Mythos I, II, & III
July 18, 2014 11:26 PM   Subscribe

As a summation of his life's work, mythologist Joseph Campbell went on a speaking tour during the last decade of his life. The filmed three-part series Mythos, over fourteen hours, is available on YouTube. Mythos I Mythos II Mythos III. The series is also available on DVD.

Advise watching them while they are available.
posted by cwest (10 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
If you look at the history of medicine, you see a whole chain of very smart doctors -- Hippocrates, Galen, Paracelsus -- who carefully observed their patients and proposed elegant and sophisticated theories that were totally wrong. But these contributions were valuable, and not just because they ended up contributing to the incredibly effective medicine that we have today.

Romans were better off being treated by Galen than they were being left alone -- even if he was confused about the nature and causes of their illness, his careful observations meant that he was at least less ignorant than anyone else. Paracelsus actually came up with some efficacious treatments (e.g. mercury, a diuretic, for dropsy, a disease of too much fluid). When I'm feeling optimistic, I think that Freud, Jung, Lacan, Joseph Campbell, and others are the Galens of psychology.

Thanks for this, these are good videos.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:52 PM on July 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

I've recently been watching the series of interviews he did with Bill Moyers, entitled "The Power of Myth", but I haven't seen these yet, so thanks!

I've always been a bit of a materialist when it comes to religion, but Campbell has made me reconsider. I used to think they were just silly stories, or obvious lies, like I'd imagine most atheists do. But Campbell emphasizes the non-literal value, and argues (very effectively) that we as a species have lost a huge amount in turning away from myth as a means to describe our predicament. Art and literature still carry a lot of metaphorical value, (and I often wonder what he would make of internet folklore) but in general the human race has no time for it any more.
posted by Acey at 6:01 AM on July 19, 2014

Before I read Joseph Campbell, I was just an ordinary film buff, completely unaware of the mythic underpinnings behind so many great stories. And when my film studies professor suggested I read The Power of Myth, I initially refused. But a heart to heart talk with an older student brought me back to Campbell, so I dove in. Quickly, I found that there were other people who were hip to Joseph Campbell... and others who were staunchly against him. There were times when I had trouble seeing how the hero's journey could apply in a given case. And our big paper on Chinatown was due at the end of the semester. Could I break that film down using the Campbell model in time? As the due date of the Chinatown paper approached, my partner on the project snapped under the pressure and dropped the class. I wasn't sure I wanted to go on. But I remembered that Campbell's heroes don't quit, so I decided I wouldn't either. I rededicated myself to the paper and finished it all on my own. I got an A! All seemed well. Then, when I got home to celebrate, my roommate had tickets to Pulp Fiction, which had just come out. Terror! Could I find a Hero's Journey arc within a nonlinear pseudo anthology? But this time, I was prepared. With my carefully developed understanding of the hero's journey, I recognized that Jules was the hero, not Vincent. I broke the film down neatly into its component stages and emerged victorious: back in my regular, nonacademic film viewing world but armed with the Hero's Journey, such that life would never be the same again.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

In 10th grade, my beautiful Honors English teacher had us dissect the Odyssey using Campbell's framework, and then she asked us to do the same to our own lives thus far. "What are your obstacles? What does your armor look like? What would people be suprised to know about you? Lay it out, and honor your journey in the same way we now honor Odysseus's."

It was hard, not because we couldn't think of anything to say about ourselves, but because we knew all too well what the answers to those questions were and the thought of being vulnerable in front of our peers was paralyzing. But we trusted our teacher, a tiny little Italian lady with a pouf of brown hair and a history of being friends with people like the Dalai Lama and other notable saints on Earth.

So we did it. We got up in front of the class and showed how we were the heroes and heroines in our own lives. We talked about divorce, about abuse, about being gay, and being unhappy. We spoke of being overly cheerful and friendly to mask how much pain we were in, and how drugs were already a part of some of our lives. In casting off our armor for a 20 minute presentation on heroism, we gained an army of brothers and sisters in our movement forward. And we really did move forward. My peer who came out to all of us during his presentation didn't try to commit suicide that year like he'd planned. Another classmate stopped being unwaveringly happy and allowed herself to grieve the divorce her parents were dealing with.

For me, it was a chance to feel less alone, and I don't know that I would have lasted much longer myself had I not had that chance made available to me. I look very gratefully at Joseph Campbell's works, now. They are a framework I can use to make sense of works of art and fiction, and real life. May we all see ourselves as heroes instead of victims, and may we all figure out how to shed our armor as we keep learning how to move forward.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:41 AM on July 19, 2014 [11 favorites]

Ah, three parts but 15 epsidoes.
posted by Jahaza at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2014

Someone tell me it's worth suffering through Susan Sarandon. Aghhh.
posted by Jahaza at 10:45 AM on July 19, 2014

It's worth it. She basically rephrases things and gives a bit of external context, asks rhetorical questions with eyebrows askew and voice carefully modulated, then Campbell's bit continues where it had left off.

I owe a lot to Campbell as well. Grew up in total adoration of myths and fairy tales. Had no idea about him until high school graduation, where our speaker brought him up. And not just in any context: our speaker was Dave Frohnmayer, the year was 1994, he had lost a daughter to Fanconi anemia, an illness two of his other daughters also had. Another would go on to die from it as well; his third daughter has survived. We had in front of us a man who, on paper, had achieved much: president of the U of Oregon, respected politician and Oregon Attorney General before that; he had argued and won cases at the US Supreme Court.

He had also lived life. Hearing "never sacrifice your loved ones to an office job" from him, carried real weight. Then he got to "live your bliss", and teared up. He had raised his daughters to live their bliss; held himself to the same standard so they would know it wasn't just words.

"Bliss" and "love" are not facile, easy sentiment. Campbell touches on this in these videos: he characterizes headrush-love as anima/animus projection. It's only after you recognize that there's another, different, individual, in your life, that love is truly possible. It's the same with bliss, which he also frames well: bliss is not doing things right according to persona (societal) rules. Bliss is going your own way. Travelling without a map. Hearing your drummer and following its pace. Which can lead to ostracism. Hell, we see obvious examples here on MeFi: women who say "I don't like harassment" and get told that they're not behaving right. Behaving right according to whom? Societal, persona roles.

Living your bliss is not easy. But the word "bliss" was chosen for a reason: it does lead to bliss, a sort you can only describe and comprehend if and when you've lived it. When you have, you know it. A sort of bliss you don't achieve by going on a ClubMed holiday, as my cantankerous, Habermas-loving German professor of French literature in Oregon often said, but a bliss that arises of its own accord... when you've followed your heart's gentle, quiet voice.

I'm so very glad to have had teachers with personalities; teachers crazy enough to say stuff like "if you have too many feelers on your head and get overwhelmed, it's because you have a lot of feelers! It's not because there's anything wrong with you! Other people may have less feelers, is all!" or "Ahhh, the Metolius," and just sit with a grin for several minutes of silence. Thanks to them, I and many others in our classes followed our bliss. It has literally and figuratively saved my life, as well as the lives of other friends, and enriched it in ways that are now approaching innumerable.

Yes, it's worth watching. But Sarandon's right, in her introduction, too: it's not for everyone. It's not meant to be for everyone. Societal rules and their supporting myths exist for a reason: they are bliss for some, even many. Everyone is different.
posted by fraula at 4:31 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Chief Seattle thing is video number four. Mythology is like a one word oxymoron. I still would have bought a ticket to sit in the audience!
posted by bukvich at 7:47 AM on July 21, 2014

Thanks, I've been really interesting in checking more of Campbell's work out.

I read a book of myths retold like crazy tumblr text posts called, "Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes." It's probably not for everybody, but I found it funny. The author did make a point to explain why he thinks mythology is important to modern people, though, citing Campbell in the process.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:42 PM on July 21, 2014


Joseph Campbell ☯ Mythos II... This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Joseph Campbell Foundation.


YouTube account Karen Bell has been terminated because we have received multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants, including: Joseph Campbell Foundation
posted by bukvich at 3:40 PM on August 8, 2014

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