The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell

Who knew all the ancients had similar myths and stories?

Apparently, Joseph Campbell.

The Power of Myth is a nice book that discusses all the parallels that exist between the myths of many different cultures throughout the world. It’s quite a fascinating read if you’re into stories, culture or religion / spirituality.

What’s surprising is that so many cultures have similar myths and motifs in these myths. Those folks knew some stuff about the human psyche.

One important aspect of the book is how new life is made. Campbell states that “Somebody has to die in order for life to emerge,” and this has been common to most cultures throughout history: human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, sacrificing oneself for one’s children… you get the idea.

Basically, it’s a fact of growth that something has to die first. In PD, one could say this means dying to your old self: forget who you were yesterday, that’s not you now.

Another thing that some of you might be familiar with is the motif of the Hero’s Journey.

Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Starts by being seen in ordinary existence.
  2. Presented with call to action, opportunity.
  3. Rejection of the call.
  4. Forced to accept call because it is imposed upon him.
  5. Ventures into unknown territory, faces threshold guardian (first obstacle).
  6. If fails, goes to find mentor (=hero from past generation).
  7. Returns to fight threshold guardians.
  8. Faces more guardians until final boss which guards Holy Grail.
  9. Enters the belly of the whale: has to face himself, rethink his approach, look at his inner demons.
  10. When he gets Holy Grail, there is a 180 degree reversal of understanding of grail -> journey was not about the grail but about the development required to reach the grail -> finds peace and happiness in who he has become => journey to FIND himself.
  11. Tribe cannot comprehend his lessons because have not gone on journey.
  12. Hero retires as mentor.

How to be a hero 101 😉

This is the journey that all the great heroes throughout history and culture have taken: Jesus, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins… the list goes on.

Campbell defines a hero as “someone who has given her life to something bigger than oneself.” He even argues that motherhood can be seen as a heroic act, because in the past it was essentially devoting one’s life to one’s children, and sometimes even dying in the act of giving birth.

The interpretation I like is that the Hero’s Journey is really just a metaphor for Enlightenment. This is the Hero’s Journey we’re all called to go on in the end. That’s what giving our lives over to something bigger than ourselves is truly about.

Most people don’t realize that all these stories of heroes are really just metaphors for Enlightenment (which is what religion is). But that’s ultimately what it’s about.

Campbell says that all spiritual masters have undertaken this Hero’s Journey.

He also says that for you to have a Hero’s Journey of you own, they must “follow your bliss,” which I like as a substitute for Life Purpose. Find what best “fosters the flowering of your humanity.”

But don’t get distracted by the sexy life purpose journey: the real one is still Oneness.

Another point that is important in any journey: the TRIALS on a metaphorical Hero’s Journey and REVELATIONS on a spiritual Hero’s Journey both contribute to the raising of the hero’s consciousness. Muy importante.

At some point in any journey, you will need to descend into the belly of the whale, a notion that I really like. It’s that dark psychological place into which a hero MUST descend.

That’s where the real growth happens. Go the the very root of the thing.

Ok, enough with the Hero’s Journey. Campbell also discusses the universal notion of love, which he distinguishes into 3 types:

Eros = lust

Agape = spiritual love

Amor = romantic love

I love those names! Sounds so much better than simply “love.”

He also reminds us that compassion literally means “suffering with.” Being compassionate means voluntarily participating the the sorrows of the world.

Hopefully, he points out in the case of the Bodhisattva, you complete your Hero’s Journey to Enlightenment and then come back and live with and help the rest of the world. That’s what a Bodhisattva is.

Lastly, about the book itself: I really enjoyed it. It’s in the form of a dialogue between Campbell and a journalist named Bill Moyers, who is actually a pretty smart guy in the book. It’s a really pleasant read, and full of cultural juice.

Favorite quote:

“The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life’s joy.”

The Verdict:

And excellent read for understanding the origins of myth and the universally-known truths of the human psyche.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s