Subject: ON LOOKING WITHOUT SEEING; HEARING WITHOUT LISTENING; OWNERSHIP WITHOUT POSSESSION; AND 'THE RIGHT STATE OF MIND’.
10 August 2013
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In the Epilogue of his thought-provoking book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Joseph Campbell evokes the image of the early Greek sea god, Proteus, “whose speech is smooth” and who will take “all manner of shapes of things that creep upon the earth, of water likewise, and of fierce fire burning.”
A life-voyager wishing to be taught by Proteus must ‘grasp him steadfastly and press him yet the more,’ and at length he will appear in his proper shape. But this wily god never discloses even to the skilful questioner the whole content of his wisdom. He will reply only to the question put to him, and what he discloses will be great or trivial, according to the question asked. (p.329)
This “pre-scientific” method of research is echoed in reputable establishments of higher education today, where it is generally acknowledged that answers can be no better than the questions that have been formulated.
But when scientists forget our collective past, they alienate themselves from society, sometimes at a dire cost to themselves and to the society in which they live and practice their skills.
Mythology has been interpreted by the modern intellect as a primitive, fumbling effort to explain the world of nature [Frazer]; as a production of poetical fantasy from prehistoric times, misunderstood by succeeding ages [Muller]; as a repository of allegorical instruction, to shape the individual to his group [Durkheim]; as a group dream, symptomatic of archetypal urges within the depths of the human psyche [Jung]; as the traditional vehicle of man’s profoundest metaphysical insights [Coomaraswamy]; and as God’s Revelation to His children [the Church]. Mythology is all of these. The various judgments are determined by the viewpoints of the judges. For when scrutinized in terms not of what it is but of how it functions, of how it has served mankind in the past, of how it may serve today, mythology shows itself to be as amenable as life itself to the obsessions and requirements of the individual, the race, the age. . . .
In his life-form the individual is necessarily only a fraction and distortion of the total image of man. He is limited either as male or female; as any given period of his life he is again limited as child, youth, mature adult, or ancient; furthermore, in his life-role he is necessarily specialized as craftsman, tradesman, servant, or thief, priest, leader, wife, nun, or harlot; he cannot be all. Hence, the totality –fullness of man—is not in the separate member, but in the body of the society as a whole; the individual can be only an organ. From his group he has derived his techniques of life, the language in which he thinks, the ideas on which he thrives; through the past of that society descended the genes that built his body. If he presumes to cut himself off, either in deed or in thought and feeling, he only breaks connection with the sources of his existence. (p.330) . . .
One way to reduce such alienation is through an understanding of history; by increasing our sense of belonging, and by understanding society as so much raw material upon which we might work to shape it into a form that better suits our human needs and the needs of others. History shows, however, that such creativity can be easily subverted, leaving a society of automatons as the composit crystalizations of personal inactions.
But there is another way –in diametric opposition to that of social duty and the popular cult. From the standpoint of the way of duty, anyone in exile from the community is a nothing. From the other point of view, however, this exile is the first step of the quest. Each carries within himself the all; therefore it may be sought and discovered within. The differentiations of sex, age, and occupation are not essential to our character, but mere costumes which we wear for a time on the stage of the world. The image of man within is not to be confounded with the garments. We think of ourselves as Americans, children of the twentieth century, Occidentals, civilized Christians. We are virtuous or sinful. Yet such designations do not tell what it is to be a man, they denote only the accidents of geography, birth-date, and income. What is the core of us? What is the basic character of our being? (p.332) . . .
The oigin of historical study is mythology and the relationship, despite generations of scholarlly disputes, cannot be denied. If psychology is “the science of science,” as R.D. Laing argues in his book The Politics of Experience (1971), then history can only be understood as the birthplace of all knowledge, the environment which nurtures it to full maturity, for better or for worse.
Centered in this hub-point, the question of selfishness or altruism disappears. The individual has lost himself in the law and been reborn in identity with the whole meaning of the universe. For Him, by Him, the world was made. ‘O Mohammed,’ God said, ‘hadst thou not been, I would not have created the sky.’ . . .
All of which is far indeed from the contemporary view; for the democratic ideal of the self-determining individual, the invention of the power-driven machine, and the development of the scientific method of research have so transformed human life that the long-inherited, timeless universe of symbols has collapsed. (p.333) . . .
The spell of the past, the bondage of tradition, was shattered with sure and mighty strokes. The dream-web of myth fell away; the mind opened to full waking consciousness; and modern man emerged from ancient ignorance, like a butterfly form its cocoon, or like the sun at dawn from the womb of mother night. p.(334) . . .
And what if we forget our origins and no longer acknowledge our relationship with the past, nor seek self-knowledge from our former states of mind? What is to happen to us if we see ourselves as coming from nowhere, and heading nowhere . . . ?
The problem of mankind today, therefore, is precisely the opposite to that of men in the comparatively stable periods of those great co-ordinating mythologies which now are known as lies. Then all meaning was in the group, in the great anonymous forms, none in the self-expressive individual; today no meaning is in the group –none in the world; all is in the individual. But there the meaning is absolutely unconscious. One does not know toward what one moves. One does not know by what one is propelled. The lines of communication between the conscious and the unconscious zones of the human psyche have all been cut, and we have been split in two. . . . The modern hero-deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the co-ordinated soul. . . . that of rendering the modern world spiritually significant, . . . that of making it possible for men and women to come to full human maturity through the conditions of contemporary life. (p.334)
Campbell concludes his essay on universal patterns in mythologies from around the world with a word of warning to his contemporary colleagues :
Consciousness can no more invent, or even predict, an effective symbol than foretell or control tonight’s dream. The whole thing is being worked out on another level, through what is bound to be a long and very frightening process, not only in the depths of every living psyche in the modern world, but also on those titanic battlefields into which the whole planet has lately been converted. (p.335) . . .
It is not society that is to guide and save the hero, but precisely the reverse. (337)
To place Joseph Campbell’s research on mythology in a wider perspective, there is no better place to turn than Bertell Ollman’s study of Marxist methodology. [See CEIMSA Bulletin #253 and the French edition of his book, LA DIALECTIQUE MISE EN ŒUVRE : Le processus d’abstraction dans la méthode de Marx.] Here we find an emphasis placed on social class relationships rather than “exceptional individuals.” Without denying the role played by exceptional individuals (for better or for worse), Ollman insists that different viewpoints of the social context of class struggle and of modern capitalist imparatives are essential if we are to understand the dynamics of change in the contemporary world. In this view, Campbell’s focus on the individual and the universal may be helpful, but it by no means offers us a complete explanation for our widely shared state of alienation in the contemporary world, much less a strategy to end it.
The usefulness of Campbell’s research, it appears to me, is that it provides us access to understanding the bewildering array of human relationships that sometimes paradoxe us into paralysis. By looking at our ancestors’ mental constructs, before and after the Manichean formulation of Good and Evil, as independent entities which penetrate social actors, Campbell draws attention to the fact that gods are created in the image of man, that human relationships are not permanent and that this fact can be recognized in what man has created over the past millennium. This discovery has some predictive powers, and could possibly lead to insights into how the status quo is perpetuated in society, despite the continual violations of the interests and well-being of the great majority of us, “the 99 percent.”
In the 11 items below, CEIMSA offers its readers opportunities to see, to listen to, and to posses the truth about themselves and about the world they live in; social class interests will govern their actions, but the question is, as always: Whose interests will prevail?
Item A., from Truth Out, in as article by Greg Palast and Michael Nevradakis : “Why Are the Greek People Agreeing to Their Own Destruction?”
Item B., sent to us by Reader Supported News, is an article by Paul Krugman on “The Phony War Factor.”
Item C., sent to us by Information Clearing House, is an article by Neil Harrison on the “Achilles Heel” of the US Empire.
Item D., from The Daily Koz, is a reminder of why the corporate media cannot be trusted.
Item E., sent to us by Information Clearing House Finian Cunningham on the US/Israeli inability to forgive their victims.
Item F., sent to us by GRITtv is an interview with film director Joshua Oppenheimer, discussing his new documentary film, The Act of Killing.
Item G., from Truth Out, is an article by Gar Alperovitz on the US economic collapse and his long, tortured history.
Item H., sent to us by Information Clearing House The Young Turks, discussing Obama’s “Drone Warfare”.
Item I., sent to us by Mark Crispin Miller, founder of Notes from the Underground, is an exposé of the uncertainty of journalist Michael Hastings’s death, by Christian Stork.
Item J., sent to us by Mark Crispin Miller, is a series of reports on the latest Emergency” at the Fukushima Power Plant.
from Truth Out, in as article by Marjorie Cohn on why Bradley Manning must be considered as truly a contemporary Hero.
And finally, we offer readers a look at the recent four-part interview with Professor Vijay Prashad, Edward Said Chair at American University at Beirut, speaking on :
Reality Asserts Itself
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
From Truth Out :
Date: 8 August 2013
Subject: The Greek Suicide?
In a recent interview on Dialogos Radio, Palast turned his attention to Greece and to the austerity policies that have been imposed on the country by the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank.
by Greg Palast and Michael Nevradakis
From Reader Supported News :
Date: 8 August 2013
Subject: More on the The Politics of Fear.
We live in a golden age of economic debunkery; fallacious doctrines have been dropping like flies.
The Phony Fear Factor
by Paul Krugman
From ICH :
Date: 5 August 2013
Subject: How best to honor the bravery and sacrifices of Manning, Snowden and others like them.
The US empire's illusion of benign omnipotence has been broken by the heroic acts of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.
From The Daily Koz :
Date: 7 August 2013
Subject: The credibility crisis in the liberal media.
From ICH :
Date: 5 August 2013
Subject: Blaming the Victim.
The art of US diplomacy in the Middle East is evidently to give Israel a carte blanche to do whatever it likes with regard to trampling on Palestinian rights and lives.
Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s new documentary film, The Act of Killing.
Why does extreme violence happen and what do the perpetrators really think of themselves? Director Joshua Oppenheimer asks just that in his new documentary film, The Act of Killing, executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. The movie follows Anwar Congo and his fellow Indonesian para-militaries as they recreate their country’s 1965-1966 mass murders. The catch – they are the mass-murderers!
What does it mean to live in a country where impunity rules, a country where the killers have won? We already know. We, in the US, live in one! Oppenheimer tells Laura Flanders in this thought-provoking discussion on GRITtv.
A Thirty-Year Trajectory of the US Economic Collapse.
Over the past 30 years the US political economy has been trending toward greater inequality and poverty and a diminished capacity to respond democratically. How do we counter this systemic breakdown?
by Gar Alperovitz
Obama’s Drone Warfare.
'Double Tap' Drone Strikes US Deliberately Targeting Rescuers
journalist Michael Hastings die?
by Christian Stork
Yesterday, the NYTimes reported this "emergency" (as TEPCO is now finally calling it) on p. A6.
Tepco needs public cash to dig deep wall --Radioactive flow to sea 300 tons daily; Suga says utility can't halt it 07 Aug 2013 The public must help fund Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s effort to freeze the soil around the reactor buildings at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, creating a barrier to prevent more groundwater from becoming radioactive, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday. It was revealed the same day that 300 tons of tainted water is flowing to the Pacific daily from the stricken plant. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering including the costs [¥30 billion to ¥40 billion] in the fiscal 2014 budget request.
Radioactive water may overflow at Japan plant 06 Aug 2013 The operator of Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant is struggling to stop radioactive underground water from leaking into the sea. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said some of the water is seeping over or around an underground barrier it created by injecting chemicals into the soil that solidified into a wall. The latest problem involves underground water which has built up over the last month since the company began creating the chemical walls to stop leaks after it detected radiation spikes in water samples in May.
'State of emergency' at Fukushima nuclear plant over ongoing leaks of radioactive water --'Right now, we have an emergency.' - TEPCO 06 Aug 2013 Japan's nuclear watchdog says there is a state of emergency at the shattered Fukushima nuclear plant over ongoing leaks of radioactive water. An official from the Nuclear Regulation Authority says contaminated groundwater has risen above a shore barrier meant to contain it and is seeping into the Pacific Ocean. Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Shinji Kinjo revealed the leak is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge. Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear complex, are only a temporary solution, Mr Kinjo added. "Right now, we have an emergency," he said.
After Manning exposed Iraqi torture centers established by the United States, the Iraqi government refused Obama's request to extend immunity to US soldiers who commit criminal and civil offenses there. As a result, Obama had to withdraw US troops from Iraq.
by Marjorie Cohn