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Myths to Live By Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell
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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.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“The LSD phenomenon, on the other hand, is—to me at least—more interesting. It is an intentionally achieved schizophrenia, with the expectation of a spontaneous remission—which, however, does not always follow. Yoga, too, is intentional schizophrenia: one breaks away from the world, plunging inward, and the ranges of vision experienced are in fact the same as those of a psychosis. But what, then, is the difference? What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical? The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt. The symbolic figures encountered are in many instances identical (and I shall have something more to say about those in a moment). But there is an important difference. The difference—to put it sharply—is equivalent simply to that between a diver who can swim and one who cannot. The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“If you travel far enough, you'll eventually meet yourself.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Our actual ultimate root is in our humanity, not in our personal genealogy.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Everything, all the time, is causing everything else.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“the society that cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“the famous conflict of science and religion has actually nothing to do with religion, but is simply of two sciences: that of 4000 B.C. and that of A.D. 2000.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“anyone continually knitting his life into contexts of intention, import, and clarifications of meaning will in the end find that he has lost the sense of experiencing life.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“It is a basic idea of practically every war mythology that the enemy is a monster and that in killing him one is protecting the only truly valuable order of human life on earth, which is that, of course, of one's own people.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Since you came to birth in this world at this time, in this place, and with this particular destiny, it was this indeed that you wanted and required for your own ultimate illumination. That was a great big wonderful thing that you thereupon brought to pass: not the "you" of course, that you now suppose yourself to be, but the "you" that was already there before you were born. You are not now to lose your nerve! Go on through with it and play your own game all the way!”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“facts of the mind made manifest in a fiction of matter,' as my friend the late Maya Deren once phrased the mystery.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
tags: myths
“lies are what the world lives on, and those who can face the challenge of a truth and build their lives to accord are finally not many, but the very few.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“One of the most interesting histories of what comes of rejecting science we may see in Islam, which in the beginning received, accepted, and even developed the classical legacy. For some five or six rich centuries there is an impressive Islamic record of scientific thought, experiment, and research, particularly in medicine. But then, alas! the authority of the general community, the Sunna, the consensus—which Mohammed the Prophet had declared would always be right—cracked down. The Word of God in the Koran was the only source and vehicle of truth. Scientific thought led to 'loss of belief in the origin of the world and in the Creator.' And so it was that, just when the light of Greek learning was beginning to be carried from Islam to Europe—from circa 1100 onward—Islamic science and medicine came to a standstill and went dead....”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“The fundamental text of the Hindu tradition is, of course, the Bhagavad Gītā; and there four basic yogas are described. The word yoga itself, from a Sanskrit verbal root yuj, meaning “to yoke, to link one thing to another,” refers to the act of linking the mind to the source of mind, consciousness to the source of consciousness; the import of which definition is perhaps best illustrated in the discipline known as knowledge yoga, the yoga, that is to say, of discrimination between the knower and the known, between the subject and the object in every act of knowing, and the identification of oneself, then, with the subject. “I know my body. My body is the object. I am the witness, the knower of the object. I, therefore, am not my body.” Next: “I know my thoughts; I am not my thoughts.” And so on: “I know my feelings; I am not my feelings.” You can back yourself out of the room that way. And the Buddha then comes along and adds: “You are not the witness either. There is no witness.” So where are you now? Where are you between two thoughts? That is the way known as jñāna yoga, the way of sheer knowledge.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“In the Orient the ultimate divine mystery is sought beyond all human categories of thought and feeling, beyond names and forms, and absolutely beyond any such concept as of a merciful or wrathful personality, chooser of one people over another, comforter of folk who pray, and destroyer of those who do not. Such anthropomorphic attributions of human sentiments and thoughts to a mystery beyond thought is - from the point of view of Indian thought - a style of religion for children. Whereas the final sense of all adult teaching is to the point that the mystery transcendent of categories, names and forms, sentiments and thought, is to be realized as the ground of one’s own very being.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“I remember a vivid talk by the Japanese Zen philosopher Dr. Daisetz T. Suzuki that opened with an unforgettable contrast of the Occidental and Oriental understandings of the God-man-nature mystery. Commenting first on the Biblical view of the state of man following the Fall in Eden, “Man,” he observed, “is against God, Nature is against God, and Man and Nature are against each other. God’s own likeness (Man), God’s own creation (Nature) and God himself - all three are at war.” Then, expounding the Oriental view, “Nature,” he said, “is the bosom whence we come and whither we go.” “Nature produces Man out of itself; Man cannot be outside of Nature.” “I am in Nature and Nature is in me.” The Godhead as highest Being is to be comprehended, he continued, as prior to creation, “in whom there was yet neither Man nor Nature.” “As soon as a name is given, the Godhead ceases to be Godhead. Man and Nature spring up and we get caught in the maze of abstract conceptual vocabulary.”

We in the West have named our God; or rather, we have had the Godhead named for us in a book from a time and place that are not our own. And we have been taught to have faith not only in the absolute existence of this metaphysical fiction, but also in its relevance to the shaping of our lives. In the great East, on the other hand, the accent is on experience: on one’s own experience, furthermore, not a faith in someone else’s. And the various disciplines taught are of ways to the attainment of unmistakable experiences - ever deeper, ever greater - of one’s own identity with whatever one knows as “divine”: identity, and beyond that, then, transcendence.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“NATURAL MUSIC   The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers, (Winter has given them gold for silver To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their banks) From different throats intone one language. So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without Divisions of desire and terror To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hunger-smitten cities, Those voices also would be found Clean as a child’s; or like some girl’s breathing who dances alone By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers.3”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt: “The Fates lead him who will; him who won’t, they drag.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“is there not some point of wisdom beyond the conflicts of illusion and truth by which lives can be put back together again? That is a prime question, I would say, of this hour in the bringing up of children.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Let me recall at this point Nietzsche’s statements regarding classic and romantic art. He identified two types or orders of each. There is the romanticism of true power that shatters contemporary forms to go beyond these to new forms; and there is, on the other hand, the romanticism that is unable to achieve form at all, and so smashes and disparages out of resentment. And with respect to classicism likewise, there is the classicism that finds an achievement of the recognized forms easy and can play with them at will, expressing through them its own creative aims in a rich and vital way; and there is the classicism that clings to form desperately out of weakness, dry and hard, authoritarian and cold. The point I would make - and which I believe was also Nietzsche’s - is that form is the medium, the vehicle, through which life becomes manifest in its grand style, articulate and grandiose, and that the mere shattering of form is for human as well as for animal life a disaster, ritual and decorum being the structuring forms of all civilization.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“The earliest god-kings were ritually slain every six years, eight years, or twelve, according to the various local orders; and with them the dignitaries of their courts, all casting off their bodies to be born again. It is a fantastic, noble, weirdly wonderful ideal, this of the individual who is nobody at all if not the incarnation, even unto death, of the one eternal, absolutely impersonal, cosmic law. And it is against this that the Occidental, or, more particularly, modern European, ideal of the individual must be measured.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Only when that mortal “you” will have erased everything about itself that it cherishes and is holding to, will “you” have come to the brink of an experience of identity with that Being which is no being yet is the Being beyond the nonbeing of all things. Nor is It anything that you have ever known, ever named, or even thought about in this world:”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Significant images render insights beyond speech, beyond the kinds of meaning speech defines. And if they do not speak to you, that is because you are not ready for them, and words will only serve to make you think you have understood, thus cutting you off altogether.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“The word zen itself is a Japanese mispronunciation of the Chinese word ch’an, which, in turn, is a Chinese mispronunciation of the Sanskrit dhyana, meaning “contemplation, meditation.” Contemplation, however, of what?

Let us imagine ourselves for a moment in the lecture hall where I originally presented the material for this chapter. Above, we see the many lights. Each bulb is separate from the others, and we may think of them, accordingly, as separate from each other. Regarded that way, they are so many empirical facts; and the whole universe seen that way is called in Japanese ji hokkai, “the universe of things.”

But now, let us consider further. Each of those separate bulbs is a vehicle of light, and the light is not many but one. The one light, that is to say, is being displayed through all those bulbs; and we may think, therefore, either of the many bulbs or of the one light. Moreover, if this or that bulb went out, it would be replaced by another and we should again have the same light. The light, which is one, appears thus through many bulbs.

Analogously, I would be looking out from the lecture platform, seeing before me all the people of my audience, and just as each bulb seen aloft is a vehicle of light, so each of us below is a vehicle of consciousness. But the important thing about a bulb is the quality of its light. Likewise, the important thing about each of us is the quality of his consciousness. And although each may tend to identify himself mainly with his separate body and its frailties, it is possible also to regard one’s body as a mere vehicle of consciousness and to think then of consciousness as the one presence here made manifest through us all. These are but two ways of interpreting and experiencing the same set of present facts. One way is not truer than the other. They are just two ways of interpreting and experiencing: the first, in terms of the manifold of separate things; the second, in terms of the one thing that is made manifest through this manifold. And as, in Japanese, the first is known as ji hokkai, so the second is ri hokkai, the absolute universe.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“There is a favorite story, frequently told by the Zen masters, of the Buddha, preaching: of how he held up a single lotus, that simple gesture being his whole sermon. Only one member of his audience, however, caught the message, a monk named Mahākāśyapa, who is regarded now as the founder of the Zen sect. And the Buddha, noticing, gave him a knowing nod, then preached a verbal sermon for the rest: a sermon for those who required meaning, still entrapped in the net of ideas; yet pointing beyond, to escape from the net and to the way that some of them, one day or another, might find.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“This one is from an ancient Zoroastrian legend of the first parents of the human race, where they are pictured as having sprung from the earth in the form of a single reed, so closely joined that they could not have been told apart. However, in time they separated; and again in time they united, and there were born to them two children, whom they loved so tenderly and irresistibly that they ate them up. The mother ate one; the father ate the other; and God, to protect the human race, then reduced the force of man’s capacity for love by some ninety-nine per cent. Those first parents thereafter had seven more pairs of children, every one of which, however—thank God!—survived.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“a curious characteristic of our unformed species that we live and model our lives through acts of make-believe.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“the most evident distinguishing sign is man’s organization of his life according primarily to mythic, and only secondarily economic, aims and laws. Food and drink, reproduction and nest-building, it is true, play formidable roles in the lives no less of men than of chimpanzees. But what of the economics of the Pyramids, the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, Hindus starving to death with edible cattle strolling all around them, or the history of Israel, from the time of Saul to right now?”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“in this wonderful human brain of ours there has dawned a realization unknown to the other primates. It is that of the individual, conscious of himself as such, and aware that he, and all that he cares for, will one day die.”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By
“Description of the Six Bodily Centers of the Unfolding Serpent Power (Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpana), which has been”
Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

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