from "Joseph Campbell - The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers"
But arent many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge
Yes, they are.
How do you explain that?
Theyve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into
the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience
has not been interpreted for you, and so youve got to work out your life
for yourself. Either you can take it or you cant. You dont have to
go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations.
The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities
into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience
that is the heros deed.
The reference of the metaphor in religious traditions is to something transcendent
that is not literally any thing. If you think that the metaphor is itself the
reference, it would be like going to a restaurant, asking for the menu, seeing
beefsteak written there, and starting to eat the menu.
example, Jesus ascended to heaven. The denotation would seem to be that somebody
ascended to the sky. Thats literally what is being said. But if that were
really the meaning of the message, then we have to throw it away, because there
would have been no such place for Jesus literally to go. We know that Jesus could
not have ascended to heaven because there is no physical heaven anywhere in the
universe. Even ascending at the speed of light, Jesus would still be in the galaxy,
Astronomy and physics have simply eliminated that as a literal, physical possibility,
But if you read "Jesus ascended to heaven" in terms of its metaphoric
connotation, you see that he has gone inward not into outer space but into
inward space, to the place from which all being comes, into the consciousness
that is the source of all things, the kingdom of heaven within. The images are
outward, but their reflection is inward. The point is that we should ascend with
him by going inward. It is a metaphor of returning to the source, alpha and omega,
of leaving the fixation on the body behind and going to the bodys dynamic
Arent you undermining one of the great traditional doctrines of the classic
Christian faith that the burial and the resurrection of Jesus prefigures
That would be a mistake in the reading of the symbol. That is reading the words
in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms
of the denotation instead of the connotation.
And poetry gets to the unseen reality.
That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought.
The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery
which you are.
said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And thats what it is. The nature
is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring
to something in you. When your mind is simply trapped by the image out there so
that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.
inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure
and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the
field of your incarnation. Thats where you are. Youve got to keep
both going. As Novalis said, "The seat of the soul is there where the inner
and outer worlds meet."
In classic Christian doctrine the material world is to be despised, and life
is to be redeemed in the hereafter, in heaven, where our rewards come. But you
say that if you affirm that which you deplore, you are affirming the very world
which is our eternity at the moment.
Yes, that is what Im saying, Eternity isnt some later time. Eternity
isnt even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is
that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And
if you dont get it here, you wont get it anywhere. The problem with
heaven is that you will be having such a good time there, you wont even
think of eternity. Youll just have this unending delight in the beatific
vision of God. But the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things,
whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life.
This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain
hour or so a day, where you dont know what was in the newspapers that morning,
you dont know who your friends are, you dont know what you owe anybody,
you dont know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply
experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, This is the place
of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But
if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
So the experience of God is beyond description, but we feel compelled to try
to describe it?
Thats right. Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called "On an Apparent
Intention in the Fate of the Individual," points out that when you reach
an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent
order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred
had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable
factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer
suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which
your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will
within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance
became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have
served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole
thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring
everything else. And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were
the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream
characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the
one will to life which is the universal will in nature.
a magnificent idea an idea that appears in India in the mythic image of
the Net of Indra, which is a net of gems, where at every crossing of one thread
over another there is a gem reflecting all the other reflective gems. Everything
arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you cant blame anybody
for anything. It is even as though there were a single intention behind it all,
which always makes some kind of sense, though none of us knows what the sense
might be, or has lived the life that he quite intended.
And yet we all have lived a life that had a purpose. Do you believe that?
Wait a minute. Just sheer life cannot be said to have a purpose, because look
at all the different purposes it has all over the place. But each incarnation,
you might say, has a potentiality, and the mission of life is to live that potentiality.
How do you do it, My answer is, "Follow your bliss." Theres
something inside you that knows when youre in the center, that knows when
youre on the beam or off the beam, And if you get off the beam to earn money,
youve lost your life. And if you stay in the center and dont get any
money, you still have your bliss.
I like the idea that it is not the destination that counts, its the journey.
Yes. As Karlfried Graf Durckheim says, "When youre on a journey, and
the end keeps getting further and further away, then you realize that the real
end is the journey."
Navaho have that wonderful image of what they call the pollen path. Pollen is
the life source, The pollen path is the path to the center. The Navaho say, "Oh,
beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left
of me, beauty above me, beauty below me, Im on the pollen path,"
Eden was not, Eden will be.
Eden is. "The kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth, and men do
not see it."
Eden is in this world of pain and suffering and death and violence?
That is the way it feels, but this is it, this is Eden. When you see the kingdom
spread upon the earth, the old way of living in the world is annihilated. That
is the end of the world, The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an
event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not
the world of solid things but a world of radiance.