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Who is the next Joseph Campbell?

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    Over the last 18 years that’s a question that regularly landed in my InBox – individuals touched by Joe’s insights, wanting to know who today is carrying on in his footsteps.

    Alas,  there is only one Joseph Campbell.

    But I do understand the yearning. And, in truth, there is no one individual who is the new Joseph Campbell – but there are a whole cadre of writers, thinkers, and scholars in the field of myth who embrace and are building on Campbell’s mythological perspective. Some of them you’ll find in the Mythological Resources section of our website, and some you may discover by happy chance on the shelf of your local bookstore.

    As we have been putting these forums together, I have been looking at several of the MythBlast essays published on this site. The description of this forum includes a link to JCF’s complete MythBlast series (and I’ve included here again),  some 150 brief essays by  contemporary scholars, thinker, artists, and others active in the field of mythology.  Sometimes a MythBlast flies right by us in an email, or a Facebook post – easy to miss in the clutter of cyberspace – so I had forgotten how many gemstones there are in this collection.

    Each week JCF publishes a new MythBlast on our home page – but we keep the entire collection here onsite. Read a few – they’re relatively brief – and you’ll likely find one or two individuals whose subject choices and writing style speaks to you. Find out more about those individuals, what they might have published, and track down that work. You may well be in for a treat.

    And no matter who you are reading, remember Campbell’s advice: when you find an author who speaks to you, find out who they have read, and then find out who those authors have read, and so on … and you’ll be richly reward.


    I agree, there is no new Joseph Campbell yet many wonderful mythologists following a similar path, many who were inspired by Campbell. Thank you to the JCF for all the books and resources on Campbell and others. Another source of myth I like to read/follow are the mythic poets such as Gary Snyder and writers on folklore and fairy tales. Poet and writer Howard McCord (who was one of my writing professors at BGSU), who has won many awards for his literary work is another mythic writer and poet I have read and kept in touch with over the years. I recommend his poetry and writings as well as the poems and prose of Gary Snyder.


      Quote: “who today is carrying on in his footsteps”

      It is lazy question. Shallow and indifferent. Children to be nourished. In the heratige of JC, answer what was to be questioned and not what was questioned in ignorance. The path of the bodhisatva.



      Love your reference to poets and writers on folklore and fairy tales, Mary. I have been inspired by a number of writers on related themes since Campbell’s passing.  Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, Ann Baring’s and Jules Cashford’s stellar The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, and Ray Grasse’s The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives are among my favorite nonfiction authors on the subject from the decade following Joe’s death.

      Howard McCord has been completely off my radar – so thanks for the personal recommendation!


      Hi Stephen,

      You are so welcome, and I thank you too for the references you listed here too. The only one I have read in your list is The Waking Dream by Ray Grasse, so it looks like I have a lot of good reading to do!

      I do love the symbolic life that Grasse talks about in his book.  I see a lot of symbolism going on in my life in the “form” (psychoid form, lol!) of synchronicity. Do you like to visually read scenes symbolically? Some of us who live “The Waking Dream” seem to do that maybe even naturally–and I often think about those who are extremely visual filmmakers, how they seem to do that too. Bergman comes to mind, and Fellini. And Kirosawa. And then, photographers and artists, and poets or writers who work a lot with imagery.

      You are welcome on the mention of Howard McCord!

      Howard’s Walking Edges had such an impact on my life. I also loved his poetry, and a fun poetry book called Tales from the Black Swamp. Gary Snyder’s book Earth House Hold really got a hold of me too! 🙂 


      Mary Ann


      Hi, Mars.

      I have often wondered upon that same question–who seems to be filling the shoes of Joseph Campbell or who might come along and do that? We can yes pass on the works of Campbell and to our children and grandchildren, and there is plenty of his and others’ works to last until the end of the earth. I would need several lifetimes to finish reading everything I would like to read, and then some. I wish I could take a giant library to heaven with me, lol. Yet I think a lot of people are also looking for the contemporary ways to interpret the old myths (to continue in that tradition) and also to interpret the new myths taking place and being created in Campbell’s absence in our times. There for a while I thought that Brian Swimme had maybe 1/3 of the new myth–maybe it will take 4 or more people to “cover” the new mythic surface of the earth. (Picking up where Campbell left off with “Earthrise.”)

      I don’t think that people who ask this question are all indifferent–I consider that they truly miss Campbell and love his work and long to hear new videos, etc.  Can you explain your thoughts on how asking this question is indifferent? How it is ignorant? How it is shallow?

      There is yet the deep water and the shallow water, and both are of and in the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds. Each has its own state of shallow and/or its own measure of deep. That is what comes to my mind here, something the Tao might describe. I think back to when I was little and would wade in a shallow part of water on the side of one of the piers and because it was shallow and because the water was crystal clear I could see my feet through the water and the bottom-sand in the lake and could see all the dozens of tiny minnows swimming around my feet. That was my “shallow” back then and I have such fond memories of crystal-clear shallows.

      And then, there was also the deep. Swimming out to the buoys and hanging on, trying to touch the bottom of the lake to see how deep it was.


      Mary Ann



        Times now are muddy. How to wade to the shore from phatomless pristine depths? Follow the currents to where they bring the next promise afloat or ashore? Lifted by roaring thundergods into its heaven temporarily, to smashed to the ground again next hailstorm? Al born innocent, all faithfull, all on internet, all temptations, all true yet only personal trues. All diminishing horizons. “I’m hungry now. Feed me!” But there is no fast food for the mind. Gut their body with saturating holy sugars until filled, but it does not feed. Funny cat movies are cute, but there is only one. Hollow people. Hollow world.

        I’ve made myself an overview of actual ‘realization-consciousness-awareness’ on our human level. It’s called The Ego Labyrinth’. The heroes journey is a part of it, mainly in the middle – emotional level. The base is Darwin’s survival, the attic called Rumsfeld Quadrant (‘The Unknown Known’). From there on one interacts with ones own life, challanges and experiences. Or should be. But the promise now is so oblique, so shallow. Indifference is king, ignorance queen. In the labyrinth, let’s say an hundred, seventy are in awe of existence, ten mount them to delight only. Ten more fight ‘to rule them all’ and ten to understand it. Those last ten gaze at their feet in the breathing waters were the dare to trot, feet aground, adventurous the ankels submerged, yelling the inhaled air, heads raised to the sinking cinderpink light kissing the earth.

        It is not deep, but for so many lost of unknown depth.

        Just an explanation of some thoughts, on request.


        Over the years I have heard from more than a few persons claiming to be Joseph Campbell’s successor (which to me is a major red-flag).  Ironically, there are quite a few individuals furthering Campbell’s work in the fields of mythology, comparative religion, depth psychology, the creative imagination, self-development, and more – but none of those doing the heavy lifting are claiming to be the new Joseph Campbell. They are simply following their passion.

        I am reminded of something Joe’s friend and colleague, Professor of Comparative Religion David Miller, said during a conference in 1992 titled “A Fire in the Mind: An Evaluation of Joseph Campbell’s Creative and Intellectual Influence”, that begs repeating:

        . . . as one reflects on Joseph Campbell’s work, the question becomes:  Who is the true follower of Joseph Campbell?  Jesus preached the Kingdom and got the Church.  Jung proclaimed the soul and got the Jung Institute.  Campbell told us to follow our own bliss . . . it would be an extreme irony if, in attempting to follow his advice, we ended by following his bliss!

        The question – Who is the true student of Joseph Campbell? – is like a Zen question.  It is a bit tricky.  One should not imagine too quickly, if ever, that one knows the answer to it.  Is the true follower of Joseph Campbell the one who follows Joseph Campbell, or is it the one who follows his or her own true self?

        You can find a print edition of Miller’s remarks here


        Hi Mars,

        I read your responses a while back ago. Then my computer was acting up and soooooooo slow, and then finally crashed. So finally I am getting back to you. I agree with what you said that something can be different for different people. That no two people will see things exactly alike. It is within the polytheistic nature of the myths that any one thing such as the idea of “god” can be seen/interpreted/regarded in a myriad of ways. I too believe then that there can be more than one truth and and that any one thing can be two or more things at once–without there having to be a right or wrong or correct or incorrect. I like this quote of Jung, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are” [emboldened emphasis mine].

        But now, I would like to share with you and with anyone else here the experience of synchronicity that befell me not too long after you wrote the following–along with your response about the mummy and the bird:

        Times now are muddy. How to wade to the shore from phatomless pristine depths? Follow the currents to where they bring the next promise afloat or ashore? Lifted by roaring thundergods into its heaven temporarily, to smashed to the ground again next hailstorm? Al born innocent, all faithfull, all on internet, all temptations, all true yet only personal trues. All diminishing horizons. “I’m hungry now. Feed me!” But there is no fast food for the mind. Gut their body with saturating holy sugars until filled, but it does not feed. Funny cat movies are cute, but there is only one. Hollow people. Hollow world.

        I had an out-of-town appointment. Just as I was almost home, I switched to the most local radio station and heard that a storm was on its way with 70 mph winds. I pulled in my driveway and decided to bring my plants on my patio indoors; just as I was bringing them through the door,extremely large raindrops, but few and far between, began to fall. Soon as I and the plant were in and I shut the door, the wind came through like a tornado. Huge tree limbs fell all over my yard and my garden. The electricity went out. Some houses in the area caught fire–lightning or maybe fallen wires. The roof blew off one of the buildings downtown and one its walls tumbled down in the wind. When it was over, all the neighbors were out and we were all cleaning up all the yards. As I lifted several tree limbs to drag them into a pile, I saw dead birds all over the place, all over my yard. A baby bird landed with broken wings under my bench in front of my porch. Its eyes were not open yet. I tried to help it, save it, but could not. It had bones sticking out of its wings at its shoulders, and all I could do was try to make it as comfortable as possible. I called a local wildlife rehabilitation centers, its animal rescue service. Their phone lines were down and by the time they got back to me the next morning, the baby bird died. I talked to it, and it moved its head each time I did in my direction. So, the mummy and the bird, the bird and the mummy. There is more to this story–much more–I hope to share another time. Thus is, at times (it seems), “the symbolic life.” It seems there is often more to it than what we read into it., that sometimes the marvelous happens –such marvels. It was not long after I saw the dead birds and then the injured baby bird that I thought of the words you said and the previous posts about mummies and trying to save a bird. I believe these events are the things myths are made of, seeing the story within events, seeing the connections in a way that events are not just a bunch of empty facts of  any happenstance, but imbued with meaning–whether personal meaning and personal myth or cultural meaning in cultural myths.

        I have to add that the dead birds were smashed–smashed under branches, smashed on my concrete stone patio. Some were absolutely flattened.



          it is indeed interesting to seek on the horizon and look for who will be the next Joseph Campbell ?

          i think just as interesting is to ask the question who came before Joseph Campbell ?

          How far back can we trace the footsteps that lead directly to Joseph Campbell ?


            The next Joseph Campbell is the supraorganism that is the JCF … composed of all the individuals that enter through the portal of his teachings and find lodging and shelter As they feed on and devour his work .

            Where the vultures and eagles gather there shall be , the coming of the son of Joe …


            It is fascinating, Robert, to track Campbell’s influences, which are legion. Many, such as William Robertson Smith or Arnold van Gennep, are little known, while others (Goethe, Nietzsche, Freud) had a similar galvanizing effect on their world as Campbell has had on ours.

            Sticking with the theme of “who is the next Joseph Campbell,” I certainly appreciate and, to a degree, agree with your characterization of the Foundation as a supraorganism  “composed of all the individuals that enter through the portal of his teachings and find lodging and shelter as they feed on and devour his work” – sort of a womblike setting. But for JCF the question then becomes “then what?” An essential piece of the mission of the Joseph Campbell Foundation is to “further his pioneering work in mythology and comparative religion” – but hard to further that work if those most inspired to do so remain in the womb.

            Part of what we wrestle with here is the tension between providing a safe space for people to explore (” . . . lodging and shelter as they feed on and devour his work”), and providing support and encouragement for people to take that mythic perspective and make it their own, stepping out  into the street and applying it in the real world.

            The Foundation isn’t here to be the new Joseph Campbell; I think of JCF more as Tom Sawyer – we’re not here to whitewash that mythic fence ourselves, but to trigger your imagination and hand that brush over to you and others, so you can do the work that excites you.

            That may offer a little bit of insight into the pullback from Facebook. As heady, entertaining, informative, thought-provoking and fast-moving as the Mythic Salon could be, ultimately the focus was on consumption. Nothing wrong with that – in fact, I generally immensely enjoyed myself – but those protean exchanges moved so quickly, one post (with attached comments) fading into the next, scrolling below the fold and off the screen, slipping out of awareness and into the collective cyber stew.

            In way of contrast, Conversations of a Higher Order serves, at least ideally, as an alchemical retort, a container where those insights, inspirations, and concepts have the space and time to simmer and bubble and brew. You’ll notice conversations here don’t happen at the frenzied pace of social media, but unfold leisurely, over time. What matters isn’t how many emoji reactions a post gets, but actually connecting – putting your thought and reflections out there to feed another soul swimming in the same waters, who then feeds you in turn through the exchange of ideas.

            (Ideally, it would be nice to have both – but given how much energy and effort and time I found myself  putting into moderating the Facebook group, that ultimately proved somewhat ephemeral. I’m at that age where time is feeling more finite than ever; far better to apply what hours and energy I have in this direction.)

            I was thinking about this while reading your entries the last day or so in The Air We Breathe thread. They are the same stream-of-consciousness nuggets you’d post in the Salon, but they feel different here. Could just be me, but they come across as more substantial than on Facebook. One has the time and attention to come back to them, sample them, see how they fit into the conversation, and follow a tangent or two or three you raise off in its own direction . . . or use them as a riff into a brand new topic they inspire. And they will keep doing so: two years from now someone new to COHO will stumble across that thread, read your words, catch that spark, and add their own verse, metaphorically speaking.

            And I think I’ll do something of the same, taking my reflection on your observation above to launch a new topic in the next few days, maybe in The Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, inquiring how those who come to this space imagine themselves furthering the work of Joseph Campbell.

            Thanks for that . . .


              Hi Mary,

              Readers be aware there is now in this thread a split conversation going on, like four people at a round table talking with the opposite member only. A bridge play between S-R and M-M.

              The mummy-bird is what I would incorporate in the Darwin section framing the instinct, intuition (afloat on awareness level), primary needs like immediate food and shelter, and surviving needs like reproduction and ‘nomading’ the unspoilt horizon. From two distinctive different spieces a mutual concordance is recognised. Comparable yet with distance is what my inner feelings are regarding my daughter, safe within the nest still, but about to fly away in years to come. Caring gives that same response, faith will set an unknown course. But so bitter is the primordial memory of a young woman who’s faith I was not allowed to defuse, as it was her choice, to be respected beyond reason, to aim for adventure, ignore obvious physical signs and thrusted forward like a goddess immortal. Becoming immortal in memories until forgotten by all. So and all like the little birds.

              If the play is overly inaudiable by the shuffling cards in this double pack, you can always send me a pm.


                Dimension is the reciprocal of time


                The thread this thread such mythic allusion , Ariadne , Penelope … What webs what tapestries what garments … what fractal topography the split in conversation elicits . Such possibilities of inversion peaks and valleys highs and lows …

                Why does the caged blackbird sing ? Black is the gossamer shroud that contains the spirit of the bird …  B BBB bird is a word !!! Everybody heard about the bird . The mummy black ink bird the written word Laid to rest within the gossamer thin veiled white page . The mummified word the bird travels through time and dimension to be translated materialized Resurrected in the mind of a reader !!! Is a translation a genetically modified variation of its ancestor , evolved to suit a new linguistic environment ? What is lost in translation ? Are we observing a mere zombie a mummy golem monster ? Or a new creation a living breathing being ??


                time is an inversion of space


                Hi Mars,

                Though I’m sticking more closely with the overarching theme of “who is the next Joseph Campbell?”, especially for anyone new to the conversation, no worries about the side-channel you and Mary have taken (which is an enriching read). Naturally there  are ebbs and flows to most conversations, along with tangents galore.  Readers should be able to figure it out.

                But very much on topic is that compelling paragraph of yours that Mary picked up on:

                Times now are muddy. How to wade to the shore from phatomless pristine depths? Follow the currents to where they bring the next promise afloat or ashore? Lifted by roaring thundergods into its heaven temporarily, to smashed to the ground again next hailstorm? All born innocent, all faithfull, all on internet, all temptations, all true yet only personal trues. All diminishing horizons. “I’m hungry now. Feed me!” But there is no fast food for the mind. Gut their body with saturating holy sugars until filled, but it does not feed. Funny cat movies are cute, but there is only one. Hollow people. Hollow world.

                Yes yes yes! In a hollow world full of hollow people, no wonder so many crave the substance Joseph Campbell offers. He may be gone, but people still want to be fed – hence the hunger for the next Campbell. Of course, at least in Joe’s mind, his work involved not so much feeding the multitudes as offering observations, insights, and tools that allow those who are drawn to this mythic perspective to not just read about it, but experience that substance themselves.

                Your exchange with Mary illustrates how you both do just that, cutting through all the intellectualizing with poignant and profound imagery grounded in personal experience . . . a marvel indeed.

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