Joseph Campbell on Netflix

Forty years ago, PBS released a series of Bill Moyers’ conversations with Joseph Campbell, a professor famous for his research on mythology. Netflix has commemorated this anniversary by making the series available on their streaming service. I decided to watch a few minutes of it this week while eating lunch and I haven’t been able to break away.

Moyers and Campbell set their interviews at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in California. Lucas, of course, credits Campbell as the inspiration for the world he created around his Star Wars films. Campbell died rather suddenly of esophageal cancer in 1987, the year before the series aired. Their discussions were turned into the book, The Power of Myth, a readily accessible introduction to Campbell’s work.

Here’s a clip of Campbell describing his IBM PC.

12 Comments

    1. This country’s chief executive is pimpin’ for Putin.

      And there’s nothing we, the citizens, can legally do about it.

      If there’s no action from our so-called representatives, then what?

      We sit here, knowing most of our state voting systems are run by Republicans, who really don’t want most of us to vote anyway — would they invest more time and money in system security?

      And if they did — or did not — and yet announced results from various elections, would we believe them?

      The supreme court sees no urgency in voting related issues, from gerrymandering to the efforts of individual jurisdictions to make it difficult for some races to vote.

      The constitution is failing us because it was designed to never actually trust us.

      What a mess we’re in.

  1. Over-generalized rambling, but I tend to find that liberals tend to emphasize Campbell’s universality and cross-cultural messages, and conservatives tend to emphasize the ‘story is the foundation and has a certain structure you should follow’ aspect.

    And, that few have really read the damn book, regardless of political leaning.

    1. Campbell provides an excellent example of why I think conservatism (in the old definition) is important. The preservation of symbols, rituals, metaphors and so happens mostly in healthy, engaged communities. Allow capitalism (on one side) or ambitious liberal reforms (on the other) to tear apart these traditional, communal relationships and you lose something that’s very difficult to recreate.

    2. >] “Over-generalized rambling, but I tend to find that liberals tend to emphasize Campbell’s universality and cross-cultural messages, and conservatives tend to emphasize the ‘story is the foundation and has a certain structure you should follow’ aspect.

      And, that few have really read the damn book, regardless of political leaning.

      I’ve never heard conservatives reference Campbell before (must be hanging out in the wrong circles, I guess), but the whole notion of following a certain “structure” would seem sorely at odds with his beliefs. Central to his zeal in reaching what he called the “transcendent mystery” was individual effort in crafting one’s own personalized mythology through experiencing other cultures and mythologies, taking great care not to get caught up in others’ beliefs in the process.

      Needless to say, this is not a man that would be at all welcome in today’s GOP.

      1. “the whole notion of following a certain “structure” would seem sorely at odds with his beliefs.”

        People can tend to take the whole, “At this part of the journey, the hero crosses the first threshold. There he meets the Mentor” stuff super literally and think that it’s prescriptive.

      2. Insofar as structure goes, Campbell’s insights into the Heroic Mythology (even if you don’t take it quite as literally as others do) certainly seem to have a more template-esque feel to them, but I was referring to his views on personalized mythology and transformation as outlined in his “Pathways to Bliss” book. I should’ve clarified before.

  2. And because Lucas was so influenced by Campbell, the SW saga became a good illustration of the generational cycle at work. The theory, as constructed by Howe and Strauss, incorporates the Hero and Prophet archetypes, and the Crisis and Awakening components of the cycle are the kinds of big social moments that give rise to myths.

  3. Chris,
    You have proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are my beacon on the hill! Joseph Campbell saved my life in the early 70s, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about his life and work.

    And, now to have you remind us of this lovely PBS series, makes me wonder if we were destined to meet: you the GOPlifer and me, the life long Dem who stumbled onto your original blog just when I thought lost and alone in the political landscape. I always feel like I am at home on your pages. I cannot thank you enough for all you do: the meticulous research, the powerful words, and the hope that we can prevail IF we work together.

    The things that keep me sane in a world gone mad: going back to Campbell’s work and keeping up with Political Orphans.

    BTW, I have always loved the story in the clip. Thank you!

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