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Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor Hardcover – October 10, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of essays, lectures and discussions will delight both avid Campbell disciples eager for more of his thoughts and newcomers to his work on comparative mythology and religion. It is also a quick refresher course on some of Campbell's ideas about the Judeo-Christian tradition for those who have encountered him in his well-known Hero with a Thousand Faces or in his popular television series on the power of myth with Bill Moyers. This is not the polished writing of a scholar systematically presenting an argument. Rather, editor Kennedy urges the reader to approach this collection "as one would the classroom, or the study" in order to better enjoy the more energetic and spontaneous "master teacher" side of Campbell. The effect is to take the reader on a romp through the Judeo-Christian tradition a lightning-paced tour with an extremely knowledgeable and provocative guide to illuminate some intriguing, untrammeled paths. The most abiding theme of this collection is that Western religious traditions have suffered from taking their stories and symbols literally instead of metaphorically. Some chapters are dense with ideas and call for careful reading, while other sections are breathtakingly clear in describing mind-opening concepts. In either case, this is a book that will stretch readers to reconsider their interpretation of the stories and symbols of faith and the relationship between personal spirituality and institutional religion. (Oct. 15)Forecast: Although Campbell died in 1987, there is still tremendous interest in his work, which bodes well for this title, the first in New World Library's Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series. The book will have a 25,000-copy first printing and will be advertised in Utne Reader, New Age, Tricycle, Shambhala Sun and elsewhere.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Any book by Campbell must attract the attention of a broad public, given not only the continued success of his Hero with a Thousand Faces but also his series of televised interviews with Bill Moyers. This volume has been rather carefully assembled from his notes and concludes with a brief interview with Eugene Kennedy. While there are no revelations here, Campbell continues his forays into archetypal and Jungian readings of the motifs of world religions. For most collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (October 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577312023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577312024
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood he became interested in mythology. He loved to read books about American Indian cultures, and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles. Campbell was educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature, and continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich. While abroad he was influenced by the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the novels of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, and the psychological studies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. These encounters led to Campbell's theory that all myths and epics are linked in the human psyche, and that they are cultural manifestations of the universal need to explain social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.

After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, and then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years. During the 40s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. He also edited works by the German scholar Heinrich Zimmer on Indian art, myths, and philosophy. In 1944, with Henry Morton Robinson, Campbell published A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, came out in 1949 and was immediately well received; in time, it became acclaimed as a classic. In this study of the "myth of the hero," Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book he also outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero's journey.

Throughout his life, he traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, authoring many books, including the four-volume series The Masks of God, Myths to Live By, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space and The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. Joseph Campbell died in 1987. In 1988, a series of television interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, introduced Campbell's views to millions of people.

For more on Joseph Campbell and his work, visit the web site of Joseph Campbell Foundation at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Peter Kenney on September 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
THOU ART THAT is the first volume in THE COLLECTED WORKS OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL which contains materials gathered from previously uncollected essays, letters, diaries, articles and lectures. As such it presents a broad sampling of Campbell's work on mythology and the Western religions.
Campbell believes that the stories in the Bible should be read metaphorically. By interpreting events historically institutional religions create a problem. When people realize that the events probably did not take place, then the power of the message is diminished. Examples of such events are the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the Exodus from Egypt.
A fairly thorough discussion is introduced in Chapter VI of Judo-Christian symbols such as the Virgin Birth, Judas and the Flight into Egypt. Here we see why Campbell is so much admired for the breadth of his knowledge of mythology and his ability to bring this learning to bear on Jewish and Christian origins.
In one of the more interesting parts of the book Campbell describes the basic differences between the world religions of creed which are Buddhism, Christianity and Islam and the leading ethnic religions of birth which are Hinduism, Judaism and Shintoism.
Often Campbell points out that our ideas of the universe are being reordered by our experience in space. There are no horizons in space causing many people to retreat into fundamentalism.
For a small book THOU ART THAT is filled with much food for thought. I highly recommend it and am looking forward to reading future volumes in this series.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By G. James on September 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful taste of the large, unpublished work of Campbell yet to be shared. I would recommend this book to those who want a good introduction to Campbell's work. Hopefully it will inspire them to read more about mythology and deepen their knowledge. This book is concerned mainly with mythos (meaning) versus logos (symbol) and how many people get caught up in symbols, thus missing the meaning (the mistake most fundamentalists are trapped in). As always with Campbell, his explanations are so eloquent and educated that one cannot help but want more. The only complaint I have about this book is its size--only 100 pages of Campbell's writing (mostly from lectures and notes). It certainly could have been expanded to twice that with very little effort. However, for those used to Campbell's written work, they will be pleasantly surprised how different his lecturing is.
One mistake the editor, and many a reviewer, make is to try and say that Campbell focuses on the Judeo-Christian aspect of symbol abuse. If one were to read all of Campbell's work, they would find this to be quite wrong. Campbell is not so shallow. His concern is mythology, all of it, world-round. In fact, the majority of his work focuses on primitive mythology. He certainly spoke and expounded on the Judeo-Christian aspect much in his lecturing, but this is mostly because that is what his audience was interested in, especially the new-agers who desperately clung to Campbell in the last decades of his life.
But I encourage those interested to dig deeper than this book into Campbell's work where can be found a rich, scholarly depth and breadth of mythos/logos study.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Joshua S. Loy on June 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If one has any history with, or lives in a society influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, regardless of religious affiliation, this book will help you gain insight into some of your deepest questions. The only draw-back, as with the other posthumous Campbell books, is that it's more or less a compilation from various discourses. So it helps if you're familiar with several of Campbell's works. Even still, accepting that there is no driving thesis, one still comes away with a central understanding that the Bible has an equal place (not an exalted place) with the world mythologies. Fundamentalists may go into this journey with a critical eye, buth they can't deny the spiritual evaluation Campbell reverently evokes when putting Biblical mythology in proper context - with the universe and with yourself, for thou art that.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Donna on September 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Like Donald Wayne Mitchell, I need to preface this review with a disclaimer: I am a non-practicing Jew, so it is clear that the paths to enlightenment offered by scriptural, faith-based religions clearly have not given me the sense of connecting to the transcendent that I would like. I very respectful grant Mr. Mitchell's central thesis concerning Thou Art That--that a person of faith in the literal truth of the Old and/or New Testaments might find this book dissatisfying--I must disagree with a number of his points. Mr. Campbell's central argument is NOT, as Mr. Mitchell would have it, that there is 'artistic license' taken in the Bible. There have been enough of those books around--no one needed to look to Joseph Campbell for that. Rather, Campbell says that the symbols of the scriptures have been MISREAD by professional interlocutors as literal fact, as historical accounts rather than spiritual metaphors. The question isn't whether Noah really sailed the ark onto Mt. Ararat or Christ really lived the life described (so inconsistantly) in the Gospels. The question is what spiritual and psychological truths do these stories tell us about the journey we all take through our own lives.
I walked away from reading this book over the weekend with more respect for the tradition that bore me, if not necessarilly for the people who taught me the signs and symbols of that tradition. Even books of the Scripture that I've always really detested--the Book of Joshua, with all its blood, or the Book of Numbers with its interminable laws--appear to me in a very different light after reading this wonderful work.
(Having said all that, I did find the third chapter--on "Our Notions of God"--to be a bit choppy and confusing. Did anyone else experience this? Had I simply drunk to much coffee that day?)
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