Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Joseph Campbell and Jiddu Krishnamurti

My ongoing reading of Joseph Campbell's life has taken me into new directions and into new literary terrain I have not frequented; it's exciting. Joseph Campbell--on a steam boat from Europe to America in 1924--prodigiously encountered Jiddu Krishnamurti, a famous speaker of religious and spiritual material, and later said that the serendipitous meeting changed his life.

Campbell would encounter Krishnamurti several more times during the 1920s but his last visit occurred in 1929 when he went to hear Krishnamurti speak in Eerde, Holland. Krishnamurti was considered by some theosophists to be the "World Teacher," but he later disbanded the group (Order of the Star) in 1929 which had sprung up around him.

Campbell was so inspired by Krishnamurti's words while at Eerde, he offered the following to his journal:

"So here I hang between my past and my future--trying to fan a spark to flame--a spark which came as the final gift from my past. And now I feel that the old shell of the Joe who was searching and never quite finding lies somewhere in the woods which are about Krishna's castle. --But through the shell was a fairly huge thing, the creature which stepped out of it is microscopic in size! Sometimes I lose him amidst all the rubbish of my old feelings--and I never have seen him stand up on his own feet and walk. But this tiny spark of what I hope to be--this glimmer of gold which I've discovered at last in the midst of disillusions--this thing is what I'm going home now to nourish, and to build into something" (An Open Mind, p. 113).

I think this is why I am so drawn to Campbell's words -- they soothe me and validate my own experience of growth and expansion into the world and into myself. I make it a habit to follow synchronicity whenever it shows up in my life, so when Krishnamurti's name began to pop up rather frequently on my radar, I decided to follow in Alice's footsteps and investigate. I'm beginning with Krishnamurti's "Total Freedom," which is a collection of his work and one which seems to echo my quest for greater self-discovery and awareness.

Krishnamurti writes in his essay "What I Want To Do":

"What I want to do is to help you, the individual, to cross the stream of suffering, confusion and conflict, through deep and complete fulfillment. This fulfillment does not come through egotistic self-expression, nor through compulsion and imitation. Not through some fantastic sentiment and conclusions, but through clear thinking, through intelligent action, we shall cross this stream of pain and sorrow. There is a reality which can be understood only through deep and true fulfillment" (Total Freedom, p. 10).

I'm not entirely sure where this new direction is taking me, but I'm game to find out. Besides, I think it's a tad thrilling to read Campbell and Krishnamurti simultaneously given that they were friends in real life. Perhaps they will look kindly upon my search as I plow through their literature and point out what I need to know and tuck away for future exploration.


Tim Warnock said...

I just finished reading Krishnamurti's Commentaries on Living-- and I've read Joseph Campbell extensively but never really thought about whether these two knew each other in person. Realizing they were contemporaries I just googled and found this, very interesting!

Kelly said...

Hi, Tim.

Don't you just love when synchroncities pop?! I am fascinated by the way certain people criss-cross through life together and how they fingerprint each other's existence. Consider the Krishnamurti/Campbell relationship. Campbell credits meeting Krishnamurti to changing his life path. Doesn't that just blow your feathers off? Whoa.

Cheers, Kelly

Abolarios said...

wow man i had never imagined i would come by looking for these two relationship. i knew they met when joe was in europe studying old medieval history. that experience there was undoubtedly a big impact on his future work since he also discovered thomas mann and joyse while there too. but i keep asking these question to myself now. Jiddu's teaching is a bit contradictory to me since whenever i find myself nodding while he speaks i realise i'm just doind what he taught one shouldn't. then again i come to campbell and i realised he's finding 'truth' in all these massive amount of human thought and somehow promoting a new 'way', that of mythology. I'd have loved to ask joe if he still revered jiddu as he did when he was younger cos i think they set apart into different paths. anyways it was just a thought. good post. greeting from southamerica, chile

Kelly said...

Abolarios, thanks for reaching out! It's always amazing to me when two big minds meet and exchange ideas. I seem to recall that in Joe's biography that the two men were not as close later in life. I could have gotten that wrong, but it stands out for some reason in my memory. http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Mind-Life-Joseph-Campbell/dp/0385500017/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346378562&sr=1-2&keywords=joseph+campbell+biography

I like both men and have learned much from their writings!

Ciao from North America, USA!