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Thoughts: The Hero With A Thousand Faces

02 Dec

The Hero With a Thousand FacesThe Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The secrets of our existence are shrouded in the stories we tell.

Campbell’s work resonated with me, not because it introduced anything “new”, but because it inspired wonderful ideas for me. His rhetoric flows with steadfast reasoning and scholarly presentation; as if one were reading a paper on physics. Unarguably, every reader weaves their own biased religious or belief baggage into these pages which makes it all the more compelling! He effectively demolishes the borders which separate us – except for one thing, which may prove to be our downfall. But, oh well.

Myths do not seek to explain the physical world but to ponder our experience within it. By discounting such stories as primitive nonsense meant to scientifically map the functions of the physical world, we assume an arrogant perspective which compartmentalizes all ideas into the boxes of our own desires. We want to know why physical bodies behave in such a manner and therefore categorize myths and rituals as devices designed to answer such questions when they inquired into completely separate ideas.

Furthermore, consider the actual reality of such mythical concepts. Dreamers referenced in the book, average people conceptualizing their own personal trials, indicate a hero in all of us. Since many profess such stories as “false”, would one then conclude that our trials are false? And if these stories exist as symbols for the adventure of the hero toward atonement and ultimate realization of the Self, but we disregard them as meaningless hocus-pocus, would it not follow that we consider our ideas as meaningless since our words exist simply as symbols for them?

Consider Columbus’ voyage, a real event, or any voyage during the time when the earth was thought to be flat. The mythical connotations represented by these voyages speak to the nature of our existence, our souls. Discovering the earth’s spherical evolution does not dispel the mythical ideas of adventure and confronting one’s limitations but only the symbolism or mythical descriptors of the essential quality or truth indicated by the myth. Science does not obliterate God but it does force us to understand Him in different terms. We use the physical world to represent our thinking of ourselves. Understanding more about the physical world only changes how we describe that pondering, not the existence of it. We didn’t invent God to explain the world’s physical questions, we use the world to rationalize something absolute but incomprehensible. From a mythical viewpoint, our knowledge of the real physical world serves to symbolize and concretely imagine our journey toward God/enlightenment/deconstruction/being.

Oddly enough, primitive rituals would seem more advanced, in terms of understanding the world and our existence within it, than modern developments. Sure, we know more about the world but have ignored the questioning about our existence – most likely because in this age of empirical evidence (an autonomous system ironically designed to keep our reason controlled) and scientific method, any existence uncharacteristic of our rationale is false.

If one were to graphically plot human progress through history they might see two inverted lines: one ascending toward the pinnacle of technological achievement while the other descends from what we revere today as ancient wisdom and understanding. So where does the human race stand on “advancement”? From one perspective, primitive cultures may represent the most advanced societies because of their roots in myth. From the other perspective, science guides us into a more advanced function of living. Neither perspective can hold absolutely true as subjective preference presides as the only judge. However, rationalizing gods and devils out of reality bears no logical witness against their actual existence. The idea equates to simply turning one’s back and focusing elsewhere.

If the universal hero story is “true” and men exist as mere portions of one glorious Self seeking salvation by realizing this, most of us are screwed. Despite having universal hero tendencies, very few, if any, will become Buddhas or Christs or reach Nirvana. So what is to become of the common man?

Then again, what myths do we have anymore? What words do we hear symbolizing and indicating the way? Once we fostered a natural inclination to arise from the abysmal existence of decaying life and into the eternal bliss of our true nature of “soul”, energy, what have you. Has the common man lost the will to confront things he cannot explain?

What would that mean?

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Joseph Campbell

 

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