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Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell Quotes about Heroes, Life & Mythology

“To Joseph Campbell mythology was “the song of the universe,” “the music of the spheres” — music we dance to even when we cannot name the tune.”

“He was a man with a thousand stories. This was one of his favorites. In Japan for an international conference on religion, Campbell overheard another American delegate, a social philosopher from New York, say to a Shinto priest, “We’ve been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology. I don’t get your theology.” The Japanese [Shinto priest] paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. “I think we don’t have ideology,” he said. “We don’t have theology. We dance.” And so did Joseph Campbell — to the music of the spheres.”

– Bill Moyers

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Adventurers & Dreamers

“Here is the line beyond which thinking does not g, beyond which all feeling is truly dead: like the last stop on a mountain railroad from which climbers step away, and to which they return, there to converse with those who love mountain air but cannot risk the heights.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 152)

“The crossing first of the open sewer, then of the perfectly clear river flowing over grass, the appearance of the willing helper at the critical moment, and the high, firm ground beyond the final stream: these are the everlasting recurrent themes of the wonderful song of the soul’s high adventure. And each who has dared to harken to and follow the secret call has known the perils of the dangerous solitary transit.

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 16)

By this the dreamer crosses to the other shore. And by a like miracle, so will each whose work is the difficult, dangerous task of self-discovery and self-development he portrered across the ocean of life.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 17)

“The specific psychological difficulties of the dreamer frequently are revealed with touching simplicity and force. “

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 85)

“Furthermore, 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 though 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; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 18)

“The cosmogonic cycle is presented with astonishing consistency in the sacred writings of all the continents, and it gives to the adventure of the hero a new and interesting turn; for now it appears that the perilous journey was a labor not of attainment but of reattainment, not discovery but rediscovery. The godly power sought and dangerously won are revealed to have been within the heart of the hero all the time.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 31)

“The herald or announcer of the adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the word; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into dark where the jewels glow.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  44)

“The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  32)

“The first stage of the mythological journey, which we have designated the “call to adventure” signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 48)

“One has only to know and trust, and ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 59)

“The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream, discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed. One y one the resistances are broken. He must put aside his pride, his virtue, beauty, and life, and bow or submit to the absolutely intolerable. Then he finds that he and his opposite are not of differing species, but one flesh.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 89)

“The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. The values and distinctions that in normal life seem important disappear with the terrifying assimilation of the self into what formerly was only otherness. As in the stories of the cannibal ogresses, the fearfulness of this loss of personal individuation can be the whole burden of the transcendental experience for unqualified souls. But the hero soul goes boldly in and discovers the hags converted into goddesses and the dragons into the watchdogs of the gods.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 188)

“The encounter and separation, for all its wildness, is typical of the sufferings of love. For when a heart insists on its destiny, resisting the general blandishment, then the agony is great; so too the danger. Forces, however, will have been set in motion beyond the reckoning of the senses. Sequences of events from the corners of the world will draw gradually together and miracles of coincidence bring the inevitable to pass.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 196)

“The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he achieved illumination, the nuclear moment when, while still alive, he found and opened the road to the light beyond the dark walls of our living death.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 222)

“The aim is not to see, but to realize that one is, that essence; then one is free to wander as that essence in the world. Furthermore: the world too is of that essence. The essence of oneself and the essence of the world: these two are one. Hence separateness, withdrawal, is no longer necessary. Wherever the hero may wander, whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence, for he has perfected the 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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 333)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Art, Literature & Mythology

“Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figurations that about before us, around us and within.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  20)

“Yes, but what is unfortunate for us is that a lot of the people who write these stories do not have the sense of their responsibility. These stories are making and breaking lives. But the movies are made simply to make money. The kind of responsibility that goes into a priesthood with a ritual is not there. That is one of our problems today.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp 1881)

“Now, one of the main problems of mythology is reconciling the mind to this brutal precondition of all life, which lives by the killing and eating of lives. You don’t kid yourself by eating only vegetables, either, for they, too, are alive. So the essence of life is this eating of itself! Life lives on lives, and the reconciliation of the human mind and sensibilities to that fundamental fact is one of the functions of some of those very brutal rites in which the ritual consists chiefly of killing—in imitation, as it were, of that first, primordial crime, out of which arose this temporal world, in which we all participate. The reconciliation of mind to the conditions of life is fundamental to all creation stories.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp 1030)

“Typically, the hero of the fairy tale achieves a domestic, microcosmic triumph, and the hero of myth a world historical, macrocosmic triumph.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  30)

“Where the moralist would be filled with indignation and the tragic poet with pity and terror, mythology breaks the whole of life into a vast, horrendous divine comedy. Its Olympian laugh is not escapist in the least, but hard, with the hardness of life itself.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 37)

“Humor is the touchstone of the truly mythological as distinct from the more literal minded and sentimental theological mood. The gods as icons are not ends in themselves.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  154)

“Symbols are only the vehicles of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, or their reference. No matter how attractive or impressive they may seem, they remain but convenient means, accommodated to the understanding.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  202)

“Every mythology has to do with the wisdom of life as related to a specific culture at a specific time. It integrates the individual into his society and the society into the field of nature. It unites the field of nature with my nature. It’s a harmonizing force. Our own mythology, for example, is based on the idea of duality: good and evil, heaven and hell. And so our religions tend to be ethical in their accent. Sin and atonement. Right and wrong.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, (kp. 1289)

“The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another. A realization of the inevitable guilt of life may so sicken the heart that, like Hamlet or like Arjuna, one may refuse to go on with it. On the other hand, like most of the rest of us, one may invent a false, finally unjustified, image of oneself as an exceptional phenomenon in the world, not guilty as others are, but justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good. Such self-righteousness leads to a misunderstanding, not only of oneself but of the nature of both man and the cosmos. The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will.  And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  205)

“Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology. The modern psychologist can translate it back to its proper denotations and thus rescue for the contemporary world a rich and eloquent document of the profoundest depths of human character.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 219)

“The modern student may, of course, study these symbols as he will, either as a symptom of others ignorance, or as a sign to him of his own, either in terms of a reduction of metaphysics to psychology, or vice versa. The traditional way was to meditate on the symbols in both senses. In any case, they are telling metaphors of the destiny of man, man’s hope, man’s faith, and man’s dark mystery.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 223)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Beauty & Truth

“Woman is the guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure. By deficient eyes she is reduced to inferior states; by the evil eye of ignorance she is spellbound to banality and ugliness. But she is redeemed by the eyes of understanding. The hero who can take her as she is, without undue commotion but with the kindness and assurance she requires, it potentially the king, the incarnate god, of her created world.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 97)

“What is understood is that time and eternity are two aspects of the same experience-whole, two planes of the same nondual ineffable.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 130)

“The taste of the fruits of temporal knowledge draws the concentration of the spirit away from the center of the eon to the peripheral crisis of the moment. The balance of perfection is lost, the spirit falters, and the hero falls.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 192)

“When a spider makes a beautiful web, the beauty comes out of the spider’s nature. It’s instinctive beauty. How much of the beauty of our own lives is about the beauty of being alive? How much of it is conscious and intentional? That is a big question.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 1837)


Joseph Campbell Quotes about Death

“Only birth can conquer death, the birth, not of the old things again, but of something new.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 11)

“One of the psychological problems in growing old is the fear of death. People resist the door of death. But this body is a vehicle of consciousness, and if you can identify with the consciousness, you can watch this body go like an old car. There goes the fender, there goes the tire, one thing after another—but it’s predictable. And then, gradually, the whole thing drops off, and consciousness rejoins consciousness. It is no longer in this particular environment.

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp 1644)

“Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time. The happy ending is justly scorned s a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yield but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 19)

“This death to the logic and the emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, and shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kiss of our own annihilation, this amor fati, “love of fate,” love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art: therein the joy of it, the redeeming ecstasy.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 20)

“One had better not challenge the watcher of established bounds. And yet, it is only by adventuring beyond those bounds, provoking the other, destructive aspect of the same power, that the individual passes, either alive or in death into a new zone of experience.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 67)

“The mother of life is at the same time the mother of death; she is masked in the ugly demonesses of famine and disease.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 259)

“The last act in the biography of the hero is that of the death or departure. Here the whole sense of the life is epitomized. Needless to say, the hero would be no hero if death held from him any terror; the first condition is reconciliation with the grave.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 306)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Dreams

“Q: How do we pay attention to our dreams? CAMPBELL: All you have to do is remember your dream in the first place, and write it down. Then take one little fraction of the dream, one or two images or ideas, and associate with them. Write down what comes to your mind, and again what comes to your mind, and again. You’ll find that 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. Soon the next dream will come along, and your interpretation will go further.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 987)

“For example, you may be worried about whether you are going to pass an exam. Then you have a dream of some kind of failure, and you find that failure will be associated with many other failures in your life. They are all piled up together there. Freud says even the most fully expounded dream is not really fully expounded. The dream is an inexhaustible source of spiritual information about yourself.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 978)

“Q: Why is a myth different from a dream? CAMPBELL: Oh, because a dream is a personal experience of that deep, dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (p. 997)


Joseph Campbell Quotes about Happiness & Tragedy

“The secret cause of all suffering,” he said, “is mortality itself, which is the prime condition of life. It cannot be denied if life is to be affirmed.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp.73)

“Privation and suffering alone open the mind to all that is hidden to others.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 78)

“The way to find out about your 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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (p. 193)

“Happy endings of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 21)

“Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and our attachment of the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 21)

“The fairytale of happiness ever after cannot be taken seriously; it belongs to the never-never land of childhood, which is protected from the realities that will become terribly known soon enough.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 21)

“As Freud has shown, blunders are not the merest chance. They are the result of suppressed desires and conflicts.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  42)

“[For the hero who refuses the call to adventure] all he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 49)

“As the rising smoke of an offering through the sun door, so goes the hero, released from ego, through the walls of the world.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 73)

“Every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 101)

“The perennial agony of man, self-torturing, deluded tangled in the net of his own tenuous delirium, frustrated, yet having within himself, undiscovered, absolutely unutilized, the secret of release: this too he regards and is.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  137)

“The myths of failure touch us with the tragedy of life, but those of success only with their own incredibility. And yet, if the monomyth is to fulfill its promise, not human failure or superhuman success but human success is what we shall have to be shown. That is the problem of the crisis of the threshold of the return. We shall first consider it in the superhuman symbols and then seek the practical teaching for historic man.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 178)

“From the point of view of the present there is such a recklessness in this deliverance of the future that it appears to be nihilistic.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. P 303)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Heroes

Joseph Campbell Quotes about Heroes

“The hero is the man of self-achieved submission. But submission to what? That precisely is the riddle that today we have to ask ourselves and that it is everywhere the primary virtue and historic deed of the hero to have solved.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 11)

“In a word: the first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and give there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e. To give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what C.G. Jung calls “the archetypal images.” This is the process known to the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy as viveka, :discrimination.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 12)

“The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man – perfected, unspecific, universal man- h has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 15)

“The return and reintegration with society, which is indispensable to the continuous circulation of spiritual energy into the world, and which, from the standpoint of the community, is the justification of the long retreat, the hero himself may find the most difficult requirement of all. For if he has won through like the Buddha, to the profound repose of complete enlightenment, there is a danger that the bliss of this experience may annihilate all recollection of, interest in, or hope for, the sorrows of the world, or else the problem of making known the way of illumination to people wrapped in economic problems may seem too great to solve.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 29)

“The two, the hero and his ultimate god, the seeker and the found, are thus understood as the outside and the inside of a single, self-mirrored mystery, which is identical with the mystery of the manifest world. The great deed of the supreme hero is to come to the knowledge of this unity in multiplicity and then to make it know.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 31)

“The hero is competent, consequently, now to enact himself the role of the initiator, the guide, the sun door, through whom one may pass from the infantile illusions of “good” and “evil” to an experience of the majesty of cosmic law, purged of hope and fear, and at peace in the understanding of the revelation of being.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 116)

“The problem of the hero going to meet his father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how sickening and insane tragedies of the vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rise to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands, and the two are atoned.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 125)

“The boon brought from the transcendent deep becomes quickly rationalized into nonentity, and the need becomes great for another hero to refresh the world. “

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 188)

“That’s not what the hero’s journey is about. It’s not to deny reason. To the contrary, by overcoming the dark passions, the hero symbolizes our ability to control the irrational savage within us.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 108)

“The hero-deed is a continuous shattering of the crystallizations of the moment. The cycle rolls: mythology focuses on the growing-point. Transformation, fluidity, not stubborn ponderosity, is the characteristic of the living god. The great figure of the moment exists only to be broken, cut into chunks, and scattered abroad. Briefly: the ogre-tyrant is the champion of the prodigious fact, the hero of the champion of creative life.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 289)

“Q: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism? CAMPBELL: Yes, they are. Q: How do you explain that? CAMPBELL: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. 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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 1004)

“The supreme hero, however, is not the one who merely continues the dynamics of the cosmogonic round, but he who reopens the ye, so that through all the comings and goings, delights and agonies of the world panorama, the one presence will be seen again. This requires a deeper wisdom than the other, and results in a pattern not of action but of significant representation.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 296)

“The mighty hero of extraordinary powers – able to lift Mount Govardhan on a finger, and to fill himself with the terrible glory of the universe, is each of us: not the physical self-visible in the mirror, but the king within.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 315)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about A Hero’s Return

“How to teach again, however, what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand times, throughout the millennia of mankind’s prudent folly. That is the hero’s ultimate difficult task…how to communicate to people who insist  on the exclusive evidence of their sense the message of the all-generating void?”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  189)

“The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life. Why reenter such a world? Why attempt to make plausible or ever interesting to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss? As dreams that were so momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  189)

“The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world. Rip van Winkle never knew what he had experienced; his return was a joke. Oisin knew, but he lost his centering in it and so collapsed. Kamar al-Zaman had the best luck of all. He experienced awake the bliss of deep sleep, and returned to the light of day with such a convincing talisman of his unbelievable adventure that he was able to retain his self-assurance in the face of every sobering disillusionment.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 194)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Life

“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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (p. 120)

“It is only those who known neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight is truly desperate; that is to say most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 17)

“There is no make believe about heaven, future bliss, and compensation to alleviate the bitter majesty, but only utter darkness, the void of unfulfillment, to receive and eat back the lives that have been tossed forth from the womb only to fail.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces  (p. 20)

“Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images…there will be experiences an almost super-human degree of self-consciousness and masterful control.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces  (p 53)

“The terrors will recede before a genuine psychological readiness, the overbold adventurer beyond his depth may be shamelessly undone.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces  (p. 68)

“The individual has only to discover his own position with reference to this general human formula, and let it then assist him past his restricting walls. Who and where are his ogres? Those are the reflections of the unsolved enigmas of his own humanity. What are his ideals? Those are the symptoms of his grasp of life.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces  (p. 101)

“The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom corresponds to what life really is. Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell. Rather we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all the flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else. “

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 101)

“Those who know, not only that the everlasting lives in them but that what they, and all things, really are is the everlasting, dwell in the groves of the wish-fulfilling trees, drink the brew of immortality, and listen everywhere to the unheard music of eternal concord.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.142)

“Any leaf accidentally swallowed, any nut, or even the breath of a breeze, may be enough to fertilize the ready womb. The procreating power is everywhere. And according to the whim of destiny of the hour, either a hero-savior or a world –annihilating demon may be conceived, on can never know.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 267)

“The lover is the image of his destiny which he is to release from the prison of enveloping circumstance. But where he is ignorant of his destiny, or deluded by false considerations, no effort on his part will overcome the obstacles.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 293)

“Whereas the man or woman who can honestly say that he or she has lived the role, whether that of priest, harlot, queen or slave, is something in the full sense of the verb to be.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 331)

“Marx teaches us to blame society for our frailties, Freud teaches us to blame our parents, and astrology teaches us to blame the universe. The only place to look for blame is within: you didn’t have the guts to bring up your full moon and live the life that was your potential.”

– Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss (p. 104)

“To a man not led astray from himself by sentiments stemming from the surfaces of what he sees, but courageously responding to the dynamics of his own nature-to a man who is, as Nietzsche phrases it, “ a wheel rolling of itself” – the difficulties melt and the unpredictable highway opens as he goes.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 296)

“Live,” Nietzsche says “as though the day were here.” It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal, carries the cross of the redeemer, not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silence of his personal despair.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 337)

“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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (Episode 2, Chapter 4)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Religion & Society

“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, “native” or alien people happens to occupy the position of neighbor.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 134)

“God” is an ambiguous word in our language because it appears to refer to something that is known. But the transcendent is unknowable and unknown. God is transcendent, finally, of anything like the name “God.” God is beyond names and forms. Meister Eckhart said that the ultimate and highest leave-taking is leaving God for God, leaving your notion of God for an experience of that which transcends all notions.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (kp. 1136)

“Once we have broken free of the prejudices of our provincially limited ecclesiastical, tribal, or national rendition of the world archetype, it becomes possible to understand that the supreme initiation is not that of the local motherly father, who then project aggression onto the neighbors for their own defense.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 135)

“The gods and goddesses then are to be understood as embodiments and custodians of the elixir of the Imperishable Being but not themselves the Ultimate in its primary state. What the hero seeks through his intercourses with them s therefore not finally themselves but their grace, the power of their sustaining substance. This miraculous energy-substance and this alone is the Imperishable; the names and forms of the deities who everywhere embody, dispense, and represent it come and go.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 155)

“God has made different religions to suit different aspirants, times, and countries. All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God himself. Indeed, one can reach god if one follows any of the paths with whole hearted devotion…one may eat a cake with icing either straight or sidewise. It will taste sweet either way.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 135)

“If the god is a tribal, racial, national, or sectarian archetype, we are the warriors of his cause; but if he is a lord of the universe itself, we go forth as knowers to whom all men are brother. And in either case, the childhood parent images and ideas of “good” and “evil” have been surpassed. We are ni kinger desire and fear; we are what was desired and feared. All the gods, bodhisattvas, and Buddhas have been subsumed in us, as in the halo of the mighty holder of the lotus of the world.”

  – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 139)

“The problem of the theologian is to keep his symbol translucent, so that it may not block out the very light it is supposed to convey.  “For that alone do we know God Truly,” writes Saint Thomas Aquinas, “when we believe that he is far above all that man can possibly think of God.” And in the Kena Upanisad, in the same spirit: To know is not to know; not to know is to know.” Mistaking a vehicle for its tenor may lead to the spilling not of valueless ink, but of valuable blood.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 202)

“The irresistible compulsion to make war: the impulse to destroy the father is continually transforming itself into public violence.”

 – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 133)

“The meaning is very clear; it is the meaning of all religious practice. The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely al attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes rope, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity. The law lives in him with his unreserved consent.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 205)

“Whenever 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 is dissolved. Such a blight has certainly descended on the Bible and on a great part of the Christian cult. To bring the images back to life, one has to seek, not interesting applications to modern affairs, but illuminating hints from the inspired past.”

  – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 213)

“The differentiations of sex, age, and occupation are not essential to our character, but mere costumes which we wear for a time on the stage of the world. The image of man within is not to be confounded with the garments. We think of ourselves as Americans, children of the twentieth century, Occidentals, civilized Christans. We are virtuous or sinful. Yet such designations do not tell what it is to be a man, they denote only the accidents of geography, birth-date, and income. What is the core of us? What is the basic character of our being?”

  – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  332)

“Hence, the totality, the fullness of man, is not in the separate member, but in the body of the society as a whole; the individual can be only and organ. From his group he has derived his techniques of life, the language in which he thinks, the ideas on which he thrives, through the past of that society descended the genes that built his body. If he presumes to cut himself off, either in deed or in thought and feeling, he only breaks connection with the sources of his existence.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.  330)

“Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery. Man is that alien presence with whom the forces of egoism must come to terms, through whom the ego is to be crucified and resurrected, and in whose image society is to be reformed.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 337)

“The way to become human is to learn to recognize the lineaments of God in all the wonderful modulations of the face of man.”

  – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 336)

“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.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth  (Episode 1, Chapter 12)

“Your life is much deeper and broader than you conceive it to be here. What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you, what gives you life, breadth, and depth. But you can live in terms of that depth. And when you can experience it, you suddenly see that all the religions are talking of that.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth  (kp 1357)

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Joseph Campbell Quotes about Tyrants, Monsters & Evilness

“The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to the mythologies, folk traditions, legends and even nightmares of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same. He is the hoarder of the general benefit.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.11)

“The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world – no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p.11)

“They tyrant is proud, and therein resides his doom. He is proud because he thinks of his strength as his own; thus he is in the clown role, as a mistaker of shadow for substance; it is his destiny to be tricked.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (P. 289)

“The hero of yesterday becomes the tyrant of tomorrow, unless he crucifies himself today.”

– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 303)


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