Thoughts on The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell)

Thoughts on The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell

By David Moore, a brief book review-based discussion


Have you ever read “The Power of Myth”?  Joseph Campbell is a master of the mythology of the world.  He steers our minds in directions that force us to ask the right questions, as he cleverly weaves the framework of his ideas on myths.  Right in the introduction, I feel that the true “Power of Myth” is illustrated, as an answer to the question posed about why we ‘need the mythology’.  “…as we are organic beings, there is energy in all that stuff”.  Rituals evoke it.  Consider the position of judges in our society, which Campbell saw in mythological, not sociological, terms.  If this position were just a role, the judge could wear a gray suit to court instead of the magisterial black robe.  For the law to hold authority beyond mere coercion, the power of the judge must be ritualized, mythologized.  “So must much of life today”, Campbell said, “from religion and war to love and death.”


Campbell believed in the ability of stories to teach lessons.  He believed that stories stay in the mind of a human and continue to allow life to show them the lessons.  He believed that our society has lost many opportunities to be connected with our inner selves and to connect with and identify with and use models of Heroes and Heroines.  He believed that, further, perfection is boring and imperfection gives character and defines humanity. 


We need to understand death.  We need to understand life.  We need to understand origins.  Myths give us something… when we need something indeed. 


For these reasons and many others, the man who knew ‘a thousand stories’ brought us the idea that, comparatively, myths have parallel themes.  We need to study myths from other religions and cultures to see the messages, so that we can break our minds of facts and accepted reality and see the real feelings being conveyed.


When confronted with the idea that myths are ‘other peoples dreams’, Campbell stated that instead they are “the world’s dreams.  They are archetypal dreams and deal with great human problems.  I know when I come to one of these thresholds now.  The myth tells me about it, how to respond to certain crises of disappointment or delight or failure or success.  The myths tell me where I am.”


Are you in touch with the myths of your ancestors?


What myths speak to you?


What kind of myth teaches you a lesson?


Do you know a story about Gods/Goddesses/Hero figures you can relate briefly?  If so, tell a friend, or better yet, share it with a young person, especially one of your own children.  These stories are the riches of our culture.  Enjoy them and let your heart be filled with the hidden meanings so greatly needed.  You and I need our mythology.  The Power of Myth is the Power of Home.

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