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Joseph Campbell ‘Mythic Structure’ 16/01/2012 Presentation by John Lillywhite The Cell @ Mlabbas


#Cell1: Purpose of Presentation • Appreciation of role of myth and unconscious in storytelling & art. • On mono-myth & mythic structure. • What is a Hero?


“Through me is the way into a woeful city, Through me is the way into eternal woe, Through me is the way among a Lost people” Dante.

“These deeply significant motifs of the perils, obstacles, and good fortunes of the way, we shall find inflected through the following pages in a hundred forms” Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell


About Joseph Campbell •

When he was seven years old, his father took him and his younger brother, Charlie, to see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. The evening was a high point in Joe’s life; for, although the cowboys were clearly the show’s stars, as Joe would later write, he “became fascinated, seized, obsessed, by the figure of a naked American Indian with his ear to the ground, a bow and arrow in his hand, and a look of special knowledge in his eyes.” he was immersed in the rituals, symbols, and rich traditions of his Irish Catholic heritage; on the other, he was obsessed with primitive (or, as he later preferred, “primal”) people’s direct experience of what he came to describe as “the continuously created dynamic display of an absolutely transcendent, yet universally immanent, mysterium tremendum et fascinans, which is the ground at once of the whole spectacle and of oneself.”


About Joseph Campbell •

• •

It was during this period in Europe that Joe was first exposed to those modernist masters—notably, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung 1928-1929 When Joe returned from Europe late in August of 1929, he was at a crossroad, unable to decide what to do with his life. With the onset of the Great Depression, he found himself with no hope of obtaining a teaching job; and so he spent most of the next two years reconnecting with his family, reading, renewing old acquaintances, and writing copious entries in his journal. In 1934, he was offered and accepted a position in the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he would retain for thirtyeight years. While outlining the basic stages of this mythic cycle, he also explores common variations in the hero’s journey, which, he argues, is an operative metaphor, not only for an individual, but for a culture as well. The Hero would prove to have a major influence on generations of creative artists—from the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s to contemporary filmmakers today—and would, in time, come to be acclaimed as a classic. Biography by Robert Walter, Campbell editor for decade.


“The Mono-Myth” The General Universal power of Story.


Mono-myth: An Introduction • Coined by James Joyce • Campbell held that numerous myths from disparate times and regions share fundamental structures and stages, which he summarized in The Hero with a Thousand Faces: • “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” Wikipedia


Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture thin translations from the sonnets o the mystic Lao-Tse; now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale: it will always be the one shape-shifting yet marvellously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told.


Anatomy of a Story • Departure • Call to Adventure • Initiation • Return • Rebirth


Anatomy of a Story • Call to Adventure • •

Typical of the circumstances of the call are the dark forest/London, the great tree, babbling spring and loathy underestimated appearance of carrier of power of destiny. A Persian city was once ‘enstoned to stone’ – King and Queen, soldiers, inhabitants and all – because it’s people refused the call of Allah. Lot’s wife pillar of salt for looking back, story of Wandering Jew who told Christ carrying cross to ‘go a little faster’. “When Yahweh threw man out of the Garden he put two Cherubim at the gate with a flaming sword between them. Busshist shrines, with Buddha seated under tree immortal life, find at the gate two guardians – the cherubim, going between them to the tree of immortal life.” Thus spake Zarathustra. Task of the lion to kill the dragon called ‘Thou Shalt’, on every scale a ‘thou shalt’ is imprinted, some for 4 thousand years ago, others from this morning’s headlines. Whereas the child has to submit to the ‘thou shalts’ the lion, the youth, must throw them off and come to his own realization.


Anatomy of a Story • Call to Adventure • Buddhists speak of the bodhisattva, the one who knows immortality yet voluntarily enters into the field of fragmentation of time and participates willingly and joyfully in the sorrows of the world.


Anatomy of a Story Initiation Once having traversed the threshold, the hero must move in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambigious forms, where he must succeed a succession of trials. Hero covertly aided by advice, amulets and secret agents of supernatural helper whom met before entrance to this reason. Or benign impersonal power to meet later in series? “Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed before you?” Koran 2:214

But ‘the heart glows and a secret unrest gnaws at the roots of our being’ (Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious)


Anatomy of a Story Return • Hero adventurers out of land we know into darkness, accomplishes adventures or; • Lost, imprisoned or in danger, and his return described as coming back from yonder zone • However the 2 kingdoms are actually one • The realm of the Gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know, and exploration of that dimension, willingly or unwillingly, the deed of the hero. • Buddhists speak of the bodhisattva, the one who knows immortality yet voluntarily enters into the field of fragmentation of time and participates willingly and joyfully in the sorrows of the world. • Master of two worlds


Anatomy of a Story Rebirth • • •

Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso ~ the ‘degrees of spiritual realization’ Dante looks at great lovers of History in Hell, he sees Helen, and Cleopatra, and Tristan. Dante Famous lines – Francesca says that Paolo and she were sitting under a tree in the garden reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere ‘And when we read of their first kiss, we looked at each other and read no more in the book that day’. This the beginning of their fall. Egyptian Book of the Dead ~ The man or women who died is identified with and called Osiris.


“Individuation” The application of myth to the individual.


Myth Thus spake Zarathustra. Task of the lion to kill the dragon called ‘Thou Shalt’, on every scale a ‘thou shalt’ is imprinted, some for 4 thousand years ago, others from this morning’s headlines. Whereas the child has to submit to the ‘thou shalts’ the lion, the youth, must throw them off and come to his own realization.


On Myth “Myths deal with the maturation of the individual from dependency through adulthood, maturity, and then to exit; and then how to relate to this society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos.�


The Antagonist The role of the unconscious. Darkness within.


A world without mentors • “The dangerous crises of self-development are permitted to come to pass under the protecting eye of an experienced initiate” • Where is the guide? • “It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight is truly desperate; that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart”


“Unconscious” The Irrational.


Unconscious

“Each of you has his private, unrecognised, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream.�


Unconscious “The human Kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.�


Examples • Matrix, Star Wars, Paradise Lost, Karate Kid, Aladdin, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator.


Finally…

“There is no final system for the interpretation of myth…”


In Summary…

A ‘hero’ is anyone with the courage to undertake a journey and face the darkness within themselves.


In Summary… The aspects of the individual life – love, decisions, work, & play – these are the things of ‘myth’. Life, and story, the mundane, have a mythic structure. If you know how to see it.

An intoduction to Joseph Campbell by John Lillywhite  

A Writers Cell Presentation for @projectpen

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