The Power of Myth: 25 Quotes from Joseph Campbell

The Power of Myth: 25 Quotes from Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell was one of those rare minds that I think the world really could stand to have around today. Born in 1904, Cambell dedicated himself to reading, learning, and exploring. During the great depression, Campbell lived in a shack in Woodstock, New Yorks and 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.” The focus of Campbell’s studies centered around mythology, religion, and culture.

Through his studies, he developed the idea that all myths and religions were connected. Campbell said, “Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function,… realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery….The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned – showing you what shape the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through…. The third function is the sociological one – supporting and validating a certain social order…. It is the sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world – and it is out of date…. But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to – and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.”

According to Campbell, There is a hero in us all. To find that hero, all you have to do is follow your bliss. His book The Power of Myth is a book that truly has the ability to change the way you think, and how you live your life. I read the book at a pivotal time in my life, and it is one of my top recommendations for people that want to make a change within themselves.

Here is a collection of quotes from The Power of Myth that are a perfect example of Campbell’s wisdom and insight:

“For if anything is capable of making a poet of a literary man, it is my hometown love of the human, the living and ordinary.”
“He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows. For in this context, to know is not to know. And not to know is to know.”

“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 an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

“Sit in a room and read–and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.”
We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
“I don’t have to have faith, I have experience.”

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”
“The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.”

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”

“I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.”
“Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going. As Novalis said, ‘The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet.”

“Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love. The stronger the love, the more the pain. Love itself is pain, you might say -the pain of being truly alive. […] But love bears all things. […] Love itself is pain, you might say – the pain of being truly alive.”

“There’s nothing militant about Jesus. I don’t read anything like that in any of the gospels. Peter drew his sword and cut off the servant’s ear, and Jesus said, “Put back thy sword, Peter.” But Peter has had his sword out and at work ever since.”

“Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship for pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you’re not married…”

“Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.”
“We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”

“The big problem of any young person’s life is to have models to suggest possibilities. Nietzsche says, ‘Man is the sick animal.’ Man is the animal that doesn’t know what to do with itself. The mind has many possibilities, but we can live no more than one life. What are we going to do with ourselves?”

“Society has provided [children] no rituals by which they become members of the tribe, of the community. All children need to be twice born, to learn to function rationally in the present world, leaving childhood behind.”

“Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.”
“Poets are simply those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss.”

“You can’t say life is useless because it ends in the grave.”
“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.”

“Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth Century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the world, are within us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other. That is what myth is. Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, in metaphorical images, of the energies of the organs of the body in conflict with each other. This organ wants this, that organ wants that. The brain is one of the organs.”
Read: 16 Bad Ass Quotes from Motorhead Frontman Lemmy Kilmister

“Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off…. the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.”

“I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.”

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