“People whose myths are grounded in nature ground their religion in nature. Those whose myths are grounded in society ground their religion in society. These are radically contrasting attitudes. One divorces you from nature, a nature that is corrupt, and the other unites you with it.”

-Joseph Campbell

Another powerful quote from a powerful thinker…  I recently posted this quote on my Responsive Universe Facebook Page and it garnered a lot of traffic and interest so I thought I would attempt to expand on its meaning.

Joseph Campbell uses western based religion as an example in his writings. The conquest of the Americas is a good example of two completely different religions or spiritual ideologies colliding. According to Campbell the influx of old world European influence changed the social and spiritual fabric of the North American indigenous population (specifically the Indians). These western influences carve an even deeper scar than we may all realize. We all understand the plight of the American Indian but how has religions like Christianity and Catholic dogma affected you and I? How does it affect the world we live in today?

Campbell states, Western powers “did not respect the mystical dimension of the cultures of this land (indigenous cultures predating European influence). They didn’t respect the land itself. As a result there is this quality in America of a concrete highway laid across the land.” Campbell continues, “We are just now – especially among the young people with their ecological awareness – Just now beginning to have a sense of what the land can tell us.”

There can be dual meaning preened from this message. One is the damage we are doing to our environment; climate change, our authoritarian rule of corporations and the wars waged in the name of God – mostly by western influences.  Then there is the spiritual element that has been stomped near dead by biblical verses and the threats of hell. Harsh? Maybe… Still, when there are “radically contrasting” religious and spiritual ideologies; one drawing its energy from nature, from the sun, moon and our own intrinsic True Nature: Yes pagan in character, but true, unadulterated and beautiful. The other finds its source of energy from man in the form of god, scripture and blind faith – a complete divorce from nature according to Campbell.  ….Well, one has to ask; maybe Campbell’s quote is more ominous in its meaning? Maybe the same religions that claim to save our souls could be in essence stealing our soul’s divine connection to nature and Universe? What is God but everything; instinctual energy born from nature – our bridge to everything sublime… Look at the world today and it is easy to see this rift.

There are really two stories within myths. There is the history that has brought us to the present moment; the triumphs and tragedies and then there is our place in this journey; this story of life. It is not religion, but our own inner wisdom that adeptly sheds warm light on a new path; a path of self-discovery. Yes, this is my interpretation of Campbell’s quote. Still Campbell’s quote is pretty clear-cut. Further, there is no one that I know of that has studied myth and religion more profoundly than Joseph Campbell. In my own search for enlightenment, our connections to nature and inner wisdom are undeniable.  It is just my opinion but when it comes to Campbell and his analysis of religion and myth, it is not scripture that speaks the gospel; it is Campbell speaking wisdom…

John C. Bader

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