An exploration of Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan.
Next a study of Buddhist, Hindu and other Oriental religions is undertaken. Somewhere along the line, East and West diverged on the issue of religious thought. One might say that Oriental belief systems harken back to the primitive in that multiple gods, representing various emotions, objects or ideas, were the norm. This was the way of ancient Greece and Egypt but both societies soon "evolved" toward a semi-monotheism or gave life to sects (ancient Judaism) that adopted the single god notion.
Of the three, this book was the hardest to comprehend, perhaps due to the foreign names. Still, it is a testament to the monumental research and innovative ideas of the author.
Apart from a multitude of references, citations and amusing
legends illustrating his nominal concern (Mythologies)-the
center of this book (a part of "The Masks of God" tetralogy)
lies elsewhere. Essentailly, all Campbell's work (and "Oriental
Mythology", with its chapter 1 "Signatures of the four great
domains", is a particularly good example) is a predominantly
Jungian (with a few Freudian insights assimilated) comparative
analysis of the dominant traditional mindsets.
For instance, he sharply differentiates between two
"Western" archetypes (Jung again) & "loyalties":
1.Promethean hero-the Greco-Roman legacy
of ever-expanding and conquering being
2.Job-the Levantine legacy transmuted into Christianity
Or, "Eastern" loyalties of:
3.Yogi- ascetic absorbed in transcosmic cataleptic trance, as the "trademark" of India
4.Sage-essentially the Chinese ideal of harmony ("flowing" with Tao, or realizing
one's tao in society (Confucians))
Be as it may, this is a treasure trove of ideas, associations & insights.
I haven't encountered any richer or profounder work of late.
And, as a ghastly surprise, book ends with factual report on Chinese
communist invasion of Tibet (mutilations, castrations, sterilizations,
public executions & humiliations), as all the horrors from the "Bardo Thodhol"
have descended on our earthly reality. A horrendous reminder that
mythologies are not dead, dated nor irrelevant.