Campbell was unique in a sense. He came along at the same time as Heinrich Zimmer and Carl Jung and Picasso. He was also a great athlete. And he didn’t pander to the illusions of authority. In that sense he became that rare thing – and only really toward the end of his life, after PBS Journalist Bill Moyers interviewed him, a popular academic. Many were jealous of his fame and success.
But, it was his love of stories that powered his resolve. He was a very inspiring man in that sense. The father of the discipline of comparative mythology – certainly in the West.
Fundamentally, he recognized the heroism of being human. Just to be born you must go through several challenges. Calm seas do not make a great mariner. Evolution demands tests.
He was fascinated with the Native Americans and the Arthurian myths and the work of Jung and myths from all over the planet. He called the mythic imagination the Song of Songs. He was very much with the zeitgeist of his times.
He clarified the four functions of myth. You can look them up under that phrase and his name.
Yet, the first one is that the function of myth is to initiate a sense of awe in man.
It’s ironic that George Lucas named his hero Luke Skywalker. One of the most important men, in terms of influence, in human history, was Abaris the Skywalker. He walked 5000 miles to meet Pythagoras and gift him many wisdoms. From Mongolia to Greece. Pythagoras, Empedocles, Herodotus and Parmenides, more than any other men, they paved the way for the modern society we see virtually planet wide today.
Abaris clarified certain Eastern understandings to Pythagoras and he consequently grew immediately and immensely as a mathematician and natural philosopher. I sense the meeting of those men was very important in human history. It’s as if two cultures fused and accelerated forward in their meeting. The blooming blue lotus of that cultural moment. Yet, it was part of a larger wave. And Parmenides and Empedocles made significant contributions that shape our world to this day.
And whether you look at a leaf or interact with a clerk or a doctor or a mountain or a praying mantis – you do find that what fascinated Joseph Campbell about myth applies to you and all life too. Awe is the first and most enduring law of life and function of myth.
But how do you find it? Should it not be natural to you as it is to some.
Well, you sit with what Campbell said that myth or stories or science is essentially talking about, and that is:
“What is talking?”
Is it arrogance?
And, most importantly:
Intelligence? (where intelligence means to read between the lines of thought)
What is it?
There’s a web of intrigue therein. One might call it the human condition. Yet, I find Campbell’s question is very insightful, and when handled wisely, the seed and guiding wisdom, to he who has the ears to ear, behind incomparable love.
© Copyright 2021 Nathan Curry