Mar 29, 2011

Joseph Campbell puts culture and society in perspective

The following video is a narration by Joseph Campbell that appears at the beginning of "The Power Of Myth, Part 3". In this video clip Campbell provides some perspective about the world we live in from our origins as tribes of hunters and gatherers, through the beautiful prehistoric caves found in France, to the difference between modern life and prehistoric life.

The ancient cultures were very different from ours yet it is from our deep past that the structures of our psychology are supposed to derive. Also, Joseph Campbell mentions that the visions of the Shamans must be of the same structure as the dreams we experience in our sleep. Joseph Campbell is referring to the observation made by Jung that dreams often contain symbolism which transcends the social experiences of the person dreaming. In other words, people from one culture have had dreams in the symbolism of another culture without any prior familiarity with that culture.

More on Shamans and Shamanism: Shamans have probably been around for many millennia as Joseph Campbell as stated in his analysis of the symbol of the yogi on ancient seals found at Mohenjo-daro, "the yogi, as a higher transformation of the shamanistic techniques and experiences of ecstasis [ecstasy]"(Primitive Mythology page 437). In other words yoga has probably developed from the accumulated knowledge (including psychological descriptions such as 'spirits' - see archetypes - and techniques to help people that sounds allot like hypnosis) of generations of shamans that led to whatever form it had in the Indian subcontinent around 2000 BC (to which time the following image of a seal with a yogi on it is from).

The form of yoga practiced now derives from the format outlined in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali dated to around 200-500 BC. The passed down, accumulated, knowledge of the tribes in the orient through their line of Shamans, settled in the basin and mountains of China from whom Qigong and the other arts such as acupressure must come from. In other words, every culture must have had their own Shamans or 'Myth Keepers'. Some more compassionate while others may have been more aggressive, each adapted to his/her own culture and time. In fact, I think it is safe to say that the Shaman must have been the world's first professional getting paid for services (such as healing or chasing away 'spirits') by gifts of meat, or fruits or whatever was of value in the culture the Shaman was from. Such payment is common in our time, in primitive cultures, as well and may have a long history, even the Indian culture has a whole tradition of ascetics living off of the villages nearby and spending their time doing yoga...could this be a remnant of an ancient culture with shamanistic roots? Anyways, getting back to Joseph Campbell, here is what he has written about one of the seals found in Mohenjodaro that must have been a remnant of the ancient Saraswati civilization. [Note: I say 'remnant' because of the evidence of ancient cities I outlined earlier]

The following extract is from Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell page 435

"The so-called Harappa stage of the great cities of Mohenjo-daro, Chanhu-daro, and Harappa (c. 2500-1200/1000 B.C), which bursts abruptly into view, without preparation, already fully formed and showing many completely obvious signs of inspiration from the earlier high centers of the West (i.e. fertile crescent), yet undeniable signs, also, of a native Indian tradition – this too already well developed. As professor W. Norman Brown has suggested, a native Indian center (i.e., a mythogenetic zone) somewhere either in the south or in the Ganges-Jumna area would seem to be indicated, where the characteristically Indian traits, unknown at this time farther west, must have come into form. For on two of the stamp-seals of the period we find figures seated on low thrones in the meditating yoga posture."

"One of these is flanked by two kneeling worshipers and rearing serpents, while the other, with two gazelles reposing beneath his seat, is surrounded by four wild beasts – a water buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant, and tiger. It is well known that precisely these compositions are associated in later Hindu and Buddhist art both with the god Shiva and with the Buddha. One can only suppose that the practice of yoga must have already been developed and associated with the concept of heightened state of consciousness, not only worthy of worship but also capable of quelling and fascinating the animal world – like the music of Orpheus in the later tradition of the Greeks."

An interesting fact is that this ancient seal, from a city that has been dead for around 3000 years, has some amazing similarities between later Hindu, Buddhist and Greek mythology.

"The seated yogi among the beasts wears on his head a curious headdress with a high crown and two immense horns, which, as Heinrich Zimmer has pointed out, resembles to a striking degree on of the so-called "Three Jewels" (symbolizing the Buddha, the doctrine, and the order of the Buddha’s followers), which in the form of a kind of trident. The Hindu god Shiva carries a trident also; and among the Greeks, as we know, this same sign was the attribute of Poseidon (Neptune), the god of the watery deep." Primitive Mythology page 436

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