The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Anglais) Relié – 5 avril 1973
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Les Américains le considère comme un monument, et ils n'ont pas tort.
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No, I'm not setting Campbell up as a prophet or anything like that, indeed, I suspect that this book's greatness lies in the eternal truths that transcend Campbell's individual personality. He just managed to tap into them- thank God.
The entire book deals with the hero's journey. This is the Monomyth shared by all cultures- and indeed seems to be a direct inspiration from the cosmos itself by way of the collective unconscious. Here we have the eternal cycle of 1) the call to adventure; 2) the crossing of the threshold; 3) the tests, trials, and helpers; 4) the sacred marriage, apotheosis (becoming one with god), or elixir theft; 5)the flight 6) recrossing/ressurection; and 7) the return to society with hard won gifts. He examines all of these elements in depth with a wealth of cross-cultural examples. The first half of the book deals with this cycle on a more individual and personal level (the microcosm), while the second half deals with the greater cosmogonic importance (the macrocosm.)
Now, the really amazing part of all this is that virtually all of it comes across as meaningful, interesting, and totally nonacademic. That's why academic types hate Campbell, and his mentor Jung,- they know that Campbell's and Jung's works will endure and be read a thousand years from now, while their own monographs will be justly forgotten. There are a lot of mediocre Ph.D's out there that can never forget that Campbell never bothered to get a doctorate, because he considered such degrees to be a worthless and meaningless waste of time....
I've read this particular edition three times now- it is well designed and manufactured and has resonable sized print. I've also listened to the entire audio version at least twice- it is well edited and it is very difficult to figure out where exactly it is abridged.
I have discovered that this book is probably one of the most influential, widely read books of the 20th century. It's no wonder the author, Joseph Campbell, was featured in a Bill Moyers special on The Power of Myth (with an accompanying book, as usual for Bill Moyer's specials.)
I was reading books on writing-- on story structure-- Particularly, Christopher Vogler's excellent Writer's Journey, and it was based on this book. Ironically, I was already reading another of Campbell's series of books on myth. But then I started looking deeper into this realm-- the idea of the Hero's journey, -- the call to adventure, refusing the call, finding a mentor, encountering threshold guardians, crossing the threshold, facing the worst evil, winning the elixir--- and I discovered that dozens of books have been written about the concepts Joseph Campbell first broached.
It's such a powerful idea, and so useful in conceptualizing life's changes. I used it as an element in a presentation I just gave this past weekend on how the art and science of story can be applied to healing and helping people grow. 80% of the people attending the lecture were familiar with the concept.
This is such powerful material, you might consider essential for helping you understand the way movies are made, and how the contemporary world has been affected by advertising and the loss of sacred rituals in everyday life.
One way I gauge a book is by how many marks I make in the margins, to indicate wise ideas or quotable material ( I collect quotes, and quotation books big-time, owning over 400 quotation books) and this book's margins are just packed. The depth of knowledge in mythology and anthropology is awesome, providing a wealth of examples, metaphors, ancient stories and myths which deepen your understanding of human nature. The only problem with this book is how often, in conversations, I've found it to be relevant, whether talking about a friend who is going through some tough times, or someone who is making some changes in his business.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a comparative study of the religions and myths of the world. Its central theme is that all of their stories are essentially the same. They follow certain archetypal paths that are different in particular circumstances, but in general, follow the same overall arch. Now, this is not 100% true as even he admits - stories get changed around a bit and different things happen, but to the extent that he makes his point, the similarities are astonishing. His conclusion - or ONE possible interpretation - is that this reflects certain archetypal themes that are in every society's collective subconscious (Jung) and that these myths represent eternal truths about life...how to look at it and how to live it.
Now, as to the criticism that his examples don't bear out his theories, Campbell states that he is just choosing an example or two to illustrate his point. The purpose of this book is not to be a comprehensive collection of the world's myths - that book is The Golden Bough. Campbell selects myths that the average reader may not be familiar with. While sometimes similarities may not be immediately apparent, it is open to disagreement as any essay on literature is. Campbell warns though that these myths must be ready as poetry, not prose - so beware of any callow analysis. Personally, I would have like his using more familiar myths - especially Arthurian legends - to illustrate his point.
As for his seeming to rely on Freud and Jung as gospel, that is a bit dated. Even so, the fact that his theories do jibe with Jungian psychology is significant - if not actual "proof" that he's right. And as for disagreements with his world-view, that is irrelevant. Campbell has developed a framework with which to view the world; you do not have to draw the same conclusions from it that he does. Campbell did not believe in a personal God, and I believe he is wrong about that. But the underlying message to me is that, even though people may have divergent beliefs about religion, the underlying ideas and values of religion ARE DEMONSTRATABLY TRUE.
Campbell goes through each stage of the hero's journey, with all its variations. This is meant not only as academia but it is for YOU - the READER. This is how one views one's own life. These ancient stories were not just for entertainment - they showed us how to live. That's what this book is for.
If you read some of the negative reviews you will get the impression Campbell tries to provide you with answers to life's great mysteries. This is false. Instead, he borrows vocabulary from a staggering variety of the world's mythologies to describe that mystery. You will also get the impression that Campbell thinks he found the one and only way to interpret mythology. This is also false. On page one of the epilogue he says, "There is no final system for the interpretation of myths, and there will never be any such thing." You may also get the impression that Campbell was a mystic or part of the New Age movement. Again, false. When asked what method of meditation he practices, he once responded, "I underline sentences." In other words, he is a scholar.
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