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Dec 21

Joseph Campbell and My Own “Enlightenment”

When I was two years old my parents joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I don’t know what knowledge the general public has of them, but if you view them as a cult, you’re probably right.  I won’t go into their entire belief system, because that would take too long, and fortunately for me, I’ve forgotten a lot of it.  Suffice it to say that they feel like they are God’s new chosen people.  When Armageddon comes the non-believers will be forever destroyed, and the 144,000 chosen Jehovah’s Witnesses will go to Heaven, and the other faithful JW will live in peace on earth and the lion will lie down with the lamb and blah, blah, blah.  I remember that I was afraid of Jehovah, because I was told that he watches every move you make, and he even hears all your thoughts.  I was terrified of thinking bad thoughts.  I didn’t see Him as a loving God, but rather as a cranky old one who was just waiting for me to make a mistake.  I think that made me very anxious as a child, which is sad, because children should be free to run, laugh and play without worrying about what some unseen force thinks of them.  Anyway, when I was ten years old, my parents temporarily came to their senses and left the JW.  Suddenly my brother and I were thrust into the “worldly” environment we had been so diligently warned against.  I don’t know what impact that had on him, but it greatly affected me.  I was very confused.  We had been brainwashed into believing that celebrating holidays was wrong, and more importantly, that not serving Jehovah meant that your entire being would be destroyed when the end came – and the end was very near.  I was afraid of being turned into nothingness when I died.  As the years went by and I grew into a young adult, I began to really question what I had been taught, but I had no other viewpoints with which to compare those teachings.  I had been sheltered from other religions and Christian denominations.  All I knew was that I no longer believed in the “Jehovah” that the JW worshipped.

Then one day in my early twenties, a friend of my boyfriend showed me a book called, “The Power of Myth”.  It was a series of interviews with a man called Joseph Campbell.  The journalist Bill Moyers had interviewed Campbell over the course of days or weeks (I’m not sure) and the interviews had been transcribed into a book.  He suggested I read it.  So I did.  And boy did it ever change my life!  Joseph Campbell was a professor of Comparative Religion at Sarah Lawrence College, and he was an expert in world religions and mythologies.  I was opened up to a whole new concept: every religion and mythology was basically saying the same things.  The stories may have different names for the “Gods” and take place in different settings, but the underlying messages are the same.  There are so many belief systems it’s impossible to name them all, but they include Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythologies;  Native American folklores; Buddhism (Theraveda, Mahayana, and Tibetan); Islam; Christianity; Judaism and so on.  Campbell shares many stories in the interviews to explain his theories, and they all made sense to me.  For example, most major religions and mythologies have a flood story where the God or Gods become angry and destroy mankind with a massive flood.  After reading the book I could believe what I had already come to believe without shame or guilt:  Jehovah is simply not real.  He’s a character in a book full of stories that are meant to give us a sense of morality (and some might go so far as to say to control us; as well as to bring money and power to the churches).  Some call Jehovah the Universe, the Absolute, a higher power, aliens, whatever.  It doesn’t really matter what you call it.  Whatever it is it doesn’t judge us.  It doesn’t punish us.  It doesn’t frown down upon us if we think a bad thought.  It merely exists, and it’s up to us to punish or reward ourselves through our own positive or negative energies.

After being turned on to Joseph Campbell, my belief system changed into what I would call “New Age”.  I now believe in psychics (although I think some of them are full of shit; but there are legitimate ones), an afterlife (although I have no clue as to what it’s like on the “other side”), spirits and “ghosts”, other dimensions, chakras, and the list goes on and on.  I’m no longer held captive by the religious dogmas drilled into my mind by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I actually feel kind of superior to them, even though I know it’s wrong to feel that way.  But since I can guarantee you that they feel superior to me, as far as I’m concerned it’s tit for tat.  Although I will admit (albeit grudgingly) that even they are not completely wrong in their beliefs.  There is at least a spark of truth in all religions, no matter how ridiculous or hypocrital they may seem.

I would encourage anyone interested in exploring other belief systems to check out “The Power of Myth”.  Campbell also wrote a book called, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”, which details the role of “hero” in mythology.  Actually George Lucas took many of Campbell’s theories when creating the “Star Wars” films.  I think Campbell wrote other books as well; I’m sure there’s a lot of information on him online.

So that’s my “enlightenment” story.  Take from it what you will, but just remember that no matter what belief system you ascribe to, Joseph Cambell would say that you aren’t wrong.  You simply have a different take on what everyone else believes. At the end of the day it’s all the same.

by Michelle Wilson

Permanent link to this article: http://channelingmyself.com/2010/12/joseph-campbell-and-my-own-enlightenment/

11 comments

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  1. Todd | Channelingmyself

    Unlike my sister, Mitz, I dabbled in religion in my adult life. I even spent some time back with the JW scene off and on for a few years. After I finally came to the conclusion that the JWs didn’t hold “the truth” I remember feeling very cheated. I realized how much of my life was wasted following a belief system that had just as many flaws as the rest of the western religions.
    However, even though I felt cheated I also felt very liberated and free. Letting go of that doctrine was a turning point in my life.

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    1. Michelle

      I also felt liberated and free once I allowed myself to let go of the JW brainwashing. You may have wasted a good number of years, but at least you eventually discovered what wasn’t “The Truth”. Just think of how many people out there will never come to that realization. They are living a lie and don’t even know it. I think that like most cults, the JW prey on the weak. I don’t necessarily mean weak-minded, but people who are lost and can’t find their way. What the JW tell them makes sense at first, and once they’re sucked in, they become too brainwashed to question the rest of the teachings. They look for people who are content with wearing blinders over their eyes. I imagine there are a lot of JWs who deep down suspect that something isn’t quite right, but their psychological defense mechanisms won’t allow them to fully examine what they’re told, because if they did, they might discover that it’s all bullshit, and then where would they be? Lost and confused just like they were before.

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  2. Annette Wilson

    I have always loved Jesus and he has always been there for me. When I was a little girl I could feel him watching over me and would talk to me all the time. He still dose. I’m sorry the both of you had bad experiences. I know what God has revealed, that he is a loving forgiving God who loves us unconditionally and wants us to love eachother. There is more proof that backs up the bible and the history then dose not. I would envite the two of you to check into it. John 3:16 God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only begotten son that who so ever believes in him will have everlasting life!

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    1. Michelle

      It’s not that I don’t believe in God or Jesus, I just don’t believe in the “Jehovah” that the JW uses to brainwash people. In their version he doesn’t love all unconditionally; he only loves those who are his “Witnesses”. Everyone else is “worldly” and bad. They would say that you are not worshipping the true God – you actually worship Satan, who comes to you as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t think the Bible is all false; I just think some of it is more mythology than anything else. I have always used the analogy of “Gone With the Wind” to describe my beliefs about the Bible: If several thousand years from now mankind came across a copy of “Gone With the Wind”, they would find that there really was a Civil War, a General Lee, an Atlanta, Georga, and so on. But no matter how hard they searched, no matter how many records they unearthed, they would never find any proof of the existence of Scarlett O’Hara or Rhett Butler or Ashley Wilkes or Melanie Hamilton. They were fictional characters set against a backdrop of historical fact. I believe that’s the case with many stories in the Bible. But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. And if I am wrong then I have the Jehovah’s Witnesses to thank for it.

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      1. annette

        Lee Strobel was a scientist found Jesus Christ through science and research. This man is intelligent and is highly accredited. He has written many books with facts included.

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  3. Michelle

    Although I believe that many characters and stories in the bible are fictitious, I have always been hesitant to say that about Jesus. It’s not that I feel I’ll go to “hell” if I deny his existence, it’s just that I would feel awful if I was proven wrong after all the terrible things he went through. At the very least I believe he was an extremely wise and loving prophet. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to live life according to his teachings and example.

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    1. annette

      The research is done already,you can visit his site or watch one of his videos. Lee Strobel.

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    2. Todd | Channelingmyself

      I agree with that statement about him being a wise and loving prophet. I don’t believe he was the messiah or the son of god. I read somewhere, and can’t find it now, that all the bible scriptures that are actually the words of Jesus mainly talk about love, loving your neighbor etc. The majority of the books in the new testament were written by Paul, who never knew or met Jesus, thus is no way could have directly quoted him. However, the most content was written by John who wrote 27.5% of the new testament.

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  4. Andrew Walker

    Hi there Mitz. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a very nice and interesting story you’ve shared there.
    Andrew Walker recently posted..MovieMars.com Coupon CodeMy Profile

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  5. Julie Hayes

    Every people have different ways on how they are being enlightened I’m just happy that you’ve shared yours.
    Julie Hayes recently posted..pevonia skin care reviewsMy Profile

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  6. Fatima Hipolito

    That’s right Julie everyone have their own style and have a different ways in their life..That’s why no one can judge us..
    Fatima Hipolito recently posted..דיוור אלקטרוניMy Profile

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