MOYERS: Do you think it is true that he who loses his life gains his life? CAMPBELL: That is what Jesus says.
That is one of the amazing things about these myths. I have been dealing with this stuff all my life, and I am still stunned by the accuracies of the repetitions. It is almost like a reflex in another medium of the same thing, the same story. Instead of corn, or maize, it’s a coconut.
Society is always patriarchal. Nature is always matrilineal.
But every land should be a holy land. One should find the symbol in the landscape itself of the energies of the life there. That’s what all early traditions do. They sanctify their own landscape. That’s what the early settlers of Iceland did, for example, in the eighth and ninth centuries. They established their different settlements in a relationship of 432,000 Roman feet to each other (432,000 is an important mythological number known to many traditions). The whole organization of the Icelandic landscape was in terms of such cosmic relationships, so that wherever you go in Iceland, you are, so to say (if you know your mythology), in accord with the universe.
But our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
I think it’s Cicero who says that when you go into a great tall grove, the presence of a deity becomes known to you…When a Sioux Indian would take the calumet, the pipe, he would hold it up stem to the sky so that the sun could take the first puff. And then he’d address the four directions always. In that frame of mind, when you’re addressing yourself to the horizon, to the world that you’re in, then you’re in your place in the world. It’s a different way to live.
Movement is time, but stillness is eternity. Realizing how this moment of your life is actually a moment of eternity, and experiencing the eternal aspect of what you’re doing in the temporal experience—this is the mythological experience.
I think it was Nietzsche who said, “Be careful lest in casting out the devils you cast out the best thing that’s in you.”
The shaman is the person, male or female, who in his late childhood or early youth has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It’s a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it.