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Occidental Mythology (Masks of God) Paperback – November 1, 1991

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Masks of God Series

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Editorial Reviews

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"I consider this, as his other books, of outstanding importance and scholarship, clarity and depth. I believe that anyone truly interested in the sience of man … will find these books a wealth of data, penetratingly analyzed and written in such a way that he has the chance of digesting them in his own manner."
—Erich Fromm

About the Author

Joseph Campbell was interested in mythology since his childhood in New York, when he read books about American Indians, frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History, and was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Columbia in 1925 and 1927 and went on to study medieval French and Sanskrit at the universities of Paris and Munich. After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years. During the 1940s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The many books by Professor Campbell include The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Myths to Live By, The Flight of the Wild Gander, and The Mythic Image. He edited The Portable Arabian Nights, The Portable Jung, and other works. He died in 1987.
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Product Details

  • Series: Masks of God (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised edition (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014019441X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140194418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Religion in the West is the story of the battle between immanence (God as present in and suffusing the existence of the world) and transcendence (God as removed from and greater than existence). OCCIDENTAL MYTHOLOGY, Volume III in Campbell's MASKS OF GOD series, tells this story: how Western mythology turned slowly away from polytheism, the transcending of duality, and God's immanence, and toward monotheism, the ontology of duality, and God's transcendence.
Before tackling Christianity, Campbell spends several chapters on its predecessor faiths. We see how Judaism emerges from the scraps of the so-called Jahwist (J), Priestly (P) and Elohim (E) texts, and how the priests who pooled these various tales together created a single mythology for the Hebrew people. Campbell spends a fair clip on the subject of Freud's MOSES AND MONOTHEISM: Did the Great Prophet really exist, and if so, was he Egyptian or Hebrew?
Campbell seems to detour when he takes up the Greek and Roman religions, but we soon realize that it's not as much of a detour as we have fancied. Campbell, following Jane Ellen Harrison's PROLEGOMENA TO THE STUDY OF GREEK RELIGION, argues that Greek mythology began as a group of Goddess-centric mystery cults (of which the Eleusinian, Orphic and Dionysian traditions became the last remaining vestages), and that beginning with Homer, the Greeks edged closer to a monotheistic, paternalistic religion; Zeus' slaughtering of the Titans, the children of the Earth Goddess Gaia, is symbolic of this conquest, and Campbell points out the parallels to the Babylonian God Marduk's slaying of Tiamat, and Yahweh's conquest of the sea-serpent Leviathan.
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Format: Paperback
When Joseph Campbell died, we lost a treasure. Campbell spent years building his vast knowledge of myths and thankfully, committed much of his distilled knowledge to writing. OCCIDENTAL MYTHOLOGY is one of three major works the author compiled about the history of the myth and is part of the THE MASKS OF GOD series. In OM Campbell reinforces the compelling case he made to Bill Moyers and through his writing, that we need to look beyond the masks if we would truly know `the thing that stands behind'. In the`Masks of the Gods'series, Campbell synthesizes much of the archeological, linguistic, and theological material discovered and analyzed in the 20th Century, to elaborate and modify many themes found in Sir James Frazier's GOLDEN BOUGH written almost a century earlier.
Campbell organizes his series historically across space, showing how the beliefs of one age and place influenced those of another. In OM he discusses in great depth and with scholarly wisdom how the religions of the Levant were shaped by internal and external forces, and how in turn religious movements that originated in the Middle East interacted with the beliefs of the various peoples of Europe. Religious beliefs apparently do not travel one-way. Among other aspects of religious transmission, Campbell discusses the process of `mythological defamation' the priests of newer religions employ to attempt to demonize the old religions. Using art forms such as statuary and painting, Campbell also demonstrates how themes and ideas from older religions survive in the guise of the newer religion as elements of the older religion become incorporated into the newer religion (if you can't demonize it, incorporate it).
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By A Customer on November 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
I cannot overrate the depth & breadth of Campbell's insights.This book is at once visionary and scholarly, passionate and detached:in sum, it reveals the powerful (under)currents that helped to shape our minds and hearts into what we are. From Persia and Israel, from Greece and Rome, through the crucible of Norse and Irish mythologies of the Middle Ages-this book ends with Zarathustra's words "By my love and my hope I beseech you-do not forsake hero in your soul!"
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Format: Paperback
Occidental mythology developed into the three major monotheistic religions that dominate the West - Islam, Christianity and in particular, Judaism. The role of the divine in the Western psyche has evolved from the Primitive, flirted with the multi-dimensional gods and goddesses of the East before settling down to a one God belief. (Although one would have question how the idea of a Trinity fits in with that belief.)
The notions of sacrifice and redemption are heard throughout the saga, with many religions, lost sects and heresies sharing a similiar prophecy - that a Messiah would come who would lead them to victory. But before this was another belief-the eternal battle between good and evil. Perhaps the hardest idea for Monotheists is the notion of singular God and the presence of evil. This required the invention of yet another divinity - one that is evil.
Campbell traces the origins of Christianity, its strains and morphing theology. Along the was and from an Arian strain of Christianity (which virtually rejected the oneness of a Trinity) arose Islam, a warrior religion that originally worshipped a desert rock. The Kaaba, this rock, is still an object of adoration for Muslims and is circled by pilgrims annually. The ideas of sacrifice and atonement by at first an animal, then a person, had ancient origins - the sacrifice of the one for the many - well before Christian times.
Campbell continually tries to show the parallels between our modern religions and the now-forgotten rituals and beliefs that became universally imbedded in the Occidental mind.
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