Briefly Noted: Joseph Campbell’s ‘Romance of the Grail’

Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell), Evans Lansing Smith, Editor, ( New World Library, December 15, 2015), 304pp

romanceofgrailJoseph Campbell scholars and Arthurian legends students have been waiting for this volume for a long time. Sponsored by the Joseph Campbell Foundation, this collection focuses on the myths that introduced and excited Campbell about the over-arching mythic theories he spent a lifetime developing.

The book’s editor, Evans Lansing Smith became interested in disseminating Campbell’s views of the quests after discovering a typewritten copy of Campbell’s masters thesis “A Study of the Dolorous Stroke” which exams the motif of the wound and wasteland in the stories.

In an interview about the book, Smith said he hopes readers “will be as deeply engaged — and, indeed, as mesmerized as I was — with the power, grace, and fun with which Campbell retells the stories of the knights so central to the Grail romances: Yvain, Lancelot, Parzival, Gawain, Tristan, and others. As an Irishman, Campbell came from a long lineage of oral tradition, so that he was able in a couple of hours to convey more of the complexity and spiritual depth of those stories than many have been able to in long books on the subject.”

From the Publisher

The Arthurian myths opened the world of comparative mythology to Campbell, turning his attention to the Near and Far Eastern roots of myth. Calling the Arthurian romances the world’s first “secular mythology,” Campbell found metaphors in them for human stages of growth, development, and psychology. The myths exemplify the kind of love Campbell called “amor,” in which individuals become more fully themselves through connection. Campbell’s infectious delight in his discoveries makes this volume essential for anyone intrigued by the stories we tell—and the stories behind them.

Library Journal: “Smith provides well-rounded and concise essential readings on Arthurian mythology by one of America’s leading mythologists and incredible storytellers. Highly recommended for readers interested in Campbell, mythology, or Arthurian studies.”

When Campbell talks and writes about mythology, he presents the material as though he were there when it happened. He makes complex themes accessible. The Grail stories certainly lend themselves to his expertise and insights.




The Shadow Knows – Books for the Journey

‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!’ — “The Shadow,” 1930s CBS Radio Detective Serial

‘Sad that I love the darkness so much and I’ve never knew it.’ — Maggie Evans in “Dark Shadows” (1966).

Whether it’s an old radio drama about a crime fighter or a Gothic soap opera, writers like what they can do with shadows and the purported evil they conceal. In Jungian psychotherapy—and, consequently—in the hero’s journey, the shadow is a major concern.

As Daryl Sharp writes in Digesting Jung: Food for the Journey, “everything about ourselves that we are not conscious of is the shadow.”

The shadow is said to contain a muddle of resentments, inferior notions, infantile fantasies, aggressive feelings, and other things about ourselves we’re not willing to openly admit to. On the other hand, as Robert Bly suggests, the shadow also contains everything about ourselves that society (parents, teachers, etc.) brainwashed us to get rid of because “it wasn’t proper” or “wasn’t fitting.”

The Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey is impossible to understand, much less use as a structure in writing fiction, without confronting the shadow, first as a concept, and then within ourselves. The writer knows himself by making that which is not conscious, conscious, and then he brings his revelations into the lives of his fictional characters.

In Enemy, Cripple & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero’s Path, Erel Shalit, calls the shadow a crucial image in the hero cycle, the blood of the hero’s soul:

Without a shadow, there are no dangers to overcome, no struggles to endure, no weaknesses to suffer that make us human, no rewards of consciousness to be gained, and no depth of soul to be treasured.

Three Helpful Books

In addition to such standard hero’s journey references as Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Stephen Larsen’s The Mythic Imagination, and Jean Houston’s The Hero and the Goddess: The Odyssey as Mystery and Initiation, these three books will help you explore the shadow:

Enemy, Cripple & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero’s Path, by Erel Shait, Fisher King Press, 2008.

FROM THE PUBLISHER: The Hero is that aspect of our psyche, or in society, who dares to venture into the unknown, into the shadow of the unconscious, bringing us in touch with the darker aspects in our soul and in the world. In fact, it is the hero whom we send each night into the land of dreams to bring home the treasures of the unconscious. He, or no less she, will have to struggle with the Enemy that so often is mis-projected onto the detested Other, learn to care and attend to the Cripple who carries our crippling complexes and weaknesses, and develop respect for the shabby Beggar to whom we so often turn our backs – for it is the ‘beggar in need’ who holds the key to our inner Self.

A Little Book on the Human Shadow, by Robert Bly, edited by William Booth, Harper and Row, 1988.

FROM THE PUBLISHER: Robert Bly, renowned poet and author of the ground-breaking bestseller Iron John, mingles essay and verse to explore the Shadow — the dark side of the human personality — and the importance of confronting it.

Romancing the Shadow: Illuminating the Dark Side of the Soul, by Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf, Ballantine Books, 1997.

FROM THE PUBLISHER: According to authors Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf, each of us has shadows that hold forbidden feelings such as shame, jealousy, greed, lust, and rage. Left to their own devices these shadows will become destructive saboteurs–causing us to betray our loved ones as well as ourselves. It is not within our power to choose whether or not to have these shadows; however, Zweig and Wolf believe that it is within our power to take responsibility for our shadows and put them to productive use. Chapter by chapter Zweig and Wolf reveal the shadow side of love, parenthood, siblings, friendships, midlife, and work. Rather than deny or destroy these shadows, the authors show readers how to confront and “romance” them in order to access the energy, vitality, and creativity that usually lie dormant within our dark sides.

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. – Carl Jung

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two hero’s journey novels, The Sun Singer and Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey.

Hints for the Hero on the Path

“A Quest of any kind is a heroic journey. It is a rite of passage that carries you to an inner place of silence and majesty and encourages you to live life more courageously and genuinely.” –Denise Linn, Quest – A Guide for Creating Your Own Vision Quest

“The more you push yourself to understand something that you are not ready for, the less likely you will be to achieve understanding. You must surrender, let it go, and be fluidic. You cannot force this door [the door to your awakening] open. It does not work like that.” –Eric J. Pepin, The Handbook of the Navigator

“Resistance is an opposition, due to some belief, to experiencing something just as it is. It’s an attempt to create from consciousness rather than from awareness.” –Harry Palmer, in The Avatar Journal, Summer 2005.

“Quests are personal journeys, and every step is taken alone.” –Deepak Chopra, The Way of the Wizard

“The hero adventures out of the land we know into darkness; there he accomplishes his adventure, or again is simply lost to us, imprisoned, or in danger; and his return is described as a coming back out of yonder zone. Nevertheless—and here is the great key to understanding of myth and symbol—the two kingdoms are actually one.” –Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

If there is a subtle message in my novel The Sun Singer it is this: the great words of the great masters about your life’s journey are—at best—hints.

The words of the masters may suggest to you that there are other worlds and other levels of consciousness and other levels of awareness. And they may also suggest techniques that will help you find the doorways, paths, enlightenments, and awakenings you desire.

After that, the great words are lies insofar as your journey is concerned. The great masters’ great words describe the great masters’ journeys. As such, they are the gospel of the great masters’ experiences.

Your journey is yours alone and cannot be undertaken by following in the great masters’ footsteps or by concretizing the great masters’ thoughts into a recipe book. You alone know the terrain upon which you are walking and when all is said and done, the great masters’ view from the mountaintop will never be yours. Attempting to see what they saw creates blindness.

You alone will write the gospel of your life, and it will be based on your awareness of your own experience. Nothing else matters; nothing else exists. You are both the creator of your path and the one who walks upon it enjoying the scenery and surprising yourself with the wonders you encounter.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Malcolm R. Campbell

The Sun Singer and Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire are available in multiple e-book formats at Smashwords during Read-an-Ebook Week for only $4.49. Sale runs through March 13.