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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Joseph Campbell and mythology

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American writer best known for his analysis of myths. Politician Bill Moyers said,


"To [Campbell] mythology was 'the song of the universe', 'the music of the spheres' - music we dance to even when we cannot name the tune." (Introduction to The Power of Myth, 1988)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Campbell.


Life's path


"I don't think people are really seeking the meaning of life. I think we're seeking an experience of being alive... we want to feel the rapture of being alive." (The Power of Myth, 1988)


"Nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be." (


"If you see your path laid out in front of you - step one, step two, step three - you only know one thing... it is not your path." (


"If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's." (




"Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow." (


"Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging." (


"When you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center." (Quoted in Joseph Campbell Companion, 1991)




"If you live with the myths in your mind, you will find yourself always in mythological situations. They cover everything that can happen to you. And that enables you to interpret the myth in relation to life, as well as life in relation to myth." (


"Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life." (The Power of Myth, 1988)


"Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation." (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949)




"I think of compassion as the fundamental religious experience and, unless that is there, you have nothing." (


"The key to the grail is compassion, 'suffering with', feeling another's sorrow as if it were you own. The one who finds the dynamo of compassion is the one who's found the grail." (


Problems of the world


"When we talk about settling the world's problems, we're barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It's a mess. It has always been a mess. We're not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives." (


"We're not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes." (The Power of Myth, 1988)




"Writer's block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscious allows." (


"The creative act is not hanging on, but yielding to a new creative movement. Awe is what moves us forward." (


"The quest for fire occurred not because anyone knew what the practical uses for fire would be, but because it was fascinating." (