Oriental Mythology - Joseph Campbell Bill Moyers summarizes this passage from Oriental Mythology in his introduction of Campbell in The Power of Myth (an audio collection of interviews which I finished around the same time).
Well- and so our friend the sociologist met his friend the Shinto priest at a lawn party in the precincts of an extensive Japanese garden, where paths, leading down among the rocks, turned to reveal unforseen landscapes, gravel lawns, craggy lakes, stone lanterns, trees curiously formed, and pagodas. And our friend the sociologist said to his friend the Shinto priest, "You know, I've now been to a number of the Shinto shrines and I've seen quite a few rites, and I've read about it, thought about it; but you know, I don't get the ideology. I don't get your theology."

And the Japanese gentleman, polite, as though respecting the foreign scholar's profound question, paused a while as though in thought. Then he looked, smiling, at his friend.

"We do not have ideology," he said. "We do not have theology.

We dance."

For Moyers, Campbell's life epitomized the idea of the dance. As I understand, an attempt to experience the awe of all religious and mythological experience without constraining himself with the burden of subscribing to a particular doctrine. A personal view that lends itself well to the expansive 4-part series The Masks of God.

By chance, I began with Oriental Mythology, the second of this series. Starting with the division of Eastern and Western thought as far back as seen with the ancient Egyptians, Campbell's survey of Eastern mythology is geographically and chronologically expansive. The effort to cover so much material left me at times disjointed and unable to fully appreciate the ideas within. Perhaps Campbell presumes a greater familiarity with the esoteric aspects of many of the subsects of Hinduism, Buddhism and Eastern ancient history, but I suspect the writing simply suffers from the vast amount of information attempted in summary form.

Though the book suffers stylistically at times, Campbell's love of storytelling emerges throughout. At times, you can almost hear the enthusiasm he feels when relating the countless allegories and fables he acquired out of a lifetime of intellectual curiosity. He's become a member of my pantheon of individuals with whom one could only wish to spend a dinner conversation.


Two passages, both Taosit, stuck me as particularly worth noting.

There are four things," states a Taoist work of this age (the Lieh Tzu: third century A.D.), "that do not allow people to have peace. The first is long life, the second is reputation, the third is rank, and the fourth is riches. Those who have these things fear ghosts, fear men, fear power, and fear punishment. They are called fugitives...pg. 435
"You misjudge me," Chuang Tzu replied. "When she died, I was in despair, as any man might well be. But soon, pondering on what had happened, I told myself that in death no new strange fate befalls us. In the beginning we lack not life only, but form; not form only, but spirit. We are blent in the one great featureless, undistinguishable mass. Then a time came when the mass evolved spirit, spirit evolved form, form evolved life. And now life in its turn has evolved death. For not nature only but man's being has its season, its sequence of spring and autumn, summer and winter. If someone is tired and has gone to lie down, we do not pursue him with shouting and bawling. She whom I have lost has lain down to sleep for a while in the Great Inner Room. To break in upon her rest with the noise of lamentation would but show that I knew nothing of nature's Sovereign Law." pg. 427