Joseph Campbell On Experiencing Mystery

Vanessa Able (

“One way to deprive yourself of an experience is to expect it. Another is to have a name for it before you have the experience.”

– Joseph CampbellTweet

Joseph Campbell’s passion for comparative mythology and the study of world religions has put him at the forefront of writing about the significance of myth and metaphor and what we lose when we eschew our culture’s popular mythologies. The collection Thou Art That is composed of Campbell’s writings about the mythologies and images of Christianity in an attempt to highlight their metaphoric properties and discourage literal interpretation. In this extract he takes on the notion of experiencing mystery and considers how religious narratives can actually stymie the expansive human experience of transcendence.

The primary purpose of a dynamic mythology, which we may underscore as its properly religious function, is to awaken and maintain in the person an experience of awe, humility, and respect in recognition of that ultimate mystery that transcends every name and form, “from which,” as we read in the Upanişads, “words turn back.” In recent decades, theology has been often concentrated on a literary exercise in the explanation of archaic texts that are made up of historically conditioned, ambiguous names, incidents, sayings, and actions, all of which are attributed to “the ineffable.” Faith, we might say, in old-fashioned scripture or faith in the latest science belong equally at this time to those alone who as yet have no idea of how mysterious, really, is the mystery of themselves.

Into how many of us has the weight described by the physicist Erwin Schrödinger been born that “this life of yours that you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense the whole; only the whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one simple glance. This is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula that is yet really so simple and so clear: Tat tvam asi, that is you.”

This is the basic insight of all metaphysical discourse, which is immediately known—as knowable to each alone-only when the names and forms, what I call the masks of God, have fallen away. Yet, as many have observed, including William of Occam, Immanuel Kant, and Henry Adams, the category, or name, of unity itself is of the mind and may not be attributed to any supposed substance, person, or “Ground of Being.”

“Faith in old-fashioned scripture or faith in the latest science belong equally at this time to those alone who as yet have no idea of how mysterious, really, is the mystery of themselves.

Who, then, may speak to you, or to any of us, of the being or nonbeing of God, unless by implication to point beyond his words and himself and all he knows, or can tell, toward the transcendent, the experience of mystery.

The question sometimes arises as to whether the experience of mystery and transcendence is more available to those who have undergone some kind of religious and spiritual training, for whom, as I have said, it has all been named completely. It may be less available to them precisely because they have got it all named in the book. One way to deprive yourself of an experience is indeed to expect it. Another is to have a name for it before you have the experience. Carl Jung said that one of the functions of religion is to protect us against the religious experience. That is because in formal religion, it is all concretized and formulated. But, by its nature, such an experience is one that only you can have. As soon as you classify it with anybody else’s, it loses its character. A preconceived set of concepts catches the experience, cutting it short so that it does not come directly to us. Ornate and detailed religions protect us against an exploding mystical experience that would be too much for us.

There are two orders of religious perspective. One is ethical, pitting good against evil. In the biblically grounded Christian West, the accent is on ethics, on good against evil. We are thus bound by our religion itself to the field of duality. The mystical perspective, however, views good and evil as aspects of one process. One finds this in the Chinese yin-yang sign, the dai-chi.

We have, then, these two totally different religious perspectives. The idea of good and evil absolutes in the world after the fall is biblical and as a result you do not rest on corrupted nature. Instead, you correct nature and align yourself with the good against evil. Eastern cults, on the other hand, put you in touch with nature, where what Westerners call good and evil interlock. But by what right, this Eastern tradition asks, do we call these things evil when they are of the process of nature?

“The experience of mystery comes not from expecting it but through yielding all your programs, because your programs are based on fear and desire. Drop them and the radiance comes.

I was greatly impressed when I was first in Japan to find myself in a world that knew nothing of the Fall in the Garden of Eden and consequently did not consider nature corrupt. In the Shinto scriptures one reads that the processes of nature cannot be evil. In our tradition, every natural impulse is sinful unless it has been purified in some manner.

In some artistic representations, one sees the Deity and at His right stand the three Graces. The muses are clothed because art clothes mystery. The final revelation is the naked mystery itself. The first of the three Graces is Euphrosyne, or rapture, sending forth the energy of Apollo into the world. The second is Aglaia, splendor, bringing the energy back. Then, embracing the two, we find Thalia, abundance. One recognizes that these are the functions of the Trinity in the Christian biblically based tradition in which these same powers are given a masculine form.

Finally, it does not matter whether you are going to name them male and female. Transcendence is beyond all such naming. This symbol refers to what might simply be called total meditation. Father is Thalia, the abundance who unites the other two. The Son is Euphrosyne, the rapture of love that pours itself into the world. The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is Aglaia, who carries us back. The energy itself stems from Apollo, who in the Christian tradition is the one Divine substance of which the three of the Trinity are personalities.

The experience of mystery comes not from expecting it but through yielding all your programs, because your programs are based on fear and desire. Drop them and the radiance comes.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
From – Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

Virgo New Moon, September 6, 2021

Wendy Cicchetti

Virgo New Moon

The Virgo New Moon introduces a theme of restraint as it meets with the Sun whilst Mars is already treading a careful path in this sign. The glyph for Virgo is suggestive of a figure with an arm folded inward — reflecting body language of someone keeping their behavior under wraps and their thoughts to themselves. With this lunation, feelings are kept hidden away, and perhaps this is wise under the New Moon’s rays — indicative of taking tentative steps forward into a lesser-known future.

Yet, in spite of this careful, guarded approach, we cannot help but notice that the Sun and Moon are trine and within only one minute of Uranus in Taurus. A characteristic of the trine aspect is an easy flow of energy, and this suggests unusual ideas and options will come along effortlessly. Despite the restrained quality of the lights in Virgo, there is an openness to something occurring out of the blue — quite the contradiction!

That said, Uranus in Taurus can throw forth new possibilities where a theme of constraint forces a fresh view. Taurus is associated with buildings and money, so this may apply in situations where people are looking at moves of home, property sales, or job changes. The great news about Uranus is the suddenness of new options bringing a breath of fresh air and new life into an area of standstill. The trine aspect also has an easy come, easy go quality, so there will be less pressure with drastic change — and rapid developments could open up opportunities not previously available.

A fresh Uranian breeze does not have to involve a radical shift. This planet has a theme at its center of breaking free. As such, this could be as simple as spending time in a different environment to clear head space. Moments spent in a park or garden — or even in an urban environment, if a rural outlook is your usual vista — could bring on board a unique way of seeing life, maybe not just for the time being, but in a more long-term way.

The New Moon and Mars are opposed by Neptune and Pallas — an asteroid focused on principles and doing the right thing. There is clearly an attunement here with Virgo, which tends to be quite proper in attitude. The Neptune accent, however, is a desire or option for escape or refers to a situation or person who’s hard to pin down. Virgo loves precision and the ability to have everything neatly lined up — preferably in new, safety-sealed packages! Therefore, the Moon, Sun, and Mars all carry — or must contend with — these facets of preference and condition at this time. But Neptune in Pisces is a whole other fish!

Natural Piscean links to the primordial ocean waters take us further back in time, possibly to the theme of a timeless place with an undefined vista. Nothing is thoroughly delineated in that pure environment, and yet everything knows its place and has its own way of surviving — so long as humans don’t interfere with it. Yet, with ecological and moral issues to one side, it seems fair to view Neptune as potentially quite destructive in this current opposition. We may have the best-laid plans of Virgo an exactitude — creating something tangible and lasting — only to find that Neptune threatens to erode them.

What might Neptune represent? It could be anything from a negative, emotional attitude with the power to ruin the atmosphere of a carefully arranged social function, to dealing with someone’s addiction which keeps making life chaotic. And there may be many other shades of Neptune pandemonium in between! But the key to coping during this period seems to be in managing the balance between the Pisces–Virgo opposition. Neptune in Pisces demands a degree of flexibility, whilst the Sun, Moon, and Mars in Virgo seek progress in solid, measurable ways with superlative standards. But there is usually a middle ground to discover where a little tolerance allows for a bit of both extremes to co-exist. Since Uranus is between the lights and Neptune, it serves to mediate from the heart of the opposition. Part of the solution could be drawing on modern, innovative strategies, without getting too one-sided.

This article is from the Mountain Astrologer, written by Diana Collis.

Tarot card for September 6: The Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups

The Lord of Indolence is a card which indicates difficult influence around the person who draws it. Energy is stagnating now; there is no renewal, no cleansing flow. Instead, there is apathy and disappointment. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, it will reflect negatively into daily life, causing disturbance in the domestic and material situation.

This card sometimes comes up during periods where you are tired and unable to generate any energy – during or just after periods of ill-health, for example. It can also be provoked where there is severe emotional distress. It carries with it an urgent warning to attend to whatever is blocking your energy, and to try to create open channels to get things moving again.

One area that will often be indicated by the appearance of this card is the sort of relationship in which you consistently give too much, and receive very little back in return. If you often find the Eight of Cups in your own readings, it’s worth doing a thorough appraisal of the relationships in your life and trying to work out if any of them are dangerously one-sided. If they are, then take steps to start saying no. Stay in better touch with your own needs and dreams, and pay less attention to other peoples’, particularly if you feel you get very little back from those people.

Remember – we deserve to receive from others exactly what we are prepared to give to ourselves. So if we give ourselves scant attention, why should anybody else do any more for us? But, on the other hand, if we treat ourselves with love and respect, then we have every right to expect that from those around us.

The Eight of Cups

(via and Alan Blackman)

Christian Sundberg – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

BuddhaAtTheGasPump Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group:… Also see When Christian Sundberg was a young child, he remembered his existence before coming to Earth. While that memory left him completely for his early adult life, it spontaneously returned at the age of 30 as Christian took up a meditation practice and went through a personal awakening journey. He also began to have Out of Body Experiences (OBEs). Christian has worked for over 15 years as a professional project manager for complex nuclear pump and valve manufacturing projects. Christian has also presented at over 80 public speaking events, as he now seeks to remind others in at least a small part of who we all really are beneath the human “play”.

Sometimes Mindlessness Is Better Than Mindfulness

In some situations, don’t pay so much attention

Sometimes Mindlessness Is Better Than Mindfulness
Credit: Lukas Miglinas Alamy

“Be present.” This is the mantra of mindfulness meditation and a supposed key to self-awareness and acceptance. In one type of mindfulness exercise, the goal is to perform routine activities with a heightened sense of attention. “Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses—touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it,” recommends one Mayo Clinic article.

Mindfulness may indeed have psychological benefits. Earlier this year, a synthesis of randomized controlled trials revealed that mindfulness-based interventions had small to moderate benefits for a number of health outcomes, including stress, anxiety and depression. That said, the effects of mindfulness were smaller and less consistent when compared with those of other therapies, and some effects appeared to fade months after the intervention. Taken together, the results suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may be better than nothing for some outcomes but that more research is needed to compare mindfulness with other therapies.

One thing the mindfulness-based interventions had in common is that they all attempted to cultivate focus on the present moment via multiple sessions of meditation practice.

Although mindfulness has its merits, psychological research has also revealed that in some circumstances it’s important to be mindless. That is, as we develop skill in complex tasks, we can perform them with increasing facility until attention seems to be unnecessary. Everyday examples range from riding a bike to chopping cucumbers to brushing your teeth.

Underlying this state of “automaticity” (as cognitive psychologists call it) are mental processes that can be executed without paying attention to them. These processes run off without conscious awareness—a chain reaction of mental events. We don’t perform all tasks automatically, but many can be performed this way once they are well practiced.

To be clear, paying attention is important when learning a new skill. In a study of our own, we found that measures of cognitive ability that tapped the capacity to focus attention predicted novice pianists’ ability to learn and play “Happy Birthday to You.”

But expertise research has also revealed that paying too much attention to what you’re doing can have damaging effects, particularly when you perform well-practiced skills. In fact, this is one reason why some experts appear to “choke under pressure”: they think too much about the mechanics of the task at hand.

In a classic study, cognitive scientist Sian Beilock and her colleagues had skilled golfers attempt to sink putts under different experimental conditions. In one scenario, the golfers were simply instructed to pay attention to the swing of their club and say “stop” when they finished their swing. In another condition, they were instructed to listen for a target sound while ignoring other noises and say the word “tone” when they heard the target sound.

Counterintuitively, the skilled golfers performed substantially worse when they focused on their swing than when they paid attention to irrelevant sounds. The effect of paying attention to their swing was so damaging that the golfers actually did better when they were warming up before the experiment began.

More recently, psychologist Yannick Balk and his colleagues had golfers try different interventions designed to mitigate the effects of performance pressure. The researchers induced performance pressure by videotaping the participants, telling them that their score sheets would be posted publicly at the clubhouse and incentivizing strong performance with coupons to the golf shop.

Without an intervention, the golfers performed significantly worse under pressure. Yet participants who were encouraged to think about something else—specifically, a song they knew by heart—improved when the stakes were high. It is worth cautioning that these results should be replicated in larger samples and across different contexts.

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Nevertheless, the important message from this research is that focusing too carefully on the execution of well-practiced motor sequences can cause mistakes. Of course, we should not resign to go through life on autopilot, missing opportunities to make deeper connections with ourselves, one another and our environment. But there are situations where we should let automaticity take over. The next time you ride a bike, don’t overthink it.Rights & Permissions

Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook. Gareth, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, is the series editor of Best American Infographics and can be reached at garethideas AT or Twitter @garethideas.


Alexander P. Burgoyne earned his Ph.D. in cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Michigan State University in 2019. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Attention & Working Memory Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Recent Articles by Alexander P. Burgoyne

David Z. Hambrick is a professor in the department of psychology at Michigan State University. His research focuses on individual differences in cognitive ability and complex skill.

Recent Articles by David Z. Hambrick

(Contributed by Gwyllm Llwydd)

Book: “An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork”

An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork

An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork

by Etty HillesumEva Hoffman (Foreword by) 

For the first time, Etty Hillesum’s diary and letters appear together to give us the fullest possible portrait of this extraordinary woman. In the darkest years of Nazi occupation and genocide, Etty Hillesum remained a celebrant of life whose lucid intelligence, sympathy, and almost impossible gallantry were themselves a form of inner resistance. The adult counterpart to Anne Frank, Hillesum testifies to the possibility of awareness and compassion in the face of the most devastating challenge to one’s humanity. She died at Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of twenty-nine.



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frankism was a heretical Sabbatean Jewish religious movement of the 18th and 19th centuries,[1] centered on the leadership of the Jewish Messiah claimant Jacob Frank, who lived from 1726 to 1791. Frank rejected religious norms, and said his followers were obligated to transgress as many moral boundaries as possible. At its height it claimed perhaps 50,000 followers, primarily Jews living in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.[1][2][3]


Unlike traditional Judaism, which provides a set of detailed guidelines called “halakha” that are scrupulously followed by observant Jews and regulate many aspects of life,[4] Frank claimed that “all laws and teachings will fall”[5] and – following antinomianism – asserted that the most important obligation of every person was the transgression of every boundary.[6]

Frankism is associated with the Sabbateans of Turkey, a religious movement that identified the 17th-century Jewish rabbi Sabbatai Zevi as the Messiah.[1][3] Like Frankism, the earlier forms of Sabbateanism believed that at least in some circumstances, antinomianism was the correct path.[7] Zevi himself would perform actions that violated traditional Jewish taboos, such as eating foods that were forbidden by kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) and celebrating prescribed fast days as feast days.[8] Especially after Zevi’s death, a number of branches of Sabbateanism evolved, which disagreed among themselves over which aspects of traditional Judaism should be preserved and which discarded.[9] The more radical branches even engaged in sexual foreplay.[10] In Frankism, orgies featured prominently in ritual.[2]

Several authorities on Sabbateanism, including Heinrich Graetz and Aleksander Kraushar, were skeptical of the existence of such a thing as a distinctive “Frankist” doctrine. According to Gershom Scholem, another authority on Sabbateanism, Kraushar had described Frank’s sayings as “grotesque, comical and incomprehensible”. In his classic essay “Redemption Through Sin”, Scholem argued a different position, seeing Frankism as a later and more radical outgrowth of Sabbateanism.[11] In contrast, Jay Michaelson argues that Frankism was “an original theology that was innovative, if sinister” and was in many respects a departure from the earlier formulations of Sabbateanism. In traditional Sabbatean doctrine, Zevi – and often his followers – claimed to be able to liberate the sparks of holiness hidden within what seemed to be evil. According to Michaelson, Frank’s theology asserted that the attempt to liberate the sparks of holiness was the problem, not the solution. Rather, Frank claimed that the “mixing” between holy and unholy was virtuous.[6] Netanel Lederberg claims that Frank had a Gnostic philosophy wherein there was a “true God” whose existence was hidden by a “false God”. This “true God” could allegedly only be revealed through a total destruction of the social and religious structures created by the “false God”, thus leading to a thorough antinomianism. For Frank, the very distinction between good and evil is a product of a world governed by the “false God”. Lederberg compares Frank’s position to that of Friedrich Nietzsche.[12]

After Jacob Frank

After Jacob Frank’s death in 1791, his daughter Eve, who had been declared in 1770 to be the incarnation of the Shekhinah, the dwelling of the divine presence, continued to lead the movement with her brothers.

10 Historic Jewish Women Mystics You’ve (Probably) Never Heard of

Seekers of Unity Are there any Female Jewish Mystics or is Jewish Mysticism just a Boys Club? Join us as we explore ten incredible women Mystics, Martyrs, Mothers, Messiahs, masters of Kabbalah, Educators, Oracles, Patrons, Prophets, Poets and Philosophers who left an unforgettable mark on Jewish History. Sources and Further Reading below. 00:00 Intro | Ten Jewish Women Mystics 02:00 Inés of Herrera | The Child Martyr | 1488-1500 05:40 Fioretta of Modena | The Kabbalist Bubbe | 1522-1580 07:46 Asenath Barzani | The Kurdish Rosh Yeshiva | 1590-1670 11:41 Chapter Two | The Women of Vital’s Book of Visions 13:25 Francesa Sarah | The Maggid Whisperer | 16th Century 17:10 Daughter of Anav | The Oracle | 16th Century 20:03 Rachel Aberlin | The Patron | 16th Century 23:18 Sonadora | The Dreamer | 16th Century 25:32 Chapter Three | Sabbateanism & Frankism 26:41 Eva Frank | The Queen Messiah | 1754-1816 30:51 The Daughter of Joseph | The Redeemer | 12th Century 33:17 Sicilian Prophetess | The Pregnant Messiah 35:25 Chapter Four | Hasidism | Mysticism for the Masses 36:35 The Maiden of Ludmir | The Hasidic Rebbe | 1805-1888 41:41 Hasidic Women | Odel the Daughter of the Baal Shem | 1720 -1787 43:54 Etty Hillesum | The Diarist of Heaven and Hell | 1914–1943 55:42 Other WWII Women Mystics | Simone Weil and Edith Stein 56:04 Women Scholars of Mysticism | General and Jewish 56:56 Theoretical Considerations from J. H. Chajes 1:00:09 Women Mystics of Other Traditions If you enjoyed this video, please give it a share and a thumbs up 🙂 Join us: facebook: instagram: twitter: website: Support us: patreon: donate: Sources and Further Reading: General: The JPS Guide to Jewish Women, Emily Taitz, Sondra Henry and Cheryl Tallan Dybbuks and Jewish Women in Social History, Mysticism and Folklore, Rachel Elior, 2008 Between Worlds, Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism, J. H. Chajes, 2003, ch. 4 Voices of the Matriarchs, Chava Weissler, 1998 Firestone, Tirzah. The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women’s Wisdom, 2004 Gender in Kabbalah: Elliot Wolfson, Circle in the Square: Studies in the Use of Gender in Kabbalistic Symbolism, 1995 Arthur Green, “Bride, Spouse, Daughter,” in On Being a Jewish Feminist, ed. S. Heschel, 1983 David Biale, “Sexuality and Spirituality in the Kabbalah,” in Eros and the Jews, 1992 Inés of Herrera: Baer, Y. “The Messianic Movement in Spain” (Hebrew). Zion 5, 1930, p. 61-77 Haim Beinart, “Ines of Herrera del Duque” in Women in the Inquisition, 1999 Renee Levine Melammed, Heretics or Daughters of Israel?: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile Fioretta of Modena: Shlomo Ashkenazi, Learned Women: A Historical Survey (Hebrew), 1942 Asenath Barzani: Grossman, Avraham. Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe, 2004 Melammed, Uri and Renée Levine. “Rabbi Asnat,” Pe’amim 82 (2000), pp. 163–178 Sabar, Yonah. The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews, 1982 Francesa Sarah: Sefer HaChezyonot, Chaim Vital, Jerusalem 1954, pp. 10-11 Sefer Divrei Yosef, Yosef Sambari, Jerusalem 1994, pp. 364-366 Sonadora: S. Daiches, Babylonian Oil Magic in the Talmud and in Later Jewish Literature, London, 1913. Julio Caro Baroja, The World of the Witches, trans. O. N. V. Glendinning (Chicago, 1964). Lu Ann Homza, Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance (Baltimore, 2000), 180-81. Guido Ruggiero, “Women Priests of Latisana” in Binding Passions, (Oxford, 1993), 149-69. Eva Frank: Maciejko, Paweł. The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 2011, p. 170-6. Gershom Scholem, “Redemption Through Sin”, In The Messianic Idea in Judaism, pp. 78–141. A. Rapoport-Albert, “On the Position of Women in Sabbatianism,” in The Sabbatean Movement and its Aftermath, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, vol. 16, 2001. The Daughter of Joseph: A Report on Messianic Troubles in Baghdad, Goitein, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, July 1952, pp. 57-76 The Sicilian Prophetess: Jacob Mann, “A Messianic Excitement in Sicily” in Texts and Studies, vol. 1, pp. 34-5. Poorthuis & Safrai, “Fresh Water for a Tired Soul” In Women and Miracle Stories, 2004, pp. 123-44. N. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, London, 1970, p. 69. The Maiden of Ludmir: Nathaniel Deutsch, The Maiden of Ludmir: A Jewish Holy Woman and Her World Ada Rapoport-Albert, “On Women in Hasidism,” in Jewish History, 1988, pp. 495–525 Etty Hillesum: An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum Letters from Westerbork Etty Hillesum Studies: Etty Hillesum in Context, 2008. Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. Writing as Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust, 1997. Woodhouse, Patrick. Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed. London, Continuum, 2009. Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum, by Smelik, Brandt, and Coetsier (eds.), 2010.

Women Mystics in Medieval England

Centre Place Female perspectives of medieval mysticism through the writings of Julian of Norwich & Margery Kempe. In the years after the Black Death decimated Europe, many turned to mysticism to understand life’s questions. In an age where few women were afforded an education, we have the rare survival of two books written in Middle English by female authors: Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe. Although they have very different backgrounds and perspectives, both women became Christian mystics. We’ll look at their works and what they tell us about the lives and ideas of women and mystics in the Middle Ages.