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Primitive Mythology: The Masks of God, Volume I Paperback – Nov 1 1991
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"A monument of learning, wonder, and wisdom, daringly conceived and brilliantly written by a man who is at home in the Eastern and the Western universe of spirit.
In temporal span and spatial scope and in relevance to the needs of its own day, it is unexampled."
Henry A. Murray, Harvard University
About the Author
Joseph Campbell was interested in mythology since his childhood in New York, when he read books about American Indians, frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History, and was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Columbia in 1925 and 1927 and went on to study medieval French and Sanskrit at the universities of Paris and Munich. After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years. During the 1940s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The many books by Professor Campbell include The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Myths to Live By, The Flight of the Wild Gander, and The Mythic Image. He edited The Portable Arabian Nights, The Portable Jung, and other works. He died in 1987.
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Top Customer Reviews
The universal belief system is formed from our evolutionary psychology much as the three instinctual fears of modern people (fear of dark, fear of snakes, fear of heights) were formed by our biological evolution, from the time when proto-humans dwelt in trees.
Campbell offers a look at how many cultures today exhibit the same reverence and point of view toward mythology that primitive mankind did and how many of these remain. One considers such "beliefs" as animism (found in Native American and African tribes), people with a pipeline to the divine (witness the shaman, priest, witch doctor), the belief in luck, the "evil eye", "Father sun", "Mother moon". Indeed, according to Joseph Campbell, fertility in both people and plants played an important role in the development of such myths.
Much of the suppostion on the part of the author involves the substance of divinity and how we communicate with it/her/him. The scholarship and research involved in this trilogy is simply astounding. A mandatory read for anyone seriously interested in the birth of our deepest ideas.
Masks of God has a other "faces" (such as Masks of God: Oriental Mythology) for those interested in further study, where he covers the traditions of the far East such as India, Japan, and China. "Creative Mythology" being volume four, and in some respects I have to hand it to him: he saved the best for last! Campbell always seemed to have this "encyclopedic mind" which could recount any myth from any country in any given era with such ease and poise; it was always a treat to see him speaking on the matter whether in video or in person.
As some of the previous reviewers have pointed out, here Campbell delves into the mythology which completely evolved from the early onset of what is dubbed "The Dark Ages"; bringing us up to date in modern times. The main parts explored here are titled: The Ancient Vine, The Waste Land, The Way and the Life, and New Wine- all extremely interesting looks stemming throughout history on what mythologies were present and it what ways modern society has been effected by it all. This is a magnificent book, the likes of which any Joe Campbell fan should own. Such an engaging author and expert on the subject at hand, come let him draw you in. Enjoy!
Campbell's core belief was that all humanity has a common origin, and that the study of mythology exposes this core identity amongst all peoples. By traversing the plains of time back to the very first artifacts of human behavior, he draws a compelling conclusion that we are all born of the same stock, from the same mythopoetic and spiritual origin, and destined to share the same future.
The student of humanity will find this study particularly compelling because Campbell identifies several mythological themes that span the globe. Among them are the virgin birth of a savior, the trial of the hero at the hands of evildoers, and the resurrection of the savior/hero from the dead. To my mind, these timeless echos of Christian beliefs place Western thought in an ancient and endlessly rewarding intellecutal context.
Campbell's higher purpose of showing that all humanity is united through its most fundamental ideas about the cosmos and our place in it is brilliantly synthesized in his discussion of the origin of agrigculture at the outset of the Neolithic. In the same way that all philosopy is "footnotes to Plato," all of history is "footnotes" to the Neolithic Revoltuion. Campbell handles this insight with a genius that must be read and re-read to truly appreciate.
Most recent customer reviews
Just a great series of books. Campbell can get sloppy, he makes all kinds of bizarre associations and throws out all manners of strange ideas which he never follows up on, but this... Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2003
The master of Comparative Mythology delves into the themes, that underlie the art, beliefs and literature of the Western Soul. Read morePublished on June 21 2000 by Johannes Amersdorfer
Primitive Mythology is the first book in Campbell's great and sweeping study of myth in the world, starting from his neo-romantic viewpoint of myth as a necessary (and currently... Read morePublished on June 11 2000 by frumiousb
This last volume of the Masks of God is a huge book that spans the efforts of artists to interpret the myths from early troubadour poems to Finnegan's Wake. Read morePublished on March 17 2000 by frumiousb
For those unfamiliar with Joseph Campbell and his work, I would suggest starting with "The Power of Myth", a wonderful introduction to Campbell's insight and... Read morePublished on Feb. 5 1999
After more than a decade of reading and pondering, I have finally finished Campbell's great populist tetralogy on the history, manifestations and uses of the world's myths, both as... Read morePublished on Jan. 10 1999 by B. Michael Harlow (BHarlow863@aol.com)
This is Joseph Campbell's masterpiece. He delves into myths from neolithic times long before the mythology of the Celts, the Greeks or the Babylonians. Read morePublished on Dec 10 1998 by Alvin C. Allen
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