The Power of Myth

By: Joseph Campbell

The Power of Myth is the transcript of a six-part interview series of Joseph Campbell from the late 1980's. I found Campbell's depth in mythology and understanding of the human experience utterly profound. From the implications of the same archetypal pattern followed by myths and religious texts from around the globe, to the road map through life of the hero's journey, to his focus on the inner life that we all too often neglect, this is a life-quaking book. I suspect Campbell had one of the best cross-cultural bird's-eye views of the 20th century and he shares it in plain, conversational English making it accessible to everyone.

You can watch the entire interview here, but I suggest the book as written word is more digestible at your own pace, rather than spoken word—it's pace set by the speaker.

My 10 Favorite Index Cards:

‘The Indian yogi, striving for release, identifies himself with the Light and never returns. But no one with a will to the service of others would permit himself such an escape. The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release no 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.
— Bill Moyers (Quoting Joseph Cambell)
He liked the insight of the Hindu scripture: ‘Truth is one; the sages call it by many names.’
— Bill Moyers
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 that what we’re seeking is the experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
— Joseph Cambell
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.
— Joseph Campbell
You can tell what’s informing a society by what the tallest building is. When you approach the medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest thing in the place. When you approach an eighteenth-century town, it is the political palace that’s the tallest thing in the place. And when you approach a modern city, the tallest places are the office buildings, the centers of economic life.
— Joseph Campbell
You may have a success in life, but then just think of it—what kind of life was it? What good was it—you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.
— Joseph Campbell
Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.
— Joesph Campbell
Such a moment of participation involves a realization of the wonder and sheer beauty of existence. People living in the world of nature experience such moments every day. They live in the recognition of something there that is much greater than the human dimension.
— Joseph Campbell
When you experience your god as with form, there is your envisioning mind, and there is the god. There is a subject, and there is an object. But the ultimate mystical goal is to be united with one’s god. With that, duality is transcended and forms disappear. There is nobody there, no god, no you. Your mind, going past all concepts, has dissolved in identification with the ground of your own being, because that to which the metaphorical image of your god refers is the ultimate mystery of your own being, which is the mystery of the being of the world as well. And so this is it.
— Joseph Campbell
I think of grass—you know, every two weeks a chap comes out with a lawnmower and cuts it down. Suppose the grass were to say, ‘Well, for Pete’s sake, what’s the use if you keep getting cut down this way?’ Instead, it just keeps on growing. That’s the sense of the energy of the center. That’s the meaning of the image of the Grail, of the inexhaustible fountain, of the source. The source doesn’t care what happens once it gives into being. It’s the giving and coming into being that counts, and that’s the becoming life point in you. That’s what all these myths are concerned to tell you.
— Joseph Campbell

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