A Correction re. Joseph Campbell

A good friend, in responding to my last blogpost about Roman Catholicism, noted among many other helpful comments, that:

• I was surprised when you refer to him as “the soi-distant sage, profit-making popularizer, and right wing bigot”. That is a strong judgement and I wonder about the basis for it. I went again to my expert advisor – Wikipedia which reports:

• Campbell has also been accused of antisemitism by some authors. In a 1989 New York Review of Books article, Brendan Gill accused Campbell of both antisemitism and prejudice against blacks.[82] Gill’s article resulted in a series of letters to the editor, some supporting the charge of antisemitism or accusing Campbell of having various right-wing biases, others defending him. However, according to Robert S. Ellwood, Gill relied on “scraps of evidence, largely anecdotal” to support his charges.[83] In 1991, Masson also accused Campbell of “hidden anti-Semitism” and “fascination with conservative, semifascistic views”.[84] Contrarily, the “fascist undercurrents” in Campbell’s work and especially its influence on Star Wars have been called “a reminder of how easily totalitarianism can knock at any society’s door.”[85] The religious studies scholar Russell T. McCutcheon characterized the “following [of] the bliss of self-realization” in Campbell’s work as “spiritual and psychological legitimation” for Reaganomics.[86]

My friend then continues:

• I am skeptical of the strength and basis for the charge if this kind of source is the basis. If anti-semitism is hidden, how does one know? The indication is that the sources of most of these were more conversational that in carefully thought publications. If he or we are to be judged finally judged by what may be such utterances, I shudder to think where we end up. How much of a racist or anti-semite could I be judged to be and is that then a fair summary of my life and views?

My response: I do admit that my initial comments were sweeping and too broad. And I agree with my friend’s final sentences just above. Beyond that I refer the reader to Wikipedia and other sources.


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