Joseph Campbell: The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (The Way of Art)

Joseph Campbell: The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (The Way of Art)


Today I would like to briefly share with you another one of my favorite books. Not so long ago I have talked about Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art, a book that is concerned more with the philosophy of art than the manual process of art making. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space takes the discussion one step further.

The book has three chapters:

  1. Cosmology and the Mythic Imagination
  2. Metaphor As Myth and As Religion
  3. The Way of Art

The first two chapters are an excellent material in their own right. For the purpose of today’s article, however, I am referring, for the most part, to the Chapter 3: The Way of Art. This chapter is directly concerned with the principles of esthetics and art making. The Way of Art shows the function of art in the context of mythology. Which, from this point of view, is in fact the very reason why art exists in the first place. “For it is the artist who brings the images of a mythology to manifestation, and without images (whether mental or visual) there is no mythology.”

If you’re familiar at all with Joseph Campbell’s work, you are no stranger to these concepts and to viewing world from different angle. If the name Joseph Campbell, however, doesn’t mean anything to you, let me insert here a brief introduction from the back cover of the book:

“Joseph Campbell is widely credited with bringing mythology to a mass audience. His works, including The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the four-volume The Masks of God, and The Power of Myth (with Bill Moyers), rank among the classics in mythology and literature.” If you’ve never read any of Campbell’s works this is going to be an eye-opener for you, of that I’m sure. The first time I’ve heard of Joseph Campbell, some years ago, I didn’t know what to think. The name was not at all familiar. On top of that I had rather a skewed idea about what mythology was. But as I pride myself for having an open mind, I jumped right in with my eyes wide open and tackled The Hero with a Thousand Faces as my first book from this amazing author. Little did I know what treasure I had stumbled upon and what journey is to unfold before me. Since, I have read a lot more of his studies and each of them was well worth the time and effort. Each one was more revealing than the one before. And so I thought that if I should introduce you to your first Campbell, what could be a more appropriate start than The Way of Art.

I hope this short recommendation motivates you to check out the work of Joseph Campbell if you were not familiar with it. If you’d like a more introductory book to his work in general, I recommend The Power of Myth (with Bill Moyers), which is also available as a television program. In any case, I envy you the experience of reading one of his books for the first time. Enjoy it and let me know what you think in the comments below.

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