The Journey Inward

Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going. As Novalis said, "The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet." – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

I don’t agree with Joseph Campbell’s writing 99% of the time, although he occasionally had grand thoughts. The man was definitely brilliant, and yet somehow he managed to miss the entire point of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m reminded of Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians:

…Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposed he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. (8:1b-2)

Paul is imploring Christian’s to lift up the brethren who are without knowledge, so I’m not sure if this passage actually applies to what’s rattling around in my brain. But I see how wonderful Campbell articulates the mystery surrounding the mystical, the mythical and yet somehow he falls short in his interpretation of the Bible. I think this might be because he compartmentalizes the Truth in the Bible, and comes up with "truths" instead.

I’m not knocking knowledge. Even the Bible praises knowledge.

Give instruction to a wise man and he will be wiser still, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:9-10)

But there is something to say for being cautious in the knowledge we seek. Because it is a matter of seeking. Information can be gained without effort. We may not even want to learn some information, and yet we may still learn it all the same. But information is not knowledge. The difference is in the pursuit. Knowledge is learning that which we chase. Think about the romantic interlude called a date. Some people merely gain information; they ask simple questions like "what’s your favorite color?" (which should never be answered with ‘yellow’) But there are people who gain real knowledge of the object of their affection. They watch, they listen, and they participate in discourse. Similar likes are information. Common ideals and principles are knowledge. And it is not very different with God. We can read that "God is love," but it’s just information. To know God is love requires an element of experience. And wisdom is that experience applied to life.

I think that Joseph Campbell was a man with tons and tons of information. He was a veritable fount of info. He probably loved the internet. But that’s not experience. I wonder if you can apply information to daily life? Does it fulfill? I’d imagine not. That makes me think of Hemingway, (and what doesn’t?).

I know in my own life, I have to be careful of what knowledge I pursue. With all that lays before me, it would not be difficult to step off the path and onto the grassy fields of contentment. But, just as Bunyan’s Christian, I would end up in a dungeon, a prisoner of my own mind. Today I ask God to give me guidance and prudence in all that I study. And I pray that we all might be moved to ‘understand’ the Holy One.


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