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Thou Art That

Thou Art That

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Published by New World Library
Thou Art That is a compilation of previously uncollected essays and lectures by Joseph Campbell that focus on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Campbell explores common religious symbols, reexamining and reinterpreting them in the context of his remarkable knowledge of world mythology.

Campbell believed that society often confuses the literal and metaphorical interpretations of religious stories and symbols. In this collection, he eloquently reestablishes these symbols as a means to enhance spiritual understanding and mystical revelation. With characteristic verve, he ranges from rich storytelling to insightful comparative scholarship. Included is editor Eugene Kennedy's classic interview with Campbell in the New York Times Magazine, which originally brought the scholar to the attention of the public.
Thou Art That is a compilation of previously uncollected essays and lectures by Joseph Campbell that focus on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Campbell explores common religious symbols, reexamining and reinterpreting them in the context of his remarkable knowledge of world mythology.

Campbell believed that society often confuses the literal and metaphorical interpretations of religious stories and symbols. In this collection, he eloquently reestablishes these symbols as a means to enhance spiritual understanding and mystical revelation. With characteristic verve, he ranges from rich storytelling to insightful comparative scholarship. Included is editor Eugene Kennedy's classic interview with Campbell in the New York Times Magazine, which originally brought the scholar to the attention of the public.

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Published by: New World Library on Dec 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/06/2014

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“Tat tvam asi” 
is a phrase that appears often in these collected spiritual re-flections of the late Joseph Campbell. These words also inscribe a signatureof celebration on his life and work. Translated from the Sanskrit as “thouart that,” this epigram captures Campbell’s generous spirit just as it does hisscholarly focus. The great student of mythology not only understood theprofound spiritual implications of the phrase but, quite unselfconsciously,lived by them as well. Joseph Campbell was fond of asking Schopenhauer’s question, foundin his essay 
On the Foundations of Morality:
“How is it possible that suffer-ing that is neither my own nor of my concern should immediately affectme as though it were my own, and with such force that it moves me to ac-tion?...This is something really mysterious, something for which Reasoncan provide no explanation, and for which no basis can be found in prac-tical experience. It is not unknown even to the most hard-hearted and self-interested. Examples appear every day before our eyes of instant responsesof the kind, without reflection, one person helping another, coming to hisaid, even setting his own life in clear danger for someone whom he has seenfor the first time, having nothing more in mind than that the other is inneed and in peril of his life....
e d i t o r s f o r e w o r d
xi
 
Schopenhauer’s response, one Campbell delighted in making his own, was that the immediate reaction and response represented the breakthroughof a metaphysical realization best rendered as “thou art that.”
This pre-supposes, as the German philosopher wrote, his identification with someonenot himself, a penetration of the barrier between persons so that the other was no longer perceived as an indifferent stranger but as a person “in whomI suffer, in spite of the fact that his skin does not enfold my nerves.”
This fundamental insight, as Schopenhauer continued, reveals thatmy own true inner being actually exists in every living creature...[and] isthe ground of that compassion
(Mitleid)
upon which all true, that is to say,unselfish, virtue rests and whose expression is in every good deed.”
 Joseph Campbell was not only moved by compassion in his personalrelationships, as anybody who ever heard him speak or reads his works caneasily sense, but he also grasped that this spiritual realization was central tounderstanding the metaphorical language through which both mythology and religion, whose images and energy flow from a common source inhuman imagination, express themselves. “The metaphors of any mythol-ogy,” as he wrote, “may be defined as affect signs derived from intuitions of  just this play of the Self through all the forms of a local manner of life,made manifest through ritualized representations, pedagogical narratives,prayers, meditations, annual festivals, and the like, in such a way that allmembers of the relevant community may be held, both in mind and in sen-timent, to its knowledge and thus moved to live in accord.”
For Campbell, mythology was, in a sense, the powerful cathedral organthrough which the tonal resonations of a hundred separate pipes were fusedinto the same extraordinary music. What was common in these multipliedthemes was their human origin, as if each were a vessel of the same eternalcry of the spirit, inflected in extraordinary and dazzling variations, in thefield of time. We men and women find ourselves in the creative expressionsof our human longings, aspirations, and tragedies of our own particular tra-dition. Indeed, so familiar and almost natural do these seem to us that they almost exclude the possibility that the same feelings and ideals might be ex-pressed quite differently through some other tradition. If we listen and look carefully, however, we discover ourselves in the literature, rites, and symbolsof others, even though at first they seem distorted and alien to us.Thou art
Thou Art That 
xii

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