Category Archives: Spiritual

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

This looks like it was scanned on an old copy machine.

Where have you been, Kassie? That’s a very good question. I’m living in the UK! Fatherland of Great Literature and I find myself (as a student) with far more time to read than I had before in my crazy busy life in southern California. So, I thought I’d dip back into this for my own enjoyment. It was hard to get myself to sit down and read for long stretches of time (if you can believe it) I kept thinking there were other things I should be doing. BUT I managed to knock out The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell in just over a week. This book was first published in 1949. I was reading an edition from the 1960s borrowed from my school library because, well, poor student – but it served its purpose. I know there’s been more recent editions published so some of my criticisms may have been addressed in subsequent editions, but we can’t all be high-rollers. This book is fairly dense so I will try to keep to short and make it go down easily.

I have a basic familiarity with Joseph Campbell (and by basic I mean I sat through 6 hours of DVD interviews with him) and I have to say a lot of his theories and ideas I think are something that would come to any enthusiast for other cultures/mythologies/religions (you’re talking to the woman who picked up a volume of Finnish folks tales and dabbled in Journey to the West FOR FUN). The ideas that all mythos are interconnected in some great psychological, cosmic (I almost said “cosmotic”) way I think is valid. Although he uses a lot of Freud and dream analogy as evidence for this idea and I think you’d have to be quite a Freudian to go along with some of Campbell’s arguments in that area.

I do love the idea of the monomyth – that there’s one great overarching story we share – and a similar hero’s journey cross cultures. By the end of the book though, I’m not quite convinced he’s gotten his point across that man uses this to find religion in himself: “It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero . . . every one of us shares the supreme ordeal–carries the cross of the redeemer . . . in the silences of his personal despair” (391).  The conclusion is something I get but I don’t know that he’s spent enough time in his text arguing that point and using the evidence to support it. I think Campbell may have stretched himself too thin. This book is dense with research into folk tales and the traditions of other cultures. He may have served his purpose better by choosing fewer examples to give an easily distracted reader, such as myself, more to latch onto.

Now, I’m no feminist, but Campbell hardly references the female journey or “coming of age” rites in this book as well. Granted, he’s a male writer who really wasn’t considering this – which is fine – not really a criticism of him, but if he’s going to apply a universal message to the end it might have been good to see more of the feminine aspects of the societies he analyzes. His does his best to give fair play to the female (and even bisexual) roles of male/female dichotomy in mythology and it’s not his fault women throughout time have mostly played an ancillary role in some of these stories. Still, this is a point worth noting as I am reading this from the opposite perspective… even though most of my heroes are men.

His Catholic roots also show through great deal in this book, more than I think he even realizes. I had to laugh in the DVDs I was watching when he seemed so anti-established religion at times and then called for a return to traditional (I think even Latin) Catholic ceremonies in an effort to call humanity back to ritual which he seems to think is the backbone of order for future generations. I thought, “What a snob you are Joseph Campbell!” To wrap this up, I don’t think this book brought on any major revelations for me, but you can tell it’s fairly exhaustive and Campbell brings up a lot of good points about the interconnectivity of mankind, our search for glory and purpose, and our efforts to understand the world around us for eons and eons. I would love to see someone write a counter to it since it seems these ideas have gone relatively uncontested for so long.

Is Nothing Sacred?

As a single Christian woman I was given Sacred Singleness by Leslie Ludy for encouragement.  There are few women out there (admittedly, I am not one of them) who are content to be single for the rest of their lives. Now, I am not the type who normally sits around in woe over my singleness, it is a choice for the time being, as well as a convenience. My impression after reading this book is that it was written for those women who find themselves struggling with an overwhelming desire to be married and a grave sadness in being single. Ludy’s goal is for such a woman to give up the “relentless pursuit of finding the right guy” and find that Jesus is “more than enough to satisfy the longings and desires of [her] heart” (21). For God to “transform a discontent, worried, anxious, guy-consumed single young woman into a vibrant, radiant, fulfilled soldier of the cross” (125). A nice idea in theory, but I found I could not support Ludy by the end of the book.

My first point of criticism is her citations. When she quotes a person whom she is using to strengthen her argument she cites her source and gives full credit to the author, either directly or by footnote. In presenting counter-arguments, however, she does not always give a full citation. She criticizes how Christian women are “often led to believe it’s okay to build everything around our emotions and our wants. ‘Your heart is good,’ is the message of one popular Christian book. ‘By living out your desires and dreams, you bring glory to your Creator'” (31). No credit is given to an author. As a reader, I found her inconsistency not only poor writing, but frustrating because it leaves me with the impression that she expects me to place full trust in her own research and blindly accept her opinion. Without being able to look up and read source material for myself, what other choice does she leave me?

I think it would be safe to say that Ludy’s overall expectations are unrealistic and lack significant psychological understanding. I don’t say this lightly, only because the examples of women, including herself, who have embraced the lifestyle and mindset she preaches seem to share similar behavioral patterns. She admits that, “I realized the only times I’d ever been single without a guy in my life were the times I’d had no choice . . .whenever I didn’t . . . I spent most of my time and energy trying to find one (18). Another woman’s testimony claims, “Instead of seeking [God’s] presence  . . . I sought after a man’s,” she says, “there was something deep inside that was still not satisfied” (36). Ludy also mentions a young woman who is “an attractive girl, but she exudes a sense of unhappiness and insecurity that diminish her physical beauty” she “feels that God has let her down, and she’s letting the whole world know it” (46). Ludy claims that all these latter two women lack is “a love story with Jesus Christ” (46). I, on the other hand, would be interested to know more about their family backgrounds.

Our relationships and where we seek fulfillment is strongly linked to our upbringing and the sort of familial environment our parents provided. Our spirituality, by proxy, has lot to do with our personal psychology and cognitive life experiences. Thus, I found it laughable when Ludy chastises “modern Chiristian books [that] are dripping with human psychology and human ideas, but are devoid of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ” (58). Personally, some of the most practical Christian literature I have read is written by Christian psychologists, counselors, and therapists with credentials and years of field work behind them. So, when Ludy’s states, “If we are feeling angry, unhappy, miserable, or ticked off about being single (or any other circumstance in life), we shouldn’t merely admit it and call it honesty. Rather, we should admit it and call it what it is– sin” I am inclined to ask her: Was it that easy for you? (109). Is it ever that simple? On paper, maybe. In reality, I cannot believe so. There are too many factors of life which play into our psyche and merely labeling our innate desires and wants sin and asking “God to forgive us and cleanse us by the power of his blood” will not wipe away years of built up resentment and emotional scarring (Ludy 109).

My last point of contention with Ludy is her solution to “filling the void” of the single years. She argues that with all the time single women spend worrying about relationships “we live a life completely focused on self. Meanwhile, children are starving, women are being prostituted, and countless families around the world are ripped apart by disease and poverty” (120). I am not doubting these are worthy causes and I applaud those who find their calling in reaching out to those less fortunate, but Ludy’s manipulative tactics, I think, will only convince the most naive reader that this is something every single woman must pursue.

The rest of the book is devoted to promoting orphan outreach, foster programs, and adoptions and getting involved as a single woman. I found her duplicitous when, speaking of missionary and foster work, she adds: “As odd as it may sound, I believe the best way to find a godly marriage partner is to stop hunting for one and instead focus your entire life around Jesus Christ and His priorities . . . God’s not limited by our circumstance or surroundings . . . God can bring your spouse to you in the remotest village in Africa or in the most hidden slum of Haiti” (124). Is she now proposing a tit-for-tat strategy for her readers? And how does she expect to sell any woman on taking up a noble cause with a strategy based on guilt?

I am not going to go into how my personal biblical beliefs and world view clash with Ludy’s.  Nor how some of her scriptural references conflict with my understanding of God’s word. There, there will always be discrepancies. I want to remain objective, if I may. That way those who read this book, whether Christian or not, may develop their own opinions. I am a huge proponent of reading something, whether or not you might agree with an author, as to encourage conversation and discussion.

With that, I give Sacred Singleness 1 out of 5 stars for good intentions.