Joseph Campbell conveys the most profound ideas in the simplest of ways. Something that I have been interested in for quite some time is his definition of metaphor and society's understanding of it.
God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all the human categories of thought, including the categories of being and non-being.....
Our society is split 50/50 in their relationship to this metaphor. Those who say the metaphor is fact are theists. Those who say the metaphor is a lie are atheists....
Neither understands metaphor!
This makes me want to cry tears of joy. This is exactly it! It is a misunderstanding of metaphor!
Prior to making this statement, he shares a story of when he was being interviewed by someone in front of a live audience. With about 5 minutes until the end of the show, the interviewer says something about mythology being a lie. Joseph Campbell says it isn't a lie, it is a metaphor. And then realizes his interviewer does not know what a metaphor is. So with the clock ticking, Campbell asks the interviewer to give him an example of a metaphor, and the interviewer can't do it. A man in the audience stands up and says he'd give a try and offers, "He runs so fast he is like a deer." Joseph Campbell says, " that is not the metaphor. The metaphor is "He is a deer".'
He runs so fast he is a deer - not like a deer, he is a deer. Metaphor and simile are not simply different methods of comparison. A metaphor goes beyond comparison. It's not just putting something side by side as a simile does: He's so smart he's like an encyclopedia. The two become interchangeable: He IS an encyclopedia.
We know he isn't an encylopedia. We don't think of that as fact. But at the same time, we realize that it isn't a lie either.
God is a metaphor. God is our idea of something that cannot be categorized - is neither noun, nor verb, subject or object. God points to that something, but is not that something because God is a word and a word is a technology. At best, God is an idea. Not fact. It can neither be fact nor lie.
I tried to explain this to my husband and he didn't understand what I was trying to say. I think this is either one of those things you get, or you don't. I hate those things.
Something else I found particularly interesting is what he claims the problem is with the Judeo/Christian religions: the problem is that the accent is on historical terms. Everything viewed within Judaism and Christianity has to be validated historically, in some way. So in terms of Christ's resurrection, a historical accent would see this as a historical calamity. It's the result of our sins. It had to happen based upon historical events...
But, if you don't think of metaphor as fact or fiction, then you can see it in a completely different way. You can see it as "the zeal of eternity for incarnation in time which involves the breaking up of the one into the many and acceptance of the sufferings of the world. "Beautiful!