Campbell on the Future of Myth
THE MYTHS IN OUR
(Another excerpt from the 1968 Wine
Cellar. Wolf Zucker has just asked Campbell: Are there rituals
in our society which in some way point to the underlying myth?)
Campbell says, All right, I
am coming like an anthropologist from Mars to our world now and
am looking as an anthropologist does at a primitive culture to
observe what kind of religions are here.
There is one sphere of value,
gold: the bank, people of money; and there is a whole
hierarchy: the size of the cars, the kind of clothes they wear.
A kind of reverence goes with this. I have a friend, a completely
destitute writer, who -- as the result of a book that became a
great best seller, sold all over the world -- became enormously
wealthy. And he played this game to the hilt. He told me what
fun it was to buy expensive things and dress as though he were
somebody, and then everybody thought he was, and they all just
fell down before him. This is the awe experienced around gold.
And at Ft. Knox there is a whole iconography that goes with gold.
Then there is the sphere of the
flag: a totem sphere, with its priesthood of the military.
All that marches past, and you see certain genuflections to the
flag, etc. So there is the money cult and the state cult.
Then I came out of the library
one day after reading about the Hindu tradition, where people
tried to dress like the god and look like the god and meditate
on the god in their actions, and I got into the bus going down
5th Avenue, and there were little girls looking at movie
magazines, with their hairdos like the ones in the movie magazines,
and I thought, this is the home cult of Venus, the goddess mother,
the domestic cult. A whole world of deities is there in the movie
stars, they are there and yet not there, and people try to be
like them. When there is a play on stage and a movie star enters
the audience, nobody is looking at the play from then on; everyone
is craning their necks to see this higher, more mysterious deity
who has just come in. So we have these popular cults and their
gods around gold, around the flag and around the movies, whose
gods are models for action.
Then there are the vestigial
cults that are represented by Judaism and Christianity.
When a child says, “Mother, why do the churches have a plus sign
on top?” you feel that this thing has lost its grip.
(Conklin again): If Marvin Halverson
could be characterized as a marching reformer, waving a banner
for the church, Joe Campbell might be characterized as a charismatic
figure who indeed brought myths to the people, but did so while
also swinging a sledge hammer at the already shaky foundations
of institutional religions. In terms of ARC's history, Campbell
was distinctly post-Halverson.