The Power of Myth :: Chief Seattle

The Power of Myth

Joseph Campbell, with Bill Moyers,
(Doubleday: NY 1988) pp. 32-4

Moyers: Don't you think modern Americans have rejected the ancient idea of nature as a divinity because it would have kept us from achieving dominance over nature?

How can you cut down trees and uproot the land and turn the rivers into real estate without killing God? ... Scientists are beginning to talk quite openly about the Gaia principle.

Campbell: There you are, the whole planet as an organism.

M: Mother Earth. Will new myths come from this image?

C: Well, something might. ... And the only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it. That's my main thought for what the future myth is going to be. ...

M: So you suggest that from this begins the new myth of our time?

C: Yes, this is the ground of what the myth is to be. It's already here: the eye of reason, not of my nationality; the eye of reason, not of my religious community; the eye of reason, not of my linguistic community. Do you see? And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group. When you see the earth from the moon, you don't see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with.

M: No one embodies that ethic to me more clearly in the works you have collected than Chief Seattle.

C: Chief Seattle was one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order. In about 1852, the United States Government inquired about buying the tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States, and Chief Seattle wrote a marvelous letter in reply. His letter expresses the moral, really, of our whole discussion.

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. ...

[quotes the entire Perry text]