Last modified on 24 October 2014, at 23:32

Joseph Campbell

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.

Joseph Campbell (26 March 190430 October 1987) was an American professor, writer, and orator most famous for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.

QuotesEdit

It's only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself if not of the world.
  • Out of perfection nothing can be made.
    • A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1991)

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)Edit

New World Library, 2008. ISBN 1577315936
Where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
Wherever the hero may wander, whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence — for he has the perfected eye to see. There is no separateness.
  • In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dreams.
    • Chapter 1
  • It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexorcised images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood.
    • Chapter 1
  • If we could dredge up something forgotten not only by ourselves but by our whole generation or our entire civilization, we should become indeed the boonbringer, the culture hero of the day—a personage of not only local but world historical moment. In a word: the first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what C. G. Jung called "the archetypal images." This is the process known to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy as viveka, "dicrimination."
    • Chapter 1
  • Dream is personalized myth, myth is depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problem and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.
    • Chapter 1
  • The multitude of men and women choose the less adventurous way of the comparatively unconscious civic and tribal routines. But these seekers, too, are saved—by the virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rites of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to mankind of old by the redeemers and handed down through the millenniums. It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight is truly desperate; that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart. Alas, where is the guide, that fond virgin, Ariadne, to supply the simple clue that will give us the courage to face the Minotaur, and the means to find our way to freedom when the monster has been met and slain?
    • Chapter 1
  • Most curiously, the very scientist who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of the labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom. But the hero-heart must be at hand. ...He is the hero of the way of thought—singlehearted, courageous, and full of faith that the truth, as he finds it, shall make us free.
    • Chapter 1
  • Centuries of husbandry, decades of diligent culling, the work of numerous hearts and hands, have gone into the hackling, sorting, and spinning of this tightly twisted yarn. Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; and where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
    • Chapter 1
  • The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending; death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms which we have loved.
    • Chapter 2
  • This death to the logic of emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, the shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kiss of our own annihilation, this amor fati, "love of fate," love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art...
    • Chapter 2
  • There is no make-believe about heaven, future bliss, and compensation, to alleviate the bitter majesty, but only utter darkness, the void of unfulfillment, to receive and eat back the lives that have been tossed forth from the womb only to fail.
    • Chapter 2
  • No tribal rite has yet been recorded which attempts to keep winter from descending; on the contrary: the rites all prepare the community to endure, together with the rest of nature, the season of the terrible cold.
    • Chapter 2
  • Sober, modern Occidental judgement is founded on a total misunderstanding of the realities depicted in the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedies of redemption. These, in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete.
    • Chapter 2
  • The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man. ...Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms... the two are the terms of a single mythological theme... the down-going and the up-coming (kathados and anodos), which together constitute the totality of the revelation that is life, and which the individual must know and love if he is to be purged (katharsis=purgatorio) of the contagion of sin (disobedience to the divine will) and death (identification with the mortal form).
    • Campbell follows with a quote from Ovid's Metamorposes, "All things are changing; nothing dies..."
    • Chapter 2
  • The passage of the mythological hero may be overground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward—into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world. ...Something of the light that blazes invisible within the abysses of its normally opaque materiality breaks forth, with an increasing uproar. The dreadful mutilations are then seen as shadows, only, of an immanent, imperishable eternity; time yields to glory; and the world sings with the prodigious, angelic, but perhaps finally monotonous, siren music of the spheres. Like happy families, the myths and the worlds redeemed are all alike.
    • Chapter 2
  • Everywhere, no matter what the sphere of interest (whether religious, political, or personal), the really creative acts are represented as those deriving from some sort of dying to the world; and what happens in the interval of the hero's nonentity, so that he comes back as one reborn, made great and filled with creative power, mankind is also unanimous in declaring. We shall have only to follow, therefore, a multitude of heroic figures through the classic stages of the universal adventure in order to see again what has always been revealed. ...the singleness of the human spirit in its aspirations, powers, vicissitudes, and wisdom.
    • Chapter 3
  • For when scrutinized in terms not of what it is but of how it functions, of how it has served mankind in the past, of how it may serve today, mythology shows itself to be as amenable as life itself to the obsessions and requirements of the individual, the race, the age. 
    • Epilogue
  • The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation, and so forth, serve to translate the individual’s life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms. They disclose him to himself, not as this personality or that, but as the warrior, the bride, the widow, the priest, the chieftain; at the same time rehearsing for the rest of the community the old lesson of the archetypal stages.
    • Epilogue
  • Wherever the hero may wander, whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence — for he has the perfected eye to see. There is no separateness. Thus, just as the way of social participation may lead in the end to a realization of the All in the individual, so that of exile brings the hero to the Self in all.
    • Epilogue
  • It is not only that there is no hiding place for the gods from the searching telescope and microscope; there is no such society any more as the gods once supported.
    • Epilogue
  • The modern hero-deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the co-ordinated soul.
    • Epilogue

The Power of Myth (1988)Edit

Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers PBS television series, Mystic Fire Video (2001)
The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it's really a manifestation of his character.
Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.
I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about.
I think it's important to live life with a knowledge of its mystery, and of your own mystery.
  • We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us — the labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
    • Episode 1, Opening introduction voice-over
  • The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it's really a manifestation of his character. It's amusing the way in which the landscape and conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he is ready for is the one that he gets ... The adventure evoked a quality of his character that he didn't know he possessed.
    • Episode 1, Chapter 12
  • This is the threat to our lives. We all face it. We all operate in our society in relation to a system. Now is the system going to eat you up and relieve you of your humanity or are you going to be able to use the system to human purposes? ... If the person doesn't listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life and insists on a certain program, you're going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off center. He has aligned himself with a programmatic life and it's not the one the body's interested in at all. And the world's full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.
    • Episode 1, Chapter 12
  • Our life evokes our character and you find out more about yourself as you go on.
    • Episode 1, Chapter 12
  • This thing up here, this consciousness, thinks it's running the shop. It's a secondary organ. It's a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.
    • Episode 1, Chapter 12
  • It's a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 15
  • People ask me, "Do you have optimism about the world, about how terrible it is?" And I say, "Yes, it's great the way it is" ... I had the wonderful privilege of sitting face to face with [a Hindu guru] and the first thing he said to me was "Do you have a question?", cause the teacher always answers questions... I said, "Yes, I have a question." I said, " Since in Hindu thinking all the universe is divine, a manifestation of divinity itself, how can we say no to anything in the world? How can we say no to brutality to stupidity to vulgarity to thoughtlessness?" And he said, "For you and me, you must say yes." Well, I learned from my friends who were students of his that that happened to be the first question he asked his guru, and we had a wonderful conversation for an hour there.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 12
  • Campbell: Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. There's a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is illumination (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it. "All life is sorrowful" is the first Buddhist saying, and it is. It wouldn't be life if there were not temporality involved which is sorrow. Loss, loss, loss.
    Moyers: That's a pessimistic note.
    Campbell: Well, you have to say yes to it, you have to say it's great this way. It's the way God intended it.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 13-14
  • Follow your bliss.
    • Episode 1, Chapter 15
  • People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 4
  • I think it's important to live life with a knowledge of its mystery, and of your own mystery.
  • We are standing on a whale fishing for minnows.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 19

The Power of Myth (book)Edit

  • One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.
    • Ch. 2 : The Journey Inward
  • Moyers: Do you ever have the sense of... being helped by hidden hands?
    Campbell: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time — namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.
    • p. 120
  • The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy-not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call "following your bliss."
    • p.193
  • Moyers: Unlike heroes such as Prometheus or Jesus, we're not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.
    Campbell: But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there's no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who's on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it's alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.
    • p.183

Mythology and the Individual (1997)Edit

  • The image of the cosmos must change with the development of the mind and knowledge; otherwise, the mythic statement is lost, and man becomes dissociated from the very basis of his own religious experience. Doubt comes in, and so forth. You must remember: all of the great traditions, and little traditions, in their own time were scientifically correct. That is to say, they were correct in terms of the scientific image of that age. So there must be a scientifically validated image. Now you know what has happened: our scientific field has separated itself from the religious field, or vice-versa. … This divorce this is a fatal thing, and a very unfortunate thing, and a totally unnecessary thing.
    • Lecture 1A, 13:45
  • All cultures … have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration. The economic interpretation of history is for the birds. Economics is itself a function of aspiration. It’s what people aspire to that creates the field in which economics works.
    • Lecture 1B, 8:20

Sukhavati (2002, reissued 2007)Edit

  • We're in a freefall into future. We don't know where we're going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you're going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It's a very interesting shift of perspective and that's all it is... joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.

Pathways To Bliss (2004)Edit

  • Marx teaches us to blame society for our frailties, Freud teaches us to blame our parents, and astrology teaches us to blame the universe. The only place to look for blame is within: you didn't have the guts to bring up your full moon and live the life that was your potential.
    • p. 104

Quotes about CampbellEdit

The Power of Myth (1988)Edit

Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers PBS television series, Mystic Fire Video (2001)
  • The beasts were seen as envoys from that other world, and Campbell surmised "a magical, wonderful accord" growing between the hunter and the hunted, as if they were locked in a "mystical, timeless" cycle of death, burial, and resurrection. Their art — the paintings on cave walls — and oral literature gave form to the impulse we now call religion.
    • Bill Moyers, in the Introduction
  • The images of God are many, he said, calling them "the masks of eternity" that both cover and reveal "the Face of Glory." … However the mystic traditions differ, he said, they are in accord in calling us to a deeper awareness of the very act of living itself. The unpardonable sin, in Campbell's book, was the sin of inadvertence, of not being alert, not quite awake.
    • Bill Moyers, in the Introduction
  • The new discoveries of science "rejoin us to the ancients" by enabling us to recognize in this whole universe "a reflection magnified of our own most inward nature; so that we are indeed its ears, its eyes, its thinking, and its speech — or, in theological terms, God's ears, God's eyes, God's thinking, and God's Word."
    • Bill Moyers, in the Introduction
  • When he said that myths are clues to our deepest spiritual potential, able to lead us to delight, illumination, and even rapture, he spoke as one who had been to the places he was inviting others to visit.
    • Bill Moyers, in the Introduction
  • He was a man with a thousand stories. This was one of his favorites. In Japan for an international conference on religion, Campbell overheard another American delegate, a social philosopher from New York, say to a Shinto priest, "We've been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don't get your ideology. I don't get your theology." The Japanese [Shinto priest] paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. "I think we don't have ideology," he said. "We don't have theology. We dance." And so did Joseph Campbell — to the music of the spheres.

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