Jung, Campbell and mythology

Discussion Post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP6140 Course – September 30, 2020

Part 1

One of the highlights of my Master’s experience is learning about Carl Jung and his teachings. I’ve encountered him in several courses, and I’m glad to have him once again as part of the curriculum.  Plus, we have a student of his teachings as the Mentor of this course! The first of Jung’s concepts that struck me was the power and usefulness of “inspiration” for creativity and other issues (Jung, 1964). There are several instances in my own creative and communications career, and life in general, where I’ve had “aha moments” when I wasn’t even thinking about a particular project or problem. These include when I’m driving, showering, and, of course, in dreams. The advice to “sleep on it” is valuable and something I’ve tried to do more of since I first encountered this teaching last fall.

A second concept is Jung’s notion that “Life is a battleground.” I’ve worked in national politics for more than thirty years, and I now go between wanting to walk away from everything and finding a house off by myself (I drew the Hermit card recently), and staying in the fray. As Jung notes, “The sad truth is that man’s real-life consists of a complex of inexorable opposites” (Jung, 1964), which was brought home powerfully when I watched the Moyers/Campbell interview last night. I will expound more on this in the next post. A third point made by Jung, and one that applies to our entire modern culture, is that to gain “a wider meaning to one’s existence,” we must move beyond merely the material, or “getting and spending” as he puts it (Jung, 1964). I would guess that those attracted to a program like what Atlantic University offers are seeking wider meaning, and I know for me, it’s been the foundation for my spiritual journey. It’s still what drives me to this day, and i sometimes wonder if it will always be apart of this life.

References

Gifford, J. (n.d.), “Myths-dreams-symbols,” Jung (Ed.)Man and his symbols, New York, NY: Doubleday.  Retrieved from https://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/mansymbols.html.

Part 2

As I mentioned in my earlier post, one of Jung’s concept that struck me was his notion that “life’s a battleground (Jung, 1964), and that Joseph Campbell makes a similar point in his interview with Bill Moyer. Campbell, quoting Buddha, notes that “All life is sorrowful…It wouldn’t be life it there weren’t temporality involved, which is sorrow” (Moyer, Campbell, 1988).  He makes an important point that it’s this sorry or battleground where we must participate if we are to experience life and growth. He adds, the “experience of eternity is right here and now, and that’s the function of life…And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is but to realize that this horror it simply the foreground of a wonder; come back and participate in it” (Moyer, Campbell, 1988).  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve struggled between wanting to walk away from the sorrows and messiness of life and self-isolate versus forcing myself to stay on the battlefield and to experience the wonder of eternity here on earth. The practical reality is that if I don’t struggle with challenges in this life, I’m coming back for another tour, so I might as well get it done now!

Campbell also raises an excellent point about how Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, presents a myth where God is separate from nature and us. He says that according to the biblical text, “God is not in nature, God is separate from nature, and nature is not God, and this distinction between God and the world is not to be found in basic Hinduism or Buddhism either” (Moyer, Campbell, 1988). Raised as a Protestant and having converted to Catholicism in 2000, I now see how this concept of separateness is a stumbling block for me since. As I grow in spirituality, it will be essential to adopt more of the Eastern religions’ belief that we are all one, including nature and the Divine.  

The final point from the interview was Campbell’s assessment that our modern culture is moving too fast to mythologize in general, and therefore, for now anyway, “the individual must find aspects of myth that have to do with the conduct of his life” (Moyer, Campbell, 1988). I suppose this is one reason Hollywood keeps recycling old Marvel movies since there is still an intense yearning in our hearts for myths, and we have nothing to replace it with in terms of our own stories. While Campbell’s words can be discouraging, and most of the old formal religions are emptying because they don’t offer a modern or relevant myth, I see a real opportunity to create our own myths, as he suggests. I explain to people when they ask me what course of studies I’m in that it’s a mixture of New Age with Old-Age, Eastern religions with Western religions, spirituality, and quantum physics. With the advent of the Internet, there is so much information now at our fingertips. If we are discerning and follow our hearts, we have a tremendous opportunity to create a fantastic new set of stories.

References

Gifford, J. (n.d.), “Myths-dreams-symbols,” Jung (Ed.)Man and his symbols, New York, NY: Doubleday.  Retrieved from https://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/mansymbols.html.

Moyer, B. (Host). (1988). Joseph Campbell and the power of myth [Documentary], Nicasio, CA: Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

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