“The truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.”
“Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts - but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. Myth tells you what the experience is.” (from The Power of Myth)
- A brief Joseph Cambell bio -
- Read an interview with Joseph Campbell -
- the Joseph Campbell Foundation -
“Where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
“The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual will. And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all”
Joseph Campbell - Video Transcript
Mr. McKnight: Now I’d like to ask you a question regarding the individual life span. In a sense this is a question of relating to the purpose of life. Last night in your lecture you mentioned that an individual goes through a first process of life up to about the age of thirty-five where he’s becoming socially conditioned and serving a purpose in society and after that there is an inward turning which Jung would probably call the process of individuation. I’d like you to explain how this happens and how we can help the process along.
Mr. Campbell: Well, society dismisses you at a certain point. The first part of life one is trying to find one’s way in to the world of one’s time and one’s place. Some people flip out and some people manage. Then, shortly after middle life you begin to lose momentum and the society disengages you. Furthermore, you’re gradually disengaging yourself. When everybody you meet reminds you of somebody you met before, everything that happens, I mean read the newspaper today and go back twenty years and read the same thing you sort of got the message and there’s an inward turning. Now one thing that’s lacking in our contemporary teaching is what you do with the energies that go inward again - have a nervous breakdown is what happens or I’m told that the average of years lived after retirement is very very low. That’s because the body and psyche say, well, there’s nothing for us to do. But if the idea of finding or rather letting the flower of your spirit bloom totally from what you will have learned and what you have assimilated, if that becomes your zeal in the latter part of life you carry on and move into what Jung calls the problem of the second half of life - that’s individuation. And this is not individualism in the rabid way of “I’ve gotta win” You’re not taking anything from anybody when you go in or begin to digest what you’ve lived and learned. And you can become of help to your friends in helping them to straighten out their lives and so forth and that’s the proper function of age to represent wisdom and justice and life energy and life knowledge. So, there is a career after your career you might say.
This interview was recorded in 1979 in the studios of the University of Vermont. The essential teaching contained in this excerpt is “let the flower of your spirit bloom”. This teaching is especially important in our post mid-life years when we have accomplished a few goals and are wondering how to make the most of the rest of our lives. Jung called this process “individuation”. Campbell correctly distinguishes it from “individualism”. You are not taking anything away from others as you come into your own in life. In helping others, we are fulfilling a key mission in maturation.