The Way of Art – Quotes

The Way of Art by Joseph Campbell. (n.d.). Retrieved from

“There is an important distinction to be made between art as therapy and art as art.”

“No, a myth isn’t a lie,” and then I gave him my definition. I said, “It’s an organization of symbolic forms, images and narratives that are metaphoric of the possibilities of human experience and fulfillment in a given society at a given time.”

“Nobody knows what the hell a metaphor is. All religions are mythological. You see what that means. They don’t realize that Yahweh is a metaphor.”

“In the dream, the connotation will always be right here, under your heart.”

“The metaphor of the myth is metaphysical as well as psychological in its connotation and it is connotative of both at the same time.”

“Now in art when the images of the artist are purely personal this finally is slop and you know it when you see it. Also, it lacks a certain formal definition. But, then, when it hits the mythological that’s to say, the dual message level, psychological and metaphysical at the same time, you say, “ah ha,” because its talking about what’s deep in you. This is an important thing.”

This triangle of myth, art and psychology is fundamental.

“In myth the experiences of the environment come to the mind through the senses and they evoke a response in the imagination. And where the imagination comes and meets input from the environment you have a fusion and that’s myth.”

“The artist is fortunate enough to be put in touch through his studio disciplines with these universals. And what are they? They are certain rhythmic patterns.”

“Proper art, says Joyce, is “static” and improper art is “kinetic.” Kinisis, as you know, means movement and Stasis, as you know, means standing still.”

“Aquinas defines beauty as that which pleases; that’s a very nice definition. There is another aspect, however, to art which is the sublime. And the sublime is that which simply shatters your whole ego system.”

“Aquinas says: The aesthetic experience is in three moments. And he names them Integritas, Convenientia and Claritas.”

“And what happens is that that object becomes pure object. You are pure subject. You are the Eye of the universe beholding the Thing of the universe. The mystery of that thing is the same as the mystery of the universe. You have gone past all accidental experiences and arrangements.”

“As soon as you get a reference from the object represented to something outside the object, you’ve got either a pornographic or a didactic work. It’s inevitable.”

“The object becomes aesthetically significant when it becomes metaphysically significant. That is, it is an order of something that speaks past itself–carries the radiance of the transcendent into the field of time. This is what its all about. This is why art is a sacred thing.”

“Terror is the emotion that arrests the mind before the grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with the secret cause.”

“All of our lives are moving to limits but not many of us threaten the limit.”

“As Aristotle says, the hero of a tragedy is one of certain nobility. With a certain fault. The fault is that he doesn’t respect the limit. He goes to it.”

“Wonder is another aesthetic arrest emotion.”

“In India they speak of the rasas, the flavors, of artwork. And the tragic is one flavor. The tragic is the flavor of pity and terror; or, as it is called there, the pathetic and the terrible.”

“Heroic and wondrous. Pity, terror. But also the odious and the, malignant threatening, and then there are two more, the erotic and the humorous.”

“And a ninth one that must be experience beneath and through them all: Shanti; the peaceful. Do you get that? That’s the release, you see. That’s the static. You don’t get in and do anything about it.”

“Now I would say that here we have a kind of ground base, a very simple A, B, C, principal from which to regard works of art. And to regard artists in their production of works of art, do they render the peaceful through it? You see? Do they show you this thing as: “that’s the way the world whirls,” and you remain in aesthetic arrest and contemplation of that. Or are they inviting you to get in and do something about it? It’s a very fine line.”

“You’ve got to put a frame around you and become One Thing. You know, like an art object. An art object gives you those little experiences from time to time.”

“Art is the way that will guide one to this, as I say, finding of the immovable point in oneself that is the way of the opening.”

“So the serpent and the moon represents consciousness engaged in the field of time.”

“And the sun and lightening are of the same symbolic family. Lightening is a flash of absolute consciousness.”