Friday, October 7, 2022

The Power of Myth

What do Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, and the Buddha all have in common? You might not think very much at first glance, but if we look closer, we see that they are all heroes of their own epic adventures. Looking even closer, we see that these adventures seem to follow a common pattern.

For starters let's write about your first day of High School...

Why did you have to go? Did you have any second thoughts/ not want to go? Did anyone help you that first day? What did it feel like walking onto campus or into that first class? Were there any obstacles you were faced with that day? What was the biggest challenge you dealt with that day? How did you deal with it? What was the reward? How did it feel returning home that day? How did you feel when you woke up and returned to school that second day? What lessons were learned? What people did you meet that day?

Joseph Campbell was a prolific researcher, teacher and writer. Before he passed away Bill Moyer interviewed him in a six part series. Here are the first two episodes (I recommend 1,2,4 and 6)

Watch Episode 2 below and skip to 15:30 where they compare creation stories to get a taste of this program...

Ep 3 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 3: 'The First Storytellers' - YouTube

Ep 4 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 4: 'Sacrifice and Bliss' - YouTube

Ep 5 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 5: 'Love and the Goddess' - YouTube

Ep 6 (1) Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth | Ep. 6: 'Masks of Eternity' - YouTube

The Power of Myth Quotes by Joseph Campbell | Goodreads

45:40 to 49

Joseph Campbell launches into a lengthy blueprint for storytelling, commonly known as the Hero's Journey.

Does that sound dry? Maybe a little. But think of it as the literary equivalent of being handed a skeleton key…because this book unlocks the plot of basically every movie (and most books) ever made.

The Journey consists of a series of specific steps, laid out by Campbell one by one. He sums it all up after he talks about each step—about two-thirds of the way through the book in the chapter helpfully labeled "The Keys"—but we're gonna include an outline right here just to give you a little road map to figuring it all out.

  1. The Call to Adventure
  2. Refusal of the Call
  3. Meeting the Mentor
  4. Crossing the Threshold
  5. Tests
  6. Approaching the Innermost Cave
  7. Ordeal
  8. Reward/Bliss
  9. The Road Back
  10. Resurrection
  11. Master of Two Worlds
Joseph Campbell and Character Archetypes
  • Hero.
  • Mentor.
  • Ally.
  • Herald.
  • Trickster.
  • Shapeshifter.
  • Guardian.
  • Shadow.

With that in your back pocket, let's talk about how Campbell breaks it all down (and down, and down).

He starts out by discussing the notion of the Monomyth…which sounds like the villain from an Avengers movie but is actually the fact that all stories from all cultures are essentially the same, since they try to convey the universal truths of life and the way our living experiences are reflected as part of the larger universe.

Whoa. That's deep.

From there, it's straight into the Hero's Journey, which he divides into three parts: going away, being initiated, and coming back.

First, there's a call to adventure, in which the normal world is threatened and a hero rises who must go on a quest to stop it. Sometimes he or she refuses the call and bad things happen. (Remember Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Yeah. Don't stay on that farm, guys.)

Assuming the hero is down with the plan, he or she receives supernatural aid, most notably from the nearest convenient wizard-type. The hero eventually arrives at the first threshold: the place where the world he's known gives way to the unknown. (Dark forests and scary music are usually involved.) As he passes it, he's swallowed up or descends into "the belly of the whale," which is the symbolic center of the universe.

From there, he encounters all kinds of tests and challenges on "The Road of Trials," which kicks off the second part of the Hero's Journey. This climaxes (literally in some cases—bow chicka bow bow) with the meeting of the mother-goddess, who holds the entire universe inside her. (Sometimes things go pear-shaped, and that loving figure becomes a wicked temptress, but not always.)

The hero must atone with his father, or convenient father figure in most cases, which involves claiming the father's place in the world. With the completion of the quest comes the realization that the hero is a part of a larger universe, and understanding that everything within it—good and evil alike—are all part of the same cosmic system.

Again: whoa, that's deep.

The revelation is like a bolt of lightning and he suddenly Gets It on a universe-sharing level. That gives him or her the Ultimate Boon: the thing he or she has been looking for the whole time, and which now he or she understands has been a part of him or her the whole time.

Sometimes, the hero doesn't want to go back home but instead remain with all the snazzy power and enlightenment and possibly epic sex and whatnot. Other times, however, he heads home with all his newfound goodies: either instantly or being pursued by various demons and evil creatures.

Sometimes he needs an outside force to rescue him…but in any case the road back is a lot faster than the road there. Once he returns he exits as a master of two worlds, able to move freely between the mundane and the transcendent, and has the freedom to live in a state of enlightened grace.

Having formally spelled out the Hero's Journey, Campbell finishes his little opus with a discussion of the Cosmogonic Cycle: the creation and destruction of the universe.

We'll say it until we're blue in the face: whoa, that's deep.

It starts out one meaningless empty blob before a god or creative force endows it with shape. It's unified and perfect, but as it's populated with people, the one divides into many, which creates chaos and disorder. Eventually, that leads to a doom or end-of-the-world scenario, which brings the many back into the one and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Campbell closes with a breakdown of several types of successful hero—the tyrant, the lover, the world redeemer, the warrior, and the saint—before discussing the ultimate departure of the hero, and a little bit of hand-wringing that modern society just isn't set up for the kind of meditation that the Hero's Journey is supposed to make easy.

Yeah. Now that you've uploaded all that knowledge into your brainpan, go try applying it to various movies/books/rock operas. This bad boy works pretty much every time.

What was the last action movie you saw....


Birth is the first heroic journey

Myths help us discover who we are and slay the savage dragon of our ego. Follow your bliss.

Heroes do something extraordinary. He or she has given their lives to something bigger or other.

Celtic myth has a hunter follow a deer or other animal into an Uncharted Forest where the animal becomes a fairy queen or other Supernatural entity.

There are three different Beginnings to the quest, The Accidental Hero, the purposeful quest, or being thrown into it like being drafted to the Army.

The hero sacrifices something.

A common myth is the fire Thief. Aboriginal cultures have a myth of birds passing fire between them and that's how the birds got all the different colors. Prometheus is a classic story about stealing fire from the gods.

Early cultures often have myths about killing monsters when man was carving out a wild Savage unshaped world, trying to find a place for himself amongst the wilderness. 

The hero's Quest is evident in the stories of moses, Buddha and Jesus. Jesus receives three Temptations in the desert economic, political and spiritual temptation. Buddha sat in the forest and had the Temptations of lust, fear and social Duty. After a return from the Wilderness they both appointed disciples.

Shamans had visions through the sensation of dying and being Resurrected, truth found in deep dreams and the deprivation found in retreating to the woods.

In the Quran it says do you think you will enter the garden of bliss without going through the trials of those that have come before you.

The quest is ultimately about the transformation of consciousness. Also putting yourself in situations that will evoke a higher character.

When the hero fights the system he can either assimilate and live in it, break the system, or change the system. For instance, Siegfried drinks the blood of the Dragon he has slain and assimilates himself with the dark side.

Live life with a knowledge of Mystery. What is life? What is ticking inside you? Going on the hero's Quest erases anxiety, puts you in accord with inevitables and allows one to see negative and positive, saying no or yes to the serpent.

Oh I can't do that is your dragon and the influence you have on others and your actions can save the world.

Take a look outside your window and all the consciousnesses mingling.

Consciousness can be raised in what you think about, for instance where is money coming from, how is my family doing? Myths exist to raise our Consciousness to a spiritual dimension.

Myths are Clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life.

People in the East have mantras to keep their Consciousness from slipping down or think about a beautiful place. Like the Elephanta caves...

-------------------------     ----------------      -------------------     ----------------------

Summary of the Power of Myths:

In ancient times, before people had science, people had to use myths to make sense of the world around them. For example, the Ancient Greeks had gods representing the sun, moon, and all of the planets. And that is how they explained the movement of celestial bodies in the sky. 

You might think that myths don’t have a place in today’s world. We have scientific evidence to explain everything around us, right? But some might say we need myths more than we ever have. Why? Because myths help us make sense of some of the more elusive truths about life on earth, like why we’re here and what happens after we die. 

In The Power of Myth: From Ancient Myths to Han Soloauthor Joseph Campbell dives into the meanings and origins of all sorts of myths. By comparing myths across cultures, he shows us that myths help us understand universal parts of life such as love and death. As the number of people practicing spirituality has begun to fall in Western cultures, Campbell explains that now more than ever we need myths to help us realize how much we have in common with those around us.  

Here are 3 of the most insightful lessons from this book:

  1. Myths are stories that unite people in communities, identify the beginnings of cultures, and give people a common identity.
  2. As guidelines for community members, legends give a framework for people to think and act.
  3. The power of myth helps us make sense of life, appreciate it, and even prepare to die.

Lesson 1: Myths give people a common identity, unite people within communities, and identify the beginnings of cultures.

Myths play an essential part in defining and preserving a community’s identity. A lot of myths do this by explaining how the beginning of life or a culture began. This helps form a group identity and makes it different from other groups. 

The religious concept some churches believe that they are the “chosen people” comes from myth. People who believe this think that they have been chosen by God and they have the only truth. Religious myths like this foster a connection among group members and act as a boundary separating them from other belief systems. 

Where do myths begin? They tend to revolve around the geographical place from where they emerge. For instance, god is different in different cultures. In some cultures such as the Incas of South America, they believe in the sun god Inti. In Native American tribes, their “first mother” usually centered around vegetation. 

Myths can also change and adapt over time. For instance, when the Spanish brought horses to North America, tribes could more easily hunt buffalo. This resulted in a bigger emphasis on buffalo in their mythology. 

Lesson 2: The legends that society passes down serve as a framework for how to think and act throughout all of life’s major steps.

Another benefit of myths is that they give us a framework for life. They help us comprehend or handle significant life stages like birth, adulthood, and death. Myths can help us take the step from one stage to the next, even when the transition is confusing or scary. 

For example, getting married is a big change in a person’s life. All cultures have marriage myths, usually including something about one person completing another spiritually. This is where we get the metaphors of “other half” and “soul mate.” These refer to the notion that our partner fills a missing part of our soul, giving comfort during this new stage of life. 

Myths can also be abstract, in which case many cultures turn to rituals as concrete ways for people to achieve what is expected of them. In Australian Aboriginal culture, boys drink blood to represent their passage as becoming a man. This is a symbol that they are leaving behind their mother’s milk and they are now hunters. 

In modern day, we don’t lean on ritual as much. But we still do have things like them to help us understand our new roles in society. For example, there is a ritual when enlisting in an army. When new recruits arrive, they take an oath and receive a uniform. At this point, they leave personal desires behind and they are now considered not as an individual but as a member of the armed forces.

Lesson 3: You can make better sense of life, appreciate it more, and prepare for death all thanks to the power of myth.

You’ve probably felt afraid to die at one point or another in your life. Myths can help comfort our fears of this and grapple with our own mortality. Many myths link life and death closely. Have you ever heard a story about someone with a terminal illness who decides to live the last of their life to the fullest? It is facing death that helps them embrace the life they have left. 

In Indonesian culture, some tribes believed a young man should kill a person before he could be allowed to marry and become a father. This belief came from the idea that for a new generation to emerge, the one before needed to die. 

One of the best ways myths have helped people deal with the abruptness of death is by depicting it as just moving on to another stage in life. People in ancient cultures weren’t even afraid of death because of this. To them, it was just a threshold your soul had to travel through to reach another existence. 

This is the reason ancient peoples left gifts on the graves of their deceased loved ones. They believed they needed them in their new life. Through myths, people over the ages have understood and been okay with the fact that death is just a natural part of life, something that can be hard to comprehend without any beliefs.

Sources: shmoop,

1 comment:

  1. Color laser engraving machine greatly improves the problems of traditional coding machines and increase the reliability and flexibility of the equipment.