Two great men talking about the journey we all must take if we are to live fully alive:
The Hero’s Adventure—Overcoming the Trials in Life
From The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers
Moyers: Why are there so many stories of the hero in mythology?
Campbell: Because that’s what’s worth writing about. Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
Moyers: So in all of these cultures, whatever the local costume the hero might be wearing, what is the deed?
Campbell: Well, there are two types of deed. One is the physical deed, in which the hero performs a courageous act in battle or saves a life. The other kind is the spiritual deed, in which the hero learns to experience the supernormal range of human spiritual life and then comes back with a message.
Moyers: Does your study of mythology lead you to conclude that a single human quest, a standard pattern of human aspiration and thought, constitutes for all mankind something that we have in common, whether we lived a million years ago or will live a thousand years from now?
Campbell: There’s a certain type of myth which one might call the vision guest, going in quest of a boon, a vision, which has the same form in every mythology. That is the thing that I tried to present in the first book I wrote, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited. Then comes the problem either of staying with that, and letting the world drop off, or returning with that boon and trying to hold on to it as you move back into your social world again.
Moyers: How do I slay that dragon in me? What’s the journey each of us has to make, what you call “the soul’s high adventure”?
Campbell: My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it.
Moyers: Is it my work or my life?
Campbell: If the work that you’re doing is the work that you chose to do because you are enjoying it, that’s it. But if you think, “Oh, no! I couldn’t do that!” that’s the dragon locking you in. “No, no, I couldn’t be a writer,” or “No, no, I couldn’t possibly do what So-and-so is doing.”
Moyers: When I take that journey and go down there and slay those dragons, do I have to go alone?
Campbell: If you have someone who can help you, that’s fine, too. But, ultimately, the last deed has to be done by oneself. Psychologically, the dragon is one’s own binding of oneself to one’s ego. We’re captured in our own dragon cage. The problem of the psychiatrist is to disintegrate that dragon, break him up, so that you may expand to a larger field of relationships. The ultimate dragon is within you, it is your ego clamping you down.
Moyers: I like what you say about the old myth of Theseus and Ariadne. Theseus says to Ariadne, “I’ll love you forever if you can show me a way to come out of the labyrinth.” So she gives him a ball of string, which he unwinds as he goes into the labyrinth, and then follows to find the way out. You say, “All he had was the string. That’s all you need.”
Campbell: That’s all you need–an Ariadne thread.
Moyers: Sometimes we look for great wealth to save us, a great power to save us, or great ideas to save us, when all we need is that piece of string.
Campbell: That’s not always easy to find. But it’s nice to have someone who can give you a clue. That’s the teacher’s job, to help you find your Ariadne thread.
Moyers: Like all heroes, the Buddha doesn’t show you the truth itself, he shows you the way to truth.
Campbell: But it’s got to be your way, not his. The Buddha can’t tell you exactly how to get rid of your particular fears, for example. Different teachers may suggest exercises, but they may not be the ones to work for you. All a teacher can do is suggest. He is like a lighthouse that says, “There are rocks over here, steer clear. There is a channel, however, out there.”
Moyers: In all of these journeys of mythology, there’s a place everyone wishes to find. The Buddhists talk of Nirvana, and Jesus talks of peace, of the mansion with many rooms. Is that typical of the hero’s journey – that there’s a place to find?
Campbell: The place to find is within yourself. I learned a little about this in athletics. The athlete who is in top form has a quiet place within himself, and it’s around this, somehow, that his action occurs. . . . There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held. If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart.
Love to you all,
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