Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 1988

It's about:

"The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual potentialities of every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke their powers in our own lives."

This book is based on a series of conversations between journalist Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, a well known scholar in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion. They converse on a number of topics having to do with the nature of mythology in modern and past societies, and its effect on the human experience.

What I drew from this book was first and foremost a more clear understanding on how to read deeply into a narrative, specifically in understanding the function of metaphor. Campbell and Moyers discuss how the basic framework of myth parallels a spiritual framework within the self, then acts a sort of spiritual map to guide one through the journey of life using differing sets of symbols. Campbell describes how these symbols work using a whole bunch of cool examples.

Basically, this book will tell you how ancient and modern mythology relates directly and personally with you, and what to do about it.

I thought:

I loved this book. Not only did I learn more than I ever expected about mythology and religion, but I also learned more about the nature of literature and gained insight into my own spirituality.

The transcript form of this book was a little strange to get used to, though I think the conversational nature of this layout made such a theoretical topic much more accessible and compelling to read.

If you just read one chapter of this book, please please read chapter 5: The Hero's Adventure.


Stick it on the shelf, or at least check it out from the library and look through it! It will change you.


There is a bit of sexuality and violence in here, simply because Campbell uses specific myths that deal with these issues to illustrate his ideas.

Favorite excerpts:

"To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what the myth does for you [. . .] I mean a vocabulary in the form not of words but of acts and adventures, which connotes something transcendent of the action here, so that you always feel in accord with the universal being."

"Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that's what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you."

"Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are artists of one kind or another. The function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world."

If anyone actually reads this book I will take you to lunch. I'm dying to discuss it with someone!