Monday, November 17, 2014

Humanity's myths can help us all understand each other



Masks of God: Primitive Mythology – Joseph Campbell (1968)

            Oh, Mr. Joseph Campbell.  I have sung your praises before on my intellectual journey and now I get to do so again.  There is a type of person who is an expert on a very small sub-section of human knowledge, whether it be the frogs of the Amazon forest, or the applications and uses for phosphorus.  Mr. Campbell was not this kind of expert.  He was of the kind whose knowledge runs deep in so many seemingly different fields, that he is capable of crafting original thought and analysis that no one has attempted before.  Mr. Campbell was indeed a polymath of the highest caliber.  He combined his research and work in ethnography, religious studies, myth, history, and tribal culture into a new field of study, comparative religion.  In this book, Mr. Campbell explores the development of myth from prehistoric times to the age of the early Egyptian Kingdoms.
            It is impossible to summarize the massive amount of information and story that this book contains.  I can only say that it is a masterful exploration of the ways that myth serves man and the ways that myths are changed by man to suit new environments and experiences.  One thing I found interesting is that, at the time of this books writing, Mr. Campbell was using ethnographic anthropology to show how early humans migrated through the world.  One can follow the various details of myths and legends and see how they progress over time and through the vast distances traveled by early humans.  It shows how different waves of humans, from areas that are currently China, southeast Asia and Polynesia, all reached and settled South America, tens of thousands of years before the European cultures did so. 

The God of Bald Eagles thinks all humans are weak and pathetic.  Eagle legends describe us humans only in profanities and derogatory blasphemies.


            Joseph Campbell did so much research into the many groundbreaking ethnographic studies done in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  His exhaustive knowledge is awe inspiring, and also the effect this knowledge had on him.  He speaks as a person who does not place value judgments on beliefs, only studying them and appreciating what the beliefs and myths provided to the people who held them dear, and what they say about human nature and thought.  There are 3 more books in this "Masks of God" series.  I will read them all!

(This book can be read as a .pdf here http://www.truthseekertimes.ca/database/text/Zeitgeist/TheMasksofGodPrimitiveMythologyCampbell.pdf )

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