The power of myth – quotes

Quotes from Campbell, J., & Moyers, B. (2011). The Power of Myth. Anchor.

Myth in the modern world

  1. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. page 2
  2. It is the imperfections of life that are lovable. Page 3
  3. That is why people have a very hard time loving God, because there is no imperfection there. Page 4
  4. Mythology teaches you what’s behind literature and the arts, it teaches you about your own life. Page 14
  5. The difference is that one who cracks up is drowning in the water and witch the mystic swims. page 16
  6. I have a feeling that consciousness and energy are the same thing somehow. page 18
  7. Well, automobiles have gotten into mythology. They have gotten into dreams. And airplanes are very much in the service of the imagination. Page 23
  8. The only mythology that is valid today is the mythology of the planet ‚Äď and we don’t have such mythology. The closest thing I know of to a planetary mythology is Buddhism, which sees all beings as Buddha beings. Page 28

  9. God is a personification of a motivating power or value system that functions in human life and in the universe, the powers of your own body and of nature. Page 28
  10. There is the mythology that relates you to your nature and to the natural world, of which you are part. And there is a the mythology that is strictly sociological, linking you to a particular society. You are not simply a natural man, you are a member of a particular group. p28
  11. We need meds that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet. A model for that is the United States. p30
  12. All men are capable of reason. That is the fundamental principle of democracy. Page 31
  13. Reason has to do with finding the ground of being in the fundamental structuring of order of the universe. P38
  14. Basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function… The second is the cosmological dimension… The third function is the sociological one… And that is the pedagogical¬†function, of how to live a human life time under any circumstances. Myths can teach you that. p39


Myths and dreams come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that have to find expression and symbolic form. And the only myth that is going to be worth thinking about the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it. Page 41

The Journey inward

  1. Myth is a manifestation and symbolic images, and metaphorical images, of the energies of the organs of the body and conflict with each other. Page 47
  2. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. page 48
  3. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience, that is the heroes deed. Page 49
  4. Serpent sheds it’s skin to be born again, as the moon it’s shadow to be born again. They are equivalent symbols. Page 53
  5. The Jungian archetypes of the unconscious are biological. Page 61
  6. We know they are not entertainment stories because they can be told only at certain times of the year and under certain conditions. page 63
  7. A metaphor is an image that suggest something else. Page 67
  8. There are dimensions of your being and a potential for realization and consciousness that are not included in your concept of yourself. Your life is much deeper and broader than you conceive it to be. What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you, what gives you life, breath, and depth. Page 71
  9. The metaphor is the mask of God through which eternity is to be experienced. page 73
  10. The person who has had a mystical experience knows that all the symbolic expressions of it are faulty. Page 73
  11. It seems to me that we have lost the art in our society of thinking and images. p73

   The first storytellers

  1. The ancient myths were designed to harmonize the mind and the body. Page 87
  2. The earliest evidence of anything like mythological thinking is associated with graves. p89
  3. I would say that is the basic theme of all mythology ‚Äď that there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one. Page 90
  4. The main theme and ritual is the linking of the individual to a larger morphological structured than that of his own physical body. p90
  5. These early myths helped the psyche to participate without a sense of guilt or fright and the necessary act of life. Page 92
  6. The function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world. Page 107
  7. The center of the world is the axis mundi, the central point, the pool around which all revolves… ¬†Movement is time, but stillness is eternity. Page 111

Sacrifice and bliss

  1. The sanctification of the local landscape is a fundamental function of mythology. Page 113
  2. I think the sense of the presence of creation is a basic mood of man. p 214
  3. People claim¬†the land by creating sacred sites, by mythologizing the animals and plants ‚Äď they invest the land with spiritual powers. 115
  4. One should find the symbol in the landscape itself of the energies of the life there. p117
  5. That Cathedral talks to me about the spiritual information of the world. It’s a place for meditation, just walking around, just sitting, just looking at those beautiful things. Page 119
  6. Spirit is really the banquet of life. page 121
  7. The artist is the one who communicates myth¬†for today. But he has to be an artist who understands mythology and humanity and isn’t simply a sociologist with the program for you. Page 122
  8. The hunter is an individual in a way that no farmer will ever be. page 123
  9. Society is always patriarchal. Nature is always matriarchal. Page 125
  10. With the planters, the plant world is a teacher.
  11. There is no such thing as a self-centered individual and the vegetable world. You can cut a plant, and another sprout comes. Pruning is helpful to plant. The whole thing is just a continuing inbeingness.
  12. Another idea associated with the tropical forests is that out of rot comes life. Page 127
  13. So in the forest and planting cultures, there is a sense of death as not that somehow, that death is required for life…. “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Page 127
  14. The North American culture is a very strong example of the interaction of hunting and planting cultures. Page 127
  15. It’s fascinating to compare the coming together of an invading planting society or an invading hunting or herding people in conflict with planters. The counterparts are exactly the same across the planet ‚Äď two systems and conflict in conjunction. Page 131
  16. What you get in the vegetation tradition is the notion of identity behind the surface display a duality. Behind all these manifestations is the one radiance, which shines through all things. The function of art is to reveal this radiance through the create object. When you see the beautiful organization of a fortunately compose work of art, you just say, “ahh!” somehow it speaks to the order and your own life and leads the realization of the very thing that religions are concerned to render. Page 134
  17. That you have to balance between death and life ‚Äď there are two aspects of the same thing, which is being, becoming. p134
  18. The hero is one who has given his physical life to some order of realization of that truth. 138
  19. The bodhisattva represents the principle of compassion, which is the healing principle that makes life possible. 139
  20. It is the suffering that evokes the humanity of the human heart. Page 140
  21. The sinner as the great awakening are a god to compassion. Page 145

  The heroes adventure

  1. Whether you call someone a hero or monster it’s all relative to where the focus of your consciousness maybe. Page 156
  2. The father quest is a major hero adventure for young people. That is the adventure of finding what your career is, what your nature is, what your source is. Page 158
  3. The adventure invoked quality of his character that he hadn’t known he possessed. Page 159
  4. Something that’s characteristic of¬†our¬†sedentary life is that there is or maybe intellectual excitement, but the body is not in it very much. So you have to engage intentionally and mechanical exercises, the daily dozen and so forth. p160
  5. When you follow the path of your desire and enthusiasm and emotion, keep your mind in control, and don’t let it pour you compulsively into disaster. page 162
  6. The edge, the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered because it is a mystery that transcends all human research. page 162
  7. Odysseus’ men were not ready or eligible for the experience which I’ve been given to them. page 165
  8. Because there is a certain typical hero sequence of actions which can be detected in stories from all over the world and for many periods of history. p166
  9. The rituals of primitive initiation ceremony is there all mythologically grounded and have to do with killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult, whether it’s the girl or the boy. Page 168
  10. The quest to find the inward thing that you basically are is the story that I tried to render in that little book of mine written 40 odd years ago ‚Äď the hero with 1000 faces. page 170
  11. Desire is the bait, death is the hook. Page 172
  12. Mythology is poetry, and the poetic language is very flexible. 174
  13. This is the threat to our lives that we face today. Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purpose? Page 178
  14. Psychologically, the well represents the power of life locked in the unconscious. Page 180
  15. One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity and is contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that. Page 182

  16. But in doing that, you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. Page 183
  17. This, I believe, is the Great Western truth: that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of her own experience at the summit of our own potentialities, not someone else’s. Page 186
  18. Damon and you can swallow give you it’s power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply. Page 202

The gift of the goddess

  1. She gives nourishment, as the plants do. So woman magic and earth magic are the same. p209
  2. It’s the female as the giver of all forms. Page 226