Friday Open Thread ~ What are you reading? ~ Joseph Campbell


Joseph Campbell and the Myth of the Hero's Journey

We explore the relationship between mythology and the unconscious, and look at the monomyth Joseph Campbell called the myth of the hero's journey.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (highlights reading)

“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form - all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

The Departure - The Call to Adventure

On Becoming an Adult: myth lets you know where you are across the ages of life - at 40 or at 80

Myth and Dream

“Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind.” pg 1

“The wonder is that characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in a droplet or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of the psyche […]” pg 1-2

“[…]Freud, Jung and their followers have demonstrated irrefutably that the logic, the heroes, and the deeds of myth survive into modern times. In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream.” pg 2

“[The unconscious] is the realm that we enter in sleep. We carry it within ourselves forever. All the ogres and secret helpers of our nursery are there, all the magic of childhood. And more important, all the life-potentialities that we never managed to bring to adult realization, those other portions of ourself, are there; for such golden seeds do not die.” pg 12

quoting Sigmund Freud: (about dream symbolism)
“This symbolism is not peculiar to dreams, but it characteristic of unconscious ideation, in particular among the people, and it is to be found in folklore, and in popular myths, legends, linguistic idioms, proverbial wisdom and current jokes, to a more complete extent than in dreams.”

“Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.” pg 14

Comedy and Tragedy

“Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time. The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world , as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved”
pg 19

“…tragic kathersis (i.e. the ‘purification’ or ‘purgation’ of the emotions of the spectator of tragedy through his experience of pity and terror) corresponds to an earlier ritual katharsis …” pg 19

pg 20 tragic art: love of fate. fate that is inevitably death

happily ever after:
“… our little stories of achievement seem pitiful; too well we know what bitterness of failure, loss, disillusionment, and ironic unfulfillment galls the blood of even the envied of the world! Hence we are not disposed to assign to comedy the high rank of tragedy. Comedy as satire is acceptable, as fun it is a pleasant haven of escape, but the fairy tale of happiness ever after cannot be taken seriously; ..” pg20-21
“The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth , and the divine comedy of the soul is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man. […] Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible” “…kathodos and anodos, which together constitute the totality of the revelation that is life, and which the individual must know and love if he is to be purged of the contagion of sin, and death.”

“It is the business of mythology proper, and of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific dangers and techniques of the dark interior way from tragedy to comedy. Hence the incidents are fantastic and ‘unreal’: they represent psychological, not physical, triumphs.” pg 21
pg 22 the journey of the hero is inward

The Hero and the God

pg 30 the difference between fairy tale and myth
“Typically, the hero of the fairy tale achieves a domestic, microcosmic triumph, and the hero of a myth a world-historical, macrocosmic triumph […] [one] prevails over his personal oppressors, the latter brings back from his adventure the means for the regeneration of this society as a whole”

Inspiration Inebriation: take a deep dive into the hero's journey and consume Japanese alcohol

12 users have voted.


phillybluesfan's picture

Suggestions for how to juggle many books at a time.
A Book Excerpt on Connections

"Remember when you were a child and you would have many books on the go at the same time? Not everyone read this way as a child, but many did. You might have had one book that your mum gave you, one from the library, one from Father Christmas, one you had to read for school and maybe one full of facts about animals or aeroplanes. Next to your bed, you might have had a stack of ten books, all of which you were dipping into irregularly. If you were an avid reader then, you would have taken these books on holiday with you too.

"As an adult, you may be less of a juggler of books and more inclined to only read one book at a time. Embrace juggling once more! Pick up a murder mystery for moments of pure escapism and thrill. Have a contemplative, philosophical novel at hand, to return to over weeks or months, giving you food for thought. Keep a classic in the stack, so that you work your way through those golden oldies over the years. Then have a modern classic too, one that everyone is reading and you know you must, to keep up with the reading world. Ad­­­d a graphic novel, a popular-science book and a biography, and you've got a perfect mix to dip into, suiting your mood to the different books available at each moment. Just because you are juggling doesn't mean that you are learning less, and becoming less absorbed, in each book. As long as you give each one your full attention every time you pick it up, you will benefit from each encounter with the book."

10 users have voted.

Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

ovals49's picture


Joseph Campbell is among the many noteworthy contributors to Parabola. If finding the limits of understanding and pushing to expand those limits is of interest, you are sure to find like minded contributors in every issue. The Hero is the theme of their first issue in 1976.

8 users have voted.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

phillybluesfan's picture

A Book Excerpt on Shadow

"Like the Progressives thirty years before him, [historian James Truslow] Adams held that the 'American dream' required the energetic maintenance of a social order dedicated to values beyond individual affluence. Americans had been remembering the cost of everything and the value of nothing: 'size, like wealth, came to be a mere symbol of "success," and the sense of qualitative values was lost in the quantitative, the spiritual in the material.'

"Sharing the blind spots of his time, Adams saw American history in terms of the European migrations and the actions of white men, calling indigenous people 'savages,' barely noticing the presence of 'negroes,' and ignoring all but a few white women. But Adams was also describing a national ethos that had been defined by these white male European settlers. And the principles he was excavating of the dream of self-realisation applied to all, even so to the many Americans, men like him tended to forget — as those overlooked Americans were pointing out with ever increasing force.

"Much of his book The Epic America was devoted to a cultural history of 'rugged individualism,' explaining that the American dream was shaped by the brutal realities of wresting life from a wilderness, creating a national economy and ideology to support it. Early settlers got into the habit of deciding for themselves which British laws they would obey, which instilled a culture of autonomy bordering on autarchy. Throughout American history we can hear, Adams wrote, 'the stroke, stroke, stroke of an ax on trees, the crash of the falling giant — advancing woodsmen making their clearings; Democracy; "business".'

"It was in the nineteenth century, he added, that Americans began to convince themselves that the accumulation of wealth was a patriotic duty, pursued for the mutual benefit of individual and the nation, that indeed it was citizens' moral obligation to develop and build the country. The fallacy took hold. 'If the making of a hundred thousand was a moral act, the making of a million must be one of exalted virtue and patriotism,' no matter how immoral the means by which the money was made.

"Being rich had become taken for a virtue, so much so that people might one day believe a man was good merely because he was rich, rather than viewing obscene wealth as just that — obscene. Vast fortunes have always been more likely to signal moral turpitude than rectitude.

"American individualism had enabled 'an extraordinarily rapid economic exploitation and development,' but individual competition for 'dazzling prizes' was destroying 'both our private ideals and our sense of social obligation.' The wealthiest remained unconcerned about privilege, 'because privilege was to their advantage,' while the majority 'rebelled, about once a generation, against the accumulated abuses' of this radically individualist system.

"But individualism was always restored as America's 'working theory of government,' because the nation's deep resources meant that individuals continued to glimpse personal opportunities, and resented a government interfering with them.

"There was only one way, Adams held, that the American dream of equality and opportunity could become abiding reality. Trusting 'the wise paternalism of politicians or the infinite wisdom of business leaders' would never work — but Adams was not demonising the wealthy. He saw that they represented the values of their culture; by definition the ambitious strove to attain what their society taught them to respect. As long as wealth and power remained 'our soul badges of success,' they would continue to shape national aspirations, 'unless we develop some greatness in our own individual souls.'

"It was ludicrous to expect people with wealth and power to 'abandon both to become spiritual leaders of a democracy that despises spiritual things.' By the same token no politician would ever 'rise higher than the source of his power.' There was no point in looking to leaders, therefore, 'until countless men and women have decided in their own hearts, through experience and perhaps disillusion, what is a genuinely satisfying life, a "good life" in the old Greek sense.'

"This genealogy of America's value system made The Epic America a bestseller. Adam's ideas were welcome to a nation that was trying to survive a crisis by changing its rules; a renewed sense of mutual obligation and commonweal, in the old sense of common well-being, rather than commonwealth, seemed the obvious answer to many, an ethos that they used the 'American dream' to indicate. Economic and moral failures were intertwined, they concluded, and set about restoring the nation's moral economy.

"Selfishness had failed, spectacularly. It was time to focus on the greater good."

8 users have voted.

Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

phillybluesfan's picture

A Book Excerpt on Connections

"Since prehistoric hunters had to work together in order to survive, people have had to learn how to share both the workload and the harvest, and the problems and the joys. Through the centuries, traditions have formed and complexities have grown. But the health of all community depends on how we treat each other.

"I'd like to explore eight worldviews and the practices they offer. Each can help us stay wholehearted, authentic, and in true relationship to life and each other.

"The Native American notion All My Relations views all of reality and life as related and interconnected. Every aspect of life is seen as part of one intrinsic family. In the Blackfoot tribe, when people meet, they don't say 'How are you?' but 'Tza Nee Da Bee Wah?' which means, 'How are the connections?' If the connections are in place, we must be all right. If the connections are not in place, then we need to tend them first. Inherent in the Native American view is that our well-being is based on how everything goes together. There can be no lasting individual health unless there is a working harmony among all living things. The practice that grows from this worldview is the need to discover, name, and repair the connections that exist between all things. This is considered sacred and necessary work.

"The African ethic of ubuntu is often translated as I am because you are, you are because I am. It implies that we find our humanity in each other. Ubuntu literally means a person is a person through other persons. This heartfelt tradition concentrates on the irrevocable connectedness that exists between people. Based on this fundamental commitment to human kinship, there is no word for orphan in the African continent, because each tribe automatically assumes a lost child as part of its larger family.

"At work here is the belief that in our very nature, we rely on each other to grow. As quarks combine to form protons and neutrons, which then form atoms, which then form molecules, individuals innately form families, which then form tribes, which then form nations. Our strong need to interact stems from the irreducible nature of love. In fact, all the worldviews we're discussing are manifestations of our innate need to join. The practice that comes from the notion of ubuntu is the vow to water our common roots by which we all grow and to honor our strong need to join.

"The Hindu view takes us through our self and beyond our self into the interdependent mystery, where we find ourselves in each and every living thing. This is what the holy phrase Thou Art That means. The notion comes from the story in the Chandogya Upanishad of a humble father Uddalaka and his precocious son Svetaketu, who at an early age is chosen to study with the holy Brahmins, the priest class in India who study spiritual knowledge. As soon as he begins to study, Svetaketu has no use for his father. He looks down on his simple father and never asks him a question. One day, his father interrupts him, and Svetaketu impatiently asks, 'What do you want, Father?'

"Uddalaka says, 'I want you to come with me.' He leads his son to the foot of the great Nyagrodha tree. He picks a fruit and asks his son to hold it, then asks him, 'What do you see?' His son curtly answers, 'Nothing. I see nothing.' His father asks him to break open the fruit, which Svetaketu does, and they can see the seeds inside it. Again, his father asks him, 'What do you see?' Again, his son says, 'I see nothing, Father. Nothing!' Uddalaka takes a seed, which is hollow in the center, and puts it close to his son's face, and says, 'Thou Art That, my son, thou are that nothing.'

"More than putting his son in place, Uddalaka jars him to feel the great truth that out of that unseeable center, we all come to be. We all grow from this great nothing, even the massive Nyagrodha tree. And so, the practice we're compelled to learn here is how to face and feel a life of compassion that honors that we are at heart the same.

"The notion of I and Thou, discerned by the philosopher Martin Buber, holds that God only appears in the unrehearsed, authentic dialogue between two living centers. When we see ourselves as the sun and everyone we meet as planets in our orbit, we are trapped in the I-It relationship, objectifying everyone we meet. But when we can meet others as equal living beings, each with their own center, then we live out the I and Thou relationship, through which the Mystery manifests as a vital life-force between us.

"Buber discovered the notion of I and Thou while walking in a field at dusk as a storm was approaching. Leaning on a walking stick, he stopped near a huge oak tree. Lightning appeared, and he could see everything about him clearly. In the darkness that followed, he could only tap his way blindly until his walking stick touched the thick bark of the oak before him. In that moment, he could feel the tree through his walking stick, though he wasn't directly touching it. The walking stick became a symbol for the authentic dialogue that lets us feel life in the honest speech we offer. The practice that arises from this worldview is to stay committed to the life of honest conversation.

"The Lebanese greeting, 'Ya Ayuni!' literally means 'Oh, my eyes!' or 'Oh, my darling!' Implicit in this ancient greeting is the recognition that we need each other to see, that one view is insufficient. Empowered by the presence of each other, the Lebanese people say, 'Oh, my eyes! You're here! Now we can see!' This custom reminds me of how Native American elders meet in a circle, not just for equity, but so that each elder will have a direct view of the Center. The belief at the heart of this worldview is that the Center and the Whole are not comprehensible by any one person alone. Therefore, we need everyone's view to glimpse the enduring truths of life. And so, we gather meaning, we don't choose it.

"Like the Chien, the mythic bird of ancient China that has only one eye and one wing, we must find each other in order to see and fly. 'Ya Ayuni!' 'Oh, my eyes! You're here! Now we can see!' The joyous practice of this custom – that we sorely need to enliven today – is to welcome other views in the belief that we need each other to be complete.

"The next notion of connection comes from the early Christian mystics, the desert fathers of the third century, who gave us the metaphor of the Great Spoked Wheel. Imagine that each soul on Earth is a spoke in an Infinite Wheel and that no two spokes are the same. The rim of that Wheel is our living sense of community, and each spoke does its part to hold up the rim. But the common hub where all spokes join is the one Center where all souls come from.

"As I become myself out in the world, I discover my unique gifts and find the one particular place on the rim of the Great Wheel that is mine to uphold. And so, as I move into the world, I live out my uniqueness. But when love and suffering cause me to go inward, I discover the common Center where we are all the same. When I dare to look into my core, I come upon the one common core where all lives meet. In our becoming, which grows outward, and our being, which grows inward, we live out the paradox of being both unique and the same.

"The image of the Great Spoked Wheel shows us how we need each other. If any of these parts are removed, the wheel falls apart. Remove the rim, which is community, and humanity goes nowhere. Remove any of the spokes, which are the individual souls that make up life, and the wheel doesn't turn. Remove the Center, which is God, and there is no wheel. The practice offered here is to embody the paradox of our uniqueness and commonness by which the Great Wheel of Humanity turns.

"The Danish notion Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) comes from a Norwegian word meaning 'well-being.' The word first appeared in Danish writing in the eighteenth century. The Danish word suggests coziness. As a practice of community, Hygge refers to the atmosphere we create between us. The Danish practice of Hygge invites us to create well-being, connection, warmth, and a sense of belonging. In Denmark and Norway, Hygge refers to 'a form of everyday togetherness,' 'a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness, and a spontaneous social flow.'

"The final worldview comes from a greeting offered by African Bushmen. For centuries, the Bushmen have affirmed each other with resolve. When one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush after hunting or gathering, the one at home exclaims, 'I See You!' and then the one returning rejoices, 'I Am Here!'

"This timeless gesture of bearing witness is both simple and profound. We all need to be seen and heard, recognized and verified. This is the emotional lifeblood of all relationship, which in our busyness and pain we often forget. The wholehearted acknowledgement of each other’s journey is at the heart of all therapy. The practice enjoined here is to be present and bear witness to each other and other life. Whether someone is filling your glass with water at a restaurant or taking your change at a gas station, no one is invisible. By being alive, we’re enlisted to affirm each other by saying, 'I See You!' in whatever way we can.

"In summary, the eight worldviews and their practices:

"All My Relations from the Native American tradition.
The Practice: To discover, name, and repair the connections that exist between all things.

"Ubuntu from the African tradition.
The Practice: To water our common roots by which we all grow and to honor our strong need to join.

"Thou Art That from the Hindu tradition.
The Practice: To face and feel a life of compassion that honors that we are at heart the same.

"The I and Thou Relationship from the Jewish tradition.
The Practice: To stay committed to the life of honest conversation.

"Ya Ajuni! from the Lebanese tradition.
The Practice: To welcome other views in the belief that we need each other to be complete.

"The Great Spoked Wheel from the early Christian mystic tradition.
The Practice: To embody the paradox of our uniqueness and commonness by which the Great Wheel of Humanity turns.

"Hygge from the Danish tradition.
The Practice: To create well-being, connection, warmth, and a sense of belonging.

"I See You! I Am Here! from the African Bushmen tradition.
The Practice: To be present and bear witness to each other and other life.

"How we personalize these ancient worldviews and their vibrant practices is for each of us to discover. What does it mean for you: to repair the connections, to water our common roots, to face a life of compassion, to stay in honest conversation, to welcome other views, to honor our uniqueness and commonness, to create a sense of belonging, and to bear witness to each other? These are not concepts but living tools by which tribes and cultures have sustained human growth on Earth. How can you make good use of these tools today? By figuring out how to enact these practices in our daily life, we can strengthen the human community, one relationship at a time.

"The health of all community depends on how we treat each other."

11 users have voted.

Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

Granma's picture

@phillybluesfan the connectedness of all of us and all things.

5 users have voted.

Thanks philly!

8 users have voted.
mimi's picture

3 users have voted.

"heh, as they say, if you don't dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul" - JS

mimi's picture


2 users have voted.

"heh, as they say, if you don't dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul" - JS

lotlizard's picture

as befits truth tellers whose straight path exposes the ones who lie to comply for what they are?

7 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

and information/ideas.

be well and have a good one

3 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

magiamma's picture

and y'all

Bernie in SC.jpg

Bernie came to Santa Cruz. He's at the Natural History Museum

Carbon dioxide removal sucks

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) systems - touted as techno-fixes for global warming - usually put more greenhouse gases into the air than they take out, a recent study has confirmed.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), which grabs carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by coal or gas fired power stations, and then uses it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), emits between 1.4 and 4.7 tonnes of the gas for each tonne removed, the research shows.

Direct air capture (DAC), which sucks CO2 from the atmosphere, emits 1.4-3.5 tonnes for each tonne it recovers, mostly from fossil fuels used to power the handful of existing projects.


If DAC was instead powered by renewable electricity – as its supporters claim it should be – it would wolf down other natural resources.

And things get worse at large scale.

To capture 1 gigatonne of CO2 (1 GtCO2, just one-fortieth of current global CO2 emissions) would need nearly twice the amount of wind and solar electricity now produced globally. The equipment would need a land area bigger than the island of Sri Lanka and a vast network of pipelines and underground storage facilities. (See endnote 1.)

Claims made that CCS could be “green” – by generating the energy from biofuels, and/or storing the carbon instead of using it for oil production – do not stand up to scrutiny either, the article shows.

The paper – Assessing Carbon Capture: public policy, science and societal need, by June Sekera, a public policy analyst, and Andreas Lichtenberger, an ecological economics researcher – is free to download on the Biophysical Economics and Sustainability web site.

Stay safe and take good care people...

8 users have voted.

Stop Climate Change Silence - Start the Conversation

Hot Air Website, Twitter, Facebook

snoopydawg's picture

4 users have voted.

People are going to be sick for the rest of their lives and the people responsible will pay no price.

Sam thinks she’s a cat.


would not remember what a erection looks like
let alone a fair election Wink

4 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

Hank Aaron dead at 86

Aaron played with a smooth, under-control style that made the game look so easy that some critics wondered if he was really giving his best. But Aaron was fueled by a powerful inner desire as he overcame an impoverished youth and racial hatred to become one of the greatest and most consistent baseball stars of all time.....

Aaron played 23 major league seasons - the first 21 for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and the final two for the Milwaukee Brewers. He appeared in a record-breaking 25 All-Star games.

Aaron's pursuit of Ruth's ultimate home run record was one of the top sports stories of the 1970s and generated intense media coverage. He finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs - one short of Ruth's record, which allowed drama to build for several months before the 1974 season began.

The Braves opened that season in Cincinnati and Aaron wasted no time, hitting a home run in his first at-bat to tie Ruth's record.

A few days later, on April 8, fittingly at home in Atlanta, Aaron broke the record when he drove a fastball from the Los Angeles Dodgers' Al Downing over the left field fence for No. 715. As Aaron trotted the bases at the tumultuous Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, two fans broke through security to briefly join him.

5 users have voted.

People are going to be sick for the rest of their lives and the people responsible will pay no price.

Sam thinks she’s a cat.

smiley7's picture

child, brave, warrior, chief, wise-man, shaman.

Used in dialogue in attempting to explain life to my son and others for decades and of course in personal seeking; thanks you for this reminder of into transcendence.

Found in so many places, cultures and languages-the history of ideas: "Still i rise," Angelou, and in Amanda Gorman's work of this week and on and on ...

Cheers for today's OT and please stay safe.

4 users have voted.

other than legal briefs and so forth, but if I could read good books on interesting topics, they would be history books. That time for philosophy was in the '60's, ever since, it has been for the purpose to make a living.
Maybe one day I can retire. Then I can revert back to my youth and regain some desire to explore those things that nobody immediately understands.
Meanwhile, thanks, PBF, for your thoughtful OTs and suggestions.

2 users have voted.