Joseph Campbell urged us to “follow our bliss” in order to live beyond the self-imposed limits and cultural restrictions that keep us from our full potential. He was a mythologist, a writer of many books and a lecturer, and was best-known for his works in comparative religion and mythology. He was a veritable and voluble anthropologist of human beings and all the symbolic ways in which we have defined our existential predicament throughout recorded history. His death in 1987 at age 83 did not quell this inquiry amongst contemporary visionaries, and his studies continue to impact our culture.
A new film about Campbell, Finding Joe by Patrick Takaya Solomon, was released last September and will now be screened at the Rosendale Theatre on Tuesday, February 21 at 7:15 p.m., hosted by the Center for Symbolic Studies (CSS) in New Paltz. Interviews with a variety of people are interwoven with enactments of classic tales by a sweet and motley group of kids, as the film navigates what Campbell dubbed the “Hero’s Journey.” Featured are Deepak Chopra, Mick Fleetwood, Rashida Jones, Tony Hawk, Catherine Hardwicke, Laird Hamilton, Robert Walter, Akiva Goldsman, Sir Ken Robinson, Robin Sharma, Lynne Kaufman, Alan Cohen, Brian Johnson, Joseph Marshall III, Rebecca Armstrong, Chungliang Al Huang, David L. Miller, Gay Hendricks, David Loy and Norman Ollestad.
Stephen and Robin Larsen of Tillson were personal friends of Campbell and became his authorized biographers, publishing A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell in 1991. In a conversation with Stephen Larsen, he talked about Campbell’s sojourn in Woodstock during the hard times of the Depression. “He couldn’t get a job; he lived in a cabin in the Zena area, and read for five years. This was the background scholarship for all his later works. Campbell was friendly with Harvey Fite, Tom and Elizabeth Penning, Hervey White and Henry Morton Robinson. In those days, nobody had any money, and people would get together and bring food, wine, fish, and tryto live simply but elegantly.”
Larsen says that Finding Joe acknowledges Campbell for the incredible inspiration in defining the field of mythology for the mid-20th century. Then mythology was not identified as a discipline; rather it was non-essential, found in Comparative Literature departments in most colleges. When the Power of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers made it onto national television, Joseph Campbell became a household name.