ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
According to Eliade, “myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality—an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. Myth, then, is always an account of a “creation.” Thus, for Eliade, all myths concern origins, how things began. In The Myth of Eternal Return he discusses, among much else, the idea of axis mundi, or the center of the world, which is sometimes a sacred mountain, symbolized as a palace or temple, or a sacred city which is conceived as the place where heaven, earth, and hell meet. In Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries he discusses sacred history as “transhuman revelation which took place at the dawn of Great Time, in the holy time of the beginnings (in illo tempore)” and that “Being real and sacred, the myth becomes exemplary, and consequently repeatable, for it serves as a model, and by the same token as a justification, for all human action.” In Patterns of Religion he discusses such topics as the distinctions between “sacred” and “profane” and coined the term hierophanies from the Greek (“sacred disclosure”) meaning a “modality of the divine.” He argues that anything whatsoever can be a hierophany.
The late Joseph Campbell was born in New York in 1904. He did undergraduate and graduate work in literature at Columbia University during the 1920s, then went to Europe, where he studied first at the Sorbonne in Paris and then at the University of Munich in Germany. Having completely lost interest in his doctoral thesis, he abandoned the project and focused his studies on Sanskrit and German literature. Later, he became an expert on the works of both Thomas Mann and the Irish author James Joyce.
The family fortunes evaporated during the Great Depression. Campbell spent an itinerant youth: a year in a cabin in Connecticut where he did nothing but read, another year hitchhiking around the United States, another year in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska working with a biologist. During the late 1930s, he was appointed to the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College for Women near New York, and taught there for thirty-eight years. In 1947, Princeton University Press published his Hero With a Thousand Faces, based on his lecture notes. Although this is a badly-organized book, difficult to read, it became a runaway bestseller, and is still one of the most significant studies of myth. However, Campbell was never highly regarded in academic circles.
Campbell later wrote a tetrology entitled The Masks of God, four volumes dealing with the history of world myth from prehistoric times to the present. He wrote most of these studies after his retirement. He also went on the lecture circuit, and continued until he was well into his eighties. During this time, he published many other books and was sometimes called the “guru of myth.” He died in 1987.
The author’s thinking concerning religion was chiefly influenced by Eliade and Campbell, as well as by Carl G.Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology based on his concept of impersonal psyche or the