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Oriental Mythology (The Masks of God, Volume II) (v. 2)

(Book #2 in the The Masks of God Series)

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. An exploration of Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Campbell: The CSI Of Mythology

This wonderful book kept me awake more nights than I care to admit. As another reviewer previously noted, I to, often found it helpful to stop at certain points in the book. I enjoyed reflecting upon and contemplating Cambells focused mythological insight. I found the inclusion of Eygpt and Mesopotamia as entrance points exemplifying the origin of the split between the Oriental and Occidental rewarding and compelling. That's what I've always enjoyed about Campbell. Expect the unexpected! He'd have wanted it no other way I believe. Of the three volumes, I personally found Vol 2 "The Masks of God" the most interesting for me.

The Masks of God

Joseph Campbell was possibly the most erudite figure of the twentieth century. His ground-breaking studies in anthropology inspired a whole generation of readers - including George Lucas, who based his initial Star Wars movie upon Campbell's "The Hero of a Thousand Faces". The four volumes of "The Masks of God" lead one through an oddysey of human interconnections. "Tne Masks of God" is recommended to any who are willing to recognise our common heritage.

Uneven but fascinating commentary

"Oriental Mythology" is the second in the "Masks of God" series, the follow up to "Primitive Mythology". It covers more of the mind boggling extent of humankind's mythic past, material that is the basis for religion and philosophy. Campbell presents all sorts of details from artifacts dug up by archeologists and some rather long-winded quoted passages. Much of it is rather uneven and challenging to follow, but the payoff is usually Campbell's own commentary which often uses a soaring language to elucidate, to associate and connect different myths of different cultures. The especially fascinating part of the book for me concerns the mystery of how yoga philosophy and practice came into being and evolved as it did to different forms such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Yoga philosophy defines a very different state of being than the Abrahamic tradition of the West. It does not situate humankind in a state of sin and guilt, stranded in a corrupt world, alienated from a transcendent God; but rather, in a state of ignorance with knowledge as the key to escaping from inevitable suffering caused by the delusion of living in a material world. The ancient civilization in the Indus Valley contains seeds of it's development, but it is far from clear just how it developed and what role the Aryans, who invaded and plundered India, played. In any event, Campbell concludes "tentatively" that yoga is "indigenous" to India. The many different forms and manifestations of Buddhism follow from the ancient yoga tradition of asceticism. The book is not an good introduction to Buddhism, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the many sects and their different metaphysics and practices. It's influence burgeoned and then waned in India, but spread throughout the Far East, and combined with the Native nature religions of Tao in China and Shinto in Japan. Though Buddhism in whatever form mainly involves a turning away from the affairs of the world, from what is shown here, it has hardly ever failed to provide a civilizing influence. I have to echo some of the criticisms of other reviewers. The inclusion of a chapter on ancient Egypt and also a section on the hieratic city states of Mesopotamia do not go the way of clarifying how Oriental myth grew as it did. The organization of the book would have been a lot more straightforward if he had gone directly from the introduction, in which Campbell compares East with West, to ancient India and directly to the mysteries of the Orient. He seeks to trace the influence of Egypt and Mesopotamia to the East, but the influences are so scattered and so relative, that it would have been better to have stuck with India, China, and Japan. Also, the final section on Tibet, although illuminating, departs in large measure from the subject matter.

The Inscrutable Orient is Explained

In this second volume of the "Mask" Trilogy, Campbell has moved from the perhistorical to historical. There is and has always been a great divide between the Occident and the Orient on matters of faith and Campbell thinks this has a lot to do with the mythical origins underlying all cultures and religions. Oddly, he begins in Egypt which eventually approached the Occidental viewpoint. But it is in the deserts of that ancient land that we begin with the ideas being set by the changeless seasons and the Nile.Next a study of Buddhist, Hindu and other Oriental religions is undertaken. Somewhere along the line, East and West diverged on the issue of religious thought. One might say that Oriental belief systems harken back to the primitive in that multiple gods, representing various emotions, objects or ideas, were the norm. This was the way of ancient Greece and Egypt but both societies soon "evolved" toward a semi-monotheism or gave life to sects (ancient Judaism) that adopted the single god notion.Of the three, this book was the hardest to comprehend, perhaps due to the foreign names. Still, it is a testament to the monumental research and innovative ideas of the author.

The Great Orient

In this book Campbell has covered the entire fieldfrom Ancient Egypt via pre-Buddhist, Buddhist & post-BuddhistIndia to China, Japan & Tibet. Apart from a multitude of references, citations and amusinglegends illustrating his nominal concern (Mythologies)-thecenter of this book (a part of "The Masks of God" tetralogy)lies elsewhere. Essentailly, all Campbell's work (and "OrientalMythology", with its chapter 1 "Signatures of the four great domains", is a particularly good example) is a predominantlyJungian (with a few Freudian insights assimilated) comparativeanalysis of the dominant traditional mindsets.For instance, he sharply differentiates between two"Western" archetypes (Jung again) & "loyalties":1.Promethean hero-the Greco-Roman legacyof ever-expanding and conquering being2.Job-the Levantine legacy transmuted into ChristianityOr, "Eastern" loyalties of:3.Yogi- ascetic absorbed in transcosmic cataleptic trance, as the "trademark" of India4.Sage-essentially the Chinese ideal of harmony ("flowing" with Tao, or realizingone's tao in society (Confucians))Be as it may, this is a treasure trove of ideas, associations & insights.I haven't encountered any richer or profounder work of late.And, as a ghastly surprise, book ends with factual report on Chinesecommunist invasion of Tibet (mutilations, castrations, sterilizations,public executions & humiliations), as all the horrors from the "Bardo Thodhol"have descended on our earthly reality. A horrendous reminder thatmythologies are not dead, dated nor irrelevant.
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