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The shaping of imagination

(excerpted from a dialogue between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell)

Moyers: You're saying that the environment shapes the story?

Campbell: The people respond to the environment, you see. But now we have a tradition (ed: the judao-christian) that doesn't respond to the environment - it comes from somewhere else, from the first millenium B.C. It has not assimilated the qualities of our modern culture and the new things that are possible and the new vision of the universe.
Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another. The function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world.

Moyers: You mean the artists are the mythmakers of our day?

Campbell: The mythmakers of earlier days were the counterparts to our artists...

Moyers: In these early elementary cultures, as you call them, who would have been the equivalent of the poets today?

Campbell: The shamans. The shaman is the person, male or female, who in his late childhood or early youth has an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him totally inward. It's a kind of schizophrenic crack-up. The whole unconscious opens up, and the shaman falls into it. This shaman experience has been described many, many times. It occurs all the way from Siberia right through the Americas down to Tierra del Fuego.

Moyers: And ecstacy is part of it?

Campbell: It is.

[From The Power of Myth. Check for availability.]





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