Pathways to Bliss

Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation

By Joseph Campbell | Edited by David Kudler

This title is part of the The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell series

Joseph Campbell famously defined myth as “other people’s religion.” But he also said that one of the basic functions of myth is to help each individual through the journey of life, providing a sort of travel guide or map to reach fulfillment — or, as he called it, bliss. For Campbell, many of the world’s most powerful myths support the individual’s heroic path toward bliss.

In Pathways to Bliss, Campbell examines this personal, psychological side of myth. Like his classic best-selling books Myths to Live By and The Power of Myth, Pathways to Bliss draws from Campbell’s popular lectures and dialogues, which highlight his remarkable storytelling and ability to apply the larger themes of world mythology to personal growth and the quest for transformation. Here he anchors mythology’s symbolic wisdom to the individual, applying the most poetic mythical metaphors to the challenges of our daily lives.

Campbell dwells on life’s important questions. Combining cross-cultural stories with the teachings of modern psychology, he examines the ways in which our myths shape and enrich our lives and shows how myth can help each of us truly identify and follow our bliss.

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The stress on the sexual character of the deity—whether male or female— is secondary and, in certain contexts, baffling. It was originally oriented toward the masculine to establish the superiority of the patriarchal societies over the matriarchal.   [share]
Now, all these myths that you have heard and that resonate with you, those are the elements from round about that you are building into a form in your life. The thing worth considering is how they relate to each other in your context, not how they relate to something out there - how they were relevant on the North American prairies or in the Asian jungles hundreds of years ago, but how they are relevant now - unless by contemplating their former meaning you can begin to amplify your own understanding of the role they play in your life [share]
What the relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to each other might be, in technical terms, is not half as important as you, the celebrant, feeling the virgin birth within you, the birth of the mystic, mythic being that is your own spiritual life." [share]
There's nothing you can do that's more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your own personal myth [share]
What the mythic image shows is the way in which the cosmic energy manifests itself in time, and as the times change, the modes of manifestation change. [share]
What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss. [share]
Perfection is inhuman. Human beings are not perfect. What evokes our love––and I mean love, not lust––is the imperfection of the human being. So, when the imperfection of the real human peeks through, say, "This is a challenge to my compassion." Then make a try, and something might begin to get going. [share]
This is what Joyce called the monomyth: an archetypal story that springs from the collective unconscious. Its motifs can appear not only in myth and literature, but, if you are sensitive to it, in the working out of the plot of your own life. The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization, and then returning to the field of normal life. [share]
So then, what are we really questing for? And here is the answer: It is the fullfillment of what is potential in ourselves, our true selves. It is not an ego trip. You are not your ego. You experience your ego. You are not your thoughts. You experience your thoughts. You are not your feelings. You experience your feelings. And you are not your body. You behold your body. This recognition awakens a heritage within us that exists before all these mythologies, religions and belief systems came into being and into our traditions. It's an awakening of our own pre-ego, pre-Hindu, pre-Jewish, pre-Buddhist, pre-Muslim, pre-Christian hearts. [share]
All life stinks and you must embrace that with compassion. [share]
You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else's path. [share]
A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning in existence, which, my dear friend, has no meaning––it simply is. But the mind goes asking for meanings; it can't play unless it knows (or makes up) the rules. Mythologies present games to play: how to make believe you're doing thus and so. Ultimately, through the game, you experience that positive thing which is the experience of being-in-being, of living meaningfully. That's the first function of a mythology, to evoke in the individual a sense of grateful affirmative awe before the monstrous mystery that is existence. [share]
What myth does for you is to point beyond the phenomenal field toward the transcendent. A mythic figure is like the compass that you used to draw circles and arcs in school, with one leg in the field of time and the other in the eternal. The image of a god may look like a human or animal form, but its reference is transcendent of that. [share]



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