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Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell


3/26/1904, New York, NY USA



Birth Name

Joseph John Campbell


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Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • Joseph Campbell: We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

    • Joseph Campbell: Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.

    • Joseph Campbell: God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.

    • Joseph Campbell: Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.

    • Joseph Campbell: Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.

    • Joseph Campbell: Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.

    • Joseph Campbell: A one sentence definition of mythology? "Mythology" is what we call someone else's religion.

    • Joseph Campbell: Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.

  • The greatest scholar of myth and religion of the 20th century, if not of all time.

    In the 1949, Joseph Campbell published the book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. His basic premise was that there are certain themes that occur in virtually every hero story in every mythology in every culture. In trying to figure out why this was so, he did two things. First, he analyzed myth using the symbols of psychology and archetype, which are generally used to analyze dreams. Second, he outlined what the standard hero story, which he called the "Monomyth," consisted of.

    The latter part of the book has inspired many dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of writers to copy the Monomyth in their own stories. Perhaps the most notable example is George Lucas, who based the structure of his Star Wars series entirely on Campbell's work. Lucas was so grateful that when Bill Moyers wanted to interview Campbell and contacted Lucas for permission to talk about Star Wars, Lucas offered up Skywalker Ranch for their use in filming the interview.

    Those interviews became the PBS mini-series "Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth." If you have not seen these, I highly recommend them. Even if you do not agree with everything Campbell says, he says it in such an engaging way that it will at least make you reevaluate many of your existing ideas. The series is available on DVD (finally) and you can get it just about everywhere.

    There has been some controversy about Campbell's ideas, but I note that it all surfaced after his death in 1987. I suspect that his critics would have been cut to ribbons if they'd actually debated Campbell face to face.

    Love him or hate him, I believe that Joseph Campbell was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. Every time since seeing "The Power of Myth" that I have been asked the old rhetorical, "if you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead" it has been no contest.moreless
  • I wrote the following after listening to an interview on the radio about Campbell: Myth works when you know what it is about, when it says something to you because it says something about you. We must become mythic as a species if we are to survive.moreless


    The great individuation of cultures each based on their myths must lead, through an emphasis on their similarities, to a planetization of mankind. For all things are one; the hero has a thousand faces, a unity in diversity.Myth is like a force field; it unfolds and calls forth our own special genius and is the basis of our understanding of our world, ourselves and our own transformation through life's inevitable trials and tribulations.-Robert Siegel discussing Joseph Campbell on "The Spirit of Things", ABC Radio National, 17 January 1999, 6:05-7:00 pm.

    You popularized an attitude, an understanding,

    of myth with a remarkable consistency with that universal myth that has captured my heart and mind in this post-war world. (1) I have been redesigning, retooling this protean self and losing myself, giving myself, expanding myself

    around this mythic base, this essence, this core, where a yearning, pathos, has produced a sweetness, dulce, settling in, an abundance scooped up, an updraft,scooped up, with a bliss quotient that is inestimable,indefinable. But there is always the work, the giving, always more, a doubling of effort, a fatigue, a mystery,a sadness, a tension, a working out of the myth in my

    own life, in its individuality and its collective identity.

    Ron Price

    17 January 1999

    1 Joseph Campbell is the great popularizer of myth in the post-war period, beginning with his first book The Hero With a Thousand Faces(1949). There are many similarities between Campbell and the Baha'i concept of myth, certainly a great deal that has been useful to me.moreless