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Joseph Campbell (1904 – 1987)


American professor, writer, and orator most famous for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.
Joseph Campbell
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.
Campbell quotes
It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexorcised images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood.
Campbell
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 thought 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. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.




Campbell Joseph quotes
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.
Campbell Joseph
The multitude of men and women choose the less adventurous way of the comparatively unconscious civic and tribal routines. But these seekers, too, are saved—by the virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rites of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to mankind of old by the redeemers and handed down through the millenniums. It is only those who know 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. Alas, where is the guide, that fond virgin, Ariadne, to supply the simple clue that will give us the courage to face the Minotaur, and the means to find our way to freedom when the monster has been met and slain?
Joseph Campbell quotes
In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dreams.
Joseph Campbell
It's only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself if not of the world.
Campbell Joseph quotes
The image of the cosmos must change with the development of the mind and knowledge; otherwise, the mythic statement is lost, and man becomes dissociated from the very basis of his own religious experience. Doubt comes in, and so forth. You must remember: all of the great traditions, and little traditions, in their own time were scientifically correct. That is to say, they were correct in terms of the scientific image of that age. So there must be a scientifically validated image. Now you know what has happened: our scientific field has separated itself from the religious field, or vice-versa. … This divorce this is a fatal thing, and a very unfortunate thing, and a totally unnecessary thing.
Campbell
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.
Campbell Joseph
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 attachment to the forms... the two are the terms of a single mythological theme... the down-going and the up-coming (kathados and anodos), which together constitute the totality of the revelation that is life, and which the individual must know and love if he is to be purged (katharsis=purgatorio) of the contagion of sin (disobedience to the divine will) and death (identification with the mortal form).
Joseph Campbell
If we could dredge up something forgotten not only by ourselves but by our whole generation or our entire civilization, we should become indeed the boonbringer, the culture hero of the day—a personage of not only local but world historical moment. 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 there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., 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 called "the archetypal images." This is the process known to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy as viveka, "dicrimination."




Joseph Campbell quotes
Everywhere, no matter what the sphere of interest (whether religious, political, or personal), the really creative acts are represented as those deriving from some sort of dying to the world; and what happens in the interval of the hero's nonentity, so that he comes back as one reborn, made great and filled with creative power, mankind is also unanimous in declaring. We shall have only to follow, therefore, a multitude of heroic figures through the classic stages of the universal adventure in order to see again what has always been revealed. ...the singleness of the human spirit in its aspirations, powers, vicissitudes, and wisdom.
Joseph Campbell
For when scrutinized in terms not of what it is but of how it functions, of how it has served mankind in the past, of how it may serve today, mythology shows itself to be as amenable as life itself to the obsessions and requirements of the individual, the race, the age. 
Campbell quotes
Moyers: Unlike heroes such as Prometheus or Jesus, we're not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.
Campbell: But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there's no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who's on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it's alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.
Campbell Joseph
Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.
Campbell Joseph quotes
Campbell: Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. There's a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is illumination (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it. "All life is sorrowful" is the first Buddhist saying, and it is. It wouldn't be life if there were not temporality involved which is sorrow. Loss, loss, loss.
Moyers: That's a pessimistic note.
Campbell: Well, you have to say yes to it, you have to say it's great this way. It's the way God intended it.
Joseph Campbell
Most curiously, the very scientist who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of the labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom. But the hero-heart must be at hand. ...He is the hero of the way of thought—singlehearted, courageous, and full of faith that the truth, as he finds it, shall make us free.
Joseph Campbell quotes
The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation, and so forth, serve to translate the individual’s life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms. They disclose him to himself, not as this personality or that, but as the warrior, the bride, the widow, the priest, the chieftain; at the same time rehearsing for the rest of the community the old lesson of the archetypal stages.
Joseph Campbell
The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending; death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms which we have loved.
Campbell Joseph
Sober, modern Occidental judgement is founded on a total misunderstanding of the realities depicted in the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedies of redemption. These, 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.


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