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From the Great Hall of the Cooper Union in New York City national educational radio presents the Cooper Union forum series on peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. These programs were recorded by station WNYC. Here now is the chairman of the Cooper Union forum Dr. Johnson effect child. Good evening ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Copenhagen forum. We are continuing with our program. Peace love and create stability. And the subject of discussion is the mythology of war and peace. I speak to night Professor Joseph Campbell who is professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College which just happens to be in Bronx New York.
Dr. Campbell was educated head of Columbia University to the universities of Paris and Munich. Hughes the author of a large number of books and articles I'm just going to mention a couple of them. What is a hero with a Thousand Faces. This received the National Institute of Arts and Letters award. The Masks of God really incredibly tremendous volumes of primitive mythology Oriental mythology. Occidental mythology and also the book created mythology. These of course the world famous. For being
co-author of the skeleton key to Finnegan's Wake. Use and misuse of the symbols and then the art of civilization. King Corp's and a large number of things which are not going to mention contribute all kinds of articles. A very famous lecturer and speaker was spoken all over the country as a whole both in Japan via New York City and what parts of the world his knowledge of mythology on the Orient is incredible. Even the United States government has on occasion seen him lecture and teach their people in this particular subject. He has spoken here Cooper Union many times. And perhaps I have said many times before he was a wonderful man and a very bright
delightful person. Dr Joseph Campbell. Ah. The Mythologies of war and peace is a very difficult assignment. It was far easier to find mythologies of war than mythology to peace. And I hope that in the course of this evening's talk. The reason why it will become evident in the first place when we consider the main and usable function of mythology. It is to reconcile human consciousness with the conditions of nature and of life in this world. And when you realize that life
within existence and its ways of being already soundly established for literally hundreds of millions of years before our eyes opened and consciousness became aware of what was going on out there. And when you think what was going on out there. Namely that the first condition of life is that life lived on life easy life. Otherwise cannot live. And that this monstrous situation. Is profoundly shocking to the sensitive mind. I think you will understand why it is that if the mind is to be reconciled to life. The Mythologies of war will be in greater numbers
than those of peace. And the protagonist then representatives of the mythology of war. Will be the people surviving to communicate their mythology to their descendants. It now has appeared in East Africa where the earliest evidence of human life. Have emerged that already at the beginning of human existence one million eight hundred thousand years ago there were two orders of hominids or man like creatures. One which Professor leaky the discoverer of the evidence is named Jan Thorpe was a vegetarian. His line of descent is now
extinct. The other which the term homo habilis were the meat eater or a user of weapon killer and it is of that line that we are the descendant. As well Spangler it was who said man is a beast of prey. And in all the great animal species when you compare the beasts of prey with the Herbivorous vegetable eating animals. The ones that are most powerful in their intelligence tend to be the beasts of prey. Already Herrick plighted declared war is the creator of all great things. And so we find this problem facing as I say the
mind which reacts against this monstrous situation and has to be at work converted to it want to become really aware of it. And so I would think that two great mythologies emerge. One in which this monstrous condition a precondition of life is at firm and the other in which it is denied. And when it is denied. Life itself is rejected. The Mythologies of peace mythologies of world renunciation. So open Howard stated the response of the tentative mind when he said life is something that should not have been. And there are many who feel that way.
There is a third order of thinking namely that the situation can be improved. That the pain that the agony can be left in. One way is not to visit slaughter houses not to see what the situation is. If there is a precondition of the beautiful cut that arrives on the table. Another way is to reduce yourself to killing vegetables and feeling that that. Is a better life. But these finally are sentimental half measures. The fact is life lives on life. No one can tell you when looking at the mythologies of primitive
people. That by and large primitive people seem never to have responded negatively to the primary conditions of life. I know of no primitive mythology anywhere that rock warfare as something to be rejected. The great hunting societies are killing all the time. And since the meat supplies are limited. There are collisions between various tribes or clans coming in to slaughter a given herd. So Brian large hunting people are Warrior people and not only that but they are exhilarated by warfare and they carry it through stages of travel around. And the right wing mythology of these people are based on a very interesting idea namely that there is no such
thing as death that the killed animal has not died. That if you returned the blood to the soil. The life principle goes back to Mother Earth and the animal body will be reborn. The animal is regarded as a willing victim who gives his body with the understanding that there will be a ritual of returning the blood. Similarly after warfare there are right to reconcile the spirit of the kill and these right also generally involve the coming down of the warming mania of the person who has killed. This whole situation of killing is very dangerous. There is the danger of revenge on the part of the creature killed whether animal or man. And there is the danger of the killer
becoming as it were infected with the killing mania and going protect. So there are rituals for returning the killers to the order of thinking and feeling proper to domestic life. One of the first books I had the pleasure of working on was a Navajo war ceremonial and wonderful little series of sand paintings and chants a ritual for the initiation of warriors into the spirit of war. And the basic idea of this ritual is the basic idea of your warped mythology namely that the enemy is a monster. And in killing the enemy you are protecting and saving the true and just and
important order of life which is the order of your particular species. And the young warrior is inducted into the spirit of the war God began to have protected man. I began to have to clear the fire of poisonous weapons and dragons and wicked enemies. And then when the war deeds are concluded the young men are. Returned to domestic life to another series of rights. One of the problems I would say in our warfare is that young people who have been brought up for domestic life suddenly find themselves in the Warrior row without a proper induction. Their consciousness has not been taught to participate in the ageless timeless
immemorial activity which in many societies is regarded as the greatest sport. Nobody turned from the hunting people to the people living in a largely vegetal environment where vegetable food is a basic food. One would think that these would be very peaceable people and there would be no need for warfare. But a very strange belief runs throughout the tropical zone. Looking at the vegetable world one sees that life springs from decay. Life springs from death from the rotten leaves that come to life. And so the mythology grows up. That by killing you increase life. And it is in those areas that the Great and Terrible right of human sacrifice prevails.
The notion being that to activate and increase one kill it is in that area that the head hunt flourishes. The basic idea idea there being that a young man who had to get to be married and to bring forth life must first kill and bring back the head. The obvious upon the young man get ahead before he can be married but the interesting interesting thing about the head is that it is honored. It is not regarded with disdain. Neither are the killed enemies of the hunting people. Honoring your enemy even now in the from the mythological view here is that there is something that is very important throughout the tradition of the mythologies of war. Finally with respect to this
mythology of getting victims to kill one can integrate and tech debilitation civilization a warrior civilization based on the problem of getting victims for sacrifices. The Aztec sacrifices were very numerous and required many victims and they were sacrifices of cost to the gods. And so it was a holy war going forth to get victims for sacrifice. Now in the Near East when the earliest planting and agricultural community grew up and the very earliest towns arose beginning at about the eight or seven millenium B.C.. The settler communities with a new kind of life they were not out foraging and hunting. They were planting grain and raising crops with Mother Earth furnishing their stuff and then you have a rising the great fertility rites
which are the basic rituals of all civilization. And for the first thousand years or so these little these little villages did not have walls. By the sixth millennium and more strongly in the fifth was beginning to be evident around the county which indicate that range Warrior people were beginning to invade the richer land based peaceable people. The two most important raiding groups in the western part of this world in the Western world were the Arians from the north. The Warrior people of the Northern European plains with their great capital heard. And the Semites from the pharaoh Arabian desert with their sheep
and goat herds. Both of these were terribly fierce people. And their raids were appalling. The Old Testament is full of stories of peaceful little town. A dust cloud rising down the horizon. What it is is that a cloud. No it's a band of Bedouins. And the next morning there isn't a living soul in the city. Good to Great War books. The two great what civil war mythology in the West are the Iliad and The Old Testament. The raiding of the Trojan and cretin domain by a kian and Dorian. Took place almost exactly in the same fence or at the
entry of the Amorites and the Moabite and the happy Roo are Hebrews into Palestine. These are contemporaneous events. Furthermore the legends dealing with these events grew up almost simultaneously. The date for the formation of the Iliad and the Torah are exactly the same. Furthermore the basic mythological concept of animating these stories and making them so wonderful and so vivid and willing to the people who love them. The basic mythology was that this activity on earth of our people invading those people was being directed from a heavenly fear by divine beings.
In the case of the Iliad we have a polytheistic heavenly realm. Second story. With the God of the Olympian pantheon. Right. This is a very interesting situation. You know what was going on up in Olympus. There was a quarrel between various parties of the God of Satan and Zeus and so forth. And as the choir would go up there. So the battle was fair on earth. And one of the most interesting things about the Iliad to me is that though it is composed by the Greeks the great honor is given to the Trojans. In fact the real hero of the piece the human hero of the piece is Hector not Achilles Achilles in that work is depicted as a kind of monster. He's
a brute. Hector is a very sensitive man. And the departure of Hector from his family his going to war to fight Achilles heel going his wife knowing that Achilles can't kill him. This is the high moment of the piece. And when his wife tells him don't go he says. And this is the tragic hero word. No man escapes his death is destiny and a man is one who faces it. And out he goes. Like why don't we come to East Dallas and dealing with the battle of the Greeks and the Persians. Again the Persians are honored in these works product of the Persians in his 53. These are wars between people who
respect each other and the high moment of the Arian battle is the champion single combat where two chosen champions stand facing each other and the army watched their hero work. Now when we turn from the earlier day to the Old Testament tradition we have a different second story. We have a different pantheon in heaven. We do not have a polytheistic pantheon. We have a monotheistic pantheon there is only one God and He is on only one side. Consequently the enemy is treated in a very unsympathetic way. And to give you a little sense of the quality of the war mythology of the Old Testament I have chosen a few.
So I bit from mostly Deuteronomy. We will all recognize this. And realize that we have all been brought up. In one of the Great War mythologies of all time. Deuteronomy 7 1 2. When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession. And clears away many nations before you. The Hittites. The Amorites and the Canaanites the parrot and the seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves. And when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them then you must utterly destroy them. You shall make no prominent with them and show them no mercy. When you draw near
to it to fight against it offer terms of peace to it and if it's to you with peace and it opened to you then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and so you but if it makes no peace with you it makes war against you then you shall be seated. And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand you shall put it to the Saudi. But the women and the little ones the cattle and everything else in the city. All it while you shall take as booty for yourselves. And you still enjoy the toil of your enemies which the large your god has given you. Now you shall do to all the cities which are far from you which are not the cities of the nations here. But in the cities of these people the Lord your God gives you foreign inheritance.
Alive not free but you shall utterly destroy them the Hittites and the Amorites the Canaanite and the parasites and the Jap aside. And the larger God has commanded. And I'm the Lord your God brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers to Abraham Isaac and to Jacob to give you with great goodly cities which you did not build and houses full of all good things which you did not fill and which you did not. You and vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant and when you eat and then take heed lest you forget the lot who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage. And when you move on then from Deuteronomy from which the quote of the taken to the Great War book of Joshua. You
know the story of the taking of Jericho and then they are totally destroyed all in the city. Both men and women young and old can see with the edge of thought and the next city and Israel smoke them until there was none that survived to escape and so Joshua defeated the whole land the hill country and then a gap and the land and the slopes and all like kings. He left none remaining but utterly destroyed all the greed as the Lord God of Israel commanded. Then there's that rather horrible story at the end of judges judges 21 of how the tribe of Benjamin got their wives. And the earliest songs in the Old Testament. The earliest texts in the Old Testament separate from the Watchtower. Then in the 1980s centuries we have those horrendous bloodbath that they lie Jeff. And in the last books of kings
of kings and first book of second kings. And then there are the reforms of Joshua in 2 Kings 22 23. But above all this then there was that beautiful ideal of an ultimate peace. This is an idea that plays now from this time onwards through all of the higher culture war mythology that we are really not creating a world that is going to be constantly in War of this kind. There come a new tenderness a new jet into the thinking of the world. And there's that beautiful line from 65 that so often called it the wolf and the lamb shall feed together the lions like the ox. And dust the serpents Food Nation not
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Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Mythology of war and peace, part one
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents the first part of a lecture by Joseph Campbell, Sarah Lawrence College.
Other Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Fairchild, Johnson E.
Speaker: Campbell, Joseph, 1904-1987
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:23
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Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Mythology of war and peace, part one,” 1968-02-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2022,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Mythology of war and peace, part one.” 1968-02-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 20, 2022. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Mythology of war and peace, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from