The Masks of God, Volume 1: Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a delight! I've had my eyes on these four doorstoppers of mythology every since I read Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces. And like that other classic, Campbell mixes an enthusiastic and encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Australian Aborigines to Sumerian to African to Egyptian belief systems in an attempt to find all the core recurring concepts in the same way that Frasier did in The Golden Bough, only MORE SO.
This is beyond impressive. Even if we criticize some of the conclusions he comes up with, no one can dispute the research or first-hand scholarship or the breadth of his knowledge.
I think he's something of a god. He breaks down whole systems of thought into inclusive theories that are truly universal. His influence on sooooo many artists from Lucas to Gaiman is undisputed. Of course, that's far from all. You might say that his way of thinking has permeated rational inclusive scholarship across the world. By the time this particular book came out in 1959, his clarity of thought and writing and speaking brought in a golden age of open-mindedness.
What do I mean? I mean he's the one who came up with the idea "Follow your Bliss." Vast passages in this text are devoted to the sanctity of play. It's even a valid argument that most societies work on the principle that we fake it till we make it. Act as if until it becomes real. There's no difference between putting on a mask you know very well was created by your neighbor and dance around with the perfect assumption that you're now the incarnation of a god and getting on stage at Eurovision and singing your heart out to adoring fans who invest you with the power of their worship. The only difference is scale.
There is no way I can do this book justice like this. There is such a wealth of mythologies between the covers of this book that I can't think of any other single book that covers as much. It's also extremely readable. But expect a long, long quest. The other three books are much larger. :)
Side note: I am required to remain skeptical about some of the conclusions for one rather big reason: they're addictive. I love them so much that I'm tempted to swallow it all whole. Few theories are this powerful. Or enjoyable.
After all, Inanna is Isis is Aphrodite is Mary mother of Jesus, after all. We can place this at this man's feet. :)
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