Book- A Fire in the Mind

A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell

by Robin and Stephen Larsen

A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell sought to distill the essence of the world’s religions and mythologies and find their common truths. In doing so, he lived his life with all the courage, passion, and vitality of the mythic heroes he studied. The Larsens–who knew Campbell for over 25 years–provide an intimate and fascinating account of this great teacher, writer, and man.

The fascinating biography that illuminates the man whose work changed modern culture.

 It gives a complete biographical view of Campbell’s life and a personal perspective of who he was through the voices of his friends and colleagues.

 A Fire in the Mind was written by two of Campbell’s preeminent students with exclusive access to his notes and journals

Joseph Campbell forged an approach to the study of myth and legend that made ancient traditions and beliefs immediate, relevant, and universal. His teachings and literary works, including The Masks of God, have shown that beneath the apparent themes of world mythology lie patterns that reveal the ways in which we all may encounter the great mysteries of existence: birth, growth, soul development, and death. Biographers Stephen and Robin Larsen, students and friends of Campbell for more than 20 years, weave a rich tapestry of stories and insights that catalogue both his personal and public triumphs.
Excerpt.  Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Page 5

As an adult of considerable cultural refinement and social polish, Joseph Campbell himself seemed amused by how much he identified with the rustic visionaries and antlered shamans of the “primitive,” preliterate world. There was never any doubt that he preferred the little Indian to General Crook.  A deeply felt connection with nature and psyche was pitted against collective patterns of thought and behavior; the Paleolithic versus the Neolithic worldviews; the hunters versus the planters, the shamans versus the priests of orthodoxy.  These value conflicts would become lifelong elements of his personal mythscape.
Why, he asked, contemplating a culture with such obvious identity problems, should we remain rootless, when voices and visions since time out of mind beckon us to find our place in a timeless human community?  Campbell felt that by bringing ancient myths recurrently to the attention of the literate community, he was giving these root metaphors a voice–explaining why they, too, must contribute not only to our world, but to the shaping of our worldview.  His vision began, as we have seen, with an ear close to the soil of his native land, and to the end of his life he was highly conscious, and mostly proud, of being an American.  Could we draw some nobility and some human wisdom, he wondered, from our own tragically conquered and subjected native population?

Excerpted from Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind: The Authorized Biography by Stephen Larsen, Robin Larsen. Copyright  2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Page 5

As an adult of considerable cultural refinement and social polish, Joseph Campbell himself seemed amused by how much he identified with the rustic visionaries and antlered shamans of the “primitive,” preliterate world. There was never any doubt that he preferred the little Indian to General Crook. A deeply felt connection with nature and psyche was pitted against collective patterns of thought and behavior; the Paleolithic versus the Neolithic worldviews; the hunters versus the planters, the shamans versus the priests of orthodoxy. These value conflicts would become lifelong elements of his personal mythscape.

Why, he asked, contemplating a culture with such obvious identity problems, should we remain rootless, when voices and visions since time out of mind beckon us to find our place in a timeless human community? Campbell felt that by bringing ancient myths recurrently to the attention of the literate community, he was giving these root metaphors a voice-explaining why they, too, must contribute not only to our world, but to the shaping of our worldview. His vision began, as we have seen, with an ear close to the soil of his native land, and to the end of his life he was highly conscious, and mostly proud, of being an American. Could we draw some nobility and some human wisdom, he wondered, from our own tragically conquered and subjected native population?

Editorial Reviews

Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly
A feast for the mind, the imagination, and the heart.Review
“Joseph Campbell was an amazing, abundant, humane man. This book, by incorporating his journals, letters, and a massive offering of his intellectual sources, helps us understand how, in this half-dead world, such a character comes to be.”
(Robert Bly, poet and mythologist)”A marvelous account of the life of a man who fell in love with stories and became our greatest teller of timeless myths. A feast for the mind, the imagination, and the heart.”

(Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly )

Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind ignites the soul of the reader with immortal longings. To read it is to swim in a river of old with Joseph Campbell, whose capacity for knowledge was as vast as his passion for living. This potent telling of the quest of one who brought life to myth and myth to life is the book of the year.”

(Jean Houston, author of The Search for the Beloved )

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