29+ quotes from The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

Quotes from The Power of Myth

Joseph Campbell ·  320 pages

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“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 that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Sit in a room and read--and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“I don't have to have faith, I have experience.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth--penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I've never met an ordinary man, woman or child.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn't that. That is a relationship for pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it's off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you're not married....The Puritans called marriage "the little church within the Church." In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive. It is an ongoing sacrament – love and forgiveness.... Like the yin/yang symbol....Here I am, and here she is, and here we are. Now when I have to make a sacrifice, I'm not sacrificing to her, I'm sacrificing to the relationship. Resentment against the other one is wrongly placed. Life in in the relationship, that's where your life now is. That's what a marriage is – whereas, in a love affair, you have two lives in a more or less successful relationship to each other for a certain length of time, as long as it seems agreeable.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love. The stronger the love, the more the pain. Love itself is pain, you might say -the pain of being truly alive. [...] But love bears all things. [...] Love itself is pain, you might say - the pain of being truly alive.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going. As Novalis said, 'The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“There's nothing militant about Jesus. I don't read anything like that in any of the gospels. Peter drew his sword and cut off the servant's ear, and Jesus said, "Put back thy sword, Peter." But Peter has had his sword out and at work ever since.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth Century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the world, are within us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other. That is what myth is. Myth is a manifestation in symbolic images, in metaphorical images, of the energies of the organs of the body in conflict with each other. This organ wants this, that organ wants that. The brain is one of the organs.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“The big problem of any young person's life is to have models to suggest possibilities. Nietzsche says, 'Man is the sick animal.' Man is the animal that doesn't know what to do with itself. The mind has many possibilities, but we can live no more than one life. What are we going to do with ourselves?”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function,... realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery....The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned – showing you what shape the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through.... The third function is the sociological one – supporting and validating a certain social order.... It is the sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world – and it is out of date.... But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to – and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off.... the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Society has provided [children] no rituals by which they become members of the tribe, of the community. All children need to be twice born, to learn to function rationally in the present world, leaving childhood behind.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Marriage is not a simple love affair, it’s an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“Poets are simply those who have made a profession ans a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows. For in this context, to know is not to know. And not to know is to know.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“I don't think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I've never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“The idea of the supernatural as being something over and above the natural is a killing idea. In the Middle Ages this was the idea that finally turned that world into something like a wasteland, a land where people were living inauthentic lives, never doing a think they truly wanted to because the supernatural laws required them to live as directed by their clergy. In a wasteland, people are fulfilling purposes that are not properly theirs but have been put upon them as inescapable laws. This is a killer.... The spirit is really the bouquet of life. It is not something breathed into life, it comes out of life. This is one of the glorious things about the mother-goddess religions, where the world is the body of the Goddess, divine in itself, and divinity isn't something ruling over and above a fallen nature.... Our story of the fall in the Garden sees nature as corrupt; and that myth corrupts the whole world for us. Because nature is thought of as corrupt, every spontaneous act is sinful and must not be yielded to. You get a totally different civilization and a totally different way of living according to whether your myth presents nature as fallen or whether nature is in itself a manifestation of divinity, and the spirit is the revelation of the divinity that is inherent in nature.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“[Marriage] is the reunion of the separated duad. Originally you were one. You are now two in the world, but the recognition of the spiritual identity is what marriage is.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“For if anything is capable of making a poet of a literary man, it is my hometown love of the human, the living and ordinary.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


“You can't say life is useless because it ends in the grave.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from The Power of Myth


About the author

Joseph Campbell
Born place: in White Plains, NY, The United States
Born date March 26, 1904
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