The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

- By Joseph Campbell

"Reviewing with unprejudiced eye the religious traditions of mankind, one becomes very soon aware of certain mythic motifs that are common to all, though differently understood and developed in the differing traditions: ideas, for example, of a life beyond death, or of malevolent and protective spirits. Adolf Bastian (1826-1905), a medical man, world traveler, and leading ethnologist of the nineteenth century, for whom the chair in anthropology at the University of Berlin was established, termed these recurrent themes and features "elementary ideas," Elementargedanken, designating as "ethnic" or "folk ideas," Volkergedanken, the differing manners of their representation, interpretation, and application in the arts and customs, mythologies and theologies, of the peoples of this single planet.

Such a recognition of two aspects, a universal and a local, in the constitution of religions everywhere clarifies at one stroke those controversies touching eternal and temporal values, myth and falsehood, which forever engage theologians; besides setting apart, as of two distinct yet related sciences, studies on the one hand of the differing "ethnic" or "folk ideas," which are the concern properly of historians and ethnologists, and on the other hand, of the Elementargedanken, which pertain to psychology. A number of leading psychologists of the past century addressed themselves to the analysis of these universals, of whom Carl G Jung (1875-1961), it seems to me, was the most insightful and illuminating. The same mythic motifs that Bastian had termed "elementary ideas," Jung called "archetypes of the collective unconscious," transferring emphasis, thereby, from the mental sphere of rational ideation to the obscure subliminal abysm out of which dreams arise.

For myths and dreams, in this view, are motivated from a single, psychophysiological source - namely, the human imagination moved by the conflicting urgencies of the organs (including the brain) of the human body, of which the anatomy has remained pretty much the same since c. 40,000 B.C. Accordingly, as the imagery of a dream is metaphorical of the psychology of its dreamer, that of a mythology is metaphorical of the psychological posture of the people to whom it pertains."