After the end of last weekend’s mythological discussion group, one of the people participating commented to me that language seems to be an obstacle to contemplation of the realm of mythos. I’ve been thinking about this issue for several days, but it was only last night that I came upon a relevant passage in the book version of The Power of Myth, which contains some parts of the Moyers-Campbell conversation that were edited out of the video version that we’re watching.
In the passage I found, which is within the larger segment we’ll be watching this coming Sunday morning, Bill Moyers observes, “It seems to me that we have lost the art in our society of thinking in images.”
Joseph Campbell then agrees, and states, “Our thinking is largely discursive, verbal, linear. There is more reality in an image than in a word.”
Is our discussion of mythology too linguistic? This coming week, we’ll try something new. We’ll talk, but we will first, literally draw upon the power of the symbolic, visual way of thinking. Before we discuss our opinions, we’ll get graphic by manipulating our visual impressions of the ideas discussed by Moyers and Campbell. We’ll reflect, then, upon the difference between using words and imagery to experience and contemplate mythological themes.
Thanks to all the people who came to this morning’s first assembly of the mythological discussion group. I enjoyed hearing people explore many deep mythological concepts reacting to each other’s insights to build new understanding.
One of the most meaningful discussions for me came after the group had formally adjourned, however. One of the people in attendance approached me afterwards, and pointed to Joseph Campbell’s structure of the Hero’s Journey, saying, “I think some of that up there is sexist.”
You know, I agree with her. It’s clear to me that Joseph Campbell was earnest in attempting to understand the human experience from a universal perspective, but it’s equally clear to me that Campbell sometimes failed in that attempt. I’ve found several instances of sexist ideas from Campbell – his opposition to the integration of gender-segregated elitist social clubs, for example.
I chose Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth as the structure around which to create a mythological discussion group at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca because Campbell had skill in bringing together many powerful concepts about mythology in a way that was accessible to people from many different backgrounds, academic and non-academic. Campbell had skill, but that doesn’t mean he always came to reasonable conclusions.
This mythological discussion group is using Joseph Campbell as a starting point, not as a destination in himself. I’m excited by many of the ideas that Campbell represents, but I have no interest in revering him.
If you’re participating in the discussion group and hear something from Campbell that doesn’t seem right to you, please speak up about it. Probably, other people share that feeling, and we can use it to go forward with a mythological vision of our own that fits with our values.
Ithaca Myth is a resource for people living in Ithaca, New York, who are interested in the discussion of mythology. It’s an online companion experience to a discussion series at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca that’s starting on November 20, 2011.
This discussion series will center around the ideas presented in Joseph Campbell‘s Power of Myth, a videotaped conversation between Campbell in Bill Moyers that was broadcast by PBS back in the 1980s.
If you can, come to the first of the sessions on November 20 at 9:00 AM or at 12:00 Noon in the Arch Room at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca building at the corner of Buffalo and Aurora streets. A second discussion in the series will take place on November 27 at the same place and times.
If you can’t make it, don’t worry. We’ll be having related discussions right here at the Ithaca Myth web site.
To start a mythologically-themed discussion, just start writing in the comments section of this or any other article (look over on the left side of the page where it says “leave a comment”).
Now, before the first discussion session takes place, is a good time for you to share your ideas about how you’d like it to progress. We can make the experience rich by adding to it together.