5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2012
I've known the value of this book since its initial publication, &, unlike many books whose relevance disappears almost at publication, as long as the erroneous ideas Campbell stands for remain popular, this book remains as valuable today as then. One of the big distinctions between Snyder's analysis of Campbell & Campbell's analysis of religion is that Snyder's approach is rational & logical while Campbell's is subjective & relativistic. For Snyder, its whether or not a religion can affirm its tenets in the facts of history, evidence, & reason. For Campbell, the reality or truthfulness of religious tenets is irrelevant: what matters is how one's experience is enhanced & made more positive.This makes it surprising to me that so many fans of Campbell get angry at Snyder's criticisms & accuse him of being mean & trying to censor Campbell's ideas & opinions. If all experience, religion included, is subjective & relativistic, then can't Campbell's fans let Snyder have "his reality" that Campbell's world view is valueless? After all, who are they to tell him his experience is invalid? Many critics of Snyder go so far as to say Snyder is advocating censorship by urging those who agree w/him to encourage their local PBS outlets to quit airing Campbell's series that parallels his written Power of Myth. No, censorship would be if Snyder tried to use the power of government (laws, police, fines, imprisonment, etc.) to silence Campbell. What Snyder is urging is that those who think their time, money, & attention are wasted on Campbell's products might want to share their discovery w/others & help them conserve their assets by not investing in books, PBS support, or other support of Campbell.
The most valuable contribution Snyder's book makes to the discussion of myth & religion is that at least one religion, Christianity, claims to be not just myth, but historical, fact-based myth w/the power to transform lives & even the world itself because it is fully engaged w/reality & true. Campbell can, at best, offer only that religion -- any religion, no religion, any mixture of religion -- can make one feel better, sleep more soundly, & be less fearful of the future -- regardless what reality today or reality tomorrow really holds. I'll take Snyder's view.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2004
I have been reading the works of Joseph Campbell off and on for many years now. I say off and on because it is only as I mature and experience more of the world's "transcendence" that I really start to grasp what he's saying. In fact, I am proud to say that I can now get through the Power of Myth series without rewinding the tapes more than once or twice. I feel like I should get some sort of medal of honor in the mail for making it this far.
As I am always wont to hear legitimate (and opposing) criticism of the scholars that affect me, I checked this book out of the library. It's hard to find someone who is critical of Joseph Campbell's work and this seemed like one of the few published books (perhaps the only one) that dealt with Campbell exclusively.
Imagine my disappointment when I ran across unsound logic on the part of the author, snippets of Campbell's dialogues taken out of context and references that the author often defined as controversial yet employed as the cornerstone for seminal arguments against Campbell's views. I am by no means a student of logic, but I wasn't through the second chapter before I found myself thinking, "But Snyder is guilty here of the very charge he's levied against Campbell!"
In an effort to be completely fair and honest, I did not finish this book, though it was thoroughly perused. I felt my time was better spent on other ventures. I am also not a devout Christian who is willing to accept the complete inerrancy of the Bible. But I was willing (even excited) to give Mr. Snyder the floor to make his case time and time again. Too much "most scholars believe X, Y, Z but the few Christian scholars who don't are the ones I'll be quoting to back up my own arguments." (Not a direct quote...just my version of Snyder's thought process.)
I ultimately think that Mr. Snyder felt personally attacked by Joseph Campbell's views of Christianity and went to great lengths to disprove them even though he sacrifices his own reputation to that end. If you feel equally threatened by Campbell's lifetime investigation of world mythology, then this may be the perfect book for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
At the time this book was published in 1995, Tom Snyder taught philosophy, aesthetics, social science, and film at National University in Southern California. He wrote in the Preface, "It is perfectly reasonable to assume... that even if you have never heard of Joseph Campbell, you have probably met or heard someone supporting one of his popular ideas. Unfortunately, however, most of Campbell's ideas are either irrational or factually false... This book was not written only for people who know about Joseph Campbell and his ideas. It was also written for people who want to know some basic truths about religion, philosophy, ethics, science, aesthetics, the origin of mankind, western culture, Christianity, and the Bible. These are topics Campbell discussed... we are engaged in a culture war over these ideas, which have become new sacred cows. Joseph Campbell, despite his death, is still a major figure in this battle. This book is my contribution against the spirit of this age."
He states that [Campbell's] view of myth is much too limited. It contradicts the opinions of other well-respected myth scholars, including anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, historian Mircea Eliade, and literature professor C.S. Lewis. Campbell's view of myth also restricts the meaning of myth to a subjective, personal, and emotional level. In doing so, it dilutes the timeless, universal quality of myth." (Pg. 20) Later, he adds, "Unlike Campbell, Eliade doesn't try to make the cosmos into a god of some kind. He only uses words like 'pure,' 'holy,' or 'sacred'; he doesn't try to say that the whole cosmos and everything in it become part of 'a higher, all-suffusing, all informing principle of energy.'" (Pg. 102)
He argues, "many of the people who spout this new pluralistic utopia can be just as dogmatic, irrational, emotional, and intolerant as those they rail against. Joseph Campbell provides a perfect example of this. He frequently attacks the three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." (Pg. 44)
He admits, however, that "Not everything Campbell wrote or said was wrong. For instance, he actually said some profound things about the human condition and about the role of heroes throughout human history... I have found Campbell's structure about the hero ] very helpful in my own interpretation of many stories." (Pg. 52-53)
Fans of Campbell will likely not care for Snyder's book; but it contains some very thoughtful observations and perceptive comments, that persons from many different persuasions can agree with.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2010
Because this is an analysis of Campbell's idea of "Politically correct truth" we could look into what went wrong by reading this book.
Politically correct began at U of Cal Berkeley to follow Mao Zedeng's little red book.
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2007
This book is, unfortunately, completely typical of Christians who want so badly to hang on to their beliefs that they'll lie, cheat and misquote to do it. I just want to address the "clown act" quote since that seems to be a point of contention, and I have Dr. Campbell's book open on my lap right now. Jesus is not mentioned on this page. If anything, it's about Buddhism. The questioning is, in fact, about the theme of human desire for immortality that runs throughout various myths, beginning with a tale about the Buddha encountering a grieving woman. The conversation then goes on to discuss appreciating every moment in life. Immortality is the connection with the eternal in your own life (paraphrasing), and a desire to live forever physically at the expense of spiritual growth would be cheating yourself of your full human potential. The physical should never be prized over the spiritual. That's about it. If you want to criticize The Power of Myth, you should at least pick it up and read it first. I've always found Dr. Campbell to be as respectful of Christianity as he is of any other religion. He approaches it as a scholar and puts it within the context of historical religious development. We need more scholars and fewer fanatics.
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2006
I have. P. 228. Jesus isn't even mentioned on the page, nor was the word "resurrection". He was mentioned in pages 210-211, where Campbell discusses "the Christ within," describing it as "the sense of mankind." What a scathing attack on Christ that was...
Snyder draws a fair amount out of context, and there isn't much to argue against because there's nothing in terms of evidence, just opinions about Campbell's alleged attack on Christianity.
The man was a comparative mythologist, and yet Snyder wanted Campbell to say "but above all else, I'm a Christian?" Now that's asking a lot...
Snyder apparently has an agenda against anyone who might let people make up their own minds about their religion. Campbell never said Jesus wasn't the way, just one way of many. But tolerance of other religions isn't Snyder's way, and he and many like him are still bullying people into Christianity as if they still had a right to "convert the heathens."
Whether or not the man was a Christian isn't the same as someone who attacks Christianity. There's a difference, and it doesn't take a doctorate to know it. All it takes is a pledge drive and people can see why their money is better spent not on Snyder's book but on Campbell's. At least Campbell wants you to think for yourself instead of deceiving you. And you know that's what you're doing, Snyder.
Nice try, Tom. Go back to demonizing Mark Twain or something.
7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2004
Myth Conceptions is an interesting read, a good piece of work that is simple and to the point. Dr. Snyder clearly outlines the problems with myth theory, focusing on the a priori philosophical commitments on the part of Campbell and others. Campbell, in other words, rules beforehand that the biblical/traditional view of reality is wrong and then seeks to replace this with his own view. This is a clear error in logic, something that Snyder readily points out. Snyder does not in any way make the same mistake, he is in fact reinforcing the biblical tradition based on facts of an evidentiary nature. The biblical worldview has always been seen as a clear manifestation of human nature at its worst and best; outlining the main problem with the human condition, and the resultant need for redemption and salvation. Far from being "cleverly invented tales," events in the Bible are portrayed as paradoxically miraculous, but simple--a hallmark of biblical literature. The events are not akin to the grandiose embellishments that you find in Homer or Gnostic sources.
Myth theory has its place in literary analysis, but it is plainly ad hoc, and replete with its own philosophical and logical axes to grind.
8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2006
I recall reading this book when it first came out over ten years ago. It was and still is one of the most influential books that I have ever read in terms of shaping my own Christian world view. Personally, I will openly admit that I have never read any of Joseph Campbell's books, but I have talked to a number of people who have read Campbell's books and I have read a considerable number of the books that Dr. Snyder is referencing in his own book. My conclusion is that when it comes to defending the Christian world view apologetically with contemporary research done by Christian and non-Christian scholars, some of whom are still living and producing their own works, few books have done a better job than "Myth Conceptions". After ten years, it's still a good read.
After having a number of spirited discussions with people about the contents of this book, I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a specific error that Dr. Snyder made rather than making blanket statements implying that Myth Conceptions' logic and references are no better than Campbell's. An important detail that I feel is worth noting is that Snyder's research is based on the scholarship of personalities like Mircea Eliade, Ronald Nash, Norman Geisler, and Phillip Johnson.
The book can be read in any number of ways. It can be perused or it can be read from cover to cover. That flexibility is a plus for the people of various backgrounds that may read the book. I can also imagine that the book would be an uncomfortable read for anyone who is a fan of Joseph Campbell's. I had a discussion with a family member less than a couple of months ago who said that he liked Joseph Campbell's works, but when I started gently sharing the opposing arguments with him that Snyder uses, it became clear that Campbell is not using the most current research to support his conclusions. This family member ended up reading the book to find out what it had to say, but could not finish it because he couldn't stand seeing that he and Joseph Campbell are wrong about a few things. The family member would or could not get into specifics.
In regards to the world of research, attacks abound of various sorts because people are going to have disagreements to find out who is right. The law of noncontradiction implies that everyone disagreeing cannot simultaneously be right in the same way even though everyone can be wrong, "transcendence" not withstanding. Snyder understands this. He demonstrates this on page 49 of his book. "Campbell's definition of the word 'transcendent' is too narrow. Transcendent does not always mean something that exists 'beyond all concepts' or 'beyond all categories of thought.' It can simply mean something that exceeds or surpasses certain limits." Further, I would also have to sympathize with Snyder for feeling attacked when Joseph Campbell in "Power of Myth" on page 228 says that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is "a clown act, really." The rest of Campbell's works either directly or indirectly attack Judeo-Christian belief.
This following is a May 28, 2007 addendum to the May 27, 2006 review.
Please note carefully where the quotations appear in Snyder's book on page 77 and in my review before coming up with a scathing attack on Snyder's paraphrase. It was never claimed that the word `resurrection' appeared on page 228. If a person is really interested in a word search, the word `resurrected' appears on page 217 so one does not have to go as far back as page 211. Another point worth noting is that the Power of Myth is a transcript of a light hearted conversation between Moyers and Campbell so the number of words written between pages 211 and 228 is not as many as one might think especially when large photographs occupy every other page.
The quote under discussion is the following:
Moyers: Myths are full of the desire for immortality, are they not?
Campbell: Yes. But when immortality is misunderstood as being an everlasting body, it turns into a clown act, really. On the other hand, when immortality is understood to be identification with that which is of eternity in your own life now, it's something else again.
As I read through a number of pages I saw that Christian beliefs were repeatedly referred to along with beliefs from other religions. It's even worth noting that on page 219, Germanic and Celtic myths are considered helpful for their use of funny forms to show that their `grotesque deities' are not the `ultimate image' of `inward experience and life'. But when Christianity is evaluated with clown imagery applied either to Jesus' resurrection on page 217 or the quick reference to a rapture (which is elaborated upon with Campbell's understanding) on page 228, the above quote shows that Campbell's personal opinion of literal interpretations of them is that they are based on misunderstanding.
If I could humbly quote a single scripture reference, I would like to bring up Philippians 3:20-21 (NASB) which are words of encouragement for Christians.
Paul, the Apostle: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Admittedly, there is enough in controversy regarding these concepts to argue about for a lifetime. However, for further criticisms of Campbell's works by other authors, I would refer anyone to [..] which has a nice write-up of Joseph Campbell.