A Planetary Myth

Joseph Campbell once said that any new myth, in the “high” sense of the word as an overarching, meaning-making narrative, would necessarily have to be planetary in scope and nature, given the global outlook of our modern technological civilization. He said the famous image of planet earth as photographed from space — an image unknown to any previous generation before the mid-20th century — might serve as a suitable iconic symbol to accompany such a myth. Bear that in mind as you watched the video below with speakers turned up and the player enlarged to full-screen, because it could well serve as a kind of initiation, both cognitive and emotional, into this point of view.

DIALOGUE FROM JOSEPH CAMPBELL AND THE POWER OF MYTH:

Joseph Campbell: If you think of ourselves coming out of the earth, rather than having been thrown in here from somewhere else, you see that we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth. These are the eyes of the earth. And this is the voice of the earth.

Bill Moyers: Scientists are beginning to talk quite openly about the Gaia principle.

Joseph Campbell: There you are, the whole planet as an organism.

Bill Moyers: Mother Earth. Will new myths come from this image?

Joseph Campbell: Well, something might. You can’t predict what a myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you’re going to dream tonight. Myths and dreams come from the same place. They come from the realizations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form. And the only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it. And what it will have to deal with will be exactly what all myths have deal with — the maturation of the individual, from dependency through adulthood, through maturity, and then to the exit; and then how to relate to this society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos. That’s what the myths have all talked about, and what this one’s got to talk about. But the society that it’s got to talk about is the society of the planet. And until that gets going, you don’t have anything.

Bill Moyers: So you suggest that from this begins the new myth of our time?

Joseph Campbell: Yes, this is the ground of what the myth is to be. It’s already here: the eye of reason, not one of nationality; the eye of reason, not of my religious community; the eye of reason, not of my linguistic community. Do you see? And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group. When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with.

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on February 2, 2012, in Religion & Philosophy, Society & Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. What is a ‘high’ myth?

    • I invoked the term “high” to distinguish myth in the cultural meaning-making sense and/or Jungian archetypes-of-the-collective-unconscious sense from its more common, colloquial, everyday English meaning of “false story.”

  2. Thanks. Ahh, that colloquial meaning, forgot about it completely – that’s why I was confused.

  3. Matt, what do you think about Alan Moores Promethea. There is something mythic in it.

  4. Strictly speaking, the latest replica was not Earth; but it had been con structed to resemble the mother world, even down to the fine details of core convections, plate tectonics, and Gulf Stream movements. Lovingly copied were mountain contours, coastlines, temperature ranges, weather patterns, ozone behaviors, magneto-atmospheric field fluctuations, and all the biology and botany from the Quaternary period.
    Therefore it could be said and celebrated that the long-awaited End of History had come, if not to Earth, at least to an acceptably indistinguishable replica.
    This world, informally known as Twenty-first Earth, formally known as Eta Carina XCIX, was the dwelling of the Penelope Myriad.
    Even at sixty-three thousand AU’s away, the double star Eta Carina was still brighter and hotter than Sol. The re-created Earth was shielded from her insane primary both by the immense dimension of her orbit (just shy of a light-year in radius) and by a system of space-borne parasols, larger than worlds, which hung sunward from her, tinting the light from the swollen suns of Eta Carina to an earthly yellow, painting the sky sky-blue. Timed albedo variations across the parasol fabric gave the world seasons.
    Penelope occupied no city of the surface or hovering in the cloud, no shell structure of the undersea or node base below the crust; instead, the biosphere itself was hers.
    The infrastructure of her consciousness occupied strands in trees and specialized input-output cells in the nervous systems of flocks of birds, coded molecules in the glands of insects, and radiation pulses absorbed and retransmitted by coral beds or dots of machinery in the bloodstreams of shewolves and vixens, and does and hens.
    Some of her were bound to the brain stems of millions of her pets, and she knew their passions and fears. Some of her were countless motes carried on the winds and fogs, so that she could feel the world breathe, and know the rhythms of rainfall. When she dispersed among the evaporations as chemical spores, she fell again as downpours along the contours of mountains, gathering messages encoded in atoms, swirling together as she rushed down rills and rivers, waking again to consciousness, as if after sleep, when this part of her settled to the bottoms of sea or lakes in sufficient mass.
    Much of her, where most of her work was done, occupied earthworms or seeped as chemical filaments through the topsoil, making dust and sand and lifeless rock pregnant with possibilities, and conserving the rich soil of a whole world she wore as a garment.
    In short, she was a Cerebelline, a multi-valued and global consciousness.
    Penelope indeed was a fitting name for her: in maintaining the funerary memorial of Earth, hers was a task as melancholy as weaving a father’s burial shroud; to maintain the ecostructure in a star system so unsuited for Earthly life, a task as endless as unweaving and reweaving that shroud nightly.
    John C. Wright, ‘The Far End of History’.

  5. http://www.metahistory.org/GAIA%20SOPHIA/PlanetaryMyth.php

    John Lash is widely considered as the heir or successor to Joseph Campbell.

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