If you’ve been reading HighExistence for any amount of time, you’ve likely come across our affinity with the Hero’s Journey — the epic monomyth that describes an individuals journey through awakening, emerging the hero of their story and a warrior to their culture.
The Hero’s Journey, among myriad other contributions to collective psychology and literature, is the brainchild of Joseph Campbell. Campbell was a legendary American author and comparative religion scholar.
From studying Sanskrit in Europe, to spending 5 years reading 9 hours a day in a wooden shack in the forests — Campbell had a unique vantage on world religions, the familiar underpinnings of life and meaning, and the academic prowess to pull it all together.
In fact, George Lucas, the visionary creator of the Star Wars saga, credits the hero’s journey as helping create the narrative arc of the series.
Also widely credited with dispersing the idea of ‘following your bliss’, one of the core tenants here at HighExistence — Campbell was a true mastermind of tapping into the collective unconsciousness, the depths of the psyche, and emerging with sacred gems of insight that carry through over millenia.
The master of mythology, the sultan of story, Campbell has dissertations to share with anyone willing to listen, to absorb, and to dive in on their own hero’s journey.
So if you’re ready, read along with us, as we have 42 quotes to give you your own PhD in heroic drama and equip you with the weapons you need to go out and slay your dragons.
Meaning & Mythology
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”
“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”
“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”
“The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience.”
“Just as anyone who listens to the muse will hear, you can write out of your own intention or out of inspiration. There is such a thing. It comes up and talks. And those who have heard deeply the rhythms and hymns of the gods, can recite those hymns in such a way that the gods will be attracted.”
“When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous.”
“Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time. The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.”
“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end… The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth—that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us.”
“The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.”
Your Hero’s Journey
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
“The Hero Path: We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known … we have only to follow the thread of the hero path. And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outwards we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.”
“A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.”
“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize
“You are the Hero of your own Story.”
“The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, ‘Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.’ And so it starts.”
“Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.”
“Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
“The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.”
“We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”
“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form – all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.”
“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
“Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship for pleasure, and when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the prime concern of your life. If marriage is not the prime concern, you’re not married….The Puritans called marriage “the little church within the Church.” In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive. It is an ongoing sacrament – love and forgiveness…. Like the yin/yang symbol….Here I am, and here she is, and here we are. Now when I have to make a sacrifice, I’m not sacrificing to her, I’m sacrificing to the relationship. Resentment against the other one is wrongly placed. Life in in the relationship, that’s where your life now is. That’s what a marriage is – whereas, in a love affair, you have two lives in a more or less successful relationship to each other for a certain length of time, as long as it seems agreeable.”
“To become—in Jung’s terms—individuated, to live as a released individual, one has to know how and when to put on and to put off the masks of one’s various life roles. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ and when at home, do not keep on the mask of the role you play in the Senate chamber. But this, finally, is not easy, since some of the masks cut deep. They include judgment and moral values. They include one’s pride, ambition, and achievement. They include one’s infatuations. It is a common thing to be overly impressed by and attached to masks, either some mask of one’s own or the mana-masks of others. The work of individuation, however, demands that one should not be compulsively affected in this way. The aim of individuation requires that one should find and then learn to live out of one’s own center, in control of one’s for and against. And this cannot be achieved by enacting and responding to any general masquerade of fixed roles.”
“Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamic of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions sown are directly valid for all mankind”
“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life,the idea came to him of what he called ‘the love of your fate.’ Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, ‘This is what I need.’ It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment–not discouragement–you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.
Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”
“As Freud has shown, blunders are not the merest chance. They are the result of suppressed desires and conflicts. They are ripples on the surface of life, produced by unsuspected springs. And these may be very deep – as deep as the soul itself. The blunder may amount to the opening of a destiny.”
“The big problem of any young person’s life is to have models to suggest possibilities. Nietzsche says, ‘Man is the sick animal.’ Man is the animal that doesn’t know what to do with itself. The mind has many possibilities, but we can live no more than one life. What are we going to do with ourselves?”
Follow Your Bliss
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”
“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
“There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.”
“The way to find out about happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you are really happy — not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what is called following your bliss.”
“Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. There IS a track just waiting for each of us and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else.”
“He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows.”