The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Yesterday I finished reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.  There were just some passages from the last chapter of the book I wanted to note for myself, but in the context of the last post “It is not far from here and it is not a pleasant spot“, there were some quite surprising and conincidentally relevant lines that relate directly to the thoughts I was trying to get across in the post last week.  So, if you’ll excuse the liberal lifting of lines, I’m going to quote some passages from the last chapter – 

“The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation , and so forth, serve to translate the individual’s life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms.  They disclose him to himself, not as this personality or that, but as the warrior, the bride, the widow, the priest, the chieftain; at the same time rehearsing for the rest of the community the old lesson of the archetypal stages” ~ p383

“The social unit (today) is not a carrier of religious content, but an economic-political organization.  Its ideals are not those of the heriatic pantomime, making visible on earth the forms of heaven, but of the secular state, in hard and unremitting competition for material supremecy and resources….within these societies every last vestige of the ancient human heritage of ritual, morality and art is in full decay” ~ p388

“the problem is nothing if not rendering the modern world spiritually significant – or rather (phrasing the same principle the other way round) – nothing if not that of making it possible for men and women to come to full human maturity through the conditions of contemporary life” ~p389

“the functioning world requires, through every detail and act of secular life, that the vitalizing image of the universal god-man who is actually emmanent and effective in all of us may be somehow made known to the conciousness …. and this is not a work that conciousness itself can achieve. Conciousness can no more invent an effective symbol than control tonight’s dream.  The whole thing is being worked out on another level, through what is bound to be a long and very frightening process…for every living psyche in the modern world.” ~p389

“The worlds of the tribal hunter/gatherer, where the life cycles of the animal and those of the life rituals of planting and reaping were identified with those of human pro-creation, birth and progress to maturity, were eventually brought under society’s control.  Whereupon the great field of instructive wonder shifted – to the skies – and mankind enacted the great pantomime of the sacred moon-king, the sacred sun-king, the heriatic planetary state and the symbolic festivals of the world-regulating spheres… Today all of these mysteries have lost their force – the notion of cosmic law has long passed through preliminary mystical stages and is now simply accepted as a matter of course.  The descent of these sciences from the heavens (from 17th C astronomy to 19th C biology to 20th C anthropology and psychology), mark the path of a prodigious transfer of the focal point of human wonder … man himself is now the crucial mystery.” ~p390

“The modern hero … who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot – indeed, must not – wait for the community.  So every one of us shares the supreme ordeal – carries the cross of the redeemer – not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair” ~p391


The Hero With A Thousand Faces

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