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Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth
Actors: Joseph Campbell (III), Bill Moyers
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Documentary
NR     2001     6hr 0min

An exhilarating journey into the mind and spirit of a remarkable man, a legendary teacher, and a masterful storyteller, conducted by TV journalist Bill Moyers in the acclaimed PBS series. Includes The Hero's Adventure, The...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Joseph Campbell (III), Bill Moyers
Genres: Special Interests, Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Television, Religion
Studio: Mystic Fire Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/09/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1988
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 6hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 25
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The search for eternal truth....
Dianne Foster | USA | 11/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I first watched the Moyers-Campbell exchange in the early 1990s on PBS, I understood very little of what Campbell said. I was still "seeing" myths, etc. from the "disciplined" perspectives of religion or science (psychology, structural anthropology, etc.) and I tried to fit his comments into "my" world view.I have just finished rewatching the DVD version of these taped interviews, and I now understand more of what Campbell is saying. I've been watching this series with another person who is "searching" and he keeps saying "I don't get that." I want to help him "get it" and I sometimes feel I must appear like Burt Reynolds in one of his films where he took a "New Age" course and rolled on the floor and said "I've got it!!" Campbell says, when you think you've got it you haven't. So all I can say is--I feel I've got something more than I had. Campbell says human beings will die for a metaphor. We are like the 10 blind men with the elephant--each with a part of the whole, interpreting it through our cultural spectacles. And many of us will die for our interpretation of what "God" is. Even the word "God" is connotive of a belief system. One has only to look at the ideological conflicts the world over to see the results of differing world views. And, it isn't just "religion" either. Beliefs systems underlie economic behaviour as well. Everyone has a belief system--the alternative is madness, which is probably yet another belief system of some sort. For those raised in a religious tradition (most of us) the notion of giving up the idea of a personal god is painful. And yet, Campbell says one must give up this idea--and that is all it is--an idea. Something you have conceived and believe. Think about it -- "personal god" -- the divine as interpreted by a human (person). Who can do that?? Our metaphors (idea of the divine) form the organizing priciples we address through myths. These myths are the communal poetry of our group, and do what plain old language cannot --approach the divine. Still, singly they fall short.Campbell compiled and studied myths from around the world and he said these myths reflect the human experience of the divine--or whatever you want to call IT. Of course, I can hear my old anthropology professor saying you cannot lift a "myth" like a sack of flour. The best any of us can do regarding other people's myths is interpret them via our own myths. At any rate, Campbell has studied myths and seems to think they are like the many strands of fiber in a tapestry--each reflecting a particular aspect of an attribute of the divine and togther they form a whole cloth. He says these reflections or threads and even the cloth should not be confused with the "thing that stands behind." By what authoritiy does any of us call another's religion "savage" "backward" "barbaric" or worse? Oh I admit, I find some "old time" religions pretty scary and some modern ones too. Campbell says we should not judge...but it is hard not to judge, and if I judge, I use my own interpretation of what is true and good for me. Campbell was not a religious man at the end of his life, although he began life as a Roman Catholic. One might describe him as a spiritual man. He seems to have believed in a higher power or a divine--something. I think he felt it permeated everything and belonged to everyone and to no one and that no human could fully apprehend it. Bill Moyers (Southern Baptist) says his faith was strengthened by his exchanges with Campbell but in watching the two men on these tapes I have had the impression Campbell was talking past Moyers at times. Moyers still believed in a personal God. Such is the nature of faith in metaphors."
A Socratean Dialogue With Joseph Campbell
yochin | Pasadena, CA USA | 10/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is the edited version of the hundreds of rolls of tapes that Bill Moyers shot of his long socratean dialogues with Joseph Campbell shortly before Joseph Campbell's death in 1987. The entire collection is split up into six succinct subject-sequences where Moyers and his editor took different parts of the dialogues and organized them together thematically. The Hero's Adventure talks about the existence of the idea of the hero in lots of cultures and what role he or she plays in its mythology. The Message of the Myth talks more about the Jungian idea of the existence of archtypes of the collective unconscious and the metaphorical implications of many well-known myths from various cultures. The First Storytellers talks about the way environment and the basic necessities of everyday life affects the way the earlier hunting and gathering cultures created much of their mythologies and how they came to terms with the way they had to survive through the use of myths. Sacrifice and Bliss talks about the changes that came over different cultures when they changed from herding cultures to aggrarian cultures and how they changed their mythologies to suit their new ways of living and also the importance of the idea of the "here and now"; how heaven and nirvana and things of that sort are not physical places but a metaphorical place within your metaphorical heart and that "bliss" is only to be found in the present as you live your own life in the here and the in the now. Love and the Goddess talks about the idea of person to person love (as opposed to a more spiritual brotherly "Agape" love that for instance Jesus supposedly talked about in such aphorisms as Love thy neighbor/enemy); and how that idea altered the way European cultures thought about arranged marriages and Roman Catholic Society mores in general; and also about Love in general which is Campbell's favorite subject; and also about the idea of the Goddess and the role of woman in many of the world's mythologies and various metaphors that exist that symbolize the Woman's power to give birth and what implications these metaphors have on the here and now. Masks of Eternity talks about the idea of God both the idea of the Personal God (or the vastness of the universe and life given humanized form) and the impersonal god (or the idea that the universe and life has no containable form and that its vastness and all-inclusiveness precludes any kind of mere mortal understanding).Moyers prepared for these dialogues by reading every one of Campbell's books and the questions he asks can be fairly simplistic at times but at the same time apt and knowledgeable (he asks questions of him and Campbell answers; as a student would quiz a guru in a dialogue from an eastern culture). Campbell is very knowledgeable about many kinds of mythology and religion and answers him back every time with intelligent amusing and interesting anecdotes, countless memorized recitations, verses and many pointed professorial questions which make Moyers pause and think and in the end helps him and the viewer/reader to understand a lot of what he's talking about much better. It's not light viewing/reading I warn you; but with several viewings/readings you will get to understand many of the things that connect you to the human race and the universe and see how tragically pitiful we mere mortals really are in our blind groping for meaning in the face of the unfathomable beauty and mystery of Life (not the milton bradley game)."
A beautiful, illuminating DVD making smiles from the heart
Earl Hazell | New York | 01/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Of my two favorite memories of Campbell's talks with Bill Moyers of PBS in this video, the one that comes to mind is an introduction between Campbell and a Catholic Priest, perhaps a Cardinal, that he retells. After they are introduced and the Priest is told who Dr. Campbell is and a little about his life, he asks him, "Are you still Catholic?" To which he replies "No, Father." He then asks--and Campbell was impressed by his specificity--"Do you believe in a *personal* God?" To which Campbell replies, "No, Father."The Priest then replies, almost as if to engage in a debate and denigrate the atheist's worship of the rational mind uber alles simultaneously (and an atheist is what you are led to assume he thinks Campbell is), "Well, I guess there is no way to logically prove the existence of God." And Campbell answers, calmly, "If there were Father, what would be the value of faith?""It's been a pleasure meeting you Dr. Campbell, have a nice day."Regardless of your faith, interest, background or education, you will find yourself in the same shoes of that Priest when you watch this incredibly enjoyable DVD set. Campbell's erudition and knowledge of the many ideas, subtexts and similarities inherent in the world's treasure trove of mythology is daunting to say the least, and his approach is designed to have it all make sense to the modern human heart. And Bill Moyers, whose worst day as a journalist surpasses many in the business' finest, is at the compassionate and intuitive top of his intellectual game here; he conintuously asks the kind of transcendentally-inspired questions that don't just allow Campbell to riff on the oceanic themes of his knowledge, but make their interview-turned-conversations as joyful and illuminating to watch as Miles and Coltrane playing the blues is to listen to. THE POWER OF MYTH, the book, may be the best book written to serve as a doorway to the eternal wisdom of mythology, as it manifests itself in the wisdom, theology, art and entertainment of every culture--not to mention our personal lives. But the very popular book is simply a printing of chunks of this all-inclusive video set, recorded as it appeared on PBS some fifteen years ago, now digitally recorded on this DVD set. As such, they are a must have.To say these DVDs will make you think is almost denigrating it; it will make you ponder. It will lead you (after quite possibly confusing the hell out of you, as you try to absorb it into a preexisting way of thinking that may become obsolete via what Campbell teaches) to wonder, the way children wonder. And in the end, I was understating its power in the title of my review; it will make you smile from the soul, not just from the heart. I highly recommend this as an introduction to the fascinating and redemptive world of mythology in general and the labyrinthian mind of Joseph Campbell in particular. I also recommend Campbell's best selling book HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES after this has whet your appetite's soul."
This is it! Stop here! Wildly enthusiastic!
John McConnell | Boston, MA | 07/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I started watching these videos in Japan on my arrival there long ago. I had run headlong not only into culture shock but also the fact that, for a non-Christian country, the Japanese seemed to be embodying Christian ideals far better than the West. My previous study of ancient religions, from Thomas Taylor's translations of the Neoplatonists, and Manly P Hall's extensive writings, had convinced me that the Petrine notion of Heaven as an exclusively Christian enclave might well be erroneous in the extreme.

In walked Campbell. Amazing. I have watched these videos over the years literally hundreds of times and have always enjoyed them. Campbell's story-telling is elegant and always a balm for the day-tired soul seeking solace in the living room, reclined before a television.

I really cannot commend the tapes highly enough. They are preferable to the other videotapes in which Campbell flies solo, usually before a crowd which is either mildly hostile or hasn't done its homework. The cordial and informed interaction with Bill Moyers in George Lucas' elegant private library, and the frequent segues to cinema, artwork, and beautiful clips of foreign locales, make the programs a delight again and again.

The first program deals with the hero's adventure, and is liberally laced with Star Wars' scenes. The second discusses the significance of denotation versus connotation in Christian thinking, and includes one Star Wars scene (Vader's death). The remaining episodes range all over the world and hammer home Campbell's (and Moyers') thesis that all religions are true in this sense: They are metaphorical of the inner spiritual potentialities of men and women.

Particularly fascinating is the footage of a cannibalistic "horror society" re-enacting THE myth and Campbell's interpretation of it - the death and eating of the god. The male-female pair to be consumed engage in a public, ritual sexual intercourse, are slain in flagrante dilicto, and are immediately cooked and eaten. "That's the sacrifice of the Mass", Campbell points out.

"There [in Roman Catholic ritual] you are taught that this IS the body and blood of the Saviour.""