|Joseph Campbell, new mythologies of computing
||[Apr. 16th, 2006|04:05 pm]
Mythical Realms: Folklore & Mythological Arts
Like a fish snared by a bait, I got caught by Joseph Campbell's works. This is what I've been devouring recently. In his interview with Bill Moyers, shortly before his death, he said:|
Moyers There is a fetching story about President Eisenhower and the first computers--
Campbell -- Eisenhower went into a room full of computers. And he put the question to these machines, "Is there a God?" And they all start up, and the lights flash, and the wheels turn, and after a while a voice says, "Now there is."
Moyers But isn't it possible to develop toward your computer the same attitude of the chieftain who said that all things speak of God? If it isn't a special, priviledged revelation, God is everywhere in his work, including the computer.
Campbell Indeed so. It's a miracle, what happens on that screen. have you ever looked inside one of those things?
Moyers No, and I don't intend to.
Campbell You can't believe it. It's a whole heirarchy of angels -- all on slats. And those little tubes -- those are miracles.
I have had a revelation from my computer about mythology. You buy a certain software, and there is a whole set of signals that lead to the achievement of your aim. If you begin fooling around with signals that belong to another system of software, they just won't work.
Similarly, in mythology -- if you have a mythology in which the metaphor for the mystery is the father, you are going to have a different set of signals from what you would have if the metaphor for the wisdom and mystery of the world were the mother. And they are two perfectly good metaphors. Neither one is a fact. These are metaphors. It is as though the universe were my father. It is as though the universe were my mother. Jesus says, "No one gets to the father but by me." The father that he was talking about was the biblical father. It might be that you can get to the father only by way of Jesus. On the other hand, suppose you are going by way of the mother. There you might prefer kali, and the hymns to the goddess, and so forth. That is simply another way to get to the mystery of your life. You must understand that each religion is a kind of software that has its own set of signals and will work.
if a person is really involved in a religion and really building his life on it, he better stay with the software that he has got. But a chap like myself, who likes to play with the software -- well, I can run around, but I probably will never have an experience comparable to that of a saint.
Moyers But haven't some of the greatest saints borrowed from anywhere they could/ They have taken from this and from that, and constructed a new software.
Campbell That is what is called the development of a religion. You can see it in the bible. In the beginning, God was simply the most powerful god among many. He was just a local tribal god. And then in the sixth century, when the jews were in Babylon, the notion of a world savior came in, and the biblical divinity moved into a new dimension.
You can keep an old tradition going only by renewing it in terms of current circumstances. In the period of the Old Testament, the world was a little three-layer cake, consisting of a few hunderd miles around the Near Eastern centers. No one had ever heard of the Aztecs, or even of the Chinese. When the world changes, then the religion has to be transformed.
-- The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers (transcript) Interview with Joseph Campbell. 1988