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"The amount of mythological ground covered in this eighty-minute film is truly prodigious. We begin with Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden (Adam's been relegated to bit-part status), and before we can eat an apple we're exploring the difference between Mahayana (The Large Ferry-Boat) and Hinayana (The Small Ferry-Boat) Buddhism. Campbell spins an analogy in which Mahayana is San Francisco and Hinayana is Berkeley, or maybe it's San Francisco is "this world" and Berkeley is "nirvana". Buddhism is the ferry-boat which takes us across the bay. (I suppose a Jew takes the subway, while a Hindu drives a pick-up truck across the Bay Bridge). Suddenly we're with Paul on the road to Damascus. We're told it was Paul's idea to upgrade the pagan Greek mystery religions with a crucified Jesus. Some of the most stirring footage is of the landscape surrounding the majestic ruins of the ancient Greek temple to Apollo at Delphi- the original edifices were razed by Christians because they were pagan. The lovely Greek countryside, with its soft green hills and crumbling ruins, impelled me to take the next flight to Athens. No wonder it was the cradle of European civilization.These swift transitions and juxtapositions highlight a Joseph Campbell theme- the illusory nature of Time and Space. "Every sacred place is where Eternity shines through Time." Another theme is that the Hebrew religion separates Man from Nature (that's what the expulsion from the Garden of Eden is all about), whereas in other religions Man is in accord with Nature. The evil serpent of the Garden of Eden represents the Feminine, Nature and Earth. You understand this if you've ever seen a snake vanish into a hole in the ground. Campbell contrasts the evil serpent of Genesis with Buddhism, in which a giant cobra's hood protects the meditating Buddha from a raging storm. There's footage of an ancient statue of the Buddha meditating, while protected by a giant cobra's hood: this alone is worth the price of admission. Campbell manages to drag in Arthur, Merlin, Celts, and Druids into it all. There's engaging archival clips culled from an old black & white, silent movie of King Arthur with his famous sword, riding a pale horse around dim, misty moors and dark, primeval forests. Of course, Arthurian legend relates how Christianity displaced the pagan Celtic religion of Britain. What we might not realize is that Arthur is, in fact, a stand-in for the pagan god Arcturus the Bear. Bears were the first animals worshipped by early man, relates Campbell. We're treated to some lovely footage of the ruins at Glastonbury. I've been to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and it truly is a magical, sacred place- so I especially appreciated that part. Kali, the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan Tantric Buddhism initiates a discussion of re-incarnation. We hear Campbell's voice explicating the Tibetan Book of the Dead, while Tibetan Buddhist monks do that strange throaty chanting in the background. "Forty-nine days - seven times seven- pass between the moment of death and re-conception, during which one passes through the worlds of the chakras". There's stirring archival footage of Tibetan dancers enacting this journey of death and resurrection.Native American shamans bring up the rear: "The Shaman is the one who can invoke the animals." There's aerial landscape footage of the Black Hills, sacred to the Lakota. Campbell recites the famous environmental speech by Chief Seattle, while idyllic, pastoral scenes of wild buffalo herds on the open plains are contrasted with speeded-up film clips of hectic urban life. The point is made that Native Americans wanted to live life and not merely survive it. Eighty minutes is a long time to be pummeled by such a dizzying array of gods, no matter how artistically presented. One suspects that this is at least two Campbell lectures spliced together; one wonders how long the original lectures were, and if Campbell would've approved of them being spliced together in this fashion. The stunning landscapes and archival film clips, along with a pleasant soundtrack, mostly manages to hold one's attention for the time required. However, I could've done with fewer scenes of lotuses blooming in slow motion, and more footage of Joseph Campbell himself.Have you ever wondered who's to blame for The New Age Movement?
Sukhavati: Place of Bliss clearly implicates Joseph Campbell as a prime suspect. As he explicates everything from Buddhism to Dionysus in that quietly insistent, slightly lisping voice, one realizes that this aging white guy in a suit and tie was an American home-grown guru. Exactly which American accent does Campbell have? New York? California? Chicago? Still another juxtaposition is Joe Campbell's stolid American accent expounding on the mysteries of far-flung, exotic times and places. His voice conveys an infectious, excited wonder concerning the wide-ranging subject matter. Joseph Campbell comes across best when you hear his voice; but it's not just his voice, it's his entire body language. He walks around onstage, leans on a desk, shakes his fist or snaps his fingers to make a point (Campbell was an excellent finger-snapper). Overall, I heartily endorse this Mystic Fire Video: it clearly demonstrates that television doesn't have to be mindless entertainment!"
B. McGowan | dublin, ireland | 01/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Now that the Joseph Campbell craze of the early nineties has abated just a bit, the Sukhavati release by Mystic Fire Video recaptures what all the excitement was about. Campbell lucidly exposulates on all manner of philosophy and mythology to an attentive audience in Northern California. Interspersed with the lecture are beautiful images filmed throughout the natural and man/woman made world. Campbell's lecture is loaded with perennial references and it's convenient to skip back quickly via DVD technology to replay previous statements to better follow the thread of a Campbell insight. Place of Bliss is also a nice compliment to the Bill Moyers interviews. The single DVD may seem a bit $$$, but the material is so deep that I find myself playing the program once every few months, so it's worth the price!"
To Go Awake into the Spirit of a Deep Restful Sleep
Nicholas Croft | New York | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the celebration of the Catholic High Mass, incense, candles, music, fashion, architecture and ritual all work together to create a mood for the revelation of sacred scripture. In the current globalized world of our time, we now have available a wide range of wisdom from different cultures and traditions, which tends to transcend any one particular religious organization or possible service.
Joseph Campbell has devoted his life to the study and teaching of the world's mythologies as they have evolved throughout the course of human history. In "Sukhavati Place of Bliss", directors Maxine Harris and Sheldon Rochlin have attempted to create a poetic audio/video context in which to best appreciate the fruits of Mr. Campbell's life work. The film builds up layer upon layer of image and sound until the meaning of these myths is evoked, rather than explicated.
The presentation opens with meditations on some of the creation mythology, then rapidly works to brings these ideas into a connection with the scientific world view of the present. Mr. Campbell feels that myths from the Buddhist and Hindu scriptures best fit the present cosmology of the universe, so much of the program is devoted to speaking about these ideas. The other major theme of the work is the diversity of nature and our role as a part of it.
Greek mythology, Native European wisdom along with the applied Christian traditions, and the myths of the Aboriginal Americans are all resources which have been taped in the weaving of this captivating project.
One can sense in the viewing of the program, that their is no substitute for the years of devotion towards this subject matter, that each of the contributers to the film has provided. Much like attendance to a religious service, the viewing of this compelling program may help one to become more open to relating with the concepts and experience of transcendence. This is a journey which is well worth taking every few months to help keep an eye on life's big picture."
Mark Henderson | Sammamish, WA USA | 05/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This video is a meditation. Campbell's thoughts on life, myth, and religion (excerpts from his lectures) are presented together with images and music that complement them. There are many insights here. The video is both relaxing and thought provoking.There really is no central theme, other than the broad one of myth, religion, and the thoughts of Campbell. For those who have read Campbell's works, there is nothing new here, but the music, images, and Campbell's words fit together nicely."
Step into a world of mythology and self-empowerment
W. Kwiecinski | New Jersey, United States | 12/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I am yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I have the power to be born a second time. I am the source and creator of all the gods." are the opening words uttered by Joseph Campbell in this 80 minute DVD where the viewer is taken to a place rarely visited; his own consciousness. Joseph Campbell achieves this by weaving knowledge, religion, philosoby, mysticism, and mythology into a coherent lecture/poem where all we know about the world around us and its symbols are manifestaions of the Divinity in all of us. To put it bluntly: Get ready for a ride unlike any other, this DVD is awesome and will have you wondering and contemplating your life. I was truly inspired and every few months I find myself watching this DVD to remind myself that whatever Gods and Devils are around us are there because they are within us. Unlike anything I've ever seen. If you ever find yourself musing the words "is this it? there must be something more" then I would definitely recommend this DVD."