… at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation.

One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.

-- Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (book) (p. 37)
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Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (book)

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These stimulating conversations between inspirational scholar Joseph Campbell and veteran journalist Bill Moyers created a national sensation when they first aired on public television. In lively, expansive dialogues, the two men discuss how myths hold the key to understanding human experience. They may vary superficially from culture to culture, but at their deepest level they all reveal the path to self-fulfillment, social integration, and ultimately, transcendence. The Power of Myth launched an extraordinary resurgence of interest in Joseph Campbell and his work. A preeminent scholar, writer, and teacher, he has had a profound influence on millions of people--including Star Wars creator George Lucas. To Campbell, mythology was the “song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” With Bill Moyers, one of America’s most prominent journalists, as his thoughtful and engaging interviewer, The Power of Myth touches on subjects from modern marriage to virgin births, from Jesus to John Lennon, offering a brilliant combination of intelligence and wit. This extraordinary book reveals how the themes and symbols of ancient narratives continue to bring meaning to birth, death, love, and war. From stories of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome to traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, a broad array of themes are considered that together identify the universality of human experience across time and culture. An impeccable match of interviewer and subject, a timeless distillation of Campbell’s work, The Power of Myth continues to exert a profound influence on our culture.
Other quotations from this Title
In the Old Testament story God points out the one forbidden thing. Now, God must have known very well that man was going to eat the forbidden fruit. But it was by doing that that man became the initiator of his own life. Life really began with that act of disobedience.   [share]
You have the three great Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – and because the three of them have different names for the same biblical god, they can’t get on together. They are stuck with their metaphor and don’t realize its reference. They haven’t allowed the circle that surrounds them to open. It is a closed circle. Each group says, 'We are the chosen group, and we have God.' [share]
I think of grass—you know, every two weeks a chap comes out with a lawnmower and cuts it down. Suppose the grass were to say, 'Well, for Pete's sake, what's the use if you keep getting cut down this way?' Instead, it keeps growing. [share]
Mythology is poetry, and the poetic language is very flexible. Religion turns poetry into prose. God is literally up there, and this is literally what he thinks, and this is the way you’ve got to behave to get into proper relationship with that god up there. [share]
When Yahweh creates, he creates man of the earth and breathes life into the formed body. He’s not himself there present in that form. But the Goddess is within as well as without. Your body is of her body. There is in these mythologies a recognition of that kind of universal identity. [share]
Only death is no trouble. People ask me, "Do you have optimism about the world?" And I say, "Yes, it's great the way it is." [share]
At the darkest moment comes the light. [share]
One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. [share]
There’s another emotion associated with art, which is not of the beautiful but of the sublime. What we call monsters can be experienced as sublime. They represent powers too vast for the normal forms of life to contain them. An immense expanse of space is sublime. . . you’re climbing, until suddenly you break past a screen and an expanse of horizon opens out, and somehow, with this diminishment of your own ego, your consciousness expands to an experience of the sublime. [share]
I think of mythology as the homeland of the muses, the inspirers of art, the inspirers of poetry. To see life as a poem and yourself participating in the poem is what the myth does for you. [share]
You've got one life to live. Don't live it for other people. Pay attention to it. [share]
What we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. [share]
Participate in the game of Life. It’s a wonderful opera – except that it hurts. [share]
Mythology is poetry. [share]
Affirmation is difficult. We always affirm with conditions. I affirm the world on condition that it gets to be the way Santa Claus told me it ought to be. But affirming it the way it is — that's the hard thing, and that is what rituals are about. [share]
The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others. [share]
Life is joyful just as it is. I don’t believe there was anybody who intended it, but this is the way it is. James Joyce has a memorable line: 'History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.' And the way to wake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is of all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all … I will participate in the game. It is a wonderful, wonderful opera – except that it hurts. [share]
The Grail becomes that which is attained and realized by people who have lived their own lives. The Grail represents the fulfillment of the highest spiritual potentialities of the human consciousness.   [share]
Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love. The stronger the love, the more the pain. . . . the pain of being truly alive. [share]
You can't predict what a myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you're going to dream tonight. Myths and dream come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form. And the only myth that's going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet and everybody on it. [share]
The mythogenetic zone today is the individual in contact with his own interior life, communicating through his art with those "out there." [share]
The mythogenetic zone today is the individual in contact with his own interior life, communicating through his art with those "out there." But to this end communicative signs must be employed: words, images, motions, colors, and perfumes, sensations of all kinds, which, however, come to the creative artist from without and inevitably bear associations not only colored by the past but also relevant to the commerce of the day. [share]
A dream is a personal experience of that deep, dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives, and a myth is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you. [share]
My general formula for my students is "Follow your bliss." Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it … If the work you are doing is the work that you chose to do because you are enjoying it, that’s it. But if you think, "Oh no, I couldn’t do that!" that’s the dragon locking you in. "No, no, I couldn’t be a writer," or "No, no, I couldn’t possibly be doing what So-and-so is doing." [share]
The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life's joy. One can experience an unconditional affirmation of life only when one has accepted death, not as contrary to life, but as an aspect of life. Life in its becoming is always shedding death, and on the point of death. The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. [share]
This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen. [share]
There is a definition of God which has been repeated by many philosophers. God is an intelligible sphere—a sphere known to the mind, not to the senses—whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And the center . . . is right where you’re sitting. And the other one is right where I’m sitting. And each of us is a manifestation of that mystery. That’s a nice mythological realization that sort of gives you a sense of who and what you are. [share]
Mythology is very fluid. Most of the myths are self-contradictory. You may even find four or five myths in a given culture, all giving different versions of the same mystery. Then theology comes along and says it has got to be just this way. Mythology is poetry, and the poetic language is very flexible. Religion turns poetry into prose. God is literally up there, and this is literally what he thinks, and this is the way you’ve got to behave to get into proper relationship with that god up there. [share]
Life is joyful just as it is. I don’t believe there was anybody who intended it, but this is the way it is. James Joyce has a memorable line: 'History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.' And the way to wake from it is not to be afraid, and to recognize that all of this, as it is, is a manifestation of the horrendous power that is of all creation. The ends of things are always painful. But pain is part of there being a world at all. [share]
"All life is sorrowful" is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is. It wouldn’t be life if there weren’t temporality involved, which is sorrow – loss, loss, loss. You’ve got to say yes to life and see it as magnificent this way; for this is surely the way God intended it [share]
In other traditions, good and evil are relative to the position in which you are standing. What is good for one is evil for the other. And you play your part, not withdrawing from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but seeing that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder: a 'mysterium tremendum et fascinans.' [share]
People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself. [share]
My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it. [share]
The spirit is really the bouquet of life. It is not something breathed into life, it comes out of life. This is one of the glorious things about the mother-goddess religions, where the world is the body of the Goddess, divine in itself, and divinity isn't something ruling over and above a fallen nature.... [share]
I don't have to have faith. I have experience [share]
Love thine enemies because they are the instruments to your destiny. [share]
One is your judgment in the field of time, and the other is your judgment as a metaphysical observer. You can't say there shouldn't be poisonous serpents, that's the way life is. But in the field of action, if you see a poisonous serpent about to bite somebody, you kill it. That's not saying no to the serpent, that's saying no to that situation. [share]
Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that's what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is simply trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image. [share]
Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That's why it's good to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower. [share]
To see life as a poem and yourself participating in that poem is what the myth does for you. [share]
When you see the Earth from the Moon, you don't see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. This is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with. [share]
Myths formulate things for you. They say, for example, that you have to become an adult at a particular age. The age might be a good average age for that to happen - but actually, in the individual life, it differs greatly. Some people are late bloomers and come to particular stages at a relatively late age. You have to have a feeling for where you are. [share]
Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn't that. That is a relationship of pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it's off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you are not married. [share]
You are in the field of time when you are man. And one of the problems of life is to live in the realization of both terms. That is to say, I know the center, and I know that good and evil are simply temporal apparitions. [share]
The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy -- not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call "following your bliss." [share]
Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life. [share]
On John Lennon: "He definitely was a hero. In the mythological sense, he was an innovator. The Beatles brought forth an art form for which there was a readiness. Somehow, they were in perfect tune with their time. Had they turned up thirty years before, their music would have fizzled out. The public hero is sensitive to the needs of his time. The Beatles brought a new spiritual depth into popular music . . . We are hearing more and more of it, and it’s being used in terms of its original intention as a support for meditations. That’s what the Beatles started.” [share]
I will participate in the game. It's a wonderful, wonderful opera–except that it hurts. [share]
People ask me, "Do you have optimism about the world, about how terrible it is?" And I say, "Yes, it's great the way it is" [share]
Moyers: Do you ever have the sense of... being helped by hidden hands? Campbell: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time—namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. [share]
Where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world. [share]
Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. [share]
I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I've never met an ordinary man, woman or child. [share]
One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light. [share]
Mythology is not a lie; mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth -- penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words, beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told. [share]
The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there's no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and whos on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it's alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself. [share]
People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. [share]
We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about. [share]
The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. [share]