Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth - Season 1

PBS (ended 1988)




Episode Guide


  • The Hero's Adventure
    In the first of six hours of interviews, Moyers interviews Campbell about the core of his life's work, the Hero Cycle. Campbell discusses the concept of the hero in cultures throughout the world, and the ways in which virtually all hero stories reflect the same underlying structure. He goes on to discuss how this structure manifests in several ancient cultures and right up through today, using examples as diverse as Native American mythology and the Star Wars films.moreless
  • Love and the Goddess
    In the first half of this hour, Campbell describes the thirteenth century emergence of romantic love as an ideal. Before this time, marriage was considered a social contract, but the stories and myths of the troubadors talked of marriages based on love, and this created a cultural revolution.

    He then goes on to discuss the Goddess and the archetype of the great mother. This figure has been present in all cultures in one form or another, and even when suppressed, has returned again and again in myth, religion, and popular culture. Campbell examines the history of this image and why the human mind seems to crave it so universally.moreless
  • Sacrifice and Bliss
    In this installment, Campbell discusses the role of sacrifice in mythology. He points out that virtually all cultures have used sacrifice at one time or another, and that it has almost always been voluntary on the part of the victim. He uses this concept to explore the nature of life in the face of death, in the primitive world and today.moreless
  • The First Storytellers
    Campbell discusses the origins of our myths and religions in our hunter/gatherer ancestry. He uses a combination of archaological evidence and analysis of modern hunter/gatherer groups to piece together the ancient beliefs of these first storytellers. He also explores the idea of ritual as an enactment of myth.
  • The Message of the Myth
    In this installment, Campbell compares creation myths from around the world, pointing out the unifying themes and symbols. He makes the point that religions must grow through time as the world changes, and must be able to read their symbols as symbols or else they die and lose meaning.
  • The Masks of Eternity
    This final hour is filmed in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, unlike the rest which were filmed at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Campbell uses images from art history to demonstrate the concept of spiritual unity giving birth to the world of duality. Also, he demonstrates the knowledge that ancient peoples had that their images were not the god itself, but only a mask which was used to make the transcendant visible. He describes the failure of reading metaphor as fact, and mistaking the mask for the real thing, and how this tendency has shaped the world around us.moreless