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Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind: The Authorized Biography

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The fascinating biography that illuminates the man whose work changed modern culture • Gives a complete biographical view of Campbell's life and a personal perspective of who he was through the voices of his friends and colleagues • Written by two of Campbell's preeminent students with exclusive access to his notes and journals Joseph Campbell forged an approach to the study The fascinating biography that illuminates the man whose work changed modern culture • Gives a complete biographical view of Campbell's life and a personal perspective of who he was through the voices of his friends and colleagues • Written by two of Campbell's preeminent students with exclusive access to his notes and journals Joseph Campbell forged an approach to the study of myth and legend that made ancient traditions and beliefs immediate, relevant, and universal. His teachings and literary works, including The Masks of God, have shown that beneath the apparent themes of world mythology lie patterns that reveal the ways in which we all may encounter the great mysteries of existence: birth, growth, soul development, and death. Biographers Stephen and Robin Larsen, students and friends of Campbell for more than 20 years, weave a rich tapestry of stories and insights that catalogue both his personal and public triumphs.


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The fascinating biography that illuminates the man whose work changed modern culture • Gives a complete biographical view of Campbell's life and a personal perspective of who he was through the voices of his friends and colleagues • Written by two of Campbell's preeminent students with exclusive access to his notes and journals Joseph Campbell forged an approach to the study The fascinating biography that illuminates the man whose work changed modern culture • Gives a complete biographical view of Campbell's life and a personal perspective of who he was through the voices of his friends and colleagues • Written by two of Campbell's preeminent students with exclusive access to his notes and journals Joseph Campbell forged an approach to the study of myth and legend that made ancient traditions and beliefs immediate, relevant, and universal. His teachings and literary works, including The Masks of God, have shown that beneath the apparent themes of world mythology lie patterns that reveal the ways in which we all may encounter the great mysteries of existence: birth, growth, soul development, and death. Biographers Stephen and Robin Larsen, students and friends of Campbell for more than 20 years, weave a rich tapestry of stories and insights that catalogue both his personal and public triumphs.

30 review for Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind: The Authorized Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I really liked this biography and was interested that Campbell resisted biography, so I was glad it was written by a pair of his students who have carried on his work. I remember watching a television series of his lectures and being shocked at the end, to see that he was dead; he was so alive to me in his words and, of course, on film. So you'd think I'd be prepared, entering the final chapter! In full intellectual awareness and, I thought, emotional acceptance of his death, still I felt the so I really liked this biography and was interested that Campbell resisted biography, so I was glad it was written by a pair of his students who have carried on his work. I remember watching a television series of his lectures and being shocked at the end, to see that he was dead; he was so alive to me in his words and, of course, on film. So you'd think I'd be prepared, entering the final chapter! In full intellectual awareness and, I thought, emotional acceptance of his death, still I felt the sorrow building as we approached the inevitable. The last chapter includes various accounts of people intuiting Campbell's death as it was happening, little incidents of premonition or weird "accident" that, in retrospect, seem like a visitation or a manifestation... I raised my head from my reading to recall that something like that had happened to me regarding the death of a fairly recent acquaintance who, after his death, has become very important to me. Hmm, stuff like this actually happens, I kept pondering...then returned to the reading. And then this weird thing happened: On a cloudy day, as I sat reading at the kitchen table beside the sliding glass doors, the sun emerged as I read this sentence, part of a closing testimonial by Lynne Kaufman: "He was radiant, the aliveness of the world came through him." The sun slowly faded during the next two sentences, so when I looked up, the day was its former self, and I could laugh and be aware of the fittingness of it all, the choice to read nature symbolically, the simultaneous possibility of the supernatural, the synchronicity or serendipity of it, the personal mythology of it. Delightful. And now, as I type up my little reading response, the sun has re-emerged and is shining (as "he was shining," also in Lynne Kaufman's testimonial)through my office windows, as if in approval. Ha!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sherie

    Long ago when I watched Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell I became fascinated with Campbell. This is a very comprehensive biography and I had to take it in stages to process what I'd read. Campbell dares to explore much of what we hold near and dear. His extensive studies of myths and how they relate to the daily lives of people around the globe should intrigue, but it tends to be threatening, because it exposes what some view as facts and these "facts" are the building blocks of some people Long ago when I watched Bill Moyers interview Joseph Campbell I became fascinated with Campbell. This is a very comprehensive biography and I had to take it in stages to process what I'd read. Campbell dares to explore much of what we hold near and dear. His extensive studies of myths and how they relate to the daily lives of people around the globe should intrigue, but it tends to be threatening, because it exposes what some view as facts and these "facts" are the building blocks of some people's faith. My childhood religious education amounted to "the bible said it, I believe it, and that settles it". Thinking "outside the box" or questioning our tenets of faith were not just frowned on, but actively surpressed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    A competent, inspiring account on the whole life of my favorite hero

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hannibal

    This is a comprehensive birth-to-death biography of an important thinker. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the work of Joseph Campbell -- The Power of Myth is better for that -- but once you are intrigued, it's a satisfying addition to Campbell reading. This is a comprehensive birth-to-death biography of an important thinker. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the work of Joseph Campbell -- The Power of Myth is better for that -- but once you are intrigued, it's a satisfying addition to Campbell reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Winnie Lim

    What an incredible man. What a great book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sexy

    This book personally challenged me. It is a surprisingly detailed account of a man who accomplished a great deal in his life. Joseph Campbell had a great deal to teach us all, only due to the fact he probably learned far more than he could ever have taught in his life time. Joseph Campbell was a man who helped a great many people learn about who they are by learning from the great myths of our ancestors. We find at the heart of every myth, hiding between the words passed down and in between the This book personally challenged me. It is a surprisingly detailed account of a man who accomplished a great deal in his life. Joseph Campbell had a great deal to teach us all, only due to the fact he probably learned far more than he could ever have taught in his life time. Joseph Campbell was a man who helped a great many people learn about who they are by learning from the great myths of our ancestors. We find at the heart of every myth, hiding between the words passed down and in between the lines recorded, there are pieces of ourselves. A fantastic account that will leave the reader indebted to all those who have contributed to the retelling of this great man's life, his passion, his efforts, and works.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Authors do a great job of capturing Campbell's life through his own journals, and through interviews with his friends and associates. What an amazing life and portrait of a scholarly life. Of course he knew and associated with many other famous people, but I was surprised to learn of his time spent with John Steinbeck, when both were still young men. I came to an even greater appreciation of Campbell's approach to mythology and it's role in the human experience. Authors do a great job of capturing Campbell's life through his own journals, and through interviews with his friends and associates. What an amazing life and portrait of a scholarly life. Of course he knew and associated with many other famous people, but I was surprised to learn of his time spent with John Steinbeck, when both were still young men. I came to an even greater appreciation of Campbell's approach to mythology and it's role in the human experience.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ann-marie

    Reading this is an education in of itself. I wish I'd read this before grad school. . .but then again, I would have missed or overlooked certain authors Campbell read. . .anyway. It's a slow read. Intelligent with insights to the culture, age and shows how he became Joseph Campbell. Reading this is an education in of itself. I wish I'd read this before grad school. . .but then again, I would have missed or overlooked certain authors Campbell read. . .anyway. It's a slow read. Intelligent with insights to the culture, age and shows how he became Joseph Campbell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edda

    Inspiring and fascinating. Don't let the fact that it's a 600+ page biography turn you off to it--it really is a great read. Inspiring and fascinating. Don't let the fact that it's a 600+ page biography turn you off to it--it really is a great read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wilson

    One of the most inspiring and vivid biographies I have ever read! Campbell was a scholar from a bygone era, a true genius.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Bunick

    I have read and deeply admired a great many of Joseph Campbell’s books. I love the academic writings on comparative mythology, that are intellectually stimulating and reach broadly across time and geography. His later books and essays turn towards an examination of life, using his vast knowledge of humankind and personal experience to tie together the individual with all of humanity in a spiritual way. As he is quoted in this biography when asked about searching for the meaning of life he said, I have read and deeply admired a great many of Joseph Campbell’s books. I love the academic writings on comparative mythology, that are intellectually stimulating and reach broadly across time and geography. His later books and essays turn towards an examination of life, using his vast knowledge of humankind and personal experience to tie together the individual with all of humanity in a spiritual way. As he is quoted in this biography when asked about searching for the meaning of life he said, “No, that’s not it-it’s deepening and opening the experience of life that we are really after.” If I was to get a Mt. Rushmore tattoo of the people that have changed my life for the better, Campbell’s face would be one of the four. Campbell did not believe in biographies for writers, as he felt the writings should stand for themselves. In the Authors’ Preface it is pointed out that Campbell did not want a biography, “urging those who wanted to write about his life to work on their own lives-not on his.” How about that? And so I am very grateful that they did spend time on Campbell‘s biography, so that we could get insight into this extraordinary person and mind from his childhood forward. For instance, I found out that, and was not very surprised by, Campbell was far ahead of his time on many things that even today struggle with broad acceptance. Issues like feminism, social justice, the exploitation of the oppressed and poor. Although he didn’t believe in or practice activism (nor did all of his academic reading and writing allow time for it), he was unafraid to speak his views and challenged people he met and groups that he spoke to to examine their flawed thinking and privilege. And yes, he was one of the privileged, however he did positive things with it instead of abusing it or taking it for granted. Even those that are not familiar with his work would enjoy this story. It is easy to be inspired by his courage of conviction, and the constant search for knowledge and life experience.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erinn

    I’m a massive Campbell fan, so I’ve been eager to soak up whatever context I can in order to better understand his genius. This book flowed well overall- I do admit there were some slower parts, but what do you expect in a book that covers the entire expanse of a person’s life? I recommend this book to any seeker interested in Campbell’s work and legacy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Didn't make it past the first page. Very disappointing. Didn't make it past the first page. Very disappointing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This biography is well-written and comprehensive, but it could have been more critical. For a good critique of this biography and Campbell's work, see this essay by Mortimer Adler: http://www.radicalacademy.com/adlerca... Campbell had some genuine insights into mythology (e.g., The Hero with a Thousand Faces), but I've moved away from his thought in many ways. I find it too relativistic as it makes "myths" from all the different faiths equivalent. I don't think that's true. IMHO, C.S. Lewis had a This biography is well-written and comprehensive, but it could have been more critical. For a good critique of this biography and Campbell's work, see this essay by Mortimer Adler: http://www.radicalacademy.com/adlerca... Campbell had some genuine insights into mythology (e.g., The Hero with a Thousand Faces), but I've moved away from his thought in many ways. I find it too relativistic as it makes "myths" from all the different faiths equivalent. I don't think that's true. IMHO, C.S. Lewis had a better approach as detailed in _Mere Christianity_. Yes, you can find similarities among the many religious mythologies of the world, e.g., you can find stories about dying and rising gods. But in one case, that myth became historical fact in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pat Rolston

    This book will allow an even greater appreciation of the amazing work done by Campbell while providing insight into an amazing life well lived. His sheer hunger for knowledge combined with an intense curiosity of all things provides perspective as to motivations leading to his literary achievements. The friends and associates throughout his life are some of the 20th century's greatest intellects and authors. John Steinbeck, Alan Watts, Carl Jung, Heinrich Zimmer, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Margaret This book will allow an even greater appreciation of the amazing work done by Campbell while providing insight into an amazing life well lived. His sheer hunger for knowledge combined with an intense curiosity of all things provides perspective as to motivations leading to his literary achievements. The friends and associates throughout his life are some of the 20th century's greatest intellects and authors. John Steinbeck, Alan Watts, Carl Jung, Heinrich Zimmer, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Margaret Mead, are all part of a group Campbell knew well or had close association. There are more, but the absolute trust and respect most people felt for him reflect his impeccable character. The author is meticulous while entertaining in capturing the spirit and nuances of this giant of 20th century thought.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ed Bonthron

    It was an outstanding book. It was a little slow in the beginning. It was very deep but considering the man that is no surprise. While reading this book I complied a list of other books I want to get my hands on but once again anyone who has any contact with any other Joseph Campbell work this isn't a surprise. The authors did very well by Mr Campbell. I would recommend this book to anyone who interested in Mr Campbell's life. It was an outstanding book. It was a little slow in the beginning. It was very deep but considering the man that is no surprise. While reading this book I complied a list of other books I want to get my hands on but once again anyone who has any contact with any other Joseph Campbell work this isn't a surprise. The authors did very well by Mr Campbell. I would recommend this book to anyone who interested in Mr Campbell's life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    The incredible tale of the adventurer who so deeply wanted to understand the adventure is unquestionably, A Fire in the Mind. "My favorite definition of mythology: Other people's religion. My favorite definition of religion: Misunderstanding of mythology." (Joseph Campbell) "No mythology that continues to speak or to teach of "elsewheres" and "outsiders" meets the requirement of this hour." (Joseph Campbell) The incredible tale of the adventurer who so deeply wanted to understand the adventure is unquestionably, A Fire in the Mind. "My favorite definition of mythology: Other people's religion. My favorite definition of religion: Misunderstanding of mythology." (Joseph Campbell) "No mythology that continues to speak or to teach of "elsewheres" and "outsiders" meets the requirement of this hour." (Joseph Campbell)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Incredibly detailed, this definitive biography on Joe Campbell is strongest when talking about his childhood and formative years while in his 20's and early thirties. The authors were friends with Campbell and there is certainly a change in tone when the book enters the portion of his life in which the authors knew him. An OK book, but a good read for JC fans. Incredibly detailed, this definitive biography on Joe Campbell is strongest when talking about his childhood and formative years while in his 20's and early thirties. The authors were friends with Campbell and there is certainly a change in tone when the book enters the portion of his life in which the authors knew him. An OK book, but a good read for JC fans.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm only on page 100 of 600 (counting the notes) and I can hardly put this down. Joseph Campbell's work has always struck me as extraordinary intelligent and inspiring, and his life (so far) is as well. The book is beautifully written, too, even when not using Campbell's own wonderful words. I'm only on page 100 of 600 (counting the notes) and I can hardly put this down. Joseph Campbell's work has always struck me as extraordinary intelligent and inspiring, and his life (so far) is as well. The book is beautifully written, too, even when not using Campbell's own wonderful words.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tim Hodges

    Here's the thing: I always found Joseph Campbell's work very interesting, but the more I read about how he just sort of floated through life sponging off people I developed the urge to kick him in the ass and tell him to get a job. So that pretty much ruined this book for me. Here's the thing: I always found Joseph Campbell's work very interesting, but the more I read about how he just sort of floated through life sponging off people I developed the urge to kick him in the ass and tell him to get a job. So that pretty much ruined this book for me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rich Hoffman

    Since I loved the work of Joseph Campbell so much I had to read this. I consider Campbell to be my personal teacher and a large contributer of the foundations of my education. This book was written by people close to Campbell and does not disappoint

  22. 5 out of 5

    John

    I wish I had read some of the books that Campbell was passionate about, and also more of his books, prior to reading this biography, but it was still worth reading. I think I'll read it again should I ever get those other books read. I wish I had read some of the books that Campbell was passionate about, and also more of his books, prior to reading this biography, but it was still worth reading. I think I'll read it again should I ever get those other books read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Márcio Duarte

    Campbell's personal history realy shows an acurate desciption of his own "follow your bliss" motto. A great read! Campbell's personal history realy shows an acurate desciption of his own "follow your bliss" motto. A great read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Milton

    If you want to learn about Joseph Campbells ideas, this book is the most entertaining and complete way to discover them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cyd Madsen

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacques T. Cummings

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Treece

  28. 4 out of 5

    April

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Morrison

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

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