Friday, October 26, 2007

Joseph Campbell Quote

When I was googling for tree quotes I came across one attributed to Joseph Campbell.

God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah!"
—Joseph Campbell

Hmmm. I wonder if Campbell really said that and if he did, what the reference would be. I couldn't find anything on the Net, so...

I went digging in my Campbell books and found this:
Anyone who has had an experience of mystery knows that there is a dimension of the universe that is not that which is available to his senses. There is a pertinent saying in one of the Upanishads: "When before the beauty of a sunset or a mountain you pause and exclaim, 'Ah,' you are participating in divinity." Such a moment of participation involves a realization of the wonder and sheer beauty of existence. People living in the world of nature experience such moments every day. They live in the recognition of something there that is much greater than the human dimension. Man's tendency, however, is to personify such experiences, to anthropomorphize natural forces.

Our way of thinking in the West sees God as the final source or cause of the energies and wonder of the universe. But in most Oriental thinking, and in primal thinking, also, the gods are rather manifestations and purveyors of an energy that if finally impersonal. They are not its source. The god is the vehicle of its energy.

There's a bit more to the last paragraph, but I think the above gives enough to convey the meaning. And some of the above quote is online, if you google it.

I got it from my Power of Myth paperback on page 258 beginning of chapter 8 Masks of Eternity which is towards the end of the book.

Upanishads - Hindu
I didn't dig up that reference.

I guess Campbell said something similar, but I wouldn't say he made that direct reference to a tree, as far as I could dig up anyway.

BTW, when I first started digging into Joseph Campbell stuff I found out that he went to live in a log cabin out in the boonies for 5 years and did nothing but read. I loved him for that! (Ref: A Joseph Campbell Companion, pg 62, by Osbon.)


Jade L Blackwater said...

Hi Marylin - I'm in the same situation, trying to track down the origin of this popular online quote. Did you by any chance ever find anything in Campbell's work other than what you've shared here?

Many thanks,

Marilyn said...

Hi Jade.
Never looked any further after posting this.