Showing posts with label Joseph Campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph Campbell. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Luke’s Cave

There is a maze in The Desert carved from sand and rock.

A vast labyrinth of pathways and corridors a hundred miles long, a thousand miles wide, full of twists and dead ends.

Picture it a puzzle.

You walk, and at the end of this maze is a prize just waiting to be discovered.

All you have to do is find your way through.

Can you see The Maze? 
Its walls and floors, its twists and turns? 

Good, because The Maze you've created in your mind is itself the maze.
There is no desert, no rock or sand.

There is only the idea of it.

But it's an idea that will come to dominate your every waking and sleeping moment.

You're inside The Maze now.
You cannot escape.
Welcome to madness.

“The animal envoys of the Unseen Power no longer serve, as in primeval times, to teach and to guide mankind. Bears, lions, elephants and gazelles are in cages in our zoos. Man is no longer the newcomer in a world of unexplored plains and forests, and our immediate neighbors are not wild beasts, but other human beings contending for goods and space on a planet that is whirling without end around the fireball of a star. Neither in body nor mind do we inhabit the world of those hunting races of the Paleolithic millennia, to whose lives and lifeways we nevertheless owed the very forms of our bodies and structures of our minds.

Memories of their animal envoys still must sleep, somehow, within us, for they wake a little and stir when we venture into wilderness. They wake in terror to thunder. And again they wake with a sense of recognition when we enter any one of those great painted caves. Whatever the inward darkness may have been to which the shamans of those’ caves descended in their trances, the same must lie within ourselves nightly visited in sleep.”

When we look at the magnificent cave paintings left by our primal ancestors, we realize how the hunters of those early tribes were influenced by their natural surroundings, and by their feelings toward the animals they depended on for food religious feelings. They told stories to themselves about the animals, and about the supernatural world to which the animals seemed to go when they died. And the hunters performed rituals of atonement to the departed spirits of the animals, hoping to coax them hack to be sacrificed again.

Joseph Campbell devoted his life to the study of these myths and rituals. For him, mythic stories were not simply entertaining tales to be told for amusement around ancient campfires, they were powerful guides to the life of the spirit. Campbell’s odyssey as scholar and teacher led him from the exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, which impressed him as a boy, to cultures all over the world. In his words, “Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the mumbo jumbo of some witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture translations from sonnets of Lao-tze, or now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Thomas Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale, we’re hearing echoes of the first story.”

In this hour, one of the many I taped with Joseph Campbell during the last two years of his life, we talked about our relationship to the first stories and to the people who told them. Like them, we too perform rituals to enact what we believe about the world beyond this one, and we try to bring our mind into harmony with questions of immortality and our body with its destiny of death.


Email to the Universe

Selected quotes . . .

Dreams of flying appeared in the collective unconscious before the reality of flight existed in technology, and I suspect that if we understood our dreams better we would use our technology more wisely . . .

I suggest that we contemplate what our children look at every Saturday morning on TV. One of the most popular jokes in animated cartoons shows the protagonist walking off a cliff, without noticing what he has done. Sublimely ignorant, he continues to walk - on air - until he notices that he has been doing the "impossible," and then he falls . . .

Daedalus who, imprisoned in a labyrinth (conventional "reality"), invented wings and flew away, over the heads of his persecutors; and Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who flew too close to the Sun Absolute and fell back to Earth. Like Porky Pig walking off a cliff, Icarus' fall contains a symbolism many have encountered in their own dreams . . .

Daedalus means "artist" in Greek . . . Daedalus, inventor of wings that took him from Earth to Outer Space - why does he represent Art, instead of Science? . . .

The genius of an artist, Aristotle says, lies in his texne, the root from which we get our word "technology"; but texne basically means skill or craft, or the ability to make things that never existed before. Negative entropy, i.e., information . . .

The musician and the architect, the poet and the physicist -- all inventors of new realities -- all such Creators may be best considered late evolutionary developments of the type that first appears as the shaman. 

Please remember that shamans in most cultures are known as "they who walk in the sky," just like our current shaman-hero, Luke Rey Skywalker.

The ironies of Swift and Aristophanes, and the myths of the fall of Icarus and Donald Duck, indicate that the collective unconscious contains a force opposed to our dreams of flight. This appears inevitable . . .

But what if we begin to regrow healthy organs of Poetic Imagination and flight? What if we "put on wings and arouse the coiled splendor within," as Liber Al urges? . . .

Joyce did not name his emblematic Artist merely Daedalus, but Stephen Daedalus -- after St. Stephen the Protomartyr, who reported a Vision and was stoned to death for it . . .

Those of us who have no avocation for martyrdom must learn, when we realize how much neophobia remains built into the contraptions of "society" and "the State," the art of surviving in spite of them. In a word, we must "get wise" in both the Socratic meaning of the phrase and in the most hardboiled street meaning. Neophobia functions as an Evolutionary Driver, forcing the neophiliac to get very smart very fast."

Uncle Gutenberg was a bookworm
And he lived on Charing Cross
The memory of his volumes brings a smile
He would read me lots of stories
When he wasn't on the sauce
Now I'd like to share the wisdom
Of my favourite bibliophile
He said a-

Cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
'Cause under the covers one discovers
That the king may be a crook
Chapter titles are like signs
And if you read between the lines
You'll find your first impression was mistook
For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book

Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ra-ta-ta-ta!
Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ra-ta-ta-ta!

Mary Poppins, could you give us an example?


Nellie Rubina was made of wood
But what could not be seen was though
Her trunk up top was barren
Well, her roots were lush and green
So in Spring when Mr Hickory saw her blossoms blooming there
He took root despite her bark
And now there's seedlings everywhere

Which proves
A cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
'Cause under the covers one discovers
That the king may be a crook
Chapter titles are like signs
And if you read between the lines
You'll find your first impression was mistook
For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book

Should we do the one about the wealthy widow?

Oh, by all means!

Always loved that one

Well, go on then!

Lady Hyacinth Macaw
Brought all her treasures to a reef

Where she only wore a smile

Plus two feathers, and a leaf

So no one tried to rob her
'Cause she barely wore a stitch

For when you're in your birthday suit

There ain't much there to show you're rich!

Oh, a cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
'Cause under the covers one discovers
That the king maybe a crook
Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ru-ra-la, ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ra-ta-ta!

You'll find your first impression was mistook (Ya-da-da-da)
For a cover is nice
But a cover is not the book

Oh, give us the one about the dirty rascal, why don't ya?

Isn't that one a bit long?

Well, the quicker you're into it, the quicker you're out of it

Once upon a time
In a nursery rhyme
There was a castle with a king
Hiding in a wing
'Cause he never went to school to learn a single thing

He had scepters and swords
And a parliament of lords
But on the inside he was sad
Because he never had a wisdom for numbers
A wisdom for words
Though his crown was quite immense
His brain was smaller than a bird's
So the queen of the nation
Made a royal proclamation:
"To the Missus and the Messers
The more or lessers
Bring me all the land's professors"
Then she went to the hair dressers

And they came from the east
And they came from the south
From each college they poured knowledge
From their brains into his mouth
But the king couldn't learn
So each professor met their fate
For the queen had their heads removed
And placed upon the gate
And on that date
I state their wives all got a note
Their mate was now the late-great

But then suddenly one day
A stranger started in to sing
He said, "I'm the dirty rascal
And I'm here to teach the king"
And the queen clutched her jewels
For she hated royal fools
But this fool had some rules
They really ought to teach in schools

Like you'll be a happy king
If you enjoy the things you've got
You should never try to be
The kind of person that you're not
So they sang and they laughed
For the king had found a friend
And they ran onto a rainbow for
The story's perfect end

So the moral is you musn't let
The outside be the guide
For it's not so cut and dried
Well unless it's Dr. Jekyll
Then you better hide, petrified!
No, the truth can't be denied
As I now have testified
All that really counts and matters
Is the special stuff inside

He did it!

Oh, a cover is not the book
So open it up and take a look
'Cause under the covers one discovers
That the king may be a crook

So please listen to what we've said

And open a book tonight in bed

So one more time before we get the hook

Sing it out strong!

A cover is nice

Please take our advice!

A cover is nice

Or you'll pay the price!

A cover is nice

But a cover is not the book

Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ru-ra-la-la
Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ru-ra-la-la
Ta-ru-ra-lee, ta-ru-ra-la-la, la, la!

Written by: Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

The Family Idiot

A Man! 

He was with her. 

Impossible. Was he present when you opened the box? 

Yes. Most enlightening. 

What's he babbling about? 
No male can open the Box of Jhana without being driven out of his mind. 
It is well known. 
Unless.... Is he an idiot? 

•Are• you an idiot? 

Well, I suppose I must be. I have been called one many -

Keep silent, idiot. 


(Panna leads them into her cave.)

This is why clowns are good.


Clown religions, because they show that the image is not a fact, but it’s a reflex of some kind.

So does this help explain the trickster gods that show up at times?

They’re very much that, yes. 

Foolishness for Christ (Greek: διά Χριστόν σαλότητα, Church Slavonic: оуродъ, юродъ) refers to behavior such as giving up all one’s worldly possessions upon joining a monastic order, or deliberately flouting society’s conventions to serve a religious purpose—particularly of Christianity. Such individuals have historically been known as both “holy fools” and “blessed fools”. The term “fool” connotes what is perceived as feeblemindedness, and “blessed” or “holy” refers to innocence in the eyes of God.

The term fools for Christ derives from the writings of Saint Paul. Desert Fathers and other saints acted the part of Holy Fools, as have the yurodivy (or iurodstvo) of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. Fools for Christ often employ shocking and unconventional behavior to challenge accepted norms, deliver prophecies, or to mask their piety.

Parallels for this type of behavior exist in non-Christian traditions as well. The Avadhuta (Sanskrit), for example, the Islamic tradition of Qalandariyya and Malamatiyya Sufism and other crazy-wise mystics display similar traits. Nasreddin, of the Sufis, is also an example.

According to Christian ideas, “foolishness” included consistent rejection of worldly cares and imitating Christ, who endured mockery and humiliation from the crowd. The spiritual meaning of “foolishness” from the early ages of Christianity was close to unacceptance of common social rules of hypocrisy, brutality and thirst for power and gains.

By the words of Anthony the Great: “Here comes the time, when people will behave like madmen, and if they see anybody who does not behave like that, they will rebel against him and say: 
‘You are mad’, — because he is not like them.”

Paul the Apostle

Part of the Biblical basis for it can be seen in the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:10, which famously says:

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.” 

And also:

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: 
“He catches the wise in their craftiness.” 
(1 Corinthians 3:19)

”For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

”For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

The Holy Fool or yuródivyy (юродивый) is the Russian version of foolishness for Christ, a peculiar form of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. The yurodivy is a Holy Fool, one who acts intentionally foolish in the eyes of men. The term implies behaviour “which is caused neither by mistake nor by feeble-mindedness, but is deliberate, irritating, even provocative.”8

In his book Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond, Ivanov described “holy fool” as a term for a person who “feigns insanity, pretends to be silly, or who provokes shock or outrage by his deliberate unruliness.” He explained that such conduct qualifies as holy foolery only if the audience believes that the individual is sane, moral, and pious. The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that holy fools voluntarily take up the guise of insanity in order to conceal their perfection from the world, and thus avoid praise.

Some characteristics that were commonly seen in holy fools were going around half-naked, being homeless, speaking in riddles, being believed to be clairvoyant and a prophet, and occasionally being disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immoral (though always to make a point).

Ivanov argued that, unlike in the past, modern yurodivy are generally aware that they look pathetic in others’ eyes. They strive to pre-empt this contempt through exaggerated self-humiliation, and following such displays they let it be known both that their behaviors were staged and that their purpose was to disguise their superiority over their audience.

Fools for Christ are often given the title of Blessed (блаженный), which does not necessarily mean that the individual is less than a saint, but rather points to the blessings from God that they are believed to have acquired.

The Eastern Orthodox Church records Isidora Barankis of Egypt (d. 369) among the first Holy Fools. However, the term was not popularized until the coming of Symeon of Emesa, who is considered to be a patron saint of holy fools.29 In Greek, the term for Holy Fool is salos.

The practice was recognised in the hagiography of fifth-century Byzantium, and it was extensively adopted in Muscovite Russia, probably in the 14th century. The madness of the Holy Fool was ambiguous, and could be real or simulated. He (or she) was believed to have been divinely inspired, and was therefore able to say truths which others could not, normally in the form of indirect allusions or parables. He had a particular status in regard to the Tsars, as a figure not subject to earthly control or judgement.

The first reported fool-for-Christ in Russia was St. Procopius (Prokopiy), who came from the lands of the Holy Roman Empire to Novgorod, then moved to Ustyug, pretending to be a fool and leading an ascetic way of life (slept naked on church-porches, prayed throughout the whole night, received food only from poor people). He was abused and beaten, but finally won respect and became venerated after his death.10

The Russian Orthodox Church numbers 36 yurodivye among its saints, starting from Procopius of Ustyug, and most prominently Basil Fool for Christ, who gives his name to Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. One of the best-known modern examples in the Russian Church is perhaps St Xenia of Saint Petersburg.

One of the more recent works in theology is Fools for Christ15 by Jaroslav Pelikan. Through six essays dealing with various “fools,” Pelikan explores the motif of fool-for-Christ in relationship to the problem of understanding the numinous:

The Holy is too great and too terrible when encountered directly for men of normal sanity to be able to contemplate it comfortably. Only those who cannot care for the consequences run the risk of the direct confrontation of the Holy.

Monday, 2 December 2019


This word,

Do you know where it comes from? 

C'est francais.

It means, originally, 
"One Who Lives in a Village." 

A Peasant.

Do I seem like a peasant to you? 

village (n.)
late 14c., "inhabited place larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town," from Old French vilage "houses and other buildings in a group" (usually smaller than a town), from Latin villaticum "farmstead" (with outbuildings), noun use of neuter singular of villaticus "having to do with a farmstead or villa," from villa "country house" (from PIE root *weik- (1) "clan"). As an adjective from 1580s. 

Village idiot is recorded from 1825. 

Related: Villager (1560s).

*weik- (1)
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "clan, social unit above the household."

It forms all or part of: antoecian; bailiwick; Brunswick; diocese; ecology; economy; ecumenical; metic; nasty; parish; parochial; vicinage; vicinity; viking; villa; village; villain; villanelle; -ville; villein; Warwickshire; wick (n.2) "dairy farm."

This word, "Villain" 
Do you know where it comes from? 
C'est francais.

It means, originally, 
"One Who Lives in a Village."

A peasant.

Do I seem like a peasant to you...? 

You know what I mean.

This is important.
The meaning of things.

You called me a Villain.
Me, the king.

For decades I rule over my country.
I'm a good king.
Strong but just.
My people, they prosper.
And then your father a white man, which is –
You tell me, important...? 

He comes.
Does he speak our language? 
Does he know our customs? 

And he decides what? 
That my people should have better.
That he knows better.
Who is he to make such choices?

You fed off me when I was a baby.
And I'm supposed to feel, what, sorry for you? 

Is it such a terrible thing?
To feel sorrow for your enemy? What is he, except a brother with another name? 

We're not brothers.


You are still young.
You think justice is a glass jar.
You fill it with your hurt, your hate.

Don't you think I have my own jar? I'm a refugee.

Do you know the meaning of that word? Refugee.
Driven from my home, in exile.
Prisoner in another man's body.

Nobody put you in my head.
Or Oliver's.
You made a choice.

: Of course.
If the choice is between death or life I choose life.

Listen, I'll call you when I have the monk somewhere safe.
He takes us to your body, and then you are gone.
No one ever hears your name again.

Interesting, don't you think? 
You're doing this for a woman you love who lives in a future you're going to destroy if you help me.

What do you mean? 

The timeline.
She lives in a future you are trying to change, and when you do, she will cease to exist.
So really you are helping her to commit suicide.
Oh, and be careful with the monk.
He is very [SPEAKS GERMAN.]
See, this, uh [TEETH CHATTERING.] madness.

They think it's me, that I'm infecting people.
But it's him.

He's Toxic.
He is like Typhoid Mary.

But where he goes, I follow.
So your friends think that I am the Mary.

Not so smart, your friends.

I’ve been to Le Moustier, that was one of the earliest burial caves that were found.

BILL MOYERS: And you find there what they buried with the dead?

Yes. These grave burials with grave gear, that is to say weapons and sacrifices round about, certainly suggest the idea of the continued life beyond the visible one. 
The first one that was discovered, the person was put down resting as though asleep, a young boy, with a beautiful hand ax beside him. 

Now, at the same time we have evidence of shrines devoted to animals that have been killed. 
The shrines specifically are in the Alps, very high caves, and they are of cave bear skulls. 
And there is one very interesting one with the long bones of the cave bear in the cave bear’s jaw.

What does that say to you?

“My friend has died and he survives.’
The animals that I’ve killed must also survive. I must make some kind of atonement relationship to them.”

The indication is of the notion of a plane of being that’s behind the visible plane, and which is somehow supportive of the visible one to which we have to relate. 
I would say that’s the basic theme of all mythology.

That there is a world?

That there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one. 
Now, whether it is thought of as a world or simply as energy, that differs from time and time and place to place.

What we don’t know supports what we do know.

That’s right. 
The basic hunting myth, I would say, is of a kind of covenant between the animal world and the human world, where the animal gives its life willingly. 

They are regarded generally as willing victims, with the understanding that their life, which transcends their physical entity, will be returned to the soil or to the mother through some ritual of restoration. 
And the principal rituals, for instance, and the principal divinities are associated with the main hunting animal, the animal who is the master animal, and sends the flocks to be killed, you know. 

To the Indians of the American plains, it was the buffalo. 

You go to the northwest coast, it’s the salmon. 

The great festivals have to do with the run of salmon coming in. When you go to South Africa, the eland, the big, magnificent antelope, is the principal animal to the Bushmen, for example.

And the principal animal, the master animal

Is the one that furnishes the food.

So there grew up between human beings and animals, a bonding, as you say, which required one to be consumed by the other.

That’s the way life is.

Do you think this troubled early man, too

Absolutely, that’s why you have the rites, because it did trouble him.

What kind of rites?

Rituals of appeasement to the animals, of thanks to the animal. 
A very interesting aspect here is the identity of The Hunter with The Animal.

You mean, after the animal has been shot.

After the animal has been killed, the hunter then has to fulfill certain rites in a kind of “participation mystique,” a mystic participation with the animals whose death he has brought about, and whose meat is to become his life. 

So the killing is not simply slaughter, at any rate, it’s a ritual act. 

It’s a recognition of your dependency and of the voluntary giving of this food to you by the animal who has given it. 

It’s a beautiful thing, and it turns life into a mythological experience.

The hunt becomes what?

It becomes a ritual. 
The hunt is a ritual.

Expressing a hope of resurrection, that the animal was food and you needed the animal to return.

And some kind of respect for the animal that was killed; that’s the thing that gets me all the time in this hunting ceremonial system.

Respect for the animal.

The respect for the animal and more than respect, I mean, that animal becomes a messenger of divine power, do you see.

And you wind up as the hunter killing the messenger.

Killing the god.

What does this do? 
Does it cause guilt, does it cause

Guilt is what is wiped out by the myth. 
It is not a personal act; you are performing the work of nature, For example, in Japan, in Hokkaido in northern Japan among the Ainu people, whose principal mountain deity is the bear, when it is killed there is a ceremony of feeding the bear a feast of its own flesh, as though he were present, and he is present. 

He’s served his own meat for dinner, and there’s a conversation between the mountain god, the bear and the people. 

They say, “If you’ll give us the privilege of entertaining you again, we’ll give you the privilege of another bear sacrifice. ”

BILL MOYERS: If the cave bear were not appeased, the animals wouldn’t appear, and these primitive hunters would starve to death. So they began to perceive some kind of power on which they were dependent, greater than their own.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And that’s the power of the animal master. Now, when we sit down to a meal, we thank God, you know, or our idea of God, for having given us this. These people thanked the animal.

BILL MOYERS: And is this the first evidence we have of an act of worshipó


BILL MOYERS: — of power superior to man?


BILL MOYERS: And the animal was superior, because the animal provided food.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, now, in contrast to our relationship to animals, where we see animals as a lower form of life, and in the Bible we’re told, you know, we’re the masters and so forth, early hunting people don’t have that relationship to the animal. The animal is in many ways superior, He has powers that the human being doesn’t have.

BILL MOYERS: And then certain animals take on a persona, don’t they the buffalo, the raven, the eagle.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Oh, very strongly. Well, I was up on the northwest coast back in 1932, a wonderful trip, and the Indians along the way were still carving totem poles. The villages had new totem poles, still. And there we saw the ravens and we saw the eagles and we saw the animals that played roles in the myths. And they had the character, the quality, of these animals. It was a very intimate knowledge and friendly, neighborly, relationship to these creatures. And then they killed some of the. You see.

The animal had something to do with the shaping of the myths of those people, just as the buffalo for the Indians of the plains played an enormous role. They are the ones that bring the tobacco gift, the mystical pipe and all this kind of thing, it comes from a buffalo. And when the animal becomes the giver of ritual and so forth, they do ask the animal for advice, and the animal becomes the model for how to live.

BILL MOYERS: You remember the story of the buffalo’s wife?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s a basic legend of the Blackfoot tribe, and is the origin legend of their buffalo dance rituals, by which they invoke the cooperation of the animals in this play of life.

When you realize the size of some of these tribal groups, to feed them required a good deal of meat. And one way of acquiring meat for the winter would be to drive a buffalo herd, to stampede it over a rock cliff. Well, this story is of a Blackfoot tribe long, long ago, and they couldn’t get the buffalo to go over the cliff. The buffalo would approach the cliff and then tum aside. So it looked as though they weren’t going to have any meat for that winter.

Well, the daughter of one of the houses, getting up early in the morning to draw the water for the family and so forth, looks up and there right above the cliff were the buffalo. And she said, “Oh, if you’d only come over, I’d marry one of you.” And to her surprise, they all began coming over. That was surprise number one. Surprise number two was when one of the old buffalos, the shaman of the herd, comes and says, “All right, girlie, off we go.” “Oh, no,” she says. “Oh, yes,” he says, “you made your promise. We’ve kept our side of the bargain, look at all my relatives here dead. Off we go.”

Well, the family gets up in the morning and they look around, and where’s Minnehaha, you know. The father, and you know how Indians are, he looked around and he said, “She’s run off with a buffalo.” He could see by the footsteps. So he says, “Well. I’m going to get her back.” So he puts on his walking moccasins, bow and arrow and so forth, and goes out over the plains. He’s gone quite a distance when he feels he’d better sit down and rest, and he comes to a place that’s called a buffalo wallow, where the buffalo like to come and roll around, get the lice off, and roll around in the mud.

So he sits down there and is thinking what he should do now, when along comes a magpie. Now, that’s a beautiful, flashing bird, and it’s one of those clever birds that has shamanic qualities.

BILL MOYERS: Magical qualities.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Magical. And the man says to him, “Oh, beautiful bird, my daughter ran away with a buffalo. Have you seen, will you hunt around and see if you can find her out on the plain somewhere?” And the magpie says, “Well, there’s a lovely girl with the buffalos right now, over there just a bit away.” “Well,” said the man, “would you go tell her that her daddy’s here, her father’s here at the buffalo wallow?” Magpie flies over and the girl is there among the buffalo; they’re all asleep. I don’t know what she’s doing, knitting or something of the kind. And the magpie comes over close to her and he says, “Your father’s over at the wallow waiting for you.” “Oh,” she says, “this is very terrible, this is dangerous, I mean, these buffalo, they’ll kill us. You tell him to wait, I’ll be over, I’ll try to work this out.”

So her buffalo husband’s behind her and he wakes up and takes off a horn, he says, “Go to the wallow and get me drink.” So she takes the horn and goes over and there’s her father. And he grabs her by the arm and he says, “Come.” She says, No, no, no, this is real dangerous. The whole herd there, they’ll be right after us. I have to work this thing out, now let me just go back.” So she gets the water and goes back and he, “Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Indian.” You know, that sort of thing. And she says, “No, nothing of the kind.” And he says, “Yes, indeed.” So he gives a buffalo bellow and they all get up and they all do a slow buffalo dance with their tails raised, and they go over and they trample that poor man to death, so that he disappears entirely, he’s just all broken up to pieces, all gone.

The girl’s crying, and her buffalo husband says, “So you’re crying.” “This is my daddy.” He said, “Yeah, but what about us? There are children, our wives, our parents, and you crying about your daddy.” Well, apparently he was a kind of sympathetic compassionate buffalo, and he said, “Well, I’ll tell you, if you can bring your daddy back to life again, I’ll let you go.” So she turns to the magpie and says, “See, peck around a little bit and see if you can find a bit of Daddy.” And the magpie does so, and he comes up finally with a vertebra, just one little bone.

And the little girl says, “That’s plenty. Now, we’ll put this down on the ground,” and she puts her blanket over it, and she sings a revivifying song, a magical song with great power. And presently, yes, there’s a man under the blanket. She looks, Daddy all right, but he’s not breathing yet. A few more stanzas of whatever the song was, and he stands up, and the buffalo are amazed. And they say, “Why don’t you do this for us? We’ll teach you now our buffalo dance, and when you will have killed our families, you do this dance and sing this song, and we’ll all be back to life again.”

That’s the basic idea, that through the ritual, that dimension is struck which transcends temporality and out of which life comes and back into which it goes.

BILL MOYERS: And it goes back to this whole idea of death, burial and resurrection, not only for human beings, but for…

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: But for the animals, too.

BILL MOYERS: So the story of the buffalo’s wife was told to confirm the reverence.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: What happened when the white man came and slaughtered this animal of reverence?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That was a sacramental violation. I mean, in the eighties, when the buffalo hunt was undertaken, you know, with Kit Carson…

BILL MOYERS: The 1880s, a hundred years ago.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: — and Buffalo Bill and so forth. When I was a boy, whenever we went for sleigh rides we had a buffalo robe. Buffalo, buffalo, buffalo robes all over the place. This was the sacred animal to the Indians. These hunters go out with repeating rifles, and then shoot down the whole herd and leave it there. Take the skin to sell and the body’s left to rot. This is a sacrilege, and it really is a sacrilege.

BILL MOYERS: It turned the buffalo from a “thou-”


BILL MOYERS: The Indians addressed the buffalo as “thou.”


BILL MOYERS: As an object of reverence.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: The Indians addressed life as a “thou,” I mean, trees and stones, everything else. You can address anything as a “thou”, and you can feel the change in your psychology as you do it. The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees an “it.” Your whole psychology changes when you address things as an “it.” And when you go to war with a people, the problem of the newspapers is to turn those people into its, so that they’re not “thous.”

BILL MOYERS: That was an incredible moment in the evolution of American society, when the buffalo were slaughtered. That was the final exclamation point behind the destruction of the Indian civilization, because you were destroying…

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Can you imagine what the experience must have been for a people within 10 years to lose their environment, to lose their food supply, to lose the object of the… the central object of their ritual life?

Sunday, 1 December 2019


Your friend Jung, the great psychologist,
says that the most powerful religious symbol is The Circle.
He says,
“The circle is one of the great primordial images of mankind,
that in considering the symbol of the circle,
we are analyzing the self.”
And I find you, in your own work throughout the course of your life,
coming across The Circle,
Whether it’s in the magical designs of the world over,
whether it’s in the architecture both ancient and modern,
whether it’s in the dome-shaped temples of India
or the calendar stones of the Aztecs,
or the ancient Chinese bronze shields,
or the visions of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel,
whom you talk about, the wheel in the sky.
You keep coming across this image.
Yes, it’s an ever-present thing.
It’s the center from which you’ve come, back to which you go.
I remember reading in a book about the American Indians, called The Indian Book, by Natalie Curtis, it was published around 1904, her conversation with a chief.
I think it was a chief of the Pawnee tribe.
And among the things he said was,
“When we pitch camp, we pitch the camp in a circle.
When we looked at the horizon, the horizon was in a circle.
When the eagle builds a nest, the nest is in circle.”
And then you read in Plato somewhere,
The Soul is a Circle.
I suppose the circle represents. totality.
Within the circle is one thing, it is encircled, it’s enframed.
That would be the spatial aspect, but the temporal aspect of The Circle is,
you leave, go somewhere and come back,
The Alpha and Omega.
God is The Alpha and Omega,
The Source and The End.
Somehow the circle suggests immediately a completed totality,
whether in time or in space.
No beginning, no end.
Well, round and round and round.
The year, well, this is November again, you know, and we’re about to have Thanksgiving again.
We’re about to have Christmas again.
And then not only the year,
but the month, the moon cycle, and the day cycle.
And this is we’re reminded of this when we look on our watch and see the cycle of time,
it’s the same hour, the same hour but another day, and all that sort of thing.
Why do you suppose The Circle became so universally symbolic?
Well, because it’s experienced all the time.
You experience it in the day and the year, just as we’ve said, and you experience in leaving home, going on your adventure, hunting or whatever it may be, and coming back to home.
And then there’s a deeper one also, that
Mystery of The Womb and The Tomb.
When people are buried it’s for rebirth,
I mean, that’s the origin of the burial idea,
you’re put back into the womb of Mother Earth for rebirth.
And Jung kept returning to that theme of The Circle as being the sort of universal symbol.
Well, Jung used it as a pedagogical device, actually, what he called the mandala.
This was actually a Hindu term for a sacred circle.
Here is one of the pictures.
That’s a very elaborate mandala.
You have the deity at the center, with the power source, the illumination source, and these are the manifestations or aspects of its radiance.
But in working out a mandala for oneself, what one does is draw a circle and then think of the different impulse systems in your life, the different value systems in your life, and try then to compose them and find what the center is.
It’s kind of discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, finding a center and ordering yourself to it.
So you’re trying to coordinate your circle with the Universal Circle.
To be at The Center.
At The Center.
The Navaho have that wonderful image of what they call the pollen path.
And when you realize what pollen is, it’s the life source.
And it’s a single, single path, the center, and then they were saying,
“Oh, beauty before me, beauty behind me,
beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left of me,
beauty above me, beauty below me,
I’m on the pollen path.”

Saturday, 30 November 2019

This is Why Clowns Are Good

Q : What did you think of Manson when that thing happened?

A : "I don't know what I thought when it happened. 

I just think a lot of the things he says are True, that he is a Child of The State, made by Us, and he took their children in when nobody else would, is what he did. 

Of course he's cracked, all right."

-John Lennon, (December 1970)

What about the eyewitness report of the suspect being a man in a clown mask?

Well, it makes total sense to me.

What kind of a coward would do something that cold-blooded ?

Someone who hides behind a mask.

Someone who is envious of those
more fortunate than themselves, yet they're too scared to show their own face.

And until all those kind of people change for the better....

Those of us who've made something of our lives, will always look at those who haven't as nothing but clowns.

This is why clowns are good.


Clown religions, because they show that the image is not a fact, but it’s a reflex of some kind.

So does this help explain the trickster gods that show up at times?

They’re very much that, yes. 
Some of the best trickster stories are associated with our American Indian tales. 

Now, these figures are clownlike figures, and yet they are the creator god at the same time, very often. 

And this makes the point, I am not the ultimate image. 

I am transparent to something. 

Through me, through my funny form, and mocking it, and turning it into a grotesque action, you really get the sense which, if I had been a big sober presence, you get stuck with the image.

There’s a wonderful story in some African tradition of the god who’s walking down the road, and the god has on a hat that is colored red on one side and blue on the other side. 

So when the people, the farmers in the field go into the village in the evening, they said, 
Did you see that fellow, that god with the blue hat?” 

And the others said, 
No, no, he had a red hat on,” 
and they get into a fight.

Yes. He even makes it worse by first walking along this direction, and then turning around and turning his hat around, so that again, it’ll be red and black or whatever and then when these two chaps fight and are brought before the king or chief for judgment, this fellow appears and he says,

“It’s my fault, I did it. 

Spreading strife is my greatest joy.”

And there’s a truth in that…

There sure is, yes.

Which is?

No matter what system of thought you have, it can’t possibly include boundless life. 

And when you think everything is just that way, the trickster comes in and it all blows, and you get the becoming thing again. 

Now, Jung has a wonderful saying somewhere that, 
Religion is a defense against a religious experience.”

Well, you have to explain that.

Well, that means it has reduced the whole thing to concepts and ideas, and having the concept and idea short-circuits the transcendent experience. 

The experience of deep mystery is what one has to regard as the ultimate religious experience.

Well, there are many Christians who believe that to find out who Jesus is, you have to go past the Christian faith, past the Christian doctrine, past the Christian church. 

And I know that’s heresy to a lot of people, but…

Well, you have to go past the image of Jesus. 

The image of God becomes the final obstruction. 

Your God is your ultimate barrier. 

This is basic Hinduism, 
basic Buddhism. 

You know, the idea of the ascent of the spirit through the centers, the chakras, as they call them, or lotuses, the different centers of experience. 

The animal experiences of hunger and greed or just the zeal of reproduction or the physical mastery of one kind or another, these are all stages of power. 

But then when the center of the heart is reached, and the sense of compassion on another person, mercy and participation, and I and you are in some sense of the same being this is what marriage is based on there’s a whole new stage of life experience opens up with the opening of the heart.

And this is what’s called the virgin birth, actually, the birth of a spiritual life in what formerly was simply a human animal, living for the animal aims of health, progeny, wealth and a little fun. 

But now you come to something else: to participate in this sense of accord with another, or accord with some principle that has lodged in your mind as a good to be identified with, then a whole new life comes. 

And this is in Oriental thinking, the awakening of the religious experience.

And then this can go on even to the quest for the experience of the ultimate mystery, that is, the ultimate mystery can be experienced in two senses, one without form and the other with form. 

And in this Oriental thinking, you experience God with form here, this is heaven, that’s the identification with your own being, because that which God refers to is the ultimate mystery of being, which is the mystery of your being as well as of the world, so it’s…this is it.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Find The Pregnant Virgin

BILL MOYERS: What about the virgin birth? Suddenly the goddess reappears in the form of the chaste and pure vessel chosen for God’s action.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, in the history of Western religions, this is an extremely interesting development. The virgin birth comes in by way of the Greek tradition. When you read your four gospels, the only one with the virgin birth in it is the gospel according to Luke, and Luke was a Greek.

BILL MOYERS: And there was in the Greek tradition images, legends, myths of virgin births?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: All of them. I mean, Leda and the swan, and Persephone and the serpent, and this one and that one and the other one. The virgin birth is represented throughout.

BILL MOYERS: This was not a new idea, then, in Bethlehem and…

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: No. What is the meaning of the virgin birth? In India, there is this system of the kundalini, as it’s called, the idea of the centers, psychological centers up the spine. And they represent the psychological planes of concern and consciousness and action. The first is at the rectum, and this is that of alimentation. The serpent represents this, you know, a traveling esophagus going along just eating, eating, eating, eating. And all of us are — we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t eating. And then the second, the second center is at the sex organ center, and that’s the urge to procreation. The third center’s called, is at the navel, and this is where you eat and want to consume. And it’s not the alimentary eating, it’s the mastering and smashing and trashing of others, do you see? This is the aggressive mood.

Now, the first is an animal instinct, the second is an animal instinct, the third is an animal instinct, and these three centers are located in the pelvic base, do you see. The next one is at the level of the heart, and this is the opening of compassion. And there you move out of the field of animal action into a field that is properly human and spiritual. Now, in each of these centers there is a symbolic form. At the base, the first one, there is the form of the lingam and yeni, the male and female organs in conjunction. At the heart chakra, there is again the male and female organs in conjunction, but in gold. This is the virgin birth. It’s the birth of spiritual man out of the animal man. Do you understand?

BILL MOYERS: And it happens?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: When you are awakened at the level of the heart to compassion and to suffering with the other person. That’s the beginning of humanity. And the meditations of religion properly are on that level, the heart level.

BILL MOYERS: You say it’s the beginning of humanity, but in these Stories, that’s the moment when gods are born, the virgin birth, it’s a god who emerges from that chemistry.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yeah, and you know who that god is? It’s you. All of these symbols in mythology refer to you. You can get stuck out there and think it’s all out there, and so you’re thinking of Jesus and all the sentiments about how he suffered and all; what that suffering is, is what ought to be going on in you. Have you been reborn? Have you died to your animal nature and come to life as a human incarnation?

BILL MOYERS: Why is it significant that this is of a virgin?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, it is that the begetter is the spirit. It is a spiritual birth. The virgin conceived of the Word, through the ear.

BILL MOYERS: The Word came like a shaft of light.

Yes. And now, the Buddha was born from his mother’s side, at the level of the heart chakra. 
That’s a symbolic birth; he wasn’t born from his mother’s side, but symbolically he was.

But the Christ came the way you and I come.

Yes, but of a virgin.

Which is a power greater than…

And then, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, her virginity was restored. So nothing happened physically, you might say. It’s not a physical birth. It’s symbolic of a spiritual transformation, that’s what the virgin birth is about. And so deities are born that way who represent beings who act in terms of compassion, and not in terms of the lower three centers.

BILL MOYERS: If you go back into antiquity, do you find images of the Madonna as the mother of the savior child?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, what you have as the model for the Madonna actually is Isis, with her child Horus at her breast. This was the actual model for the Madonna symbol.

BILL MOYERS: Isis? Tell me that story.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: This is a prime myth in this period of the Goddess as the redeemer, the one who goes in quest of the lost spouse or lover, and through her loyalty and descent into the realm of death, recovers him. Isis and her husband Osiris were twins who were born of the goddess Nut. And their younger relatives were Seth and Nephthys, who were also twins born from Nut. Seth planned to kill his brother Osiris, and he took Osiris measurements secretly and had a wonderful sarcophagus built that would exactly fit Osiris. So there was a hilarious party in progress one time among the gods, and Seth trots in this sarcophagus, and he says, “Anyone whom this perfectly fits can have it as his sarcophagus.” And everybody at the party tried, and when Osiris got in, of course he perfectly fit. Just at that time, 72 accomplices come rushing out and they clap the lid on, strap it together and throw it in the Nile.

Now, this is the death of the god. Whenever you have a death of an incarnation, a god like this, you’re going to have a resurrection, you can wait for that. So he goes floating down the Nile and is washed ashore in Syria. And a beautiful tree grows up and incorporates the sarcophagus in its own trunk. So this is this wonderful tree with a glorious aroma. And the local king has just had a son born to him, and he is also at the same time going to build a palace. The aroma of this tree is so wonderful, he cuts it down and brings it in to be a central pillar in the main room of the palace.

Poor little Isis, whose husband has been thrown into the Nile, starts this wonderful quest for Osiris, So she comes to the place where the palace is, and learns of the wonderful aroma and she suspects this is Osiris. And she gets a job as nurse to the just-born little child. Well, she lets the child nurse from her finger. And she loves the little child, and she decides to give it immortality. So she does this by placing him in the fireplace in the fire, to burn away gradually his mortal body. But being a goddess she could keep that from killing him, you understand. And when that would happen, she would convert herself into a swallow, and fly mournfully around the pillar where her husband is.

Well, one evening the child’s mother came in to this room while this scene was in progress, saw her child in the fireplace, let out a scream, and that broke the spell, and they had to rescue the child from incineration. Meanwhile the swallow had turned into this gorgeous nurse, Isis, and the nurse gave an explanation of the situation, and she said, “By the way, it’s my husband that’s in that pillar there, and I’d he grateful if you could just let me take it home.” So the king came in and he said, “Certainly.” So he removes the pillar, gives it to Isis and it’s put on a barge. So on the way back to the Nile, she removes the lid, the cover of the sarcophagus and lies on top of her dead spouse and conceives of her dead spouse this is an image that occurs in Egyptian art all the time, out of death comes life and all this kind of business and when they land she in the papyrus swamp gives birth to her child Horus with the dead Osiris beside her.

This is the motif for the Madonna, actually, it becomes the Madonna. In Egyptian symbology, Isis represents the throne, the Pharaoh sits on the throne of Isis, as the child sits on the mother lap. And when you look in the cathedral of Chartres in the west portal, you will see the Madonna as the throne with the little child Jesus as the world emperor on her lap: That is the same image that’s come over.

BILL MOYERS: And you say the Christian fathers took this image?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Definitely, and they really say so. You read the second letter of Peter, and he says those forms which were merely mythological forms in the past, are now incarnate and actual in our savior. There was a mythology of the savior, the dead and resurrected god, and it’s associated with the moon, which dies and is resurrected every month. And you have the three nights dark, and you have Christ three nights in the tomb, and three days in the tomb, and all this kind of thing. It’s an intentional saying, that which was merely talked about is now fact. And no one knows what the date of Christmas ought to be, but it’s put on the date of the winter solstice, when the nights begin to be shorter and the days longer, the birth of light. And so there is an idea of death to the past and birth to the future in our lives and in our thinking all the time. Death to the animal nature, birth to the spiritual, and these symbols are talking about it one way or another.

BILL MOYERS: So when the…

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: And the goddess is the one who brings it about. The second birth is through the second mother. Notre Dame de Paris, Notre Dame de Chartres, our mother church, we are reborn by entering and leaving a church.

BILL MOYERS: And it doesn’t mean physically, it means…


BILL MOYERS: That there’s a power that’s unique to the feminine principle.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: It can be put that way. You can… it’s not necessarily unique to her, you can have rebirth through the male, also. But using this system of symbols, the woman becomes the regenerator.

BILL MOYERS: There’s that wonderful saying in the New Testament of Jesus. “In Jesus there is no male or female.” In the ultimate sense of things there is neither.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That would have to be. I mean, if Jesus represents the source of our being, we are all as it were thoughts in the mind of Jesus. He is the word that has become flesh in us, too.

BILL MOYERS: You and I would possess characteristics that are both male and female.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, actually the body does, And in that Yin-Yang figure from China, you know, in the dark fish or whatever you want to call it, there’s a light spot and in the light one there’s a dark spot. That’s how they can relate; you couldn’t relate at all to something that, of which you did not participate, into which you did not participate at all. That’s why the idea of God as the absolute other is a ridiculous idea, there could be no relationship to that which is absolute other.

BILL MOYERS: The question arises, in discussing the male-female principle, the virgin birth, the spiritual power that gives us the second birth. The wise people of all time have said that we can live the good life if we learn in fact to live spiritually. But how does one learn to live spiritually when one is of the flesh? Remember, Paul said, “the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh.” How do we learn to live spiritually?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, that was the in ancient times and in primitive times, the business of the teacher. He was to give you the clues to a spiritual life, that was what the priest was for. Also, that was what the ritual was for. A ritual can be defined as an enactment of a myth, by participating in a good, sound ritual, you are actually experiencing a mythological life. And it’s out of that that one can learn to live spiritually.

BILL MOYERS: These stories of mythology actually point the way to the spiritual life.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes. You’ve got to have a clue. You’ve got to have a road map of some kind, and these are all around us. They’re here.

BILL MOYERS: And the road map to which the goddess stories are pointing is the map of elevating the spiritual to an equality with the physical, so that you live in union with those two.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes. There you’ve come to the real sanctity of the earth itself, because that is the body of the goddess. When Yahweh creates, he creates the earth and breathes his life into it. He’s not there, she’s there. Your body is her body. And there’s that kind of identity.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that’s why I’m not so sure that the future of the race and the salvation of the journey is in space. I think it is well right here on earth in the body, in the womb of all of our being.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, it certainly is. I mean, when you go out into space what you’re carrying is your body and if that hasn’t been transformed, space won’t transform it for you. But thinking about space may help you to realize something.

BILL MOYERS: You certainly thought about space in this wonderful passage. You were describing a page out of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, but you read this and something happened to you.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: “What these pages opened to me was the vision of a universe of unimaginable magnitude and inconceivable violence. Billions upon billions, literally, of roaring thermonuclear furnaces scattering from each other, each thermonuclear furnace being a star and our sun among them. Many of them actually blowing themselves to pieces, littering the outermost reaches of space with dust and gas, out of which new stars with circling planets are being born right now. And then from still more remote distances beyond all these there come murmurs, microwaves, which are echoes of the greatest cataclysmic explosion of all, namely, the Big Bang of creation, which, according to recent reckonings, must have occurred some 18 billion years ago.”

That’s where we are, kiddo. And if you realized that, you realize how really important you are, you know, one little microbit in this great magnitude. And then out of that must come the experience that you and that are in some sense one, and that you partake of all of that

BILL MOYERS: And it begins here.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: It begins here.