Cover image for Gathering sparks : interviews from Parabola magazine
Gathering sparks : interviews from Parabola magazine
Appelbaum, David.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Parabola Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
202 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Foreword / Marvin Barrett -- On waking up / Joseph Campbell -- The only freedom / Helen M. Luke -- Worshipping illusions / Marion Woodman -- Recovering a common language / Kathleen Raine -- If she's not gone, she lives there still / P.L. Travers and Michael Dames -- Belonging / Thomas Berry -- The risk of evolution / Joseph Chilton Pearce -- The nature of consciousness / Oliver Sacks -- The human face / Frederick Franck -- Point of return / Ursula K. Le Guin -- We are all witnesses / Elie Wiesel -- If one thing stands, another will stand beside it / Chinua Achebe -- Giveaway for the gods / Arthur Amiotte -- Why we're here today / Chief Tom Porter -- Singing the world / Heather Valencia -- Moving through milestones / Sobonfu Somé -- The silent guide / Father Bede Griffiths -- Awakening to the present / Father Thomas Keating -- Inviting hell into heaven / William Segal -- Reaching for the trapeze / Peter Brook -- The command is to hear / Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz -- The experience of change (Tenzin Gyatso (H.H. the Dalai Lama)
Subject Term:

Added Uniform Title:
Parabola (Mt. Kisco, N.Y.)
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BL50 .G34 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Over the course of its 25 years of publication, Parabola magazine has interviewed some of the most brilliant, wise, and compassionate minds from a wide variety of the world's religious and spiritual paths. The highlights of these interviews are collected in this volume of timeless essays that explore an array of nationalities, faiths, and traditions. Neurologist Oliver Sacks discusses the link between conscience and consciousness and mythologist Joseph Campbell describes how myths unify the world. Famous or obscure, these vibrant, vital interviewees are devoted to the human search for meaning and understanding.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Was there ever a better moment to be reminded that there is a wisdom that lives deep in the body, and that at that deepest level of human experience we are all connected? This fascinating collection of interviews with Joseph Campbell, the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Peter Brook, Oliver Sacks and others, conducted by Barrett and others on behalf of the distinguished quarterly of myth and tradition, does not supply easy or particularly quotable answers to the question of how to live rightly. According to Jungian analyst and author Helen Luke, becoming genuinely responsible for the state of the world demands that we learn to "live out our life stories with the utmost devotion to that which is not the ego but includes it." The ego must learn to be aware of the unconscious; that's old news. Yet when Luke emphasizes that we must learn to see our own small part, "our own little bit of darkness," even when we are very badly treated by others, the words realize new resonance. Each of the interviews here deepens and elaborates the theme of consciousness. There is much gold here, from the Jungian Marion Woodman, who describes how the "god" of greater awareness can enter through the "wound" of addiction, to the insights of neurologist Oliver Sacks, to the painter and philosopher William Segal, who movingly describes the silent communion that is the very highest level of both prayer and meditation. Although some readers may balk at a rather grandiose foreword by editor Barrett, those who persist will be rewarded with real food for thought. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One On Waking Up An Interview with Joseph Campbell From Parabola Vol. 7, No. 1, "Sleep" Joseph Campbell was an internationally known scholar, author, and lecturer in the field of comparative mythology. His books include The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press), The Masks of God (Arkana), and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (Doubleday). PARABOLA: On the presupposition that humans are capable of higher levels of consciousness than those in which they ordinarily exist, sleep is a metaphor for what we think of as our waking state--and from which it behooves us somehow to awake. The Buddha, as we know, means The Awakened. St. Paul urged his fellow Christians, "Let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch."     It is this metaphorical aspect of sleep and awakening that I'd like to discuss. JOSEPH CAMPBELL: One of the classic texts on sleep is the Mandukya Upanishad , which speaks of four stages of consciousness: waking consciousness, dream consciousness, deep, dreamless sleep, and then the mystery of going into deep, dreamless sleep awake --which is when one breaks through the plane of darkness into undifferentiated consciousness.     The way in which the metaphor of sleep and waking is used relates to exactly that state. The Awakened One, the Buddha, has awakened to that undifferentiated conscious ness. From that point of view, we who have not waked to that are asleep in our rational, normal, and even dreaming lives. That awakening is the great breakthrough.     Another image for this sleep-state that we are in is Water. Jesus said to his apostles, "I will make you fishers of men"--pulling the normal fish-men out of the water of their sleep and bringing them to their potential fully human consciousness. This is a motif from the Orphic tradition where Orpheus is the fisher who lifts us out of our fish-state and brings us to the light at the top of the water. P: The water standing for the unconscious state of ordinary life--"sleep." JC: Well, what we call consciousness is part of that unconsciousness--unconsciousness of the solar light. That's the big pitch of these mythological metaphors. P: The miracle of Jesus walking on the water in the storm comes to mind--on one level a dramatic demonstration of control over the forces of nature, but on another level symbolic of dominion over the turbulent dream world in which we are being tossed around. JC: Yes. The Buddha walked on the water, too, five hundred years earlier. Walking on water and walking on fire are standard motifs. P: You mentioned that the Upanishads speak of going into this deep, dreamless sleep while awake. JC: Yes. That's the function of yoga. P: So that one is living in both worlds at the same time. JC: Yes. There's a saying in one of the Upanishads--something like: "We go every night to that Brahma world where the treasure is." It also says that, as one can walk over a buried treasure day after day and night after night, so do we walk over that Brahma world in our sleep without knowing it. We come that close to illumination every night, but.... P: So that the adept, the sage, works to perfect the ability to stay conscious in his sleep? JC: Oh, in fact that's one of the monastic disciplines, where you go to sleep pronouncing a mantra of waking knowledge--kind of a fishing line to carry you from waking to transcendent consciousness. But the fact that the Buddha means "the waked up" teaches the main lesson here. P: And the role of the Buddha--or the Savior--is to wake up other people? JC: That's right! P: Has American Indian mythology much of this imagery of sleep and waking? Black Elk had a vision in sleep. JC: Black Elk had a tremendous vision--a revelation through sleep of the Great Truth. He says at one point: "I saw myself on the Central Mountain of the World. The Central Mountain of the World is Harney Peak in South Dakota." Then he added: "But the Central Mountain of the World is everywhere." That is the word of one who has waked up! He understands the function of the cult image--the cult-focus on a specific image or idea of sanctuary. But that is not the final reference. That is but the finger pointing to the moon--the metaphor intending the Transcendent. That's something that has been lost, I would say, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. They tend to think Jerusalem is the Central Mountain of the World. P: That's the problem of our tradition, that it's historical and linear. JC: It's a killer, that problem! The function of symbols is to be transparent to the transcendent, and the whole character of the Judeo-Christian tradition is opaque to the transcendent. Everybody else has got the hang of it except these people going around trying to convert the world to their concretization of the idea of God, who sits there as a kind of roadblock. It's really fantastic! There's a saying in Zen Buddhism: "If you see the Buddha coming down the road, kill him! " As long as you're stuck with the Buddha --haven't killed him on the road--you're in devotion; you haven't got past the pairs of opposites and the cult objects to realize Tat Twam Asi --That Art Thou. If you have concretized the image of the transcendent, get rid of your image. Meister Eckhart tells us: "The ultimate leave-taking is the leaving of God for GOD." We're stuck with Jesus, who physically died on the cross to return in unity to the Father. But we haven't taken that passage through the Cross seriously enough. P: The injunction to us to die in Christ isn't taken seriously either. JC: Of course not! We think it's dying into Jesus. But Christ isn't Jesus. Christ is the eternal Second person of the Blessed Trinity--yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus is an historical character. He has been identified with Christ, just as each of us ought to be. But so many people who think they're Christians have become fixed on a concrete reference. Even Yahweh is as concrete as can be. Remember, Hegel called him "the gaseous vertebrate." P: Western religion today tends to be ethically oriented. JC: Yes, sin and the atonement of sin. That puts a screen before us, and we can't penetrate through to the metaphysical, beyond all the pairs of opposites--good and evil, male and female, action and inaction, man and God. We're stuck with God in his Heaven and Satan in Hell--the ultimate pair of opposites! Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden when they ate the fruit of the knowledge of the pairs of opposites. P: And the role of the Serpent--at least in the Gnostic tradition.... JC: Is to wake you. Absolutely! The Serpent did his best to turn them away from that god who was an ethical god, a righteous god, full of vengeance. That's why the Orphic cults--the Gnostic, snake-worshipping cults--saw Jesus as the Second Coming of the Serpent. Because with Jesus, the law of Yahweh, the Old Testament, was transcended--we finally got rid of it. But then the Christians went right back. Their tradition is the Old Testament tradition all over again! Good and evil, right and wrong, sin and atonement. P: It seems to me that the Egyptians may have known all about this. JC: I know that the Egyptians knew all about this. There are enough clues in their art. And they had connections, too, with Indian ideas centuries before India had them. For example, I have a picture of that scene of the weighing of the heart against the feather that dates back to about 1400 B.C.E., in which the upright of the scale has exactly seven little swellings, corresponding to the seven chakras . And you know that hippopotamus-like animal that devours anyone whose heart is heavier than a feather? Well the nose of that monster is sticking right between the third and fourth chakras --between the animal-nature chakras, the first three, and the fourth, at the level of the heart, of spiritual transformation--and that nose is pointing to a platform on which is sitting the baboon, Thoth, the symbol of Hermes, the guide of souls into immortality. P: I didn't know the Egyptians had the chakras at all. JC: No one did--but there it is. Another image which we have from India is the five sheaths that enwrap the Atman . The outermost is the sheath of food, next the sheath of breath, which activates the food sheath, oxidizes it, and brings life. The next is the sheath of mind, which is attached to these first two sheaths. Then there is a deep break, followed by the sheath of wisdom--this is the wisdom of the body, the wisdom of nature, protoplasm, the body and the cell, where the transcendent energy that shapes everything comes pouring into the world. And beneath that is the sheath of bliss. And then you look at the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun where there are three rectangular boxes enclosing the great sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus is of two sheaths: an outer one of wood inlaid with gold and lapis-lazuli and an inner one of pure gold--the sheath of bliss. P: I'd like to go back to the American Indians. How do they speak of the process of awakening? JC: In initiation. As a matter of fact, in this book that I'm now writing--when you just now rang my doorbell, I was right in the middle of a sentence about an American Indian initiation: an initiation myth having to do with two boys--twin heroes--born of a virgin. Their father is the Sun. Monsters are troubling the land, and the boys--one a warrior and the other a medicine man--journey to their father the Sun to get weapons. The father puts them through a series of four terrible tests, and when they survive these tests, he initiates them, tells them what their true names are. That's it--the awakening to the inward self, to the knowledge of who you truly are.     And here's another kind of initiation. Back in the 1830s, a young painter from Harvard named George Catlin went out to the West when it was real Indian country. His full-face portraits, in which the eyes seemed to follow one around, gave him a tremendous reputation among the Indians as a magician, and as a magician they admitted him to some of their hidden ceremonies. One of them was the one that we have all seen pictured, in which the young braves are hung up with skewers through their chest muscles and whirled around and around till they faint and are dropped to the ground. The point of that procedure, Catlin reported, was that "they should learn to rest well in God." No fear. Knud Rasmussen got a similar answer from an old shaman somewhere in the Arctic. A shaman, of course, is in a very anomalous position with his people. He is the one who has waked up, but he is in danger because people are afraid of him and tend to blame him for anything that goes wrong. So the shaman has to invent ways to hold the people off--ways that often involve a lot of make-believe and fakery. Rasmussen asked this old man up there in Alaska if there was anything he really believed in. "Oh yes," the old man said, "I believe in the soul of the universe. I hear it. It's a voice that you can't hear with people around. You can find it only in silence and solitude. And what it says is: 'Do not be afraid of the universe.'" That's big stuff! Some of those old boys really had it. P: It seems there are clues about the need to awaken in all the traditional teachings, and even in the fairy tales. How do you understand the Sleeping Beauty? JC: That's psychological rather than metaphysical. This is the story of the little girl who balks on the threshold of womanhood. So she stops there and has to be kissed awake by the consort whom she has refused to face. The Frog Prince is another one like that. This time it's the boy who is afraid to grow up. An old witch has turned him into a frog and there he is, asleep at the bottom of the pool. A girl loses her golden ball, which is symbolic of her soul--gold is the incorruptible metal and the sphere is the perfect shape of the soul. The ball rolls into the pool and awakens him. He comes up to the surface of the water and that little romance begins there between the unblocked boy and the unblocked girl. P: The girl was blocked too? JC: She was blocked and that was why she lost the golden ball. She's melancholy, given to brooding. She likes to sit where else but at the edge of the forest--between the dark world of the unconscious and the real world of light. P: But don't both these stories perhaps also suggest the awakening of a new consciousness as well as the sexual thing? Isn't it possible that the Sleeping Beauty and the Prince and the frog and the girl represent parts of ourselves? JC: I suppose you could say that. But that's not the way I read them. Take the three old women in the Sleeping Beauty story. They're obviously the Fates saying, "You have to grow up." It's a question of facing up to one's fate. It's the same thing that Paris had to face when he sat in judgment of the three great goddesses. Jane Harrison has shown this very well. In some of the earlier ceramic representations of the scene you see Hermes waking up the sleeping Paris to face those three goddesses. Each one represents a destiny Each one offers a prize if he will choose her. Aphrodite's prize is to be a great lover, Hera's to be a great ruler, and Athene's to be an achieving hero. The moment of awakening is also the moment of choice. And this is how the alchemists understood the scene. They picture it as the challenge to Paris to wake up, face the goddesses, choose, and discover his life. P: Is this waking motif present in other aspects of alchemy? JC: That's what it's all about. It's the same as the Manichean idea that the Divine Light is enclosed in darkness. We live in that double world of darkness imprisoning the Light, and waking is breaking through and releasing the Light. You find the same idea in The Gospel According to Thomas , where Jesus says: "The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth and men do not see it." Wake up! It's here in front of your face! Excerpted from Gathering Sparks by David Appelbaum and Joseph Kulin. Copyright © 2001 by Parabola Books. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.