Joseph Campbell & The Message of Myth, Episode 2 - DVD with Bill Moyers.
Why myths? What do they have to do with my life?
If you don’t know what the guide signs of life are, you have to work it out yourself. But these stories are stories of the search for meaning through the ages. To touch the eternal, to find out who we are.
We’re not looking for meaning for life, we’re looking for an experience of being alive. So that our experiences on the physical plane resonate with those of our innermost being and reality so we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life. Mot so much about meaning as about the experience of life.
What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? You’re there. Simply there.
GOD. Is a thought, a name, but ultimately a reference to something that transcends thinking. Myths are metaphors referring to that which is transcendent. Which can’t be known. The ultimate word for which is God.
Everything in the field of time is dual. Death and life. Is and isn’t. right and wrong. But transcendence is the center. Between the to poles. Put your mind in the middle. Heraclitus – “For God all things are good and just. But for man, some things are good.” Know the center, and know that good and evil are only temporal apparitions
Here’s a whole mythology based on the insight that transcends duality. Ours is a mythology that’s based on the insight OF duality, so our religion tends to be ethical. Sin and atonement, right and wrong… Our religion started with a sin. It’s dualistic. Moving out of the mythological zone… where there is no time, and no gender. Where God and man are largely the same. But then there’s sin, and now we’re all different…
god and man, man and nature, man and woman.
“God vs. Man, Man vs. God, Man vs. Nature, Nature vs. Man, God vs. Nature, Nature vs. God… What a funny religion!”
In the other mythologies, one puts one self in accord with the world. If the world is a mixture of good and evil, you fight against the world… Christianity and Islam are about NOT being in accord with nature. Nature is corrupt. Fallen. Every spontaneous act is sinful. Nature is corrupt and must be corrected. it must not be yielded to. You get a totally different civilization and a totally different way of living according to your myth about whether nature is fallen, or whether it’s a manifestation of divinity and the spirit being a revelation of the divinity inherent in nature.
This distinction between God and the world is not in Buddhism or Hinduism. Oh, to be in a place that has never heard of the fall in the garden, to be in a place where nature is not in opposition to man or God!
The significance of the forbidden fruit. “The One Forbidden Thing” – in many traditions. But it’s by eating the fruit that man becomes the initiator if his life. God knows they will eat that fruit. They can't avoid it. But also the tradition of finding someone to blame. Snake in both stories is the symbol of life throwing off the past and continuing to live. IN MOST CULTURES THE SNAKE IS POSITIVE. The serpent is the next thing to the Buddha. The snake represents the power of life in the field of time to throw off death. To be eternally alive. What naming the snake as the accuser amounts to is the refusal to affirm life. Life is evil in this view. Every natural impulse is sinful unless you’ve been baptized, or circumcised.
Woman also represents life. She brings us into this life. That’s why she’s represented in Christian tradition as a temptress… She is life.
The affirmation of the world. Who are we to judge? Eternity is not a long time, eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking in time cuts out. This is it. If you don’t get it here you won’t get it anywhere. The experience of eternity here and now is the function of life.
Bodhisattva – the one who’s being (satva) is illumination (bodi) The attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you experience horror in it, but to realize that this horror is the foreground of a wonder. Come back and participate. “All life is sorrowful” is the first Buddhist saying. Temporality, sorrow, loss.
Joyce, “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake”
All of this as it is, is as it has to be, and is a manifestation of the eternal presence in the world.
Is Nihilism the conclusion?
No, I will participate in the game. It does hurt, but it is wonderful. The Irish saying, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get into it?” I will join in and not allow it to go without my influence and participation. This is the glory of life.
The hero is the one who can participate in it decently in the way of nature, not in the way of personal rancor, revenge or anything of the kind.
To see life as a poem, to see yourself participating in a poem is what mythology does for you… acts and adventures which connote something transcendent, so you always feel in accord with the universal being.
Every mythology, every religion is true in this sense, it is true as metaphor of the human and cosmic mystery, but when it gets stuck to the metaphor then you’re in trouble.
Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us.
My note – this is science… the DNA hologram of all life inside of us.
Myths serve four services to us, or purposes:
- the Basic one: opening the world to the dimension of mystery
- Cosmological - seeing that mystery as manifest through all things
- Sociological function of validating and maintaining a society (this has taken over in our world)… Ethical laws. etc.
- Pedagogical – how to life a human lifetime under any circumstances (this is the one we MUST live today)