Insights into the ideas of a mythologist
(more about Joseph Campbell)

Idea #1: Metaphor

I will begin this blog by briefly going over some of Joseph Campbell's main ideas. These are in no particular order, and I'm not providing a lot of supporting evidence or lengthy explanations. Just "once over lightly."

Later, I'll start looking more closely at his works, and we'll visit these ideas again, more in-depth.

Here, then, is Idea # 1: Metaphor


Campbell said that anything we can say about "the Other," the Absolute, what many call "God," is of necessity metaphorical.

If "God" is anything like the advertisements, no words could come close to capturing "him." (See?)

One of the great tragedies of religion, he said, was literalism. If your religion becomes trapped in science or history, you lose the "spirit" of it (pun intended).

The literalist, he said, is like a man who goes to a restaurant and eats the menu!

The menu points to something beyond a piece of paper, to a nutritious and delicious substance: food. The menu is not the food ("The map is not the journey").

The scriptures and teaching of any religion are meant to point to something Bigger, and Beyond. If they merely refer to what can be confirmed by science, or if the literalist insists that every word of his or her scriptures is literally, historically true, then the power has gone out of it.

Our symbols, he often said, must be "transparent to transcendence." That is, they must allow the reality of the Other to shine through the mere metaphor we use to "describe" it, like light shining through a stained glass window.

Next time: The Four Functions of Myth.

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