Top 50+ Joseph Campbell Quotes

joseph campbell quotes

Who is Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell was an American born on the 26th March 1904 and was a professor of literature, working mainly at Sarah Lawrence College. His primary focus was within comparative mythology and religion.

His most popular work is the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949 and this publication became the inspiration for many writers, including most notably, George Lucas, who credited Campbell as someone who influenced his Star Wars universe. Despite this accolade and many others, his attitude to myth and folklore, as well as the influence he had, has drawn criticism from academics who lecture on folklore.

When we consider Campbells work and lectures, it is important to note that he referred frequently to Pablo Picasso, as well as writers such as James Joyce and Thomas Mann. This is thanks primarily to spending time in Paris. Two prominent German philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, also had a deep influence on Campbell and how he approached the world.

Campbell died on the 30th October 1987, leaving behind an extensive collection of work, both written and in audio form, as well as quotations that will continue to inspire people for years to come.

Joseph Campbell Quotes

1. “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

2. “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

3. “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

4. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

5. “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

6. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”

7. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

8. “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

9. “Sit in a room and read–and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.”

10. “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

11. “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

12. “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.”

13. “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

14. “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

15. “If you are falling….dive.”

16. “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

17. “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”

18. “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

19. “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”

20. “All religions are true but none are literal.”

21. “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”

22. “Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”

23. “Regrets are illuminations come too late.”

24. “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.”

25. “As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don’t bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humor saves you.”

26. “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”

27. “The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.”

28. “Gods suppressed become devils, and often it is these devils whom we first encounter when we turn inward.”

29. “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

30. “We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”

31. “I don’t have to have faith, I have experience.”

32. “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure ”

33. “Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world.”

34. “The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves”

35. “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

36. “The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form – all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.”

37. “Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”

38. “Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required.”

39. “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”

40. “The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.”

41. “The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”

42. “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”

43. “God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, ‘Ah!”

44. “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

45. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself”

46. “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

47. “I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money [not for purpose or passion]- has turned himself into a slave.”

48. “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”

49. “You become mature when you become the authority of your own life.”

50. “Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed.”

51. “When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following: That which you are was never born and will never die. . . . (90)”

52. “We save the world by being alive ourselves.”

53. “The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience.”

54. “Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship for pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you’re not married….The Puritans called marriage “the little church within the Church.” In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive. It is an ongoing sacrament – love and forgiveness…. Like the yin/yang symbol….Here I am, and here she is, and here we are. Now when I have to make a sacrifice, I’m not sacrificing to her, I’m sacrificing to the relationship. Resentment against the other one is wrongly placed. Life in in the relationship, that’s where your life now is. That’s what a marriage is – whereas, in a love affair, you have two lives in a more or less successful relationship to each other for a certain length of time, as long as it seems agreeable.”

55. “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

56. “I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.”

57. “Myth is what we call other people’s religion.”

58. “The fates lead him who will; him who won’t they drag.”

59. “How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.”

60. “Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the highroad to the soul’s destination.”



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