Marlene Braun, the first Monument Manager of the Carrizo Plain, ended her own life in when she found herself amidst the ongoing dispute over grazing rights and private property rights and the right ways to preserve the landscape. The battle between conservation and agriculture and energy goes on largely beneath our feet, with agricultural practices depleting the Central Valley aquifer and thinning oil reserves attracting more prospectors.
There's no easy way around this. Our farming economy feeds and employs hundreds of millions of people, and our petroleum reserves serve the national economy. Petroleum-based products hike up Everest. Credit: AP. In the decades since becoming an industry, the outdoor recreation industry has only grown, and so has the carbon footprint. But without an oil industry, we can't camp like this. For every backpacker who leaves no trace, their backpacking materials may linger without biodegrading for hundreds of years. In permitted photographer dreamspots, stones have eroded beneath the feet of an admiring world.
I don't think Mother Nature can much distinguish between the supposed virtue of me as a photographer, out of frame, who later sells a wilderness photo print or shares it online, and the supposed vanity of me as a model "living, laughing, loving" in the springtime splendor. Both times I traveled by car and documented my visit with a rare Earth-metal-made smartphone whose daily usage emits fossil fuels from a data center. They're just different aesthetics, different experiences.
Would activist Katie Lee be hated for this pose on social media? Quite possibly. A strong advocate for preserving Glen Canyon, the canyon was later dammed. Credit: National Geographic. And I, personally, feel there is a gender bias towards who are allowed to behave "responsibly" and "irresponsibly" in the outdoors.
Never has someone taken on the voice of the "Public Lands" to retroactively condemn pioneers like John Muir or Sir Edmund Hillary for potentially instigating the now Disneyland-length lines atop Half Dome and Mount Everest, nor do they question off-trail travel or outdoor gear generally. Because in the West, men were always framed as the frontier-forgers and the wilderness theirs to conquer. Equally, the land never claimed to have a voice, instead being framed as a "virginal" land to be saved from drills.
Only when women modeled amidst flowers on Instagram did Nature seem to take on a tone of "hate" and "disappointment. But maybe I'm overanalyzing. On the bright side, more companies are addressing, and changing, the outdoor industry's material impact. Step by step, brands big and small are making major efforts to reshape the resources we use when we recreate. Would it be possible to return to this lifestyle, and abandon the more polluting materials used for lightweight backpacking?
I believe it is. Which is all to say I know I'm part of the problem, but I want to be a part of the solution, in whatever way I can. A sustainable, lightweight, biodegradable backpacking tent? I'm all ears. An app that measures your phone's CO2 output? Hey, why not? An all-out renunciation of smartphones? A lot of us would be happy with that. If it comes down to jobs and livelihood, the hopeful side of me believes a shared recognition of our mutual inter-dependance, such as between fossil fuel industries and outdoor industries, can someday produce a mutually-beneficial outcome.
Til then, I'll be more careful in the flowers. If you love the Santa Barbara backcountry, consider joining the Los Padres Forest Association on an upcoming working vacation trail project. Throughout the year, the volunteer organization cuts trails, cleans trash, and otherwise assists in the maintenance of our vast Los Padres Forest. Here are four reasons to make your next local backpack a working vacation.
Join for two nights, or five — as long as you pitch in, it's up to you. I joined the crew for the better part of four days bookended by solo time along the Sierra Madre Mountains. Meeting the crew along the staggeringly steep Jackson Trail, we shared a sense of freedom and fellowship: any bit of work helped.
Some stayed for an entire week or more, while other veteran voyagers volunteered in the midst of longer Sisquoc sojourns. Either way, there's an immediate camaraderie in working alongside these former strangers, sharing already a common love of that mystic wilderness. Amongst us were Condor Trail thru-hikers and Los Padres rangers, ballet dancers and electricians, all of us paid in the dreamy river breeze and rolling hills of green.
New volunteers work alongside long-timers who've dedicated their lives to preserving our area's wild lands. There's backcountry horsemen like Richard Waller and Otis Calef, equine food-ferriers who carry with them mental anthologies of California backcountry history. Then there's Richard Scholl, the dry-humored master chef who can fire up a pork loin and pineapple-upside down cake better than many a front country cook and serve it with a side of campfire stories.
New trails cost the Forest Service thousands of dollars per mile to construct. In the ever-privatized public lands, existing trails fall to the shortening seasons of limited budgets and personnel. Our intrepid team hacked at hills and knocked down dead trees with pickaxes and McLeod rakes. We piled rocks, heaved logs, stroked saws to and fro, shearing shrubs and rerouting creek crossings under sprawling sycamores and willows. We were re-establishing a former wagon trail, lost to decades of overgrowth.
The work reopened the way for wilderness wayfarers that, for years, had to wander aimlessly along the river. It's hard work, but rewarding. No phones, no worries. Miles from the nearest road, we were secured from the outside world. Down there, you can taste timelessness. It blows past the old Montgomery homesteads and through the sycamore leaves, in frog serenades and floodplain debris. LPFA work rewards not only present but also future generations and future hikers, reclaiming routes the past has swallowed. It's a small way of doing something bigger than yourself; the sort of trip that will give not just you, but many others, memories for years.
Reading Muir's book atop El Capitan on a not especially wintry February day, when temperatures soared into an unseasonably comfortable mids warmth, I wondered if that prophetic mountain man knew just how warm the world would become. Welcome to today's Yosemite: snow melts sooner, waterfalls run dry, and the Valley is scarred with a growing number of dead trees.
Though forever a landmark to Mother Nature's beauty, the iconic park has increasingly become a barometer for her fragility, too. I visited the world-famous national park in early February with a friend from our home of Santa Barbara as a sort of mental health break from our own winter woes. We needed the escape. Our county had endured California's largest wildfire in the dead of December, and in January, our neighboring Montecito had just been smothered beneath an onslaught of boulders and mud, hurtled down from the freshly scorched hills.
Backpacking on an especially sunny February day to destinations seldom-seen in Muir's time, we reflected on what Muir might think of today's changed Yosemite, and what we might think of Muir. Perhaps no one is as synonymous with America's great outdoors than John Muir, whose writings and lectures helped preserve Yosemite, Sequoia, and the Sierra Nevada at large. To Muir we owe not just our National Parks, but our very ideas about nature.
With his picturesque prose the world continues to describe Yosemite, and with his words we emblazon t-shirts, diaries, and coffee mugs. More and more people yearly heed his call to the mountains. In some ways, he seems an almost unbelievable figure now, sauntering up to 14, foot peaks with but a crust of bread and tea, sometimes not even a wool blanket to warm him. Assuredly a slow traveler, he would scoff at the fast pace many take nowadays upon his namesake long-distance trail.
We were struck how telltale some of his descriptions seemed in The Mountains of California , and yet how long-ago they read. The world was growing warmer then; it's even warmer now. As of late, the ever-changing Yosemite has become one of California's best winter backpacking destinations — one of climate change's ambiguous rewards. Winter came late in , with foot upon foot of snow in March. Thwarting many decades of average-snowfall wisdom, you could now plan a winter escape even without snowshoes, as we did, traipsing through the Yosemite back country with only a few embarrassing pratfalls.
In fact, travel was rather idyllic. We enjoyed the dramatically booming Yosemite Falls, some 1, feet high, on a usually icy trail, sans snow gear. Passersby hiked in summer wear, some nearly nude, as we lugged our ungainly backpacks in shorts and tank-tops. We walked joyfully through hushed forests past sparkling, scattered sheets of silent snow, hardly a soul around.
We enjoyed sunset and coffee atop El Capitan, a feat that seemed undreamt-of in that usually snow-globe perfect Valley, so often pictured frosty, dusted, and cold in the winter months. The land seemed stuck in some sort of half-season. All below, brittle brown trees besmeared the otherwise evergreen ravine across dry, dull meadows, seeming to wait for the season that never seemed to arrive.
This year, the famous Firefall — a February phenomena that flares up when the sun strikes Horsetail Fall — merely trickled down its rocky walls, as if in mockery of 's newly enforced viewing regulations, set in place to curtail crowds. Crowds are frequent in 's Yosemite, for better and worse. Every year more people find refuge, inspiration, and joy in the Valley; yet every year, so grows the traffic, the noise, and potentially, the price. In coming years, visitors may have to park outside the Valley and enter via shuttle, like Zion National Park in the summer months.
Muir more than any other beckoned us here. His ethics and values, rightfully, endure. But reading his book, I wondered if maybe his ideas of nature, inadvertently, did harm to the places he adored. To protect some lands, but not all? Muir felt himself a natural visitor to these realms, but he did not extend the belief to every person; his vision of 'nature' left out the people already living within it.
Of the Mono Paiutes, he wrote, "Somehow they seemed to have no right place in the landscape, and I was glad to see them fading out of sight down the pass," and he describes their physique with disgust.
Might his beliefs find a contemporary ancestor in the rescinding of Bears Ears' and other tribal lands in the name of 'the people'? We humans continue to go through our seasons, and our constants change, too. Camping adjacent Yosemite Creek, my friend and I peeled our winter layers as the snow forsook its crystals into tiny rivulets of water, the sun striking down. Around us, the glaciated gully of Yosemite Creek echoed in granite the grander Valley it fed, seeming to repeat, in microcosm, the whole.
Seemingly frozen now in wordless grace, Yosemite's granitic walls began as magmic upthrusts that cracked, splintered, fissured, jutted this way and that over millennia. The rocks' current calm belies a near-eternity of geologic turmoil and change. Muir comprehended these forces of the past; our home communities, unwittingly, felt their violent force firsthand, in the present. Cars glint in the Valley below us; jets streak above; cameras, phones, selfie-sticks capture it all.
This is the whole picture now: we can still walk in a geologic gallery of timelessness, but all the more sensitive to change. As we forge into an unpredictable new century of climate shifts, Yosemite National Park presents us a chance to learn from the past as we prepare for the future.
Originally published July 12, in the Santa Barbara Independent. For many, summer is synonymous with one place: Yosemite. The legendary valley has raised countless area families and friends in its ancient glacial cradle, inspiring millions of avid adventurers and casual hikers from here and elsewhere to visit year after year. In , the valley enjoyed renewed exposure as a testament to both the power of Mother Nature and humankind alike when Alex Honnold climbed the 3,foot face of El Capitan sans rope.
While most of us are likely not quite as ambitious as Honnold, we nonetheless would love to explore the valley sometime this summer, but face permit problems and crowd woes. With not much luck needed, you can secure an advance or walk-up permit for this extraordinarily beautiful hike along the south rim as an overnight backpack or more leisurely multi-night trip.
The Pohono Trail is a thru-hike beginning at either Glacier Point or Tunnel View parking lots; having a car at each end will make things easiest. Beginning at Glacier Point is almost entirely downhill, and for that reason, preferable to most, unless you love ascending several thousand feet in a day. After leaving behind the bustling Glacier Point viewpoint, you come to your own private peek of Yosemite Falls, just under a mile in, its thundering music playing loudly across the way.
What a sound! Not much farther, you come to a Sentinel Dome juncture you absolutely must take. After Taft Point, where slackliners balance dizzyingly thousands of feet above the valley floor, the number of day hikers plummets. The next two and a half miles go quietly through mossy forests, near-silent but for many beautiful birdsongs. Originally published April 20, Spring has certainly sprung in the San Rafael Wilderness. For the adventurous weekend warrior or the more leisurely multi-day traveler, the classic loop traveling from Manzana Narrows to White Ledge back down through Lost Valley is the perfect way to experience arguably some of the most beautiful terrain in all of California at its seasonal height.
The hike begins at Nira Campground. The first seven miles are a well-trodden route along the scenic Manzana River Valley. You will certainly see other people here on a spring weekend; on a late March trip, for example, all available sites were occupied from Fish Camp 2. Spring will bring flowers like the western peony, Indian paintbrush, yerba santa, and elegant clarkia. From Manzana, the trail zigzags up and then back down to meet a lush and narrowing portion of the creek.
Manzana Narrows, the most spacious, prettiest, and usually most popular camp up to this point, features four sites set aside a small but dramatic set of rocky waterfalls with an inviting, frigid pool, plus a luxurious latrine sometimes occupied by, shall we say, impolite swarms of bees.
Beyond here, the terrain changes noticeably, as the Narrows give way to scenic views of the crest of White Ledge plateau and the mountainous rise of the San Rafaels. Beyond the river, the sun intensifies, and the fragrance of wildflowers, too. After half a mile from the campground, you come to a junction, where you have the option to head up to Big Cone Spruce or even further to McKinley Peak.
Stay left and begin the switchbacks up almost 1, feet, underneath a sprawling curvature of sandstone. White Ledge is an amazing place, easily one of the most beautiful on all the Los Padres. A mystical feeling surrounds this miraculous maze of white rocks, ghost pines, and meadows made of Miocene sandstone millions and millions of years in the making. This is the eastern Hurricane Deck, where its sandstone skeleton is exposed in slanting, sloping, striated strips and shelves, surreal and even spooky.
Gentle streams runs down the plateau, to the Manzana on one side all the way into the Sisquoc watershed on the other. An abundance of wildlife, quite musical in the night, make this their home. It is a special, sacred place; leave it cleaner than you found it. There are two camps in White Ledge Canyon. The first, Happy Hunting Ground, at Continue downward to White Ledge Camp at 12 miles from the trailhead, a paradisiacal nook near a creekside whirlpool underneath dramatic rock formations.
At either camp, you will have ample opportunities to explore the sandstone further or relax by the creek. On your final day, you will hike back The first 4. Expect chaparral to swat you in the face, slice you in the legs, and stab you in the thighs. Hurricane Deck is and will always be a challenge to traverse even on this, its easiest segment, and it is crucial and critical you know how to navigate.
Fortunately, sweeping views of the Sierra Madre Mountains and hopefully a nice breeze make this leg more bearable. There is no place quite like this stunning setting and no hike quite like descending through its many sandstone stripes. With a decline of just under 1, feet, this portion of the trail is often hard on the knees, so be forewarned. You go down past grassy potreros to see the rocky interior of Lost Valley, which looks dry and foreboding even in spring. Vulture Spring, about three miles from the Hurricane Deck trail turnoff, is the only reliable water after White Ledge, and it is usually more of a drip or trickle than a healthy flow, but it had a tiny pool in late March.
Just after it, a precarious rockfall demands you use immense caution in crossing. The pines sway, the hills are an unbelievable green, and on a recent visit, the usually dry Lost Valley creek was remarkably and happily flowing. Your final miles along the Manzana are easy and quiet, mercifully mellow and shady. Back at your car, you can mark off a prime spring experience in an otherworldly, beautiful portion of our backcountry. Originally published June 22, But have you ever traveled somewhere to hear how it sounds? Your very own city may be a great place to discover soundwalking, an activity akin to wine tasting wherein you savor the notes that express one terrain.
Free to anyone, all it takes is a bit of walking with your ears as well as your eyes open, though closing the latter sometimes helps. As you leave the parking lot and walk toward the sand, you depart from the chatter of cormorants and ducks and move closer to the bray of seagulls. The voices of children and their playfully reprimanding parents or caretakers resound, and cars stream sleepily by while the lovely song of finches is aflutter all around. High above S. A leaf blower and suburban din cut through many frequencies, but a preponderance of birds reminds you of how pleasant everything else is.
Not far from the wine-tasting rooms of the Funk Zone, the neighborhood on the opposite side of Garden Street is flush with sounds of hard work: construction workers hammering, truckers trucking. On the corner of the street, the industrial wall of sound from Cemex is punctuated by a rather delightful backup tone from a cement truck, which bubbles up like a Super Nintendo sound effect. One of the quietest places in S. An insectile, air-conditioning din hangs in the room. All is mostly quiet until a cell ringer goes off, and then a video chat begins to blare in the library lobby.
Originally published March 18, in the Santa Barbara Independent. Of all the seemingly countless trails through canyons and washes in the million-plus acre Death Valley National Park, the Golden Canyon Trail is the one of the most popular, and with good reason. This four-mile hike leads one mile up the aptly named Golden Canyon toward the deceptively tall Manly Beacon, then back down to the gnarled, rocky walls of Gower Gulch.
The trail is largely interpretive, and you may make your own way at your own leisure. There are plenty of side canyons, nooks, and crannies to explore; let your spirit guide you. A set of tall canyon walls greet you at the entrance, their bizarre beauty only fully comprehendible once you can look back at them. These walls soon give way to grand alluvial fans of clay and mud as the canyon widens.
Within the first mile, a well-marked spur leads to Red Cathedral, a monument of carnelian cliffs composed partly of oxidized iron, giving them their color. They tower over badlands carved over millennia by the emptying of a prehistoric lake and many flash floods thereafter. A strange feeling of resignation followed all the hikers on a recent MLK Day weekend, as if people had accepted their fate to carry up that quiet canyon, in a valley named Death. Because the canyon can be busy, it can be good to post up in the shade and watch people go by, or escape into a side canyon altogether.
Out of earshot and eyesight of other trekkers, you feel the barrenness of the land, ancient, timeless, and silent, as it has been for centuries. Foreword Magazine, Inc. This will subscribe you to all of our newsletters, announcements, and promotional content. For more control over what you subscribe to, head on over to our subscription page.
Taking too long? Try again or cancel this request. Buy Locally. The god rises from the egg; Isis the Hawk of Fig. Horus the son conceived in the Sacred Marriage of Fig. From a bas-relief at Philae. The Return of Jason. This is a view of Jason's adventure not represented in the literary tradition.
The Golden Fleece is hanging on the tree. Athena, patroness of heroes, is in attendance with her owl. From a vase in the Vatican Etruscan Collection. After a photo by D. Anderson, Rome. Tuamotuan Creation Chart:—Below. The Cosmic Egg. Kenneth P. The Separation of Sky and Earth. A common figure on Egyptian coffins and papyri. The god ShuHeka separates Nut and Seb. This is the moment of the creation of the world. Max Muller,. From a papyrus of the Ptolemaic period.
The sphere at the mouth of the goddess represents the sun at evening, about to be swallowed and born anew. Paleolithic Petroglyph Algiers. From a prehistoric site in the neighborhood of Tiout. The catlike animal between the hunter and the ostrich is perhaps some variety of trained hunting panther, and the horned beast left behind with the hunter's mother, a domesticated animal at pasture.
Wolff, , Vol. II, Plate King Ten Egypt, First Dynasty, ca. Smashes the Head of a Prisoner of War. From an ivory plaque found at Abydos. Osiris, Judge of the Dead. Behind the god stand the goddesses Isis and Nephthys. Before him is a lotus, or lily, supporting his grandchildren, the. The god holds in his left hand the flail or whip, and in his right the crook. The cornice above is ornamented with a row of twenty-eight sacred uraei, each of which supports a disk.
The arms of the victim are tied behind him. Seven gods preside. This is a detail from a scene representing an area of the Underworld traversed by the Solar Boat in the eighth hour of the night. From the Papyrus of Ani. The Monster Tamer Sumer. Shell inlay perhaps ornamenting a harp from a royal tomb at Ur, ca.
The central figure is probably Gitgamesh. Courtesy of The University Museum, Philadelphia.
Outdoor Columns — Richie DeMaria
The Captive Unicorn France. The Mother of the Gods Nigeria. Odudua, with the infant Ogun, god of war and iron, on her knee. The dog is sacred to Ogun. An attendant, of human stature, plays the drum. Painted wood. Lagos, Nigeria. Kgba-Yoruba tribe. Horniman Museum, London. Photo from Michael E. The Deity in War Dress Bali. The Lord Krishna in his terrifying manifestation. Compare infra, pp. Polychromatic wooden statue.
Photo from C. Sekhmet, The Goddess Egypt. Diorite statue. Empire Period. Medusa Ancient Rome. Marble, high relief; from the Rondanini Palace, Rome. Date uncertain. Collection of the Glyptothek, Munich. Photo from H. Brunn and F. Bruckmann, Denkmdler griechischer und romischer Sculptur, Verlagsan-stalt fur Kunst und Wissenschaft, Munich, The earliest known portrait of a medicine man, ca.
Rock engraving with black paint fill-in, From a photo by the discoverer, Count Begouen. Plaque found at Andalgala, Catamarca, in northwest Argentina, tentatively identified as the pre-Incan deity Viracocha. The head is surmounted by the rayed solar disk, the hands hold thunderbolts, tears descend from the eyes. The creatures at the shoulders are perhaps Imaymana and Tacapu, the two sons and messengers of Viracocha, in animal form. XII, Paris, See discussion, infra, p, , note Bronze, 10thth cent A. Madras Museum. Androgynous Ancestor Sudan. Wood carving from the region of Bandiagara, French Sudan.
XL Bodhisattva China. Kwan Yin. Late Sung Dynasty A. Bodhisattva Tibet:. The Bodhisattva known as Ushnishasitatapatra, surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,. The left hand holds the World Umbrella axis mundi and the right the Wheel of the Law. Beneath the numerous blessed feet of the Bodhisattva stand the people of the world who have prayed for Enlightenment, while beneath the feet of the three "furious" powers at the bottom of the picture lie those still tortured by lust, resentment, and delusion.
The sun and moon in the upper corners symbolize the miracle of the marriage, or identity, of eternity and time, Nirvana and the world see pp. The lamas at the top center represent the orthodox line of Tibetan teachers of the doctrine symbolized in this religious banner-painting. Winged being offering a branch with pomegranates.
Bodhisattva Cambodia. Fragment from the ruins of Angkor. The Buddha figure crowning the head is a characteristic sign of the Bodhisattva compare Plates XI and XII; in the latter the Buddha figure sits atop the pyramid of heads. Musee Guimet, Paris. Photo from Angkor, editions "Tel," Paris, The Return Ancient Rome. Marble relief found in a piece of ground formerly belonging to the Villa Ludovisi. Perhaps of early Greek workmanship. Museo delle Terme, Rome. II, From a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century single-leaf manuscript, from Delhi.
The Fountain of Life Flanders. Central panel of a triptych by Jean Bellegambe of Douai , ca. The assisting female figure at the right, with the little galleon on her head, is Hope; the corresponding figure at the left, Love. Courtesy of the Palais des BeauxArts, Lille. The lifted right hand of the great reclining figure holds a horn. Tentatively dated by its discoverer, Leo Frobenius, ca. Courtesy of the Frobenius-Institut, Frankfurt-am-Main. The Mother of the Gods Mexico. Ixciuna, giving birth to a deity. Statuette of semi-precious stone scapolite, 7.
Courtesy of The British Museum. Chaos Monster and Sun God Assyria. The god is perhaps the national deity, Assur, in the role played formerly by Marduk of Babylon see pp. Murray, The original slab, now in The British Museum, is so damaged that the forms can hardly be distinguished in a photograph. The Young Corn God Honduras. Fragment in limestone, from the ancient Mayan city of Copan. The Chariot of the Moon Cambodia. Relief at Angkor Vat. Autumn Alaska. Eskimo dance mask. From the Kuskokwim River district in southwest Alaska. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that newborn babies are brought by the stork.
Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what the large bird signifies. But the child does not know it. He hears only the distorted part of what we say, and feels that he has been deceived; and we know how often his distrust of the grown-ups and his refractoriness actually take their start from this impression. We have become convinced that it is better to avoid such symbolic disguisings of the truth in what we tell children and not to withhold from them a knowledge of the true state of affairs commensurate with their intellectual level.
The old teachers knew what they were saying. Once we have learned to read again their symbolic language, it requires no more than the talent of an anthologist to let their teaching be heard. But first we must learn the grammar of the symbols, and as a key to this mystery I know of no better modern tool than psychoanalysis. Without regarding this as the last word on the subject, one can nevertheless permit it to serve as an approach.
The second step will be then to bring together a host of myths and folk tales from even' corner of the world, and to let the symbols Sigmund. The parallels will be immediately apparent; and these will develop a vast and amazingly constant statement of the basic truths by which man has lived throughout the millenniums of his residence on the planet. Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the correspondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primitive traditions.
The same objection might be brought, however, against any textbook or chart of anatomy, where the physiological variations of race are disregarded in the interest of a basic general understanding of the human physique. There are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but this is a book about the similarities; and once these are understood the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly and politically supposed. My hope is that a comparative elucidation may contribute to the perhaps not-quite-desperate cause of those forces that are working in the present world for unification, not in the name of some ecclesiastical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding.
As we are told in the Vedas: "Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names. Henry Morton Robinson, whose advice greatly assisted me in the first and final stages of the work, Mrs. Peter Geiger, Mrs. Margaret Wing, and Mrs. Helen McMaster, who went over the manuscripts many times and offered invaluable suggestions, and my wife, who has worked with me from first to last, listening, reading, and revising. New York City June 10, The context and substance of Joseph Campbell's lifework is one of the most recent diamonds on a long, long necklace of other dazzling gemstones that have been mined by humanity—from the depths, and often at great cost—since the beginning of time.
There is no doubt that there is strung across the eons—a strong and fiery-wrought chain of lights, and that each glint and ray represents a great work, a great wisdom preserved. The lights on this infinite ligature have been added to, and continue to be added to, link by link. A few of the names of those who have added such lights are still remembered, but the names of those who ignited most of the lights have been lost in time.
However, it can be said that we are descended from them all. This phenomenon of the necklace of lights should not be understood as some mere trinket. Its reality is that it has acted, since forever, as a swaying, glowing lifeline for human souls trying to find their ways through the dark. Joseph Campbell was born in , and his work continues to attract the interested reader, the experienced seeker, and the neophyte as well, for it is written with serious-mindedncss and. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is about the heroic journey, but it is not written, as some works on the subject are, by a mere onlooker.
It is not written by one simply hyper-fascinated with mythos, or by one who bowdlerizes the mythic motifs so that they no longer have any electrical pulse to them. No, this work is authored by a genuinely inspirited person who himself was once a novice, that is, a beginner who opened not just the mind, but also the longing heart, all in order to be a vessel for spiritual realities—ones greater than the conclusions of the ego alone.
Over time, Campbell became to many people an example of what it means to be a master teacher. While granting merit to the pragmatic, he also carried the sensibilities of a modern mystic—and even in old age, a time during which many may feel they have earned the right to be irritable and remote, Campbell continued to be intensely capable of awe and wonder. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, via numerous myths, he shows how the heroic self seeks an exacting spiritual countenance, that is, a higher way of holding and conducting oneself.
This heroic way offers depth of insight and meaning.
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It is attentive to guides along the way, and invigorates creative life. We see that the journey of the hero and heroine are most often deepened via ongoing perils. These include losing one's way innumerable times, refusing the first call, thinking it is only one thing when it really is, in fact, quite another—as well as entanglements and confrontations with something of great and often frightening magnitude. Campbell points out that coming through such struggles causes the person to be infused with more vision, and to be strengthened by the spiritual life principle — which, more than anything else, encourages one to take courage to live with effrontery and mettle.
Throughout his work too, time and again, he does not offer pap about the mediocre, timid, or tired ruts of spiritual life. Instead, he describes the frontiers of spiritual matters as he envisions them. One can see in the tales he chooses to tell that he knows a heroic endeavor draws a person into timeless time. There, the intents and contents of spirit, soul, and psyche are.
Now life is measured instead by the depth of longing to remember one's own wholeness, and by the crackle of efforts to find and keep alive the most daring and tin diminished heart. In the oldest myths from Babylonia, Assyria, and other ancient populations, the storytellers and poets, who pecked with styluses on stone or etched with pigment on hand-wrought paper or cloth, beautifully detailed a particular idea about psychic resonance—one that modern psychoanalysts, mythologists, theologians, and artists also continue to take up with interest.
This very old idea about mythic reverberation was understood as one which takes place in a triad between Creator, individual human being, and the larger culture. Each mysteriously and deeply affects and inspires the others. Thus, in a number of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian tales, the psychological, moral, and spiritual states of the heroic character, of the king or queen, were directly reflected in the health of the people, the land, the creatures, and the weather.
When the ruler was ethical and whole, the culture was also. When the king or queen was ill from having broken taboos, or had become sick with power, greed, hatred, sloth, envy, and other ailments, then the land fell into a famine. Insects and reptiles rained down from the skies. People weakened and died. Everyone turned on one another, and nothing new could be born.
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Campbell brings this ancient idea into his work too. Borrowing the term monomyth, a word he identifies as one coined by James Joyce, he puts forth the ancient idea—that the mysterious energy for inspirations, revelations, and actions in heroic stories worldwide is also universally found in human beings. People who find resonant heroic themes of challenges and questing in their own lives, in their goals, creative outpourings, in their day- and night-dreams—are being led to a single psychic fact.
That is, that the creative and spiritual lives of individuals influence the outer world as much as the mythic world influences the individual. By restating this primordial understanding, Campbell offers hope that the consciousness of the individual can prompt, prick, and prod the whole of humankind into more evolution. His thesis,. Since time out of mind, this has been understood as being best effected by journeying through the personal, cosmological, and equally vast spiritual realities. By being challenged via the failings and fortunes one experiences there, one is marked as belonging to a force far greater, and one is changed ever after.
Campbell acted as a lighted fire for many. The mythic matters he resonated to personally also attracted legions of readers and listeners worldwide. In this way, he gathered together a tribe of like-minded individuals, thinkers, and creators. His book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, continues to be one of the major rendezvous sites for those who seek the meridians where "what is purely spirit" and "what is purely human" meet and create a third edition of a finer selfhood.
What will follow now in the first half of this introduction for Joseph Campbell's work are specific details about the continuing importance of mythic stories in current times, the energies that support such, and how the body of myths and stories can become corrupted, undernourished, assaulted, even destroyed — and yet return again and again in fresh and unusual ways. The second half of the introduction is devoted to additional commentary about Joseph Campbell's work as a thinker and artist of his time and our time also.
One last word now before we pass through the next portal: The Hero with a Thousand Faces has shed light for many men and women since it was first published. The hearts and souls who are attracted to this work may have lived few years of life or may have had many years on earth. It does not matter how long one has lived, for, you see everything begins with inspiration, and inspiration is ageless —as is the journey. With regard to the heroic, so much is unpredictable; but there are two matters, above all, about which a person can be certain—struggle on the journey is a given, but also there will be splendor.
The Search for the Highest Treasure In an ancient story called "The Conference of the Birds,1' a flock of a thousand birds, during a time of great upheaval and darkness, suddenly glimpse an image of wholeness—an illumined feather. They thusly feel encouraged to take a long and arduous journey to find out what amazing bird this illumined feather belongs to. This narrative in poetic form was written in the eleventh century by the Persian Sufi mystic Farid ad-Din Attar.
It tells about a remarkable saga with many long episodes that precisely describe the psyche's perilous journey to seek the Soul of souls. When the illumined feather floats down from the sky, one of the wisest of the birds reveals that this feather is in fact a precognition —a visionary glimpse of the Simorgh, the Great One. Oh, how the birds are buoyed up then. The birds are of many different kinds: short-beaked, long-billed, fancy-plumed, plain-colored, enormous, and tiny. But, regardless of size, shape, or hue, the birds who have witnessed this sudden and evanescent sight of the lighted feather band together.
They make thunder as they rise up into the sky, all in order to seek this radiant source. They believe this sovereign creature to be so wondrous that it will be able to light their darkened world once again. And thus the creatures begin the grueling quest. There are many old European "fool tales" that begin with similar motif's. There is one version told in my old country family, which we called "The Hidden Treasure. Two of the brothers rush off with their maps and plans and schemes in hand. They are certain they will reach the goal first.
But the third brother is portrayed as a fool. He throws a feather up into the air, where it is taken up by the wind. He follows in the direction the feather leads him. His brothers jeer at xxvii. After all, he is only a fool, and fools inherit nothing but more foolishness until the end of their days. Yet, at the last, the fool does find the treasure, for the wafting feather has led him to more and more canny insights and opportunities.
The feather has magical powers that guide the heretofore hapless hero to live more soulfully, and in full spirit and compassion. Thus he finds a way of being that is "of this earth and yet not of this earth. At the same time, however, the ability to live while being "of this earth and yet not of this earth" is "priceless," for such a stance brings contentment and strength of the finest kinds to the heart, spirit, and soul. Thusly, having found this truer way of life to be "of high cost and yet priceless," the former fool lives free and claims his father's reward.
Meanwhile, the other two brothers are still somewhere out in the flats, busily calculating where to go next to find the treasure. But their requirements for finding something of value are unwise. They maintain that they will try anything and look anywhere for the treasure, as long as the ways and means to do so avoid all difficulty, yet also satisfy their every appetite. In seeking to avoid all peril, discomfort, and "all love that might ever cause us heartache,11 they thus find and bring to themselves only the empty assets of self-delusion and an aversion to real life. In "The Conference of Birds," there are some birds who also wander off the path and those who flee it.
The birds are, in essence, questing for the fiery phoenix, that which can rise from its own ashes back up into illumined wholeness again. In the beginning, the thousand birds set out to enter into and pass through seven valleys, each one presenting different barriers and difficult challenges. The thousand birds endure increasingly hostile conditions, terrible hardships, and torments —including horrifying visions, lacerating doubts, nagging regrets.
They long to turn back. They are filled with despair and exhaustion. Thus, more and more of the birds make excuses to give up. The attrition rate continues, until there are only thirty birds left to continue this harsh flight that they all had begun with such earnest hearts —all in quest for the essence of Truth and Wholeness in life —and, beyond that, for that which can light the dark again. In the end, the thirty birds realize that their perseverance, sacrifice, and faithfulness to the path —is the lighted feather, that this same illumined feather lives in each one's determination, each one's fitful activity toward the divine.
The one who will light the world again —is deep inside each creature. That fabled lighted feather's counterpart lies ever hidden in each bird's heart. At the end of the story, a pun is revealed. It is that Si-Morgh means thirty birds. The number thirty is considered that which makes up a full cycle, as in thirty days to the month, during which the moon moves from a darkened to a lit crescent, to full open, to ultimate maturity, and thence continues on.
The point is that the cycle of seeing, seeking, falling, dying, being reborn into new sight, has now been completed. There is one last advice given to anyone else who might glimpse such a lighted feather during darkness and long to follow it to its source. The counsel is presented by the writer of the story, and in absolute terms —as if to say, there will be no more shilly-shallying around regarding "Ought I to go where 1 am called? These words were written nine hundred years ago.
They portray a timeless idea about how to journey to the curve around which one finds one's wholeness waiting. These w-ords of wisdom have continued to surface over the eons. They point to the same parallels on the map of spirit, marking the entry points with big red X's: "Here! Here is the exact place to start, the exact attitude to take. One part of that poetic saga tells about the great journey four companions are about to undertake —a journey into a hard battle to recover a stolen treasure.
They are frightened and say to the ethereal warrior-entity that leads them, "What if we die? W'hat if we are defeated? I am here. Do not be afraid. The greater force gives no coddling, but rather encouragement woven through with compassion, which says, in essence, "You can go forward, for you are not alone; I will not leave you.
She writes in the same crisp vein about commencing the momentous journey. Her poem, entitled "The Daemon," refers to the angel that each person on earth is believed to be born with, the one who guides the life and destiny of that child on earth. In the piece, she questions this greater soulful force about going forward in life. The daemon answers her quintessential question with the ancient answer:.
The journey to the treasure is undertaken with as much valor and vision as each can muster. Even when one's will or one's understanding wavers, the creative gifts to follow and learn this larger life are fully present. People may be unprepared, but they are never unprovisioned. Each person is born with the wherewithal fully intact. It said, "Why not? Thus, since the beginning of time, humanity has lurched, walked, crawled, dragged, and danced itself forward toward the fullest life with soul possible. What Does the Soul Truly Want? If the world of mythos is a universe, I come from a tiny archipelago of deeply ethnic families, composed of household after household of Old World refugees, immigrants, and storytellers who could not read or write, or did so with grave difficulty.
But they had a rich oral tradition, of which I have been in a long life's study as a cantadora—that is, a carrier and shelterer of mythic tales, especially those coming from my own ancestral Mexicano and Magyar traditions. My other lifework is that of a post-trauma specialist and diplomate psychoanalyst.
With the aim of helping to repair torn spirits, I listen to many life dramas and dream narratives. From repeatedly seeing how the psyche yearns when it is inspired, confused, injured, or bereft, I find that, above all, the soul wants stories. If courage and bravery are the muscles of the spiritual drive that help a person to become whole, then stories are the bones.
Together, they move the episodes of the life myth forward. Why stories"? Because the soul's way of communicating is to teach. And its language is symbols and themes —all of which have been found, since the beginning of time, in stories. I would even go so far as to say, the soul needs stories.
That radiant center we call soul is the enormous aspect of psyche which is invisible, but which can be palpably felt. When in relationship with the soul, we sense our highest aspirations, our most uncanny knowings,. We speak of the soul infusing us with the humane and sacred qualities of life that gratify longings deep within. Thus, via dream-images, evocative moments, and story plots—the soul appears to stimulate the psyche's innate yearning to be taught its greater and lesser parts, to be comforted, lifted, and inspired toward the life that is "just a little bit lower than the angels.
It loves to listen to all manner of nourishing, startling, and challenging dramatic patterns —the very ones found in tales. It matters little how the stories arrive—whether they take shape in day-time reveries, night-time dreams, or through the inspired arts, or are told simply by human beings in any number of ways. They are meant to be conveyed in blood-red wholeness and authentic depth. In my work of listening to others telling about the many images and ideas that colonize them, stories, regardless of the forms they are given, are the only medium on earth that can clearly and easily mirror every aspect of the psyche—the cruel, the cold and deceptive, the redemptive, salvific, desirous, the tenacious aspects, and so much more.
If one did not know oneself, one could listen to a dozen profound stories that detail the pathos of the hero's or heroine's failures and victories. Thence, with some guidance, a person would soon be far better able to name, in oneself and others, those critical and resonant elements and facts that compose a human being. There was a serious piece of advice given by the very old people in our family.
It was that every child ought to know twelve complete stories before that child was twelve years old. Those twelve tales were to be a group of heroic stories that covered a spectrum—of both the beautiful and the hellacious—from lifelong loves and loyalties, to descents, threats, and deaths, with rebirth ever affirmed. No matter how much "much" a person might otherwise possess, they were seen as poor—and worse, as imperiled—if they did not know stories they could turn to for advice, throughout and till the very end of life.
In the past two centuries there has been much erosion of the oral storytelling tradition. Many clans and groups, when too quickly forced into another culture's ideals, have been de-stabilized economically and therefore often de-tribalized as well. This can cause entire groups to become abruptly and painfully un-storied. Sudden monetary need can cause the young and old to be separated from one another, as the younger ones travel far away seeking income. The same occurs when there is massive loss of hunting, fishing, or farming habitat.
People must break family ties to seek farther and farther from home for their sustenance. For thousands of years, a solid oral tradition has depended, in many cases, first of all, on having a close-knit and related group to tell stories to. There must also be a time and place to tell the stories, including special times to tell certain stories—such as, in my foster father's Hungarian farm-village, where love stories with a certain erotic flavor to them were told in latest winter. This was to encourage babies to be made then and, it was hoped, to be delivered before the hard work of first harvest came in the late summer.
Elena and Nicolae Ceaus.
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The two dictators said they were "modernizing" the peasants—but, in reality, they were killing them. Many dear souls I spoke to in Bucharest had been literally forced from their farmhouses by their own government. Bucharest was once called "the Paris of.