Joseph Campbell: Wikis


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Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, circa 1984
Born Joseph John Campbell
March 26, 1904(1904-03-26)
White Plains,
New York,
United States
Died October 30, 1987 (aged 83)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Occupation Scholar
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Jean Erdman Campbell,

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss."[1]




Early education

Joseph Campbell was born and raised in White Plains, New York[2] in an upper middle class Roman Catholic family. As a child Campbell became fascinated with Native American culture after his father took him to see the American Museum of Natural History in New York where he saw on display featured collections of Native American artifacts. He soon became versed in numerous aspects of Native American society, primarily in Native American mythology. This led to Campbell's lifelong passion for myth and to his study of and mapping of the cohesive threads in mythology that appeared to exist among even disparate human cultures.

In 1921 he graduated from the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut.

While at Dartmouth College he studied biology and mathematics, but decided that he preferred the humanities. He transferred to Columbia University, where he received his B.A. in English literature in 1925 and M.A. in Medieval literature in 1927. Campbell was also an accomplished athlete, receiving awards in track and field events. For a time, he was among the fastest half-mile runners in the world.[3]


In 1924 Campbell traveled to Europe with his family. On the ship back, he encountered Jiddu Krishnamurti; they discussed Asian philosophy, sparking in Campbell a life-long interest in Hindu and Indian thought. Following this trip, Campbell ceased to be a practicing Catholic.[4]

In 1927 Campbell received a fellowship provided by Columbia University to study in Europe. Campbell studied Old French, Provençal and Sanskrit at the University of Paris in France and the University of Munich in Germany. He quickly learned to read and speak French and German, mastering them after only a few months of rigorous study. He remained fluent in these languages for the remainder of his life. (Already fluent in Latin, he would go on to add Japanese to his linguistic arsenal.)

He was highly influenced while in Europe by the period of the Lost Generation, a time of enormous intellectual and artistic innovation. Campbell commented on this influence, particularly that of James Joyce:

CAMPBELL: And then the fact that James Joyce grabbed me. You know that wonderful living in a realm of significant fantasy, which is Irish, is there in the Arthurian romances; it's in Joyce; and it's in my life.
COUSINEAU: Did you find that you identified with Stephen Daedalus... in Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?
CAMPBELL: His problem was my problem, exactly... Joyce helped release me into an understanding of the universal sense of these symbols... Joyce disengaged himself and left the labyrinth, you might say, of Irish politics and the church to go to London, where he became one of the very important members of this marvelous movement that Paris represented in the period when I was there, in the '20s.[5]

It was in this climate that Campbell was also introduced to the work of Thomas Mann, who was to prove equally influential upon his life and ideas. Also while in Europe, Campbell was introduced to modern art, becoming particularly enthusiastic about the work of Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. A new world of exciting ideas opened up to Campbell while studying in Europe. Here he also discovered the works and writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Great Depression

John Steinbeck at life's end

On his return from Europe in 1929, Campbell announced to his faculty at Columbia that his time in Europe had broadened his interests and that he wanted to study Sanskrit and Modern Art in addition to Medieval literature. When his advisors did not support this, Campbell decided not to go forward with his plans to earn a doctorate and never returned to a conventional graduate program. He was very insistent, in later life, that he be addressed as Mr. Campbell, not Dr. Campbell.[6]

A few weeks later, the Great Depression began. Campbell spent the next five years (1929–34) figuring out what to do with his life,[7] while engaged in intensive and rigorous independent study. He later said that he "would divide the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four hour periods, and free one of them... I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight."[8]

Campbell traveled to California for a year (1931–32), continuing his independent studies and becoming close friends with the budding writer John Steinbeck and his wife Carol. On the Monterey Peninsula Campbell, like Steinbeck, fell under the spell of marine biologist Ed Ricketts (the model for "Doc" in Steinbeck's novel, Cannery Row, and for central characters in several of Steinbeck's other novels).[9] Campbell lived for a while next door to Ricketts, participated in professional and social activities at his neighbor's, and accompanied him on a 1932 journey to the Canadian Inner Passage. Like Steinbeck, Campbell began writing a novel centered on Ricketts as hero, but unlike Steinbeck he did not complete his book.[10]

"In later years [writes Bruce Robison] Campbell would refer to those days as a time when everything in his life was taking shape.... Campbell, the great chronicler of the 'hero's journey' in mythology, recognized patterns that paralleled his own thinking in one of Ricketts's unpublished philosophical essays. Echoes of Carl Jung, Robinson Jeffers and James Joyce can be found in the work of Steinbeck and Ricketts as well as Campbell."[11]

Campbell also maintained his independent reading while teaching for a year in 1933 at the Canterbury School, during which time he also attempted to publish works of fiction.[12]

Campbell's independent studies led to his greater exploration of the ideas of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, a contemporary and estranged colleague of Sigmund Freud. Campbell edited the first papers from Jung's annual Eranos conferences and helped Mary Mellon found the Bollingen Foundation's Bollingen Series of books on psychology, anthropology and myth. Many of Campbell's books would be published in this series.

Another dissident member of Freud's circle to influence Campbell was Wilhelm Stekel (1868–1939). Stekel pioneered the application of Freud's concepts of dreams, fantasies of the human mind, and the unconscious to anthropology and literature.

Sarah Lawrence College

In 1934 Campbell was offered a position as professor at Sarah Lawrence College (through the efforts of his former Columbia advisor W.W. Laurence).

Campbell and Jean Erdman c. 1939

In 1938 Campbell married one of his former students, dancer-choreographer Jean Erdman.

Early in World War II, Campbell attended a lecture by Indologist Heinrich Zimmer; the two men became good friends. After Zimmer's death, Campbell was given the task of editing and posthumously publishing Zimmer's papers, which he would do over the following decade.

In 1955–56, as the last volume of Zimmer's posthuma (The Art of Indian Asia, its Mythology and Transformations) was finally about to be published, Campbell took a sabbatical from Sarah Lawrence College and traveled, for the first time, to Asia. He spent six months in southern Asia (mostly India) and another six in East Asia (mostly Japan).

This year had a profound influence on his thinking about Asian religion and myth, and also on the necessity for teaching comparative mythology to a larger, non-academic audience.[13]

In 1972 Campbell retired from Sarah Lawrence College, after having taught there for 38 years.

Public outreach

After he returned from his trip to India and Japan in 1956, Campbell felt that Americans—both the general public and professionals who worked and studied overseas—were woefully uninformed with regard to the world's myths and cultures. He began to work on a number of levels to change this state of affairs. First, he began writing his magnum opus, The Masks of God, which explored the myths of the world's cultures across the millennia and around the globe.

At the same time, he began teaching courses at the US State Department's Foreign Service Institute, lecturing on comparative myth and religion.

Finally, he began to speak publicly on world myth. He would continue to do so—at colleges, churches and lecture halls, on radio and on television—for the rest of his life.[14]


Joseph Campbell died at the age of 83 on October 30 (despite a persistent popular belief that he passed on Halloween[15]), 1987, at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii, from complications of esophageal cancer[16] shortly after he had completed filming the series of interviews with Bill Moyers that would be aired the following spring as The Power of Myth.


Influences on Campbell

Art, literature, philosophy

Campbell often referred to the work of modern writers James Joyce and Thomas Mann in his lectures and writings, as well as to the art of Pablo Picasso. He was introduced to their work during his stay as a graduate student in Paris. Campbell eventually corresponded with Mann.[17]

The works of German philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche had a profound effect on Campbell's thinking; he quoted their writing frequently, often in his own translations from the original German.

The "follow your bliss" philosophy attributed to Campbell following the original broadcast of The Power of Myth (see below) derives from the Hindu Upanishads; however, Campbell was possibly also influenced by the 1922 Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt. In The Power of Myth Campbell quotes from the novel:

Campbell: "Have you ever read Sinclair Lewis' Babbit?"
Moyers: "Not in a long time."
Campbell: "Remember the last line? 'I have never done a thing that I wanted to do in all my life.' That is a man who never followed his bliss."[18]

Psychology, myth, anthropology

Campbell's thinking on universal symbols and stories was deeply influenced by James Frazer (The Golden Bough), Adolf Bastian, and Otto Rank (The Myth of the Birth of the Hero), among others.

Anthropologist Leo Frobenius was important to Campbell’s view of cultural history.

Campbell's ideas regarding myth and its relation to the human psyche are dependent in part on the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud, but in particular on the work of Carl Jung, whose studies of human psychology, as previously mentioned, greatly influenced Campbell. Campbell's conception of myth is closely related to the Jungian method of dream interpretation, which is heavily reliant on symbolic interpretation.

Jung's insights into archetypes were in turn heavily influenced by the Bardo Thodol (also known as the The Tibetan Book of the Dead). In his book The Mythic Image, Campbell quotes Jung's statement about the Bardo Thodol, that it "belongs to that class of writings which not only are of interest to specialists in Mahayana Buddhism, but also, because of their deep humanity and still deeper insight into the secrets of the human psyche, make an especial appeal to the layman seeking to broaden his knowledge of life... For years, ever since it was first published, the Bardo Thodol has been my constant companion, and to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but also many fundamental insights."[19]

In 1940 Campbell attended a lecture by Professor Heinrich Zimmer at Columbia University; the two men became friends, and Campbell looked upon Zimmer as a mentor. Zimmer taught Campbell that myth (rather than a guru or spiritual guide) could serve in the role of a personal mentor, in that its stories provide a psychological road map for the finding of oneself in the labyrinth of the complex modern world. Zimmer relied more on the meanings of mythological tales (their symbols, metaphors, imagery, etc.) as a source for psychological realization than upon psychoanalysis itself. Campbell later borrowed from Jung's interpretative techniques and then reshaped them in a fashion that followed Zimmer's beliefs—interpreting directly from world mythology. This is an important distinction, because it serves to explain why Campbell did not directly follow Jung's footsteps in applied psychology.

Comparative religion

Campbell relied often upon the writings of Carl Jung as an explanation of psychological phenomena, as experienced through archetypes. But Campbell did not necessarily agree with Jung upon every issue, and had very definite ideas of his own.

A fundamental belief of Campbell's was that all spirituality is a search for the same basic, unknown force from which everything came, within which everything currently exists, and into which everything will return. This elemental force is ultimately “unknowable” because it exists before words and knowledge. Although this basic driving force cannot be expressed in words, spiritual rituals and stories refer to the force through the use of "metaphors"—these metaphors being the various stories, deities, and objects of spirituality we see in the world. For example, the Genesis myth in the Bible ought not be taken as a literal description of actual events, but rather its poetic, metaphorical meaning should be examined for clues concerning the fundamental truths of the world and our existence.[20]

Accordingly, Campbell believed the religions of the world to be the various, culturally influenced “masks” of the same fundamental, transcendent truths. All religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, can bring one to an elevated awareness above and beyond a dualistic conception of reality, or idea of “pairs of opposites,” such as being and non-being, or right and wrong. Indeed, he quotes in the preface of The Hero with a Thousand Faces: "Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names."—which is a translation of the Rig Vedic saying, "Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanthi."

Campbell was fascinated with what he viewed as basic, universal truths, expressed in different manifestations across different cultures. For example, in the preface to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he indicated that a goal of his was to demonstrate similarities between Eastern and Western religions. In his four-volume series of books The Masks of God, Campbell tried to summarize the main spiritual threads common throughout the world while examining their local manifestations. Tied in with this was his idea that many of the belief systems of the world which expressed these universal truths had a common geographic ancestry, starting off on the fertile grasslands of Europe in the Bronze Age and moving to the Levant and the "Fertile Crescent" of Mesopotamia and back to Europe (and the Far East), where it was mixed with the newly emerging Indo-European (Aryan) culture.

Heroes and the monomyth

The role of the hero figured largely in Campbell's comparative studies. In 1949 The Hero with a Thousand Faces introduced Campbell's idea of the monomyth (as stated above, a word borrowed from Joyce), outlining some of the archetypal patterns that Campbell recognized. Heroes were important to Campbell because, to him, they conveyed universal truths about one's personal self-discovery and self-transcendence, one's role in society, and the relation between the two.

James Joyce; Navajo rites

The first published work that bore Campbell's name was Where the Two Came to Their Father (1943), a Navajo ceremony that was performed by singer (medicine man) Jeff King and recorded by artist and ethnologist Maud Oakes, recounting the story of two young heroes who go to the hogan of their father, the Sun, and return with the power to destroy the monsters that are plaguing their people. Campbell provided a commentary. He would use this tale through the rest of his career to illustrate both the universal symbols and structures of human myths and the particulars ("folk ideas") of Native American stories.

As noted above, James Joyce was an important influence on Campbell. Campbell's first important book (with Henry Morton Robinson), A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944), is a critical analysis of Joyce's final text Finnegans Wake. In addition, Campbell's seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), discusses what Campbell called the monomyth — the cycle of the journey of the hero — a term that he borrowed directly from Joyce's Finnegans Wake.[21]

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Originally titled How to Read a Myth, and based on the introductory class on mythology that he had been teaching at Sarah Lawrence College, The Hero with a Thousand Faces was published in 1949 as Campbell's first foray as a solo author; it established his name outside of scholarly circles and remains, arguably, his most influential work to this day. Not only did it introduce the concept of the hero's journey to popular thinking, but it also began to popularize the very idea of comparative mythology itself—the study of the human impulse to create stories and images that, though they are clothed in the motifs of a particular time and place, draw nonetheless on universal, eternal themes. Campbell asserted:

Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives becomes dissolved.[22]

The Masks of God

Campbell's four-volume work The Masks of God covers mythology from around the world, from ancient to modern. Where The Hero with a Thousand Faces focused on the commonality of mythology (the “elementary ideas”), the Masks of God books focus upon historical and cultural variations the monomyth takes on (the “folk ideas”). In other words, where The Hero with a Thousand Faces draws perhaps more from psychology, the Masks of God books draw more from anthropology and history. The four volumes of Masks of God are as follows: Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology, and Creative Mythology.

Historical Atlas of World Mythology

At the time of his death, Campbell was in the midst of working upon a large-format, lavishly illustrated series entitled The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. This series was to build on Campbell’s idea, first presented in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, that myth evolves over time through four stages:

  • The Way of the Animal Powers—the myths of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers which focus on shamanism and animal totems.
  • The Way of the Seeded Earth—the myths of Neolithic, agrarian cultures which focus upon a mother goddess and associated fertility rites.
  • The Way of the Celestial Lights—the myths of Bronze Age city-states with pantheons of gods ruling from the heavens, led by a masculine god-king.
  • The Way of Man—religion and philosophy as it developed after the Axial Age (c. 6th century BC), in which the mythic imagery of previous eras was made consciously metaphorical, reinterpreted as referring to psycho-spiritual, not literal-historical, matters. This transition is evident in the East in Buddhism, Vedanta, and philosophical Taoism; and in the West in the Mystery Cults, Platonism, Christianity and Gnosticism.

Only the first two volumes were completed at the time of Campbell's death. Both of these volumes are now out of print.

The Power of Myth

Campbell's widest popular recognition followed his collaboration with Bill Moyers on the PBS series The Power of Myth, which was first broadcast in 1988, the year following Campbell's death. The series exposed his ideas concerning mythological, religious, and psychological archetypes to a wide audience, and captured the imagination of millions of viewers. It remains a staple of PBS television membership drives to this day. A companion book, The Power of Myth, containing expanded transcripts of their conversations, was released shortly after the original broadcast and became a best-seller.

Collected Works

Posthuma: Collected Works

The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series is a project initiated by the Joseph Campbell Foundation to release new, authoritative editions of Campbell's published and unpublished writing, as well as audio and video recordings of his lectures. Working with New World Library, Acorn Media UK and Roomful of Sky Records, as of 2009 the project has produced seventeen titles. The series' executive editor is Robert Walter, and the managing editor is David Kudler.

Print titles

  • Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor (2001)—An exploration of the myths and symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition

The first title in the series, this book compiled many of Campbell's ideas on the mythic underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In it he writes, "Mythology is often thought of as other people's religions, and religion can be defined as mis-interpreted mythology." In other words, Campbell did not read religious symbols literally as historical facts, but instead saw them as symbols or as metaphors for greater philosophical ideas. Campbell had previously discussed this idea with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth:

CAMPBELL: That would be a mistake in the reading of the symbol. That is reading the words in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation. MOYERS: And poetry gets to the unseen reality. CAMPBELL: That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought. The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are.[23]

  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (2002)—The last book that Campbell completed in his lifetime explores the nascent mythology of the modern age.
  • The Flight of the Wild Gander (2002)—A collection of some of Campbell's most far-reaching essays
  • Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals—India (2003)—The thoughtful diary of Campbell's life-changing trip to India
  • Sake and Satori: Asian Journals—Japan (2002)—The continuation of Campbell's 1955 trip, including his eye-opening experiences in Japan
  • Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal (2003)—An exploration of the central myths and symbols of the great Asian religions
  • The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work (2003)—A wonderful series of conversations between Campbell and many of his associates and friends
  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (2004)—An exploration of the mythic impact of the twentieth century's greatest novelist
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (2005)—co-written with Henry Morton Robinson and newly edited by Joyce scholar Edmond Epstein, this remains the seminal analysis of Joyce's masterpiece
  • Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (2005)—In this work, Campbell explores myth as it pertains to the individual
  • The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959–1987 (2007)—A new volume of Campbell's far-ranging, thought-provoking essays
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (2008)—A new edition of Campbell's classic exploration of the universal monomyth of the Hero Journey, and of its cosmic mirror, the Cosmogonic Cycle

Video titles

  • The Hero's Journey (film): A Biographical Portrait—This film, made shortly before his death in 1987, follows Campbell's personal quest—a pathless journey of questioning, discovery, and ultimately of delight and joy in a life to which he said, "Yes"
  • Sukhavati: A Mythic Journey—This hypnotic and mesmerizing film is a deeply personal, almost spiritual, portrait of Campbell
  • Mythos—This series comprises talks that Campbell himself believed summed up his views on "the one great story of mankind."

Audio titles

  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell, Series I—Recordings of lectures from Campbell's early years as a public speaker
    • Mythology and the Individual
  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell, Series II & III—In the coming years, the Joseph Campbell Foundation plans to release another sixty hours of recordings of Campbell at his finest, exploring myth, religion, history, literature and personal growth as only he could.

Lasting influence


Joseph Campbell Foundation

In 1991, Campbell's widow, choreographer Jean Erdman, worked with Campbell's longtime friend and editor, Robert Walter, to create the Joseph Campbell Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to preserve, protect and perpetuate Campbell's work, as well as supporting work in his field of study.

Initiatives undertaken by the JCF include: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, a series of books and recordings that aims to pull together Campbell's myriad-minded work; the Erdman Campbell Award; the Mythological RoundTables, a network of local groups around the globe that explore the subjects of comparative mythology, psychology, religion and culture; and the collection of Campbell's library and papers housed at the OPUS Archive and Research Center (see below).[24]

Joseph Campbell Collection

After Campbell's death, Jean Erdman and the Joseph Campbell Foundation donated his papers, books and other effects to the Center for the Study of Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. The Center became the OPUS Archive and Research Center and is the home of the collection. Campbell had frequently lectured at Pacifica, a private school that supports graduate work in mythology and depth psychology. The founding curator, psychologist Jonathan Young, worked closely with Ms. Erdman to gather the materials from Campbell's homes in Honolulu and Greenwich Village, New York City. The Campbell Collection features approximately 3,000 volumes and covers a broad range of subjects, including anthropology, folklore, religion, literature, and psychology. The collection also includes audio and video tapes of lectures, original manuscripts, research papers, and some personal affects including the ruler he used to underline passages in his books.

Popular culture


George Lucas was the first Hollywood filmmaker to credit Campbell's influence. Lucas stated following the release of the first Star Wars film in 1977 that its story was shaped, in part, by ideas described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces and other works of Campbell's. The linkage between Star Wars and Campbell was further reinforced when later reprints of Campbell's book used the image of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker on the cover.[25] Lucas discusses this influence at great length in the authorized biography of Joseph Campbell, A Fire in the Mind:

I [Lucas] came to the conclusion after American Graffiti that what's valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is...around the period of this came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology...The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature we were going off into science that's when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe's books. Before that I hadn't read any of Joe's books...It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic I modified my next draft [of Star Wars] according to what I'd been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent...I went on to read 'The Masks of God' and many other books.[26]

It was not until after the completion of the original Star Wars trilogy in 1983, however, that Lucas met Campbell or heard any of his lectures.[27] The 1988 documentary The Power of Myth was filmed at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. During his interviews with Bill Moyers, Campbell discusses the way in which Lucas used The Hero's Journey in the Star Wars films (IV, V, and VI) to re-invent the mythology for the contemporary viewer. Moyers and Lucas filmed an interview 12 years later in 1999 called the Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers to further discuss the impact of Campbell's work on Lucas' films.[28] In addition, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit during the late 1990s called Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, which discussed the ways in which Campbell's work shaped the Star Wars films.[29] A companion guide of the same name was published in 1997.

Christopher Vogler, a Hollywood screenwriter, was also highly influenced by Campbell. He created a 7-page company memo based on Campbell's work, A Practical Guide to The Hero With a Thousand Faces,[30], which led to the development of Disney's 1994 film The Lion King. Vogler's memo was later developed into the late 1990s book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.

Many filmmakers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have acknowledged the influence of Campbell's work on their own craft. Among films that many viewers have recognized as closely following the pattern of the monomyth are The Matrix series, the Batman series and the Indiana Jones series—not to mention the book-based Harry Potter series.[31] Of course, the question remains open: Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces describing what he felt to be a universal story motif. Are the patterns that viewers and critics have noticed evidence of the filmmakers having read (or been indirectly influenced by) Campbell's work, or are they simply manifestations of the very archetypes that Campbell was attempting to study? It is difficult if not impossible to tell.

Other media

After the explosion of popularity brought on by the Star Wars films and The Power of Myth, creative artists in many media recognized the potential to use Campbell's theories to try to unlock human responses to narrative patterns. Novelists,[32] songwriters,[33][34] computer-game designers[35] and even amusement park ride designers have studied Campbell's work in order better to understand mythology—in particular, the monomyth—and its impact.

Novelist Richard Adams acknowledges a debt to Campbell's work, and specifically to the concept of the monomyth.[36] In his best known work, Watership Down, Adams uses extracts from The Hero with a Thousand Faces as chapter epigrams.[37]

Author Neil Gaiman, whose work is frequently seen as exemplifying the monomyth structure,[38] says that he started The Hero with a Thousand Faces but refused to finish it: "I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true — I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is."[39]

Many scholars and reviewers have noted how closely J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter books hewed to the monomyth schema.[40] To date, however, Rowling has neither confirmed that she used Campbell's work as an inspiration, nor denied that she ever read The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Readers and scholars are left to guess, therefore, whether this is an example of an artist using Campbell's observations as a prescription, or of the universal nature of the monomyth making itself known once more.

"Follow your bliss"

One of Campbell's most identifiable, most quoted and arguably most misunderstood sayings was his admonition to "follow your bliss." He derived this idea from the Upanishads:

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture. I thought, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being." I think it worked.[41]

He saw this not merely as a mantra, but as a helpful guide to the individual along the hero journey that each of us walks through life:

If you 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. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.[42]

Campbell began sharing this idea with students during his lectures in the 1970s. By the time that The Power of Myth was aired in 1988, six months following Campbell's death, "Follow your bliss" was a philosophy that resonated deeply with the American public—both religious and secular.[43]

During his later years, when some students mistakenly took him to be encouraging hedonism, Campbell is reported to have grumbled, "I should have said, 'Follow your blisters.'"[44]

Posthumous controversy

After Campbell's death, culture critic Brendan Gill published an article in the New York Review of Books, "The Faces of Joseph Campbell," in which Gill accused Campbell of antisemitism.[45] Gill, who identified himself as a friend of Campbell's from the Century Association in New York City,[46] noted that he wrote the article in reaction to the enormous popularity of The Power of Myth series in 1988.

Professor of religion Robert Segal countered Gill's accusation of antisemitism in his own article, "Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism."[47] Segal suggests that this view of Campbell stems, at least partly, from his tendency to be blunt at times in critiquing certain aspects of organized religions—which, Campbell stated in his valedictory lecture series Transformations of Myth Through Time, was his job.[48]

Other scholars disagreed both with Gill's general critiques as well as the accusation of antisemitism. A few months after Gill's article appeared, the New York Review of Books published a series of letters: "Brendan Gill vs. Defenders of Joseph Campbell" (cover title), "Joseph Campbell: An Exchange" (article title).[49] A number of the letters from former students and colleagues argue against the accusations. In particular, Professors Roberta and Peter Markman state that "we were dismayed because this piece of character assassination was unsupported by any evidence." Gill continued to uphold his claims.

Stephen Larsen and Robin Larsen, authors of the biography Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind (2002), also argued against what they referred to as "the so-called anti-Semitic charge". They state: "For the record, Campbell did not belong to any organization that condoned racial or social bias, nor do we know of any other way in which he endorsed such viewpoints. During his lifetime there was no record of such accusations in which he might have publicly betrayed his bigotry or visibly been forced to defend such a position".

Gill contended in the same essay that Campbell was also deeply bigoted toward blacks and Hispanics.[50] Gill wrote: "Having dinner one evening with Harold Taylor, the former president of Sarah Lawrence, Campbell spent much of his time arguing that it was of no use to admit blacks because they were 'unable to retain information'."[51]

Sarah Lawrence, a progressive liberal arts college, not only has, through most of its history, had a relatively high percentage of Jewish students, but has always admitted black students;[52] that Campbell would have argued this would seem to indicate not secret bigotry but activist racism.

Campbell's private journals reflect political and racial views typical of a man of his age, race and education, but at no point do they reflect overt signs of racism.[53]

Works by Campbell


  • Where the Two Came to Their Father: A Navaho War Ceremonial (1943). with Jeff King and Maud Oakes, Old Dominion Foundation
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (1944). with Henry Morton Robinson, Harcourt, Brace & Co.
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Pantheon Books. Princeton University Press 1968: ISBN 0-691-01784-0; Bollingen 2004 commemorative hardcover: ISBN 0-691-11924-4; New World Library, 3rd Edition, 2008: ISBN 978-1577315933
  • The Masks of God (1959–1968). Viking Press:
    • Volume 1, Primitive Mythology (1959)
    • Volume 2, Oriental Mythology (1962)
    • Volume 3, Occidental Mythology (1964)
    • Volume 4, Creative Mythology (1968)
  • The Flight of the Wild Gander:Explorations in the Mythological Dimension (1968). Viking Press
  • Myths to Live By (1972). Viking Press
  • Erotic irony and mythic forms in the art of Thomas Mann (1973)
  • The Mythic Image (1974). Princeton University Press
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor As Myth and As Religion (1986). Alfred van der Marck Editions
  • Historical Atlas of World Mythology
    • Volume I: The Way of Animal Powers (1983). Alfred van der Marck Editions
      • reprint in two parts: Part 1: Mythologies of the Primitive Hunters and Gatherers (1988)
      • Part 2: Mythologies of the Great Hunt (1988)
    • Volume II: The Way of the Seeded Earth
      • Part 1: The Sacrifice (1988). Alfred van der Marck Editions
      • Part 2: Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The North Americas (1989). Harper & Row
      • Part 3: Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The Middle and Southern Americas (1989). Harper & Row
  • Transformations of Myth Through Time (1990). Harper and Row
  • A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (1991). editor Diane K. Osbon
  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce (1993). editor Edmund L. Epstein
  • The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays (1959–1987) (1993). editor Anthony Van Couvering
  • Baksheesh & Brahman: Indian Journals (1954–1955) (1995). editors Robin/Stephen Larsen & Anthony Van Couvering
  • Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor (2001). editor Eugene Kennedy, New World Library ISBN 1-57731-202-3. first volume in the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell
  • Sake & Satori: Asian Journals—Japan (2002). editor David Kudler
  • Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal (2003). editor David Kudler
  • Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation (2004). editor David Kudler

Interview books

  • The Power of Myth (1988). with Bill Moyers and editor Betty Sue Flowers, Doubleday, hardcover: ISBN 0-385-24773-7
  • An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms (1989). editors John Maher and Dennie Briggs, forward by Jean Erdman Campbell. Larson Publications, Harper Perennial 1990 paperback: ISBN 0-06-097295-5
  • This business of the gods: Interview with Fraser Boa (1989)
  • The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work (1990). editor Phil Cousineau. Harper & Row 1991 paperback: ISBN 0-06-250171-2. Element Books 1999 hardcover: ISBN 1862045984. New World Library centennial edition with introduction by Phil Cousineau, forward by executive editor Stuart L. Brown: ISBN 1-57731-404-2

Audio tapes

  • The Power of Myth (With Bill Moyers) (1987)
  • Transformation of Myth through Time Volume 1–3 (1989)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces: The Cosmogonic Cycle (Read by Ralph Blum) (1990)
  • The Way of Art (1990—unlicensed)
  • The Lost Teachings of Joseph Campbell Volume 1–9 (With Michael Toms) (1993)
  • On the Wings of Art: Joseph Campbell; Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (1995)
  • The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell (With Michael Toms) (1997)
  • The Collected Lectures of Joseph Campbell:
    • Volume 1: Mythology and the Individual (1997)
    • Volume 2: The Inward Journey (1997)
    • Volume 3: The Eastern Way (1997)
    • Volume 4: Man and Myth (1997)
    • Volume 5: The Myths and Masks of God (1997)
    • Volume 6: The Western Quest (1997)
  • Myth and Metaphor in Society (With Jamake Highwater) (abridged)(2002)


Books edited by Campbell

  • Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (1942) (translation from Bengali by Swami Nikhilananda; Joseph Campbell and Margaret Woodrow Wilson, translation assistants—see preface; foreword by Aldous Huxley)
  • Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Heinrich Zimmer (1946)
  • The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul's Conquest of Evil. Heinrich Zimmer (1948)
  • Philosophies of India. Heinrich Zimmer (1951)
  • The Portable Arabian Nights (1951)
  • The Art of Indian Asia. Heinrich Zimmer (1955)
  • Man and Time: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Man and Transformation: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • The Mystic Vision: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Spirit and Nature: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Spiritual Disciplines: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. Various authors (1954–1969)
  • Myths, Dreams, Religion. Various authors (1970)
  • The Portable Jung. Carl Jung (1971)

See also


  1. ^ Campbell's biography and Joseph Campbell: "Follow Your Bliss" from the Joseph Campbell Foundation website.
  2. ^ Joseph Campbell Foundation website
  3. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, third edition, edited by Phil Cousineau. Novato, California: New World Library, 2003, p. 25
  4. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, edited by Phil Cousineau, New World Library, 2003, p. 29.
  5. ^ Op. cit., p. 27.
  6. ^ The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, 1990, first edition: 54
  7. ^ (Larsen and Larsen, 2002, p. 160
  8. ^ The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, first edition, 1990, pp. 52–53.
  9. ^ Larsen and Larsen, 2002, chapters 8 and 9.
  10. ^ Tamm, Eric Enno (2005) Of myths and men in Monterey: "Ed Heads" see Doc Ricketts as a cult figure
  11. ^ Bruce Robison, "Mavericks on Cannery Row," American Scientist, vol. 92, no. 6 (November–December 2004, p. 1: a review of Eric Enno Tamm, Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2004.
  12. ^ (Larsen and Larsen, 2002, p. 214; Pacifica Graduate Institute | Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library | Joseph Campbell—Chronology
  13. ^ See Joseph Campbell, Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals—India and Sake and Satori: Asian Journals—Japan, New World Library, 2002, 2003.
  14. ^ Joseph Campbell, Sake & Satori: Asian Journals—Japan, edited by David Kudler. Novato, California: New World Library, 2002, pp. xiv
  15. ^ Joseph Campbell grave marker
  16. ^ [, "Joseph Campbell, Writer Known For His Scholarship on Mythology "], .
  17. ^ Joseph Campbell Collection at the OPUS Archive.
  18. ^ The Power of Myth, Doubleday and Co., 1988, p. 117
  19. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Mythic Image, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974, ISBN 0691018391, p. 392.
  20. ^ In a letter dated 23 April 1984 to David C. C. Watson, Hebrew Professor James Barr at the University of Oxford wrote: "... probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know."
  21. ^ Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Bollingen Foundation, 1949, p. 30, note 35. Campbell cites James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, New York, Viking, 1939, p. 581.
  22. ^ "The Hero With a Thousand Faces", Joseph Campbell, p. 249, Fontana, 1993, ISBN 0-586-08571-8
  23. ^ Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Doubleday & Co., 1988, p. 54.
  24. ^ The Joseph Campbell Foundation Website
  25. ^ Campbell, J.: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
  26. ^ Stephen and Robin Larsen, Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. 2002, p. 541.
  27. ^ George Lucas Interview: Well Rounded Entertainment
  28. ^ Films for the Humanities and Sciences—Educational Media—The Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas and Bill Moyers
  29. ^ Star Wars @ NASM, Unit 1, Introduction Page
  30. ^ Pacifica Graduate Institute | Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library | Joseph Campbell and the Skywalker: Meetings with George Lucas
  31. ^ James B. Grossman, Princeton University, "The Hero with Two Faces"
  32. ^ James N. Frey, How to Write Damned Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, Griffin; 1st edition edition (Jul 16 2002)
  33. ^ SubMerge, "Repairing Broken Molds"
  34. ^ Steven Daly, "Tori Amos: Her Secret Garden" Rolling Stone, June 25, 1998
  35. ^ Game Designer's Radio, "A Practical Guide to the Hero's Journey"
  36. ^ Bridgman, Joan (August 2000). "Richard Adams at Eighty". The Contemporary Review (The Contemporary Review Company Limited) 277.1615: 108. ISSN 0010-7565.
  37. ^ Richard Adams, Watership Down. Scribner, 2005, p. 225. ISBN 978-0743277709
  38. ^ See Stephen Rauch, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Joseph Campbell: In Search of the Modern Myth, Wildside Press, 2003
  39. ^ The Wild River Review, "Interview with the Dream King"
  40. ^ Sharon Black, "The Magic of Harry Potter: Symbols and Heroes of Fantasy," Children‘s Literature in Education, Springer Netherlands, Volume 34, Number 3 / September, 2003, pp. 237–247, [ISSN 0045-6713] (Print), [ISSN 1573-1693] (Online); Patrick Shannon, "Harry Potter as Classic Myth"; Deborah De Rosa, "Wizardly Challenges to, and Affirmations of the Initiation Paradigm in Harry Potter," Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter, Elizabeth Heileman, ed. Routledge, 2002, pp 163—183—there are numerous similar references.
  41. ^ Campbell, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, edited by Betty Sue Flowers. Doubleday and Co, 1988, p. 120.
  42. ^ Op. cit., p. 113
  43. ^ Joseph Berger, "A Teacher of Legend Becomes One Himself", The New York Times, December 10, 1988
  44. ^
  45. ^ New York Review of Books, vol. 36, issue 14 (September 28, 1989), pp. 16–19.
  46. ^ This identification has been disputed by others of Campbell's close friends and associates.
  47. ^ Religion, volume 22, issue 2, April 1992, pp. 151–70.
  48. ^ Published as a book of the same title [ISBN 0-06-096463-4]. These lectures (which were never so titled by Campbell) are being re-released as part of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series by Acorn Media as Mythos in a substantially less expurgated form.
  49. ^ New York Review of Books, Volume 36, Issue 17, November 9, 1989, pages 57–61
  50. ^ Maggie Macary, "Joseph Campbell & AntiSemitism—The Politics of the Matter", Myth & Culture, 28 December 2004
  51. ^ Gill, op cit.
  52. ^ An article about SLC student activism by black and white students during the civil rights movement of the early 1960s
  53. ^ Two volumes of Campbell's journals have been published (Baksheesh and Brahman and Sake and Satori), and the Larsens printed numerous extracts in their Campbell biography A Fire in the Mind.


On life and work


  • Segal, Robert. Joseph Campbell an Introduction, (1987)
  • Larsen, Stephen and Robin. Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. (1991)
  • Golden, Kenneth L. Uses of Comparative Mythology: Essays on the Work of Joseph Campbell (1992)
  • Manganaro, Marc. Myth, Rhetoric, and the Voice of Authority: A Critique of Frazer, Eliot, Frye, and Campbell. (1992)
  • Madden, Lawrence. (Editor) The Joseph Campbell Phenomenon: Implications for the Contemporary Church (1992)
  • Noel, Daniel C. (Editor) Paths to the Power of Myth (1994)
  • Snyder, Tom. Myth Conceptions: Joseph Campbell and the New Age (1995)
  • Henderson, Mary. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (1997)Smithsonian Exhibit
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers. (1998)
  • Ellwood, Robert. The Politics of Myth: A Study of C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, and Joseph Campbell (1999)


  • Man and Myth: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Sam Keen. Psychology Today, v. 5 (1971)
  • Living Myths: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Lorraine Kisly. Parabola, v. 1 (1976)
  • The Professor with a Thousand Faces. Donald Newlove. Esquire, v. 88 (1977)
  • Earthrise: The Dawning of a New Spiritual Awareness. Eugene Kennedy. New York Times Magazine. (April 15, 1979)
  • Elders and Guides: A Conversation with Joseph Campbell. Michael McKnight. Parabola, v. 5 (1980)
  • The Masks of Joseph Campbell. Florence Sandler and Darrell Reeck. Religion, v. 11 (1981)
  • A Primer on Joseph Campbell and the Mythological Dimensions of Consciousness (Obituary). John Lobel. Whole Earth Review, Summer, 1988.
  • The faces of Joseph Campbell. Brendan Gill. New York Review of Books, v. 36, number 14 (September 28, 1989)
  • Brendan Gill vs Defenders of Joseph Campbell—An Exchange. Various Authors. New York Review of Books, v. 36, number 17 (November 9, 1989)
  • Joseph Campbell on Jews and Judaism. Robert Segal. Religion, v. 22 (April 1992)
  • “Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?’’ Joseph M. Felser. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 64 (1998)
  • Why Joseph Campbell's Psychologizing of Myth Precludes the Holocaust as Touchstone of Reality. Maurice Friedman, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 67 (1998)
  • Joseph Campbell as Antisemite and as Theorist of Myth: A Response to Maurice Friedman. Robert A. Segal, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, v. 66 (1999)
  • A. M. Bilodeau, "Joseph Campbell: le jeu de l'éternité dans le temps", Religiologiques, 8 (1993), p. 182–203.

Secondary references


  • Pearson, Carol and Pope, Katherine. The Female Hero in American and British Literature. (1981)
  • Ford, Clyde W. The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa. (2000)
  • Jones, Steven Swann. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of the Imagination. (2002)
  • Erickson, Leslie Goss. Re-Visioning of the Heroic Journey in Postmodern Literature: Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Arthur Miller, and American Beauty (2006)
  • Joiner, Ann Livingston. A Myth in Action: The Heroic Life of Audie Murphy. (2006)

External links




Critical Essays:


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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 (1904-03-261987-10-30) was an American professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.



The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Mythology and the Individual (1997)

  • 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
  • Heresy is the life of a mythology, and orthodoxy is the death.
    • Lecture 1A, 20:42
  • 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

The Power of Myth (2001)

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.
  • 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 is it" ... 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.
  • Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
    • Episode 2, Chapter 22.

The Power of Myth (book)

  • 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

Sukhavati (2007)

  • 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.

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