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Earlier today, @ReaderJohn posted a link to a Joseph Campbell quote, which was behind a paywall. The quote was:

The role of the community is to torture the mystic to death.

That’s a tantalizing enough line that I wanted to find the source–which is A Joseph Campbell Companion, a collection comprised mostly of a talk he gave at a seminar, along with additional material added for context.

The chapter begins with Campbell telling the story of a tiger raised by goats who grows up believing he is a goat, until the day he meets a tiger who tells him who he really is.

Now, of course, the moral is that we are all tigers living here as goats. The right hand path, the sociological department, is interested in cultivating our goat-nature. Mythology, properly understood as metaphor, will guide you to the recognition of your tiger face. But then how are you going to live with these goats? Well, Jesus had something to say about this problem. In Matthew 7 he said, “Do not cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you.”

The function
of the orthodox community
is to torture the mystic to death:
his goal.

You wear the outer garment of the law, behave as everyone else and wear the inner garment of the mystic way. Jesus also said that when you pray, you should go into your own room and close the door. When you go out, brush your hair. Don’t let them know. Otherwise, you’ll be a kook, something phony.

So that has to do with not letting people know where you are. But then comes the second problem: how do you live with these people? Do you know the answer? You know that they are all tigers. And you live with that aspect of their nature, and perhaps in your art you can let them know that they are tigers.

The quote, then, seems to be saying that the orthodox community–that is, the dogmatists; those who have the form of godliness while denying the power thereof; the whited sepulchres full of dead men’s bones–serve as the sword that makes the martyr. They are the villains in the superhero’s origin story.

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