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Excerpted from Thou Art That by Joseph Campbell. Copyright © 2001 by Joseph Campbell. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the New World Library. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives."

  Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, Part 1

Let me begin by explaining the history of my impulse to place metaphor at the center of our exploration of Western spirituality.

When the first volume of my Historical Atlas of World Mythology, The Way of the Animal Powers came out, the publishers sent me on a publicity tour. This is the worst kind of all possible tours because you move unwillingly to those disc jockeys and newspaper people, themselves unwilling to read the book they are supposed to talk to you about, in order to give it public visibility.

The first question I would be asked was always, "What is a myth?" That is a fine beginning for an intelligent conversation. In one city, however, I walked into a broadcasting station for a live half-hour program where the interviewer was a young, smart-looking man who immediately warned me, "I'm tough, I put it right to you. I've studied law."

The red light went on and he began argumentatively, "The word Ďmyth,í means Ďa lie.í Myth is a lie."

So I replied with my definition of myth. "No, myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time."

"Itís a lie," he countered.

"Itís a metaphor."

"Itís a lie."

This went on for about twenty minutes. Around four or five minutes before the end of the program, I realized that this interviewer did not really know what a metaphor was. I decided to treat him as he was treating me.

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