HOME  |   ENGINEERING  |   RESEARCH  |   CONTACT
The Power of Myth

JOSEPH CAMPBELL
1988

Introduction
  • The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind to all that is hidden to others.
  • The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others." One of the many distinctions between the celebrity and the hero, he said, is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society.
  • Preachers err, he told me, by trying "to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery.
  • Early societies learned that the essence of life is that it lives by killing and eating; that's the great mystery that the myths have to deal with. The hunt became a ritual of sacrifice. The seed became the magic symbol of the endless cycle. The plant died, and was buried, and its seed was born again.
  • The revelation of eternal truth - that from death comes life, or as he put it: "From sacrifice, bliss."
  • Myth is calling us to a deeper awareness of the very act of living itself.
  • The unpardonable sin was the sin of inadvertence, of not being alert, not quite awake.
Myth and the Modern World
  • The only way you can describe a human being truly is by describing his imperfections. It is the imperfections of life that are lovable.
  • Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. What we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about.
  • Marriage is recognition of a spiritual identity. Marriage is not a simple love affair, it's an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one. It's primarily a spiritual exercise.
  • All children need to be twice born, to learn to function rationally in the present world, leaving childhood behind.
  • Mythology has a great deal to do with the stages of life, the initiation ceremonies as you move from childhood to adult responsibilities.
  • What destroys reason is passion. Reason is one kind of thinking. But thinking things out isn't necessarily reason in this sense. Reason has to do with finding the ground of being and the fundamental structuring of order of the universe.
  • We can't have a mythology for a long, long time to come. Things are changing too fast to become mythologized.
  • Myth basically serves four functions:
    • Mystical function: what a wonder the universe is
    • Cosmological dimension: the dimension with which science is concerned - showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through.
    • Sociological function: supporting and validating a certain social order. This has to do with ethical laws. The laws of life as it should be in the good society.
    • How to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.
  • Myths and dreams come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form.
The Journey Inward
  • One thing that comes out in myths, for example, 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.
  • Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, in metaphorical images, of the energies of the organs of the body in conflict with each other.
  • The dream is based on a body of experiences that have some kind of significance in your life and that you didn't know were influencing you. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth.
  • The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience - that is the hero's deed.
  • The mystery of life is beyond all human conception. Everything we know is within the terminology of the concepts of being and not being, many and single, true and untrue. We always think in terms of opposites. But God, the ultimate, is beyond the pairs of opposites.
  • Mythology suggests that behind that duality there is a singularity over which this plays like a shadow game.
  • The reference of the metaphor in religious traditions is to something transcendent that is not literally any thing.
  • Sin is simply a limiting factor that limits your consciousness and fixes it in an inappropriate condition.
The First Storytellers
  • Killing the animal is not a personal act. You are performing the work of nature. Guilt is wiped out by the myth.
  • A ritual is the enactment of a myth.
  • Initiation was important in primary cultures as boys became no longer their mothers' sons but their fathers' sons. Girls becomes a woman with her first menstruation. It happens to her. Nature does it to her. And so she has undergone the transformation. The boy does not have a happening of this kind, so he has to be turned into a man and voluntarily become a servant of something greater than himself.
Sacrifice and Bliss
  • If you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.Society is always patriarchal. Nature is always matrilineal.
  • Values will be a result of the conditions that govern life.
  • The hunter is always directed outward to the animal. His mythology is outward turned. But the planting mythology, which has to do with the cultivation of the plant, the planting of the seed, the death of the seed, so to say, and the coming of the new plant, is more inward turned. The plant world is the teacher.
  • You cannot be so disobedient that God's mercy will not be able to follow you.
  • The great sinner is the great awakener of God to compassion. This idea is an essential one in relation to the paradoxology of morality and the values of life.
  • It's characteristic of democracy that majority rule is understood as being effective not only in politics but also in thinking. In thinking, of course, the majority is always wrong.
  • I believe in having as much as you can of this experience while you are still alive. Bliss is now. In heaven you will be having such a marvelous time looking at God that you won't get your own experience at all. That is not the place to have the experience - here is the place to have it. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.
The Hero's Adventure
  • The basic motif of the universal hero's journey: leaving one condition and finding the source of life to bring you forth into a richer or mature condition.
  • Science is breaking through now into the mystery dimensions. It's pushed itself into the sphere the myth is talking about. It's come to the edge.
  • The interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered because it is a mystery that transcends all human research.
  • Consciousness thinks it's running the shop. But 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.
  • 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.
  • Nietzsche describes what he calls the three transformations of the spirit. The first is that of the camel, of childhood and youth. The camel gets down on his knees and says, "Put a load on me." This is the season for obedience, receiving instruction and the information your society requires of you in order to live a responsible life. When the camel is well loaded, it struggles to its feet and runs out into the desert, where it is transformed into a lion - the heavier the load that had been carried, the stronger the lion will be. The task of the lion is to kill a dragon. The camel, the child, had to submit to the "thou shalts," the lion, the youth, is to throw them off and come to his own realization. When the dragon is thoroughly dead, with all its "thou shalts" overcome, the lion is transformed into a child moving out of its own nature.
  • Chance, or what might seem to be chance, is the means through which life is realized.
  • The best advice is to take it all as if it had been of your intention - with that, you evoke the participation of your will.
The Gift of the Goddess
  • The mother is really a more immediate parent than the father because one is born from the mother, and the first experience of any infant is the mother. You're born from your mother, and your father may be unknown to you.
  • The hero has to go in quest of his father. The finding of the father has to do with finding your own character and destiny.
  • The Great Goddess was associated primarily with agriculture and the agricultural societies. The mystery of the pouring of the energy of life into the field of time is the lingam and the yoni, the male and female powers in creative conjunction.
  • A system they have in India that describes stages of spiritual development through the seven psychological centers up the spine. They represent psychological planes of concern and consciousness and action.
    • The first is at the rectum, representing alimentation, the basic, life-sustaining function. What you eat is always something that just a moment before was alive. This is the sacramental mystery of food and eating.
    • The second psychological center is symbolized in the Indian order of spiritual development by the sex organs.
    • The third center is at the level of the navel, and here is the center of the will to power, to mastery and achievement.
    These three centres are of an animal instinct. The fourth, center is at the level of the heart; and this is of the opening to compassion. This is a field that is properly human and spiritual.
  • At the first psychological centre the symbol is the lingam and yoni, the male and female organs in conjunction. And at the heart center, there is again the lingam and yoni, that is to say, male and female organs in conjunction, but here they are represented in gold as symbolic of the virgin birth of spiritual man out of the animal man.
  • The mother gives birth to his nature, and the father gives birth to his social character.
Tales of Love and Marriage
  • Troubadours understood the transformation of love, and described three aspects to love:
    • Eros is a biological urge, sexual in nature. It is impersonal.
    • Agape is love thy neighbor as thyself - spiritual love, but impersonal.
    • Amor is something personal.
    The troubadours recognized Amor as the highest spiritual experience.
  • Since the marriages were all arranged by society, the love that came from the meeting of the eyes was of a higher spiritual value.
  • The five main virtues of the medieval knight might be brought in here. One is temperance, another is courage, another is love, another is loyalty, and another is courtesy. Courtesy is respect for the decorum of the society in which you are living. When two knights fought, they did not violate the rules of combat although they were engaged in mortal combat.
  • The Grail is a symbol of that which is attained and realized by people who have lived their own lives. The Grail represents the fulfillment of the highest spiritual potentialities of the human consciousness.
  • The real life of a marriage or of a true love affair is in the relationship. When I have to make a sacrifice, I'm not sacrificing to her, I'm sacrificing to the relationship. Resentment against the other one is wrongly placed. Life is in the relationship.
  • In a love affair, you have two lives in a more or less successful relationship to each other for a certain length of time.
Masks of Eternity
  • There is this tendency in the West to anthropomorphize and accent the humanity of the gods, the personifications. But in the East, the gods are much more elemental, much less human and much more like the powers of nature.
  • An intense experience of mystery is what one has to regard as the ultimate religious experience.
  • The main teaching of Christ is Love your enemies. Do not pluck the mote from your enemy's eyes, but pluck the beam from your own. No one is in a position to disqualify his enemy's way of life.
  • The word "religion" means religio, linking back. If we say it is the one life in both of us, then my separate life has been linked to the one life, religio, linked back. This has become symbolized in the images of religion, which represent that connecting link.
  • Jung, the famous psychologist, says that one of the most powerful religious symbols is the circle. He says that the circle is one of the great primordial images of mankind and that, in considering the symbol of the circle, we are analyzing the self. The circle suggests immediately a completed totality, whether in time or in space. No beginning, no end.
  • The still point of the turning world is where motion and stasis are together, the hub, where the movement of time and the stillness of eternity are together.
  • The peak experience refers to actual moments of your life when you experience your relationship to the harmony of being.
  • The epiphany is the showing through of the essence. An essential, aesthetic factor, the harmonious rhythm of relationships. When a fortunate rhythm has been struck by the artist, you experience a radiance. You are held in aesthetic arrest.
  • Sublime represent powers too vast for the normal forms of life to contain them. An immense expanse of space is sublime.
  • Heaven is of unending time. It is not eternal. Eternal is beyond time. Eternity is not something everlasting. When immortality is misunderstood as being an everlasting body, it turns into a clown act. On the other hand, when immortality is understood to be identification with that which is of eternity in your own life now, it's something else again.
  • Follow your bliss. There's something inside you that knows when you're in the center, that knows when you're on the beam or off the beam.
  • AUM is a word that represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe of which all things are manifestations. All vowel sounds are included in the pronunciation. Consonants are here regarded simply as interruptions of the essential vowel sound. All words are thus fragments of AUM. AUM is a symbolic sound that puts you in touch with that resounding being that is the universe.

These notes were taken from Joseph's book.
See more at Wikipedia


© 2020 Cedric Joyce