Joseph Campbell and the Grateful Dead
…from Ritual to Rapture, from Dionysus to the Grateful Dead
Deadheads are doing the dance of life
and this I would say, is the answer to the atom bomb."
Way back in November of 1986 during a Halloween weekend,
a seminar was held with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, Jerry
Garcia, Mickey Hart, Jungian therapist John Perry and Ruth Inga Heinz as
the moderator. The panel discussion was followed by q & a. Mickey Hart and
Rand Weatherwax provided a 90 minute performance called, "The African
Queen Meets the Holy Ghost," and Garcia improvised on his Steinberger
guitar while Bobby Vega played bass, Richard Horowitz and Weatherwax on
keyboards and Persian singer Susan Deihim sang. --Lawrence Gerald)
In February of 1985, Campbell had attended a Grateful Dead concert and
below are his comments from that experience…
Joseph Campbell: "I had a marvelous experience two nights ago. I
was invited to a rock concert. (Laughter in the audience) I'd never seen
one. This was a big hall in Berkeley and the rock group was the Grateful
Dead, whose name, by the way, is from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. And
these are very sophisticated boys. This was news to me. Rock Music has
never seemed that interesting to me. It's very simple and the beat is the
same old thing. But when you see a room with 8000 young people for five
hours going through it to the beat of these boys ... The genius of these
musicians- these three guitars and two wild drummers in the back... The
central guitar, Bob Weir, just controls this crowd and when you see 8000
kids all going up in the air together... Listen, this is powerful stuff!
And what is it ? The first thing I
thought of was the Dionysian festivals, of course. This energy and these
terrific instruments with electric things that zoom in... This is more
than music. It turns something on in here (the heart). And what it turns
on is life energy.
This is Dionysus talking
through these kids. Now I've seen similar manifestations, but
nothing as innocent as what I saw with this bunch. This was sheer
innocence. And when the great beam of light would go over the crowd
you'd see these marvelous young faces in sheer rapture- for five
hours! Packed together like sardines! Eight thousand of them! Then
there was an opening in the back with a series of panel windows and
you look out and there's a whole bunch in another hall, dancing
crazy. This is a wonderful fervent loss of self in the larger self
of a homogeneous community. This is what it is all about!
It reminded me of Russian Easter. Down in New York we have a big Russian
Cathedral. You go there on Russian Easter at midnight and you hear Kristos
anesti! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen! It's almost as good as a rock
concert. (Laughter) It has the same kind of life feel. When I was in
Mexico City at the Cathedral of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, there it was
again. In India, in Puri, at the temple of the Jagannath- that means the
lord of the Moving World- the same damn thing again. It doesn't matter
what the name of the God is, or whether it is a rock group or a clergy.
It's somehow hitting that chord of realization of the unity of God in you
all, that's a terrific thing and it just blows the rest away."
There is a road,
no simple highway....