books, christianity, culture, education, God, history, Life, literature, philosophy, poetry, religion, spirituality
I knew the day would come when I would have to include these quotes in the Omphalos Cafe record.
One of the tasks I set myself during convalescence from a ruptured achilles heel was to reread Joseph Campbell’s four volume Masks Of God series, one of only a handful of genuine towering achievements of the twentieth century. I’m not a fast reader, not when I’m reading pure unalloyed genius at any rate, so the 2,100 closely packed pages, an epic symphony of insight, learning, wisdom and poetry have taken up the better part of two months, and I’ve still two hundred pages to go.
Many years ago now I tried school, and failed on three different occasions. It simply didn’t speak to what might be described as my deepest centers. For a long time I muddled along confused and frustrated with what I took (only on occasion) as shortcomings on my own part.
So when I came upon these words in Campbell’s Creative Mythology over a decade ago now what indescribable relief I experienced—relief and vindication!
Times have changed, improved, since Nietzsche and Campbell wrote the following words—but not that much. Why else all the searching, the questing, the spiritual delving, and the adoption of cults and creeds and fads and exotic foreign beliefs plucked from distant lands in space and time—why else, AFTER graduation?
Here is Campbell, who it should be noted taught university for over thirty years:
“What, then, is the Waste Land?
It is the land where the myth is patterned by authority, not emergent from life; where there is no poet’s eye to see, no adventure to be lived, where all is set for all and forever: Utopia! Again, it is the land where poets languish and priestly spirits thrive, whose task it is only to repeat, enforce, and elucidate cliches. And this blight of the soul extends today from the cathedral close to the university campus.”— Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology
“Here and there I come in touch with German universities: what an atmosphere prevails among the scholars, what a spiritual desert, how lukewarm and complacent! … The hard helotism to which the prodigious range of the contemporary sciences condemns every individual scholar is the main reason why the fuller, richer, more profoundly endowed of our students can no longer find appropriate education or educators. There is nothing from which this culture suffers more than from superabundance of pretentious corner-watchers and fragments of humanity; and the universities, against their will, are the real hothouses of this kind of stunting of the spiritual instincts.”–Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols, 1888
And then back to Campbell:
“First, a religious training in coined platitudes from a world as far from the modern as any could possibly be; next, a so-called liberal-arts education, by way of lecture courses, seminars and quizzes, week by week: ‘great books’ summarized and evaluated, stuffed into emptied heads as authorized information, to be signaled back, for grades; and then the sciences—at the outer reaches of thought!—all taught by sterilized authorities who, in those unrecapturable years of their own youth, when the ears, eyes, and heart of the spirit open to the marvel of oneself and the universe, we’re condemned to that same hard helotism of which Nietzsche writes. There is no time, no place, no permission—let alone encouragement—for experience.”— Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology
The results are all around us today.
And within us too.
Life is ALL there is…
The Iatrophobe said:
Interesting quotes here. I find the topic somewhat synchronous as I just wrote a post about Ivan Illich and his critique of medicine. But Illich started his one-man war on the downfall of Western civilization with a critical analysis of schools and universities, entitled Deschooling Society (1971). The problem isn’t knowledge, per se. It’s institutions and the institutionalization of knowledge. Whenever thought gets packaged and delimited it always loses its vitality…Its life, if you will…
Thanks for the comment.
However, the Omphalos is no place for a discussion of ‘critical analysis’ and ‘problems’. Here at the Omphalos there are no problems to be solved. There is only Life to be lived. Over-rationalization is symptomatic of a stage in a grand communal life-course; we are there.
What is new and vital will not come from academia. Has it ever? No, it is being nurtured this very moment outside of schools in the streets and the communal gathering places. When that song is heard all the sterile bleating of our educators will crumble to dust and blow away.