The Reduction of Thinking to Thought


 I first saw the Literature Professor, Joseph Campbell, on a PBS interview with Bill Moyers in the early 1980’s. (The Power of Myth) I was startled then and held spellbound by his eloquence and the power of his presence. Also striking was his youthful exuberance and eyes that sparkled with wonder. As well, though extremely intense, Mr. Campbell was also playful and full of mischief.  

 I was later to learn that this man in full, Joseph Campbell, was then in his early 80’s, in the last two years of his life. 

 The important word here is in. Mr. Campbell was in his life. It was evident that he had somehow attained a certain level of in, that perhaps not more than a few of us ever find. 

 For how easy it is to miss the experience of being fully in your life, for life to pass you by.

 How easy is to miss the call, to miss the summons, to miss hearing the song you were meant to hear, and to live instead in some barren wasteland, far from what you might have been.

 The failure to be in one’s life sometimes manifests as a certain kind of vacancy or absence - one's blank expression a revelation that something essential, something life-giving, was missed along the way. 

 Campbell was the opposite of that. He was, we might say, clued in. He knew the secret and radiated a sense of rapture. He was therefore utterly enchanting, as countless numbers of people have testified.

 During the months after first coming upon Joseph Campbell, I was myself in something of a crisis of faith. I had then a sense of ideals crushed and of hope lost. I teetered then between belief and unbelief.

 It was the inspired mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who kept me going.

 There were so many times when I played The Power of Myth interviews over and over again. Upon discovering the Michael Toms interviews, The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell, I was in 7th heaven - “the farthest of the concentric spheres containing the stars and constituting the dwelling place of God and the angels.”

 When I watched, read or listened to Joseph Campbell I always felt myself to be participating with him in some kind of deeper zone or reality - in that realm in which he was saturated.

 Joseph Campbell was so thoroughly in the fullness of reality that there was an extra-sensory quality about his presence and teaching.

 I have often reflected upon Mr. Campbell's emphasis to be transparent to transcendence - which is to be no obstacle to the spiritual dimension shining through you.

 Joseph Campbell did not get in the way of that magic but revelled in it. The dimension of the Divine therefore shone through him, unimpeded. 

 What was Joseph Campbell's manner or style of thinking? It was that, though an able scholar, he was thinking in a certain kind of way.

 Joseph Campbell was, in a phrase, truly thinking, by which I mean that he was participating fully in many dimensions at once.

 Campbell was in the zone instead of out of it, like some of my Professors at Theological Seminary who in classes called Systematic Theological, Biblical Theology and Christian Doctrine, had the effect of reducing thinking to thought. 

 Which is to say that these Professors zapped the life out of thinking, thereby reducing it to thought.

 As students, in other words, we weren’t in the life, depth and mystery of theology, but out of it - studying about it, which amounted to the reduction of the life-giving Bread of life to dry crusts of bread.

 Joseph Campbell was in contrast a teacher who engaged in multi-dimensional thinking. He was therefore a source of inspiration and not a walking, talking textbook. 

 It is the difference between multi-dimensional thinking and one dimensional thought.

 The thinking man, in other words, is continually aware of many dimensions. He never forgets the magical flow between head, heart, soul and spirit. 

 The man bound by thought lives on only one plane of intelligence. He is lop-sided. We call him the one-dimensional man - the bureaucratic type. 

 One-dimensional thought is soul paralyzing and heart freezing. It sucks the life  right out of you.

 That is what mere thought will do to you. It will empty your soul, leaving you inwardly vacuous, dry, and barren. 

 Now, this level of one-dimensional thought may present as theologically correct. But it is deadly. It is the theology of the frozen chosen, where there is an outward show of correct beliefs and practices without an inspired inner life.

 It is about God on the outside - nothing within.

 In contrast to that one-dimensional deadliness is the idea is that “there exists in nature, and all phenomena, an animating force behind everything, that is at the same time the animating and perceiving force of the human being.”  

 Well, Joseph Campbell lived in that force, realm or dimension. I lived in it too, while watching him. His presence energized me and gave me hope.

 Mr. Campbell drank continuously from that supersensibile source.

 To drink as he did is about the awakening of intelligence. It is the awakening of all of our powers.

 When the full range of intelligence awakens, all of what we are inwardly coheres. All of our parts come together.

 The call to awaken is expressed by philosopher, Jacob Needleman: “The whole meaning of the Way is to make oneself available and open to something that comes from another level - from within ourselves, and from the Universe.” 

 Thus instead of falling from thinking to thought, we can do the reverse.

 We can practice real thinking through a baptism by immersion into multi-levels of consciousness. 

 We needn’t stay on one plane alone. There is so much more!

 When I graduated from theological seminary I required rehabiliation therapy. 

 It was Joseph Campbell, several years later, who delivered the healing potion. 

 I used to watch him then as my soul lept up - my eyes glistening with tears of joy.

 Looking at the picture below, while listening to the accompanying music by Kettel, I realize that I’m still watching Joseph Campbell and am the better for it. 


Sentiment, Kettel