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Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  810 Ratings  ·  69 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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Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books
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.

Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: myth
مجموعه ای از سخنرانی های جوزف کمبل درباره ی اسطوره و دین. این مجموعه بعد از مرگ وی، توسط انستیتویی که وظیفه ی انتشار آثارش را دارد، گردآوری و منتشر گردید.
متاسفانه مترجم در جای جایِ کتاب با غرض ورزی، عقاید و اندیشه های کمبل را در مقابل اندیشه های اسلامی و شیعی قرار داده و در نظر خود با اینکار به ردِ افکار وی پرداخته است.

اهمیت کتاب:
بجز این کتاب، تنها دو کتاب "قدرت اسطوره" (مصاحبه های وی) و "قهرمان هزارچهره " به فارسی ترجمه شده است. این کتاب سیالیت و ابعادِ تفکر کمبل را حتی به هنگام سخنرانی هایش به
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
William Nicholls-Allison
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most profoundly inspiring, healing, and expanding books that I have ever read. While reading it feels almost as if Campbell is sitting across from you in a big chair telling you all of these stories and insights.
Jeffrey Howard
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion-general
Campbell never disappoints me. It is refreshing to be back inside his beautiful, image-laden, many layered world. This book is a great intro to Joseph Campbell's thought, especially Christian populations. Campbell was raised Catholic, but blazed his own path in his twenties.

The editor reassures that "no true believers of any religion will find they faith diminished by reading Joseph Campbell. They will rather feel that need not surrender their traditions in order to see more deeply into their m
Sean Goh
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is... very deep. Repeated readings recommended.

Myth is not falsehood, myth is metaphorical. As a vessel of the truth it is far more reliable than census and almanac figures, which subject to time as myth is not, are out of date as soon as they are printed.

When spiritual rights are demanded on the basis of religious metaphors as facts and geography instead of as symbols of the heart and spirit, a bitterly divided world arises with the inevitability of great tragedy.

Compassion has been d
Rebecca Elson
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magical-buffet
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
Greg Talbot
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Myth, Campbell writes, is how we describe other people's religion. And from this preface, begins Campbell's exploration of the religious experience from the participant. Campbell establishes strongly that myth is not a falsehood, but simply the internal narrative that an individual gives to their interpretation of the religious symbols and narrative.

Campbell explores this as a western way of thought. The Abrahamic religions are uniquely about a relationship between the person and God. An unlike
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
"It made me reflect that 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 cat 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."

"If the word "god" means anything, it must mean nothing. God is not a fact. A fact is an object in t
Steve Cauley
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Like this book! Heavy content yet accessible.
Feb 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
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
David Melbie
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  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
Greg Metcalf
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Serena Jade
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Thou Art That is an excellent book by one of the greatest; Joseph Campbell.

In this book Mr. Campbell explains, “Half of the people in the world think the metaphors of their religious traditions are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result, we have people who consider themselves believers and the other half atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”

As Mr. Campbell states, “The final sense of
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was very intrigued into the insights of Mr. Campbell from his interview with Bill Moyers, called the "Power of Myth". From that interview it was almost trans formative and transcending to say the least; listening to Mr. Campbell dissect and intertwine religious allegories from all cultures. I almost felt like it was what I needed at the time of my "spiritual sojourn", putting it into perspective. The book is a good read and dives more into topics such as: Notions of God, Understanding Symbols ...more
Alford Wayman
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was one of the most important books Ive 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 didnt 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 its a good introduction to Campbells w ...more
Sam Eccleston
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What can I say that hasn't been said more thoroughly and proficiently regarding Joseph Campbell's work? His august works and thoughts show a path to each reader that is then free to pursue.

In short, myth and mythology are not lies. We do neither justice if perceived in that light. Face the myths and reflect. Look for the deeper truths. Nothing more, nothing less...and that as they say, is that.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
John Fredrickson
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual
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.
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology

There are mythologies that are scattered, broken up, all around us.... We stand on what I call a cultural moraine of shattered mythic systems that once structured society.... You can select any of these fragments that activate your imagination for your own use... to shape your own relationship to the unconscious system out of which these symbols have come.

-Joseph Campbell
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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.
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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.” 298 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)” 88 likes
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