Joseph Campbell

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Love is as much of an object as an obsession, everybody wants it, everybody seeks it, but few ever achieve it, those who do will cherish it, be lost in it, and among all, never... never forget it.
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Joseph Campbell (1904-03-26 - 1987-10-30) was an American professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.



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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)

New World Library, 2008. ISBN 1577315936


  • 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.

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. This 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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We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
The warrior's approach to life is to say "yes" to it, "yea" to it all.
  • Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.
  • Mythology is often thought of as "other peoples" religions ... Religion can be defined as mis-interpreted mythology
  • Love is a friendship set to music.
  • The troubadours had many debates as to what the definition of love would be. One of the most interesting and precise debates states that the eyes are the scouts for the heart, and the eyes go forth to find an image to recommend to the heart. When the image is found and recommended, if the heart is a gentle heart — that is to say, a heart that is capable of love and not simply of lust — then love is born. If, on the other hand, it is not a gentle heart, then all you have is lust — the pig heart. You don't have love.
  • Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.
  • The experience of a lifetime is the privilege of being who you are.
  • Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
  • We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
  • The way to find out about 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".
  • You can't have creativity unless you leave behind the bounded, the fixed, all the rules.
  • The warrior's approach to life is to say "yes" to it, "yea" to it all.
  • The adventure is its own reward — but it's necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond control.
  • 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 cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
  • The future can come from nowhere else but the energies of the psyche.
  • What is finally the best austerity, what is the best discipline? The best discipline is to enjoy your friends. Enjoy your meals. Realize what play is. Participate in the play, in the play of life. This is known as mahasukha, the great delight.
  • A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy.

  • Every natural impulse is sinful unless you've been baptized or circumcised in this tradition that we've inherited for heaven's sake.
  • However the mystic traditions differ, they are in accord in this respect. They call men and women into a deeper awareness of the very act of living itself, and they guide us through trials and traumas from birth to death.

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