Joseph Campbell: MYTHOS

The Complete Seminars


Joseph Campbell: MYTHOS - The Complete Seminars

Project Director: Robert Walker

Produced by William Free

Executive Producer: David M. Fox

Music by Peter Kater

Production Supervisor: Mark Krigbaum

Directed by Roy A. Cox

Date (unknown)



Joseph Campbell

Susan Sarandon



A Joseph Campbell Foundation Production

Video: Athena Learning



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 480i

Codec: MPEG-2

Total Runtime: 14 hours

Number of Episodes: 15

Chapters per episode: 4

Average Episode Runtime: 56 min.

Region Code: 1



English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono



On Mythos III only



• 12-page Viewer’s Guide with essay by Joseph Campbell, a biography, and information on the JC Foundation



6 discs in 3 clamshell cases w/ slipcover

Street date: September 18, 2012

Product Description

Writer, teacher, mythologist, storyteller, and scholar, Joseph Campbell profoundly influenced how we view ourselves and the world. In Mythos I–III, recorded during his final years, he shares everything he learned about myths, symbols, and spiritual journeys.


Collection includes:
Mythos I – The Shaping of Our Mythic Tradition:
Myths, symbols, and the birth of human consciousness.

Mythos II – The Shaping of the Eastern Tradition:
Universal mythic stories and images in the religions of Asia.

Mythos III – The Shaping of the Western Tradition:
Mythic themes in the tales and philosophies of the modern West.




Mythos is a three-part documentary that consists of a series of lectures given by Joseph Campbell. Campbell conceived of the original lectures, filmed over the last six years of his life, as a summation of what he had learned about the human mythic impulse, in terms of psychology, ethnology and comparative mythology—what he called "the one great story of mankind."


After Campbell's death and the posthumous celebrity brought by the airing in 1988 of The Power of Myth, the filmmakers who had recorded the lectures quickly cobbled together a much-abridged, hastily edited series for PBS entitled Transformations of Myth Through Time. An even-more-highly redacted version was briefly released under the title The World of Joseph Campbell.


Campbell's estate, represented by his widow Jean Erdman and, eventually, by the Joseph Campbell Foundation (JCF), asked that these versions, which were unlicensed and did not accurately represent Campbell's thoughts, be pulled from the market, and proposed the production of a twenty-hour television series in four parts that followed Campbell's original vision more closely: Mythos. Volume One of Mythos was released in 1999. Volume Two was released in 2000. Both parts are narrated by Susan Sarandon.


After these initial releases, the original distributor, Unipix, promptly went bankrupt, and production on the series halted. The JCF re-released the first two volumes in 2007 and 2008 in conjunction with Acorn Media as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series and the third volume was released in 2011. The three volumes of Mythos are scheduled to be released together as Mythos - The Complete Series in September 2012, which is what we have here.



Mythos Episodes:

Mythos: Vol. 1, The Shaping of Our Mythic Tradition 

1: Psyche & Symbol - The psychological impulse for and response to myth

2: The Spirit Land - How myths awakened American Indians to the mystery of life

3: On Being Human - The emergence of myth in early hunter-gatherer societies

4: From Goddesses to God - The gradual shift from the Goddess to male, warlike deities

5: The Mystical Life - Non-biblical mythic strains that helped shape the Western spirit


Mythos: Vol. 2, The Shaping of the Eastern Tradition

1: The Inward Path - The core myths of the great Asian religions

2: The Enlightened One - The Buddha and enlightenment, East and West

3: Our Eternal Selves - Yoga and transcendence

4: The Way to Illumination - Kundalini yoga and the seven chakras

5: The Experience of God - Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual journey that is death


Mythos: Vol. 3, The Shaping of the Western Tradition

1: Love as the Guide - The Arthurian romances, including Tristan and Iseult

2: The Path of the Heart - Parzival and the Grail Quest

3: Beyond Time and Space - The Romantic philosophers

4: Between Pairs of Opposites - Thomas Mann and The Magic Mountain

5: Into the Well of Myth - The Joseph novels and modern myth



The Seminar Series: 8

Joseph Campbell, the man many today know either from his putative influence on George Lucas’ Star Wars (and, in some ways, vice-versa) or his Conversations with Bill Moyers, depending on which entertainment circles you find yourself.  Or, you may simply know of him by way of his many books and recorded lectures on the subjects of psychology, mythology and, in general, what it means to be a human being on this planet.


These lectures are offered in something like five or six venues, which helps keep things lively, as these episodes are just what they are advertised to be: lectures - like what you might have had in college - which is where most of them are taped.   Despite the overall weak image quality, we can be grateful that someone took the trouble to insert higher resolution graphics where Campbell refers to them in his many slide projections, drawings, movie clips and wall hangings.


Campbell is a straightforward, buttoned down guy.  There are no frills, and only the driest of humor - what there is of it.  He’s not trying to “sell” his ideas, but merely to put them in as clear a form as possible to an audience eager to listen.  There is no give and take, no Q&A.  JC speaks semi-informally, pacing a little or whist sitting at the edge of a table, never from a lectern. His audience listens.  Here and there we can see some of them taking notes or recording what peals drop from his lips.


Every ten minutes or so, we cut to Susan Sarandon who provides a short break or stopping point if that’s your choice, and makes a useful, if redundant, well-meaning remarks and points us in the direction Campbell is about to take us.  In contrast to the lecturer, her manner is not really to my taste, especially when she refers to Mr. Campbell as “Joe,” which she does often.  Apparently Campbell was often called thus with his encouragement - “Joe” even shows up frequently in the enclosed booklet’s biographical notes.  All the same, it sounds “wrong” when Sarandon says it, perhaps because her scriptwriter fails to set us up with a simple “as he liked to have others call him.”



Image: 2~3

As noted, the image quality here, though variable due to the circumstances of each shoot, never rises to the level of satisfactory.  Combing and smearing can be astonishingly bad at times.  The good news is that there is no real need for detail except for Campbell’s visual aids, charts, slides and what not.  Fortunately these are, for the most part, inserted separately and clearly.  The value of clarity and resolution would have been to make the viewing experience that much easier on the eyes.  Sadly, it’s not like we can fully appreciate the lecture just by listening to it – the first time through at any rate, so the lack of a solid picture has to count heavily against the presentation.  The intermissions with Susan Sarandon are much better, but, alas, only serve to point up how inadequate the lectures look.


Audio & Music: 4

The good news is that the audio is much better.  We don’t have to strain to make out what Mr. Campbell says and the fact that he moves about the stage is not a hindrance either, thanks to body miking.  The bad news is that, except for Mythos III, the series are not subtitled.  Given the density of the lectures this would have been a valuable asset, as the final two discs demonstrate.



Extras: 2

I’m not sure what we should expect here, given that the lectures so eloquently speak for themselves.  There are no on disc extras, unless you count the advertisements for “The Power of Myth”, the 1988 interviews with Bill Moyers, and excellent companion piece to the present lecture series, to be sure.  (The video, also produced by Athena, includes an interview with George Lucas on the subject of Mythology and the Hero’s Journey.)

Curiously there are no notes that I could find, either on the discs, the box or the booklet, that indicates where or when these lectures were filmed.  The whole enterprise has a decidedly “bootleg” feel to it.  Very unprofessional, and thus the Series score of 8 instead of 9 or 10.


Recommendation: 7

Joseph Campbell is one of the most important 20th century Western philosophers of our time.  The three volumes of Mythos represent his thinking about myth, psychology and the human experience.  Anyone who sees themselves as an observer of our species needs to know what Campbell has to say.  It’s too bad that the video image is as weak as it is, but It is unlikely that these lectures will ever get a restoration, not that the source elements will give up much at this stage of technology.  Once through, of course, is not enough.  So there you are.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

September 11, 2012

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