What Would Joseph Campbell Say About Donald Trump?


The executive producer of “The Power of Myth” reflects on Campbell’s teachings and how they apply to the hero’s journey that Trump claims he’s on as he tries to win the White House.

Like so many others, I’ve been puzzling over the Trump phenomenon for months. It seems like every journalist, pundit, psychiatrist, psychologist and armchair psychologist has something to say about the man. Understandably, they are trying to figure out what kind of person he is and why he is so popular with millions of Americans, including nearly half of the Republican Party.

My own interest is undergirded by the work and ideas of the late Joseph Campbell, a foremost interpreter of world mythologies and author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces. It was said of Campbell that “he could make the bones of folklore and anthropology live,” as millions of viewers would learn in watching the classic PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. [Disclosure: I knew Campbell from my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught for 35-plus years. Many years later I served as executive producer of the Campbell-Moyers series.]

Campbell’s gift was to interpret the themes and forces underlying myths, stories and legends and how they play out in our lives. He illuminated the interior pathways of the mind which guide human behavior and action — a psychological roadmap within each of us which is nonetheless dark and mysterious to most of us.

One of the dominant highways on that inner map is the Hero’s Journey. The hero appears as a universal character in all cultures, everywhere, throughout human history, in myths and legends. It is so universal a theme that Campbell, along with other scholars and psychologists, called it an “archetype.”

According to Campbell, the hero emerges from humble beginnings to undertake a journey fraught with trials and suffering. He or she survives those ordeals and returns to the community bearing a gift — a “boon,” as Campbell called it — in the form of a message from which people can learn and benefit. So, properly, the hero is an exceptional person who gives his life over to a purpose larger than himself and for the benefit of others. Campbell had often lamented our failure as human beings “to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever” that seems endemic to our species. “By overcoming the dark passions,” he told Moyers, “the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us.”

Drawn to Campbell’s work, George Lucas invited him to Skywalker Ranch to share his insights into Star Wars. The two became friends, and it was at Skywalker in the mid-1980s that we taped most of the conversation that became the six-part PBS series. Campbell grew animated as he talked about how Lucas “has put the newest and most powerful spin” to the classic story of the hero: “It’s what Goethe said in Faust but which Lucas has dressed in modern idiom — the message that technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough… We have to rely on our intuition, our true being.” He admired Luke Skywalker for finding within himself “the resources of character to meet his destiny.” Furthermore, Campbell said:

I think that Star Wars is a valid mythological perspective, and the problem of it is that the system and the state are the machines. Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity? Humanity comes not from the machine, but from the heart.

Darth Vader is an expression of the state and the system. [Darth Vader] isn’t thinking or living in terms of humanity. He is living in terms of the system [the dark side — which Carl Jung, the psychologist, would call “the shadow”].

This is a threat to our life. We all face it. We all operate in our society in relation to a system. Now, is this system going to eat you up and relieve you of your humanity, or are you going to be able to use the system for human purposes? …. Luke Skywalker is the hero, living as a human being within the system.

You see, this thing up here [he points to his brain], this consciousness thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ. It’s a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.

A myth is a metaphor, explaining one thing in terms of another. In this case, our politics and politicians are “the government, the state, the system, the machine.” Our leaders in Washington are “the elites” who have long thought they are running the show. But our leaders have not been listening to the whole body, the body politic, the heart and soul of America.

Framing this campaign in the Campbell construct, Trump casts himself as Luke Skywalker fighting the inhumane system. He says he wants to  destroy it and  replace it with whatever he alone envisions — again and again he says, in effect, “I Am The Man.” His supporters and followers get it. They project the hero image in their own psyche onto Trump.

But does this make Trump a hero? Hardly. There is nothing he has said or done that suggests he wants to use the system for human purposes.

Let’s look at his own narrative, as he sees it:

Donald was a humble boy, not born in great luxury. He was not rich, or at least not the richest in his own eyes. His father was a success but only in Queens, the poor relative of Manhattan — and Trump sets out to conquer it.

He meets obstacles on the way, but prevails. Donald Trump — always a winner. To accomplish this, he has sacrificed — as he sees it, a sacrifice as great as losing a son in war. His sacrifice has been to make billions from building a business. So what if his successful father staked him in the beginning with capital to help make his journey easier and more comfortable? The elder’s sacrifice doesn’t count in the Trump version of his narrative, as it does in Star Wars.

Now Trump says he wants serve a higher purpose, to give his life to something bigger than himself — to the country, to history — by winning the presidency. If he prevails, he will show his country how to be great again by also winning. The message he brings back to his people: Everyone in Washington is stupid or corrupt. America should be like me, like Donald Trump.

No doubt many of Trump’s followers hate the system he’s fighting, one in which technology and trade have beaten them down, have made them losers. In their eyes Trump is a winner. He presents his own successes as a gift that others could enjoy if they elect him: his third wife, the fairest of them all — a virtual mannequin on which to hang his manhood; his children, who appear to be constructed by highly paid artists to make them seem perfect and who are following in their father’s own perfect footsteps, starting at the top; and, finally, his buildings all over the world — the most gilded (if not always the tallest), and bearing his name in capital letters.

But the truth is there is no hero there. Trump is the very personification of the system that enabled him to win — a white, wealthy, powerful male who dominates everything in his orbit, the white supremacist writ large who would make America over in his own violent image.

So the question arises: Is Trump, then, Darth Vader? It’s tempting to answer yes. Campbell said that “when the mask of Darth Vader is removed, you see an unformed man, one who has not developed as a human individual. What you see is a strange and pitiful sort of undifferentiated face.” When we look at Trump, we have to ask: Where is the humanity?

But Donald Trump is not Darth Vader. He may actually be worse. Darth Vader knows better than to want to destroy the system and set out instead to harness it to his purpose. Trump is on no hero’s journey. His is a journey of self-destruction, hate and cruelty. Unlike the hero who serves humanity, Trump is simultaneously serving his own self-destructive “dark side” while calling forth America’s dark side — bullies obsessed with money, power and materialistic success, absorbed with their own hubris and empire. Instead of trying to improve the system and make it better for all, he is trying to blow it up. The alternative he offers would be chaos.

Despite all of its flaws and failings, our democratic system has produced some of the best expressions of positive human effort and ideals so far in history. Most Americans want our government to work and we want to make it work better — but not by destroying it. We want to win over the dysfunctions of the system. We want to get our country back in order to get it going again — in the right direction, serving most of the people, most of the time. If only “the elites” — Republicans and Democrats and independents — would hear what the majority of Americans on all sides are saying, Trump would suddenly be irrelevant, exposed as Darth Vader was in the final scenes of Star Wars — a puny and pathetic farce.

As this campaign makes abundantly clear, no hero is going to swoop in to save us. We have to be our own heroes.

Joan Konner is Dean Emerita of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. A long-time producer of documentaries, she was executive producer of the popular PBS series, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.

Putting the power of self-knowledge to work

This was an irresistible title! I read this NYT blog post this AM, and what to share it. It’s about the efforts around the country that focus on helping people based on the ACE concept, which stands for “adverse childhood event.” In short, people with ACEs are more likely to have issues in later life, and by helping people to know and understand their ACEs people can hopefully begin healing.

The post in the Times has links to networks and resources. There is a lot of activity along these lines in CA. I’m looking for people to connect with here in GA. Here in Atlanta there is a large immigrant community–you can bet they have a lot of ACEs!


TNT: The Power Within You


Many years ago, I was given this book. I was just starting a career & was nervous. This book gave me a roadmap, easy to follow, which got me started and has served me for many years. I recently hit a negative period in life, so I re-read it again, with WONDERFUL results. This book gets you ON TRACK and keeps you there. I think it is not “one of”, but THE BEST self-help book ever written…PERIOD.

By Kip Walton on March 19, 2002 (Amazon.com)

China’s new quantum satellite will try to teleport data outside the bounds of space and time


The rocket carrying the first quantum satellite takes off in Jiuquan, China on August 16, 2016. (Reuters/China Daily)

Written by Tim Fernholz (qz.com)

This week, China launched the world’s first quantum satellite. So what exactly does this mean?

“[T]he satellite is designed to establish ultra-secure quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” Xinhua, China’s state news agency, wrote after the equipment was launched on a rocket from the Gobi desert. “It could also conduct experiments on the bizarre features of quantum theories, such as entanglement.”

Uncrackable keys? Bizarre features? Both true. This satellite is designed to literally teleport information, to distances 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) away.

It’s pretty wild stuff. We asked Spiros Michalakis, a mathematician and researcher at Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, to walk us through it.

Quantum theory: the basics

Here’s a quick refresher in case you haven’t thought about physics in a few years, because this story is cooler when you understand these basics. Skip ahead if you’re already a quantum geek.

Most human technology is built around the classical physics that Isaac Newton and his inheritors came up with (equal and opposite reactions, that sort of thing). When engineers hit on electricity, Michalakis says, they perceived it in aggregate as a kind of a force; it’s either on, or it’s off. This understanding led to electric switches, which became transistors, and when you put all those transistors in a box and start turning them off and on with instructions encoded “11010001101”… it’s a computer.

But as scientists were developing electric computers in the 20th century, theorists beginning with Max Planck were ripping up the rule books. Their experiments with light suggested that something about classical physics didn’t quite add up. Soon they developed mathematical proofs to explain that the tiny particles that make up matter—protons, neutrons, and electrons—don’t necessarily behave like you would expect particles to behave. They can act as if they are in two places at once, for instance. (That’s one of those “bizarre features” the Chinese are talking about.) This is quantum theory. The first and most famous application of these ideas came in nuclear weaponry and energy.

Physicists are still trying to agree on how classical and quantum physics come together coherently. But quantum theory already underlies a lot of modern technology; the transistors on a silicon chip, in fact, wouldn’t work without it. Now engineers are trying to apply it to more futuristic things.

Spooky action at a distance

Let’s say that you take a very small particle, and set it up so that it could be in either one of two states. Let’s call one state “up,” and the other one “down.” (Quantum computers do something like this, using single atoms trapped in a magnetic field to represent either a “0” or a “1”.)

If you do this, quantum theory says that two things will happen. The first is that, although the particle will always be either “up” or “down” if you look at it, when you’re not looking, it will be in a kind of combination of the two, called a superposition. In quantum mechanics, the act of measuring something changes it; the superposition “collapses,” in the parlance, to either up or down.

The second thing is that two or more of these particles can be put in a situation of “quantum entanglement,” where they form a single superposition together. Then their physical properties are correlated. For instance, you can set them up in advance so that if you look at one particle and find it’s up, then you know, without looking, that the other must be down, and vice versa.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Let’s say you entangle two particles. Then you move one of them far, far away—to the other side of the planet, or to the moon. No matter the distance, quantum mechanics says, they remain entangled. If you look at the first one, and in doing so change it—collapsing the superposition—you will also change the other one. And this will happen instantaneously, however far apart they are.
Let that sink in, because this technique, called “quantum teleportation,” is crazy to think about. Light has a speed limit, and normally information cannot travel faster than light. Quantum teleportation is, in a sense, information traveling outside of space and time. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.”

Tangled up in space

Scientists have done experiments with quantum teleportation already. They have instantaneously exchanged information about the quantum states of photons, which are particles of light, transmitted 143 km between two of the Canary Islands.

But testing quantum teleportation at extremely long distances requires going to space. It’s the easiest way to set up laser communication between two distant points on the earth’s surface. That’s what the Chinese satellite, developed in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Science, intends to do.
The satellite contains a machine that generates entangled pairs of photons by shooting a laser beam through a specially designed crystal. Each entangled pair will be split up and beamed down to stations on Earth approximately 1,200 km apart. If all goes as planned, researchers at those stations will share access to an entangled system. Any measurement on one of those photons will be instantaneously reflected in its opposite number at the other station.
A US company had partnered with researchers in Denmark and Singapore to launch a small satellite, or cubesat, with similar goals, but it was destroyed when the rocket taking it to the International Space Station exploded in 2014.

The key is the key

Besides demonstrating a super-long entanglement, the scientists working with the satellite want to test new communications technology. It’s important to realize that we can’t send information like “Hey, how are you?” through quantum teleportation, much less teleport actual things. But smart thinkers realized that being able to share basic information about the state of atomic particles across distance could create a powerful encryption tool.

This is where the unbreakable code comes in. Perhaps the most powerful method of encryption is the “one-time pad,” where messages are encoded using a private key known to both parties; theoretically, if the key is random, is as long as the message, is never reused, and is kept completely secret, it cannot be broken. Which sounds really good, code-wise, but it has long been impractical to ensure that two parties can always access a key that meets those standards.

Quantum entanglement could help. If people on two ground stations share access to a large enough set of entangled photons, beamed to them from a satellite in space, they can generate a sufficiently long, random key by teleporting quantum information between the entangled particles.

Nobody would be able to detect the transmission of the key. “It’s very secure from the point of view that if your eavesdropper wants to listen in, usually they are within space and time,” Michalakis says. “The data is not transmitted through space time, it goes underneath in mathematical subspace.”

Once the people in the two stations have created a key, using their entangled particles, they can use it to encrypt a message. This can be sent by whatever method they want. “You can use a telephone the moment you are sharing a key that nobody has access to,” Michalakis says.
But what if someone managed to intercept the laser beam from the satellite that had originally shared the entangled photons between the two stations? Here’s what is truly amazing: Thanks to the laws of quantum mechanics, any attempt by a third party to measure the particles in the entangled system would be immediately detected by the other two, making them aware that their code could be broken.

Quantum supremacy

The field of quantum information is still in its infancy. As we continue to learn the fundamentals of how quantum phenomena work at a large scale, the data collected will help physicists understand “the process that takes you from the quantum richness of the universe to the classical world we see around us,” Michalakis says.

It may be easy to see in this shades of the Cold War race for technological dominance, but Michalakis is confident that research will be shared within the scientific community. His hope is that this experiment is the first step toward a global network of research facilities sharing access to entangled particles beamed down from space—a kind of global, cloud-based quantum computer.
Michalakis, for obvious reasons, is particularly excited about anannouncement from the White House last week that the US needs a plan to invest in quantum technologies in a serious way; while US labs have done groundbreaking work in the field, there hasn’t been public funding on the scale available in Europe and Asia.
“Come on, this is for the US, we have some of the top institutions working on this, we have some of the best people, it makes no sense for us to not take this seriously,” he says. “There are economic reasons, and a matter of pride.”
At the moment, though, it’s China that looks like the pacesetter.

Enola Gay – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Enola Gay
You should have stayed at home yesterday
Ah-ha words can’t describe
The feeling and the way you lied

These games you play
They’re going to end in more than tears some day
Ah-ha Enola Gay
It shouldn’t ever have to end this way

It’s eight fifteen
And that’s the time that it’s always been
We got your message on the radio
Conditions normal and you’re coming home

Enola Gay
Is mother proud of little boy today
Ah-ha this kiss you give
It’s never ever going to fade away

Enola Gay
It shouldn’t ever have to end this way
Ah-ha Enola Gay
It shouldn’t fade in our dreams away

It’s eight fifteen
And that’s the time that it’s always been
We got your message on the radio
Conditions normal and you’re coming home

Enola Gay
Is mother proud of little boy today
Ah-ha this kiss you give
It’s never ever going to fade away

Written by Christopher Henry Difford, Glenn Martin Tilbrook • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

STEPS TO REV IT UP – by Calvin Harris H.W., M.

Calvin profile

I am asked what will it take to rev up our spiritual community?  Well since you asked, I say darling that’s easy. Stop being complacent. By all means stop believing in that selfie photo of your Ego, that’s only a snap shot taken in time. Well if you must, yes look at it, see the result of what such out pictured beliefs have left you – giving too little, too late and living small, hoping that it will be enough to suffice and to just get by with.

Oh I hear a comment, as I am looking around… ah yes, you there… that clown in the back aisle of the unconscious, yes you, please speak up honey, we all want to hear… what was that you said… Thank you for your remarks all I can say to that is –  anyone who has ever known me, knows I am not a size queen, any size will work really, the key word here is work. I have only ever asked anyone to come higher, starting with myself.

Living large in Truth I believe to be the true ambition and the reality of our spiritual life. A foundation stone to our community. One that our ego’s have over time in the name of self-preservation come to fear and as a result the downsizing of our lives, and our community has been the result.

I think Marianne Williamson expressed it best in her 1992 book “A Return to Love …”, where she states:

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?…

When we let ourselves become invested by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual deficiencies, the dangers of acceptance of a mediocre personal existence becomes a reality, we become unknowingly devious to our self and cause destruction to our spiritual community, being ineffectual in our powers to affect change for ourselves and community. 

As Translators and with the tool Releasing the Hidden Splendour, we can take hold of our courage to investigate such concepts as ambition, powerful, achievement, fabulous and successful, wearing the conscious mantel of Truth, to pierce though widely held misunderstandings.

Those so called spiritually aware people, who are complacent, that is without action, without emotion (having emotion means to e-mote = the ability to move), without that action your community receives nothing of substance, It becomes works without conscious action.

The enlightened cannot refuse their emotional responsibility, to put on their mantel of bigness, and their ability to wield great power and responsibility, or they forfeit their birthright.

You have a moral responsibility- that is the ability to respond wisely and intelligently with that which you have received in the service of yourself and community for the greater good.

I am reminded of words found in an email sent to me from Ben Gilberti by Bentinho Massaro who wrote:

‘We don’t deserve to own this planet going into fourth density if we are not ready to serve its greatest good ambitiously.

I encourage all truly awake, aligned and pure-hearted people out there to step it up and get in touch with their biggest, most powerful possible version of themselves, and then pour that whole-heartedly into fearless service to All. Only we can manifest heaven on Earth, and we owe it to ourselves and each other.’

So I say let’s REV IT UP – looking forward to seeing you at Assembly 2016 in Long Beach, Ca, September 2-5, 2016 at the Westin Hotel.

Love & Blessings


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