The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

by Joseph Campbell

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Religion as Metaphor

Campbell explores how so many religious conflicts exist because people take metaphorical texts literally. For Campbell, religious texts across the world contain many more similarities and connections with each other when explored through a mythological and metaphorical lens. For example, Campbell takes the events of the virgin birth, salvation, and the fall in Christianity as metaphors that are reflected in myths and folklore across the world and throughout the ages. However, when taken literally, these events can be seen as isolated narratives that hold little to no connectivity with other events or people throughout the world.

Universal Religious Commonalities

In attempting to search for deeper connectedness throughout our world, Campbell seeks to find universal themes in religion, myths, folklores, and philosophical pondering. Campbell roots this connectedness in the concept of god within oneself rather than a superior force or deity that cannot be touched. Campbell sees this god within as a shift from good-versus-evil dichotomies that situate humans as sinful and evil in contrast with distant, unknowable gods that are pure and good. Instead, this lens fosters interpersonal connection and reflection.

Inner Reflections and Outward Expressions

Campbell explores this concept of god within one's self to discuss the commonalities found between inner reflections (inner space) and outward expressions (outer space). Part of the inner reflections that Campbell explores is the dream state and how dreams can be reflections of outer space and spiritual practices of groups of people. Campbell also sees how the expressions of artists are micro expressions of the macro realities of the universe. Rather than seeing these individual expressions of artists as separate from the inherent art of the universe, Joseph Campbell instead sees these expressions as two aspects of the same universal realities.

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