I had the Video tape of the Power of Myth for many years,I updated it to DVD. To review this DVD is difficult,because one has to get to the living essence of the discussion between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell. I then decided to use the old Uni system, when sitting and listening to lectures by taking down notes.This technique might give you an insight into the content of the Power of Myth.I took a couple of degrees in Comparative Religion,which means a study of all religions. I am a Pantheist,at least that is the label I use.I have never used the degrees in a professional sense. I mentioned this because Campbell's speciality is Comparative Religion and Myths. He died a few months after these recordings in 1987.He is a wise Man. I wish I had a lecturer like him when I was at Uni many years ago.He delves into Hindu,Buddhist,Christian,Islamic,Japanese,American Indigenous peoples belief systems and myths.
Episode 1-The Hero's adventure.
We only have to follow the hero's long gone,and go through the Labyrinth, following the thread and where we thought we would find an abomination,we shall find a God. Where we have thought to slay another,we shall slay ourselves. Where we have thought to travel outwards,we shall come to the center of our existence.(introduction).
Stories of hero's in mythology, is beyond the normal range of Human experience and is bigger then themselves. The physical Act,a war act, is in saving others. The spiritual hero has gone on an inner adventure,and has returned. Jesus and Buddha each had three temptations which they overcame. Their followers did not understand their message.Generally,their original idea turns to ashes. The achievement of the hero, is that he is ready for the adventure and it is the one he gets.The creative spirit ranges beyond the known boundaries. The stories of mythology can only be explained this way,they are beyond human knowledge.Campbell suggests we live life with mystery,your own mystery. That is what makes you tick.
Bill recognises something in the Star Wars piece shown. The hero's are trapped in the belly of a space craft and about to be crushed.(Star wars,Campbell says are riddled with basic myths.) That belly represents something. Campbell then explains.Jonah trapped in the belly of the Whale. That is a very ancient myth. The hero is swallowed and spat out. This is a decent into the dark. The Whale is the personification of all that is in the unconscious. Water is a symbol of the unconscious.The creature in the water is the dynamism of the unconscious,which the conscious controls,if not,it is dangerous. The first stage of the hero,he leaves the light and goes towards the threshold,where he meets the creature and if not strong enough is cut to pieces,or as Siefried did, kills the dragon. Tasting the blood,he hears the song of Nature.Thus,Siegfried has transcended his humanity.
The mind must not control the body,but serve it,if it doesnt,it goes over to the intellectual side. In this state the system of society,or any system will destroy your humanity.You must listen to your inner self. When Bill Moyers said that in the real world people have no option but to live in the system. Yes,they do, says Campbell.They can find a way out.
European Dragon myth equals greed,gold and virgins.It is a symbol of being trapped in your own ego,captured in your own dragon cage,break it open,do away with fear. The real dragon is you,your ego. The aims in your life are too small,follow your dreams,or bliss.If you say,"I could not do that" thats your dragon. You have to do this journey by yourself,no one can help you. Buddha talks of Nirvana. This place in yourself of rest. A center in your life. It is here,not heaven somewhere else.Hold your center,amid the whirlpool of life. Buddha shows you the way,the rest is up to you. The whole world of Nature is conscious,not just in your head.
A typical World myth Campbell might tell would be like this,an Iroquois Myth-the 'refusal of suitors'.A Pretty young girl lived with her Mother in a tipee.She refused to marry any of the young men in the village.While the Mother and her were out collecting wood, a darkness came over them. This means a magician is around.They built a Wigwam.A young Man appeared. He was so handsome she was bowled over and when he suggested she marry him,she accepted.They lived together,and one day he went out hunting. After some noise outside the door,a big snake appeared and said as it layed across her legs "scratch my head". She did and got rid of the bugs. "You are not frightened are you". No she said. On the second day this happened again. On the third day she went out to collect wood,and saw a number of snakes asleep. A little old man appeared and said,"this man and his 6 brothers,the snakes, have no feelings,they are cold,they do not care about you, beware. Collect the 7 hearts in a bag under his bed and run away". She does this. The seven snakes shout," we will catch you". She runs into a stream and the little old man helps her out.Water is about the unconscious.You can get caught by the darker powers and pulled down. Or get pulled out by the higher powers. If you are not able to cope in a marriage it will be hell,otherwise it will be bliss,depends on you.
Myths and dreams come from the same place, they inform. The myth of the future will be this planet. This world and society at one with Nature.(missed quite a bit-but you get the idea,from a man who speaks with warmth and does not look over 80. Campbell seems young in his enthusastic manner and very knowledgeable about his subject. He taught for 40 years at Sarah Lawrence college USA.Bill Moyers did not question in the traditional sense,but in his quiet manner might say,"when I read myths,I get a sense of awe and mystery, dont you?". Then Campbell explains. Or Bill might say, "why do we need myths and what do they mean to us" and so forth. Then proceed to read a myth and Campbell would explain. It is not you typical interview,Bill and Joe are both contributing.
Episode 2- Message of the Myths.
Science and technology has taken over from myths,Campbell wondered where this would lead us,but talks about the film Sci -Fi Star Wars having all the basic myths.From ancient times myths dealt with deep inner problems and were guides to humans. Myths are an experience and the rapture of being alive. From them you can learn the lessons from within. Myths can deal with what cannot be named or known.Eternity is not a long time.It has nothing to do with time.If you dont get eternity here and now,you will never get it. In the Near East, you get an entirely different approach. In Genesis,the Bible,in the myth of the Garden of Eden,you have the fall of Man,good, evil and sin.Man aginst nature,a corrupting influence.Man the most superior being created in the image of God. This has led us to a negativity about life.Most myths as a whole are positive about existence.The atttitude towards Nature is different in Hinduism and Buddhism.Man is a part of nature and the spirit is in all things.There is no apartness as in the biblical myth, which has influenced a lot of our thinking.For example,the snake is positive in most cultures. it represents the divine and the giver of life.In the Christian belief,the snake is evil,a complete rejection of life.
It is childish to say no to life. Eternity has nothing to do with time. This is it,here and now,this function of life.Dont withdraw from life,embrace it. All life is sorrowful as Buddha said.All is as it has to be. Pain is a part of being alive. Myths are the inspiration of Art. Life is a poem.Acts and actions in accord with the universal being. Myth is a manifestation of this. We are the source of the problem,no one else.Myths have to be in tune with today,not the past,but the here and now.The old values do not work today,you cannot bring them back,new ones are required. You need a new set of metaphors,not the old ones, for they cease to work. Myths adjust to the circumstances. The individual has to find their own myths in the machine age.For a myth to form will take a long time,as technology is constantly changing and will have to incorporate the machine.
Episode 3-The first Story tellers.
Our destiny with death. Ancient myths were designed to put our mind in harmony with the body,in accord with nature. These stories still live in us. Messages in a bottle on how to deal with aging. Dont identify with the body as you age,but with the mind. If you identify with conciousness,you can watch your body decay around you. I live with these myths. The image of death is the beginning of mythology. Something was there,breathing and living,the next moment it is cold,and rotting. From early Man we see some belongings buried with the person. This suggests that there was an idea of a life after death. An invisible plane behind the visible.
The identity with the animal once it has been killed. The hunt is a ritual. It respects the animal,a messinger for divine power. Guilt is wiped out by myth. You are doing the work of nature. The animal in ancient times were superior to Man. The indigenous Americans(red Indians)sees a animal as thou. The ego that sees a thou,is different to seeing a it. The artist keeps alive myths today.(1988).Poets,painters like Picasso and Klee. Writers such as Mann and Joyce.(Not only was Campbell influenced by these two writers,but by Jung,whom he knew and Schoepenhauer,the German philosopher of the 19th century.He was influenced by Plato,Kant,Hinduism and Buddhism. He wrote that Will creates suffering. Once we recognise this and have the inner experiences like saints,humanity can change.)
6 episodes. approx 342 mins. Stereo. Picture fine.DVD. 4.3 full screen. Bonus. Never before conversation with Campbell made 1981. Moyers interviews with Star wars creator George Lucas.