Sunday, August 30, 2009

This is Eden


What follows is an excerpt from conversation between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers that illuminates what is meant by the Navajo "Pollen Path."


CAMPBELL: Yes, that is what I’m saying, Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. The problem with heaven is that you will be having such a good time there, you won’t even think of eternity. You’ll just have this unending delight in the beatific vision of God. But the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.

CAMPBELL: This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

MOYERS: So the experience of God is beyond description, but we feel compelled to try to describe it?

CAMPBELL: That’s right. Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called "On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual," points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else. And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life which is the universal will in nature.

It’s a magnificent idea – an idea that appears in India in the mythic image of the Net of Indra, which is a net of gems, where at every crossing of one thread over another there is a gem reflecting all the other reflective gems. Everything arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you can’t blame anybody for anything. It is even as though there were a single intention behind it all, which always makes some kind of sense, though none of us knows what the sense might be, or has lived the life that he quite intended.

MOYERS: And yet we all have lived a life that had a purpose. Do you believe that?

CAMPBELL: Wait a minute. Just sheer life cannot be said to have a purpose, because look at all the different purposes it has all over the place. But each incarnation, you might say, has a potentiality, and the mission of life is to live that potentiality. How do you do it,’ My answer is, "Follow your bliss." There’s something inside you that knows when you’re in the center, that knows when you’re on the beam or off the beam, And if you get off the beam to earn money, you’ve lost your life. And if you stay in the center and don’t get any money, you still have your bliss.

MOYERS: I like the idea that it is not the destination that counts, it’s the journey.

CAMPBELL: Yes. As Karlfried Graf Durckheim says, "When you’re on a journey, and the end keeps getting further and further away, then you realize that the real end is the journey." The Navajo have that wonderful image of what they call the pollen path. Pollen is the life source, the pollen path is the path to the center. The Navajo say, "Oh, beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left of me, beauty above me, beauty below me, I’m on the pollen path,"

MOYERS: Eden was not, Eden will be.

CAMPBELL: Eden is. "The kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it."

MOYERS: Eden is – in this world of pain and suffering and death and violence?

CAMPBELL: That is the way it feels, but this is it, this is Eden. When you see the kingdom spread upon the earth, the old way of living in the world is annihilated. That is the end of the world, The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance.

5 comments:

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

I have read this passage many times, and each time something new jumps out at me. This time I was aware of how Moyers, grounded in his religious views, has trouble grasping what Campbell is getting at. (Moyers: Eden was not, Eden will be. Campbell: Eden is.)

While Campbell quotes the Bible he seems to do so as he quotes any other sacred texts - and I noticed in this excerpt how he never refers to a god, but to the will within, the bliss within, the one big dream where all those in it also dream, the pure potentiality of being, the transcendence of the eternal.

It is like he distilled the knowledge and acquired wisdom from other times, peoples, places, cultures into what it all points to, and to what we all ultimately know in our eternal core.

Thanks so much Dan. A nice way to start any day.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie— I'm glad if this post helped start your day. About Moyers: Yes, exactly. I noticed the same thing about how Moyers misses the point about "when" Eden/eternity is. It's now and now and now. It's lovely to see so many bloggers out looking for and seeing the wondrous natural world, flowers, insects, rain, clouds, tigers hugging people, you name it. Beauty ahead, beauty behind, beauty to the right, beauty to the left, beauty above, beauty below.

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

Just wonderful...

thanks for digging that conversation out...It was probably from Joseph Campbell that I first learned of the pollen path...

I love this way we have of running with each other's ideas and triggers...it gives depth and richness to a topic and invites more people in to share...to learn, to remember and to enjoy...

great work Dan...

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, too, Delwyn. I'd not have come across this, but for your mention of the pollen path on your transformative moment post. I've come to appreciate the immense value and power of community as opposed to individual effort. As you say, this is an example of just that.

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Dan~ I needed to hear this reflection again. It helps me a lot. Thank you. It first brougt to mind the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder when random individuals were all killed crossing the bridge at he same time, their lives intertwined in one seemingly senseless point in time. Schopenhauer's Symphony? God's Master Plan? Yes, being on the Pollen Path is the real life; losig our current life form isn't: it's transformation to another. And I have the perfect post to be with myself--I need to go there everyday. Thank you, Dan.