The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Angel WingsThis  is one of my first Lensbaby (Xmas present to me) experiments – a pair of wooden angel wings from a Quebec church, and now part of my collection of folk art. They hang on my wall and I suppose one could wear them, literally or figuratively.

I am a huge fan of Joseph Campbell’s writing, and love how he weaves the stories and archetypes of religions and mythologies into a pattern. Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth.

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

His The Hero with a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949, is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology. He discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies.

Since publication, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged a debt to Campbell regarding the stories of the Star Wars films.

Joseph Campbell talks to Bill Moyers about the hero within…

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 quest, 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.

http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/herojourney.html and Wikipedia

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