What got you into mythology?

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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What got you into mythology?

Post by David_20 » Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:28 pm

I hope my post aren't getting annoying, but I wanted to know what got you into Joseph Campbell's works and mythology in general?.

For myself, I've always liked reading different mythologies - whether it's Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, Sumerian, Christian, etc. For myself, I love the messages they can convey, the tales of magic, gods, demons, etc.

What about you?.
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Post by jim baird » Mon Sep 17, 2007 2:13 am


I would say I arrived here by default. Having been turning stones for many years in search of something "real", and having rejected any teaching that is burdened by organization, I arrived at Campbell's singularly secular approach to answering questions that have no answers.

Rilke's advice to a young poet, in a book by the same title, was to quit wringing hands over the lack of answers and to learn to love the questions themselves. Then, he said, one might eventually live those answers.

I am convinced that Campbell's teaching contains abundant "ambrosia", as he called such things. It is for the seeker to interpret the message from the context of the language.

When I read Dr. Campbell's prose I have to stop now and then and think for a while about the content. If I am unable to concentrate it just doesn't make any sense. To me it is like very rich food that can only be taken a little at a time.

If the material happens to satisfy your particular kind of hunger, then it can be a long lasting feast.
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following my bliss got me here...

Post by tricksterjawa » Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:10 am

I spent my late teens and early twenties studying religion, philosphy and theology. I concretized all of my symbols and burned out..So I unconsciously went searching. While on the corporate treadmill about 7 years ago at the age of 30, I started to become restless and flighty, spent 5 years searching, agonizing and burned through at least one corporate gig a year. A dream inspired me to pursue writing a story. When I considered writing for the first time, especially in context of several personality assessments, it wasn't such a bad fit. But what to write? Two years passed, not much written, just studied the craft, took notes accumulated ideas. Several months ago I read "The Seven Basic Plots" and a footnote or reference introduced me to Joseph Campbell. Since then, I've read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Transformation of Myth through Time, Myths to Live By, A Joseph Campbell Camponion, The Power of Myth and listened to Hero and POM several times, signed up here, started reading Jung...here I am. Corporate pays the bills, "the day job". Reading and writing, following my bliss, nourishes the soul. "It's Alive!"
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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:27 pm

Symbolism and religious mythology is an important part of my life on account of my early days in Catholic school. The church takes her principle symbols extremely seriously. When one is young and trusting, it's all exceedingly profound.

Joseph Campbell was the first person who seemed to understand the whole picture in a way that made sense to me.

For me, the fact that the good professor had a Catholic background made a big difference. He looked at his subject as someone who had experienced the mystery through the lens of the Roman Church, and I can see it in his point of view. He said his Catholic background was an advantage in the study of myth, and I'd have to agree.

Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by jufa » Sat Sep 22, 2007 3:01 am

Born in the early forty's makes the author a member of the transitional generation which ushered in the new age of rebellious thinking. The age which boasted of having a chicken on every table; two automobiles in every garage and; which highlighted the Chuck Berry's, Little Richard's and Elvis Presley.

This era which the author was born, and a generation which he was reared is the period in time which began to change the pattern of thoughts, first in the Western Hemisphere, then the world wide. Coming up under those changing thought patterns not only grounded the author's thinking, but became the driving force which made the author want to feel and touch the truth of his life for himself, and not live from someone else's experience of revelation.

Restless in being taught by his parents and the educational system in their prejudicial self-righteous presentations of the world and man, the author rebelled, and his rebellion placed his footsteps upon a path and journey of seeking which would lead him in and out of troubled situations, circumstances, conditions, and enviroments which would be his teacher.

There were no mystical visions in the author's life; no hearing a voice giving specific directions (except the inner voice of conscience), there was just this inner awareness of knowing life was far to grand; to expansionistic and splendid to introduce a soul into a parenthesis of living which, when viewed from the time-span of creation itself, did not present, no less sustain an infinite purpose intellectually [ "There is no logic for existence] comprehensible which would make the parenthesis worth the effort of living in because of death.

Knowing and awareness are two different steps when walking the path of life. Exactly when the transition of knowing about God, to an awareness of God took place in the author's life is unknown even to him. However, somewhere in the sphere between knowing, and his awareness, there was presented to the author and erupting knowledge from within himself of knowing there was something more, much, much more to life than being born, dying, and living the expand between the two.

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Never give power to anything a person believe is their source of strength - jufa
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Post by pippa » Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:45 pm

When I was small I used to sneak out and climb onto the hood of my dad's car at nighttime, lie there and stare into the nightsky. You know, asking the questions that kids ask: why are we here, what is out there, and I know there is more but where is it.
During my teens I dreamt of Eros and Thanatos, had strange experiences where beings would appear in my dreams saying strange things like "I am the angel of light and the angel of destruction". So someone introduced me to Jung's work.
I found Campbell by accident, if there is such a thing. I've always liked stories and went from fairytales to myths when I was a child. I had a major personal drama which forced me to go back to the ground of my being. Somehow I've returned to what I most enjoyed when I was small. Things have come full circle for me. That's when I fell over Campbell. And it's been the greatest trip since!
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Post by Clemsy » Wed Oct 24, 2007 11:19 pm

Great first post! Welcome to the JCF Forums Pippa!

Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by Rick Millman » Fri Oct 26, 2007 4:59 pm

I was born into a secular Jewish home. We only went to synagogue on the High Holy Days - which I found incredibly boring. My parents put me into Sunday School beginning in 2nd grade, so I would know enough to be Bar Mitzvah'd by the age of 13. It was the thing to do culturally speaking.

In Sunday School, the teachers would read us the stories from Genesis and Exodus. They reminded me of Grimm's Fairy Tales - only they were "grimmer!" And I was told these were true stories! One thing they taught that made sense to me was that God was infinite. therefore Jewish art did not depict individual personalities as being representational of God.

My mom likes musical theater. I was about 8 years old in 1973 when she first took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar. I didn't understand it. This was nothing like The Sound of Music! My mom told me that there were people who believed in different religions. Christians believed that the guy I was looking at on the stage was the Son of God. Very odd and hard for me to fathom.

Then I learned that Jews thought the Christians were wrong, and many Christians thought I was going to Hell! This went on for many years, so I turned toward the East. They were more inclusive and non-judgmental in nature. More acceptance.

Meanwhile, I was kind of artsy-fartsy. I wrote poems and songs. I felt a spiritual connection within music and the arts. I especially liked the Beatles. So I started to learn about meditation and dropped acid.

While doing this, I was channel surfing in 1988 and came upon a special with Bill Moyers interviewing this guy who was talking about mythology. Mythology? You mean those stories of Zeus and Odysseus and stuff? Aren't those just grown-up fairy tales. But this man wasn't talking about that. He was talking about Native American stories. Stories of the Buddha and the similarities found between the Buddha, Moses and Jesus. Star Wars (which I thought was just some silly Space Opera that was beneath my intellectual status), was presented to me in a totally different light. He taught me that it was okay to consider these stories as true when read metaphorically, rather than literally and historically.

And this guy was intelligent! He showed me that there were certain themes in psychology, spirituality, and anthropology that could all be found through the study of myth. So I went out and bought Hero With A Thousand Faces. I bought the 4 volume set of The Masks of God. I bought transformations of Myth Through Time. I taped the original series of lectures that the book was based on. I taped the Power of Myth. I started to underline and take notes. Joe Campbell opened up new doors for me.

In the last year, I've renewed my interest and study of Joseph Campbell, who I consider one of my many Yodas. I'm still not sure how I apply his teachings into my life, but I continue to study. I'm very drawn to him. I like him because he has synthesized story, the arts & humanities, psychology and spirituality in ways that really click for me

I'm currently trying to study Jewish Mythology and learn to read these stories mythically rather than literally. I'm looking for what is inclusive with my tradition rather than what makes us exclusive.

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Post by CarmelaBear » Fri Oct 26, 2007 5:15 pm

Wow, Rick! Very impressive.

Welcome to our conversations, and we all hope you will find more doors to open as you join in our discussions.


Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by creekmary » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:06 pm

Even though we are for the most part fundamentalist Baptists or Methodists, it seems we put our own unorthodox Native American spin on things. Lots of people still have the old religion and then come to church Sunday morning. Some preachers are traditional leaders also. I guess it made me look at things differently. There seemed to be so much conflict among religions, down to even little tiny sects, I wanted to see what things were common to everybody, all religions. I thought those common things might be the seeds of truth. I read Joseph Campbell and he seemed to be looking for the commonalities also, and much more up to speed than I was, so I read what he had found out.

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Post by bodhibliss » Thu Nov 22, 2007 10:32 pm

What got me into mythology?

One overarching theme is a lifetime of vivid dreams - so vivid that it has at times been difficult to distinguish between waking and dream realities (when awake as well as asleep).

And then, there's exposure to myth at a formative age.

When just a child barely able to read, I fell in love with our set of Golden Book Encyclopedias.

I don't know where they came from - must have been a gift, for I can't imagine my folks buying them - but those books had everything! Science, history, geography - and myths, richly illustrated in bright colors (maybe comic book artists?). Hercules, King Arthur, Troy - I can still see Hector's corpse, dragged behind Achilles' chariot outside the walls of Troy - and I would read them over and over and over.

And then we had a stash of McGuffey readers, all eight levels (my grandmother had been a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse on the Colorado prairie in 1910). The lower levels introduced children to many of Aesop's fables; the older grade readers detailed several Greek and Roman myths, some obscure today (like Pyramus and Thisbe, or Baucis and Philemon), and so on up through the eighth-grade level - and I read them all, again over and over, as a child.

In addition, I was raised in a small Christian cult that observed the seventh day Saturday Sabbath and the Hebrew Holy Days (including fasting sans food or water or juice or bubble gum for 24 hours on Yom Kippor, and removing all leavening from the premises, vacuuming the sofa cushions and toaster, and tossing the saltines over the weeklong Days of Unleavened Bread); I outgrew the cult, but the interest in the dynamics of how religion and ritual regulate lives stayed with me.

Add to that three decades practicing Zen and various other forms of meditation, a hundred Grateful Dead concerts and hundreds of vision quests with the aid of LSD, various types of sacred mushrooms, mescaline, datura, and DMT, and a brush with death I survived in large part due to a real world encounter with Coyote (who was juggling three sticks and wearing a jester's hat at the time - talk about mixing metaphors!) and to a sudden satori regarding the pragmatic implications of The Hero with a Thousand Faces,

and it all just seems kind of inevitable ....

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Post by jd101 » Sun Dec 02, 2007 6:33 am

For me, getting into mythology and also Campbell were two quite different things.

Growing up in New Orleans gave me a curious world view to begin with, and I found myself evolving out of a Lutheran upbringing into collegiate studies in philosophy and economics.

The mid 1970’s brought me fully into Eastern Philosophies and meditation, which helped to kindle my intense comparing of different religions and cultures. That perhaps is the seed that sows the greatest wisdom, in my opinion, because once a person can appreciate different cultures, the world opens up in a different way.

Early 1990’s almost ruined me regarding Joseph Campbell, as my then wife misunderstood and misused the ‘follow your bliss’ mantra to extricate herself from marriage. Consequently, Campbell was a persona nongrata in my universe, even though I hadn’t really read him.

It was a mere 3 years ago that I chanced upon him again, and after viewing parts of the Transformations of Myth Through Time videos, I was profoundly moved, and have since studied every work Campbell has written.

For me it is apparent that a certain ripening is necessary before one can hear certain messages. The formation of my psyche with childhood experiences in middle class America in the mid 1950’s, coupled with a Lutheran worldview resulted in a certain type of personality. Although a 1960’s adolescence in my case brought forth alienation from the society and culture, my attempts to extricate myself from this were not very fruitful.

Even though I pursued 30 years of meditative practices, my core psyche, as trickster so eloquently stated, was ‘just concretizing eastern symbols’. If you take a western ego that feels ‘less than’ and inadequate, and overlay eastern rituals, not much changes.
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Re: What got you into mythology?

Post by Dave Spiro » Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:02 am

David_20 wrote:I hope my post aren't getting annoying, but I wanted to know what got you into Joseph Campbell's works and mythology in general?.
For me, it was my former boss that got me into Campbell, and through his work I began to explore mythology. Of course, one of Campbell's oft quoted sayings, "I think what we are looking for is an experience of being alive." rang true with me as I looked back on my life, and my work as a NYC paramedic. It also hit home as I underwent my illness and liver transplant experience.
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin
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Post by wags » Tue Dec 11, 2007 5:50 am

yowza all,

i was led to JC and myth's after spending time in church. i felt like i was stalled after awhile hearing the bible. in discussion groups, i heard many different ideas of what a verse meant and was amazed at how folks ended up believing what they thought was said/meant. so i bought a book, the challenge of interpreting the bible, written by scholars and profs, those that did the actual interpreting, and was blown away. after reading about how the bible was put together, the books that they put in it as well as the books they did not, (i then read the complete dead sea scrolls), it really made me realize that indeed, we need that personal relationship with god, creator, ect... for we are the only one's who can decide for ourselves what the words, verses mean. as none of the words translates perfectly into the english language, i realized that by taking what was translated into the bible as the gospel, was in fact, what someone else thought it meant. it was then that i decided that organized religion was not for me, i felt like the ministers/leaders of the church's did'nt want people to venture outside the church's views of the bible and god, their god, they own god. it seemed others around me were in a comfortable rut of understanding, not looking beyond church, well, the church was'nt offering anything more. church is a starting point, step one of many, i think. so, i started reading alot, finally had time to, kids were growing up, had a little more time on my hands. i watched the 8 hrs of JC and bill moyers, and that is how i became a JC'er. just finished the inner reaches of outer space, fun. i have always been a space guy, love science, know there has to be more out there, more likely there is than there is not, which leads to there is more inside us than we have found, spiritually.

and the rest they say is history! or the future!

and so...
may peace preceed your every step, wags
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Post by Og » Fri Dec 21, 2007 1:28 am

Star Wars opened my eyes as a kid to some really neat and fun stuff that spoke to me outside of the notion of them as symbols (thanks to Campbell). Christianity exposed me to my cultural symbols as I went through high school and into college.

I got into academia and my PhD and really enjoyed getting exposed to the daVinci Code movie last thanksgiving when the DVD was released. I had always know that Campbell was some good mythologist guy and was responsible for Star Wars (something I have been a huge fan of my whole life). So I started exploring and then got absolutely hooked on campbell's work and started dumping cash on amazon to read everything of his that I could get my hands on.

These crazy atheists folks like Dawkins and Hitchens have also recently opened up much of a conversation about symbols and meaning and science.

I think this stuff is coming center stage here as we get into religious wars with old tribal cultures and have them directly effect us like on 9/11.

Campbell's work jived with all that I had experienced in life and it was a real breath of fresh air. I think his work and related topics are going to be extremely important as the world is exponentially shrinking.