Quotes from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor

Joseph Campbell ·  192 pages

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“How does the ordinary person come to the transcendent? For a start, I would say, study poetry. Learn how to read a poem. You need not have the experience to get the message, or at least some indication of the message. It may come gradually. (92)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“It may be a species of impudence to think that the way you understand God is the way God is. (60).”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end… The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth—that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“The problem in our society and in our schools is to inclulcate, without overdoing it, the notion of education, as in the Latin educere--to lead, to bring out what is in someone rather than merely to indoctrinate him/her from the outside. (89)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“When you translate the Bible with excessive literalism, you demythologize it. The possibility of a convincing reference to the individual's own spiritual experience is lost. (111)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor



“Is the god the source, or is the god a human manner of conceiving of the force and energy that supports the world? In our tradition God is a male. This male and female differentiation is made, however, within the field of time and space, the field of duality. If God is beyond duality, you cannot say that God is a "He." You cannot say God is a "She." You cannot say God is an "It." (18)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“The problem is that people have tried to look away from space and from the meaning of the moon landing. I remember seeing a picture of an astronaut standing on the moon. It was up at Yale and someone has scrawled on it, 'So what?' 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.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“[T]he experience of mystery comes not from expecting it but through yielding all your programs, because your programs are based on fear and desire. Drop them and the radiance comes. (16)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“Marriage . . . is not a love affair; it is an ordeal. (92)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“The Garden is a metaphor for the following: our minds, and our thinking in terms of pairs of opposites--man and woman, good and evil--are as holy as that of a god. (50)”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor



“How, in the contemporary period, can we evoke the imagery that communicates the most profound and most richly developed sense of experiencing life? These images must point past themselves to that ultimate truth which must be told: that life does not have one absolutely fixed meaning. These images must point past all meanings given, beyond all definitions and relationships, to that really ineffable mystery that is just the existence, the being of ourselves and of our world. If we give that mystery an exact meaning we diminish the experience of its real depth. But when a poet carries the mind into a context of meanings and then pitches it past those, one knows that marvelous rapture that comes from going past all categories of definition. Here we sense the function of metaphor that allows us to make a journey we could not otherwise make ...”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


“When you have lived your individual life in your own adventurous way and then look back upon its course, you will find that you have lived a model human life, after all.”
― Joseph Campbell, quote from Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor


About the author

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