Joseph Campbell, Earthrise–The Dawning of a New Spiritual Awareness



I’ve found myself over the years repeatedly going back to a few of Joseph Campbell’s books and articles. Among them, of course, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and his 1979 article “Earthrise–The Dawning of a New Spiritual Awareness,” reprinted in Thou Art That (2001), which I’ll let here speak for itself:

“Men stood on the moon and looked back and by television we were able to look back with them–to see earthrise….

With the moon walk, the religious myth that sustained these notions could no longer be held. With our view of earthrise, we could see that the earth and the heavens were no longer divided but that the earth is in the heavens. There is no division and all the theological notions based on the distinction between the heavens and the earth collapse with that realization. There is a unity in the universe and a unity in our own experience….

Symbolically, the same tradition suggests the return of Mother Earth to the heavens, the very thing that has occurred because of our journeys into space….The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth–that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us…….the Space Age reminds us that it must come from within ourselves. The voyages into outer space turn us back to inner space.As Thomas Merton wrote, a symbol contains a structure that awakens our consciousness to a new awareness of the inner meaning of life and reality itself. Through symbols we enter emotionally into contact with our deepest selves, with each other, and with God–a word that is to be understood as a symbol.”

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