Letters from Joseph Campbell to Toby Johnson

Toby's first letter to Joseph Campbell after the Mann Ranch Seminar where Toby met Joe. This is a carbon copy.
When Campbell first arrived, he came to the kitchen for a glass of water. There were a couple of work-scholars/staff members in the kitchen cleaning up for the seminar. When we addressed him as "Dr. Campbell," he replied "Call me Joe."

Joseph Campbell replied April 27, 1971 with a long discussion of the nature of ego.

Joe replied June 25, 1971 to a letter from Toby about the upcoming summer of 1971, saying he regretted not being free to return to the Mann Ranch a second time that year. He opens replying to Toby's comments about freedom and determinism.

Joe sent a postcard August 26, 1971 from Hawaii, commenting on an "unrequited love" I had told him about. This was probably with Brad Bell whom I met in Ukiah while I was hitchhiking to the Mann Ranch and who subsequently moved to San Francisco to crash at the house I was living in on 10th Ave and Cabrillo with David Factor and other Univ of San Francisco students. I wonder what I said about the star-crosserd little love-affair with Brad

Joe wrote Oct 27, 1971 commenting on my adventures hitchhiking from Chicago to San Francisco. A soldier returning from Vietnam had picked up me and another guy outside Chicago. We debated the war for several hours; I thought in a friendly way. Outside Dubuque, he sent us in to a burger place to order while he got gas. And then drove off with our belongings. Quite distressing. One of the few things I kept because it was in my pocket was a copy of The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. And I read the Bodhisattva Vow section.

Joe wrote July 19, 1972 responding to my offer to drive up and Jean from the airport to the Mann Ranch, saying he'd also been offered a ride by Dick Roberts, and regrets that he has to choose. He commenting sweetly "I love you both." Dick Roberts drove a new convertible; I was driving a beat up old VW bug. Joe made the better choice of vehicles.

Undated Christmas card. This may be from 1972. It refers to a dinner at the Mann Ranch the previous August.

Joe wrote Feb 13, 1973 replying to a letter in which I wrote I was doing my dissertation on Nagarjuna and Eckhart, and commenting that sunyata is something not to understand but to experience as ineffable.  He writes that he'll be in San Francisco and perhaps we'd see each other. I don't think we did. I had lunch with him one time at the Clift Hotel, but I think it was not this visit in 73.

Joe sent a postcard summer of 1973 from Ireland saying he and Jean were off on a grand adventure.

Joe wrote Nov 27, 1973 replying to a letter in which I described my plans for my dissertation with the title The Myth of the Great Secret. He approved and said he was interested in the "stages of life" I had described.

Joe responded Feb 1, 1974 to my sending him the first chapter of The Myth of the Great Secret. This was probably the Preface titled Intimations.

Joe wrote on May 1, 1975 that he'd just acquired an electric typewriter. And commented that he'd miss me at the Mann Ranch in June. I was going to be starting the Psych Tech training in Napa that year and apparently wasn't able to be in Ukiah for his seminar.

Joe wrote on Nov 4, 1978 after a long hiatus in our correspondence after, I guess, I told him about seeing a man who looked just like me--a doppelganger--during Werner Erhard's est training. By that time, the Mann Ranch Seminars had ended. Barbara McClintock, who'd been on the organizers, had moved to Mill Valley and taken a job at Dominican College. Joe gave several seminars there in a program called "Reminding." I reconnected with him there as one of the Reminding staff.

Joe wrote on Jan 10, 1979 mentioning my writing him more about est. I have a chapter in the first edition of The Myth of the Great Secret about est. It's available on this website: https://tobyjohnson.com/ipsesolus.html

Joe wrote on July 7, 1980 a wonderful letter in which he thanked me for bringing to his attention ideas of the new age counterculture. He wrote that the secret is Tat Tvam Asi.

I visited with my wise old man Joseph Campbell and his wife, Jean, September 11, 1980, while I was in New York researching teenage prostitution for the URSA study, told about in In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld (now revised and renamed Finding God in the Sexual Underworld. I met them at the humble two-and-a-half room apartment,
#14D, overlooking Sheridan Square and Christopher Street, in the high-rise building they lived in at 135 Waverly Place (and had since they were married in 1938). Then, over a casual dinner at a nearby Jamaican restaurant on Avenue of the Americas, we discussed my work and adventures living in Times Square. Joe certainly knew my personal concerns. I was always openly gay, even if we never talked about my private life. And he was ever gracious and welcoming.

On Nov 8, 1980 Joe wrote apologizing for not yet getting to the galleys of The Myth of the Great Secret I had sent him.

Sept 7, 1981 Joe wrote apologizing again for not getting to the galleys of my book, saying he is feeling his age, and saying that after being on Bill Moyers' Journal, he had received more than 12,000 fan letters. I was living in the woods at Southern Dharma Foundation outside Asheville, NC. In October 81, I moved back to my hometown San Antonio.

May 25, 1982, Joe wrote one of the nicest letters of all--about the book which he received after publication. It begins: "The Myth of the Great Secret is a jewel of a book. I have read it with great fascination…" He notes my telling the story of the blank slide at the Mann Ranch.

December 1982, Joe sent a Christmas card depicting the Japanese Dance of the Rice Pudding Festival.

By that time, Joe and Jean had moved to Hawaii. I had moved to San Antonio. I know I had a little more communication with Joe through Barbara McClintock. In the mid-80s, she was working for the San Francisco Jung Center. I talked with her on the phone occasionally. I remember sending her a galleys copy of In Search of God in the Sexual Underworld to take to Joe when they had lunch together in New York. The book got left at the foot of the table leg when they left. That would have been in 1982. I imagine I wrote Joe about that book, but do not have a reply from him.

Barbara called me early in November 1987 to tell me Joe had died in Hawaii. She had been present during his last days. (March 26, 1904 - October 30, 1987, just shy of 84 years old.)

The inventory of the New York City Public Library's Joseph Campbell Collection shows what must be the other side of this correspondence, my letters to Joe.

b. 170 f. 65 Johnson, Toby 1971-1983
Photocopied letter.

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