Short Summary: 2 min
Summary: 25 min
Book reading time: 5h02
Book published in: 2004
- Myths across all societies are similar because they represent the unconscious and universal experience of being human.
- Myths act as a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious. When you take the myth out, you lose that connection.
- Myths are symbolic, not historical. If considered historical, myths lose their relevance as we know dragons etc don’t exist.
- Myths fulfill four functions:
- Mystical (provides a sense of awe, wonder, and unity with the universe)
- Cosmological: explains the stars and the planets.
- Sociological: establish an order for people to be able to live together.
- Psychological: helps one realize themselves and find meaning in life.
- Modern society no longer has any myths because everything changes very rapidly.
What Pathways to Bliss Talks About
Pathways to Bliss was written by Joseph Campbell, an independent scholar and mythology teacher. The book explains how mythology can help give people cues to realize themselves and fulfill their purposes, something Campbell calls “following and finding your bliss”. The book mainly rests on Jungian psychology and concepts.
Campbell didn’t directly write this book. Rather, the content was assembled by an association that promotes and takes care of his work.
I knew who Campbell was as I had learned about him at university but I had never read him. This book ended up being one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time, a real flashlight that brings light to a lot of societal mysteries.
The thing I regret a bit is that Campbell didn’t talk much about his own work, but used a lot of Jungian and Freudian psychology. It’s interesting, but if I wanted to learn about Jung, I would have read Jung, not Campbell.
I am now looking forward to reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces next, which I think, will be even more interesting than Pathways to Bliss.
Short Summary of Pathways to Bliss by Joseph Campbell
Mythology provides a role model for people to follow if they hope to have “lives well-lived”.
Myths fulfill four functions in society:
- Mystical: provides a sense of awe, wonder, and unity with the universe.
- Cosmological: explains the stars and the planets.
- Sociological: establish an order for people to be able to live together.
- Psychological: helps one realize themselves and find meaning in life.
The psychological function is important as it is the one helping people transcend and attain bliss. Myths give individuals clues regarding their path and their hero’s journey which enables them to live the life they were meant to live.
They also provide images and symbols that help them go through the three stages of life (childhood, adulthood, and old age and death.)
All myths resemble one another because they come from the unconscious, and everyone’s unconscious is more or less the same because as humans, we’re all going through the same experience.
Therefore, myths act as a door to the unconscious. Why would you want to have that?
Because the hero’s journey is not only real – it’s also psychological. When you act out your hero’s journey in real life, you undergo a psychological transformation that helps you get closer to the state of bliss, to individuation, that is, becoming fully integrated with yourself.
You find your journey by paying attention to the recurring themes in your life, your dreams, and your shadow.
There have been three mythological periods:
- Myths embrace life as it is and accept that life, to thrive, must feed off death.
- 8th BC: Myths reject life as it is and seek to escape from the cycle, to transcend it (Eg: Buddhism)
- Zoroaster: Life is a result of the fight between good VS evil, and we can weigh into the fight by choosing the side of the good.
The Western myths come from the idea of God creating the universe: creator ≠ creatures. People’s model is the prophets (Moses, Jesus, Muhammad) -> rise of individualism.
The Eastern myths come from the observation of the cosmic cycle as the overarching rule of the way things ought to be: people should strive to become a cog in the machine, to become perfectly integrated into the grand scheme of things to reach the Great Harmony -> individualism (the ego) should be crushed.
Table of Content
Summary of Pathways to Bliss Written by Joseph Campbell
[Campbell] felt that myth offered a framework for personal growth and transformation, and that understanding the ways that myths and symbols affect the individual mind offered a way to lead a life that was in tune with one’s nature—a pathway to bliss.
Myths provide people in society with role models to follow. The myths show how cosmic energy manifests itself and how these manifestations change form and nature.
The gods, for example, represent the “powers” that support you (or not). By contemplating the gods and what they do, you find inspiration to do like them.
Myth is the transcendent in relationship to the present.
The question is: what do you do when you have no mythological model to follow?
-> you invent folk heroes.
Folk heroes are real people who have been “mythologized” (Eg: Napoleon).
What the myth does is to provide a field in which you can locate yourself.
If life is a labyrinth, the myth provides you with an individual (a model) who got out of it.
The psychiatrist Karlfried Graf Dürckheim believed that we’re all the manifestation of the power of life, a transcendent which comes from beyond and flows through us.
When we get anchored too much in reality, we stop letting this energy flow and we become sick as a result.
-> make yourself transparent to the transcendent.
Myth points out the transcendent.
When you have a deity as your model, your life becomes transparent to the transcendent.
When you trap the transcendent into a concrete reference, you get an allegory, something that is no longer transcendent (aka moving forward), and which becomes a final fact rather than a dynamic image.
To reach the transcendent, you first have to go through “the local” which is your own tradition, your own culture.
Eg: the shaman in the tribe provides this road to the transcendent.
If your myths are relevant to your society, repeating the myth and enacting its rituals center you.
Ritual is simply myth enacted.
The Egyptians believed in eternal time and built the pyramids to this end. But eternity has little to do with time – time shuts down eternity.
Eternity is the “now”.
Eternity is the transcendent dimension of the now to which myth refers.
Myth makes the link between mental wisdom and life-body wisdom.
It tells you that if you live in a certain way – if you imitate the gods, Christ, the Buddha, etc – you are “under the protection” of the gods or whatever deity we’re concerned with.
This model is the model of the past and no longer exists today. Everything changes very fast and we don’t have the stasis (state of harmony in which opposing forces are equalized) necessary for the formation of a mythic tradition.
The present is a fall into the future, and myths no longer guide people in the fall.
Fortunately, you can find two other guides:
- Someone who inspired you in your childhood.
- Your bliss.
In Sanskrit, there are three points that are really close to the transcendent: being, consciousness, and bliss.
The author doesn’t know what being or consciousness are, but he knows what bliss is: the sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself.
If you can follow your bliss, you’re edging on the transcendence side.
Your bliss can guide you to that transcendent mystery, because bliss is the welling up of the energy of the transcendent wisdom within you.
Your bliss is your own personal myth. You can use earlier myths as clues, but they can’t be anything more than that. You need to find the wisdom inside them, the inexpressible.
The best things can’t be told.
These are transcendental experiences.
The second-best things are misunderstood: these are the myths.
And the third-best things come from disciplines like history, science, etc. It’s the only type of talking that can be understood.
You use the third kind to talk about the first kind, but people misunderstand you and think you speak about the third kind.
Following your bliss means entering your own path, that is, making your own path. If the path you enter has already been traced, it isn’t yours.
Part I: Man and Myth
Chapter 1: The Necessity of Rites
Traditionally, the first function of a living mythology is to reconcile consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence; that is to say, to the nature of life.
Life is horrible because it feeds off life – something needs to die for something else to live.
The first purpose of myth is to reconcile that horrible fact with your consciousness.
The first mythologies embraced this principle, they embraced nature – they didn’t go against it. They recognized the horrors of life through horrible rites (sacrifice) that made people feel grateful to live despite the suffering -> life was beautiful.
Then in the eighth century BC, people took the opposite stance: life is horrible and should not be lived (Eg: Buddhism). This is the second order of mythology, the second type.
The mythologies that appeared then were ones of retreat, dismissal, and renunciation.
Then a third order of mythology came with Zaraoustra, an Iranian prophet. The idea was that life is both good and evil, and that you can tip the balance towards the good by doing good things (which translates to “progressivism” in the secular world.)
These are the three mythological orders.
A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning.
That order itself has no meaning, but the mind asks for one as the mind cannot play games without rules.
Mythologies present games to play and people that play them well experience “living meaningfully” -> first function of mythology (mystical): giving a sense of awe in the face of the horrific thing that life is.
The second function of mythology is to present an idea of the cosmos (cosmological) that will maintain the feeling of awe we got from the first function. Whether the image is true or not is irrelevant.
The third function is to maintain a sociological system (what you should and should not do, Ten Commandments, etc). These laws are in the same order as the laws of the universe: you cannot change them.
The fourth function of myth is psychological: the myth must carry the individual from birth to death. Today, we call this function “pedagogical”.
The second and third functions have been taken over by secular institutions. Our idea of the universe is scientific and changes all the time and our laws change all the time too.
So we’ll talk about the first and fourth functions.
Myth and the Development of the Individual
The psychological is the most constant function of myth across cultures. Human beings are born too soon: puberty doesn’t hit before 12 years old, and we don’t reach physical maturity before our twenties.
In the beginning, we’re dependent on an authority – our parents. But as we grow, we should get out of it and become the authority ourselves – become parents ourselves.
Some people (PhDs, for example) never fully free themselves from authority and hence, never fully acquire full confidence.
The purpose of the rites that young boys had to go through at puberty was to facilitate this transition. Neurotic people are people that never fully became independent. When a problem hits, they ask their parents what to do before realizing they are the parents.
So, everyone is raised with an attitude of submission to authority and fear of punishment: always looking to those above you for approval or disapproval.
In most tribes, the survival of the group depended on the behavior of the individuals. To make sure they would behave accordingly, the rites of passage were often extremely violent (children that disobeyed or failed to show specific qualities were killed).
As a result, societies did not evolve forward -> absence of individual freedom -> you had to become exactly what society wanted you to be.
In Western society, it’s the opposite. We encourage people at being critical individuals who think for themselves -> individualism, inherent to Western society -> to become somebody is to become exactly who you want to be.
The next thing myth helps people with is growing old.
When it seems that you have learned and done everything you had to do, you suddenly lose your capacities.
In the Western world, men work hard now to retire and do fun stuff later. Then they get to “later” and realize that working hard wasn’t worth it – that they can no longer do the stuff they really wanted to do when they were working hard.
As for women, they work hard to give birth and raise children, and these children grow and get their own life. And they end up alone.
The myths address this problem of growing old and not being wanted anymore.
When societies didn’t evolve, old people could give advice as whatever would happen had already happened.
It’s not the case in our society any more as everything is constantly new -> old people are no longer needed.
Finally, the last thing myth must help people with is dying.
To let them go peacefully, the myth says that “life after death is going to be beautiful”.
-> something all religions do.
Myths for the Future
The baby kangaroo is also born too early, so he waits a few more weeks in the pouch of its mother before being strong enough to get out.
Myth is to humans what the pouch is to the kangaroo.
Our society (science) has ripped this pouch (religion) apart. As a result, most people never have the chance to “be born a second time”. They’re thrown out into the world, but too weak to survive.
The problem with science is that there are no facts, just theories that are disproved one after the other. Religion, on the other hand, was true forever.
We cannot hang on to anything, we have to “stay open”.
But can we handle it?
Chapter 2: Myth Through Time
The Surface and Substance of Myth
One might reasonably define mythology as other people’s religion. The definition of religion is equally uncomplicated: it is misunderstood mythology.
It is misunderstood because we interpret mythological symbols as historical facts.
All religions have a foundation of mythology that represents the human psyche – that is, all religions look alike.
Eg: Eastern European religions fear the dark forests with the wolves, while the Polynesians fear the dark ocean with the sharks -> same things.
-> symbols in religions are not historical events.
Eg: Jesus VS Christ. Jesus is a historical character, Christ is the Son of God. The former was the incarnation of the latter.
It is of more worth to God that Christ should be born in the virgin soul than that Jesus should have been born in Bethlehem.Meister Eckhart
Many things in our religions that have been interpreted as historical were in fact symbolic.
We have a collision between these articles of faith and the historical and physical sciences, which we have to admit are ruling our lives, giving us everything that we live by from day to day. This collision has destroyed people’s belief in these symbolic forms; they are rejected as untrue.
Now, it’s not because we know it’s impossible to walk on water that we should discard these myths altogether. In fact, we should keep the symbolism, as it is the vehicle that helps us communicate with our subconscious.
When these symbols are taken away, we lose contact with this deeper part of our psyche.
A deity is a personification of a spiritual power. And deities who are not recognized become demonic; they become dangerous.
When you are not talking to these deities aka when you are not in touch with your subconscious, these deities break through to your consciousness which becomes overthrown.
Myths derive from the visions of people who have searched their own most inward world.
The Medieval age was built on the fall and redemption of Man, then was dissolved when we rediscovered the Roman and Greek myths leading up to the Renaissance.
The Birth of Myth: Primitive and Early Societies
There are three great periods in the history of the human race.
1. The primitive period
From consciousness to writing. Men hunt and fight -> emphasis and attention on masculine prowess (courage, skill, success).
2. The middle period
From 3500 BC in Mesopotamia (with the establishment of cities, discovery of mathematics, etc) to the Renaissance in Europe.
The earth is a tool that needs to be mined and utilized for prosperity.
3. The modern period
The Renaissance in Europe (scientific method, empiricism, industrialization, etc) up to now.
Let’s talk about the primitive period.
In the north, people lived off death: hunting, eating, wearing animal skins, etc. They have to kill to survive.
To protect themselves against this death, death does not exist -> beliefs in reincarnation + gratitude toward the animals and the earth (no intensive hunting, respect of nature).
In the south, people lived off vegetables -> no bravery in picking up a banana -> females become the most important sex as they give birth -> females become associated with the earth.
Now, in the rain forest, you see lots of dead plants from which grow brand new plants -> life comes from death -> more death means more life -> justifies sacrifices.
A culture’s rites repeat the underlying myth of that culture. One could— as I have—define a ritual as the opportunity to participate directly in a myth. It is the enactment of a mythical situation, and, by participating in the rite, you participate in the myth.
By practicing the rites of the myths, you directly participate in them.
It is from the planting zone that the Neolithic emerges with the first permanent settlements.
Since the first great civilizations come from southeast Asia (rain forest), we are influenced by the idea that life comes from death. Eg: Jesus’crucifixion.
Over the centuries, real sacrifices slowly transformed into symbolic sacrifices.
In foraging societies, all adults were equivalent and of equal status as they controlled the whole culture.
When cities were established, trade, crafts, and arts were invented. Individuals no longer controlled the whole but became a part of it and specialized in one specific thing.
-> people had to live with people completely different than them.
This created new problems psychologically, and sociologically.
The priests were the most important and educated people. They used mathematics and writing to understand the movement of the star and sun. They created an idea of the cosmic order from their studies.
It was the revelation, namely, of a universal process, an impersonal, implacable power (…) absolutely impersonal and mathematically measurable, to which the ordinances of civilization should be brought into accord. That’s the basic mythic concept of the first high civilizations.
-> society down below should imitate the order of the cosmos.
The Birth of East and West: The High Cultures
The high cultures can be divided into two great domains: Orient (everything east of Persia), and Occident (everything west).
There are two great creative centers in Orient, both isolated: northern India, and Japan-China-Southeast Asia. We recognize the ancient Bronze Age worldview brought in from Mesopotamia: the great impersonal cycle.
In Occident, we have the Near East, where the stress is put on the individual participating in the group, and Europe, where the stress is put on the individual.
These two centers are constantly in interplay with each other. In Europe, people located in the middle (agricultural people) suffer invasions from the Aryans up north, and the Semites down south. Both Aryans and Semites honor a masculine god, while the land-based group celebrates the goddess Earth.
The mythology of Europe is the result of this conflict. The Old Testament is about the warrior god saying you can just go and take what belongs to others.
The barbarians became the dominant force in cultures that honored the cosmic cycle. Man god fought mother Earth’s female god. While the Aryans had “a god”, the Semites had a deity attached to the tribe -> Semites regard themselves as unique.
The Barbarians dominated -> Adam (a man) gives birth to Eve. The entire Old Testament is about the masculine god oppressing the feminine mother Earth goddess.
While it sounds like God is masculine, your psyche understands it as being feminine -> all of the symbols are speaking double-talk.
The Orient doesn’t have this problem. The cosmic cycle transcends gender. It transcends even words, so we can’t describe it – it is the essence of your own being -> you are it. The idea is to make you realize that you are “one” with the mystery of the universe.
In the West, God created the world -> the creator and its creatures aren’t the same.
When Jesus said he was “One with the Father”, he was crucified for it.
What we begin to realize now is something India realized 3000 years ago: our myths can no longer be read the way we have been reading them (that is, historically, for Christianism).
The myth is there to help us understand what’s inside us, as the Orient already understood.
The Church has the lessons and symbols to do so, so it shouldn’t tell people what they are supposed to experience – just let them experience it.
The real, important function of the Church is to present the symbol, to perform the rite, to let you behold this divine message in such a way that you are capable of experiencing it
Part II: Living Myth
Chapter 3: Society and Symbol
The Mechanism of Myths: How Symbols Work
Mythologies use symbols that release energy and channel it. All mythologies use universal symbols -> are the symbols learned (imprinted), or organic (stereotyped)?
They’re likely imprinted. What explains, then, that there are universal?
-> it’s because the human experience in infancy is the same across all cultures.
Society, Myth, and Personal Development
Freud explains that children are born with desires, but not all of them can be fulfilled. When a desire cannot be fulfilled, it goes down into the subconscious and takes with it the forbidding of this desire -> you want something but you know you shouldn’t have it. Freud calls this ambivalence.
Women give birth to the physical body of their child while men give birth to the spirit -> men should be in charge of their children’s education.
Up until 12 years old, children depend on their parents. After 12 years old, a crisis hits during which the child has to become independent rather than asking his parents for solutions.
This experience is universal in all societies.
Primitive societies used rites that compel children to face problems and “grow up”.
The educational ritual translates the inevitable, universal images of infancy into images that will link the individual to the society.
Gods inspired individuals to behave and be responsible.
Nowadays, people who hesitate between dependency and responsibility are neurotic, pulled into two directions.
Until he can face a challenge without running back to his parents internally, a child can never be a true adult.
The adult eventually declines and must prepare for death, using the same images he did to become an adult.
The Ego: East and West
Freud explains that your desires come from your subconscious, out of the id. When you’re born, the id knows that you have needs.
As we said above, you cannot and should not satisfy all of your desires. All of these “I should not” go into the subconscious with the attached desire.
The ego helps you judge things by yourself -> develops your individuality.
In Orient, you should drop the ego and behave how society wants you to behave. They even equalize the ego with the id, so it’s a battle between “I want” VS “you should”. “I should” (the ego) does not exist.
This idea of complete obedience is found in the Bible.
We find there the oriental idea that the smaller societal structure should imitate the way the cosmos works -> Great Harmony.
Individuals must fill a role dictated by priests and given at birth to be a part of this order.
Eg: a mouse should fill the role of a mouse -> education is about teaching you your role, not teaching you individualism -> superego is the sole ideal -> other people decide for you (arranged marriage, etc).
It’s totally different in Occident.
God makes man, and God isn’t man -> symbols are based on the relationship between God and man.
Chapter 4: Myth and the Self
Jung and the Polarities of Personality
Freud thought sex was the main determinant in psychology. Adler disagreed and thought the main determinant was the will to have power, whose sex was a function.
Jung finally, thought that the psyche had an energy that contributes to wanting sex and power.
The tendency to want one or the other is called the basic attitude.
Jung called introverts those who were oriented toward power. They’re constantly wondering how well they’re doing and focus inward.
The sex-oriented person is the extrovert.
You are whether introvert or extrovert (eg: 60% introvert, hence 40% extrovert).
When you are in a situation where your drive for sex or power does not work well, you switch to the secondary drive and an inferior personality emerges, characterized by compulsiveness (aka lack of control).
Jung calls this enantiodromia. That’s often what happens during mid-life crises.
Eg: men who retire (got all the power they needed) suddenly pursue young women. Women who after raising their families, become power monsters (mothers-in-law).
The question is: can you integrate that “inferior side” of your personality instead of letting wreak havoc in your life?
Jung pursues and explains that the psyche is dominated by four functions divided into two opposing pairs:
- Rational functions: thinking and feelings
- Irrational functions: sensation (seeing reality as it is) and intuition (predicting the future aka seeing what can not yet be seen).
These two functions are zero-sum games: developing one a lot means not developing the other (eg: the scientist has poor music tastes.)
In order to avoid enantiodromia and the midlife crisis, you should develop these four functions together -> achieving wholeness (individuation).
The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
Jung also saw archetypes of the collective unconscious which are structures in the mind that exist in everybody since birth.
The first one is the self. It encompasses all of the possibilities that you could be. As you grow up and become aware of your self, your ego slowly comes out. The ego is the identification with your body, its experiences, and memories.
As you grow up, you need to learn to live in society with all of its rules, demands, expectations, and roles. The latter are called personae. Eg: when you’re at work, you put on your work role – your persona role.
Problems arise when you act out your persona outside of its context (aka lawyers that keep pleading at home) -> separate your sense of yourself (your ego) from the self you show the rest of the world (your persona.)
In the Orient, this is the opposite: you must become selfless and cancel the ego to become fully the role society gave you.
Then finally, there is a lot of “you” which does not seem to be placed in a persona nor in the ego. It’s in the unconscious, in a place called the shadow. The shadow welcomes all of the “mean things” you want to do but that you shouldn’t do.
The shadow is the repressed recollections as well as the repressed potentialities in you.
The shadow is to the ego what darkness is to light.
The shadow takes the form of monsters in mythology (eg: the dragon).
It is the dark thing that comes up from the abyss and confronts you the minute you begin moving down into the unconscious.
You bury the shadow because it is something your ego doesn’t recognize about you, or doesn’t want to admit.
You can recognize what your shadow is made of by noticing what makes the people you don’t like unlikeable. The traits that annoy you are things you have not integrated into your personality.
These things are rarely as bad as you think originally, and you should find a way to integrate them.
Next comes the anima, the repressed feminine side in men; and the animus, the repressed masculine side in women.
These repressed sides represent the ideal of the opposite sex. We project these onto other people we fall in love with. Then we marry, then we find out who the real person is, and we get divorced.
The only way you have not to get a divorce is to have compassion. You married a human, not a perfect person.
In fact, have compassion for the world in general, even if it’s really crappy.
Nothing alive fits the ideal.
Jung advised releasing all projections and ideals, a process he calls individuation.
There are four types of crises that can trigger enantiodromia.
- You passed from one life stage to another without knowing it.
- Relaxation of life requirements: you’ve worked a lot and now you don’t have to anymore, and you suddenly become a sex addict, or power-hungry -> sense that it is too late for these things.
- Loss of confidence in your moral ideas: you meet someone with different morals, which change yours, and since morals retain (understand: refrain) other types of behaviors, these behaviors emerge. Eg: the nice innocent kid who meets a not-so-innocent kid and they do bad stuff together.
- Doing something you really don’t want to do (due to shame, conflict with your values, etc). Eg: Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
Chapter 5: Personal Myth
Jung: What Myth Do I Live By?
We no longer all live through the same myth, especially in Western civilization where we now have a secular view of life.
Yet we all have a myth that’s driving us, whether we know it or not. Social life today is taken care of in another better way, but at the cost of leaving the individual mythless.
Mythological images are the images by which the consciousness is put in touch with the unconscious.
When you lack these images, you’re out of touch with your deepest part -> find your own myth!
A lot of people live according to a religious myth and this is fine for them. Those who don’t are deeply troubled when a crisis arises.
One of the ways you uncover your myth is by wondering what you would look for should you lose it all tomorrow.
Another way is to look for things that pull you out of the mundanity of life; things that inspire a feeling of awe.
Two things pull people together: aspiration and terror.
When you look at the Western world during the Middle-Age, you see inspiration and terror – which is no wonder why all European cathedrals were built at that time.
When doubts about religion came, society fell apart.
The main mistake the Catholic Church made was to insist on the historical veracity of the myth rather than insist on its psychological relevance.
Mythic images (…) come from the psyche and talk to the psyche; their primary reference is to the psyche.
If you learn religion as being historical rather than learning it as being symbolic, and you begin to doubt the historicity of it all, then you will lose the symbol because you reject it, hence the access to your subconscious.
Jung sought his own myth by wondering what he liked to do as a boy (piling up stones to make “cities”) and enacting it as an adult.
He also recorded his dreams and used mythology to interpret them.
He realized that there were two types of dreams:
- Little dreams: used to deal with the expansion of consciousness and the uncovering of taboos from your childhood.
- Big dreams: those where you wonder about the origin of the universe, and the death.
There are two types of symbols: local, and universal. The universal symbols lead to enlightenment while the local symbols lead to one’s culture.
Make sure that you’re seeking and living the stage of the archetype you are in. It leads to neuroticism otherwise (eg: adults who lack confidence in their judgment and are hence constantly looking for approval from authorities).
When the whole society loses its symbols, people stop turning outward for answers and turn inward, using drugs, meditation, etc as a gateway to wisdom.
Our world now is what could be called a terminal moraine of broken mythological traditions. All the mythical images of mankind are known to us in the museums and everywhere.
Western culture is the only culture that enabled the individual to develop and break free from the demands culture imposes on you. In the Orient, people who live eventually die and are replaced by people who will live the same way. Life is a cycle, and it doesn’t evolve; it doesn’t change.
In the West, people are encouraged to actualize their potential.
The only place to look for blame is within: you didn’t have the guts to bring up your full moon and live the life that was your potential.
Part III: The Hero’s Journey
Chapter 6: The Self as Hero
In the West, you have the liberty and the obligation of finding out what your destiny is. 53 You can discover it for yourself. But do you?
The only way to observe your myth is to pay close attention to your thoughts, symbols, and recurring themes in your life.
Overall, every human follows more or less the same hero’s journey which Campbell wrote about in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
This journey goes like this:
First, you leave where you are after you have been called to an adventure. Those who refuse the adventure become “hollow men”. Those who accept it get into a dangerous, unknown, and unbeaten path.
The hero journey (…) is simply a journey (…) where you go beyond good and evil.
In stories, this is when the hero goes “past judgment”, into another world. Often the challenge to get there is to face and fight a villain, a dragon, which is the metaphor for the hero’s own shadow.
In some stories, the hero arrives in the other world already dead (Eg: Osiris, Christ, etc) and is resurrected (aka transformed) later on.
Once you have got into the other world, helpers will come along to provide help.
After that, you will have to pass trials and fight off threats that represent the shadow (again) and the repressed parts of yourself.
The deeper you go, the tougher these “monsters” are.
There are four kinds of hurdles along this road:
- Meeting the goddess: integration with the anima/animus. Eg: Prince reaching Sleeping Beauty for men, Europa being impregnated by Zeus for women.
- Atonement with the father: the hero finds his father in the depth of the abyss. The woman becomes either a guide to it, or an obstacle.
- Apotheosis: the hero realizes he is what he is seeking. Eg: The Buddha realizes he is the Buddha.
- The symbols above are the main realization symbols. The fourth one is different: The Promethean theft: the hero lost his lover to an ogre and goes after it (Troy). Once he takes her back, the ogres are angry: no reconciliation with the power of the unconsciousness -> the hero must escape quickly and come back by the path he took to get in. Eg: Moses: arrives as a prince in Egypt through the water, and escapes through the water too.
The whole idea is that you’ve got to bring out again that which you went to recover, the unrealized, unutilized potential in yourself. The whole point of this journey is the reintroduction of this potential into the world; that is to say, to you living in the world.
You have then to integrate this potential into your life -> super difficult.
Whatever you bring back should be something the world doesn’t have but wants.
There can only be three times of reactions when you show what you brought back.
- No one cares. Screw it, you say, and start doing your work for yourself.
- You make something that people care about at the price of losing your authenticity and originality -> you become “commercial”.
- You find the intersection between the thing you want to do and the thing others want to receive.
The characteristic of monsters is that they mistake shadow for substance.
Today, the function of artists is to create symbols that inspire awe in people, that inspire radiance.
A good life is one lived with heroes’ journeys -> don’t be scared to go on that journey.
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.
For more summaries, head to auresnotes.com.
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