Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Joseph John Campbell
Written and compiled by George Knowles
“Follow your bliss”
Perhaps the most common shared theme of all world cultures is mythology, which describes in many differing stories the creation of the universe, how the earth began, how plants, animals and humans were created, and the origin of the many Gods and Goddesses that ruled the ancient world. One of the foremost leading experts on Comparative Mythology in the 20th century was the late Joseph John Campbell, a distinguished American mythologist, author, editor, teacher and lecturer.
Joseph Campbell (or Joe as he preferred to be called) was born in White Planes, New York, on the 26th March 1904. He was the eldest of two sons (his younger brother was called Charlie) and a sister Alice borne to Charles William Campbell, a hosiery importer and wholesaler, and his wife Josephine Lynch, an upper middle-class couple of Irish Roman Catholic descent. At the age of 7 years, his father took him to Madison Square Garden to see a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. The show, which featured both Cowboys and Sioux Indians, was the trigger that led to Campbell’s life long fascination with Native American legends, myths and culture.
William F. Cody aka Buffalo Bill - Show Poster - Charging Thunder of the Sioux
That same year in 1913, the Campbell family moved to New Rochelle, New York, where he started his early education at the all boys Iona Preparatory High School. He also joined the local Public Library and quickly read through all the junior section books he could find on Native American Indians. Such was his enthusiasm he was then allowed into the adult section of the library where he worked his way through the entire multi-volume Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
The family also owned a secluded country bungalow in Pike County, Pennsylvania, which they used regularly for vacations. Their closest neighbour was Elmer Russell Gregor (1870-1954), the author of a series of children’s books about Native American Indians and Frontiersmen. Gregor was also a world-class Ornithologist, a devoted Naturalist and an early member of the “Buckskin Men of America” founded by Daniel Carter Beard, and later incorporated into the fledgling “Boy Scouts of America”, who also had a campground nearby.
Book by Elmer Gregor - Daniel Carter Beard
As Campbell was still fixated on Native American Indians, Gregor became his first real mentor and inspirer. Together the explored the nearby woods, watching and studying birds, and formed their own tribe the “Lenni-Lenape”, which named after the Delaware Indian tribe that originally occupied the New York metropolitan area. They also worked on Wampum Belts. Wampum’s are polished shell beads made from quahog clams, and were once used as a medium of exchange between early Native American tribes. They were mainly worn for decoration and as insignia of tribal rank, but more importantly they were also used to document events such the signing of important treaties and agreements.
George Washington Treaty Wampum Belt
This belt is a record of a Treaty with George Washington in 1789. The house in the center is the longhouse of the Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy).
At the age of 14 (1918) Campbell suffered from a debilitating yearlong respiratory illness, during which time and when he was able, he became a frequent visitor to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. There he gained an interest in Biology and Natural Sciences. Sadly just a year later in 1919 a fire ripped through their family home in New Rochelle resulting in the death of his grandmother. The fire also destroyed most of the family’s possessions, and his treasured collection of Indian books and artefacts. After the fire, his mother sent him to Canterbury High School, a residential Roman Catholic school in New Milford, Connecticut to finish his early education.
After graduating from Canterbury High School in 1921, Campbell initially started at Dartmouth Collage in Hanover, New Hampshire, studying Biology and Mathematics, but quickly grew disappointed with their social and academic standards, so a year later he transferred to Columbia University in New York and at the same time changed his course studies to Humanities and Medieval Literature. While there he joined the University track team and became one of the fastest runners of the half-mile at that time in the world. Socially he was also a Jazz musician and played Saxophone, Guitar and Ukulele with various Jazz groups.
In 1924 Campbell took a year out from his studies to travel around Europe with his family during which they visited: England, Scotland, Wales, Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. On his way back aboard a steamship he met and formed a friendship with Jiddu Krishnamurti, who at the time was being hailed as the new messiah of the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti introduced him to Oriental philosophy and religion, which led Campbell to question his own religious beliefs and eventually to give up practicing as a Roman Catholic.
Returning to his studies at Columbia, in 1925 Campbell earned a B.A. degree in English literature, and in 1927 completed an M.A. in Medieval Literature with a thesis on The Dolorous Stroke, a trope in Arthurian legends concerning the Holy Grail. He was then granted the “Alexander Moncrief Proudfit Fellowship”, which allowed him to continue postgraduate studies first at the University of Paris (1927-28) studying Romance philology, with Old French and Provencal languages, then at the University of Munich (1928-29) to study Sanskrit literature and Indo-European philology.
During his time in Paris and Munich, Campbell was greatly influenced by a number of the leading European masters of the day, such notables as: the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929), artists Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Paul Klee (1879-1940) and Henri Matisse (1869-1954), authors James Joyce (1882-1941) and Thomas Mann (1875-1955), and psychologists Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung (1875-1961). Their many works of art, writings and insights would continue to inspire and evolve Campbell’s own theories and speculations throughout his later career.
Antoine Bourdelle - Pablo Picasso - Paul Klee - Henri Matisse
James Joyce - Thomas Mann - Sigmund Freud - Carl Jung
On his return to Columbia, Campbell hoped to expand the scope of his dissertation topic beyond the Grail myths to include parallels he had found within psychology, literature and modern art, but his advisors made it clear that such an interdisciplinary dissertation would not be acceptable for his doctoral thesis. As a result Campbell decided not to complete his postgraduate work and to abandon any further idea of gaining a Doctorate degree.
However, this was at the start of the Great Depression, and without a Doctorate degree he found himself with no hope of obtaining a teaching position. Instead he rented an old cottage in Woodstock, NY, and spent the next several years independently studying Sanskrit (as well as French, German and Russian languages), while at the same time reading and studying many of the world’s most important cultural classics. In 1931–32 he took time out from his self-imposed studies and traveled to California for a year. There he met and became close friends with the author John Steinbeck and his first wife Carol Henning. He also formed a friendship with marine biologist Ed Ricketts (the role model for some of the characters in Steinbecks novels).
John Steinbeck and wife Carol - Ed Ricketts
Finally in 1933 Campbell was offered a position as a housemaster teaching History, English, French and German at his old Canterbury High School in Connecticut. A year later in 1934 he was offered a better teaching position as the Professor of Comparative Literature and Mythology at the newly established Sarah Lawrence Collage in Bronxville, New York, a position he would hold for the next thirty-eight.
Sarah Lawrence Collage
(Today the Sarah Lawrence College is an exclusive coeducational liberal arts College, and is one of the most expensive College’s in the world).
Shortly after taking up his new position at Sarah Lawrence College, Campbell met Jean Erdman, who became one of his early students. Erdman entered the College in 1934 majoring in Dance and Theatre. She studied dance with the eminent Martha Graham, then a guest teacher at the College, whose influence would greatly shape her own future life and career. She also studied aesthetic philosophy with Campbell who became her tutorial advisor. In 1937 she took time out from her studies to join her parents and younger sister on a trip around the world, during which she explored the traditional cultural dances of the countries they visited, including: Bali, Java, India, Cambodia and Spain.
On her return to the US, Erdman decided not to finish her College studies, and instead joined the Martha Graham Dance Company, rising to become a major influence in her own right as a leading choreographer of modern dance and avant-garde theatre. On the 5th May 1938 despite an age difference for 12 years, she married her late Collage advisor Joseph Campbell. After the wedding and a brief honeymoon they rented a small two-room apartment in Greenwich Village, New York, where they would continue to live for most of their married life.
From the outset of their marriage they both decided not to raise a family. Erdman for her part spent most of her time training and rehearsing with Martha Graham Dance Company, and later developing her career as a choreographer and theatre director. In the meantime Campbell continued to focus on his teaching career and writing. With both of them so busy with their professional lives, each felt that children would be a distraction and so instead they looked upon their students as family.
Martha Graham - Campbell and Erdman (c. 1939) – Erdman with The Martha Graham Dance Company at Bennington College 1941
In 1940, Campbell was introduced to Swami Nikhilananda, the leader of a Vedanta centre in New York City. Together they produce a new translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (published in 1942) and a four volume series of The Upanishads. It was through Nikhilananda that he met the Indologist and leading Sanskrit scholar Heinrich Zimmer who became a good friend and mentor. Zimmer in turn introduced him to Paul and Mary Mellon, founders of the Bollingen Foundation, which was set-up to support ongoing research and scholarship within the fields of the liberal arts and sciences. They asked Campbell to edit and write an introduction and commentary for their first publication Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial by Jeff King and Maud Oakes (1943). This was the first of a whole series of publications he would edit for them over the following years.
In 1943 when Heinrich Zimmer died suddenly of pneumonia, his widow Christiana and Mary Mellon from the Bollingen Foundation asked Campbell to edit and oversee the publication of his unfinished works. To this task he devoted the next twelve years and produced in a series of four books: Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (Bollingen Series VI: 1946), The King and the Corpse (Bollingen Series XI: 1948), Philosophies of India (Bollingen Series XXVI: 1951), and in two-volumes The Art of Indian Asia, its Mythology and Transformations (Bollingen Series XXXIX: 1955).
In the meantime after his first contribution to the Bollingen Foundation, Campbell edited and added another introduction and commentary to their ongoing series in The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1944). Also that year he co-authored with Henry Morton Robinson A Skeleton’s Key to Finnegan’s Wake (1944), the first comprehensive analysis of the complex James Joyce novel “Finnegan’s Wake” (1939) that had so inspired his earlier studies in Paris and Munich.
While still working on the Zimmer papers, as well as teaching at the Sarah Lawrence College, Campbell also began work on his first solo publication The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Bollingen Series XVII: 1949). This proved an immediate success and quickly became a campus classic, and established him as a leading world authority on mythology. It also earned him the “National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Contributions to Creative Literature,” the first of numerous awards and honours he would receive throughout his lifelong career.
In 1955 after he had completed the two-volume The Art of Indian Asia, the last of his posthumous works edited from Heinrich Zimmer’s unfinished papers, Campbell took a year out from the Sarah Lawrence College to travel, and for the first time visited some of the places he had been writing about for the past decade. He spent the first six-month in southern Asia (mostly in India) studying their culture, mythology and religions, and another six month in East Asia (mostly in Japan) doing the same. This first hand experience had a profound influence on his later thinking and confirmed for him the necessity of teaching comparative mythology to a larger audience.
On his return to the US, Campbell began writing what many consider to be his magnum opus, a four-volume series called Masks of God (1959-67), which included: Primitive Mythology (1959), Oriental Mythology (1962), Occidental Mythology (1964) and Creative Mythology (1968). In these four volumes he explored the mythologies of cultures from all around the world and from ancient to modern times. His other most notable books include: The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension (1969), Myths to Live By (1972), The Mythic Image (1974), The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion (1986), and his final four-volume unfinished work the lavishly illustrated Historical Atlas of World Mythology (1983-87).
As an editor Campbell was responsible for producing such works as: The Portable Arabian Nights (1952) and the popular Man and Myth series (1953-1954). He also edited the annual “Eranos Conferences”, which brought together many of the leading scholars and intellectual thinkers of the day. From these he produced in six volumes the: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks (Bollingen Series XXX), which included the papers of various authors in: Spirit and Nature (1954), The Mysteries (1955), Man and Time (1957), Spiritual Disciplines (1960), Man and Transformation (1964), and The Mystic Vision (1969). Lastly he edited The Portable Jung (1972), which included a lengthy introduction on Carl Jung’s analytical psychology.
As a public speaker, in 1956 Campbell was invited to speak at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute where he delivered two days of lectures without notes. His talks were so well received that he was invited back annually for the next seventeen years. He also began a series of public lectures at the Cooper Union in New York City, which likewise became a regular event attracting even larger and more diverse audiences. In 1962 he was elected to the board of directors of “The Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture”, and in 1965 presented the first of many annual seminars at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, a residential community and retreat centre focused on humanistic alternative education. He was also a regular speaker at various C.G. Jung Institutes, at the University of California Extension in Berkeley, and at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
In 1972 having taught at the Sarah Lawrence College for 38 years, Campbell retired from active teaching to concentrate on his writing, but retained his title as Professor Emeritus. That same year he was named the “President of the Society for the Study of Religion”. After taking a brief tour of Iceland and Turkey, on his return he co-founded with his wife Jean Erdman the “Theatre of the Open Eye” in New York. Erdman by this time had gained an international reputation as a teacher of dance, choreography and theatre production. Acting as the artistic director of the new theatre, over the following 15 years she directed and presented works of traditional and experimental dance, as well as producing plays and drama. Campbell in the meantime used the venue to host his public lectures on Comparative Mythology.
During the last decade of his life Campbell received numerous honours, such as the “Melcher Award for Contributions to Religious Liberalism” (1976) from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the Distinguished Scholar Award from Hofstra University on Long Island, New York. In 1978 he received an honorary Doctorate from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1985 for his work on the first volume of his Historical Atlas of World Mythology: The Way of the Animal Powers (1983) he was awarded the “Gold Medal of Honour for Literature” by the National Arts Club of New York. In 1986 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Sarah Lawrence College, and just before his death in 1987, he was elected to the “American Academy of Arts and Letters.”
In 1982 Campbell and his wife Jean Erdman moved to Hawaii where they bought an apartment in Honolulu. Although he had retired from full time teaching in 1972, he continued to take month-long lecture tours each year, dividing his time between Honolulu and New York. Sadly on the 31st October 1987, while at his home in Honolulu, Joseph Campbell passed away from complications with oesophageal cancer. He was later interred at the O’ahu Cemetery in Honolulu. May he rest in peace.
The Joseph Campbell Grave Marker
Perhaps Campbell’s greatest public outreach and popularity was gained through a series of TV programs. Just before his death in 1987, Campbell completed a series interviews with journalist Bill Moyers for the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Called Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, most of the series had been filmed on location at the “Skywalker Ranch”, home of his friend George Lucas, the director of the “Star Wars” film trilogy, the making of which he credited to the influence of Campbell’s work. The series contained six one-hour interviews and were first broadcast in 1988 the year after his death. A companion book of the series called The Power of Myth was also published, which due to the wide popularity of the program became an instant best seller.
Also in 1988, and in honour of his long years of dedicated service at the Sarah Lawrence College, the “Joseph Campbell Chair of Comparative Mythology” was established. Today his legacy continues through the “Joseph Campbell Foundation”, co-founded in 1990 by his widow, Jean Erdman and his long-term editor friend Robert Walter. As a non-profit organisation, the mission of the Foundation is to preserve, protect and perpetuate Campbell’s work, and to promote similar works and studies through education and public awareness.
“Follow your bliss”
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Plus so many others to many to mention
If you have never read Joseph Campbell here’s your opportunity. You can download a free PDF copy of his The Hero with a Thousand Faces here: http://vymena.grimoar.cz/campbell-the_hero_with_a_thousand_faces.pdf
Or a free copy of his Masks of God here:
Enjoy the read, they are worth it.
First published 17th April 2014 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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