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The Power of Myth

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The Power Of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people. To him, mythology was the "song of the universe, the music of the spheres." With Bill Moyers, one of America's most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging intervi The Power Of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people. To him, mythology was the "song of the universe, the music of the spheres." With Bill Moyers, one of America's most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power Of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit.

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The Power Of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people. To him, mythology was the "song of the universe, the music of the spheres." With Bill Moyers, one of America's most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging intervi The Power Of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people. To him, mythology was the "song of the universe, the music of the spheres." With Bill Moyers, one of America's most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power Of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit.

30 review for The Power of Myth

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really do think that this should be required reading in high school, everywhere. Or beyond. Just in general. I read it in preperation for my AP year, and it really helps you to open your eyes quite a bit. Does Joe Campbell like to stretch his points? Yes. Are some of his ideas and allusions a little far fetched? Absolutely. Will you roll your eyes a few times? Of course! Unless you are more starry eyed than even I was. However. What he says on the subject of myth and our current culture is so t I really do think that this should be required reading in high school, everywhere. Or beyond. Just in general. I read it in preperation for my AP year, and it really helps you to open your eyes quite a bit. Does Joe Campbell like to stretch his points? Yes. Are some of his ideas and allusions a little far fetched? Absolutely. Will you roll your eyes a few times? Of course! Unless you are more starry eyed than even I was. However. What he says on the subject of myth and our current culture is so true, and so insightful, that I think that everyone should pause to think about it. The changes in our cultural upbringing are so profound and Joe Campbell really helps to explain how and why that happened and what that does to your psyche, and spirit. Just as a brief example: What /do/ we do without that moment that tells us that we're an adult now, and it is time to take on the behavior of that part of our tale? We have our current generation of 30 somethings that still dress like teenagers, go to rock concerts, and still think that having 'commitment issues' is cool. Why do people spend so much time trying to 'find themselves' now? Partially due to the lack of a cohensive culture and unit that people can base off of. I would argue that his observations on the loss of myth and it's effects on a society are quite valid. The book is an interview, and his voice is so compelling. It's not hard to get behind a lot of his opinions. You want to. It's not necessarily a wholly bad or a wholly good thing, but it says so much about our culture. I guarantee you that this book will present you with several thoughts you might not have had, or thought in depth about before. Really, I think everyone should read this at least once.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    The Power of Myth explores so much more than myth. It delves into the essence of life itself. Joseph Campbell was mythologist, professor, writer, lecturer, historian...he was so much. His wealth of knowledge on faith, philosophy and humanity was astounding. He has left us, but he has left behind a body of work, a legacy of compassion and understanding for us and future generations. Thanks to this interview, conducted by journalist Bill Moyers, we have an encapsulated version of his teachings from The Power of Myth explores so much more than myth. It delves into the essence of life itself. Joseph Campbell was mythologist, professor, writer, lecturer, historian...he was so much. His wealth of knowledge on faith, philosophy and humanity was astounding. He has left us, but he has left behind a body of work, a legacy of compassion and understanding for us and future generations. Thanks to this interview, conducted by journalist Bill Moyers, we have an encapsulated version of his teachings from Campbell's own mouth. The interview was and has been broadcast on PBS stations since the late '80s and includes some nice visuals, however, it's not necessary to view. This audiobook suffices. You get some of what you'd expect from a title such as The Power of Myth: Heroes and legends from traditional sources such as the epic Greek poems and Norse gods; origin stories from Native America and Africa. But you also get Star Wars. The interview having been conducted at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch, some of the discussion spoke on the use of mythical archetypes, which became intrinsic to the success of the movie's popularity. After all, where would Luke be without the Force, and what is the Force but faith? Yes, religion goes hand in hand with mythology. In many, or most, cases it is one and the same. Campbell's take on religion is refreshing. Hearing him speak on the various kinds of world religions, their differences and even more so their similarities, is enlightening. When I first saw The Power of Myth on tv, I was only interested in the Star Wars material and the more fantastical elements of mythology, the bits about the gods and monsters. Today, while listening to the discussion, I'm most interested in the aspects of the birth, life and death cycle and of faith. Not that I'm any more religious than the atheist teen I once was, but these are the everyman topics. It is the human experience that most enthralls me now. Luckily for young me and middle-aged me (and probably old me), there's a little something in The Power of Myth for all.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    I have bought this wonderful machine—a computer. Now I am rather an authority on gods, so I identified the machine—it seems to me to be an Old Testament god with a lot of rules and no mercy. Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book that, for better or worse, will forever change how you see the world. Once you read his analysis of the monomyth, the basic outline of mythological stories, you find it everywhere. It’s maddening sometimes. Now I can’t watch certain movies without analy I have bought this wonderful machine—a computer. Now I am rather an authority on gods, so I identified the machine—it seems to me to be an Old Testament god with a lot of rules and no mercy. Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book that, for better or worse, will forever change how you see the world. Once you read his analysis of the monomyth, the basic outline of mythological stories, you find it everywhere. It’s maddening sometimes. Now I can’t watch certain movies without analyzing them in terms of Campbell’s outline. But that book had another lasting effect on me. Campbell showed that these old myths and stories, even if you don’t believe them literally—indeed, he encourages you not to—still hold value for us. In our sophisticated, secular society, we can still learn from these ancient tales of love, adventure, magic, monsters, heroes, death, rebirth, and transcendence. This book is a transcription of conversations between Campbell and Bill Moyers, made for a popular TV series. It isn’t exactly identical with the series, but there’s a lot of overlap. Moyers is interested in Campbell for seemingly the same reason I am: to find a value for myths and religion without the need for dogmatism or provinciality. The book is mainly focused on Campbell’s philosophy of life, but many subjects are touched upon in these conversations. Campbell was, in his own words, a generalist, so you will find passages in here that will annoy nearly anybody. (A good definition of a generalist is somebody who can irritate specialists in many different fields.) Personally, I find Campbell most irritating when he talks about how bad the world is nowadays since people don’t have enough myths to live by. It seems obvious to me that the contemporary world, more secular than ever before, is also better off than ever before (Trump notwithstanding). Campbell sometimes shows himself to be a sloppy scholar, such as his quoting of a letter by Chief Seattle, now widely believed to be fake. And I certainly don’t agree with his adoption of Jung’s psychology, which is hardly scientific. Indeed, to reduce old myths to Jung’s psychological system is merely to translate one myth into another. Perhaps Jung’s myth is easier to identify with nowadays, but I reject any claim of scientific accuracy. In sum, there is much to criticize in Campbell’s scholarly and academic approach. Yet his general message—that myths and religions can be made valuable even for contemporary nonbelievers—has a special relevance for me. I grew up in an entirely nonreligious household, and I’m thankful for that. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether I have missed out on something precious. Religious is as near to a human universal as you are likely to find, and I have no experience with it. Often I find myself reading religious books, exploring spiritual practices, and hanging around cathedrals. Although many beliefs and practices repel me, some I find beautiful, and I am fitfully filled with envy at the tranquility and fortitude that some practitioners seem to derive from their faith. Campbell has been most valuable to me in his ability interpret religions metaphorically, and his insistence that they still have value. Reading Campbell helped me to clarify many of the things I have been thinking and wondering about lately, so I can’t help mixing up my own reflections with Campbell’s. Indeed, there might be more of my opinions in this review than Campbell, but here it goes. One of the main lessons that art, philosophy, and religion teach us is that society imposes upon us superficial values. Wealth, attractiveness, sex, coolness, success, respectability—these are the values of society. And it’s no wonder. The economy doesn’t function well unless we strive to accumulate wealth; competition for mates creates a need for standards of beauty; cultural, political, and economic power is distributed hierarchically, and there are rules of behavior to differentiate the haves from the have-nots. In short, in a complex society these values are necessary—or at any rate inevitable. But of course, these are the values of the game: the competition for mates, success, power, and wealth. In other words, they are values that differentiate how well you’re doing from your neighbor. In this way they are superficial—measuring you extrinsically rather than intrinsically. One of the functions of art, philosophy, and religion, as I see it, is to remind us of this, and to direct our attention to intrinsic values. Love, friendship, compassion, beauty, goodness, wisdom—these are valuable in themselves, and give meaning and happiness to an individual life. How many great stories pit one of these personal values against one of the social values? Love against respectability, friendship against coolness, wisdom against wealth, compassion against success. In comedy—stories with happy endings—the intrinsic value is harmonized with the social value. Consider Jane Austen’s novels. In the end, genuine love is shown to be compatible with social respectability. But this is often not true, as tragedy points out. In tragedy, the social value wins against the personal value. The petty feud between the Capulets and the Montagues prevents Romeo and Juliet from being together. Respectability wins over love. But the victory is hollow, since this respectability brings its adherents nothing but pain and conflict. Art thus dramatizes this conflict to show us what is really valuable from what is only apparently so. Philosophy does this not through drama, but reason. (I'm not claiming this is all either art or philosophy does.) Religion does it through ritual. This, I think, is the advantage of religion: it is periodical, it is tied to your routine, and it involves the body and not just the mind. Every week and every day you go through a procedure to remind yourself of what is really worthwhile. But these things can fail, and often do. Art and philosophy can become academic, stereotyped, or commercial. And religion can become just another social value, used to cloak earthly power in superficial sanctity. As Campbell points out during these interviews, religion must change as society changes, or it will lose its efficacy. To use Campbell’s terminology, the social function of myth can entirely replace its pedagogical function. In such cases, the myths and rituals only serve to strengthen the group identity, to better integrate individuals into the society. When this is taken too far—as Campbell believes it has nowadays—then the social virtues are taught at the expense of the individual virtues, and the religion just becomes another worldly power. Myths can become ineffective, not only due to society co-opting their power, but also because myths have a cosmological role that can quickly become outdated. This is where religion comes into conflict with science. As Campbell explains, one of the purposes of myths is to help us find our place in the universe and understand our relationship to the world around us. If the religion is based on an outdated picture of the world, it can’t do that effectively, since then it forces people to choose between connecting with contemporary thought or adhering to the faith. For my part, I think the conflict between science and religion is ultimately sterile, since it is a conflict about beliefs, and beliefs are not fundamental to either. When I enter a cathedral, for example, I don’t see an educational facility designed to teach people facts. Rather, I see a place carefully constructed to create a certain psychological experience: the shadowy interior, the shining golden altars, the benevolent faces of the saints, the colored light from the stained glass windows, the smell of incense, the howl of the organ, the echo of the priest’s voice in the cavernous interior, the sense of smallness engendered by the towering roof. There are beliefs about reality involved in the experience, but the experience is not reducible to those beliefs; rather, the beliefs form a kind of scaffolding or context to experience the divine presence. Science, too, is not a system of beliefs, but a procedure for investigating the world. Theories are overturned all the time in science. The most respected scientists have been proven wrong. Scientific orthodoxy today might be outmoded tomorrow. Consequently, when scientists argue with religious people about their beliefs, I think they’re both missing the point. So far we have covered Campbell’s social, pedagogical, and cosmological functions of myths. This leaves only his spiritual function: connecting us to the mystery of the world. This is strongly connected with mysticism. By mysticism, I mean the belief that there is a higher reality behind the visual world; that there is an invisible, timeless, eternal plain that supports the field of time and action; that all apparent differences are only superficial, and that fundamentally everything is one. Plotinus is one of the most famous mystics in Western history, and his system exemplifies this: the principal of existence, for him, is “The One,” which is only his name for the unknowable mystery that transcends all categories. Now, from a rational perspective all this is hard to swallow. And yet, I think there is a very simple thought buried underneath all this verbiage. Mysticism is just the experience of the mystery of existence, the mystery there is something instead of nothing. Science can explain how things work, but does not explain why these things are here in the first place. Stephen Hawking expressed this most memorably when he said: “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes universe for them to describe?” It is arguably not a rational question—maybe not even a real question at all—to ask “Why is there something rather than nothing?” In any case, it is unanswerable. But I still often find myself filled with wonder that I exist, that I can see and hear things, that I have an identity, and that I am a part of this whole universe, so exquisite and vast. Certain things reliably connect me with this feeling: reading Hamlet, looking up at the starry sky, and standing in the Toledo Cathedral. Because it is not rational, I cannot adequately put it into words or analyze it; and yet I think the experience of mystery and awe is one of the most important things in life. Since it is just a feeling, there is nothing inherently rational or anti-rational in it. I’ve heard scientists, mystics, and philosophers describe it. Yes, they describe it in different terms, using different concepts, and give it different meaning, but all that is incidental. The feeling of wonder is the thing, the perpetual surprise that we exist at all. Campbell helps me to connect with and understand that, and for that reason I am grateful to him.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bharath

    If you were to read only one book in your lifetime, what book would you want that to be? Well, that is certainly an unfair question since it is difficult to make that choice. However, if I was given the option of choosing only 20 books to read in my lifetime, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell would certainly be on that list. This book is about popular myths from different cultures leading up to present day beliefs and practices. It is much more than that as well – it is about life, purpose a If you were to read only one book in your lifetime, what book would you want that to be? Well, that is certainly an unfair question since it is difficult to make that choice. However, if I was given the option of choosing only 20 books to read in my lifetime, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell would certainly be on that list. This book is about popular myths from different cultures leading up to present day beliefs and practices. It is much more than that as well – it is about life, purpose and what we can be if we can learn lessons from myths and the universe. The book is in a Q&A format based on interviews of Bill Moyers with Joseph Campbell. I read Joseph Campbell’s “A hero with a thousand faces” a few years back. I found it a difficult (and hence a slow) read with its references to various cultures and legends. The scholarly nature and importance of the work was evident though and since then I have read several passages of his work, which have always been insightful and inspiring. Joseph Campbell very easily picks stories from several cultures of the world and how they share common patterns. He is respectful, at the same time gently advising on the kind of lessons one must draw. Rather than being literal with myths – we need to understand them as metaphors to deeper truth and lessons. He describes how many rituals evolved as a way to reinforce outlook to life. A large part of that is now lost and people tend to live at the surface missing the depth of the metaphors. The examples are all excellent. For instance - viewing marriage from the perspective of myth makes you view it in a healthy longer term perspective rather than as a love affair (which is always temporary and will end). There are interesting discussions on divinity, femininity, rituals, practices, non-duality. There are insightful passages on how - many of the myths encourage you to look inward to find yourself, and follow your bliss. A book which is expansive, profound and inspiring, at the same time engrossing – strongly recommended as a must read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Williams

    This is my first first-person experience with Campbell. And I find it an incredibly frustrating book. There are parts that are wonderful: when Campbell takes a few moments to tell some of the myths that have been floating around for years. Or when he compares the motifs in multiple myths from different cultures in different parts of the world. Campbell was clearly a master story-teller, and even in just a couple of sentences, he really makes these ancient stories come alive. Similarly, the compa This is my first first-person experience with Campbell. And I find it an incredibly frustrating book. There are parts that are wonderful: when Campbell takes a few moments to tell some of the myths that have been floating around for years. Or when he compares the motifs in multiple myths from different cultures in different parts of the world. Campbell was clearly a master story-teller, and even in just a couple of sentences, he really makes these ancient stories come alive. Similarly, the comparisons really help draw me in to the idea of a single world-wide culture of humanity. As a sci-fi fan, this is hardly a foreign idea; but a shared mythology really drives home the point that all human beings share some really fundamental experiences. Where Campbell starts to lose me is when he insists that these shared experiences (birth, adolescence, death, the physical act of eating something that used to be alive, etc.) are indicative of some Mystery that underwrites the universe. Here he becomes less historian or anthropologist and more of a mystic. By using the word "transcendence" a lot, he seems to think that it doesn't matter that there's no evidence or reason to think that this Mystery is real and not merely a by-product of our own brains firing in a pattern fixed by millions of years of evolution. As a rationalist or realist or materialist or skeptic or whatever label you find on me, I find this sort of spiritualism pointless and silly. Beyond that, I think that focusing on this fanciful mystery so heavily can really lead to serious problems with living. At one point, Campbell says something to the effect of "But you can't try to make life better. This is all there is. You have to learn to accept it." But that's absurdly untrue. Thanks to people who refused to learn to accept it, we've built democracies that are more-or-less egalitarian (and thousands of times better for the average citizen than the brutal civilizations that gave us some of these myths). Thanks to people who refused to learn to accept life, we've developed communications technologies that allow mothers to not have to give up their children to distance in quite the same way that they had to before. We've developed medicine that give people more time than ever with their loved ones (including Campbell himself who was in his eighties when this conversation took place). And, it's entirely possible that we'll defeat death one day. Not in the mythical way that Campbell celebrates death leading to rebirth of a new generation. But actually making it so that death just doesn't happen anymore (at least, not death of old age: that's the first goal and it seems perfectly attainable in the next couple of centuries). Think of that. And none of this could ever happen if people took Campbell's advice of taking nature-as-it-is as the the only good way of the world. This approach made perfect sense to tribal hunter-gathers a thousand year's ago. I think it's possible that, as a species, we've moved past that just a little. While nature is red in tooth and claw, maybe we can do a little better than that. Campbell also commits one of my major pet peeves. At one point, he says something to the effect of "scientists don't know what a particle is. Is it a wave? Is it a thing? They don't know!". From this, he concludes that there must be a magic energy field in the universe which gives everything life. Or something. It's "transcendent" so he doesn't feel that he has to be specific. This perversion of science really annoys me. Aside from getting the particle physics wrong (it's not that we "don't know". It's that the duality is actually what's going on. Or something. I'm also not a physicist so I won't pretend to have a real understanding of any of this!), he also really fails to understand the point of science. Scientists (and, through them, our entire civilization) are trying to understand the innermost workings of the universe. You can never do that if, when you find a question you don't know the answer to, you give up and say "Magic!". The saddest thing is that this book has far more bad spiritualism than it does good history. Hence my low rating. Ultimately, I think the myths of our past have more to teach us about who we were and we are. Campbell thinks they also teach us what we should be. I find that notion to be abhorrent: we can be so much better than we are or were; and if we're going to settle for that, then we may as well give up. There's no more point to us. Since the book is so much of this, I can't love it or even like it. Fortunately, there's enough in here that I do like (in bits and pieces), that I'm still looking forward to reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I understand that this is more historical and factual. Also, Campbell wrote it when he was much younger. So I'm hoping that the religious and spiritual life he made developed later in life won't pervade it so much. I suppose I'll just have to find out.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nishat

    In my daily life, I talk about suffering a lot. I have had trouble accepting the fact that terrible things happen to people everyday, that the voiceless, the weak have to undergo great cruelty everywhere. Campbell says, for our sake we have to affirm the brutality, the thoughtlessness of our surroundings too. By doing so, we affirm our world and the experience of eternity here. I once mentioned to an older friend, if our world were to be a circle and we the dots to complete it, then our existence In my daily life, I talk about suffering a lot. I have had trouble accepting the fact that terrible things happen to people everyday, that the voiceless, the weak have to undergo great cruelty everywhere. Campbell says, for our sake we have to affirm the brutality, the thoughtlessness of our surroundings too. By doing so, we affirm our world and the experience of eternity here. I once mentioned to an older friend, if our world were to be a circle and we the dots to complete it, then our existence must be of utmost importance. The circle would remain incomplete without only one of us! I understand now that I was very naive. Anyone can be easily replaced. But the idea that I carry the stories of my ancestors, that my behavior is very much influenced by their way of life and that my manners, habits, doings are to an extent what they passed down, makes me less 'alone' and recognize this life to be more profound that I imagined. Campbell likens us to 'One little microbit in that great magnitude'. And he talks about 'following one's bliss' a lot. A few days ago, a distant relative of mine almost convinced me to study a certain subject of apparently great market value. She talked about future a lot. And about money. So, I was considering her words and harboring doubts about myself, about my decisions until I read this book. Who would I be if I don't 'follow my bliss'? If I don't hang on to what I love? I would be anything but myself and that's a kind of death too. Campbell says, we are partaking in something greater than us, than we can even grasp. That makes our experience here very humbling. I didn't fully understand him though. I should have read his earlier works first in order to understand his jargon. I guess, I'll read this book again in a year. Campbell's works resonate to this day. His insights greatly help explain our current culture. Reading this book was truly an enlightening experience for me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Colie!

    Joseph Campbell is seriously incredible. Read this, listen to the PBS audio tapes, read anything he writes... he's just brilliant, erudite, illuminating, fascinating, lovable, enlightening... he reveals things articulately that you always sensed in the shadowy regions of your instinct, and having them so clearly identified has a revelatory and refreshing effect. It makes you pensive and hopeful. It makes you feel good about being human, part of this thing we do called life. I don't know, I think Joseph Campbell is seriously incredible. Read this, listen to the PBS audio tapes, read anything he writes... he's just brilliant, erudite, illuminating, fascinating, lovable, enlightening... he reveals things articulately that you always sensed in the shadowy regions of your instinct, and having them so clearly identified has a revelatory and refreshing effect. It makes you pensive and hopeful. It makes you feel good about being human, part of this thing we do called life. I don't know, I think everyone should give him a try. If anything, he's at least incredibly interesting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Safat

    There is something very fishy about our existence. We are unaware of it most of the time, but it tickles us all from time to time. Suddenly we realize we 'are', we actually exist. That's a weird thing. One day we open our eyes, and there’s a world outside. These things trouble me. Since when do I exist? How come I wasn’t here, then I suddenly came out of nowhere? How’s it possible that something as concrete as ‘I’ actually came out of nowhere? And exactly at what time did I come into being? At my There is something very fishy about our existence. We are unaware of it most of the time, but it tickles us all from time to time. Suddenly we realize we 'are', we actually exist. That's a weird thing. One day we open our eyes, and there’s a world outside. These things trouble me. Since when do I exist? How come I wasn’t here, then I suddenly came out of nowhere? How’s it possible that something as concrete as ‘I’ actually came out of nowhere? And exactly at what time did I come into being? At my mother’s womb, or after I’ve seen the first sunlight on this planet? If I started at my mother’s womb, exactly at what time in my mother’s womb? One week, one month, or 6 months? And when would I really cease to exist? I read that all the organs do not 'die' at the same time. Are birth and death as real as they seem, or just mere illusions? Neuroscientists tell us there’s really nothing concrete within us that can be recognized as ‘I’, all things are in constant flux, nothing stays the same for long. What we experience as the continuous ‘self’ is actually an illusion. If there's no 'I' inside me, who was born and who would die? Maybe nobody. Sometimes I wonder, What if I actually existed all the time, and will continue to exist? There’s a glass of water on the table and I touch it. It actually exists. How come a thing can 'exist' in itself? I feel an eerie tingling sensation in my lower spine. From where does these weird feelings really come? Where does thoughts come from? I don’t choose my thoughts. I don’t know what I would think one minute from now. It’s all very weird. We try to build some logical explanation to cover up the freakish nature of reality, but it’s not much of help. By scientific methodology, we know that everything is energy in one form or another, but we do not know what this weird thing energy really is. We see electron behaving as both particle and wave, which defies common sense. Nature shows us common sense doesn't work everywhere. We know the universe has come into being through some cosmic incident known as Big Bang, but we don’t know why it had to be. Science help us to familiarize and to make sense of the world to a certain extent, but in the end science just exposes us the naked mystery itself. Black Holes. Quantum fluctuation. Entanglement.And scientists doesn't know what consciousness really is, some say it is unknowable. We know there’s more to the world than our eyes and our rational thoughts meet. We can feel it. There’s where myths come. Myths are not science. Myths are not facts. Myths are not mere cuck and bull story stories. Myths are poetry. Like poetry, myths doesn’t have a linear, literal meaning. It stands for something beyond itself, beyond the words and images. Myths are a gateway to the transcendental realm where thoughts cannot reach. When myths are taken as too concrete and literal, it loses its original essence. It becomes religion. Joseph Campbell shows us the multi-dimensionality and the depth of myths and mythological symbols. Today we live in a world where we are totally accustomed to literal and linear thinking, we have forgotten how to think with symbols and imagery. We live in an alienated world. Campbell is now more important than ever. We need to hear what the myths are telling us.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Morgannah

    The Power of Myth is based on a series of interviews Bill Moyers conducted with Joseph Campbell in the mid 1980's. "Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life," explains Joseph Campbell near the very beginning of the narrative. His definition of myth, rather than being that myths are examples of the search for life's meaning, is that myths are the ongoing search for "the experience of life". According to Campbell, what myths tell us is that the meaning of life is the exper The Power of Myth is based on a series of interviews Bill Moyers conducted with Joseph Campbell in the mid 1980's. "Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life," explains Joseph Campbell near the very beginning of the narrative. His definition of myth, rather than being that myths are examples of the search for life's meaning, is that myths are the ongoing search for "the experience of life". According to Campbell, what myths tell us is that the meaning of life is the experience of life: "Eternity isn't some later time, eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time! It is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. If you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life." For me, The Power of Myth was a powerful and riveting experience, and it's all the more so for its seeming simplicity. In that way, it too is like the myths Campbell loved. Joseph Campbell wasn't preaching from that chair as he sat across from Bill Moyers, he was sharing the clues that he had gathered in his ongoing search for "the experience of life".

  10. 5 out of 5

    Malynda Alice

    I don't know how he does it, but every time I read/hear/stumble upon some vague quotation of Joseph Campbell's work, my day gets better. The sensation I get when reading his work is of relief, that all the seemingly static and infallible truths of the world stem from very simple needs. Somehow knowing that frees me to pursue the quenching of the needs, rather than the physical trappings we have set up around that need. It is very interesting. This book is a sort of revised and embellished versio I don't know how he does it, but every time I read/hear/stumble upon some vague quotation of Joseph Campbell's work, my day gets better. The sensation I get when reading his work is of relief, that all the seemingly static and infallible truths of the world stem from very simple needs. Somehow knowing that frees me to pursue the quenching of the needs, rather than the physical trappings we have set up around that need. It is very interesting. This book is a sort of revised and embellished version of the video interviews of Campbell conducted by Bill Moyers on Skywalker Ranch (home of George Lucas). The video is six hours long and was slimmed down from 26 hours of conversation on myth and its place in our lives. Joseph Campbell is so insighful--he sees the humanity of the study, as well as the science, spouting such sincere and life-changing directions as "follow your bliss." I mean, dang.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Re-read this one after several years, and it was even more powerful this time. I think the time and the age between helped in my understanding and comprehension. Very accessible text, and I am sure I will revisit this one again someday - maybe I can finally watch the PBS special too.

  12. 4 out of 5

    brian tanabe

    I started reading the hardcover version of this and immediately realized it is a companion to a PBS series between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell. So I decided to switch to the audio version – highly, highly recommended over the book. I found myself connecting with a lot of the passages, but one passage in particular definitely stands out, tackling the meaning of life. While I have a great amount of respect for Moyers, I was slightly annoyed at times with his attempts to assert his equanimity to I started reading the hardcover version of this and immediately realized it is a companion to a PBS series between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell. So I decided to switch to the audio version – highly, highly recommended over the book. I found myself connecting with a lot of the passages, but one passage in particular definitely stands out, tackling the meaning of life. While I have a great amount of respect for Moyers, I was slightly annoyed at times with his attempts to assert his equanimity to Campbell and so I appreciate this particular exchange because of Moyers’ immediate disagreement. And then like Buddha himself, Campbell happily goes on to explain himself. So beautiful. Bill Moyers: And yet we all have lived a life that had a purpose. Do you believe that? Joseph Campbell: I don’t believe life has a real purpose. I mean when you really see what life is, it’s a lot of protoplasm with an urge to reproduce and continue in being. BM: Not true. That’s not true. JC: Now wait a minute. Just sheer life cant be said to have a purpose because look at all the different purposes it has all over the lot. But each incarnation you might say, has potentiality and the function of life is to live that potentiality. Well how do you do it? Well again, when my students would ask, “Should I do this? Should I do that? Dad says I should do this.” My answer is, follow your bliss. There is something inside you that knows you’re on the beam, that knows you’re off the beam. And if you get off the beam to earn money, you’ve lost your life.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    My 100th book for goodreads should be a memorable one. TRUE STORY: I was facing one of those milestone birthdays where you find yourself asking the big questions like, “What the heck am I doing?” “Am I on the right course?” "Who am I?" I wandered into a local bookstore thinking “Surely there’s a book in here with some answers for me.” I walked out with “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, the companion book for their PBS series of the same name. A few pages into their dialog, I My 100th book for goodreads should be a memorable one. TRUE STORY: I was facing one of those milestone birthdays where you find yourself asking the big questions like, “What the heck am I doing?” “Am I on the right course?” "Who am I?" I wandered into a local bookstore thinking “Surely there’s a book in here with some answers for me.” I walked out with “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, the companion book for their PBS series of the same name. A few pages into their dialog, I realized my angst wasn’t anything new; I was on my own modest sort of “vision quest”… Campbell, ”going in quest of a boon, a vision, which has the same form in every mythology…You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited. Then comes the problem either of staying with that, or letting the world drop off, or return with that boon and try to hold onto it as you move back into your social world again. That’s not an easy thing to do.” For me, it meant that I had to change everything in my life. And become a writer. That IS not an easy thing to do. Marvelous book filled with journeys, quests and timeless lessons from many of the world's cultures and myths.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    Apparently everyone loves this book, which shocks me. I found a lot of his references very interesting but I really despised a lot of the author's commentary on them (as well as the hundreds of times the author contradicts himself). Yes, he did come up with some pretty deep conclusions, but at other times I found his ideas to be so infuriatingly ridiculous that I, in fact, threw the book at the car window at one point when I read a particularly infuriating nugget of absurdity (I believe it was s Apparently everyone loves this book, which shocks me. I found a lot of his references very interesting but I really despised a lot of the author's commentary on them (as well as the hundreds of times the author contradicts himself). Yes, he did come up with some pretty deep conclusions, but at other times I found his ideas to be so infuriatingly ridiculous that I, in fact, threw the book at the car window at one point when I read a particularly infuriating nugget of absurdity (I believe it was something about how people really shouldn't be punished for crimes during times of war). Overall I found it to be very preachy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Rodaughan

    "One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light." The Power of Myth is a beautifully illustrated collection of interviews of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers. This is a very accessible and enjoyable book that presents a concise summary of the core ideas distilled from a lifetime of scholarly effort in the worldwide stu "One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light." The Power of Myth is a beautifully illustrated collection of interviews of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers. This is a very accessible and enjoyable book that presents a concise summary of the core ideas distilled from a lifetime of scholarly effort in the worldwide study of myth by Joseph Campbell. Strongly recommend this book to anyone with a curious mind.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Parvathy

    Myths are often stories that explain how the world and human kind came to be in their present form. I have always been inexplicable drawn to these stories and often felt that they have a quality beyond what they seem to be. The undeniable pull of myths have in the human psyche and the society that surrounds them are often met with scrutiny and criticism. When you say that you are interested in mythology the question naturally comes as to why this particular subject is of interest? What role does Myths are often stories that explain how the world and human kind came to be in their present form. I have always been inexplicable drawn to these stories and often felt that they have a quality beyond what they seem to be. The undeniable pull of myths have in the human psyche and the society that surrounds them are often met with scrutiny and criticism. When you say that you are interested in mythology the question naturally comes as to why this particular subject is of interest? What role does myth have to play in our modern world? Why is it important?. Whenever questions like this were directed at me I was often placed in a situation where I know what drives me towards myth but was at loss when it came to explaining this same driving factor. But that was until I read this book which gave me valuable insights in to the world of myth and urged me to consider those dimension of mythical aspects which I was completely ignorant off."The Power of Myth" is based on the interviews between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers that became a famous television series. Consisting of nine chapters that explain the importance of myth in various aspects, it deals with the universality and evolution of myths in the history of the human race and the place of myths in modern society. The first chapter is on myth and modern world which tries to explain myth as an integral part of the society and the transition required in the myths to make it more adaptable to present day world. He talks about reasons for forgoing old mythological motifs and using them to create new global mythologies that is more acceptable to the modern psyche. The role of rituals in the modern society starting from the court room procedures to the gang initiations of adolescents is emphasized to such an extent that they can be viewed as functions to give individuals a sense of belonging to a larger social group. Then the discussion moves to the concept of marriage. True marriage, in Campbell's opinion, embodies a spiritual identity and invokes the image of an incarnate God. The main intention of marriage is to identify ones other self and thereby become whole. The analysis of the national symbol of united states "The Great Seal" is used by Campbell to illustrate the ability for myths to incorporate the beliefs of a whole society and to provide the mythology to unify a nation. He ends this discussion with the possibility of the emergence a new myth which is centered around mother earth or Gaea. The second chapter takes about the Journey inward to ones spiritual self and how myths help you achieve this end. Then comes the story of the first storytellers, the animal self, the cycle of life and death, the center of the world and rituals associated with these concepts in various part of the world. The next chapter explains the shift of the society towards an agricultural society and the change in myth motifs according to these changing perspectives. The following chapters talks about a hero's journey which contains some of the major aspects pointed out in Campbell's previous books, the change of society from a goddess centric female dominated society into a male dominated society and their reemergence in the 12th and 13th century, tales of love and marriage and masks of eternity that identifies with infinity and the power of circle as a symbol. Needless to say this book contains a wealth of information that changes your perspective of the human spirit and its capabilities. There are only very few books that can transform your entire thought process and "The Power of Myth" is definitely such a book for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers is one of the most amazing books you will ever read or experience. Campbell, the late professor of Comparative Mythology at Sarah Lawrence University, wrote on ideas touching upon every facet of life and his ideas have inspired all types of artistic and creative expression. It would be impossible to write about every idea that Campbell discusses in this book but it suffices to say that his work touches upon many profound aspects of what it "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers is one of the most amazing books you will ever read or experience. Campbell, the late professor of Comparative Mythology at Sarah Lawrence University, wrote on ideas touching upon every facet of life and his ideas have inspired all types of artistic and creative expression. It would be impossible to write about every idea that Campbell discusses in this book but it suffices to say that his work touches upon many profound aspects of what it means to be alive. The book is actually the transcript of a famous PBS television special with journalist Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell where they discuss what is mythology and what role does it have in modern life. It was one of the most highly rated programs of the 1980's and has continued to stimulate discussion. There are eight chapters, each which discuss a plethora of topics. For example, Chapter 1 examines the role of myth in modern life, Chapter 3 discusses the concept of sacrifice and bliss, Chapter 5 (perhaps the most interesting chapter) looks at the hero and heroic myth, and Chapter 7 discusses love and marriage. He discusses a wide range of ideas and symbols One of Campbell's deepest ideas is the concept that mythology makes up the ideas of being alive, the business of living. Mythology is the stuff that makes up our interactions with each other and society at large. It transcends religion and society towards something deeper and higher, that great mystery. Mythology and mythological concepts are a reflection of our internal landscape- our human psyche. The commonality between all mythologies is a reflection of the fact that mythology reflects our human experiences, of being born, growing, and dying. It speaks not to tradition but to experiences and to the experience of living which is at once suffering and bliss. One of my favorite quotes is from when he is describing the challenge of modern life as reflected in the film series "Star Wars," which was one of his favorite examples of modern, contemporary myth. He writes "Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes? How to you relate to a system so that you are not compulsively serving it?...The thing to do with learn to live your period of history as a human being." The book really has something for everyone and even though I did not find every idea of this book interesting, one will find something that speaks to them. Campbell is probably the first instance I've seen of someone who is spiritual as opposed to religious. He had a profound sense of himself and his relationship to the world. This book seems to be an excellent synthesis of his ideas and you get a real sense of his beliefs and influences. It also has given me many, many different places to look for new ideas and inspiration. At times, I wonder if it might be better to read the illustrated version of this book as opposed to this non-illustrated version. But given this books ideas, it should be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what it means to be human.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    In my part of the world, the gods live everywhere. Every automobile you get into has an image of an elephant headed god or a crucified christ & if the owner is a very fervent believer you will have incense burning inside the vehicle. Such beliefs according to them keeps mishaps at bay. Calendars & walls are adorned with such images and even movies begin with chants evoking the celestial ones.Growing up in such a society my mind kept wavering between comfort & confusion on what it all In my part of the world, the gods live everywhere. Every automobile you get into has an image of an elephant headed god or a crucified christ & if the owner is a very fervent believer you will have incense burning inside the vehicle. Such beliefs according to them keeps mishaps at bay. Calendars & walls are adorned with such images and even movies begin with chants evoking the celestial ones.Growing up in such a society my mind kept wavering between comfort & confusion on what it all could mean. The confusion to me started increasing when I took the matter of my personal relgious belief out & started looking at world religions as a whole and as to what they symbolize. This little book is a flashlight that helped me walk a good mile down this confusing road of myth,lies,half baked ideas and somewhere around the corner...realization ! The real power of this book was not in being just a flashlight but in telling me where other larger torches & lanterns rest. There is no contention in my mind to the degree of erudition that Joseph Campbell would have been a master of. He speaks from a wide variety of sources to bring before the reader a very valid point : There is a common thread of Mythology at play across the world. I have at times even with my limited reading felt that all the tales ever told are part of one grand tale. Campbell explains in detail how across Civilizations, Continents,Time,Wars,Monarchies & Papacies, Famines,Floods & Devastation a few central themes shine through in the theatre of World Mythology. The quest of the hero,the divine (virgin) mother figure, the death-resurrection cycle, heights of love & pits of damnation : themes such as these have donned different coats of paint all throughout history to sing ballads of the humans for all to hear and revel in. As a reader, I found the structure of this book to be a very calming one. The reason is pretty straight forward for the interviewer and the scholar are very much at ease with one another and that amicable feel flowed into me as well. Campbell has had experiences travelling widely & also of tireless reading and these transform into his words. You only need to look at a few passages to know what a first rate grasp he has on world mythology, philosophy, psychology, history among other topics. There is a brief mention of what a student in Campbell's class once said that the reading assignments alone that he gave would make a student stagger under its sheer volume. Hinduism, Biblical Mythology & Buddhism are the key religions which at a first glance seem to have influenced this man the most, for time & again he returns to them and shows us little nuggets which speak more than any book ever could. I knew I would love this book after I read the first few pages of it. It's the kind of book to be re-read every once in a while. After that re-reading I might be tempted to dig up the myths that Campbell talks about and devour them all....and then keep repeating it ever so often with different myths & different tales. For as Campbell says : Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life .

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Reader

    Though a bit rambling at times, The Power of Myth is a great introductory text on archetypes found within all world mythologies from almost every time period. Campbell explains why the underlying stories are the same from all over the world and what they mean in both cultural, personal, and world contexts. He breaks down some of the major archetypes like the sacrificed god and resurrection, virgin births, goddesses, trees, snakes, and more. As someone who has studied tarot and The Tree of Life ex Though a bit rambling at times, The Power of Myth is a great introductory text on archetypes found within all world mythologies from almost every time period. Campbell explains why the underlying stories are the same from all over the world and what they mean in both cultural, personal, and world contexts. He breaks down some of the major archetypes like the sacrificed god and resurrection, virgin births, goddesses, trees, snakes, and more. As someone who has studied tarot and The Tree of Life extensively, I found it to be an illumination. I particularly liked learning about the mythology of Star Wars. With the release of the new film, that particular series is back in the top of the pop culture charts. I think that The Power of Myth explains why it has such enduring appeal. If you liked The Power of Myth, you may want to pick up Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. It is another examination of mythology from a feminist perspective. Or pick up any of the many books about mythology from any country you’d like. If you immerse yourself in enough of the stories, you will pick up on the reoccurring patterns yourself. I believe that one of the many purposes of mythology, beyond its entertainment value, is to teach us about what we have in common with each other, and also, the hidden dimensions of ourselves. As the doorway to the Delphic Oracle said, “Know Thyself.” And, really, that is the greatest power there is. Mythology helps you do that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paula Cappa

    This book is full of wisdom. I read it slowly, kept it on my night table and read a page or two a night. Of course, Joseph Campbell is brilliant. I ended up underlining because so much is profound and so much goes deep into not only the world we live in but the personal soul. He talks a lot about going inward and finding your own harmony. The Great Silence! The silence beyond sound. Myth and storytellers, the hero's adventures, gift of the goddess, and the female principle all lead up to, not so This book is full of wisdom. I read it slowly, kept it on my night table and read a page or two a night. Of course, Joseph Campbell is brilliant. I ended up underlining because so much is profound and so much goes deep into not only the world we live in but the personal soul. He talks a lot about going inward and finding your own harmony. The Great Silence! The silence beyond sound. Myth and storytellers, the hero's adventures, gift of the goddess, and the female principle all lead up to, not so much the destination but the experience of the journey. We tend to think that "Eden" was, as it existed in our past, or Eden will be again in our future. Campbell says, "Eden is." Very exciting read!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gine

    Jesus Christ does old Professor Joe Campbell knead and massage his precious little thesis until it is a pile of steaming crap sitting in front of me. How many different ways can you boil a potato. Yes, OK, myth, storytelling, wow amazing. NEXT.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lanko

    Fantastic. It's an interview with various themes of human life centering around mythology. It's not about stories, books, movies... just the myths, how and why they appeared, how and why they shaped and still shape lives and society, how they adapt (or we adapt them) and so on. He also tackles on issues that even almost 30 years after the book's publishing are still rampant, or even more rampant than before, like violence, issues in love, maturing too late, fanaticism and so on and I think he doe Fantastic. It's an interview with various themes of human life centering around mythology. It's not about stories, books, movies... just the myths, how and why they appeared, how and why they shaped and still shape lives and society, how they adapt (or we adapt them) and so on. He also tackles on issues that even almost 30 years after the book's publishing are still rampant, or even more rampant than before, like violence, issues in love, maturing too late, fanaticism and so on and I think he does a pretty good job in explaining a big part of those issues. Since myths are a way of telling stories and adding meanings to them, no wonder this became a "bible of stories".

  23. 5 out of 5

    tJacksonrichards

    Just as 'Public Communicators' like Cousteau, Sagan and deGrasse Tyson have translated sprawling, complex phenomena of the natural sciences into digestible, imperative docutainment, so did Joseph Campbell—with socratic cheerleading from interviewer Bill Moyers—distill leading mythological scholarship of the humanities and social sciences, including his own substantial work, into a kind of cultural and ecological advocacy intended for a late 1980s american television audience. CAMPBELL: I think of Just as 'Public Communicators' like Cousteau, Sagan and deGrasse Tyson have translated sprawling, complex phenomena of the natural sciences into digestible, imperative docutainment, so did Joseph Campbell—with socratic cheerleading from interviewer Bill Moyers—distill leading mythological scholarship of the humanities and social sciences, including his own substantial work, into a kind of cultural and ecological advocacy intended for a late 1980s american television audience. CAMPBELL: I think of mythology as the homeland of the muses, the inspirers of art, the inspirers of poetry. To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what the myth does for you. MOYERS: A poem? CAMPBELL: I mean a vocabulary in the form not of words but of acts and adventures, which connotes something transcendent of the action here, so that you always feel in accord with the universal being. He maintains an approachable didactic middle-brow collapsing psychoanalytic theory, western metaphysics, religion and indigenous epistemologies into the field of comparative mythology with compelling anecdotes, cerebral takeaways and ready mantras ("Religion turns poetry into prose."). But what distinguishes Campbell here from the likes of Durkheim and Levi Strauss, then, is his overtly prescriptive, hence wholly unobjective, investment in the material: MOYERS: What happens when a society no longer embraces a powerful mythology? CAMPBELL: What we've got on our hands. If you want to find out what it means to have a society without any rituals, read the New York Times. MOYERS: And you'd find? CAMPBELL: The news of the day, including destructive and violent acts by young people who don't know how to behave in a civilized society.[...]This is why we have graffiti all over the city. These kids have their own gangs and their own initiations and their own morality, and they're doing the best they can. But they're dangerous because their own laws are not those of the city. They have not been initiated into our society. That last bit is unusual for its egregious white-privileged entitlement, yet Campbell remains an unapologetic proselytizer for myth all throughout: making no qualifying judgements toward any peoples or practices in any epoch except his own, JC doses out his episteme as ubiquitous cultural panacea, would our late-capitalist PoMo anthropocene only remystify itself with the spiritual utility of myth and ritual: CAPBELL:[...]The only mythology that is valid today is the mythology of the planet - and we don't have such a mythology. The closest thing I know to a planetary mythology is Buddhism [...] The only problem is to come to the recognition of that [...] and then to act in relation to the brotherhood of all of these beings. Ie. if global warming is a myth then JC would heartily embrace it as such. And while authoritative conviction in the face of ecological crisis is essential to deGrasse Tyson, et al.'s marketability, TPOM's academic integrity is consistently undermined by Campbell's often reductive monomythologizing—"the (Joseph) Campbell soup of myths"—and zealous spiritualism ("You are God, not in your ego, but in your deepest being, where you are at one with the nondual transcendent.", etc). Likewise, more than a few inspired exchanges are nearly derailed when, by situating JC as a kind of christian curative, occasionally both he and Moyers veer abruptly (and hilariously) into cultish territory: MOYERS: Far from undermining my faith, your work in mythology has liberated my faith from the cultural prisons to which it had been sentenced. CAMPBELL: It liberated my own, and I know it is going to do that with anyone who gets the message. Campbell doesn't always need Moyers for self-parody, either, at which points you're basically getting some geriatric hippy psychonaut's pseudoscientific piffle between bong rips... CAMPBELL:[...]Fear is the first experience of the fetus in the womb. There's a Czechoslovakian psychiatrist, Stanislav Grof, now living in California, who for years treated people with LSD. And he found that some of them re-experienced birth and, in the re-experiencing of birth, the first stage is that of the fetus in the womb, without any sense of "I" or of being..." All that being said, TPOM's flaws are really also its charms, stemming as they tend to from Campbell's ripened personal eccentricities (ardent spiritualist, libertarian(?), tinfoil-hat-numerologist whose etymological chops here favor stuff like "atonement, at-one-ment") and so absolved by his typically captivating and unpretentious intellectual vigor, his knack for ringing all the most resonant interpretive notes of any particular mythic element, as well as his expansive cultural and historical bandwidth for contextualizing myths within their materialist origins: MOYERS: What would it have meant to us if somewhere along the way we had begun to pray to "Our Mother" instead of "Our Father"? What psychological difference would it have made? CAMPBELL: It certainly has made a psychological difference in the character of our culture. For example, the basic birth of Western civilization occurred in the great river valleys -- the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates, the Indus, and later the Ganges. That was the world of the Goddess. The name of the river Ganges (Ganga) is the name of a goddess, for example. And then there came the invasions. Now, these started seriously in the fourth millennium B.C. and became more and more devastating. They came in from the north and from the south and wiped out cities overnight. Just read the story in the Book of Genesis of the part played by Jacob's tribe in the fall of the city of Shechem. Overnight, the city is wiped out by these herding people who have suddenly appeared. The Semite invaders were herders of goats and sheep, the Indo-Europeans of cattle. Both were formerly hunters, and so the cultures are essentially animal-oriented. When you have hunters, you have killers. And when you have herders, you have killers, because they're always in movement, nomadic, coming into conflict with other people and conquering the areas into which they move. And these invasions bring in warrior gods, thunderbolt hurlers, like Zeus, or Yahweh. I'm fairly certain that, were Campbell around today, he would be a voice of righteous condemnation against our vapid CGI-superhero-spectacle cinematic drivel, impatient with our meta/base-reality narrative complexes, validated by our post-apocalyptic zombie/wasteland fixations, fascinated by our YA dystopian trends, thrilled by transhumanists, and cautious about our ever broadening atheist-identifying social groups. Meanwhile, awkward evangelizing aside, TPOM is an endearing keeper, providing stimulating, accessible comp-myth banter between a couple of well-intentioned, well-educated old american weirdos that rewards both close reading and more casual perusals, too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jafar

    It can be joy to read this book which is entirely a conversation between the mythologist Joseph Campbell and the PBS journalist Bill Moyers – both being uber-erudite. Whether the joy turns into boredom and annoyance or continues to the end depends on your mindset. For Campbell myths are what we humans conceive to make sense of the world and our lives and our relation with the world. All stories and rites and traditions should be looked at in this perspective. Myth are not things of the antiquity It can be joy to read this book which is entirely a conversation between the mythologist Joseph Campbell and the PBS journalist Bill Moyers – both being uber-erudite. Whether the joy turns into boredom and annoyance or continues to the end depends on your mindset. For Campbell myths are what we humans conceive to make sense of the world and our lives and our relation with the world. All stories and rites and traditions should be looked at in this perspective. Myth are not things of the antiquity; they’re present in many forms and provide meaning and direction to all facets of our personal and social lives. Campbell and Moyers go on and on about this. There are a lot of pretty passages in this book that you want to underline and quote. I tell you what I think Campbell needed. He needed a healthy dose of cynicism. He was too engrossed with his academic studies in mythology and failed to see anything other than beauty and poetry and life-affirming allegories in myths and traditions. Ignorance, bigotry, cruelty, misogyny, xenophobia, exploitation of the weak by the strong, and other such unpleasant things have no place in his mythology. Every myth and every tradition is a deep and beautiful allegory that helps us find “our bliss.” Two thirds through the book I decided I had enough of it. But then, I’m not a Zen master exactly.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erika Schoeps

    I actually never thought I'd be writing a review and typing out the sentence, "this book changed my life." But I can't really get around it. It feels dramatic and sweeping and ridiculous, but this book really changed my life. It was also a matter of good timing, and I was also given some thoughts from watching "The Wind Rises" at the same time as I was reading. Joseph Campbell speaks about his knowledge as if it is unequivocal, unarguable truth. I was charmed and yet annoyed. I was firmly rooted I actually never thought I'd be writing a review and typing out the sentence, "this book changed my life." But I can't really get around it. It feels dramatic and sweeping and ridiculous, but this book really changed my life. It was also a matter of good timing, and I was also given some thoughts from watching "The Wind Rises" at the same time as I was reading. Joseph Campbell speaks about his knowledge as if it is unequivocal, unarguable truth. I was charmed and yet annoyed. I was firmly rooted in the belief that there is a different interpretation to everything. "There are no absolutes" is actually my life motto. And then I had a realization after I had finished reading the book. I was thinking about "The Wind Rises," concepts that Joseph Campbell had talked about, and then applying these things to my life. And then I too realized that there were things I knew to be the inarguable truth. I don't wanna get dramatic in a Goodreads review. I just want to give you a little bit of the feeling I got from this book. Campbell is passionate, persuasive, and an intelligent thinker as well as someone who has really done his research. I think that every human being who has ever lived should read this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ramona P.

    This book changed my life. Joseph Campbell opened the world of Mythology to me and introduced a new way for me to relate to my life journey. His insights and ideas about the power of myth help us understand how important it is to be aware of the traditions inherent in our cultures and how they play out personally and collectively. I am able to look for the "soul-story" resonating in diverse cultures and know that I am looking at the myth that is informing their values, ideas, ideals, religion, e This book changed my life. Joseph Campbell opened the world of Mythology to me and introduced a new way for me to relate to my life journey. His insights and ideas about the power of myth help us understand how important it is to be aware of the traditions inherent in our cultures and how they play out personally and collectively. I am able to look for the "soul-story" resonating in diverse cultures and know that I am looking at the myth that is informing their values, ideas, ideals, religion, etc. It's exciting to learn how to use the mythic lens as a tool for discovering and uncovering the essence of social constructs.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill Bowyer

    A great tool for any writer or aspiring novelist in the fundamental knowledge of myth and its interaction with religion and history. Joseph Campbell proves here that he is the master of mythology, and his wisdom oozes from the pages like honey. As a writer, the gift of such wisdom far exceeds most other resources that you have at your disposal. Perhaps the most important teaching from Campbell is his insisting that constant reading is the prime path for one to acquire great amounts of knowledge. A great tool for any writer or aspiring novelist in the fundamental knowledge of myth and its interaction with religion and history. Joseph Campbell proves here that he is the master of mythology, and his wisdom oozes from the pages like honey. As a writer, the gift of such wisdom far exceeds most other resources that you have at your disposal. Perhaps the most important teaching from Campbell is his insisting that constant reading is the prime path for one to acquire great amounts of knowledge. Proof of this theory lies within the pages of this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Morgan

    If you want to get to know Campbell's ideas, there are better works - especially "Hero with a Thousand Faces" and the four-volume "Masks of God" - to read, but this series of interviews, which one can also watch on video, remains a good introduction to his worldview and approach, and had a big impact on me when I first encountered it in my 20s. The psychological approach to myth can hardly be called "traditional" in the Guenonian/Evolian sense but it remains a useful one nonetheless, since it ca If you want to get to know Campbell's ideas, there are better works - especially "Hero with a Thousand Faces" and the four-volume "Masks of God" - to read, but this series of interviews, which one can also watch on video, remains a good introduction to his worldview and approach, and had a big impact on me when I first encountered it in my 20s. The psychological approach to myth can hardly be called "traditional" in the Guenonian/Evolian sense but it remains a useful one nonetheless, since it can be a gateway to understanding its higher dimensions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Biafra

    summary George Orwell, in Politics and the English Language, notes the following: 'Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not […] The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. summary George Orwell, in Politics and the English Language, notes the following: 'Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not […] The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.' Those sentiments sum up this book quite well. Campbell has a tendency to use words/concepts---mythology, symbology, potentiality, reality, etc.---in ways that is often confusing or doesn't improve understanding of the topics discussed. For example, he tries to make a distinction between everlasting and eternal and how they are fundamentally different concepts in relation to Heaven and time, yet he seems to ignore the actually definitions of said words when giving his own interpretations of them. He continually drops phrases like 'transpersonal compulsion' without clear explanation and tends to contradict himself in fundamental ways (as Moyers points out when they are discussing love's relationship to pain, joy, and life). Given the breadth of the topics covered, this wouldn't be a deal breaker if it didn't happen so often. Campbell and Moyers appear to have trouble maintaining a true conversation beyond demonstrating their own deep, if not insightful, knowledge of stories from various cultures. There are times when Moyer will ask a question and Campbell will respond with a long story without first setting-up why this story is relevant. Or Campbell will go on for a long time and at the end, Moyer will reference a different myth, seemingly out of the blue, that will steer the conversation in a completely different direction. Moyer's should be a more skeptical interviewer, as it would have forced Campbell to clarify concepts better rather than hide behind stories and hard to grasp phrases. Honestly, I was expecting a book about how different mythologies influenced one another throughout the ages and their relation to how different cultures performed rituals and the effects on the historical paths those civilizations/cultures took. There are aspects of that within the book, but it is lost amongst Campbell's ramblings about the spiritual perils of modern life, his own revelations in younger life, side-tales about random myths that don't quite tie into the conversation at hand, and a continually revisiting ideas that he claims cannot be expressed via language or thought about (e.g. every time he discusses about transcendence). I will be blunt: I didn't leave this book with a greater understanding of how to identify myths or a new set of tools to analyze them. However, I would still recommend the book only because it is a great example of how overanalyzing concepts with an in-built bias can lead you astray and dabbles upon some interesting ideas. === additional comments Campbell is remarkably conservative in the classic sense (not, mind you, the modern use in America and its association with Republicans). His criticism of modern life and our inability to develop new myths is astonishing along with his seeming inability to grasp basic scientific knowledge. That he claims myths inform that we cannot change the natural world is a fundamental refutation to the 20th century and our stark ability to do just that. He notes that gangs in cities are an outlet for boys to obtain initiation rituals that modern society lacks, but ignores the more benign (in some places) rituals that occur in fraternities or other organizations. He also continually seems to support sacrifice, harsh initiation rituals into adulthood, and claims multiple times that women didn't have such a bad time back in the day. He further seems to misunderstand how cruel life was before the industrial revolution, claiming that medieval lives were more full-filling and active than ours are today. This is romanticizes the past and given his apparent understanding of texts from the time, he should be aware it is an incorrect and unhelpful view especially when trying to analyze the past in relation to modern life. Further, it is blatantly clear that Campbell has little grasp of how technology could lead to new forms of myths or how/whether new myths have arisen due to advances in technology. This is strange given his analysis of the change in rituals and objects of worship as the transition from hunting to agriculture occurred, e.g. from sacrificial or animal-based worship to the mother goddess. In addition to his seeming luddite tendencies are his astonishingly ill-informed discussions relating to scientific questions, such as the following: "When you realize that if the temperature goes up fifty degrees and stays there, life will not exist on this earth, and that if it drops, let's say, another hundred degrees and stays there, life will not be on this earth; when you realize how very delicate this balance is, how the quantity of water is so important -- well, when you think of all the accidents of the environment that have fostered life, how can you think that the life we know would exist on any other particle of the universe, no matter how many of these satellites around stars there may be?" And then there is self-help nonsense like: "I've never met an ordinary person.". That is false since the majority of people are ordinary by definition (that is, they are normal, which is the average). This imprecision when using basic language that makes it hard to interpret with any clarity what exactly Campbell is claiming. As noted, Campbell has a tendency to repeat himself, hide behind vaguely defined words (realities, transcendence, etc.), and overanalyze simple stories. For example, take the following passage (notice the switching from 'the god' to 'God'): MOYERS: But weren't the people who told these stories, who believed them and acted on them, asking simpler questions? Weren't they asking, for example, who made the world? How was the world made? Why was the world made? Aren't these the questions that these creation stories are trying to address? CAMPBELL: No. It's through that answer that they see that the creator is present in the whole world. You see what I mean? This story from the Upanishads that we have just read -- "I see that I am this creation," says the god. When you see that God is the creation, and that you are a creature, you realize that God is within you, and in the man or woman with whom you are talking, as well. When Campbell starts discussing how the geography and manner of obtaining food affects a civilization's mythology, it gets interesting. The fact that most farming societies develop myths around resurrection and its relation to re-planting of seeds isn't novel, but he analyzes it thoroughly. If the rest of the book was focused like those sections, 4 stars. Instead he produces phrases like 'is or is not, but is everything' that add nothing or doesn't directly answer questions asked, as in the following: MOYERS: What impact has this father quest had on us down through the centuries? CAMPBELL: It's a major theme in myth. There's a little motif that occurs in many narratives related to a hero's life, where the boy says, "Mother, who is my father?" She will say, "Well, your father is in such and such a place," and then he goes on the father quest. Okay…we already know that, but the question is how has that myth affected us, e.g. cultures/civilizations /etc.? Has it influence politics or specific aspects of art? How has it informed rituals? Campbell claims multiple times that modern America has no myth, no unifying identity. Yet, he never even mentions the frontier myth, something that is essential to the American ethos and image. Perhaps because it doesn't encompass a single story but is stretched out over a century, Campbell can't pinpoint a unique story to tell or specific spiritual teaching to draw from it. Or more like, it is too literal and well-known myth, one that prevents his delving into the metaphysical realm and discussions on transcendence or other undefinable concepts (in his own words). In the end, while the book content-wise was a disappointment and while I have given it a low rating, it is perhaps a worthy read as a cautionary tale about how simple truths---13 colonies may be just as significant in the use of 13 in American iconography as the numbers relation to Masonic ideas---can sometimes be overanalyzed or construed to fit ones pre-defined view on how to interpret myths.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mischa Van Loder

    After reading Joseph Campbell's work 'The Power of Myth' and 'The Hero's Journey', I'm now noticing the symbols of mythology and legends in nearly every movie I see and every book I read; even in the non-fiction, true articles of my favourite newspaper, 'The Age', the are apparent. I can't believe how Campbell's philosophies touch on everything we believe about our earth, religion, marriage, births--absolutely everything! Using the example of religion and the stories of the bible, Joseph Campbel After reading Joseph Campbell's work 'The Power of Myth' and 'The Hero's Journey', I'm now noticing the symbols of mythology and legends in nearly every movie I see and every book I read; even in the non-fiction, true articles of my favourite newspaper, 'The Age', the are apparent. I can't believe how Campbell's philosophies touch on everything we believe about our earth, religion, marriage, births--absolutely everything! Using the example of religion and the stories of the bible, Joseph Campbell's explanations show aspects for what they really are: the Garden of Eden is a metaphor for innocence that is the innocence of time, innocent of opposites, being that where consciousness becomes aware of changes. The analogy of people believing the bible stories to be true--not as metaphors--'is like going to a restaurant and eating the menu instead of the food' is priceless! If you've ever craved a deeper meaning about life on our planet, where we came from, and what it all means, then this is the book for you… It radiates with epiphanies and revelations about life, love… even meditation. I can't recommend this book highly enough. A must read! (And, an absolute essential for any Professional Writing and Editing student.)

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