of the Dead) traces the journey of the Sungod through the night world, to be born anew in the morning – thus offering essential guideposts for the recently deceased as they embark on the same  journey through the underworld. Though the Egyptians understood this to be a literal journey, the authors suggest the details chronicled in the Amduat present a symbolic representation of an inner psychic process of transformation and renewal – a valuable tool for us today.

    Amduat

    A significant amount of mythic material in all cultures focuses on what happens after death, as we pass from this world to the next. But, apart from the psychological insights, what are your thoughts on the transition that occurs with physical death? Is there a next world?

    #73101

    Hello Stephen,

    Your question on transition to the next world — Is there a next world?  This topic is  quite close to my heart for a number of years and I have been immersed in the books, lectures, other research by one Neurologist who is convinced that there is life after death. His conviction is based on experiments and research on patients who had NDE, and his name is Peter Fenwick. He links NDE with what the next world possibly is.

    Results of the experiments:

    “We found that these experiences were not psychotic, not drug induced and there seemed to be no unitary brain pathology. Neither did they necessarily occur when the subject was, in actual fact, close to death……. But from the point of view of scientific research, the most
    interesting were the 9% that occurred when the patient was being resuscitated after a heart
    attack, at a time when the patient was unconscious and should therefore have been quite
    unaware of their surroundings. And yet in a few cases the patient reported having ’seen’ what was happening to them and was able to recount verifiable facts about their situation.”

    There are so many common features between near-death experiences and end-of-life
    experiences that one can only conclude that the former are giving us a glimpse of another,
    different reality, one which we can hope to experience when we do actually die. For example
    the dying often talk about a strong spiritual light which draws them towards it, very similar to
    the light at the end of the tunnel seen in an NDE.

    The feeling of peace, including awareness of the presence of dead friends, relatives or
    spiritual beings, also seem to be common features in both experiences. In the NDE, visions of
    a paradise-like place, a beautiful pastoral landscape are common, and evoke the same feelings
    reported by the dying who seem, in their final hours or days, to go in and out of ‘another
    reality’ – one that is full of light, love and compassion…

    The ELE which the dying most often describe in the days or hours before death are the visitors
    who often come into their room and will stand around or sit on the deathbed in the room.
    Occasionally unknown people wait at a distance and come closer as death approaches. These
    deathbed visitors appear to be in real space as even if the dying person cannot speak, they
    can often indicate their presence by becoming more animated, or directing attention to a
    particular part of the room. Usually the visitors make it quite clear that they have come to
    take the dying person away, and they may be quite specific about the departure date (‘I’ll be
    back on Tuesday…’) ”

    Source (Perceptions of Beyond the Near Death Experience
    and at the End of Life Dr. Peter Fenwick)

    #73100

    Continued:

    I’d like to end by telling you about the experience of an old friend of mine, the violinist Paul
    Robertson, who was leader of the Medici Quartet. About six years ago Paul had an aortic
    aneurysm. During a half-hour operation to repair a tear in his aorta, Paul was under general
    anaesthetic and unconscious. His heart was stopped and his head cooled to prepare his brain for a period of brain oxygen starvation.

    After his recovery, he wrote a book. Paul writes that he was fully aware that he was dying, moving from this state to experience of the potential unification of his consciousness with that of the universe. ‘As I lay there waiting,I felt myself die – beautifully, ecstatically, transcendentally. I saw Eternity and shed the whole of myself joyfully in order to become unified with it.’

    Paul recovered, and despite all medical predictions that he would be badly damaged and
    would certainly never play the violin again, he did eventually manage this too. He lived
    another five years and during this time we talked a great deal about death and dying. His
    description of what it felt like to die was, I thought, beautiful and void of fear. When he did
    actually die, in 2016, his wife and family were with him and his wife told me what happened
    shortly before he died. ‘Paul woke up (slightly) from a deep ‘sleep’ and told me I must let
    Peter Fenwick know that ‘there is nothing new – we’ve all been there before!’’
    So what is my final conclusion? Are these experiences, so widely reported and with so many features in common, hallucinations? They are so widespread and similar that we need to go
    beyond our reductionist materialistic science to find an explanation. What can we say about
    the consciousness that seems to transcend and go beyond human life? Only that it appears
    to be a multi-dimensional space, full of energy, positive emotion and information.

    Source (Perceptions of Beyond the Near Death Experience
    and at the End of Life Dr. Peter Fenwick)

    #73099

    Shaahayda,

    Thank you for your thoughts on near death experiences (NDEs), which is a subject that fascinates me. Your reflections brought to mind an experience of mine in this area.

    I have participated in rebirthing rituals on several occasions (Rebirthing, a technique pioneered by the late Leonard Orr and Sandra Ray, akin to Stan Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork, adopts the pranic breathing central to tantric traditions; many who undergo this will recall their birth experience, and even some past-life memories). No past-life memories surfaced for me, nor did I re-experience my birth trauma, but there were a few mind-boggling moments that seem somehow to have slipped the bonds of time.

    The guide for my first rebirthing session was a good friend thoroughly trained in the technique. At his instruction I lay down on a bed and performed rapid, shallow, circular breathing—not easy to maintain for an extended period, so his coaching helped keep me focused and on track the next two hours.

    Intriguing process—monotonous at first, interminably so—but then I noticed a tingling in fingers and toes, a metallic taste in the mouth, and a heavy coldness, not shivery, but oddly refreshing, starting in the extremities and slowly moving up my limbs.

    No need to bore you with the details, but I’ll mention one tangential tidbit. Halfway through I needed to heed nature’s call, so my coach allowed the necessary break, encouraging me to maintain the circular rhythm of my breath while away. I slowly shuffled down the hall to the bathroom—and shuffle is the right word, for that’s all I could do.

    When I looked in the mirror, my face was different, the fingers of my hands were scrunched together in a tight little wedge (like a newborn babe?) with my body drawn up so that I appeared smaller—and I could not, voluntarily, release my fingers or unclench my hands (which made taking care of business a touch more challenging than usual)

    and then, back to the bed, breathing, breathing . . .

    At one point I recall thinking I had drifted off, for I heard my guide’s voice somewhere in the distance, calling me back, urging me to breathe—and I felt a little disappointed in myself, assuming I had simply fallen asleep.

    This happened twice more.

    With the process complete I finally surfaced, feeling peaceful and relaxed. That’s when my guide informed me that on the three occasions when I thought I had drifted off, I actually stopped breathing –– very different from holding my breath.

    Aaron had timed each occurrence: the last was the longest—after exhaling, I did not breathe in for a full five minutes and thirty-seven seconds! Aaron finally called me back when my lips turned blue.

    He asked where I had gone that last time after the breath had left my body.

    I recounted moving through a passageway of red rock, similar to the Siq, the entry to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra (the setting of the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail), toward a warm, welcoming, bright, loving light—not exactly white, but an ivory hue—where, at some sort of rustic cabin that proved larger on the inside than the outside, I was welcomed by my deceased father, and surrounded by a supportive crowd of friends and relatives long gone. I recall a warm, intimate, lengthy exchange with my father, though I’m not sure if words were involved; everyone else seemed somewhat amorphous and vague.

    In fact, I had a sense that the deeper I journeyed into this realm, the more vague it becomes—as if I and the world were slowly dissolving—yet I felt no anxiety about this possibility –– and then I heard Aaron’s voice, faint, but growing stronger: “…breathe… Breathe…”

    It’s a sweet memory I treasure today.

    True, there could be many explanations. It might be no more than the nitrogen “high” affecting my brain in the absence of oxygen, a hallucination triggered by self-induced hyperventilation—or it might be the dying flickers of the electrons in my brain building a pleasant image, a compensatory metaphor for the most unpleasant process (to waking ego) of the body dying.

    Yes, it could all be hallucination—but there’s one other element in the adventure where the dream intersects waking reality.

    During one of the other episodes when I stopped breathing, I recalled attending a party, meeting a cute girl, talking to her for hours on a front porch, and then, as rain descended, retreating to a hippie van parked in front of the house and, well, everything kind of faded out from there . . .

    I shared this, what?—memory? dream? wishful thinking?—with my guide.

    The other image, of the long passage with light at the end and the meeting with my father, seemed archetypal enough—but we could make neither heads nor tales of the Girl-on-the-Porch, no matter what symbols we tried to see

    . . .  until that evening, when I pedaled a borrowed bicycle seven miles across Portland to a party I had been invited to that afternoon—after the rebirthing—where I talked for hours with a now familiar girl on the front porch, until it started storming and we had to seek shelter inside a Volkswagen van!

    (Is that a Rod Serling voice-over in the background?)

    Though a part of me remains inclined to write off the encounter with my father as self-induced hallucination, the precognitive nature of the vision of the Girl-on-the-Porch makes it difficult for me to simply dismiss either episode.

    I don’t know quite what to make of it all, so I treat this as an experience of metaphor: true on the inside, not quite sure what on the outside.

    The way I process this memory is through the mythological complex of wind and spirit and breath and soul. Consciousness seems to have left my body with my breath—and consciousness returned when breath returned. However, definitely leaves me inclined to believe that something, though I know not what, does survive beyond the body, even if that is just individual consciousness being re-absorbed by a more universal Consciousness.

    #73098

    Stephen

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey. I want to share a semi-good response, as you well know that these stories are very close to my heart. I’ll be back.

    Till Then.

    Shaahayda (so very grateful)

     

    #73097

    Hello Stephen,

    I am fascinated by your experience with rebirthing. I did a bit of reading on the subject, and am thinking of going in for a session or two. They say  the rebirthing breathwork works better than talking therapies because it actually clears trauma from the body. After the second Pfizer dose, I have been experiencing very low energy, and it says with the rebirthing technique  “one can expect to experience an expanded state of consciousness – experiencing the unlimited you – and feeling more spiritually connected.” You Stephen, have been spiritually connected for as long as I have known you.

    However, definitely leaves me inclined to believe that something, though I know not what, does survive beyond the body, even if that is just individual consciousness being re-absorbed by a more universal Consciousness.”

    I am going to begin where you stopped.

    “Death is an expansion of consciousness”, wrote Peter Fenwick, having been a disbeliever for years and years after Raymond Moody’s book, “Life after Life” came out. After his transformation, he had this to say: “Science presents us with a picture of a much more mechanical universe in which there is no absolute morality and man has no purpose and no personal responsibility except to his culture and his biology”  Peter Fenwick, a  Neuropsychiatrist and Neurophysiologist is also known for his studies of epilepsy and end-of-life phenomena.

    Peter’s patients came to him with cases of  NDE….”How should I believe them when just a few years ago, my peers and I had put aside Dr. Raymond Moody’s ‘Life after Life’,  as mere fiction?”

    It’s a very difficult concept to believe in,  you either have it or not, or you meet someone whose stories, although beyond-belief, draw you in. So faced by enough NDE cases, he filed for a grant to research core experiences of people with NDE .  What he wanted to do was collect data, because faith is no longer sufficient in this day and age. Data on what causes NDEs.  “And it is data that apparently throws some light on our current concepts of Heaven and Hell – that the near-death experience seems to offer.”  (The Truth  in the Light – Peter Fenwick)

    Grant awarded, his research took a serious turn.  He observed that NDE is caused by many types of serious illnesses, but what was common in those experiences was the brain that had stopped functioning. Heart attack patients, made the best candidates for his research because they were  kept alive while their brains were on a semi break. 

    The data collection began in an atmosphere of doubt. The Doctors termed it  ‘mere hallucinations ’ because of drugs, but the nurses said, “NO, we believe the stories, there are so many now.”  Power in numbers is what propelled this project. The outcome of his research, among other things is a book, “The Art of Dying”.  This book looks at how other cultures have dealt with death and the dying process (The Tibetan “death system”, Swedenborg, etc.) and compares this with phenomena reported through his own  scientific research. It explores the experiences of health care workers who are involved with EOL-care  and who feel that they need a better understanding of the dying process.

    A Nurse/Director of a Health Care Center in Canada, BC is reported to have said, “No one dies alone in my hospital.”  Why, she was asked. Her response: On her first meeting with her hospice patients, she asks, “Who do you think will come to collect you?”  “Just dwell on that. ” Sooner or later they give a name, say, “Meghan” or “Mary” or Fatima”.  Then each morning she (the Nurse) asks them, “Did Meghan or Mary or Fatima visit you?” And if the answer is “No”, she says to keep on waiting. And one day, the answer is “Yes”, so she then says, “Next time Mary or Meghan come for you, go!” So, it’s generally a matter of a day or two when the patient passes peacefully.

    Another great book on Dying is by Monika Renz, a Swiss Psychiatrist. “Renz divides dying into three parts: pre-transition, transition, and post-transition. As we die, all egoism and ego-centered perception fall away, bringing us to another state of consciousness, a different register of sensitivity, and an alternative dimension of spiritual connectedness. As patients pass through these stages, they offer nonverbal signals that indicate their gradual withdrawal from everyday consciousness. This transformation explains why emotional and spiritual issues become enhanced during the dying process. Relatives and practitioners are often deeply impressed and feel a sense of awe. Fear and struggle shift to trust and peace; denial melts into acceptance. At first, family problems and the need for reconciliation are urgent, but gradually these concerns fade. By delineating these processes, Renz helps practitioners grow more cognizant of the changing emotions and symptoms of the patients under their care, enabling them to respond with the utmost respect for their patients’ dignity.” She tells her patients, or the relatives of those dying, “Be Curious” Among her patients, the group that was curious had a fascinating and creative end of life experience.

    In all of this I observe that Medical Science has enabled the validation of the very event that its members once doubted.

    Shaahayda

     

    #73096

    Continued:

    So Peter Fenwick wrote, “And it is data that apparently throws some light on our current concepts of Heaven and Hell – that the near-death experience seems to offer.”  (The Truth  in the Light – Peter Fenwick).

    Such themes of science inching closer to shed its light on traditions, so called superstitions, omens, beliefs,  hallucinations, and as you well put, ” something, though I know not what, does survive beyond the body” was also put to test in Japan in 2017.

    My old friend Bill Powers, from MIT’s Media Lab, was conducting a seminar near Kyoto in 2017 when the conversation turned to artificial intelligence. One of the high-level Japanese executives present—from a celebrated international communications company—said that the great blessing of artificial intelligence would be that it might allow us to converse more easily with the dead. “I’d never thought of it like that,” Bill said to me next day. “Which of us would? That cutting-edge technology might be not so much about surging into the future as more freely accessing the wise ghosts of the past?” Iyer, Pico. A Beginner’s Guide to Japan (p. 142). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    As I recall, Stephen,  Did not Joe Campbell say something very similar,  many many years ago, (though I do not recall where) that is, science and religion will come closer instead of moving apart?

    Shaahayda

     

    #73095

    Stephen Gerringer wrote:

    This week’s Mythological Resource on JCF’s Homepage is Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat––A Quest for Immortality, by Theodore Act and Erik Hornung.

    Hey Stephen, I followed this link, and it eventually took me to a page on Amazon where the book can be bought – is this what you intended? Thanks.

    Sidenote: I coincidentally watched a Youtube vid today about magic and “demons” in ancient Egypt today. Real solid scholarship. Campbell is one of my faves, but he attracts a lot of new agey folk – which is fine – but I do like the contrast with scholars who attract a more secular crowd:

    Public Lecture by Rita Lucarelli, Associate Professor of Egyptology, Department of Near Eastern Studies; Faculty Curator of Egyptology, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley via Harvard Museum of Near East.

     

    #73094

    A Nurse/Director of a Health Care Center in Canada, BC is reported to have said, “No one dies alone in my hospital.” Why, she was asked. Her response: On her first meeting with her hospice patients, she asks, “Who do you think will come to collect you?” “Just dwell on that. ”

    Hi Shahaayda,

    Thanks for sharing. I worked as a  hospice nurse for a few months last year, and it was interesting. I got to see a few people who were on the edge of death, and in my 10-year nursing career I’ve seen a few die in facilities.

    FYI – I haven’t heard other nurses talk much about NDEs or patients reporting common images or experiences. Of course, I’m just one person, and my experience is limited, but I thought I should mention that in my career, this information wasn’t passed around frequently or widely. Some topics were, but this wasn’t one of them… and the exposure I had to Chaplains in Hospice, they didn’t mention it either.

    I can say that when someone died in the nursing home, we had a tradition in some places where we opened a window to let the spirit out. I always liked that tradition and did it when I could. Cheers.

     

     

    #73093

    androoshka writes:

    Hey Stephen, I followed this link, and it eventually took me to a page on Amazon where the book can be bought – is this what you intended?

    Not exactly – my intention was simply to draw attention to the description of the Mythological Resource highlighted that week on JCF’s home page (I am fascinated by Egyptian mythology, with several works on hieroglyphs as well as myths on my shelves – including the German text of Adolf Erman’s 1909 Die Ägyptische Religion). However, I don’t select each week’s resource; I assume the inclusion of the Amazon link was to provide the easiest and most ubiquitous access to the resource (given my druthers – and Amazon’s dominance of the booksellers’ market – I would prefer including a link or two as well to other independent online bookstores, like Powell’s).

    Of course, that depends on the nature of the selection: this week’s resource – SurLaLanne Fairytales – is a website, so no direction to a bookstore at all.

    Your mention of Joseph Campbell’s “new agey” following is well taken. Campbell wrote for a popular audience, but grounded his work in scholarship, and in science – so at JCF we sometimes walk a fine line between the two.

    Certainly Joe had no problem with “things that go bump in the night”: he cast his own astrological chart, as well as that of  others, “as a kind of mythological Rorschach” in the words of his biographers – which helped affirm his and Jean’s compatibility in his mind before they were married (eventually giving up that practice because “they gave me a feeling I knew too much about people; you know you get these intimate things. . .”); Campbell also observed a Pueblo rain ceremony that began with nary a cloud in the sky and ended with a drenching downpour; and he was surprised, after participating in a yamabushi fire walk ceremony in 1955 in Japan (decades before fire walking became a New Age trend in Marin County), to realize his sprained ankle was healed and the swelling gone.

    However, in his work his scholarship was rigorous – an approach reinforced by his work editing Heinrich Zimmer’s notes:

    [T]he mistakes of Zimmer that I had to correct while writing and that I have discovered since, have discredited for me, as a final attitude, the rather slapdash intuitivism of my dear master. I am now for a very careful, meticulous checking after all the lovely intuitions: we have got to have both, if we are going to have a book.” (Asian Journals, 501)

    Campbell also occasionally lamented “the women who suddenly discover the goddess, they know all about the mythology of Greece and Rome and everything within all of 20 minutes, because they are themselves ‘the goddess’ and they know by intuition all these things” (from an interview July 2, 1984, on WBAI’s “Natural Living”).

    Some years ago JCF granted permission to use a Joseph Campbell quote to the author of what was eventually published as The Secret – which spawned a movement that associated Campbell, along with other teachers and thinkers, with what I think of as “wishcraft” (or “blisscraft”). Of course there is some overlap with “New Age” thought, but in my mind the primary difference between Joseph Campbell’s perspective and much of what has been identified as New Age philosophy is that Joe is not afraid of the dark: he says “yea” to life in all its ecstasy and its agony.

    The Foundation finds the best way to provide pushback against those who would co-opt Joe’s message to fit a “happy happy joy joy” philosophy is to follow his scholarship (“a very careful, meticulous checking after all the lovely intuitions: we have got to have both”).

     

    #73092

    Not exactly – my intention was simply to draw attention to the description of the Mythological Resource highlighted that week on JCF’s home page

    Okay. Thanks, Steve. I was just checking, because I thought it might lead to an excerpt from the text or something. I was wondering if it was some material that was made to be reviewed online and then subsequently discussed by forum members or something like that.

    Of course, that depends on the nature of the selection: this week’s resource – SurLaLanne Fairytales – is a website

    Ahh.. okay, I see. So do people discuss these weekly resources referrals? Or does it have some other purpose?

    Re: JC and “new age” – I hope I didn’t sound pretentious or anything. I’m somewhat of a fluffy hippie myself. I’ve got lots of incense in my van. I smudge with wild sage I picked in Eastern Oregon, and I love hot spring soaks and such – so no “judgements” from me. I just like hard scholarship, and that’s usually rarer than popular sentiments. In any case, I love it all 🙂

    Interesting bio details of Campbell’s personal experiences with ritual, astrology and so on. Where did you hear about those adventures?

    The Erdman-Egyptolgy text – are you reading it in German, or a translation? I spent a little time looking up Adolph Bastian, who JC referenced frequently (especially Elementargedanken). I only found a translation that’s a sort of digest of Bastian’s extensive work, and it was written in the 1980s – so that means JC was reading Bastian’s work in 19th century German?! LOL. He was definitely a b@d@ss scholar. The translator also remarked that Bastian wrote in a very prosaic, yet incredibly dense way that was too tedious for direct translation… So it’s not even “easy” German… if there is such a thing.

    And more thanks for mentioning some popular reception and reactions to JC’s work. I like keeping abreast of pop-culture… wishcraft-blisscraft… love it.

    Speaking of that sentiment, I lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost 15 years, and I got to rub elbows with a lot of “rosey-eyed” folks (and a few, less rosey environmental “extremists” and radical left-leaning political types.) In that melange, I got to know a few yoga teachers and massage therapists and such, so I know I’ve heard the phrase “follow your bliss” somewhere, somehow… but I first really took note of it when I saw it mentioned in the TV series, “The Good Place” – are you familiar with it? If not, I highly recommend it. It was masterminded by a guy who’s both a successful Hollywood-type, and a philosopher. Very cool.

    So if I want to follow the rigorous and systematic academic work of JC – what titles do you suggest I look at?

    Cheers,
    Andy

    #73091

    Andy (aka aqndrooshka), you ask

    So do people discuss these weekly resources referrals? Or does it have some other purpose?”

    Each week there are are new offerings on JCF’s home page: a featured video clip of Campbell; a featured audio clip from a lecture; a Joseph Campbell quotation; a mythological resource; and a MythBlast essay from a contemporary mythologist, psychologist, artist, thinker, etc. All these offerings are loosely related to the theme under discussion in that week’s MythBlast. (Also, at the start of every month, we post a free download from Campbell’s work that stays up for four weeks).

    I seem to recall we had recently had discussions here in Conversations of a Higher Order (COHO) touching on the afterlife, so I thought I would share that week’s Mythological Resource.

    You also write

    Interesting bio details of Campbell’s personal experiences with ritual, astrology and so on. Where did you hear about those adventures?”

    Various places. There are wonderful details in the Joseph Campbell bio by Stephen and Robin Larsen, A Fire in the Mind. I’ve also had access in the past to Campbell’s personal journals (I once transported a couple volumes from the Foundation’s office in the Bay Area, back in the brief period when JCF had a physical office, to the archives at OPUS near Santa Barbara – so, for a few days before the drive down I guarded them closely in my home, and those days stayed up nearly all night poring over the pages while wearing white archivist’s gloves).

    I have read Erman’s Die Ägyptische Religion and still consult it as needed (I am much better at reading German than speaking it – far more practice). I have all four volumes of The Masks of God in German; much as I love Campbell in English, his prose seems to me to have even greater depth in German – many of his favorite thinkers and most important influences are German.

    (In France at the Sorbonne on a Proudfit scholarship after earning his Master’s Degree, Campbell found all the best scholarship on his subject was in German – so he applied and was approved for an extra year of funding, and transferred to the University of Heidelberg, where he studied German and Sanskrit. While there – and just learning German – he read Jung’s seminal Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido, translated into English as Symbols of Transformation – Volume 5 of Jung’s Collected Works – which precipitated Jung’s break with Freud . . . damn impressive, considering reading Jung can be an ambitious undertaking in English.

    (If you ever have the chance to visit Joseph Campbell’s personal library on one of the campuses of the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California, and you pull books in foreign languages off the shelf and open them, you’ll find his margin notes in a German book in German, in French tome in French, in a Sanskrit text Sanskrit, and so on; he even taught himself Russian at one point. This is also why some passages from Campbell includes in his work from other authors often can’t be found in exactly that form in published translations, because Joe read them in the original and supplied his own translation.)

    As for this question:

    So if I want to follow the rigorous and systematic academic work of JC – what titles do you suggest I look at?

    I thought the answer to that would better fit in The Works of Joseph Campbell forum, so I started a new thread here.

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