Between the years of 1959 and 1987 when he died, Joseph Campbell published three of his most acclaimed works. These were The Masks of God, The Mythic Image and the Historical Atlas of World Mythology.
During this period he also wrote in greater detail about some of the subjects that he only lightly covered in those works.
Some of these expanded ideas he published as essays and these appeared in several small-circulation magazines and journals whilst others appeared as introductions or chapters in others’ books.
The best of Campbell’s essays from this period have been collected together and are included in The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987.
Edited by John David Elbert the essays presented here have only had minimal editorial change from the originals. Other than amendments to correct spellings and a few minor errors this collect varies only in that Elbert has included additional notes and comments from which he feels the reader might benefit in understanding Campbell’s original writings.
The Mythic Dimension comprises two primary sections. These are Mythology and History Mythology and the Arts.
Within them the essays have been further categorised into such areas as The Historical Development of Mythology, The Mystery Number of the Goddess, Mythological Themes in Creative Literature, and The Occult in Myth and Literature.
In addition to his commentary on mythology and comparative religions — areas for which Campbell is most widely known, this collection of works includes a number of other notable themes.
For instance the collection opens with Campbell’s commentary on the education system that he was a part of at the time whilst later on he offers a critique on the life, work and ideas of Johann Jacob Bachofen (1815-1887).
Another mythically inspired visionary Thomas Mann comes under Campbell’s scrutiny later on in the collection as he looks at the erotic art and mythic forms found within his art.
However the bulk of this collection; of which The Mythic Dimension is the second in the series of collected works from the Joseph Campbell Foundation with The Flight of the Wild Gander preceding it, highlights Campbell’s deepening forays into a world of symbology, Mythology and human psychology for which he is universally know.
The book concludes with an appendix, collection of editor’s notes biography and index.
Our Review of The Mythic Dimension by Joseph Campbell
Reading through the reading list that he compiled for those students who were attending his Mythology course at Sarah Lawrence College offers a fascinating insight into the mind of Joseph Campbell.
With titles by such luminaries as Freud, Jung, Frazer and Nietzsche, interspersed alongside the works by oriental philosophers as Lao-Tze, Sun-Tzu and Confucius the list underpins the essence of Campbell’s work.
In addition his list also suggests that students read classic works of established religious doctrines such as those of the Koran, Holy Bible, the Baganda Gita and even the Mabinogion.
If this rich diversity of spiritual thinking resonates with you then you will not only appreciate the collection of essays in this book but will also glimpse something of the mind of one of the most remarkable writers and academics of the modern era.
This is a most fascinating collection of Campbell’s’ works. They are wholly characteristic of the man so be prepared whilst reading these works to be intellectually buffeted from one set of seemingly disparate ideas to another.
This is the nature of Campbell’s writing and if you take to his style then this is publication you will enjoy.
For me some of these essays were particularly enjoyable for they seemed to show Campbell in a slightly more relaxed and reflective writing style.
In particular I found his essays, in the main, to be as rich and powerful as anything else he published and by no means carries a sense of being a mere collection of cutting-room floor outtakes.
Another great collection from the archives!