Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal

Written by Joseph Campbell
Edited by David Kudler
Published by New World Library

Joseph Campbell needs no introduction; his wisdom and intelligence has illuminated millions of readers all over the world, making myth and narratology familiar ground to those of us who live in an age without legends and heroes. Now, Myths of Light brings us a previously unpublished title all about the rich metaphors and mythic splendour of the Asian religions. Uniting both myth and religion, Campbell delves into the Asian mysteries in a way that any Western reader can not only understand, but enjoy reading.

Chapter One, "The Birth of the Brahman," looks at the basics of interpreting Asian myth, including the "I and thou" ethic and a look at the Vedas. Chapter Two moves on to "The Jivaís Journey," including the Indian mystical tradition, reincarnation, the world soul, and destroyers vs. creators. This chapter also addresses the idea of the individual and agents of light and darkness. Chapter Three covers "Vessels to the Fatherís Shore": in-depth looks at Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Finally, "Envoy", a kind of epilogue chapter, provides a couple of exemplum stories. The book ends with some useful and terribly interesting end matter: chapter notes, a Campbell bibliography, a blessed index, and blurbs about Campbell and the marvelous Joseph Campbell Foundation.

As with all of Campbellís writings, lectures, and even rough notes, the prose is unimpeachable. Campbell manages to make even the most complex of theological points clear, even the things that would seem alienating and just plain strange to the average Western reader. He manages to maintain respect for his subject matter without making it seem as if nothing outside the East is important or worthy--a hard balance to keep, but one Campbell has mastered in his love for all myths. In addition, the editor, Kudler, has done an excellent job of converting Campbellís notes and lectures into a written form. Kudos for a job that canít have been easy, even if it was certainly a pleasure.

Little negative could possibly be said about any Campbell book--the man is a genius and a phenomenal writer--but it would have been nice had there been a few more illustrations. The reason is that while Campbell explains things quite clearly, some of his ideas are new to Western readers, and at times a picture is worth even a thousand of Campbellís words. This is, however, a very minor quibble, and you should not assume that this makes Campbellís book any less readable, enlightening, or entertaining. I would also have liked to have seen more about Shinto, a personal interest, but perhaps the editors could not find anything in Campbellís notes to use, or perhaps his work on Shinto is planned for a future volume.

In short, if you have any interest at all in the East, mythology, theology, or philosophy, then this book is a must-have. As with all of Campbell's books, you will be drawn into his brain and into the marvelous worlds he visits. Not only will you learn a great deal about Asian myths and religion, you will learn more about the West by comparison, and quite possibly, also about yourself. Grade: A

Review submitted by Dindrane

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