It's a few years since I bought the four volumes that make up Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God, his magisterial work on various manifestations of myth in our collective history. Since then I've dipped into the four, but never set about a sustained reading. I decided to put that right a few weeks back having determined that I needed to do justice to all the tomes on my shelves before shelling out for more. So I began at the beginning with Primitive Mythology, his Volume 1, which I finished today.
I'm glad I decided to read it cover to cover, despite the fact that some of it was heavy-going, since a sustained reading gives a far greater sense of Campbell sustaining a thesis, as opposed to an awareness of his brilliant insights fostered by simply dipping in. I'm not sure how many of his assumptions about the spread of our species around the globe have been superseded by research undertaken subsequent to his writing - quite a number I would guess - but it's the poetry of his account that convinces.
I must say though, I closed the book with a feeling of relief at living at a time when one is not subject to the traditions and myths of one's tribe in an absolute manner. Several of the pages evoked a distinct sense of claustrophobia, a feeling of needing to escape from the confining thought-worlds under analysis. I wonder how many of the living sacrifices described within the pages of the volume felt the same way as their dreadful destinies became clear to them?