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It is impossible to underestimate the influence of Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) (Columbia College 1927) on the way we approach storytelling and psychology. He led a remarkable life, searching out and describing myths from every culture: American Indians, ancient Greek and biblical mythology, modern literature, Hindu and Buddhist texts, and the psychiatric theories of Freud and Jung.

Out of his own journey, his own quest for meaning, Campbell authored several profoundly important books, among them The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949) and The Power of Myth (1988). The latter was compiled from his television interviews with Bill Moyers and brought his ideas into the public consciousness.

The thesis of Hero With A Thousand Faces is simple, and powerful:

  • All stories are one story (The Monomyth)
  • All heroes are one hero (The Journey)

The model for the Monomyth, for the journey is the labyrinth. The hero leaves his everyday existence, enters the labyrinth, in which he encounters danger, confusion, struggles and challenges of all sorts. At the center, he enters the innermost cave and confronts the deepest demons –outside and inside himself in the labyrinth, the external enemy; in the psyche, the darkest corners. He then returns to the world with new knowledge, or some sort of prize. On the way back, he is often pursued again by the dark forces from the center. There is a final battle. The hero survives, returns to the real world with some sort of knowledge or “elixir”. If he learns from it, he (and the world) is transformed. If not, he is doomed to repeat the process again and again.

This story has been repeated hundreds (thousands!) of times in every story from every culture, from every life. Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths. JC

What I have given you here is a bare-bones outline of a complex and powerful idea. To understand more, take a look at this article.


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