InnerNet Weekly: The Power of Myth

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The Power of Myth
by Joseph Campbell

[Listen to Audio!]

917.jpg MOYERS: Why myths? Why should we care about myths? What do they have to do with my life?

CAMPBELL: My first response would be, "Go on, live your life, it’s a good life–you don’t need mythology." I don’t believe in being interested in a subject just because it’s said to be important. I believe in being caught by it somehow or other. But you may find that, with a proper introduction, mythology will catch you. And so, what can it do for you if it does catch you?

One of our problems today is that we are not well acquainted with the literature of the spirit. We’re interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour. It used to be that the university campus was a kind of hermetically sealed-off area where the news of the day did not impinge upon your attention to the inner life and to the magnificent human heritage we have in our great tradition–Plato, Confucius, the Buddha, Goethe, and others who speak of the eternal values that have to do with the centering of our lives. When you get to be older, and the concerns of the day have all been attended to, and you turn to the inner life–well, if you don’t know where it is or what it is, you’ll be sorry.

Greek and Latin and biblical literature used to be part of everyone’s education. Now, when these were dropped, a whole tradition of Occidental mythological information was lost. It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself. But once this subject catches you, there is such a feeling, from one or another of these traditions, of information of a deep, rich, life-vivifying sort that you don’t want to give it up.

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The Power of Myth
What do you understand by the literature of the spirit? Can you share a story that reveals the Power of Myth in your life? How does mythology help you deepen your inner journey?
Conrad P. Pritscher wrote: literature of the spirit is what catches me for longer than a brief period. Nothing is permanent. In that sense, everything is myth. When one presently notices what they are noticing…
susan schaller wrote: Recently, at a meditation retreat, it was pointed out that as we moved closer to the unconscious mind, we moved closer to the universal. The surface distinctions of culture and personality…
Thierry wrote: I had the opportunity to watch a few days ago, a series of lectures given about the Bible by a true scholar and humanist. And I remember having read long ago, with the same interest,&nb…
david doane wrote: Campbell says so well that literature of the spirit is literature about the "inner life" and about "eternal values that have to do with the centering of our lives." I agree a…
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