Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

The End Approacheth… and Recedeth: Apocalypse as Myth

La Mojarra Inscription - Mayan Long Count Date

The world is coming to an end.

Perhaps it will be on this year’s winter solstice, when the Mayan calendar says that the current pictun or aeon will end, and the universe will be obliterated and reconstituted– as it is supposed to have been seven thousand years or so ago. (Like Hindus, Buddhists, and many physicists, the Mayans believed that history moved in cycles rather than a straight line.)

Or perhaps it will be in five billion or so years, when the sun goes nova, burning the earth to a crisp.

Or perhaps it will be some other form of metaphysical or manmade apocalypse.

What is certain is that the idea of apocalypse — the myth of the word’s end — exercises a real, enduring power over the human imagination. Not a year goes by when some would-be prophet or other begins counting down to doomsday. Continue reading The End Approacheth… and Recedeth: Apocalypse as Myth

The Power — and the Study — of Myth

Angkor Wat

In the latter half of the 20th century, mythologist Joseph Campbell’s vast body of work — from “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” in 1949 to the broadcast of “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers” just months after his passing — resuscitated interest in comparative mythology, revitalizing the study of the field that Campbell called “the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.”

However, that interest hasn’t necessarily translated into formal acceptance on college campuses. “Academia doesn’t seem to know what to do with mythology,” says Stephen Gerringer of the Joseph Campbell Foundation. Continue reading The Power — and the Study — of Myth

Editor! Editor!

So I’ve had this experience a number of times in the past few weeks: someone starts talking about this wonderful Joseph Campbell book they’ve read, Pathways to Bliss

And I find myself feeling very shy.

Here’s the thing. Part of me is tickled pink—I spent two years of my life on the bloody book, and so it’s gratifying to hear that it had a profound affect on someone. Part of me is a bit astonished, because all I see when I open it are the typos. (I haven’t found a new one in a while—it’s been out seven years—but I know they’re in there somewhere, mocking me.)

And part of me bristles. Joseph Campbell book? Yeah, yeah, he’s the author and all of that, but who do think pulled the gorram thing together???

See, editors don’t do readings. We don’t do book tours. We don’t do radio interviews. And so we aren’t confronted with the affect our work has on readers on quite as immediate a level.

We also don’t get to toot our own horns. At least, not very loudly.

And yet there’s a part of me that definitely wants to say, “Hey! I’m listed on the title page too! My blood, sweat, and cerebral matter are splattered across every page of that book!”

Which is silly. But interesting.

Just thought I’d share that.