You Are That (.org)
The resurrection of my late lamented website (mostly) on spiritual matters.

Joseph Campbell: Curriculum Vitae

[This essay was originally posted to]

Note: This appears to have been written by Campbell himself. I found it on the JCF website long ago, and copied it to my hard drive. It has since been removed from that site, or I would simply link to it there. I requested permission to post it here, but had no reply. Until an objection is lodged, I will maintain it on this site.

1904: Born, New York City.

  • Merchant Father, Charles W. Campbell of Waltham, Mass. (Grandfather Campbell, from County Mayo, Ireland) Mother, Josephine E. Lynch, of New York (Grandfather Lynch, from Dublin, Ireland: Member of Ancient Order of Hibernians, rode a horse at the head of New York Saint Patrick Day parades)

1913-21: Family residence in New Rochelle, N.Y.

  • Next door to New Rochelle public library: reading in children's section, became interested in American Indians; admitted to adult stacks to continue studies.


  • Family builds country bungalow on Pike County, Pennsylvania. Close neighbor, Elmer Gregor, writer of boy's books on American Indians and devoted Naturalist. He became my mentor for many years, intimate friend and inspiration. Also nearby, Dan Beard's camp for boys. This period of my life was completely devoted to Indians, the woods, bird watching, and voluminous reading.

1919-21: Canterbury School, New Milford, Conn.

  • A superb Headmaster, Dr. Nelson Hume, introduced me to the values of literature and the art of writing. He became my next great mentor, and remained my close friend for many years. (His name will appear again.) My favorite subject, however, was biology. (At this time, my studies of Indian lore ceased: no academic connections) Wrote for school literary magazine (The Quill), was editor, 1920-21. Wrote for school weekly paper (The Tabard), business manager, 1920-21. Played on football and hockey teams. Graduated 1921, with "Head Boy" award.


  • Our family house in New Rochelle burned down. A major crisis and disaster. My wonderful collection of Indian books and relics gone. Beloved grandmother killed. Family becomes nomadic: two more years in New Rochelle, and then to New York. - The bungalow in Pennsylvania more important now than ever.

1921-22: Dartmouth College

  • Major studies: Biology and mathematics
  • Member of Musical clubs
  • Member of Freshman football squad.
  • Joined Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
  • Complete disorientation. Religious doubts beginning. College courses, too easy.
  • College life, largely absurd. Thoughts of quitting College altogether for business.

Summer 1922:

  • Read Merejekowski's The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, and became suddenly certain that I should shift my interest from science to culture history. Decided to transfer to Columbia and live at home (family now in New York).

1922-27: Columbia University: A.B. '25; M.A. '27.

  • Studied literature with Raymond Weaver, who became my third great mentor and inspiration. Other important influences, Irwin Edman, John Erskine, W.W. Lawrence, Roger S. Loomis.
  • Member of Track Team, 1924-26; Captain 1926
  • Columbia Half Mile record, 1926
  • Two Penn Relay Championships, 1926
  • Member New York Athletic Club Track Teams, 1925, 1926, 1927
  • Many relay and individual championships
  • Chief hobby: playing saxophone in jazz bands for college and fraternity dances - building bank account thereby.

Summer 1923:

  • Travel with family to California, then by ship south to Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, and to Cuba and home. First important break from Pennsylvania summer-woods context. Beginning of extensive travel experiences.

Summer 1924:

  • Travel with family to Europe: England, Scotland, Wales, Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy. - Mit Jiddu Krishnamurti and became interested, in a vague way, in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Summer 1925:

  • With New York Athletic Club Track Team to A.A.U. Championships in San Francisco. After meet, continued alone to Hawaii. Undecided as to whether I should return to Columbia for graduate degree or go into business with father.

Autumn 1925:

  • Went into business with father, but, at home, read Frazer's The Golden Bough. Renewed interest in American Indians, Anthropology, etc. Decision to return to Columbia, but with mixed interest: Anthropology or Literature? Could read only English, therefore Anthropology was impossible. Hence, English.

February 1926: Return to Columbia

  • Return to Track career, both with Columbia and with N.Y.A.C.
  • Main Field of Study: Medieval Literature. Became interested in Arthurian Legends, completed thesis on the Dolorous Stroke. Recognition of relationships to anthropological field. Secondary fields of study: Evolution (renewal of biological studies), Primitive Religion (renewal of American Indian studies), Chinese Philosophy (commencement of Oriental studies). - Raymond Weaver had advised me to study as many courses as possible outside of the Literature Department, while in graduate school, and not to continue at Columbia for a Ph.D. degree His reasons had to do, not with my own fields of interest, but with what he judged to be the value of work the people teaching at Columbia. Actually, I found the work with Lawrence and Loomis fascinating; and Lawrence, in fact, became my next important guide.

Summer 1926:

  • Travel with family in England, Norway, and to Spitzbergen.


  • Received Proudfit Traveling Fellowship and sailed for two years of study in Europe.

Summer 1927:

Travel with family in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary.

1927-28: University of Paris

  • Studies in Romance Philology, Old French and Provencal
  • Chief professors: Begdier, Jeanroy
  • Discovery of Modern Art. Acquaintanceship with Antoine Bourdelle
  • Discovery of James Joyce: Ulysses and Work in Progress
  • Spring Holiday in Constantinople and Aegean
  • Renewal of friendship with Krishnamurti, and of interest in Hinduism
  • Summer in British Isles

1928-29: University of Munich

  • Studies in Sanskrit (with Hans Oertel) Discovery of writings of Freud and Jung Discovery of writings of Thomas Mann Recognition of relationship of psychology to anthropology Chief hobby: skiing in the Alps

Autumn 1929:

  • Return to New York with intention to try my hand at writing: 1929 crash; father's business in trouble


  • Father's business in great trouble: I, at home, am trying to write short-stories Voluminous reading in modern American literature: discovery of Hemmingway, Lewis, Cather, Wilder, et al. Had never even heard of them before. Terrific swing away from whole Columbia experience. Complete disorientation. Absolutely nothing that I wrote would sell.

Summer 1931:

  • First summer in Woodstock, New York, where my sister, a student of sculpture with Archipenko, was also trying to work things out. Day after day of just reading, reading, and reading.
  • 1931-32: California - Alaska
  • A vague drive alone across the country in a Model T Ford, trying to think out or hit upon something. Chief alternatives: Writing, Teaching, or Journalism; and, if teaching and scholarship, should it be in literature or anthropology?
  • Significant stops at 1. New Orleans (Tulane: Middle American Research?), 2.Los Angeles (Writing?), 3. San Francisco (Journalism?)
  • News of collapse of father's business. Savings from my old jazz-band days running out. Settlement on Carmel Peninsula in $15 a month cottage. No prospects. No ideas. Discovery (in Carmel Library) of Spengler's Decline of the West. Sudden pulling together of all my chief interests. New sense of complete dedication to scholarship - but no job, and no jobs in sight. Wrote to 85 colleges and universities. All sent form replies: they were dropping, not hiring profs.
  • Meeting and friendship with John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts: Renewal of interest in biology. Trip with Ricketts in small boat up coast of British Columbia to Alaska, collecting intertidal fauna. Letter from my old Headmaster of Canterbury School, offering a job.
  • Return to New York in the old Model T. $300 in debt, mostly to Ed Ricketts, but with a view ahead.

1932-33: Canterbury School, New Milford, Conn.

  • Teaching third-form History, fifth-form English, make-up French, and special course in German. Studying Spengler, Mann, Jung, Joyce. Serving as housemaster, nursemaid, policeman, boon companion, etc. . . and not liking it at all. Pay $900.
  • At the end of the year, I resigned, and went back "on the depression." By some miracle, one of my short stories, written two years before, had been sold for $300, and on this I returned to Woodstock, N.Y. to read and write.

1933-34: Woodstock, N.Y.

  • A couple with a new house and large dog, let me live in the house all winter to care for the dog, while they resided in the city. Read Joyce, Spengler, Frobenius, Mann, Freud, Jung, and minded the dog. Started a novel that didn't work. In the Spring, a letter arrived, inviting me to teach at Sarah Lawrence College, on the recommendation of my old master, Professor W.W. Lawrence. Accepted.

1934 to present:

  • Member of Literature Faculty, Sarah Lawrence College.


  • Marriage to Jean Erdman, Honolulu; at that time a member of Martha Graham Dance Company


  • Work commenced on A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, on the suggestion of my old friend Henry Morton Robinson.


  • Met Heinrich Zimmer, who introduced and recommended me to the founders of the Bollingen Series.


  • Laboring on the manuscript of Swami Nikhilananda's translation of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.


  • Death of Heinrich Zimmer. I accept invitation of Mrs. Zimmer to edit her husband's posthuma.


  • Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial (with Jeff King and Maud Oakes), The Bollingen Series I.


  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (with Henry Morton Robinson),
  • Harcourt, Brace and Co. Grimm's Fairy Tales: "Folkloristic Commentary," Pantheon Books Join editorial staff of The Dance Observer: dance articles and reviews


  • Heinrich Zimmer's Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, the Bollingen Series VI.


  • Heinrich Zimmer's The King and the Corpse, the Bollingen Series XI "Finnegan the Wake," article in james joyce: two decades of criticism, ed. By Seon Givens, Vanguard Press.


  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Bollingen Series XVII


  • Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India, The Bollingen Series XXVI "Bios and Mythos: Prolegomena to a Science of Mythology," article in Psychoanalysis and Culture. Essays in Honor of Geza Roheim, International University Press.


  • The Viking Portable Arabian Nights, The Viking Press


  • Accept Presidency of Creative Film Foundation Spirit and Nature (ed. J. Campbell), Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, Vol. I, Bollingen Series XXX.
  • Resign from editorial staff of The Dance Observer


  • Heinrich Zimmer's The Art of Indian Asia, 2 vols., the Bollingen Series XXXIX


  • Sabbatical leave; voyage to India (six months), Ceylon, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan (seven months): Commence study of Japanese.


  • The Mysteries (ed. J. Campbell), Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, Vol. II, Bollingen Series XXX


"The Symbol without Meaning," Paper read at Eranos Tagung, Ascona Switzerland: Eranos-Jahrbuch XXVI, Rhein-Verlag (1958) Man and Time (ed. J.C.), Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, Vol III.


  • "Oriental Philosophy and Occidental Psychoanalysis," paper read at IXth International Congress for the History of Religions, Tokyo & Kyoto; Maruzen, Tokyo (1960)


"Renewal Myths and Rites of the Primitive Hunters and Planters," Paper read at Eranos Tagung, Ascona Switzerland: Eranos-Jahrbuch XXVIII,

Rhein Verlag (1960) The Masks of God: Vol I. Primitive Mythology, The Viking Press


  • Spiritual Discipline (ed. J.C.), Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks,
  • Vol. IV, Bollingen Series XXX "Primitive Man as Metaphysician," article in Culture in History: Essays in honor of Paul Radin, Columbia University Press.


  • The Masks of God: Vol II. Oriental Mythology, in preparation for 1965.
  • Also: General Editor of the series, Myth and Man, Thames and Hudson 20 Carl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks, 1951 Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1953 Alan W. Watts, Myth and Ritual in Christianity, 1954
  • (Resigned from editorship, 1955)
  • Articles and book reviews in The Saturday Review of Literature, The Dance Observer, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Chimera, Artibus Asiae, The Partisan Review, Prabuddha Bharata (Mayavati, India), Las Armas y las Letras (Bogota, Colombia).

Award, 1949, from American Academy of Arts and Letters, for The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Since 1956:

  • Lecturer at Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, Washington, D.C.20

Since 1961:

  • Biography in Who's Who in America
  • Member of New York Athletic Club, American Folklore Society, American Oriental Society, American Society for the Study of Religion.
  • And by no means least of all: Husband of Jean Erdman, whose play based on Finnegans Wake, "The Coach with the Six Insides," ran from Nov. 26, 1962 to March 17, 1963, off-Broadway, and is now on a round-the-world tour to the Spoleto Festival, Theatre des Nations (Paris), Dublin Festival, various additional stops in Europe, a six-weeks run in Tokyo, and finally, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and points on the way home to New York.

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