The Power of Myth

by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

Rating: 3.7/5

I came to know about Joseph Campbell through one post of Steven Pressfield which was about the Hero’s journey. This Hero’s Journey has been the structure of many contemporary hollywood & of course bollywood movies- that’s what made it enticing. I wanted to learn it & understand the importance of it. So, i bought this book & started unraveling the power of myth in our lives. Joseph Campbell has studied the bouquet of myths from all around the world & he saw the connections between them. Just like the way we are discovering now and similar to the importance of every event or occasion in the Indian(not specifically Vedic) way of life. He has clarified the role myths play in our life. I was getting wary of all the rituals but after reading this, i have a change in perception.

The book is the conversation between Bil Moyers & Campbell from a PBS series on Myths. Moyers poses his questions to Campbell & then the explanation given by him with Moyers supplementing & complementing his views, gives the book its form. It is divide into eight sections- starting with Myth & the modern world. The journey inwards, first storytellers, sacrifice & bliss, Hero’s adventure, Gift of Goddess, Tales of love & marriage follows with Masks of eternity ending the conversation.

The first section on Modern World impacted most on my current beliefs. The major point i took was that in modern world everything has been made so scientific & easy to do without any hassle that the importance of any occasion has diluted. An individual doesn’t realises when he has entered the next stage. Earlier, it was done through social rituals which are mythological rites. How one child knows that he has become an adult? The other points about conservative religion or attitude calling for old-time and by-doing that they are throwing oneself out of sync with history. Also how there has been increase use of LSDs to experience some mystism which has cropped up due to lack of relevant myths which could have directed them. This section paced me into the book further & had many more connections with contemporary trends & mythology.

Journey inward section had the focal point of finding ones inner self or the soul.The mythologies metaphoric  in a poetic manner not in physical or logical manner.The basic functions of mythology – mystical,cosmological, sociological & pedagogical. This plus the next teo sections had more or less tint of Indian mystic or spritual ideas of myths & rituals. Hero’s adventure was also similar to Kundalini Jagaran of Yogic culture.Campbell showed how the myths & stories have been telling the same stories all around the world.Like the story of essence of life as eating of itself –  Life lives on Life. The hero is the soul again connecting to the unknown-known energy of the existence. Gift of Goddess is underlines how the concept of a superior maternal productive power gave to the male-dominated culture & myth. Love & Marriage and the dichotomies they put a person into is the theme of the next section. ( I lack understanding in this field so probably later i’ll get it). Finally Campbell & Moyers discuss how to connect to this eternal center of the world. Campbell suggests that ‘ Follow your Bliss’ is a way to achieve it in current era.

 I loved how the conversation went & Campbell was putting forth various stories or myths right from African tribes to American Indians to Europeans to Oriental. Campbell has influence of Jung in his explanations whenever subject of unconscious occurs. Campbell being brought up in Christian culture have critiqued the Christian mythology in comparison to myths of other cultures. The idea he put forth of ‘Need for a global myth today which encompasses the planet – is what we are observing now in various movements all around the world. According to him this new myths will be bought about by the artists(don’t limit your idea of artists here – anyone can be a one). There are many more ideas & thoughts i took from this book, it complemented my interest in the Indian mythology & contemporary India. Better to read this book & find out yourself – i think there is something for everyone in it. One suggestion though take it with open mind without any prejudices of your own. I will end this review with few lines from the book:

“Myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth”

“When the world changes, then the religion has to be transformed”

“Unlike theology, Mythology is poetry & the poetic language is very flexible”

Aarigato.

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