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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work

Campbell, Joseph. (edited by Phil Cousineau). (1990)
San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

ISBN: 0-06-250171-2

Description: Paperback, xxxii + 255 pages.

Contents: Foreword by Stuart L. Brown, introduction by Phil Cousineau, editor's acknowledgments, chronology of Joseph Campbell's life, 8 chapters, Epilogue: The Tiger and the Goat, books by Joseph Campbell, bibliography, contributors, credits, index.

Note: This is the print version of the movie The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell. "Between 1982 and early 1985, a production crew followed Campbell around the country, videotaping his last major lecture tour. ... We now had a mother lode of fifty hours of Campbell's most powerful lectures, which will be available forever." (Foreword, Stuart L. Brown, page ix)

Excerpt(s): GROF: I would like to bring in material from a somewhat different area. I am a psychiatrist and I've been interested in unusual states of consciousness. In psychedelics, for example, you see that people have a lot of geometric visions, a lot of abstract visions, which can be very simple, or spirals, or phosphenes. But they also have some rather complex images that some people compare to arabesques, to elements in Muslim mosques or Gothic cathedrals.

If the process deepens further they start experiencing elements of the birth process, confronting death, powerful death-reversing sequences of the kind Joseph mentioned, that are enacted in certain aboriginal rites of passage. But then there seems to be another vast area in the psyche where people seem to move into mythological realms. But what's amazing is not only that this mythological realm literally erupts into the psyche but that it crosses the culture barriers. Somebody who might be Jewish or Christian at this point will start experiencing mythology of the pre-Columbian period.

CAMPBELL: People who have taken some of the psychedelic mushrooms that were used in Middle America have told me that they begin to have images that resemble those of the Aztec gods. Have you heard of this kind of thing?

HIGHWATER: Yeah, I've heard of it.

CAMPBELL: Of course, I haven't done it myself, so I can't say.

HIGHWATER: I've heard of it, but I wonder how much of that may be autosuggestive.

CAMPBELL: But I was speaking about someone who's rather serious about this, Albert Hofmann, the man who synthesized LSD, and who was very much interested in this matter. The very special qualities of those Toltec deities-I couldn't believe it! At least this is a report from somebody who I regard as at least a reputable authority in these matters. I was trying to associate this with what you were saying-that certain psychedelics produce images of this type; others produce images of another type.

Among the Huichol Indians, for instance, the peyote is regarded as a good psychedelic entity; but then there is the counter one, the jimson weed, which is regarded as negative, and these two are opposed to each other. It must be the result of different images coming out of this experience from those that come out of the other one.

ROGER GUILLEMEN: But yet, if you study something like psychedelic experiences, you also have to consider green tea, which is loaded with caffeine or molecules like caffeine. And it's very well know that this has a profound influence on the function of some people. The mode of action is very well understood on these enzymes on the brain, which actually excite the functions of the brain so that this is a statement of fact.

So does this relate to the brightness of the young Japanese? It's hard to say, but I don't think you would get that kind of stimulation from milk or Perrier water.

HIGHWATER: I just meant that there have been a lot of discussions, as Campbell knows, about the iconography of Middle America and Andean America that may be identified with what was fundamentally a drug-oriented culture.

CAMPBELL: Oh, boy, they really were drug-oriented! [laughter].

HIGHWATER: Yes, so it's very possible that after all those visions there could very well arise some art. But I wonder if we would really like to impose the concept on the entire world of art of the Freudian notion that art is nothing more than a result of dietary disturbance or psychological disturbance.

I would like to think of art as so fundamental that it existed in concentration camps. Music was written in concentration camps, opera was written there. We have come to think of these things so much as a product of an elite leisure society. But, as you say, art seems to be such a fundamental human expression that it would seem to exist whether we are using jimson weed or not. These may be lubricants to a kind of experience, but perhaps what we're talking about predates both psychologically and biologically any of these effects.

CAMPBELL: Oh, I do think they do. In fact most artists have not been taking drugs. And those who did take drugs, you can see it in their art, in the very special effect that comes along. In English literature you have Coleridge as an example of someone who was doing a certain kind of work then started taking opium and he had a season of great productivity and then it all ran out.

GUILLEMEN: As Rimbaud seems to have.

CAMPBELL: Exactly the same.

GUILLEMEN: What we are talking about, or perhaps trying to discuss and dissect, is what was the very beginning-of the very earliest manifestations of what was later to be called art. I would not be at all against the idea that by sheer empiricism one day the eating of this seed blended to another may well have triggered in this particular man a drawing of something new, which later of course became a part of that particular local culture.

Once you have done that, all sorts of things can happen later on so that in later times you don't need the triggering mechanisms any more. Because it will come from the environment.

But at the beginning I don't see why it could not start with some happenstance like that. (pages 68-70)

BROWN: As a psychiatrist I'm particularly curious about your work with John Perry. How did you first meet him?

CAMPBELL: That was a marvelous meeting. Mike wrote to me one time and said he'd like me to come out and talk with John Perry, a psychiatrist in San Francisco, about schizophrenia. I said, I don't know anything about schizophrenia. He said, Well, he'd like to have me give a lecture anyhow. I said, Well, how would James Joyce be? And he said, That would be just fine.

So I agreed to come out and talk with John Perry. And Perry sent me some of his monographs, his articles, on the symbolism of schizophrenia. The sequence with which these images emerge in a patient's mind, who's in a deep schizoid crack-up. And it matched The Hero with a Thousand Faces, just like that, step by step.

And so there again I came to understand the relationship with something that had been simply a scholarly interest of mine in mythology to actual life problems.

And it's been pretty exciting ever since.

BROWN: That's really how I got acquainted with you. In the middle of the 1960s I read a book of yours, Primitive Mythology from the Masks of God, and it sounded like what my patients in psychoanalysis were telling me.

CAMPBELL: Yes. That's marvelous. Actually I guess the big crisis in my popular career came in the 1960s when people were taking LSD and my book The Hero with a Thousand Faces became a kind of triptych or mythological map for the hippies. (page 143)

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