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Primitive Mythology: The Masks of God, Volume I Paperback – Nov 1 1991

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; New edition edition (Nov. 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140194436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140194432
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 21.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #164,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"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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Format: Paperback
Joseph Campbell's monumental "MASK" series aims to cover the subject of myth from its earliest inklings to its development into modern religions. It is remarkable how much privitive mythology remains with us today in our culture. Joseph Campbell offers several provocative interpretations of the origins of many of our cultural ideas, how primitive man viewed nature and what his blossoming awareness of the world both within and without grew.
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.
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Format: Paperback
First let me start by stating the following: Joseph Campbell is and was THE man! Likewise, I agree with the previous reviewer that "The Power of Myth" is an excellent introduction into the wonderful world of mythology as Campbell serves it to all of us. The original tapes done on PBS are all available here on Amazon as well as the manuscript in book format. It was (and I believe still is) the number one ratings grabber for them.
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!
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Format: Paperback
In this wonderful book, the first volume of Campbell's monumental Masks of God series, we are given a look at the earliest myths and beliefs of man, from the cave dwellers to surviving indigenous tribes of today, and how these myths changed and developed over time, influencing later myths. While I might disagree somewhat with the title (since "primitive" is a fairly relative term anyway), I cannot deny that this is a superb and well-researched book and is amongst the greatest of Joseph Campbell's work. Early on, the work goes into the development of animistic world views, followed by some information on the religion of the Neolithic agriculture socieites. From this, we are given insight into both the "sacred kings" and the ritual of love-death, both central to agriculture people to this very day. The beliefs of the Polynesians, Native Americans, peoples of the ancient Near East and many other societies were given to show the relationships of these myths. Following this was another section on hunting societies, which explained the role of the shaman in great detail. Again, this ties directly to modern day cultures and peoples, as many cultures both in Siberia and further afield still rely upon Shamanism. From that, we go on to animal masters (a central concept in shamanism), the buffalo dance, bear worship (this can still be seen today amongst the Ainu, Siberians and other Arctic people) and cave paintings. The next section of the book "The Archaeology of Myth" was also particularly interesting, showing various stages of both Paleolithic and Neolithic mythology. Ultimately Campbell closed out the book talking about the functioning of myth and such. Over all, this is a wonderful book and I simply cannot repeat that enough.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Along with "The Hero With a Thousand Faces," this is Campbell's greatest work. Campbell was a loving student of Native American cultures, and this book's historical achievement is to evaluate and compare all world mythologies as co-equal, including cogent and detailed examples from Native American mythology.
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.
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