No one has given us such a concise . . . introduction to the whole history of this Far Eastern development of Buddhist thought as Alan Watts, in the present, highly readable work.”
Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, the author of the famous “Hero With a Thousand Faces,” made an indelible impression upon the twentieth century. Continuing the tradition of Frazer’s The Golden Bough, and expanding upon the work of Swiss psychoanalyst and noetic archaeologist Carl Gustav Jung, Campbell set out to make an exhaustive study of comparative mythology that would cover everything from the hunting stories of the Upper Palaeolithic to the existential philosophies of modernity. His underlying conviction was that beneath the apparent differences between these myths lay a common thread, an invisible landscape which pointed to a universal understanding of cosmic truths that had been codified and passed down through the generations from time immemorial to the modern day.

Alan and Joe crossed paths many times during the course of their lives, and shared an abiding interest in mythology, history, and comparative religion. Joe edited Alan’s study of Christian symbolism and myth, “Myth and Ritual in Christianity,” written in 1954.

“Last Friday we spent a most interesting evening in NY with my friend Joe Campbell, at his fascinating apartment. There was quite a gathering for dinner, including the wife of the great German Orientalist Heinrich Zimmer, a charming composer, Jack [John] Cage, and a couple connected with the Bollingen Foundation. Joe has been editing Zimmer’s manuscripts and notes for the foundation, including a marvelous work on Indian philosophy which I have been “inspecting for small errors.”

From “The Collected Letters of Alan Watts,” pg. 486

It appears the two scholars lectured together with the renowned author on ritual, religious experience, shamanism and symbology, Mircea Eliade, in 1960:

“This is for the big lecture event for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where I am to give a paper on “Mythological Motifs in Modern Science,” as part of a symposium on “Myth Today” along with my friends Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade — the latter a Romanian-born scholar who is now at the University of Chicago.”

From “The Collected Letters of Alan Watts,” pg. 640

Below is a lecture Watts delivered on Campbell’s article “Symbol Without Meaning”

( ) Watts lecture on JC “Return to the Forest”, lets get the raw audio from the archive


..”Alan Watts used to tell the story of the Apollo astronaut who came back from space; some smart-aleck reporter asked, since he’d been to heaven, had he seen God? ‘Yes,’ answered the astronaut, ‘and she’s black.’ So I asked my interlocutor: ‘How do you feel about that? It’s male? Fine. Is he up there, or is he down there? Is there anybody around him? Is he all alone? Is it a rational power? A moral power? Affirmation? Negation? Improvement? Consciousness? Unconsciousness? A personal god? An impersonal power? Do you think of it principally in the feminine or in the masculine form?’ Of course, in the Indian Sakti cult, the goddess is the big thing. In the Jewish male cult, Yahweh is the big thing. You can ask yourself all of those questions. Where does your image of God fit? For myself, well, Alan Watts once asked me what spiritual practice I followed. I told him, ‘I underline books.’ It’s all in how you approach it.”

~Joseph Campbell, Pathways To Bliss.