Joseph Campbell, 1904-1987
Joseph Campbell, born in 1904 in New York City, was first exposed to mythology when his father took him, and his younger brother, to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden in 1910. This sparked an interest in Native American Culture, partially fueled by the belief he had Native American blood, so strong that by 1913, at age nine, he had started reading through the entire selection of children's books on Native Americans, and at age eleven, was allowed to check out books from the adult section to keep reading.
Eventually he entered Dartmouth College to study biology and mathematics. However, after discovering The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, he transferred to Columbia University and entered the English Department. While on a ocean voyage to Europe, he met and made friends with Jiddu Krishnamurti, who exposed him to Oriental philosophy. During the years, he also ran on the track team and played in a jazz band on weekends.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he enrolled in the graduate program at Columbia in 1926 to study Medieval Literature. In 1927, he earned a Proudfit Traveling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to the Unveristy of Paris, where he studied Romance philology and old French. In this time he discovered modern literature, including most notably James Joyce. He then transferred to the University of Munich to study Sanskrit literature and Indo-European philology.
In 1929, he returned to America, two weeks before the stock market crashed. He soon found that because of the depression, there were no job prospects and gave up doctoral work to rent a cottage in Woodstock for $20 a year, spending a large amount of time continuting his studies, especially reading.
In 1934, he accepted a job from his old headmaster at Canterbury prep school. He only taught for a year, returning back to reading and writing afterwards. He was then invited to teach at Sarah Lawrence College, where he would spent the next 38 years in their literature department.
Over the years, Campbell worked with a huge number of people, authoring, contributing, and editing a large number of works.
On October 30, 1987, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Joseph Campbell passed away. He left behind both the Joseph Campbell Foundation and the Campbell & Gimbutas Library.
Campbell worked extensively with mythology over the years, and is considered by some people to be the world's best scholar in comparative mythology. He analyzed both myth and religion, looking at the meaning and not the literal text.
Over the years, he drew many parallels among all of the world's mythology and religion, and encouraged people to find those parallels, those meanings, and use them to look at life, even modern life, with some of the same perspectives. To see the mythical in everyday life. He also pointed out the importance in ritual, as a way of connecting - he recommended to one person who missed saying grace before meals (due to no longer being religious) to say thanks to the plants and animals who had given their lives so his could continue.
It seems that any person who is familiar with Joseph Campbell's works is profoundly affected. Many have even been affected by him without even realizing it - one of the inspirations for George Lucas's Star Wars was Joseph Campbell. The experiences, obstances, and path of the hero, Luke Skywalker, covers the journeys mentioned in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In fact, Campbell at times, late in his lifetime, used Star Wars as a great example of the hero, of mythology.
Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Myth:
Read myths with the eyes of wonder: the myths transparent to their universal meaning, their meaning transparent to its mysterious source.
Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.
Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses of ancient mythology still live within you.
Any myth worth its salt exerts a powerful magnetism. Notice the images and stories that you are drawn to and repelled by. Investigate the field of associated images and stories.
Look for patterns; don't get lost in the details. What is needed is not more specialized scholarship, but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections; break old patterns of parochial thought.
Resacralize the secular: even a dollar bill reveals the imprint of Eternity.
If God is everywhere, then myths can be generated anywhere, anytime, by anything. Don't let your Romantic aversion to science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.
Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a vacuum; they are the connective tissue of the social body which enjoys synergistic relations with dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of myth).
Expand your horizons! Any mythology worth remembering will be global in scope. The earth is our home and humankind is our family.
Read between the lines! Literalism kills; Imagination quickens.
Here is a list of major works authored and edited by Joseph Campbell. Bibliographic data (where available) is about the first edition.
- The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, with Swami Nikhilananda, translation, 1942.
- Where the Two Came to their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial Given by Jeff King. Bollingen Series I. With Maud Oakes and Jeff King. Richmond, Virginia: Old Dominion Foundation, 1943.
- A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. With Henry Morton Robinson. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1944.
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Bollingen Series XVII. New York: Pantheon Books, 1949.
- The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension. New York: Viking Press, 1969.
- The Masks of God, 4 vols. New York: Viking Press, 1959-1968:
- Myths to Live by. New York, Viking Press, 1972.
- Erotic Irony and Mythic Forms in the Art of Thomas Mann, 1973
- The Mythic Image. Bollingen Series C. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.
- Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion. New York: Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1986.
- The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, 2 vols.:
- Vol. 1, The Way of the Animal Powers. New York: Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1983. Reprint in 2 pts. Part 1, Mythologies of the Primitive Hunters and Gatherers. New York: Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1988. Part 2, Mythologies of the Great Hunt. New York: Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1988.
- Vol. 2, The Way of the Seeded Earth, 3 pts. Part 1, The Sacrifice. New York : Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1988. Part 2, Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The North Americas. New York: Harper & Row Perennial Library, 1989. Part 3, Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The Middle and Southern Americas. New York: Harper & Row Perennial Library, 1989.
- The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. With Bill Moyers. Ed. Betty Sue Flowers. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
- Transformations of Myth through Time. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.
- The Universal Myths. With A. Eliot and M. Eliade, 1990.
- The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Ed. Phil Cousineau. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.
- Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. Ed. Diane K. Osbon. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
- Mythic Worlds, Modern Worlds: On the Art of James Joyce. Ed. Edmund L. Epstein. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
- Baksheesh and Brahman: Indian Journal 1954-1955. Eds. Robin and Stephen Larsen and Antony Van Couvering. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
- The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987. Ed. Antony Van Couvering. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
- Thou Art That. Ed. Eugene Kennedy. Novato, California: New World Library, 2001.
- Joseph Campbell Audio Collection, 6 vols.
Joseph Campbell Foundation, Mediagraphy - http://www.jcf.org/mediagraphy.htm
Joseph Campbell - http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/campb.htm
Joseph Campbell's Ten Commandments for Reading Myth - http://freenet.msp.mn.us/org/mythos/mythos.www/TENCOM.HTML
Campbell & Gimbutas Library - Joseph Campbell - Chronology - http://www.pacifica.edu/cglibrary/campchron.html