I’ve been listening to Joseph Campbell’s The Eastern Way in the car and it reminds me of how much I love mythology, the stories and anecdotes that go along with myths, what their effects are on our culture and way of life. The first tape is a comparison of the Western and Eastern mythological structures, specifically China and India in the East and Europe and the Levant including Egypt in the West.
The two Eastern regions are marked by isolation and their mythology reflects that. There has been very little change, both mythologically and culturally in India and China for thousands of years. The mythology of these regions are marked by idols and gods of things around them like plants and animals specific to their region. The Western two areas are marked by constant and often violent change. Both Europe and the Levant have been invaded, conquered and split many times in many ways and this leads to a mythology that revolves around things that are everywhere like the wind or the sun.
The genesis myths of the East are also drastically different from their counterparts in the West. In India, the genesis myth involves a single being that split into two, male and female. The female, always the coy one, changed into a cow while the male changed into a bull. Then the female became a mare, the male a horse. This continued on to populate the world with animals. The myths of the West involve an omnipotent god creating mankind and then the animals and then female companionship. The difference here is striking in that the Eastern myths come to genesis from within God, i.e. we are all part of God and he is within us. In the Western myths, God is separate from man and a great deal farther down the mythological entomology. Campbell argues that this is one of the greatest sources of psychological dysfunction and it’s difficult to argue with him when you consider our god tells us to be one way after having created us to act in an entirely different manner.
I’m enjoying the series so far and hope to continue to expand on ideas that come out of it.