In the third volume of his monumental comparative survey of the development of mythological motifs, Campbell turns his attention to the emergence of the great Occidental religious traditions beginning in the Near East.
Having examined in previous volumes the religious infrastructure of the newly-emergent agricultural and urbanized Levant, Campbell reviews the emergence of the specialized priestly class. The priests of Sumer turn their attention heavenward to the orderly precession of the celestiIn the third volume of his monumental comparative survey of the development of mythological motifs, Campbell turns his attention to the emergence of the great Occidental religious traditions beginning in the Near East.
Having examined in previous volumes the religious infrastructure of the newly-emergent agricultural and urbanized Levant, Campbell reviews the emergence of the specialized priestly class. The priests of Sumer turn their attention heavenward to the orderly precession of the celestial cycle.
The new priesthood works to integrate individuals within the larger body of the society by reinforcing and, when necessary, coercing subordination to the collective system of sentiments and social stratifications that allow members of a specialized society to function collectively as individual part of a larger whole.
Campbell views this Near Eastern stratum as the point of departure for the great traditions of the Occident, which are characterized to a large degree by the strategies they employ for reconciling the new dictates of the civitas with the underlying neolithic archaic religious impulse. The older, deeper mythological level comes down through the Near East and spreads west from its origin in the Taurus mountains in Anatolia. The primary images of this tradition are the Great Goddess of the earth, who embodies all things within her creative matrix, and her son/consort, a lunar god associated with the bull, the trident, the serpent, and the moon. His death and resurrection represent the expression through time of the eternal energies of the psyche and the cosmos.
This complex comes down through Sumer and is dispersed along with the arts of civilization (writing, monumental architecture, agriculture, irrigation, astronomy, etc.), where it takes local guise in the form of Dumuzi, Tamuz, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus, and Christ. We can trace this diffusion out from the Levant through Egypt and into Central Europe to the West, and through the Harappan civilization in India eastward into China to the East. The latter stream is treated in "Oriental Mythology."
In dialog with this blend of Anatolian and Semitic mythology is the proto-Indo-European tradition, which comes out of the Caucuses and breaks into Persia, India, Greece, and on into Europe. The Greco-Roman world reflects the cultural world of the so-called Aryans, who venerate the forces of nature. Their religious culture is preserved outside the classical world among the Germanii and the Celts.
Again, Campbell sees two strata to the early Classical milieu. The first is an archaic pre-Aryan chthonic form based on death/rebirth cults, and associated with the goddess and the pig. This tradition is preserved in the Demeter/Persephone mystery rites of Eleusis. The second is the later overlay of the properly Aryan images exemplified by the shining sky-god Zeus.
By the fifth century BCE the development of philosophical and scientific attitudes allowed the Greeks to reflect on the world though a rational-empirical lens, and to thereby demythologize history for the first time. We see in high Greek culture the startling emergence of a civilization that emphasizes the individual judgment of the mature citizen, instead of requiring subordination to the worldview of the priestly or kingly caste.
This worldview is carried over into Rome where it wins the field for the bright centuries of the mature Republic, until the descent of Rome into tyranny eventually yokes Roman culture to the vicissitudes of its various emperors. By the time Rome is thoroughly Christianized under Theodosius, its political situation has become untenable and it falls to the relentless pressure of the Gothic invasions coming out of Gaul and Germany.
Returning to the now-thoroughly-Semitic Near East, whose original Sumerian stock has long since been overrun by the desert peoples who created Babylon and Assyria, we see the emergence of a religious paradigm characterized by the complete separation between God-the-creator and the created world. Because the creator-deity is wholly apart from his creation, he cannot be known by the study of the world, as in the classical systems, nor through introspection, as in the Orient.
God's will is only known and affirmed through the proper adherence to the rules of the tribe, which are viewed as the unique repository of divine revelation, herein misconceived as a literal, historical fact. So we have the Jewish ideology of the Old Testament which affirms divine revelation as a historical event and elevates the people of Israel to the sole recipients of divine contact and direction.
This view is passed over largely-unmodified to the religious impulses of Mohammad centuries later, although the field is enlarged within Islam to include the tribe of all believers.
When the Judaic tradition is fused with the aforementioned image of the dying and reborn god with its goddess-consort, and this is combined with an eschatology driven by the social pressures of centuries of political domination, the result is Christianity. Christ passes through several incarnations, first an eschatological minister of the Essene variety, then the deity of Paul, and through the disputations of Pelagius, the Docetists, and the Eastern Orthodox theologians with the Universal Catholic Church, until the Trinitarian dogma of the Nicene council gains supreme eminence in western Europe for a millennium.
Much of the remainder of the book traces through lesser-known offshoots of these main branches and the disputations by which canonical orthodoxies were formed to repudiate alternate interpretive impulses. In the Occident subsequent to the Christianization of Rome, the impulses borne by the Zoroastrian, Neoplatonic, Manichean, and non-Augustinian branches of Christianity were increasingly marginalized. The Christian purge of non-clerical religious ideologies reached a ghastly crescendo in the crusades against the Cathars, and then the Inquisition.
Fortunately the book has a happy ending as in the thirteenth century the Renaissance renewal of the classical value placed on the individual in distinction to the priest master-class begins to re-emerge in allegorical form in the Romance traditions of Arthurian legend. We peak ahead at the close of this great work to the Parzifal legend which venerates experience, love, and virtue above the perfunctory salvation conferred by sacraments.
This is a brief summary of only some of the main threads of this enormously complicated book.
The Masks of God series would make a very poor introduction to the study of comparative mythology, assuming as it does a basic familiarity with a very wide range of cultures and beliefs. What Campbell offers is a diachronic survey of the evolution of these motifs and beliefs, which provides an exceedingly rare and invaluable context for understanding the origin and development of the various positions it examines.
Campbell's knowledge is vast, but this book is now about 50 years old, and naturally there is much that we now know that was unavailable at the time. In my opinion one area of research that very much changes some of the central details of Campbell's account is our vastly-expanded knowledge of the proto-Indo-European cultures. Reconstructive linguistic and archaeological work on the PIEs has given strong evidence that some of the mythological motifs Campbell assigns to diffusion based in the Levant are PIE in origin, and spread before that great wave of migrants assimilated the lessons of urbanized Mesopotamia.
In general, the complex interaction between the PIEs and the Semitic peoples of the Near East is a murky topic in the book, owing to the paucity of the available evidence. Campbell vaguely assigns the primary zone of interaction between his Aryans and the Near Eastern cultures to the Hurrians, but the details are fuzzy. This ambiguity receives insufficient attention, because the details of how and when those two great religious traditions interacted is of central importance to understanding Bronze and Iron Age religious culture. Consider Hesiod's Cosmogony and its profound similarity to the Babylonian "Enuma elish." One needs to be able to account for this interaction between Akkadian literature and pre-classical Greek mythology, or at least to confess one's inability to answer this problem.
Along similar lines, I would have liked to see more attention paied to the emergence in the mid-first millennium BCE, in both Greece and India, of a vital constellation of religious ideas that connect the concept of reincarnation into a wheel of suffering with liberation through direct visionary experience. Campbell gives chronological precedence to the Orient for this belief system, placing the Orphics fairly late and assigning an Indian influence, but his evidence for this is slim, and it does not answer the problem of Pythagoras.
This is surely one of the great unanswered questions of religious studies, for this religious motif assumed priority in India by the time of the yogic traditions and spread from there throughout all of Asia.
This book is a captivating masterpiece, both unique and profoundly informative. ...more
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in religions, psychology etc.
The seminal work of Frazier was The Golden Bough and thus the weaving of myths...with reoccuring themes thru the history of man and memorialized in archeaology,and religions ..became apparent to me as a reader and so I was delighted to come across Campbell. Joseph Campbell's books of which I have read four, continues and amplifies this insight..with a multiplicity of examples of the weaving and reweaving of threads and elements, the different depictions of "the hero", the different presentationsThe seminal work of Frazier was The Golden Bough and thus the weaving of myths...with reoccuring themes thru the history of man and memorialized in archeaology,and religions ..became apparent to me as a reader and so I was delighted to come across Campbell. Joseph Campbell's books of which I have read four, continues and amplifies this insight..with a multiplicity of examples of the weaving and reweaving of threads and elements, the different depictions of "the hero", the different presentations of the "masks of god" etc. Campbell was featured delivering his ideas on a television series which introduced more to this maestro who conducts people thru the worlds of myth. I would especially recommend Occidental Mythology which may be read after Primative Mythology or on its own for how this applies to Christian myth. I found it particularly illuminating how elements in Christian myth are similar to characters and symbols in not only previous religions but in what might be called "rival religions" of the day...reversing some roles of good and evil symbols..or at least recasting such things as snakes (symbols of wisdom,associated with the Goddess) into deceiving evil purveyors of forbidden knowledge, doing the work of Satan...and women, instead of being priestesses in a revered cult and possibly conveying the wishes/mysteries of the divine, are now subordinate, and even gullible recipients of false ideas etc.
Oriental mythology is fascinating as well. The fourth book is Creative mythology which promises a different aspect and I do intend to read someday. Whether it is the monomyth or simply reuse of elements,Campbell is compelling in the sweep of his observations and the inclusion of information. He would point out that movie makers DO thru their craft continue the tradition of myth making with the same archetypes and of course, Star Wars , comes to mind. ...more
Joseph Campbell's work is fun to read, but it's not actually good scholarship. His tendency to make sweeping generalizations is a weakness, and close examination of the details in the myths he discusses make a lot of his arguments fall apart.
This said, the guy wasn't a poseur; he had genuine credentials in both medieval French and Sanskrit. It's not that he's imagining things that aren't in the text, or relying on others to do grunt work in translation that he isn't personally capable of doing.Joseph Campbell's work is fun to read, but it's not actually good scholarship. His tendency to make sweeping generalizations is a weakness, and close examination of the details in the myths he discusses make a lot of his arguments fall apart.
This said, the guy wasn't a poseur; he had genuine credentials in both medieval French and Sanskrit. It's not that he's imagining things that aren't in the text, or relying on others to do grunt work in translation that he isn't personally capable of doing. It's just that his scholarship dates back to the 1930s through the 1950s, and it shows its age. The methodology he uses has since been shown to be flawed.
This said, there's still value to his work. For one thing, it's of historical importance to those who want to see where the "comparative literature" approach came from. For another, it's actually a pretty good entry point into narratology; Campbell is often very good at pointing out how stories are put together, and nobody in his right mind will argue that myths and legends are not very powerful as stories....more
The connections between Judians, Christianity, and Islam are pretty evident, but to mix in Zorastrianism, the Levant, Greek and Roman mythology and how they all intermingled was fascinating. This book truly sparked an interest for me to research the origins of the Bible.
The Masks of God, Vol. 3: Occidental Mythology (1964) by Joseph Campbell casts a large net over what it is to hold a Western faith in distinction from an Eastern faith and how such distinctions developed among the varied belief systems over the ages. Campbell's book on comparative mythology includes, but is not limited to what will be reviewed here, the interconnections between East and West relating to ''the serpent's bride'' as well as the age of Moses. In one chapter, Campbell also discussesThe Masks of God, Vol. 3: Occidental Mythology (1964) by Joseph Campbell casts a large net over what it is to hold a Western faith in distinction from an Eastern faith and how such distinctions developed among the varied belief systems over the ages. Campbell's book on comparative mythology includes, but is not limited to what will be reviewed here, the interconnections between East and West relating to ''the serpent's bride'' as well as the age of Moses. In one chapter, Campbell also discusses the marriage between the West and the East, which is an underlining theme throughout all of his four volumes in the Masks of God series.
The first two chapters deal heavily with symbol as Woman gaining substance and power in myth (as in metaphor) and in religion (as in spiritual worship) and how the mother goddess was further established among the varied vegetal cultures and intermixed with the occidental view which up to a time (prior to and parallel to the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman civilizations) was mainly that of the male-dominated hunter clans. As the cattle herders from the northern regions descended and the sheep herders of the southern regions ascended, Campbell argues that the ancient world had ''prevailed in that world an essentially organic, vegetal, non-heroic view of the nature and necessities of life that was completely repugnant to those lion hearts for whom the patient toil of earth but the battle spear and its plunder were the source of both wealth and joy'' and that ''in the older mother myths and rites the light and darker aspects of the mixed thing that is life had been honored equally and together, whereas in the later, male-oriented, patriarchal myths, all that is good and noble was attributed to the new, heroic master gods, leaving to the native nature powers the character only of darkness'' (p 21). This is why in so many fairy tales and myths the evil antagonist to the handsome young male protagonist is quite often the ugly, old witch/sorceress living deep within a dark forest. If there is a wizard, as in Merlin, he is usually presented in a more light-hearted and acceptable form, who is often the mentor or aide to the young knight/hero. The battle, one might argue, or the divergence was not primarily between races or ethnicities but between two genders: male and female. And who is to blame for the fall of mankind? None other than Eve, who took of the apple in the most perfect garden and she alone, as many believe, is to blame.
Even so, this divide of male and female establishments (as in identifiable groups of common behavior within a culture) seeks an audience to contemplate the connection among individualism and collectivism. Is it not woman who relishes in large groups and the man often seeking peace and quiet away from the crowd? The woman, of ancient times, tended the gardens among friends and likely chattering away as loud as possible in order to scare away forging animals or evil spirits come to haunt, whereas men went silently into the wild to hunt for game, and on return these same men went into the cave or village shelter seeking individualistic fame awarded to the one hunter above the others. What is the art of politics if not the gaining of power over men and women? Campbell fully explores what happened when the fate of men in myth finally accompanied the victory over the goddess-mother, and her return in the form of Christ's holy Mother Mary.
In regards to the biblical Moses, Campbell provides several connections to other myths. A Western mind might well expect to read the following passage and immediately consider Moses:
''My lowly mother conceived and bore me in secrecy; placed me in a basket of rushes; sealed it with bitumen, and set me in the river, which, however, did not engulf me'' (p 73).
The man in the above passage goes on to become a lowly gardener for a time and finally rules over the kingdom. The figure of this story is not Moses but Sargon, the Monarch of Agade (c. 2350 B.C.). What is further of interest to note is how both Sargon and Moses crossed over cultural thresholds in order to rule. Moses being among the low classes of slaves at birth rises only to be promoted over them, and back again to an outcast to herd sheep for a period of decades and return as prophet and once more leader. Sargon's father was a mountain dweller, likely those who hunted and lived in caves, and Sargon ended up with the goddess Ishtar, a gardener, who later raised the humble gardener to king over the lands. Such other myths, if you liked this one, to consider would be the Greek one concerning Erichthonius and the Hindu Vyasa which both relate mythic figures and their exposure on the waters. Being rescued and raised by foster parents, the reader might take into account the story of Romulus and Remus, brothers who are told to have started all of Rome. Campbell is not in any short supply of examples and this line of thought is highly rewarding. Campbell gets really interesting when he begins to compare the two primary texts resulting in the Holy Bible: the Elohim Text and the Yahwist Text.
One of the primary marriages between the West and the East take place when Alexander invades Persia (modern Iran) in the years of 336-330 B.C. and ''gave strict orders that no sacred object whatsoever should be injured'' whereas two centuries before the Persians raided Greece and destroyed temples and images of gods (p 239). Again, some two hundred years later, Persia attacks Greece under Xerxes the Great, who sent a fleet of 3,000 ships and fought those brave 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. Alexander was Europe's answer to chaos and order, as was Xerxe's to the Orient, and ''within two generations of [Alexander's] death at the age of thirty-three [the same age as Christ], he was celebrated in the Orient as a god'' (p 240). It would seem that warfare had a large part in the marriage between the East and the West and their sharing and acceptance of myths/stories/beliefs. Campbell is anything but succinct when proving his point, as I am here.
I believe two additional points should be added here and they are both the treatment Campbell gives to Islam and Rome in the final portions of this book. They should not be missed since they provide a nice overview of how mythology asserts itself into religion and how this ultimately changes the world.
Occidental Mythology is a strong recommend for serious readers and scholars who will not shy away from a book rife with controversy in its statements connecting myths with religions, or its chapters that are weighted down heavily with considerable examples and sources that one reflects more often than reads.
Occidental Mythology is the third book in Campbell’s The Masks of God tetralogy. This is not light reading. Densely packed, each page is loaded with historical references that make most textbooks seem like waiting room material.
I have quickly become a devotee of this man, but his writing can be overwhelming. The Masks of God is undeniably an ambitious project with its sweeping exploration of global myth. However, Campbell is so well versed in his subject I believe he forgets at times that the rOccidental Mythology is the third book in Campbell’s The Masks of God tetralogy. This is not light reading. Densely packed, each page is loaded with historical references that make most textbooks seem like waiting room material.
I have quickly become a devotee of this man, but his writing can be overwhelming. The Masks of God is undeniably an ambitious project with its sweeping exploration of global myth. However, Campbell is so well versed in his subject I believe he forgets at times that the reader does not come to his books with the same base familiarity in the nuances of his subject. He is most accessible and enjoyable when he falls back into storytelling mode and inserts passages that strike him as particularly illustrative of whichever theme being conveyed.
Discussing religion is a potentially explosive subject and he handles the topic respectfully and with great tact. But near the end, he lets his guard down… just a little:
It is one of the great lessons of our study that for the vulgar, ill- or uninstructed mind, myths tend to become history and there ensues a type of attachment to the mere accidents of the local forms that, on the one hand, binds so-called believers into contending groups and, on the other hand, deprives them all of the substance of the message each believes itself alone to have received. pg. 516
Beginning with the Greeks, Babylonians and Zoroaster with his Ahura Mazda, Campbell walks through the motifs that have been borrowed and transformed to help convey the morals of the Western foundational religions. Regardless of ones beliefs (or lack thereof) to turn away from exploring the origins of belief seems to deprive yourself of any ability to assess why you may or may not believe. Such failure to look into the mythic seeds which germinate into doctrine baffled Professor Guignebert who ruminates:
All the religions that have so desired have had their miracles, the same miracles, and on the other hand, all have shown themselves equally incapable of producing certain other miracles. The unprejudiced scholar is not surprised at this, because he knows that the same causes everywhere produce the same effects. But what is strange is that the believer is not surprised at it either. He merely insists that…his miracles are the only genuine ones; others are mere empty appearances, fabrications, frauds, uncomprehended facts, or witchcraft. pg. 355
This is not an easy book to digest. It’s not by any means esoteric beyond comprehension, but to really walk away with as much as you can, it’s a slow read. At times, I found myself falling into skimming instead of reading. However, given the intimate interplay between religion and the philosophical angst of Western writers, it’s seems hard to believe that one can have a firm understanding of one without the other. For purists, even if the book is not the best written, it is overflowing with historical ideas and connections that are invaluable to understanding the myths and values which drive us.
Campbell is by no means immune to inspiration. Some of the quotes that struck Campbell:
“There are some words of Emerson, quoted on the motto page of the last published work of E. E. Cummings, that are worth repeating here. ‘Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members… The base doctrine of the majority of voices usurps the place of the doctrine of the soul” pg. 449
“In Seneca’s words: ‘Not what you bear but how you bear it is what counts.” pg. 251
“Friedrich Nietzsche was the first, I believe, to recognize the force in the Greek heritage of an interplay of two mythologies: the pre-Homeric Bronze Age heritage of the peasantry, in which release from the yoke of individuality was achieved through group rites inducing rapture; and the Olympian mythology of measure and humanistic self-knowledge that is epitomized for us in Classical art. The glory of the Greek tragic view, he perceived, lay in its recognition of the mutuality of these two orders of spirituality, neither of which alone offers more than a partial experience of human worth.” pg. 141
And, somewhat surprisingly, Campbell ends with this quote that resonates with Western classical thought: “By my love and hope, I conjure thee,’ called Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: ‘cast not away the hero in thy soul.” pg. 523...more
This is the third volume of Campbell's The Masks of God and each installment so far has been increasingly impressive. The first volume, Primitive Mythology dealt with pre-historic and those contemporary indigenous societies still with a paleolithic level of technology. By necessity, it depended upon archeological evidence and a lot of psychological speculations, those of Freud in particular. It made for very dry reading pretty much throughout and made me a little skeptical of his take--what if tThis is the third volume of Campbell's The Masks of God and each installment so far has been increasingly impressive. The first volume, Primitive Mythology dealt with pre-historic and those contemporary indigenous societies still with a paleolithic level of technology. By necessity, it depended upon archeological evidence and a lot of psychological speculations, those of Freud in particular. It made for very dry reading pretty much throughout and made me a little skeptical of his take--what if the archeological evidence in the preceding decades since the 1959 publication had overtaken him? And I admit I'm skeptical of Freud's views on human psychology. That book I rated three stars. The second book, Oriental Mythology, I liked quite a bit more. I'd read Lao Tzu and Confucius in the past, and knew a little of Asian philosophy and religion from various secondary sources, but I felt this gave me a grounding and insight I lacked and would enrich future readings in the subject--and the book did make me want to read much more. That made for a four star rating.
But yes, I did think this book took things to another level. Or maybe it's just his arguments are much more electric here because I'm much more invested in the subject as an American, someone raised as a Christian in an overwhelmingly Christian nation. There's nothing very new in his line of argument. I'd heard much of this before in casual conversations and what I've read here and there. I certainly have heard others repeat his aphorism that "Gods suppressed become devils." It's one thing though to have someone claim that. It's another to see a drawing of a snake coiling itself around a tree and then have that identified as a Sumerian seal depicting their snake God. Campbell includes not just a lot of illustrations but a lot of lengthy quotations of various scriptures and myth. I tended to feel that rather heavy-handed in the previous books, but I think it pays off here, because yes the connections and arguments Campbell makes are subversive from a Judeo-Christian point of view, and Campbell does need to build his arguments carefully.
I think he does so very convincingly and compellingly, even if, as in all non-fiction books making claims radical in scope, I do feel itchy, wondering what could be said on the other side. It's times like these I do miss studying a book in college, and the give and take of debate. I'm skeptical for his claims for a matriarchal substratum in the mythologies for instance. From what I've read, just because a society worshiped goddesses is no evidence against patriarchy and misogyny and many have disputed this "Mother Right" hypothesis so beloved among New Age devotees. I think it's unfair nevertheless to categorize Campbell as anti-Christian or anti-Catholic as some have in reviews, because I think such readers are missing the point--or perhaps haven't read the first two books. Comparative Mythology is Campbell's job and it's the point of these books to unmask the universal in the various faiths. He doesn't pull punches no, and he definitely has his own values and beliefs that peak out at times.
But it's not as if he gives indigenous or "oriental" cultures a pass and only focuses on Christianity as particularly destructive. From the first he's discussed the evidence of just how bloody is the history of the true believer, whether it's the evidence for human sacrifice in polytheistic religions or the "purification" internal and external to monotheistic religions that burn books as well as people. In Oriental Mythology Campbell wrote of the claim of the Chinese to five thousand years of history as mythological--a claim I've heard repeated as recently as last week in a commercial for a dance company. According to Campbell, the evidence is that the Chinese culture is no older than around 3,000 years old beginning with the Shang Dynasty. One of Campbell's themes as he stated it in this book is that "for the vulgar, ill-or uninstructed mind, myths tend to become history." When it's not our ox being gored, the reader tends to nod in agreement. But, I admit, for those who insist on the historicity of Abraham and Moses, Campbell can make for disturbing, challenging reading.
I have a soft spot for Joseph Campbell. He's like a kindly old uncle, whose wonderful stories sparked in me a life long passion for mythology. It doesn't matter that now that I've grown up and delved more deeply into the field I've come to realize that much of what he had to say about myth turned out to be hogwash. He's still Uncle Joe and I love him.
This book has literally been sitting, unread, on my shelf for decades. I bought it in high school and kept thinking "someday I'll get around to it.I have a soft spot for Joseph Campbell. He's like a kindly old uncle, whose wonderful stories sparked in me a life long passion for mythology. It doesn't matter that now that I've grown up and delved more deeply into the field I've come to realize that much of what he had to say about myth turned out to be hogwash. He's still Uncle Joe and I love him.
This book has literally been sitting, unread, on my shelf for decades. I bought it in high school and kept thinking "someday I'll get around to it."
So, the book itself: not a bad read. Campbell has an engaging style, particularly when discussing pagan/polytheistic mythologies. He looses a lot of this when he gets to the monotheistic religions, and the book becomes much drier. The best thing about this book is its wealth of passages from primary sources. The worst thing - Joe's tendency to reduce every deity to the Great Mother or her son, the dying Savior God. It's quite quaint, actually.
Harmless and entertaining, if taken with a grain of salt. The histories of early Christianity and Islam are quite good (if less entertaining.)...more
Was great for research purposes but I did find his writing a little dry, even condescending at times. It is definitely a very academic book, which is to be expected of course. But extremely interesting all the same.
I love comparative mythology, and Campbell's book is indeed well written... in a way that brings joy to the comparative enthusiast, however, he's a sloppy researcher. His theories make sense...until a point. Once you dig deeper you can see how he tries to make things fit in, and if something doesn't...it will not be included...at all... so I believe that he's too much of a reductionist. Also I feel that his comparisons are a bit exaggerated and the monomyth theory doesn't have a solid backgroundI love comparative mythology, and Campbell's book is indeed well written... in a way that brings joy to the comparative enthusiast, however, he's a sloppy researcher. His theories make sense...until a point. Once you dig deeper you can see how he tries to make things fit in, and if something doesn't...it will not be included...at all... so I believe that he's too much of a reductionist. Also I feel that his comparisons are a bit exaggerated and the monomyth theory doesn't have a solid background....more
This is the volume in Joseph Campbell's Masks of God that covers Judaism, Christianity, & Islam. It is especially useful for illuminating the fascinating and often surprising foundations of Judeo-Christian myth, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more meticulous and thorough guide to such things. This is an exemplary work, although not quite perfect. For instance, Campbell sometimes made connections that later historical discoveries proved erroneous (He implied Stonehenge was inspired bThis is the volume in Joseph Campbell's Masks of God that covers Judaism, Christianity, & Islam. It is especially useful for illuminating the fascinating and often surprising foundations of Judeo-Christian myth, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more meticulous and thorough guide to such things. This is an exemplary work, although not quite perfect. For instance, Campbell sometimes made connections that later historical discoveries proved erroneous (He implied Stonehenge was inspired by Mycenaean constructions. This was believed by a number of people in Campbell's time. Now we know that Stonehenge is far older than previously thought.) ...more
Like everyone else at the time, I was, I admit, a true believer in Jospeh Campbell. But the more I read the more I realised how prejudiced he could be at times against Western religions..esp the Roman Catholic Church. Now, there is nothing wrong per se with being against the RCC. But there is when you let it influence how you look at other religions. Which, as it turns out, he did admit in several interviews. Which is a shame,because he had some truly original thoughts about mythology.
This was one of the densest and most enjoyable books I have read in a while. Campbell constantly references the previous two volumes in the series, so it is a very easy thing to pick up the flow of the mythological connections between the various areas and eras of the world by reading this one volume. It took me quite a while to read, however, more so than any of Campbell's other works have taken. Lengthy block quotes from ancient texts litter the pages.
At times, a brilliant book, at times a bit overwritten, but still quite important, looking at the evolution of mythology/religion in the West, including the decline of the Græco-Roman rule, the rise of Christian and Muslim orthodoxy and then the emergence in the Renaissance and Reformation of the idea of the individual directly his own relationship to G-d.
Not as good as the Hero with a Thousand Faces, but a good read (usually)
I read the entire Masks of God series, but not in order, being introduced to it by Rich Hyde, a friend from high school who also attended college and seminary with me, while the two of us were at grandmother's cottage together. In all of them the influence of C.G. Jung's archetype theory is pronounced.
covers the historical times & spaces most familiar to students of the 'western tradition,' moving from the levant through Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and so on. Despite the familiar setting and period, perspective will defamiliarize (it's not intentionally brechtian, but the effect is similar).
Campbell uncovers the roots of Occidental religions by discussing the artifacts and myths of the Levant, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The common themes of the snake, the goddess, the intertwined snakes (caduceus) demonstrate the possible common influences of the subsequent traditions in these area.
Really very good. Very complete, covers each oriental group in detail. I was confused by the inclusion of Egypt and Mesapotamia (I don't think of either as Oriental per se) but, it was a coherant piece that had strong overarching themes. Very highly reccomended.
Don't start with this one - go read "Primitive Mythology" and then "Oriental Mythology", as the themes discussed here need to be placed in the context of the larger narrative arc developed throughout the series.
A truly great book. People who think that they know everything about their religion to read this in order to get an idea of what went before and what cultural/historical currents they are swimming in without knowing that they are doing so.
Interested in mythology? Read Joseph Campbell. Interested in religion? Read Joseph Campbell. Interested in art? Read Joseph Campbell. Interested in History? Read Joseph Campbell. Interested in philosophy...
Uma abordagem diferente que só Joseph Campbell deu às mitologias. Abordadas de modo psicológico, alegórico, não-religioso e não-sobrenatural. Um bom livro para se entender a história psicológica da humanidade.