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DVD Review: Joseph Campbell on The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers

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“I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything,” said Dr. Roger Fleming in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (one of my favorite movies),

Do you believe in anything? If you do believe in something, especially of a spiritual nature, what do you believe and do you know why? Many Christians recite the “Apostles’ Creed” in service regularly and it includes the line, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” In a departure from many, Campbell says that’s just a metaphor — that heaven and hell are both with each of us as inner energy of the body. Campbell says, “We are all here to wake up to the Jesus within.” Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Now that’s something Campbell buys. We don’t have to wait until death to experience heaven and/or hell. Campbell points out that the “experience of eternity is here and now in the functions of life.”

Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers is a two-disc boxed set covering a series of interviews between the two regarding Campbell’s life work in world mythology and pop culture. The series aired as six episodes on PBS in the spring of 1988 just a few months after Campbell’s death.

The series begins with an in-depth examination of what myths are and the role they play in our individual journey to transcend humanity and re-associate ourselves with the power of nature, “The Hero’s Adventure.” Prodded by questions from Moyers (who has won more than 30 Emmys), Campbell talks about his years of research, what he has learned, and how listeners can effectively apply this knowledge in their own lives. Much of this segment deals with his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. His more than 40 years teaching experience make it easy for him to talk about complex metaphysical, psychological, spiritual, and religious terms in everyday language for the average listener while still addressing issues of importance to the serious student.

Subsequent episodes address topics such as “The Message of the Myth,” “Sacrifice and Bliss,” and “Masks of Eternity.”

Campbell is charming and has an easy-to-listen-to voice even with a very mild lisp which, as Chaucer said, “makes his English sweet upon his tongue.” Although his stories and information are often supplemented with stunning art work, video clips, and graphics, a casual viewer would find this series dry and one that is hard in which to maintain interest. Most of the visuals are of two men sitting talking.

For those who persevere, an unexpected surprise is the benefit of self-examination. Whether you buy all of Joseph Campbell’s ideas, theories, and explanations, they will all challenge your status quo and offer ample opportunity to question yourself and where you are with these issues.

Each disc offers several bonus features including a conversation with Campbell from Bill Moyers’ Journal not previously aired, an interview with George Lucas, photo galleries, and profiles of Campbell’s influences.

Would I buy Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers? Yes. Campbell said that “by saving yourself, you save the world.” I’m ready to try. Dr. Fleming doesn’t speak for me. It will be released on September 21, 2010.

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