Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor
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Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  581 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Thou Art That is a compilation of previously uncollected essays and lectures by Joseph Campbell that focus on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Here Campbell explores common religious symbols, reexamining and reinterpreting them in the context of his remarkable knowledge of world mythology. According to Campbell, society often confuses the literal and metaphorical interpretat...more
cloth, 192 pages
Published August 31st 2001 by New World Library
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This is one of the most important books I've ever read. Through comparative examination, these 114 pages interpret Judeo-Christian "historical" events as symbols and metaphors. For Campbell (and for me incidentally) the stories of the Bible are connotative, not denotative. They are not final and unalterable facts that everyone must believe. Authentic religious experience emanates from the source of our own psychic being as we seek to understand our place in the universe. His main thesis boils do...more
The wise men who bowed down before the baby Jesus as he lay in the manger—they were Magi. I knew that. What I didn’t know is that Magi were the priests of the God Mithras, and for three centuries Mithras was Christianity’s main competitor. The wise men’s presence at the nativity scene is a symbolic representation of the new religion superseding the old. This is why reading Joseph Campbell is so revelatory. Who better to put religion into context than a comparative mythologist who is himself a vi...more
This book is my first exposure to Joseph Campbell's work. I know little of mythology, and even less on comparative religion study, thus this book serves a very valuable introduction to a vast realm of scholarship and writings. Here are a few notes for my own edification:

What Myths Do (page 2 onward)

Four functions -- C'est la vie, presentation of a order of the cosmos, validate and support a specific moral and social order, carry individuals through the various stages in life with integrity.

Interested in exploring some of the Biblical symbols of the Judeo-Christian faith, I picked up this book with high expectations. No doubt, this book has helped me wrestle with my faith since picking it up. However, this book suffers from many shortcomings that, by the middle portion of the book, almost made me put it down.

First, while the language was not complex, the sentence structure and lack of adherence to grammatical rules made the text unwieldy. My understanding is that much of this book...more
I had high expectations of Joseph Campbell, as the modern man who popularized mythological study. These were mostly met in this book. Although, as a posthumously published collection of previously uncollected writings and oral transcripts, it did lack a certain unity and flow. And though it’s probably not the finest introduction to his work, I found it was littered with incredible insights, though with a few miles to walk in between. Also, it seems that Campbell’s mind is typically about five st...more
I was reading this book when my father was diagnosed with his lung cancer. Talk about literary serendipities! It's a gentle, Campbellian consideration of cultural assumptions and how they shape our overall thinking. It's a really lovely read.
Rebecca Elson
This review first appeared on The Magical Buffet website on 11/11/13.

How sad is this? I honestly feel just awful. I seriously started this book review over 5 times. That’s right kids, OVER 5 TIMES! I was given a copy of “Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor” by Joseph Campbell. It’s collected from previously unpublished work. It does what Campbell does best, compares the Judeo-Christian faiths similarities and misrepresentations with scholarship that is authoritative, yet a dummy like...more
Campbell has an unfortunate habit of painting with too broad a brush, glossing over the important differences in order to accentuate otherwise minor similarities. That trait, along with his more unfortunate occasional trips into New Age-ish theories and terminology (at-one-ment, his obsession with numerology and making the mistake he berates others for: taking something literally when it's metaphorical -- in this case his discussion of "40 years/days/etc" as actually being 40 instead of just a w...more
David Melbie
Apr 08, 2013 David Melbie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Seekers
Recommended to David by: Lifetime Fan
This is an awesome little book! I had already been an avid admirer of Campbell's work when the Joseph Campbell Foundation began to publish the complete works series, of which this is the first. I eagerly awaited each publication and read them quickly. But, just like any other collection of Joe's scholastic writings, this one can be read again and again.

This was my third reading -- the first two were back when it was first published in 2001 -- and I chewed more this time. This concept of "You Are...more
This is an excellent book and a fast read for anyone wanting to introduce themselves to the work of Joseph Campbell. Though the focus of the book is on the symbology and mythology inherent in the Christian Bible, the text still provides us with a nice sense of the most overarching and central message of Campbell's life's work -- namely, that when viewed correctly through the lens of mythology, all religions of the world point to the same, unending and ever-present mystery of being that is alive...more
Jan 11, 2014 Lily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Interest in mythology
Recommended to Lily by: Sunday small group
Shelves: fireplace
Lost entry when tried to correct edition!

Pleasurable reading, albeit difficult and obtuse at time -- i.e., one of those books where you sometimes stop and ask "does that pretty sequence of words have meaning?" Appreciated Campbell's definitions of myth and statements regarding the uses of myths. Several sections looked at Christian symbols and their analogous appearances in other religions and literature. Campbell's preferences as a particular type of Catholic became obvious, i.e., not in agreem...more
Mythologist Joseph Campbell discusses the aspects of myths throughout the religions of the world, and then focuses on the Biblical myths, contrasting them with their eastern counterparts, and demonstrating that all religions tap into the same patterns of myth.

One of the pitfalls of western religion is it's attempt to define (and therefore limit the potential of) God, and define the meanings of ritual and myths. By doing so, the potential spiritual power of individual encounter with myths is les...more
Sam Eccleston
Campbell presents a lot of interesting ideas about the nature of religious symbolism and the original intentions of the authors of religious texts, but this work suffers from a lack of actual argumentation backing up the claims made. Additionally, on occasion some of the connections drawn between different mythological systems and themes seem hasty and under-justified. Nevertheless, this work is worth reading.
Joseph Campbell's lectures and miscellaneous writings were culled after his death for this series of books. Repetition is inevitable in a book like this, but I appreciated the effort that went into it. Among other things,I never will look at the manger scene in the same way again. Seeing the symbols of the Judeo-Christian mythology in a fresh way is very helpful for those of us who were raised in Western religions.
Greg Metcalf
Reading Joseph Campbell makes me feel what I think others refer to as spiritually healthy. Rather than review it, I'm going to quote a couple of passages that got me on this my second read through of this book. I'm sure last time it was other portions that "got me."

"At a certain age, a certain kind of music interests you and captures your imagination, your internal self, and you participate in it. Then that drops off and another order of music comes in. Art is talking to what is possible within...more
Jane Medoro
A good book to spend some time on. Ponderous but keeps your interest.
Alford Wayman
An captivating little text put out by the Joseph Campbell Foundation. As always Campbell discusses how myth influences society, but that at times we confuse the symbols and meanings. This was a refreshing read.

"The problem for and the function of religion in this age is to awaken the heart. When the clergy do not or cannot awaken the heart, that tells us that they are unable to interpret the symbols through which they are supposed to enlighten and spiritually nourish their people." - Joseph Cam...more
It was one of the most important books I´ve read to make me become who am I today. I was with 20 or 21 years-old, and tons of desilusions about religion, and I really desliked Christianity this time. This made me realise why I didn´t feel comfortable with it and it was very important to me to find my path trough spirituality. I always recomend this book to my friends interested in myths and religion, sometimes lending my own book full of my notes, and I think it´s a good introduction to Campbell...more
John Fredrickson
This is an excellent book for those who struggle with current interpretive notions of God and holy books. Campbell debunks many of the current (and past!) tendencies to view our various holy books as historically indicative rather than being works in which the ineffable is spoken to indirectly through metaphor. I enjoyed his treatment of many of the biblical themes: virgin birth, the Garden of Eden, the serpent, etc.
Kristina Jo
While I really liked a lot of the ideas Campbell poses in this book, I often felt that his presentation of the ideas was rather convoluted and unclear. Also, neither he nor his editor know how to use commas. But if you think you can untangle the linguistic knots and deal with the free association feel of the writing, while tolerating comma misuse, the concepts presented are well worth the effort.
Feb 19, 2008 Dawna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers, Bible buffs
One of my personalities enjoys watching PBS special series. This was very similar. I enjoyed it, though I had to chew on some of it for awhile to fully appreciate it. Metaphors, of course, have always been a favorite. People either love me or hate me for speaking in metaphors constantly. I would try to stop but, why? That is how I can tell who my real friends are.
Dan Bentley-Baker
Mar 19, 2008 Dan Bentley-Baker rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: seekers, Unitarians, lapsed Catholics
Tat tvam asi--Thou art that. This is what Huxley called the perinneal philosophy. Apologies to True Believers, but this is the story behind the holy books on every continent. Campbell is still good, always good. Enjoy. Be affirmed. Hermes said, 'As above, so below,' and Campbell explains it with patience and clarity from a transcendent point of view.
I think Joseph Campbell has a very well-rounded view of religion. I love learning how the same "stories" are told in each religion. For him, this proves that all religion is just interpretive. For me, this proves that there is truth for anyone who seeks it & God will give it to us in ways we are capable of understanding and relating to.
J.T. Oldfield
From my review:

Simply put, anyone of a Judeo-Christian persuasion (and to some extent, a Islamic one as well), or anyone who is or is considering giving up such a persuasion must read this book.

Read the rest of my review here:

Bill Barker
I have read Campbell but this book seemed to lack clarity of purpose. The chapters, I believe, were from lectures given by the author at least they seemed to fit that description, and tended to ramble. I expected a more cohesive text. It was disappointing.
I think I expected this to be better, more cohesive. I'm not sure. It's not a bad book but it comes off more as a means to an end with the end being to make more money after Campbell's death. For more:
I found this extremely interesting, engaging, and Campbell at his straightforward best. Being raised in a conservative Western religion, the explanation of metaphor meant a lot. Campbells insights made a lot of sense. I highly recommend this book.
Joey Dye
This was the first Joseph Campbell book I read straight through. I have always appreciated how he was able to look at even our most sacred stories through the lens of myth and metaphor and pull out the universal aspects of particular stories.
OK. Could have stopped at his Hero book. He's the ONE IDEA type of guy. It's a powerful idea, but once you've grasped the basic principle, what need do you have of myriad examples? Time to move on to the next thing.
Sam Torode
Like "Pathways to Bliss," this is another wonderful compilation drawn from Campbell's lectures. This time, organized mainly around exploring the myths/symbols of Judaism and Christianity...
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Joseph John Campbell was an American mythology professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.
More about Joseph Campbell...
The Power of Myth The Hero With a Thousand Faces Myths to Live By Primitive Mythology (The Masks of God, #1) Oriental Mythology (The Masks of God, #2)

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“Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.” 196 likes
“When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following: That which you are was never born and will never die. . . . (90)” 53 likes
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