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The Masks of God, Vol. 2: Oriental Mythology…

The Masks of God, Vol. 2: Oriental Mythology (original 1962; edition 1991)

by Joseph Campbell

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An exploration of Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China, and Japan.
Title:The Masks of God, Vol. 2: Oriental Mythology
Authors:Joseph Campbell
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1991), Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology by Joseph Campbell (1962)



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
the space given to india versus china, japan is outrageous; and why even include tibet, w the space given to it?

this is not to mention the exclusion of so many other literary mythic cultures of (jfc) "the orient" (korea, vietnam, burma, thailand, mongolia being the major ones)

do i even have to call this orientalist? given the fucking title? but it is orientalist, just to b clear

god the reductionism and stereotyping is HORRIBLE, and all follows the colonial logics laid out by the likes of mircea eliade, jung, and durkheim; ofc, campbell lacks the analytic insight of any competent structuralist ( )
  alexanme | Jan 8, 2020 |
I love everything ever penned by Campbell-highly recommend! Like Bettelheim with European fairy tales, Campbell delves into the ways folktales used to act as cautionary illustrations to channel human behavior. This would be morality based on the way society actually functions, not on church teachings about how the world should be. Younger readers may not grasp how fabulous Campbell’s worldview first appeared because now it is so thoroughly believed, used, and imitated. But writers take note: His books are Number One on the syllabus for Hollywood Screenwriting 101. Everyone working in the arts or education—or anyone human—should read Campbell. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
Robert Gorham Davis said of this work, "It is impossible to read this startling and entertaining book without an enlarged sense of total human possibility and an increased receptivity--'open-endedness,' as Thomas Mann called it--to the still living past."
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  uufnn | Jan 28, 2017 |
After examining the mythology of "primitive" societies in his previous volume, here Joseph Campbell turns his examination of mythology to the East, the Orient. He begins with ancient Egypt, before devoting the bulk of his text to the development of various movements (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) in India, concluding with relatively short chapters on China, Japan, and Tibet.

Egypt being included in this volume, while the Middle East is included in the succeeding volume on occidental mythology, shows that Campbell is not above glossing over the finer details in pursuit of making the case he wants to make. In this case, the second volume of Masks of God is where Campbell begins to make his argument that Eastern religion drives its adherents to turn away from the world, accepting one's place in the social strata while seeking to end the cycle of death and rebirth by detachment. That Campbell thinks Western religion drives its adherents to focus on what they can achieve with their single life, and is therefore ultimately superior to Eastern religion, isn't laid on super thick but is definitely obvious.

But what we get through that sometimes distasteful bent is a well-researched and interesting examination of the development of Eastern religion. The largest portion of the text is devoted to Buddhism and reading about how it developed, grew in India, and then was pushed out to China, Japan, and Tibet (with mutations in each culture that reflect its unique perspective) is genuinely compelling. The chapter regarding Tibet does not shy away from the atrocities committed against the monks there by the Chinese, but one of Campbell's strengths is that he's not afraid to be critical. He certainly has no problem puncturing the ideals that religions would like you to believe about them by discussing the historical realities of how they actually functioned.

There is a similar psychoanalytic frame of reference here as in the first volume, but it's not as prominent (probably because there's more substance here to work from than there was with the first) and so it's not as problematic. Indeed, this volume is superior to the first all around. It's still thick, and fact-dense, and reads like a textbook, but Oriental Mythology is a more rewarding read, both in information and readability (it's still very slow, though) than its antecedent. ( )
  ghneumann | Feb 2, 2016 |
Excellent information, not crazy about the delivery.
Really not crazy about it.

I remember liking the Masks of God series a lot more when I was a teenager, but on a recent 2nd run-through I found it somewhat less satisfying. It made me feel unclean for liking Campbell in the first place, actually.
For one thing, Oriental Mythology is replete with massive amounts of information and anecdotes concerning various Eastern religions, but Campbell makes it quite clear where his personal judgments reside. This is where Comparative Mythology becomes something more like "Competitive Mythology". Apparently some religions are simply better than others. Some are more sophisticated. Some are more mature. (According to Campbell, these would be the religions of the West.) And the man gets very patronizing when he describes some of the quaint 'Oriental' myths that fail to measure up, so to speak.

The part I liked: as usual, I did enjoy some of the material taken directly from sacred texts. Good stuff, although where Campbell takes his interpretations is often a different matter.

Note: This is also the volume where I invented the Joseph Campbell Masks of God drinking game.
(You are strongly advised not to try it. I'm fairly sure it leads to fatal alcohol poisoning.)
Anyway, it's fairly simple. Every time Joseph Campbell mentions one of the following, you must take a drink: The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler, Thomas Mann, or Nietzsche.*

One final thought: Joseph Campbell fervently fondled the words of great men (not women, never any women!) men like Nietzsche, Spengler, and company.. and he was NOT sorry. He was possibly their greatest fan. They are the glorious shining bricks in this pompous monolith of mythological dissection.
This series is the sort of thing that begs to be read aloud at your next DMV visit or on public transport of your choice. Make a fun game out of it. Who will beat you to death with their shoe first?

* For total obliteration, add James Joyce and Freud. ( )
  saturnloft | Sep 6, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Campbellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stuart, NealCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The myth of eternal return, which is still basic to Oriental life, displays an order of fixed forms that appear and reappear through all time.
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Part of a series of four books that looks at world mythologies. This book examines Eastern mythology as it developed into the distinctive religions of Egypt, India, China and Japan.
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