Building a New MythCode. Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Stephen Gerringer on the new The Study of Myth Forum & 2112 Symposium. By Willi Paul, openmythsource.com
WP: “Really hopeful that mythology will be freed from the historic chains that bind the power of myth. Time to re-mythos the old school.”
SG: Couldn’t agree with you more, Willi. As to whether that happens, well, this forum provides the space for such alchemy, but the rest depends on what we all, yourself included, choose to do with that space. It is indeed time to deepen and re-imagine the study of myth.”
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Interview with Stephen Gerringer by Willi –
Why do a new web site, in addition to the jcf.org effort? Are the Mythological RoundTables under-performing?
The jcf.org website and Mythological RoundTable® Program are part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation (JCF), focused on preserving and perpetuating Joseph Campbell’s work, as well as exploring and engaging Joseph Campbell’s mythological perspective.
Joseph Campbell, though, is just one person among many who have contributed to the study of mythology.
The Study of Myth, is a separate initiative that addresses the wider mythological community. Of course there is an obvious overlap, which is one reason why JCF agreed to participate with OPUS Archives and Research Center and Pacifica Graduate Institute in getting this project off the ground. Naturally any survey of the field of mythology this past century must take Joseph Campbell’s contributions into account – but the focus in Study of Myth is on those active in the field today.
Mythology is not currently recognized within academia as a separate discipline. Depending on the university, courses in myth might be taught in the departments of anthropology, literature, theology, folklore, psychology, history, philosophy, or more – but so far only one school offers advanced degrees in Mythological Studies. (In fact, Joseph Campbell’s degree was in Literature, which is what he taught at Sarah Lawrence; it wasn’t until he was 50 that he records in his journal the realization that he is, in actuality, a comparative mythologist.)
So the Study of Myth project is designed to help establish Mythology as a separate discipline.
Study of Myth has three components:
1) a virtual, collaborative online community – a home for those who consider themselves students of myths (whether or not one is part of an academic institution); this is created by those participating in the Study of Myth forums
2) the self-organized Symposium for the Study of Mythology (the first of which is scheduled for Labor Day weekend in 2012)
3) an Association for the Study of Mythology, which should emerge from the other two components.
All three legs of this mythic stool are focused on answering this question:
“How are YOU dreaming forward the study of mythology?”
Ideally, once this project is well under way, we anticipate Study of Myth will evolve into a stand-alone organization independent of its current sponsors.
Symposium for the Study of Myth 2012 sounds promising. What’s planned?
Good question. What do you have in mind?!
The Symposium for the Study of Myth is not your traditional academic conference with the usual hierarchical structure and nothing but degreed scholars reading dry papers. We envision the Symposium as a self-organizing event that moves beyond traditional formats to include cooperative presentations, performances, and other special events. Rather than sit at the feet of a myth-guru, the accent is on participation.
The structure of the symposium will take shape in discussions unfolding in the Study of Myth forums.
This is explained in greater detail in the Prezi slide presentation on site.
How did you select the co-sponsors for the Study of Myth? How did you assess their capacity to bring new fire and vision to myth?
JCF, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and OPUS Archives and Research Center are all committed to furthering the field of mythology. OPUS not only maintains Joseph Campbell’s personal library and archives, but holds the archival collections of archaeologist Marijas Gimbutas, Jungian psychologist Marion Woodman, religious studies scholar Christine Downing, founder of archetypal psychology James Hillman, and several other scholars who have contributed to our understanding of mythology. And Pacifica, currently the only institution to offer M.A.’s and Ph.D.s in Mythological Studies, would like to see other colleges and universities embrace Mythology – the broader the discourse, the healthier the field.
I have enjoyed collaborating on this project with several professors at Pacifica, as well as Dr. Safron Rossi, the Director of the OPUS Archives, and am personally impressed with their commitment to the mythological perspective.
Who are the new Joseph Campbells? How are their myths supporting the global transition underway?
There is only one Joseph Campbell, a singular and remarkable man – but there are any number of individuals in the field, both scholars and lay people, who share Campbell’s mythic perspective. Many are good friends or people I know professionally, and others are people who I have read, but I won’t list names as I’m bound to leave out more than I remember; a fare number, though, are people you have interviewed at PlanetShifter.com.
Of course, these are people who study and explore the mythic wisdom of humanity – they don’t actually create myths themselves any more than did Joseph Campbell.
For myth-making, you have to turn to artists, poets, musicians, filmmakers, authors, and performers – those Campbell identified as the seers for our age, who create myth out of their own experience (even if the critics don’t call it myth). The poetry of Maya Angelou, the films and TV series created by J.J. Abrams, the music of U2 and the Grateful Dead, the novels of Wally Lamb and Cormac McCarthy – these are but a few of the places I turn to for mythic images that support and sustain this time of transition – but that will be different for every individual.
What are the dominant themes in the new mythologies?
The dominant themes of any “new” mythologies are the same they have always been. In the words of Joseph Campbell, speaking of his own work:
“I find that its main result for me has been its confirmation of a thought I have long and faithfully entertained: of the unity of the race of man, not only in its biology, but also in its spiritual history, which has everywhere unfolded in the manner of a single symphony, with its themes announced, developed, amplified and turned about, distorted, reasserted, and, today, in a grand fortissimo of all sections sounding together, irresistibly advancing to some kind of mighty climax, out of which the next great movement will emerge. And I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same motifs already heard will not be sounding still – in new relationships indeed, but ever the same motifs” (from “Note on the Completion of The Masks of God,” repeated in each volume of this work).
Of course, as Campbell also notes, there are no more horizons, so any new mythologies will have no choice but to take into account the reality of this planet as one whole – but mythology emerges from the collective unconscious. We can’t consciously determine what form those themes will take, anymore than I can ask you to tell me what you will dream later tonight.
The best we can do is note what is emerging, and identify as best we can with the positive expressions of those themes.
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stephen.gerringer at jcf.org
Joseph Campbell Foundation
See my first interview (and Bio) with Mr. Gerringer –
Joseph Campbell Rising. PlanetShifter.com Magazine Interview with Stephen Gerringer – Community Relations, Joseph Campbell Foundation