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Joseph Campbell Research

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Essay title: Joseph Campbell Research

From the Bible to the Upanishads, the Koran to the teachings of the Buddha, Greek myth to American Indian folklore, the similarities between beliefs, their borrowed deities, their shared iconography, their reinvented tales and common themes, are all revealed to be so astonishingly interconnected, so obviously cut from the same internal psychological cloth, and so beautifully a part of all cultures, that to wage war in the name of one is to wage war on them all.

And to think of any one as superior to the others is to do violence to the very ideas and energies they illumine, and only serves to isolate, and enrage, and induce severe diarrhetic paranoia.

"Myths are probably one of the most misunderstood phenomena because of their slightly absurd and almost unreal elements. While ancient myths may have lost their glory to many, they are still considered important by people like Joseph Campbell who have tried to unearth the mystery surrounding them. Campbell in his book Power of Myth has tried to highlight just that- 'power of myths'. Why are myths important, what function do they serve, what is their connection to our modern lives and reality. These are some of the questions that Campbell seeks to answer in his book, which is actually a series of dialogues with Bill Moyers."

"As present-day humans we can trace the physical growth of the human species by examining 'man the hunter', 'man the toolmaker', 'man the city builder, and so on. These are the most often used explanations to trace the path of the human species, but according to Campbell, these aspects are only one-half of the human life cycle. The other half and more important part of the development of the human species lies in the human psyche. It is within the human psyche that the spiritual growth and the spiritual experience of life resides and functions. The clues to this part of the development of the human species can be found in the human created mythology that forms the core of the many different religious traditions found both historically and today in the twentieth century. "

In terms of Greek and Arthurian heroes, the resolution of problems such as the acceptance of duality and harmony often pitted the individualist nature of the hero against a sort of guiding patronage system instilled by either the gods, royalty, or both. Campbell uses the Greek story of Persephone and Demeter as a guiding example, but there are many other examples in Greek myth of the gods acting as intercessors in the mortal realm and providing the sort of conservative instruction advocated by myths. Love in Greek myth is often something that is aligned with supernatural fate, as when the mortal woman who is chased by a god finds herself turned into a dryad, or into some other representational totem. Love is also the source of problematic blame in terms of the battles surrounding Troy in Greek myth and legend. But in any case, the heroes of these myths, when they are acting alone, show that they are stemming from an individual response which must be tailored by the intercession of the gods. If the hero is too individualist and denies the patronage system of the gods and oracles, as Oedipus did, the results are generally tragic."

Joseph Campbell, in Primitive Mythology: The Masks of God, argues that humankind, despite its many differences, has historically shown more similarities overall. Specifically, the author believes, from his analysis of the evidence, that there is a "unity of the race of man, not only in its biology but also in its spiritual history, which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony." He further argues that the future holds "the next great movement" in this symphony, with the same "motifs" as in the past. Although his book is positive in its assessment of human advances, he nevertheless notes that there is no assurance that the future of the human race will be bright. This symphony of

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