First released in 1996 and now newly re-mastered, Mythos II is the second part of a multi-part documentary which consists of a series of lectures given by Joseph Campbell during the final years of his life. These lectures are a remarkable summation of a remarkable life. They are presented in the order and the manner in which Campbell intended. They are a basic recording with him lecturing in a room with students present and narrated by Susan Sarandon.
Campbell continues the lectures that began in Mythos I by focusing on the core myths of the Asian religions. Explored in this DVD are Buddha and the enlightenment, Yoga and transcendence, Kundalini yoga and the seven chakras, and Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual journey of death.
What makes Campbell's work so important is that unlike many in the field who concentrate on a single culture and the myths that arose from that culture, he looks across multiple cultures and saw the similarities that existed. No special knowledge is required to learn from and understand the information contained within the volume even though it focuses on Asian myths. In fact, his lectures are very approachable for anyone with a willingness to learn.
"The Inward Path" begins the exploration into a favorite topic of Joseph Campbell – Eastern religions. He is not trying to convert followers, instead, by understanding the thoughts of Eastern religions, he hopes to bring a richer understanding to your own beliefs. We can gain insight by seeing ourselves as others see us. It is in this way that we are exposed to the thinking of Buddhists and Hindus which in turn gives us insight into our own spiritual lives. He begins with the universal themes which unite us all.
In the first lecture Campbell shows that there is a blurring between Hinduism and Buddhism religions much like Judaism is blurred with Christianity. Then, "Enlightened One" describes the cradle religion of Buddhism. It was founded by disciples and eventually formed into different types of Buddhism. In many ways the Buddha ideal and the Christ ideal were equivalent mythological symbols. The Gods are projections of powers within us.
To Campbell, to reduce the idea of God to a question of "do you believe…" is to miss the point. "Our External Selves" examines that the single God of Judaeo-Christian belief or the many Gods of Hinduism are personification of transcendence energy consciousness. Here he uses the spiritual discipline of Yoga to explain what this energy is and how it is used to reach ever higher levels of consciousness.
"The Way to Illumination" uses the Kundalini yoga; a physical and meditative discipline that communicates between the mind and body and is used to take us up through the stages of consciousness to pass on the way to illumination. In the lecture Campbell explains that we move from our animal instincts to the experience of God.
"The Experience of God" turns us toward Tibet. By translating our experience of life to a spiritual exercise, Kundalini Yoga brought us to identification with the divine. Now, the Tibetan Book of the Dead translates the experience of death into a spiritual exercise. It starts at the point of illumination, and follows the path of the Kundilini downward. But to understand it Campbell takes the viewer back to before the message of Buddhism was carried beyond the borders of India.
Mythos II will make you think and give you pause to reflect on your beliefs. The no-frills presentation gives it authenticity and a sense of what it would have been like to be present at a Campbell lecture. Sarandon, rather than acting as a traditional narrator and talking throughout the piece instead only introduces the major segments and provides some brief overview.
Mythos II was filmed in 1986 during the last year of Joseph Campbell's life. You can see his passion and his ability to convey a topic is extraordinary. What might seem to be a boring subject suddenly comes alive through his teachings. To see the extent of Joseph Campbell's influence on our culture one has to look no further than the Star Wars franchise. Writer and director George Lucas used Campbell's book Hero with a Thousand Faces as the basis and inspiration to write the storyline of Star Wars.
As with Mythos I, I found Mythos II highly engrossing and totally entertaining, and I highly recommend this DVD for anyone who loves history, mythology, sociology, or just wants a better understanding the human spirit.