Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, Masks of Eternity, (Religion vs. Mysticism)

Moyers: “How does one have a profound experience?”

Campbell: “By having a profound sense of mystery.”

Moyers: “But if God is the god we have only imagined, how can we stand in awe of our own creation?”

Campbell: “How can we be terrified by a dream? You have to break past your image of God to get through to the connoted illumination. The psychologist Jung has a relevant saying: ‘Religion is a defense against the experience of God.’

The mystery has been reduced to a set of concepts and ideas, and emphasizing these concepts and ideas can short-circuit the transcendent, connoted experience. An intense experience of mystery is what one has to regard as the ultimate religious experience.

Moyers: “There are many Christians who believe that, to find out who Jesus is, you have to go past the Christian faith, past the Christian doctrine, past the Christian Church -”

Campbell: “You have to go past the imagined image of Jesus. Such an image of one’s god becomes a final obstruction, one’s ultimate barrier. You hold on to your own ideology, your own little manner of thinking, and when a larger experience of God approaches, an experience greater than you are prepared to receive, you take flight from it by clinging to the image in your mind. This is known as preserving your faith.”


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