A New Mythology in the Digital Age

The quest for a new mythology continues to capture the attention and fascination of the modern world. One of the best if not the best-known harbinger of mythology in the twentieth century has been Joseph Campbell. Campbell’s writings have enjoyed a wide readership, especially after the success of the movie franchise, Star Wars, whose

creator George Lucas credited Campbell as having a major influence[2].  Campbell was in turn highly influenced by the works of C.G. Jung, who had approached myth on psychological terms.

Although Campbell had often called for the renewal of myth in society, advocating a philosophy of “follow your bliss” (Campbell 147), he was hesitant to create an entirely new mythology. In the television interview with Bill Moyers, which was later published as the book The Power of Myth, he remarked: “You can’t predict what myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you’re going to dream tonight. Myths and dreams come from the same place” (41). Wisely, Campbell deflects the source of mythology to the unconscious vicissitudes of the human subconscious, the mysterious black hole of the human psyche. By avoiding the task of actually creating new gods or prescribing the specific details of a new mythology, Campbell manages to also avoid the difficulties faced by Romantics throughout the nineteenth–century. Nevertheless, he does go on to suggest a possible course for mythology:

The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it … and what it will have to deal with will be exactly what all myths have dealt with—the maturation of the individual, from dependency through adulthood, through maturity, and then to the exit; and then how to relate to society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos. That’s what the myths have all talked about, and what this one’s got to talk about. But the society that it’s got to talk about is the society of the planet. (41)

Campbell places his views with Schelling and Schlegel’s idea of a new race of humanity, without contrived boundaries and borders.

[T]his would be the philosophy for the planet, not this group, that group, or the other group. When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with. (41) 

To see a visual presentation embodying this idea, go to the Joseph Campbell foundation website and don’t skip the intro. The direction of this philosophy is that of an international, pan-human mythology existing in harmony with nature and the cosmos. The Internet and the overall advances in advanced communications are becoming the vehicles for the efforts of bringing this vision of mythology to fruition.

Where Campbell was hesitant to actually write a new mythology, his ideas have spawned disciples who have dedicated themselves to the creation of the new myth. Some of his on-hangers have organized themselves around the Joseph Campbell Foundation, founded in 1990. The foundation hosts a number of blogs[3] promulgating the message of mythology. One blog post by Willi Paul, business and sustainability consultant and “new mythologist,” has attempted to follow the Campbell’s lead in creating a new myth. He writes, “Myth needs a new spiritual search engine to go with the Internet.  My work focuses on constructing a new mythological paradigm that incorporates symbols, emerging from alchemy, myths and the sacred in the permaculture movement” (Paul).  Paul has launched several websites (click, click) dedicated to blending the mythological with permaculture—a sort of philosophical approach to design and engineering based on natural ecosystems—and environmental sustainability.  Paul’s sacred permaculture probably is not capable of bringing about the kind of species-wide transformation dreamed of by the Romantics, but it is an attempting to shape people’s opinions in that direction. Paul’s solution to the environmental crises of the twenty-first century is a religious one: “If we can find a spiritual way to bring forth permaculture and change some of our values, we could save ourselves, but we need to do this consciously” (Paul). Efforts like those of Willi Paul are attempting to increase not only the ecological sustainability of the planet but also the mythological sustainability of humanity.



Final Thoughts »

[2] Bill Moyers’ interview also discussed the popular movie franchise itself. For a preview click on this link: http://video.pbs.org/video/2201676017 or  see Campbell 177-179

[3] One additional blog may be of passing interest to the reader.  Karl E. H. Seigfried wrote a blog post in answer to Stephen Hawking’s declaration that “the Universe can and will create itself from nothing [….] It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” which caused quite a stir. Seigfried makes an argument that Hawking’s claim for the creation of the universe is more compatible with Norse mythology than Christianity. He echoes Schelling by concluding, “The [Norse] gods did not create the natural world; they are the natural world.” See the blog here: