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Myths to Live By (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  3,198 ratings  ·  133 reviews
Joseph Campbell famously compared mythology to a kangaroo pouch for the human mind and spirit: "a womb with a view." In Myths to Live By, he examines all of the ways in which myth supports and guides us, giving our lives meaning. Love and war, science and religion, East and West, inner space and outer space-Campbell shows how the myths we live by can reconcile all of these ...more
ebook, Ebook/Second Edition, 276 pages
Published March 11th 2011 by Joseph Campbell Foundation (first published 1972)
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Yvette Hill
One paragraph that hooked me very early on:

" our present day - at least in the leading modern centers of cultural creativity - people have begun to take the existance of their supporting social orders for granted, and instead of aiming to defend and maintain the integrity of the community have begun to place at the center of concern the development and protection of the individual - the individual, moreover, not as an organ of the state but as an end and entity in himself. This marks an ext
One of the first comparative religion texts I ever read. And, yes, Campbell is not really a comparative religion author, but, along with Frazier's The Golden Bough and Hero with a Thousand Faces, it provided me with enough tips (and ammunition) to smart down the dumb fundies in my college classes....
When people think of Joseph Campbell, they often think of "The Power of Myth," his series with Bill Moyers that aired over 25 years ago. Campbell was knowledgeable and engaging. On some of the audios of his that you can buy you can hear that same quality that makes him such a fascinating speaker. But his books...the academic in him rears its ugly head here.

This is a good -- not great -- book. It's really about 3 1/2 stars, but as always I give the benefit of the scale. I'd like to call it great,
This book provides a thoughtful look at the parallels between different religions' stories and the links between these stories and various elements of existence. If that sounds vague, it's because the book's twelve lectures cover serious ground. The most interesting talks were "The Importance of Rites," "The Confrontation of East and West in Religion," and (surprisingly) "Schizophrenia--the Inward Journey." While many of Campbell's ideas aren't news, they are expressed in articulate and, at time ...more
Brian Bess
The essential Campbell in small, yet healthy portions

'Myths to Live By', aside from the book length transcript of the televised interviews he did with Bill Moyers, 'The Power of Myth', is the only one of Joseph Campbell's books that I have read, not only once, but twice now. I still intend someday to read 'The Hero of a Thousand Faces' and his magnum opus, the four-volumes of 'The Masks of God.' When I read it the first time in the early 80's at a very desperate time in my life, I saw the title
Billie Pritchett
Joseph Campbell's Myths to Live By is a reminder that "there are more things in heaven and Earth... than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy." Human understanding of the world has been increased through the sciences, including mathematics, the natural sciences like physics and chemistry, the social sciences like economics, sociology, and history, and the humanities like literary and religious studies. Humanity needs these fields for the purposes of advancing what is beyond our natural ways of thin ...more
Mollie T
Sep 23, 2008 Mollie T rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mollie by: Marc
Shelves: marc-recommended
Pretty good; definitely some interesting content here.

However, as a reader, I thought not all of the lectures were particularly linked, and sometimes it seemed like certain topics weren't covered that should have been. It seemed like he was trying to say that the myths of all cultures are the same, but he didn't ever do a good job of showing this in my opinion. Also, the title was misreading and irrelevant, and even the subtitle wasn't particularly appropriate.

The later lectures were definitely
Craig Williams
A friend of mine recommended Joseph Campbell to me a while back, and I never got a chance to check him out until this book randomly fell into my lap at the bookstore I work at. This book was right up my alley. Campbell's thesis is that mythology plays a more important role in our lives than we give it credit for - by mythology, I mean religion too. When you get down to it, mythology is ultimately the resting place for dead religions. Anyway, the myths of a culture really go far in explaining who ...more
In essays that spin off Campbell's speeches before the Cooper Union Forum between 1958 and 1971, it's unsurprising that most passionate and intelligent piece spins off the first landing on the moon in 1969.

Whether it's human sacrifice understood in plant-based communities that owed their survival to the life-death-life cycle of the natural world, or the modern day's strain to reconcile our stories of godly creation with the evolutionary evidence among us, Campbell convincingly argues that our m
This series of lectures is very interesting and a good read for those interested in religions. Campbell draws on sources from the world religions and shows many similarities. My favorite was the chapter on mythologies of war and peace, as I felt he clearly laid out the similarities and differences between various religions on that topic.

Overall though, Campbell seems to come to conclusions that are unjustified by the data. Perhaps we could say he takes many leaps of faith. He focuses on similari
Ciaran Thapar
I had come away from 'Hero with a Thousand Faces' with a thirst for more Campbell wisdom, and this provided it. Some of the essays are less digestible than others, but the order in which they are placed means you go on a genuine journey through his ideas - which include more 'real life' commentary than HWTF (e.g. the final essay, 'Envoy: No More Horizons', about the state of mythology and religion in modern life, is one of the best essays I've ever read and is a great conclusion). He is a champi ...more
The title and tagline to this are so self-helpish that, as self-help rightly should, it makes you want to run for the hills and break out in hives. When, no: this book should cause the opposite reaction. Scarf this one up, gulp this one down. The self-help bullshit is so toxic and this is just the opposite.

It’s what Daniel said, Campbell can run fast and far afield sometimes but when he brings it home it’s dead-on.
Amazing - a must read for every living person! I starting reading this back in college when I was on a mythology kick (but then I was distracted by some other fascinating, shiny thing) & I just picked it up again - I'm so glad I did - I'm devouring it!
Quin Herron
Joseph Campbell is a weird sort of scholar/anthropologist/mythologist/psychologist who seems to create new myths as he explains old ones. That is, he tells the myth of the myth... if that makes any sense to you. Some of the reactions to Campbell's work appear just as spiritual as the reactions to the myths he discusses. He trades in profound, transcending Truth, but the way he tries to use it to discuss contemporary issues often falls flat.

I mostly know Campbell's work second hand, and I'm hopin
Bridget Morrow
Wonderful book, it answers questions you didn't even know you had. I am a huge fan of his, reading it as part of my recommended reading for grad school.
This is a great overview of some of Joseph Campbell's main ideas on religion, mythology, and living. These appear to have been taken from lectures that he gave in the 60s and 70s, so the text is almost identical in many places to those (which are now available from the Joseph Campbell Foundation as mp3s). Still, if you haven't read Joseph Campbell before, this is a good place to start. If you find the book interesting, or it leaves you with many unanswered questions, you can move on to other Cam ...more
I'm biased since I've been a fan of Joseph Campbell for years now and have watched all his interviews with Bill Moyers. But when I first starting reading his work, I did find it dense, especially A Hero with a Thousand Faces. Myths to Live By is a better way to get acquainted with Campbell, especially for the person who is embarking on mythology, and the psychological and sociological effects of mythology. The book is structured with chapters according to theme, and as is usual with his other wo ...more
I couldn't finish this book (and that's pretty unusual for me). I know I'm in the minority (at least review-wise) in not really liking it, but I couldn’t get past the author's condescending attitude toward all people who truly believe in the literal teachings of their religion. I think he makes some interesting points, but I just disliked the tone of the book. He actually says that anyone with at least a kindergarten education can't possibly believe that the events depicted in religions (i.e. th ...more
Christina Bouwens
I absolutely love Joseph Campbell -- but perhaps moreso in videotaped interviews, particularly his Power of Myth series for PBS w/Bill Moyers. This is a work involving Campbell's interpretations and connections of world cultures and their myths on the "Big" themes (love, war and peace, hero's journey / schizophrenia, etc.), so much of this I'm already familiar with and didn't receive as necessarily "new" or unique information. A worthwhile tidbit, something to contemplate and consider if you've ...more
Campbell is boring, yet amazingly interesting at the same time. Campbell is basically trying to connect primitive mythology, to modern religion/myth, and drug use or dreams, which all have similar context.

Here are a few quotes that stuck:

“things which once were in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed.”

“Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths.”

“the famous conflict of science and religion has actually nothing to
Tony duncan
May 03, 2008 Tony duncan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interested in myth humanism, religion, self awareness
I saw Campbell give a talk at The new School in the 80's, and he was rieting.

this is an essential read for anyone trying to live a full life.

His basic premise is that Myths serve as spiritual and emotional anchors for development in all cultures. That there are very specific archetypes that are found in all myths that ae necessary for individuals to mature in society. he compares a wide variety of cultural myths and shows where the basic themes of each are similar and serve similar purposes.

He a
I read the chapter that drew comparisons between the foundational Western (Occidental) origin story, the Old/New Testaments and the foundational Eastern (Oriental) religious origin story (Buddha), which I found nicely done. In particular, Campbell finds that the point of comparison is in how both Jesus and Buddha are saviors of the human propensity for sin/profane through rejection of physical and Earthly attachments. Furthermore, there is a central image of the tree in both origin stories, whic ...more
Max Nova
Thought-provoking and controversial, Campbell wrote “Myths to Live By” as a comparative study of world religious traditions with a special focus on differences between East and West, religion and war, and the underlying psychological needs fulfilled by religion. He doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to Christianity - a religion whose central text is a “nursery tale of disobedience and its punishment, inculcating an attitude of dependency, fear, and respectful devotion, such as might be thoug ...more
A.N. Vidrine
This was an excellent book. This book should be required reading for every person on this planet, to internalize everything he has to say about mythology and religion. The world would be better place if certain fundamentalists of various religions realized that we have more in common than we have differences.

Campbell is specifically critical of fundamentalists, those who interpret holy works literally. I've personally been arguing about this for years. Those who take the Bible, and other religio
Recently it dawned on me where my religious experience with organized religion went wrong. The paradigm I was operating under focused on taking everything literally. To me it was all or nothing, and as anyone who really delves into any Christian religion will quickly learn there are glaring contradictions that quickly become impossible to ignore. After reading this book I thought "if only I had this view I wouldn't have missed the valuable lessons of religious mythologies and become so disillusi ...more
Keith Kendall
To understand the tales in this book would be a semester of study. I read it quickly because I don't have a semester to learn these books. In retrospect, it seemed like a stream of consciousness where each part reminds him of another myth. Just as he starts to make a conclusion, he is off into another myth. Myths of war, conflict, death, foolishness, etc.

A few statement that struck me:

"The fundamental text of the Hindu tradition is, of course, the Bhagavad Gita; and there four basic yogas descri
I've read parts of just about all Joseph Campbell's works, and since I haven't read too much literature on comparative spirituality, I always learn really interesting facts I didn't know. Lots of these essays had fascinating topics, and I loved learning that decapitated heads are an important part of some people's wedding rituals. . . yum!

But, instead of a real review, I'd much rather reflect on the interesting ways in which this book is dated. F'rinstance, one of these essays (originally lectu
Nov 27, 2009 Rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comparative religion nerds
This was my first exposure to Campbell's work, and in retrospect, it was probably not the best volume to start with. For one thing, this isn't so much a book with a coherent theme as a series of essays and lectures from several different years all packaged together. That in itself was a bit of a problem, because there was nothing tying all of these disparate ideas together into one thesis.

Another issue is that Campbell has a really pompous style of writing. Many of his ideas are genuinely intere
I'll say this: Campbell is right on with his message. That's interesting for me to say because I will simultaneously admit his message pertains to the wisdom of life. Science, history, art, music, psychology, even sociology study life from different angles, but given his scope (ancient stories and universal religions) his message is right on the money. I still perfer Power of Myth, but this is a good one.

There is to be recognized, not only a factor representative to the unity of our species, bu
David Johnson
I read half of this book in 2003. Since then I read the Hero with A Thousand Faces and a little of the Masks of God series. I really enjoyed both these works, particularly Hero. I enjoy how Campbell finds common themes and stories in all the worlds myth/belief systems.

In Myths to Live By, however, I felt like Mr. Campbell unabashedly attacked organized religion and those who choose to follow the precepts of a religion. His assumption that anyone who subscribes to a formal belief system is uninte
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell 1 7 Aug 31, 2014 05:23PM  
  • The Portable Jung
  • Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind: The Authorized Biography
  • Parallel Myths
  • A Short History of Myth
  • Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales (C.G. Jung Foundation Book)
  • Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art
  • New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology
  • The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By
  • Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend
  • Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide
  • The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype (Bollingen)
  • Myth and Meaning
  • He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
  • The Golden Bough, Abridged
  • Myth: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Myth of the Eternal Return or Cosmos and History
  • The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth
  • The 2012 Story: The Myths, Fallacies, and Truth Behind the Most Intriguing Date in History
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythology professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion.
More about Joseph Campbell...

Other Books in the Series

The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell (1 - 10 of 37 books)
  • Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine
  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces
  • The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work (Works)
  • Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation
  • The Eastern Way: Joseph Campbell Audio Collection
  • The Myths and Masks of God: Joseph Campbell Audio Collection
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion (Collected Worksl)
  • Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor
  • A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake: James Joyce's Masterwork Revealed
  • Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce
The Power of Myth The Hero With a Thousand Faces Primitive Mythology (The Masks of God, #1) Oriental Mythology (The Masks of God, #2) Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation

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“To become—in Jung’s terms—individuated, to live as a released individual, one has to know how and when to put on and to put off the masks of one’s various life roles. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ and when at home, do not keep on the mask of the role you play in the Senate chamber. But this, finally, is not easy, since some of the masks cut deep. They include judgment and moral values. They include one’s pride, ambition, and achievement. They include one’s infatuations. It is a common thing to be overly impressed by and attached to masks, either some mask of one’s own or the mana-masks of others. The work of individuation, however, demands that one should not be compulsively affected in this way. The aim of individuation requires that one should find and then learn to live out of one’s own center, in control of one’s for and against. And this cannot be achieved by enacting and responding to any general masquerade of fixed roles.” 24 likes
“the society that cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.” 2 likes
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