The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Wed, 04/06/2016
A review of our history with Joseph Campbell and current relationship with the Mythological Roundtable® of Ojai.

by Ria Nochera, Program Logistics Coordinator at The Ojai Foundation

In 1979, Dr. Joan Halifax, Zen Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, and much more, was asked to lead our organization in a new direction, which was then renamed "The Ojai Foundation." At the time, Dr. Halifax had a background of personal study with spiritual leaders from around the world. Her wide-ranging ties with indigenous peoples and her Western academic connections helped to draw an extraordinary faculty to the rustic facility that came to be known informally as the "Wizard's Camp." One of these “wizards” was renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell. At the time, Dr. Halifax was his research assistant and it was this connection that prompted his initial lectures at our Teaching Tree. Below is a provocative excerpt from his most famous discussion here, referred to as the “Grail Legends”:

"So, the main thing to realize is the concept of energy consciousness, which is the support, the ground of all being; it can’t be named, it’s undifferentiated.  It has no fact-uality.  All facts are manifestations of that energy. The syllable om is, in the kundalini, spoken of the sound that is made by no two things striking together, the sound of one hand clapping.  That sound is the sound of the energy of the Universe of which all things are manifestations.”

After Campbell’s death in 1987, The Joseph Campbell Foundation (JCF) was formed in order to honor and preserve his teachings, continue his work in mythology and comparative religion, and provide opportunities for individuals to enrich their lives through this academic participation. Many of these opportunities are presented by JCF’s Mythological RoundTable® (MRT) groups, which are monthly gatherings of people who share a common interest in all things mythological. These gatherings vary widely in their membership and activities—some group sizes range from 5-500 members and there is no set curriculum.

It is through our relationship with the MRT of Ojai that we have continued to spread the wisdom of Joseph Campbell. William Linn, PhD, the cofounder and co-leader of this group, writes about how this connection began:

“In the summer of 2011, five candidates for PhD’s in mythological studies moved into what became affectionately known as The Mythouse. The Mythouse grounds yielded over twenty types of fruit— pomegranates, persimmons, mulberries, citrus varieties and jujus, guavas—always more than we could eat. The mountain trail was a stone’s-throw away, and at its base was a swimming hole with a waterfall and rope swing strait from the childhood imagination.
Not far from the Mythouse, completely unbeknownst to us, was an axial center for some of the greatest religious philosophers of the 20th century. Krishnamurti, Houston Smith, Aldous Huxley, Black Elk, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robert Bly, James Hillman and Joseph Campbell had all delivered profound talks on these grounds, and some of them—like Krishnamurti and Joseph Campbell—with consistent regularity.
Before we moved in, we had the idea of starting a Mythological RoundTable®… When three of us—Craig Deininger, Matt McClain, and Will Linn (I)—founded the group, we contacted every theater in Ojai to find a home, never even learning of The Ojai Foundation until coming across a bulletin board in Roaster’s Coffee filled with flyers promoting events on their grounds. On the brink of severe discouragement, we contacted The Ojai Foundation, who welcomed us gleefully and told us their history. We were, of course, floored—absolutely stunned by the gravity we were beginning to feel.”

The feeling was mutual. We are happy to provide a platform for Campbell’s work, just as we did in the 1980s. In the words of the great mythologist himself, “your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” This month on Sunday, April 17 we are excited to welcome the Mythological RoundTable® of Ojai back to our ridge in the upper Ojai valley for a presentation with Grace Hogstad on Jung, Campbell, and the myth of Inanna. See you there!


For a full, verbatim transcription of the “Grail Legends,” please click here.