Joseph Campbell

Joseph
Campbell
1904
1987

American Author on Comparative Mythology, Philosophy

Author Quotes

We are having experiences all the time which may on occasion render some sense of this, a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depth.

Art is the clothing of a revelation.

The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life's joy. One can experience an unconditional affirmation of life only when one has accepted death, not as contrary to life, but as an aspect of life. Life in its becoming is always shedding death, and on the point of death. The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is the cardinal initiation of every heroic adventure - fearlessness and achievement.

Essentially, mythologies are enormous poems that are renditions of insights, giving some sense of the marvel, the miracle and wonder of life.

The theme of the Grail is the bringing of life into what is known as 'the wasteland.' The wasteland is the preliminary theme to which the Grail is the answer. . . It's the world of people living inauthentic lives - doing what they are supposed to do.

Mythology is the womb of man's initiation to life and death.

Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

A myth doesn't have to be real to be true.

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. A goal is what specifically you intend to make happen. Dreams and goals should be just out of your present reach but not out of sight. Dreams and goals are coming attractions in your life.

Seek to know the power that is within you.

The Universe always strikes you at your weakest point because thats what most needs strengthening.

Events are the language of the Universe.

Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.

The notion of this universe, its heavens, hells, and everything within it, as a great dream dreamed by a single being in which all the dream characters are dreaming too, has in India enchanted and shaped the entire civilization. The ultimate dreamer is Vishnu floating on the cosmic Milky Ocean, couched upon the coils of the abyssal serpent Ananta, the meaning of whose name is Unending. In the foreground stand the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the epic Mahabharata, with Draupadi, their wife: allegorically , she is the mind and they are the five senses. They are those whom the dream is dreaming. Eyes open, ready and willing to fight, the youths address themselves to this world of light in which we stand regarding them, where objects appear to be distinct from each other, and an Aristotelian logic prevails, and A is not not-A. Behind them a dream-door has opened, however, to an inward, backward dimension where a vision emerges against darkness.

No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities. It’s a shame to waste those by doing what someone else has done.

But if a person has had the sense of the Call — the feeling that there’s an adventure for him — and if he doesn’t follow that, but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to that condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder, and found that it’s against the wrong wall.If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. I feel that if one follows what I call one’s bliss — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life — doors will open up. They do!

There are now no more horizons. And with the dissolution of horizons we have experienced and are experiencing collisions, terrific collisions, not only of peoples but also of their mythologies. It is as when dividing panels are withdrawn from between chambers of very hot and very cold airs: there is a rush of these forces together.

Anyone who has had an experience of mystery knows that there is a dimension of the universe that is not that which is available to his senses. There is a pertinent saying in one of the Upanishads: When before the beauty of a sunset or of a mountain you pause and exclaim, ‘Ah,’ you are participating in divinity. 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.

It seems to have had an order, to have been composed by someone, and those events that were merely accidental when they happened turn out to be the main elements in a consistent plot. Who composed this plot? Just as your dreams are composed, so your whole life has been composed by the will within you. Just as the people who you met by chance became effective agents in the structuring of your life, so you have been the agent in the structuring of other lives. And the whole thing gears together like one big symphony, everything influencing and structuring everything else. It’s as though our lives were the dream of a single dreamer in which all of the dream characters are dreaming too. And so everything links to everything else moved out of the will in nature…It is as though there were an intention behind it yet it is all by chance. None of us lives the life that he had intended.

The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul, and the great agent to assist the artist was the myth.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the hero’s 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. And where we had though to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. And where we had though 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.

That is the arrogance of the kind of academic narrowness one too often sees; it is trapped in its own predictable prejudices, its own stale categories. It is the mind dulled to the poetry of existence. It’s fashionable now to demand some economic payoff from space, some reward to prove it was all worthwhile. Those who say this resemble the apelike creatures in 2001. They are fighting for food among themselves, while one separates himself from them and moves to the slab, motivated by awe. That is the point they are missing. He is the one who evolves into a human being; he is the one who understands the future.

The psychological dangers through which earlier generations were guided by the symbols and spiritual exercises of their mythological and religious inheritance, we today (in so far as we are unbelievers, or, if believers, in so far as our inherited beliefs fail to represent the real problems of contemporary life) must face alone, or, at best with only tentative, impromptu, and not often very effective guidance. This is our problem as modern, “enlightened” individuals, for whom all gods and devils have been rationalized out of existence.

There seem to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know they are not facts are what we call “atheists,” and those who think they are facts are “religious.” Which group really gets the message?

[Comedies], in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete. The happy ending 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…. Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachments to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.

Author Picture
First Name
Joseph
Last Name
Campbell
Birth Date
1904
Death Date
1987
Bio

American Author on Comparative Mythology, Philosophy