In the groundbreaking interview series conducted by Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell begins with his understanding of the hero, the basis of Campbell’s life work: “A Hero is someone that has given his life to something bigger or something other than himself.” There is a sacrifice on the journey. In some sense, the hero or heroine has a loss of some part of themselves. There is a death and resurrection of the self within myth. A coming and going into a new creature. There is a sacrifice of oneself for something else. In many ways a dying of one’s own person to serve the needs of the world.
Campbell explains that “the trials of the hero’s journey are common themes in all of the myths of the three major monotheistic religions and in truth have no religious, cultural, or geographic boundary. They represent the transformation of consciousness from a thinking of this way to a thinking of that way. Tests are illuminating thought.” The pushing of one’s self from the concerns of the internal to the concerns of the external world is the journey of the hero. Campbell believes that George Lucas’ Star Wars to be a strong example of such a mythological journey. Luke is the developing hero who is fighting the moral evil both inside of himself and outside in the world. Much of his training is symbolic of Japanese mythology where the wise old teacher imparts wisdom to his student. Han Solo represents a hero who at first appears to be selfish but discovers the hero inside of himself. Campbell believes much of the story to be a reflection of the modern day myth.
Mythology is the edge between what can be known and what can never be discovered. Mythology provides life with a harmony between such lessons. It provides a means to understand the many truths that cannot be known nor discovered any other way. Life is a mystery, and mythology provides a means to discover and explore it. Much of the mystery lies within one’s self, often one’s self is his or her darkest enemy and most fierce opponent, and through the mythic journey one overcomes their darkness and is returned to the light. Myth acts as a spotlight highlighting the unconscious. It reveals in one’s self that which cannot be revealed any other way. Much of Campbell’s thought concerning myth deals with the unconscious realm of an individual’s existence. Campbell believes there to be varying levels of consciousness. Myths provide the bridge to higher levels of consciousness. Campbell says, “Myths are for bringing us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual.” Rising to higher levels of consciousness is what Campbell believes to be the individual’s ultimate purpose in life.
Campbell sees the next myth to be one that comes from and involves the world as a whole. Where before ancient myths did not have such a globalizing environment present; globalization is now a fact of everyday modern life. It cannot be escaped and must be integrated into future myths for them to continue to have the power to speak into the lives of modern people. These new myths, Campbell believes will focus on the world as a whole, telling like all myths have of the development of the self and the realization of one’s role in the world and humanity. It will provide what nothing else can provide. Myths reveal the self as an individual, and it provides a means to discover one’s self, but it does not deliver you there. Myth shows you the way, “a clue as to the direction, a lighthouse,” but it does not represent arrival. The complexity of myth is rooted in its inability to determine where it is leading and that to which it is actually leading. Although frustrating for those on its path, this ambiguity of destination is the very seat of its power, namely that we are at the helm of our own lives.
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