Book Summaries Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces Summary (8/10)

The Role of Myths

Myths are a mechanism we can use to find out who we are, and what we value implicitly. It teaches us about the stages of life, and how to pass through them successfully – while avoiding the psychological dangers along the way. In this post, I discuss the role of myths today.

Summary of the Stages of the Hero’s Adventure 

The archetypal hero passes through many stages in his adventure to recovering the hidden treasure. Often, he is forced to make difficult choices – even tragic ones that come at a great cost. But the redemption of the individual and consequently, of society – depends on the existence of these brave heroes who decide embark on a dangerous journey into the unknown. Campbell outlines the stages of the hero’s journey, I have summarized them below.

1. The Call to Adventure

Typically, the hero first starts out in familiar territory. This can either be his local village or city, where nothing too unpredictable ever happens. And then, a sign appears either in the form of persons, problems, or series of events, that call on the hero to escape the confines of his society – and embark on a new adventure into the unknown. The unknown is a place where dangers exists, but ultimately contain great treasures.

2. Refusal of the Call

The hero often refuses the call to adventure, choosing instead to remain within the confines of the known. He refuses the call to adventure, but myths tell us that this refusal often carries dire consequences. By not following their destiny, the hero becomes stuck in a boring routine – forced to deal with the minutiae of his culture and working hard for something he doesn’t really care about. The hero in this case becomes a victim waiting to be saved. But no matter what he does, he will only compound the number of fires he has to put out, until he gradually fades away (tragically).

3. Supernatural Aid

This is when the hero who accepts the call to adventure is given weapons to face the unknown. These can come in the form of wisdom or advice, that helps the hero avoid disaster.

4. The Crossing of the first Threshold

The safe zone for the hero is his local culture, where the boundaries are clearly drawn. The first threshold is at that boundary, it is when the hero ventures out into unknown territory where his tribe cannot protect him. The typical person is content to stay within the bounds of safety, and popular sentiment enforces his belief that he is making the right choice, because the dangers of the unknown are fatal. But the hero with competency and courage can subdue the dangers on his path.

5. The Belly of the Whale

The belly of the whale is a common archetypal image that you are probably familiar with. It is where Pinocchio descends to rescue his father. The belly of the whale or beast often represents the unconscious. To understand why, think of the difference between land and water. Land is visible, you can walk on it, it is easy to navigate. Water contains a third dimension downwards. You don’t know how deep it is – you don’t know what is contained within the ocean or the sea. And the whale is a predatory and dangerous entity that exists somewhere in the ocean, but it hoards a treasure or something extremely valuable that must be recovered (Geppetto in the case of Pinocchio).

Your job is to safely traverse the path towards recovering Geppetto – who symbolizes the great father, or culture, and return from the depths illuminated. Shadow work is also a form of this inward adventure.

6. The Road of Trials

Our ancestors depended on mythological symbolism and religious tradition to guide them through universal psychological dangers. Today, we face these dangers alone, by relying on guidance that is less potent and effective. We “enlightened” people have rationalized myths out of existence.

“Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?” Verse (2:214) – The Quranic Arabic Corpus

7. The Meeting with the Goddess

The idea is that to find the treasures that have immense value, you must be willing to toil, to suffer, to go beyond your basic instincts and embrace the repulsive aspect of the unknown, for it is only then you can retrieve the treasure. There is also a call here to return to a childlike approach to the world, where you are curious about things, but not closed minded and opinionated to the point where you choose to reject anything that doesn’t meet your expectations.

“The goddess guardian of the infinite requires the hero to be endowed with a “gentle heart”, not the animal desire of an Actaeon, or the fastidious revulsion of Fergus.”

8. Woman as the Temptress

This is when the hero realizes that he is a victim of the flesh. The saints try to keep sexual thoughts away, but even in the desert, these thoughts will never escape them for such impulses are fundamental to being human and alive. It is not that women are evil temptresses, it is that we are not pure. Similarly, many choose to blame their life problems on others where it is really his own fault that he is not getting what he wants.

9. Atonement with the Father

The father has a dual nature. One type of mythological (and dream) imagery describes the father as the ogre who easts his children. This is the father as tyrant and is what is known today as the patriarchy. But there is the benign aspect of the father – it is when he is the teacher, protector, or the person that initiates you into the world. This stage represents the identification with the good side of the father, and for men, to realize that they are equivalent to the father.

10. Apotheosis

The true nature of human beings is dual. People are not either good or evil, they are often both. The hero must recognize that his fears are often imaginary – that his thoughts are controlled by the obsessions of his time. There is a deeper reality that – if he comes to terms with – can free himself from unnecessary anxiety and delusion.

11. The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate gift is not having more years to live, or becoming wealthier (what King Midas wanted), it is to seek perfect illumination. It is knowing the truth about reality, and about oneself. It is not simply “knowing,”, since illumination isn’t a purely intellectual exercise, but rather it is living in the way that is congruent with your personal nature. It is the opposite of succumbing to your animalistic instincts, to hatred, greed, and vanity.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell is a thought provoking journey into the forgotten past, where we rediscover the most essential aspects about our nature. Campbell succeeds in not only explaining the bases of our myths, but why they were and still are so important. He also shows us the repercussions we face from losing touch with the stories of the past, by pointing out the psychological difficulties that arise absent a rich metaphorical, mythological structure that can serve as your guide. Campbell also shows us that these psychological difficulties are universal, and more amazingly – that our cure for them across time have been impressively similar.

Chapter Summaries


The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book about the stories of the past, and our deep human longing to connect with the ancestral spirit that informs these stories.

The Departure (Part I, Chapter 1)

The call to adventure is the first stage of the mythological journey. Destiny calls on the hero to move his spirit outside the comfortable confines of his society…

Initiation (Part I, Chapter 2) 

This stage of the hero journey is often the most exciting. After passing the threshold, the hero moves on to a new landscape…

The Return (Part I, Chapter 3)  

After the hero completes his quest, he must still return with his life-changing boon.

The Keys (Part I, Chapter 4)

“The Keys” was a commentary on how myths have become watered down in many different traditions today.

Emanations (Part II, Chapter I) 

Myths resemble dreams, they are both manifestations of the unconscious. Symbols represent unconscious desires, fears, and tensions.

The Virgin Birth (Part II, Chapter 2) 

Some mythologies emphasize the maternal rather than paternal aspect of the creator.

Transformations of the Hero (Part II, Chapter 3) 

This chapter is about how the cosmogonic cycle is carried out by mortal heroes rather than gods…

Dissolutions (Part II, Chapter 4) 

There are two types of deaths that mythologies describe, the first is personal, and the second is universal.

Myth and Society (Epilogue) 

Campbell concludes by commenting on the relevance of myths today, how myths are viewed and how you can make use of them in your own life.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces Summary (8/10) 1

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Epilogue: Myth and Society

Epilogue: Myth and Society


1. The Shapeshifter

Campbell concludes by commenting on the relevance of myths today, how myths are viewed and how you can make use of them in your own life. It is important to remember that there is no system for interpretation myths. If you seek to understand them, then you must have faith in the unpredictable journey you are going to explore, and that by seeing the whole picture, you will be taught its lessons.

“Mythology has been interpreted by the modern intellect as a primitive, fumbling effort to explain the world of nature (Frazer); as a production of poetical fantasy from prehistoric times, misunderstood by succeeding ages (Millier); as a repository of allegorical instruction, to shape the individual to his group (Durkheim); as a group dream, symptomatic of archetypal urges within the depths of the human psyche (Jung); as the traditional vehicle ofman’s profoundest metaphysical insights (Coomaraswamy); and as God’s Revelation to His children (the Church). Mythology is all of these.”

Myths are, like any work of art, only as valuable as the perceiver wants it to be. The “perceiver” can be the collective – the cultures of the past who derived great value from mythology in functional sense. The metaphors contained within them were central to helping them solve the problems they encountered throughout their life. Similarly, the modern individual can benefit form myths functionally if he chooses to, by applying their lessons and the archetypal themes to his own life.

2. The Function of Myth, Cult, and Meditation

As an individual, you are only a fraction of the complete image of man. You are necessarily a distortion because you are either male or female. You are also constrained by your age, you cannot be young and mature at the same time. And you are limited by your occupation and your social role. The totality in man cannot be seen in a single member, but in the body of society.

Everything you know is derived from your group – including your skills, ideas, language, and DNA. If you choose to cut yourself off, either through action or in thought and feeling, you break your connection with the source of your existence.

The purpose of ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, and more, is to “to translate the individual’s life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms.” When the individual assumes this form, he no longer only identifies with his own personality, but takes on an archetypal human form as (warrior, bride, priest). The society becomes an imperishable union of various archetypes.

From the viewpoint of society, the individual that breaks off is nothing – a waste. But from another point of view, exile be the first step of the quest. The individual carries within him the totality of society. The differences in sex, age, or occupation are not essential to who we are, but are temporary costumes you wear. People often confound the image of man with the clothes that he wears. To investigate the true nature of our being, beyond the superficial classifications of our cultures, you have to divide yourself from the whole.

This is what ascetics, medieval saints and yogis of India have done. The ancient philosophies provide you with tools to discern our essential nature from the masks that we wear.

“The preliminary meditations of the aspirant detach his mind and sentiments from the accidents of life and drive him to the core. “I am not that, not that,” he meditates: “not my mother or son who has just died; my body, which is ill or aging; my arm, my eye, my head; not the summation of all these things. I am not my feeling; not my mind; not my power of intuition.” By such meditations he is driven to his own profundity and breaks through, at last, to unfathomable realizations. No man can return from such exercises and take very seriously himself as Mr. So-an-so of Such-and-such a township, U.S.A. —Society and duties drop away.”

Initially, the disillusioned individual becomes in-drawn and aloof. But this is not the end. The goal is not simply to “see” – as Narcissus did when he looked into the pool or when Buddha sat under the tree – it is to “realize that one is.” It is a realization that individual and the world are made of the same essence, and that one is free to explore the world as that essence. This realization subverts the need to withdraw from society.

“Thus, just as the way of social participation may lead in the end to a realization of the All in the individual, so that of exile brings the hero to the Self in all.”

3. The Hero Today

“All of which is far indeed from the contemporary view; for the democratic ideal of the self-determining individual, the invention of the power-driven machine, and the development of the scientific method of research have so transformed human life that the long-inherited, timeless universe of symbols has collapsed.”

Science has no place for God, and society has no place for God either. Campbell tells of the transformation that has taken place – when societies are no longer carriers of religious content but are merely economic-political organizations. It has purged its ideals of transforming earth into its vision of heaven, in favor of building a secular state – where nothing but the relentless pursuit of material and resource wealth is idealized.

“In the fateful, epoch-announcing words of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “Dead are all the gods. One knows the tale; it has been told a thousand ways. It is the hero-cycle of the modern age, the wonder-story of mankind’s coming to maturity. The spell of the past, the bondage of tradition, was shattered with sure and mighty strokes. The dream-web of myth fell away; the mind opened to full waking consciousness; and modern man emerged from ancient ignorance, like a butterfly from its cocoon, or like the sun at dawn from the womb of mother night.”

In every period, mankind is faces with problems of a different nature. The men of the past who lived in the golden age of mythology were faced with the problem of dealing with the lies that these mythologies could propagate. Then, myths were taken too seriously – to the point where the individual was too often sacrificed for the ideals of the collective, but today’s problem is precisely the opposite. Then, all meaning was in the group, and none was in the individual. Today, all meaning is in the individual and none is in the group.

Something essential has been lost in modern society, and it is up to the individual hero to restore it.

“It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And 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.”

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Epilogue: Myth and Society 2

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 4: Dissolutions)

Part Two: The Cosmogonic Cycle

Jesus on the mount of olives
Jesus on the mount of olives

Chapter 4: Dissolutions

1. End of the Microcosm

In this chapter, Campbell discusses the final part of the hero journey, death. There are two types of deaths that mythologies describe, the first is personal, and the second is universal. “The End of the Microcosm” is the personal death of the hero. But our deaths are described as the moment we are released from our mortal bodies and are returned to the divinity that existed within ourselves.

“When he comes to weakness—whether he come to weakness through old age or through disease—this person frees himself from these limbs just as a mango, or a fig, or a berry releases itself from its bond; and he hastens again, according to the entrance and place of origin, back to life. As noblemen, policemen, chariot-drivers, village-heads wait with food, drink, and lodgings for a king who is coming, and cry: ‘Here he comes! Here he comes!’ so indeed do all things wait for him who has this knowledge and cry: ‘Here is the Imperishable coming! Here is the Imperishable coming!’” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

There is Aztec prayer that was said on the deathbed of the departed that warned them of the dangers along the way back to the god of the dead, Tzontémoc.

“He of the Falling Hair.” “Dear child! Thou hast passed through and survived the labors of this life. Now it hath pleased our Lord to carry thee away. For we do not enjoy this world everlastingly, only briefly; our life is like the warming of oneself in the sun. And the Lord hath conferred on us the blessing of knowing and conversing with each other in this existence; but now, at this moment, the god who is called Mictlantecutli, or Aculnahuâcatl, or again Tzontémoc, and the goddess known as Mictecacihuatl, have transported thee away. Thou art brought before His seat; for we all must go there: that place is intended for us all, and it is vast.”


“We are to have of thee no further recollection. Thou wilt reside in that place most dark, where there is neither light nor window. Thou wilt not return or depart from thence; nor wilt thou think about or concern thyself with the matter of return. Thou wilt be absent from among us for ever more. Poor and orphaned hast thou left thy children, thy grandchildren; nor dost thou know how they will end, how they will pass through the labors of this life. As for ourselves, we shall soon be going there where thou art to be.”

After wrapping the bodies of the dead properly in preparation for the funeral, the Aztec ancients and officials pour water on the head of the diseased, and say to them,

“This thou didst enjoy when thou wert living in the world.” And they took a small jug of water and presented it to him, saying: “Here is something for thy journey”


“Lo, with this thou wilt be able to go between the mountains that clash.” “With this thou wilt pass along the road where the serpent watcheth.” “This will satisfy the little green lizard, Xochitonal.” “And behold, with this thou wilt make the transit of the eight deserts of freezing cold.”


“Here is that by which thou wilt go across the eight small hills.” “Here is that by which thou wilt survive the wind of the obsidian knives.”

2. End of the Macrocasm

In the same way the individual being dissolved in the end, so too does the universe.

“When it is known that after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed, the gods called Loka byuhas, inhabitants of a heaven of sensual pleasure, wander about through the world, with hair let down and flying in the wind, weeping and wiping away their tears with their hands, and with their clothes red and in great disorder.


‘Sirs, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years the cycle is to be renewed; this world will be destroyed; also the mighty ocean will dry up; and this broad earth, and Sumeru, the monarch of mountains, will be burnt up and destroyed—up to the Brahma world will the destruction of the world extend. Therefore, sirs, cultivate friendliness; cultivate compassion, joy, and indifference; wait on your mothers; wait on your fathers; and honor your elders among your kinsfolk.’


“This is called the Cyclic-Uproar.” – Buddhism in Translations

Campbell concludes with a passage from Mathew about Jesus’ prophecy of the end of times.

“And as Jesus sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?


“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.


Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.


“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand: ) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the house top not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”


“Then if any man shall say unto you: Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered together.


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . . But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”- Matthew, 24:3-36.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 4: Dissolutions) 3

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 3: The Transformations of the Hero)

Part Two: The Cosmogonic Cycle


Chapter 3: Transformations of the Hero

1. The Primordial Hero and the Human

This chapter is about how the cosmogonic cycle is carried out by mortal heroes rather than gods and stories about children, who are predestined to become the heroes of their culture and the founders of new cities. These heroes experience an unusually speedy development from childhood into adulthood.

One story is of Shen Nung, who was eight feet seven inches tall. He had a human body but the head of a bull. He was miraculously conceived through the intervention of a dragon. His mother was ashamed of what she had given birth to, so he placed her infant on a mountainside where wild beasts protected and fed it. When she found out, the mother quickly returned her child home. Shen Nung learned about dozens of plants in a single day, and invented a pharmacopoeia that is still in use. He also invented the plough and the idea of bartering. And when he was 168 years old, he joined the immortals.

There are many stories that recall a time when a superhuman figure intervened to bring about the foundations of civilization. But when later in this cycle, mere mortals carried on the work. This point of the cosmogonic cycle yields “an emperor in human form who shall stand for all generations to come as the model of man the king.”

2. Childhood of the Human Hero

Many myths don’t portray the hero as a regular man who managed to break free from the limitations of his group, but rather, they present the hero as a someone endowed with extraordinary powers rom a very young age. The hero’s life seems to be a series of marvels, with the “great central adventure at its culmination.”

Herohood is then, predestined, rather than achieved. And this creates two viewpoints by which to view the hero. The first is to see the hero as someone to emulate, since he was self-made. Jesus, can be seen someone who was able, through meditation and a particular lifestyle, to gain wisdom. The second view states that the hero is “rather a symbol to be contemplated than an example to be literally followed.” In that sense, we should meditate on the divinity that is present within us all. Instead of the lesson being “Do thus and be good,” it is “Know this and be God.”

Campbell tells us that the extent to which the hero is able to affect society depends on the amount of time the hero spends in obscurity. He recalls two stories to illustrate this point. The first is about Charlemagne (742-814), who was persecuted by his elder brothers when he was a child. He took off to Saracen Spain. And there he took the name of “Mainet,” and served the king. He converted the king’s daughter to Christianity and he secretly planned to marry her. Later, Charlemagne, now a royal youth went back to France and overthrew those who persecuted him. He became the new king and ruled a hundred years, surrounded by twelve of his peers. He had long hair and white beard, and one day when he helped a snake, it returned the favor.

“The reptile bestowed on him a charm that involved him in a love affair with a woman already dead. This amulet fell into a well at Aix: that is why Aix became the emperor’s favorite residence. After his long wars against the Saracens, Saxons, Slavs, and Northmen, the ageless emperor died; but he sleeps only, to awake in the hour of his country’s need. During the later Middle Ages, he once arose from the dead to participate in a crusade.”

The second woman tells of an absurd story of a woman who gave birth to a water jar. The jar was called “Water Jar Boy” because only after talking to him for a long time, his family found out he was a boy. This motif is about how the child of destiny must face a long period of obscurity. This is when he finds himself in disgrace or in grave danger. He is either thrown inward into his own depths, or outward into the unknown. In both cases, he will touch an unexplored darkness.

Here, he will interact with helpful and evil forces. The myths acknowledge that an extraordinary capacity is needed to survive such experiences, at a young age.

“The infancies abound in anecdotes of precocious strength, cleverness, and wisdom. Herakles strangled a serpent sent against his cradle by the goddess Hera. Maui of Polynesia snared and slowed the sun—to give his mother time to cook her meals. Abraham, as we have seen, arrived at the knowledge of the One God. Jesus confounded the wise men. The baby Buddha had been left one day beneath the shade of a tree; his nurses suddenly noted that the shadow had not moved all afternoon and that the child was sitting fixed in a yogic trance.”

3. The Hero as Warrior

The mythological hero is the champion of change, he is the enemy of the status quo. The hero emerges from obscurity, but his enemy is in power. Often, the enemy is a proud tyrant, and that will be his undoing. He takes the form of the clown, as he mistakes shadow for substance. His destiny is to be tricked. The hero, who appears from the darkness, comes with the knowledge that will bring the end of the tyrant.

“Blood Clot Boy” or Kutoyus, was a child who grew to manhood in one day. He killed the murderous son-in-law of his foster parents, and then fought the ogres in his countryside. He executed a tribe of cruel bears, except for one that pleaded for her life since she was pregnant. If he hadn’t done this, the world would have no bears. He then killed a tribe of snakes, and again left one alive for the same reason. He then embarked on a dangerous road, and then a windstorm struck him and carried him the mouth of a great fish. When he got there, he saw a lot of people, both dead and alive. He told them, “Ah, there must be a heart somewhere here. We will have a dance.”

Next he painted his face, and stuck a white rock knife to his head, and danced up and down in joy. While dancing, the knife on his head struck the heart. He then cut the heart down, and then he cut the ribs of the fish, and let everyone out. Another time, Blood Clot said he had to travel. But people warned him about a woman who kept challenging people to wrestle with her. He went on anyway. As he embarked on his journey, he saw a woman who called him to come over. But he refused. She kept repeating her request, until on the fourth time, he finally agreed, but he told her to wait for a little longer because he was tired. As he rested, he saw many knives sticking up from the ground that were hidden by straw. He figured out how the woman killed so many people. The woman asked him to stand where he had seen the knives, but he refused. He insisted they first play before he begins. And as they played, he caught hold of the woman quickly and threw her on the knives and cut her in two.

Blood Clot traveled again, but this time, he reached a camp where he saw some old women. The old omen told hi that he would eventually see a woman with a swing if he continued down his path, but that he should be careful to not ride with her. He finally reached the place the old women were talking about. He saw a swing on the bank of a swift stream. And a woman was swinging on it. He watched her for a while and saw that she killed people by getting them to swing then dropping them on the water. Knowing what she was up to, he went up to the woman and said,

‘You have a swing here; let me see you swing,’ he said. ‘No,’ said the woman, ‘I want to see you swing.’ ‘Well,’ said Blood Clot, ‘but you must swing first.’ ‘Well,’ said the woman, ‘now I shall swing. Watch me. Then I shall see you do it.’ So the woman swung out over the stream. As she did this, he saw how it worked. Then he said to the woman, ‘You swing again while I am getting ready’; but as the woman swung out this time, he cut the vine and let her drop into the water. This happened on Cut Bank Creek.’

4. The Hero as Lover

The hegemony wrested from the enemy, the freedom won from the malice of the monster, the life energy released from the toils of the tyrant Holdfast—is symbolized as a woman. She is the maiden of the innumerable dragon slayings, the bride abducted from the jealous father, the virgin rescued from the unholy lover.

She is the “other portion” of the hero himself—for “each is both”: if his stature is that of world monarch she is the world, and if he is a warrior she is fame. She is the image of his destiny which he is to release from the prison of enveloping circumstance. But where he is ignorant of his destiny, or deluded by false considerations, no effort on his part will overcome the obstacles.

Cuchulainn’s story demonstrates this. He was a young man who made other, older men insecure, because they feared that their wives would want to be with him. So they decided to encourage him to find a maiden.

He knew of one and went to her. Emer lifted up her lovely face and recognized Cuchulainn, and she said: “May you be safe from every harm!” When Emer’s father (Forgal the Willy) knew that Cuchulainn had spoken to his daughter, he presented him with a series of impossible tasks including defeating dangerous enemies and getting a warrior-woman Scathach, and then force her to give him instruction in her “arts of supernatural valor.”

Cuchulainn went forth on his adventure and after winning his first series of battles and going through various obstacles on the road – as well as receiving help in the form of a wheel and an apple from a young girl who helped him make it through a sticky ground that was difficult to pass. Cuchulainn finally made it to the warrior woman’s home, where he found her daughter imprisoned.

The daughter revealed to Cuchulainn what he must do to get her mother to reveal to him the secrets that he wanted. She told him to place his sword between her breasts when she was giving instructions to her children beneath a tree, and demand what he wanted. He managed to get what he wanted; marriage to her daughter with paying a bride-fee, sex with her, and knowledge of his future. He stayed there for a while and eventually returned. Forgal the Willy still refused to give his daughter to Cuchulainn but the latter took her anyway.

“The most eloquent and deep-driving of the traits in this colorful adventure of Cuchulainn is that of the unique, invisible path, which was opened to the hero with the rolling of the wheel and the apple. This is to be read as symbolic and instructive of the miracle of destiny. To a man not led astray from himself by sentiments stemming from the surfaces of what he sees, but courageously responding to the dynamics of his own nature—to a man who is, as Nietzsche phrases it, “a wheel rolling of itself”— difficulties melt and the unpredictable highway opens as he goes.”

5. The Hero as Emperor and Tyrant

The supreme hero succeeds in manifesting, through a deeper wisdom, his teachings on society through representation. There are two patterns that appear. The symbol of the first is the virtuous sword, of the second, the scepter of dominion, or the book of the law. The characteristic adventure of the first is the winning of the bride— the bride is life. The adventure of the second is the going to the father—the father is the invisible unknown.

A story is told of a boy who asks to see his father. But his mother didn’t want him to go. Regardless, the boy insisted. The next morning, he left to the the spring Waiyu powidi, Horse mesa point. He was coming close to that spring, he saw somebody walking a little way from the spring. He went up to him. It was a man.

He asked the boy, ‘Where are you going?’—’I am going to see my father,’ he said. ‘Who is your father?’ said the man. ‘Well, my father is living in this spring.’— ‘You will never find your father.’—’Well, I want to go into the spring, he is living inside it.’—’Who is your father?’ said the man again. ‘Well, I think you are my father,’ said the boy. ‘How do you know I am your father?’ said the man. ‘Well, I know you are my father.’ Then the man just looked at him, to scare him. The boy kept saying, ‘You are my father.’ Pretty soon the man said, ‘Yes, I am your father. I came out of that spring to meet you,’ and he put his arm around the boy’s neck. His father was very glad his boy had come, and he took him down inside the spring.”

The hero’s goal is to discover the unknown the father, and the symbolism is that of tests. In the previous example, the test involved persistent questions and an intimidating stare. And in the earlier story of the wife that gave birth to a clam, the sons were tested with the bamboo knife. The father often takes the form of the dangerous ogre. But the hero that earns the blessing of the father returns to represent the father among men.

6. The Hero as World Redeemer

There are two scenarios that occur the hero makes when returning from the house of the father. The first involves the hero returning as emissary. And the second is when the hero gains the knowledge that “I and the father are one.”

7. The Hero as Saint

The final hero type remains: the saint or ascetic, the world renouncer.

“Endowed with a pure understanding, restraining the self with firmness, turning away from sound and other objects, and abandoning love and hatred; dwelling in solitude, eating but little, controlling the speech, body, and mind, ever engaged in meditation and concentration, and cultivating freedom from passion; forsaking conceit and power, pride and lust, wrath and possessions, tranquil in heart, and free from ego—he becomes worthy of becoming one with the imperishable.”

The pattern the hero follows here is that of going to the unmanifest rather than the manifest father. “The ultimate claim of the unseen is here intended. The ego is burnt out. Like a dead leaf in a breeze, the body continues to move about the earth, but the soul has dissolved already in the ocean of bliss.”

When Oedipus found out that the woman he married was his mother and the man he killed was his father, he plucked his eyes out and wandered over the earth in penance. Freud stipulated that we are all slaying our father and marrying our mother, but we do so unconsciously: “the roundabout symbolic ways of doing this and the rationalizations of the consequent compulsive activity constitute our individual lives and common civilization.”

Once we realize the origin of the world’s real impulses, the flesh would appear to us as an “ocean of self violation.” Pope Gregory the Great, after being born of incest and living in incest, he fled to a rock in the sea in disgust and did penance for his life.

8. The Departure of the Hero

The final act in the biography of the hero is that of the death or departure. Here, the hero is not terrified from death.

‘While sitting under the oak of Mamre, Abraham perceived a flashing of light and a smell of sweet odor, and turning around he saw Death coming toward him in great glory and beauty. And Death said unto Abraham: ‘Think not, Abraham, that this beauty is mine, or that I come thus to every man. Nay, but if any one is righteous like thee, I thus take a crown and come to him, but if he is a sinner, I come in great corruption, and out of their sins I make a crown for my head, and I shake them with great fear, so that they are dismayed.’ Abraham said to him, ‘And art thou, indeed, he that is called Death?’


He answered, and said, ‘I am the bitter name,’ but Abraham answered, ‘I will not go with thee.’ And Abraham said to Death, ‘Show us thy corruption.’ And Death revealed his corruption, showing two heads, the one had the face of a serpent, the other head was like a sword. All the servants of Abraham, looking at the fierce mien of Death, died, but Abraham prayed to the Lord, and he raised them up. As the looks of Death were not able to cause Abraham’s soul to depart from him, God removed the soul of Abraham as in a dream, and the archangel Michael took it up into heaven.


After great praise and glory had been given to the Lord by the angels who brought Abraham’s soul, and after Abraham bowed down to worship, then came the voice of God, saying thus: ‘Take My friend Abraham into Paradise, where are the tabernacles of My righteous ones and the abodes of My saints Isaac and Jacob in his bosom, where there is no trouble, nor grief, nor sighing, but peace and rejoicing and life unending.’


Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 2: The Virgin Birth)

Part Two: The Cosmogonic Cycle

Shiva and Pervati
Shiva and Pervati

Chapter 2: The Virgin Birth

1. Mother Universe

Some mythologies emphasize the maternal rather than paternal aspect of the creator, and she plays the roles that are traditionally assigned to males. She’s also a virgin, because her husband is the Invisible Unknown.

3. The Virgin Birth

Here Campbell tells us about the universal predicament that man faces, when society’s teaching lose their spiritual vitality. People are guided by the practical judgments of kings and priests. This narrows the collective consciousness of society to something superficial and shallow. The people, as a result, yearn for a savior who can come back and properly represent the lost image.

This type of myth exists across all cultures. Essentially, it is when the rejuvenation of society occurs as a “cosmic woman” is born who is uncorrupted by the misleading teachings of her generation or culture, and her womb “remaining fallow as the primordial abyss, summons to itself by its very readiness the original power that fertilized the void.”

“Now on a certain day, while Mar y stood near the fountain to fill her pitcher, the angel of the Lord appeared unto her, saying, Blessed art thou, Mary, for in thy womb thou hast prepared a habitation for the Lord. Behold, light from heaven shall come and dwell in thee, and through thee shall shine in all the world.”

This story is so common across cultures, that the early Christian missionaries thought that the devil himself was mocking their teachings when they came across these stories.

An interesting tale comes from Hindu mythology. The story is about Pervati, a maiden and daughter of the mountain king, Himalaya. There was a tyrant-titan called “Taraka”, and he gained master of the world. And a prophecy stated that only a son of Shiva (the High God) could stop Taraka. But Shiva was introverted and aloof, spending his time alone and practicing meditation. It didn’t seem likely that he would beget a son anytime soon.

Parvati, however, was adamant in changing the state of the world, and she began to match Shiva in meditation herself. She too became aloof and indrawn to her soul. She fasted naked under the scorching sun, and increased the heat by building four large fires. Her beautiful body shriveled to a “brittle construction of bones, the skin became leathery and hard. Her hair stood matted and wild. The soft liquid eyes burned.”

Until one day, a young Brahmin encountered her, and asked her why someone so beautiful would destroy themselves this way?

“My desire,” she replied, “is Shiva, the Highest Object. Shiva is a god of solitude and unshakable concentration. I therefore am practicing these austerities to move him from his state of balance and bring him to me in love.”

“Shiva,” the youth said, “is a god of destruction. Shiva is the World Annihilator. Shiva’s delight is to meditate in burial grounds amidst the reek of corpses; there he beholds the rot of death, and that is congenial to his devastating heart. Shiva’s garlands are of living serpents. Shiva is a pauper, furthermore, and no one knows anything of his birth.”


The virgin said: “He is beyond the mind of such as you. A pauper, but the fountainhead of wealth; terrifying, but the source of grace; snake-garlands or jewel-garlands he can assume or put off at will. How should he have been born, when he is the creator of the uncreated! Shiva is my love.”


The youth thereupon put away his disguise—and was Shiva.

4. Folk Stories of Virgin Motherhood

A common motif in virgin births is that they could happen inadvertently and easily. Accidentally swallowing a leaf or nut or breathing a breeze could fertilize the womb. The power of procreation is everywhere but carries with it a dangerous uncertainty. The child may either grow up to become a hero savior or a world-annihilating demon.

The virgin birth image is popular in myths and folk tales alike. There is a strange folk tale from Tonga, about the “handsome man” Sinilau. This one is especially interesting, not for its absurdity, but because it touches on every single major motif of the hero’s typical life:

“the virgin birth, the quest for the father, ordeal, atonement with the father, the assumption and coronation of the virgin mother, and finally, the heavenly triumph of the true sons while the pretenders are heated hot.”

The story starts with a man and his wife, who is giving birth to her child. When the time came to deliver the child, she asked her husband to come and lift her, so that she could give birth. But she gave birth to a clam, and her now frustrated husband threw her down. But she didn’t get rid of the clam, instead she left it in Sinilau’s bathing-pool. And when Sinilau came for a bath, and threw the coconut flask that he used to wash himself with to the water, the clam slid towards the husk and sucked it, becoming pregnant as a result.

Eventually, this clam gave birth to a boy called “Fatai-going-underneath-sandalwood.” As time passed, the clam bore another boy who was named “Myrtle-twinedat- random-in-the-atoz.” Both children were left to be cared for by the woman and her husband.

When the children got older, the woman heard of a festival that Sinilau was going to hold. She wanted her grandsons to be there, so she got them ready, and told them that the man who was holding the festival was their father. When the boys arrived, they received looks from all of the people present. All of them women couldn’t help but fix their eyes on them, and a group even asked them to join them. But the boys refused, determined to see their father. They arrived to the place where the kava (a sedative drink) was being enjoyed, and began serving it to others.

But Sinilau was angry at the youths disturbing his festival, so he ordered two bowls to be brought to him. As the boys arrived, he got one of his men to seize one of the boys to cut him up. But when the sharpened bamboo knife was placed on the boy’s body, it slipped instead of cutting through. At that moment the boy said,

“The knife is placed and slips,

Do thou but sit and gaze at us

Whether we are like thee or not.”

Sinilau asked what the boys had said, and they repeated the lines to him. He then ordered the boys to be brought to him, and asked them who their father was. They told him that he was their father. Sinilau then kissed his newfound sons, and told them to get their mother. The boys went to the pool and got the clam, and then took it to their grandmother. The grandmother broke it open, and out came a lovely woman. She was named “Hina-at-home-in-the-river.”

“When they came to Sinilau they found him sitting with his wives. The youths sat one at each thigh of Sinilau, and Hina sat at his side. Then Sinilau bade the people go and prepare an oven, and heat it hot; and they took the wives and their children, and killed and baked them; but Sinilau was wedded to Hina-at-home-in-the-river.”


The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 2: The Virgin Birth) 4

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 1: Emanations)

Part Two: The Cosmogonic Cycle

Marduk and Tiamat
Marduk and Tiamat

Chapter 1: Emanations

1. From Psychology to Metaphysics

Myths resemble dreams, they are both manifestations of the unconscious. Symbols represent unconscious desires, fears, and tensions.

“Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography; history, and cosmology.”

But myths are not the same as dreams although they come from the same source (the unconscious) and have the same language. Myths, unlike dreams, are not products of sleep. They are consciously controlled, and their purpose is to serve as an imagistic representation of social wisdom and spiritual principles. And these principles have remained constant throughout history, on a biological/neurological level, since the same patterns of thought have remained the same cross-culturally, and since our earliest historical records.

Essentially, the “universal doctrine” teaches that everything in the world are the effects of a ubiquitous power. This power which gives things their temporary shape and form, will eventually destroy it. Scientifically, this is known as “energy.” Christians think of it as the power of God, the Hindus conceive of it as “shakti”, while it is known as “libido” to the psychoanalysts.

God and gods are a means of transmitting a message, they are “mere symbols to move and awaken the mind, and to call it past themselves.” Heaven, hell, and all representations of the divine are symbols of the unconscious according to psychoanalysts. In fact, whatever exists in the metaphysical realm exists in the unconscious, and vice versa. The Biblical image of the Fall represents a lapse of super consciousness into the state on unconsciousness.

Consciousness is constricted because we do not see the source of universal power, but only the effects. And this constriction turns super consciousness into unconsciousness, and in the same moment, and by the same way, creates the world. Redemption is found in going back to the state of super consciousness and destroying the world. And this series of events represents the mythical image of the cosmogonic cycle: “the mythical image of the world’s coming to manifestation and subsequent return into the nonmanifest condition.”

And in the same light, the individual’s birth, life and death is a descent into unconsciousness and return. And while still alive, the hero knows and represents “the claims of the super consciousness which throughout creation is more or less unconscious.” The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he was illuminated, it was when he was able to find and open the pathway to light beyond the “dark walls of our living death.”

Mythological symbols can be interpreted in two ways. One, as a sign of people’ ignorance, and the other as a sign of one own’s ignorance, either by reducing psychology to metaphysics, or metaphysics to psychology. Regardless, these symbols give us information through metaphors about man’s destiny, hope, faith, and dark mystery.

2. The Universal Round

So far in this chapter, Campbell has been emphasizing the parallel between the unconscious and mythology. And here he gives into more depth. In the same way we transition between conscious state of mind, to an unconscious slumber mysteriously, the universe (as portrayed in mythology) mysteriously comes in and out of creation. And as the individual’s mental and physical health depends on the reliable pattern of transitioning from waking life to sleep, the “continuance of the cosmic order is assured only by a controlled flow of power from the source.” The gods symbolize the thing that governs this flow.

This was an interesting line about “cyclic conflagration” from the Stoic doctrine that reminded me of the moment in the movie “K-PAX” when Prot says that the universe goes through repeating cycles where the same mistakes are repeated again.

“All souls are resolved into the world soul or primal fire. When this universal dissolution is concluded, the formation of a new universe begins (Cicero’s renovatio), and all things repeat themselves, every divinity, every person, playing again his former part.”

3. Out of the Void – Space

The basic principle of mythology is of the beginning of the end, and in that sense is tragic. Creation myths have a sense of doom to them, but in another sense, it is untragical – since it places our “true being” in an immortal light.

4. Within Space – Life

“Each soul and spirit prior to its entering into this world, consists of a male and female united into one being. When it descends on this earth the two parts separate and animate two different bodies. At the time of marriage, the Holy One, blessed be He, who knows all souls and spirits, unites them again as they were before, and they again constitute one body and one soul, forming as it were the right and left of one individual…This union, however, is influenced by the deeds of the man and by the ways in which he walks. If the man is pure and his conduct is pleasing in the sight of God, he is united with that female part of his soul which was his component part prior to his birth.” – the Hebrew Zohar,

The ultimate experience of love is realizing that an identity that separates male from female is an illusion. This is another recurring theme throughout the book. In Genesis, with the story of Adam and Eve, and in Plato’s Symposium, this idea of “each is both” is represented.

5. The Breaking of the One into the Manifold

There are two essentially different perspectives in mythology. The first involves the existence of the Unmoved Mover who puts things into motion and allows them to interact spontaneously. There is a harmony to how things move about. But when the perspective is shifted towards the people (who the Unmoved Mover put into existence), suddenly, things no longer appear harmonious or smooth. Instead, there is a struggle, and destiny – rather than flowing naturally from a certain course of events – needs to be fixed into shape.

Man experiences the thorns and thistles of the earth and eats bread from the sweat of his brow.

The dichotomy that Campbell calls to our attention is the two modes of myth. The first is when the gods work for the continuity of the cosmogonic cycle, and in the other, the gods are acting against its progress. The second is represented through many ancient myths, one of which is the Babylonian story of Marduk and Tiamat.

In this story, the hero is Marduk (the sun-god) while the victim is Tiamat (demonic, the terrible mother). Tiamat is a “female personification of the original abyss itself: chaos as the mother of gods, but now the menace of the world.” Marduk arms himself with his weapons and confronts Tiamat.

. . . But Tiamat turned not her neck,

With lips that failed not she uttered rebellious words. . . .

Then the lord raised the thunderbolt, his mighty weapon,

And against Tiamat, who was raging, thus he sent the word:

“Thou art become great, thou hast exalted thyself on high,

And thy heart hath prompted thee to call to battle. . . .

And against the gods my fathers thou hast contrived thy wicked plan.

Let then thy host be equipped, let thy weapons be girded on!

Stand! I and thou, let us join battle!”

When Tiamat heard these words,

She was like one possessed, she lost her reason.

Tiamat uttered wild, piercing cries,

She trembled and shook to her very foundations.

She recited an incantation, she pronounced her spell.

And the gods of the battle cried out for their weapons.

Then advanced Tiamat and Marduk, the counselor

of the gods;

To the fight they came on, to the battle they drew nigh.

The lord spread out his net and caught her.

And the evil wind that was behind him he let loose

in her face.

The terrible winds filled her belly,

And her courage was taken from her, and her mouth

she opened wide.

He seized the trident and burst her belly,

He severed her inward parts, he pierced her heart.

He overcame her and cut off her life;

He cast down her body and stood upon it.

And the lord stood upon Tiamat’s hinder parts,

And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.

He cut through the channels of her blood,

And he made the north wind bear it away into secret places….

Then the lord rested, gazing upon her dead body, . . . and

devised a cunning plan. He split her up like a flat fish into two halves;

One half of her he stablished as a covering for heaven.

He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,

And bade them not to let her waters come forth.

He passed through the heavens, he surveyed the regions thereof,

And over against the Deep he set the dwelling of Nudimmud.

And the Lord measured the structure of the Deep….

Heroically, Marduk created a ceiling and a floor for the waters above and beneath, and then in between, created man. But the conflict is not what it seems. Even though Tiamat was slain and dismembered, she was not permanently destroyed.

From another point of view, Tiamat (the chaos monster) shattered herself at will, and her parts moved towards their intended locations. Marduk and all the other gods were nothing but “particles of her substance.” In other words, since they were manifestations of Tiamat herself, they could not possibly triumph against her.

6. Folk Stories of Creation

Folk stories often talk about the arrangement of the world, the creation of man, and the determination of death. It’s not obvious how serious these myths are taken, but they are certainly viewed more as popular fairy tales than as a book of genesis. The stories often represent reality as it “seems to be” rather than how it is, and the element of comedy is not uncommon as well. Another common theme is the existence of a clown who works in opposition to the good creator.

Campbell tells us a story about The Melanesians of New Britain. There was once an obscure being “the one who was first there” who drew two male figures on the ground. He then cut open his own skin and poured blood over the drawings. He then covered the figures with two leaves that he had plucked. And these figures later became known as To Kabinana and To Karvuvu.

To Kabinana climbed a coconut tree and picked two light yellow nuts that were still unripe. He threw them to the ground, and when they broke, became two beautiful women. To Karvuvu was impressed with the women and asked his brother how he created them. “Climb a coconut tree,” To Kabinana said, “pick two unripe nuts, and throw them to the ground while they are pointed upwards.” But To Karvuvu threw the nuts and pointed them downward, and two ugly women emerged instead with flat noses.

On another day, To Kabinana carved a Thum-fish from wood, and sent it off to the ocean where it would live there forever. And these Thum fish drove Malivaran fish towards the shore where To Kabinana waited. To Kabinana then gathered the fish, and again To Karvuvu saw what happened and wanted to know how he could do the same. To Kabinana taught him, but To Karvuvu carved a shark instead of a fish. The shark ate the Malivaran-fish instead of driving them towards the shore. To Karvuvu regreted his decision, and when he explained to his brother that he drew a shark, To Kabinana replied, “You really are a disgusting fellow, now you have fixed it so that our mortal descendants shall suffer. That fish of yours will eat up all the others, and people too.”

The story has some similarities to the Biblical account of Cain and Abel. Rather than viewing this story as a naïve folk tale, you can see how it is a commentary of the existence of good and evil, and how they come about through actions.

It is also very common to represent the antagonist in the story as a clown (Batman). They can either be clever and deceptive or thickheads. And despite their success in the temporal world, their work becomes futile in the face of the transcendental. They mistake “shadow for substance: they symbolize the inevitable imperfections of the realm of shadow, and so long as we remain this side the veil cannot be done away.”

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part II, Chapter 1: Emanations) 5

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 4: The Keys)

Part I: The Adventure of the Hero

The Baptism of Christ
The Baptism of Christ

Chapter 4: The Keys

“The Keys” was a commentary on how myths have become watered down in many different traditions today. But the poetry of mythology is ruined when one considers these texts as scientific or historical – as it is easy to invalidate mythology under those frameworks. The rites and symbolism that exist shouldn’t be regarded as mere superfluous detail, but of primary importance.

The key images in mythology are often hidden and considered secondary because of society’s transition from the mythological to the secular perspective. This is a mistake as the potency of the older images is compromised, the life is taken out of the mythology, and “temples become museums.”

Campbell shows that baptism in Christianity carries a deeper meaning that how it is remembered today. Jesus’ words illustrate the importance of baptism spiritually.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Baptism is popularly interpreted as “washing away original sin.” However, the idea of cleansing should be considered as being of secondary importance. The main consideration is symbolic, and marks the beginning of the spiritual journey – which properly begins when all of implications of the symbolism is followed through.

“The female water spiritually fructified with the male fire of the Holy Ghost is the Christian counterpart of the water of transformation known to all systems of mythological imagery. This rite is a variant of the sacred marriage, which is the source-moment that generates and regenerates the world and man…”

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 4: The Keys) 6

Psychology Notes

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 3: Return)

Part One: The Adventure of the Hero

King Muchukunda
King Muchukunda

Chapter 3: Return

1. Refusal of the Return

After the hero completes his quest, he must still return with his life-changing boon. The usual course of events sees the hero sharing his wisdom with his community, or the world. But this responsibility has often be refused. Campbell cites the Buddha as an example. After his victory, the Buddha was unsure of whether his message could be communicated. And there are many stories of saints and heroes who remain in their eternal state of ecstasy without returning.

There is an ancient Hindu warrior tale of King Muchukunda. After securing victory for the gods who were suffering defeat, Muchukunda was given the opportunity (by the gods) to get anything he wanted. Tired after battle, his only wish was to fall into an eternal sleep, and whoever bothered him would be burned to ashes after Muchukunda sees them. His was granted.

Krishna, a youth who was the incarnation of the Lord of the World, Vishna, assumed the throne, and brought a utopian period of peace to his people. Suddenly, a group of barbarians invaded his kingdom. Being divine, Krishna decided to emerge victorious playfully through using a simple ruse. He appeared before his enemy unarmed and enticed him to follow him into a cave, where King Muchukunda was asleep.

“Oh!” The barbarian thought. “So he has lured me here and now feigns to be a harmless sleeper.”

He kicked the figure sleeping on the ground, and woke Muchukunda – who had been asleep for a very long time. The King’s eyes slowly opened, and his first glance burned the enemy king into a heap of hash. Muchukunda turned his face, and saw Krishna inside the cave. Instantly, Muchukunda recognized the radiance of the youthful Krishna and knew he was an incarnation of God. Muchukunda bowed before him with a prayer:

“My Lord God! When I lived and wrought as a man, I lived and wrought—straying restlessly; through many lives, birth after birth, I sought and suffered, nowhere knowing cease or rest. Distress I mistook for joy. Mirages appearing over the desert I mistook for refreshing waters. Delights I grasped, and what I obtained was misery. Kingly power and earthly possession, riches and might, friends and sons, wife and followers, everything that lures the senses: I wanted them all, because I believed that these would bring me beatitude. But the moment anything was mine it changed its nature, and became as a burning fire.”


“Then I found my way into the company of the gods, and they welcomed me as a companion. But where, still, surcease? Where rest? The creatures of this world, gods included, all are tricked, my Lord God, by your playful ruses; that is why they continue in their futile round of birth, life agony, old age, and death. Between lives, they confront the lord of the dead and are forced to endure hells of every degree of pitiless pain. And it all comes from you!”


“My Lord God, deluded by your playful ruses, I too was a prey of the world, wandering in a labyrinth of error, netted in the meshes of ego-consciousness. Now, therefore, I take refuge in your Presence—the boundless, the adorable—desiring only freedom from it all.”

As Muchukunda left his cave, he found himself to be a giant among men. He decided to leave again, and retreated to the mountains where he dedicated his energy to ascetic actions that would ultimately free him from his final attachment to the forms of being. Muchukunda chose to refused the return again. Could he be blamed?

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 3: Return) 7

Psychology Notes

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 2: Initiation)

Part I: The Adventure of the hero

II. Initiation

King Midas
King Midas

1. The Road of Trials

This stage of the hero journey is often the most exciting. After passing the threshold, the hero moves on to a new landscape where he must survive a series of trials.

Previous generations relied on mythological symbolism and religious tradition to guide them through universal psychological dangers. Today, we face these dangers alone, by relying on guidance that is less powerful and effective. We “enlightened” people have rationalized myths out of existence. But we have managed to maintain their record, and to benefit from them, we must be willing to re-evaluate our presuppositions, and then be ready for the difficulties we will inevitably encounter.

“Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?” Verse (2:214) – The Quranic Arabic Corpus

2. The Meeting with the Goddess

The ultimate adventure, after surviving the trials, involves the marriage of the hero’s soul with the Queen Goddess of the World.

Campbell tells us about an Irish story of some boys went hunting. They got thirsty, and Fergus was the first volunteer to go look for water. He finds a well and an old woman standing guard next to it. She was blacker than coal, with a greenish tusk on her head, blackened eyes, a strange nose, and massive ankles. She looked disgusting. Fergus asked if he could get some water, and she replied he could only if he kisses her on her cheek. The boy said he would rather die from thirst than do that. He went back to his brothers. Olioll, Brian, and Fiachra all went on their own ways and like Fergus, arrived to the same well but were denied the water because they refused to kiss the old woman.

Finally, Niall reached the well, and demanded to have the water. And when she demanded a kiss first, he answered, “forby giving thee a kiss, I will even hug thee!’” He then bends to embrace her and kisses her. When he was done, and looked at her, he saw a beautiful young woman.

‘Here, woman, is a galaxy of charms,’ said the young man. ‘That is true indeed.’ ‘And who art thou?’ he pursued. ‘ “Royal Rule” am I,’ she answered, and uttered this:” ‘King of Tara! I am Royal Rule ‘

‘”Go now,’ she said, ‘to thy brethren, and take with thee water; moreover, thine and thy children’s forever the kingdom and supreme power shall be… And as at the first thou hast seen me ugly, brutish, loathly—in the end, beautiful—even so is royal rule: for without battles, without fierce conflict, it may not be won; but in the result, he that is king of no matter what shows comely and handsome forth.”

Such is rule of life. The goddess guardian of the infinite requires the hero to be endowed with a “gentle heart”, not the animal desire of an Actaeon, or the fastidious revulsion of Fergus.

3. Woman as Temptress

The queen goddess represents total mastery of life. The mystical marriage between the hero and the queen goddess represents the hero’s total mastery of life. Woman is life, and the hero her knower and master. But the hero can only be capable of making the goddess his bride by amplifying his consciousness through the experience of tests. The hero then comes to recognize he and the father as one. He takes the place of the father.

“Thus phrased, in extremest terms, the problem may sound remote the affairs of normal human creatures. Nevertheless, every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late.”

The mythological framework for men and women is a general one. The individual needs to figure out where he currently is in the human formula and use this awareness to cross the next threshold. He needs to identify his ogres (the unsolved personal enigmas), and his ideals.

Often, patients figure out which stage they are in, when they meet with a psychoanalyst. The role of the psychoanalyst is that of the helper or the “initiatory priest.” The dark and horrific adventure then follows.

The central difficulty is that our view of life is rarely accurate. We often refuse to admit “the self-protective, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell.” Instead, we whitewash and perfume our ideas about ourselves, while believing that all the “flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else.”

But when we realize that our motivations are inevitably driven by the flesh (and are impure), we often experience a “moment of revulsion: the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul.”

0, that this too too solid flesh would melt, 

Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix}d

His canon ‘gainst self slaughter! 0 God! God!

So exclaims the great spokesman of this moment, Hamlet:

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this

Oedipus’ initial joy when he possesses the queen is transformed into agony when he finds out who she is. Both Hamlet and Oedipus are influenced by the image of the father. They determine to turn away from the “incest and adultery ridden, luxurious and incorrigible mother” and search the unknown for a higher kingdom.

“The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond her, surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond.”

However, nothing can defend against the presence of the female. Neither the remoteness of the desert nor the monastery walls can do so, because as long as the hermit has blood and flesh, he will be haunted by the images of life

4. Atonement with the Father

“The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider or some loathsome Insect over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as Worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are Ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn Rebel did his Prince; and yet ’tis nothing but his Hand that holds you from falling into the Fire every Moment. O Sinner! You hang by a slender Thread, with the Flame of Divine Wrath flashing about it, and ready every Moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no Interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the Flames of Wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one Moment.” – (Pastor Johnathan)

The ogre aspect of the father reflects the victim’s ego, derived from a childhood fixation on feeling like one is steeped in a sense of sin. This staves away a more mature state of adulthood that has a more balanced, realistic image of the father, and consequently, the world.

Atonement requires you to only abandon the “self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id).” But this calls for eliminating the attachment to ego itself – which is difficult. Only faith in a merciful, forgiving father can help you dissolve the image of the dreadful ogres.

When the child outgrows the comfort of his mother’s breast and faces the world, he passes into adulthood, and spiritually into his father’s sphere. The father, at this point becomes the sign of “future task” for his son, and the sign of “future husband” for his daughter. The father is invariably the initiating priest for his child. And the same way the mother represents both “good” and “evil”, the father too, must deal with the newly created rivalries: the first, between father and son for the mastery of the universe. The second, between daughter and mother to “be the mastered world.”

“The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned.”

The story of Job in the Bible suggests that God doesn’t try to justify himself for what he did to his virtuous servant. Job was a simple and good man, and it was not because of his sins, that his servants were killed, or that his sons were crushed by a collapsing roof. His friends attempted to console him but declared that God (since He was just) had Job what he had deserved. When Job, who was honest, denies committing any sin, he is called a blasphemer by Elihu – for claiming to be more just than God.

When God answers Job, he does not try to vindicate His actions, but demands that Job carry on living forthrightly:

“Gird up thy loins now like a man; I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayst be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud and abase him. Look on every one that is proud and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then I will also confess unto thee that thine own hand can save thee.”

5. Apotheosis

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

The main theme is in this section is that by equating opposites (male: female, time: eternity), you reach the culmination of knowledge.

“When the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the first man, He created him androgynous.”

In the beginning, the human form was perfect, androgynous. The collapse in duality is the fall from perfection (male and female). Then the duality of good and evil was inevitably discovered. God created a wall of separation in the garden, which resulted in exile. Both man and woman were cut off from the vision and image of God.

Campbell criticizes the people of the world that exist through competing bands (totem, flag, party-worshipers). These defy the teachings of sacred text, as he demonstrates in Apotheosis. Christian nations, instead of being renown for unconditional love, are remembered for their historical colonial barbarism. Jesus preaches the conquest of ego, its world, and tribal god.

“I say unto you, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you,what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”Luke, 6:27-36

Once we have broken free of the prejudices of our own provincially limited ecclesiastical, tribal, or national rendition of the world archetypes, it becomes possible to understand that the supreme initiation is not that of the local motherly fathers, who then project aggression onto the neighbors for their own defense.

“The World Savior’s cross, in spite of the behavior of its professed priests, is a vastly more democratic symbol than the local flag.”

Psychoanalysis is a way to cure individuals who suffer from their unconsciously misdirected desires and hostilities, that create imaginary fears and uncertainty. The patient freed from these is able to focus his psychic energy on real, consequential fears given to them by their culture. And those who escape their cultural confines, and pursue a more dangerous journey instead are also misdirected. The point of religious teaching is to cure the individual not only of one type of delusion, but of delusion altogether. And it does this not by “readjusting the desire (eros) and hostility (thanatos)-for that would only originate a new context of delusion-but by extinguishing the impulses to the very root, according to the method of the celebrated Buddhist Eightfold Path:

Right Belief, Right Intentions,

Right Speech, Right Actions,

Right Livelihood, Right Endeavoring,

Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

“With the final “extirpation of delusion, desire, and hostility” (Nirvana) the mind knows that it is not what it thought: thought goes. The mind rests in its true state. And here it may dwell until the body drops away.”

6. The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate boon is immortality, but the aim for physical immortality comes from a misunderstanding of the original texts. The idea is to remove the impediments to one’s vision, so that they can achieve immortality now, as a present fact.

“The heavenly is like Tao. Tao is the Eternal. The decay of the body is not to be feared”

Campbell points out that people ironically usually seek the wrong boon.

“The gods only laugh when men pray to them for wealth.” – Japanese Proverb

When the hero has won the god’s favor, he does not seek perfect illumination. Instead, he asks for more years to live, weapons to kill his enemies, or the health of his family.

The Greek story of King Midas illustrates this point. Midas was lucky enough to be given anything he wanted by Bacchus, and he asked for the ability to turn everything he touches into gold. He first experimented on an oak tree and turned one of its twigs onto gold. He then did the same to stone, and an apple. He was ecstatic and ordered a feast to be prepared in celebration of his boon. But when he sat down to eat, he found that that the wine that he tried to drink turned into liquid gold as it touched his lips. And when his little daughter, who he loved more than anything, came to console him, she transformed into a golden statue.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 2: Initiation) 8

Notes Psychology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 1: The Departure)

Part One – The Adventure of the Hero

Chapter 1: The Departure

Hero's Journey
Hero’s Journey

1. The Call to Adventure

The call to adventure is the first stage of the mythological journey. Destiny calls on the hero to move his spirit outside the comfortable confines of his society and into the zone of the unknown. The unknown harbors both danger and treasure, and is often represented as a distant land, forest, or underground kingdom, or many other variations. The common theme is the existence of strange beings, “unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.”

The hero can choose to go forth on the adventure out of his own will (such as the story of Theseus and Minotaur) or may be sent by a benign or malignant agent (such as the story of Odysseus). The adventure can also start as a blunder.

The Blunder

Campbell cites the story of the princess and the frog. The princess loses her golden ball in a pond. A frog consoles her by fetching the ball for her – but on the condition that she take him with her to her castle and spend time with him. This blunder of the story marks the departure of the hero in the this story, and is a common theme.

“A blunder—apparently the merest chance—reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood. As Freud has shown,2 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.”

The Herald

Campbell tells us two stories and two dreams that illustrate the idea of a herald (a sign of things to come, destiny) that will lead to a transformation. The herald is the announcer of the adventure. Often, it is dark and terrifying evil. But if one follows it, they would be transferred from the safety of the known into the unknown – where the jewels reside. The herald can take the form of a beast, as in fairy tales, which represents the repressed creative energies within us.

One story recounts King Arthur’s pursuit of a hart. King Arthur pursued a great hart that he saw in the forest. He chased it until his horse was exhausted and fell to the ground. The king was then given another horse to continue his pursuit. After he found that the hart was trapped, and his horse was dead, he set the horse by a foundation and fell into deep thought.

As he sat, he heard the noise of hounds. And then he saw the strangest beast approach the well and drink. As the beast drank it made no noise, but as it departed again, it made a lot of noise, which left the King marveled.

The Story of The Buddha

Buddha lived in a castle, where he had access to all the earthly delights he could imagine, including women, food, and entertainment. But after having lived in paradise – he had exhausted himself with the pleasures made available to him, the hero (Buddha), decided to explore the unknown, and the dangerous. He decided to go outside the confines of the paradise his father had built to see the reality of the world.

On separate days, he embarked on this journey with a charioteer and encountered human forms he has never been exposed to: an old man, a sick man, and a dead man. Each day, he was shocked by the ugliness and cruelty of the external world. The charioteer explained to The Buddha why these men ended up how they did, before the Buddha retreated to his palace in grief.

And on each day, his father was informed of what was going on, and he (the father) gave orders to surround the palace with more guards to stop his son from going on these adventures. He wanted to protect him from reality. But he was ultimately unsuccessful.

The Buddha was determined to know more, until one day, he saw a monk, who the charioteer described as someone who has retired from the world. Attracted by this idea, The Buddha decides to do the same.

2. Refusal of the Call

Sometimes in real life and in myths, the call to adventure remains unanswered. Other interests and distractions can turn the hero away.

The consequences, however, are often harsh. The hero may become stuck in a boring routine, hard work, or culture, and lose the power to take initiative. He becomes a victim waiting to be saved. The flowering world he was in “becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless” even though, like King Minos, he may build a large empire.

In a sense, he becomes cursed. No matter what he does, he will only trap himself in a never-ending series of new problems, and tragically await his gradual disintegration.

The story of Apollo, the sun, the god of time and ripeness, eventually stops pursuing Daphne after cupid pierces him with the arrow of love, while piercing her with an arrow made of lead (that will prevent her from feeling love). Daphne refuses to stop for Apollo, and just before he was about to catch her, she calls for her father’s help, and he transforms her into a tree. Apollo names the tree his favorite, and Daphne retreats to the image of her parent (the trees) and found protection. The Oedipal son is a good example of a person who chooses to refuse the call.

The Psychoanalytic literature contains many examples of such desperate fixations. They represent an inability to overcome their infantile ego, with its “sphere of emotional relationships and ideals. One is bound in by the walls of childhood; the father and mother stand as threshold guardians, and the timorous soul, fearful of some punishment, fails to make the passage through the door and come to birth in the world without.”

One of the solutions to this dilemma is willed introversion.

“It is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images. The result, of course; may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete (neurosis, psychosis: the plight of spellbound Daphne); but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost super-human degree of self-consciousness and masterful control.”

The Indian disciplines of Yoga contain the same basic principle. It is not the answer to any specific call, but rather a deliberate and powerful refusal of anything that is not the deepest, most authentic demand from within. It is, in a way, a strike, or rejection of the status quo. As a result, a powerful internal transformation re-frames the problem in a novel and superior way, where it is finally resolved.

3. Supernatural Aid

Those who have not refused the call first encounter a protective figure in their journey. Often, the figure is an old man who provides the hero with weapons to face the beasts he is about to encounter.

4. The Crossing of the First Threshold

As the hero is guided forward in his adventure, he encounters the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the “zone of magnified power.” Beyond these custodians is danger and darkness, the same way there is danger to the infant when his parents aren’t watching, and the member of the tribe’s safety is compromised absent the protection of his tribe.

The typical person is happy to stay inside the bounds of safety and is aided by popular belief- that gives him good reasons to stay away from the unknown and the unexplored.

The adventure is always marked by a transition from the known to the unknown, and the “powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.”

Prince of 5 Weapons

Prince Five-weapons was a name given to a man who had completed his studies under the tutelage of a famous teacher. He was about to enter a forest before he was warned of an ogre that lived there. The ogre was known as “sticky hair” and killed every man it came across. The prince was not afraid and went ahead. He encountered a giant monster that towered high above him.

After an exchange of threats, the prince used his first weapon, the bow and arrow, and shot tens of arrows at the ogre, only to see them all stick to his hair. He then used a large sword, and then a spear, and both stuck to the ogre’s hair. And then he used a club, and it too stuck to the ogre’s hair. The prince then said, “Master ogre, you have never heard of me before. I am Prince Five-weapons. When I entered this forest infested by you, I took no account of bows and suchlike weapons; when I entered this forest, I took account only of myself. Now I am going to beat you and pound you into powder and dust!”

He then struck him with his right hand, which stuck into the ogre’s hair. He did the same with his left hand, and it also stuck. He then struck him with his right foot, and it stuck. Not giving up, he struck the ogre with his left foot, and it also stuck. He then thought, “I will beat you with my head and pound you into powder and dust!” He struck the ogre with his head, and his head also struck to the ogre’s hair. The prince then struck him with his head. That also stuck right to the ogre’s hair. At this point, the prince was hanging on the ogre, but remained fearless.

The ogre thought: “This is some lion of a man, some man of noble birth—no mere man! For although he has been caught by an ogre like me, he appears neither to tremble nor to quake! In all the time I have harried this road, I have never seen a single man to match him! Why, pray, is he not afraid?” Not daring to eat him, he asked: “Youth, why are you not afraid? Why are you not terrified with the fear of death?”

“Ogre, why should I be afraid? for in one life one death is absolutely certain. What’s more, I have in my belly a thunderbolt for weapon. If you eat me, you will not be able to digest that weapon. It will tear your insides into tatters and fragments and will kill you. In that case we’ll both perish. That’s why I’m not afraid!”

Prince Five-weapons was referring to the Weapon of Knowledge within him. This hero turns out to be an earlier incarnation of the Future Buddha. “What this youth says is true, from the body of this lion of a man, my stomach would not be able to digest a fragment of flesh even so small as a kidney bean. I’ll let him go!” And he let Prince Five-weapons go.

The prince then preached the doctrine to him and was able to subdue him. He made the ogre self-denying and transformed him into a spirit that was worthy of receiving offerings in the forest. The young prince then left the forest, and then told his story to human beings, before going his own way.

5. The Belly of the Whale

The Belly of the Whale is a recurring archetypal theme that symbolizes a sphere of rebirth.

Here, the hero does not seem to have triumphantly conquer this threshold, but is swallowed into the unknown, and appears to have died. The belly of the beast can be a journey inwards, of self-reflection and illumination.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Part I, Chapter 1: The Departure) 9