Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Reflections on Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey
Category:
Spirit
"The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is the cardinal initiation of every heroic adventure—fearlessness and achievement." —Joseph Campbell

This month marks what would have been Joseph Campbell’s 116th birthday. A revered mythologist who spent many of his birthdays teaching at Esalen, he once said, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

For many people, that was Joe. His fervent quest to understand and embody the courageous hero’s journey found in ancient myths—and to share how deeply embedded those tales were in the stories of our own lives—influenced millions of people.

His seminal book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and 1988’s Power of Myth television series with Bill Moyers, offered a road map to connect the mythic and modern-day worlds—a courageous act in that it allows individuals to explore and engage with archetypal patterns within themselves.

“Joe was a master teacher, a mentor to me and a colleague—my dancing partner in mind, body and spirit,” says Chungliang "Al" Huang, longtime Esalen faculty, Tai Ji teacher and founder of the Living Tao Foundation. “Our 10 consecutive years of teaching together during his birthday week [March 26] at Esalen had been the most treasured times in my lifelong learning. Joe helped us open our minds to world culture through teaching world mythology, which is applicable in everyday living.”

Born in White Plains, New York, Joe became consumed with Native American culture at a young age and it shaped his worldview. As an adult, he was greatly influenced by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and when he spent nearly a year living in Pacific Grove, Calif., he found himself in great company with John and Carol Steinbeck, and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. The success of The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949 fueled his future works, The Hero’s Journey and Myths to Live By among them.

Joe had been a professor at Sarah Lawrence College when he began teaching at Esalen in 1965. Author and former Esalen faculty Lynne Kaufman recalls how inspired she was by Joe’s very first Esalen lecture that year, calling his mind “encyclopedic.”

“He never used a note,” Lynne says. “One of the stories he shared about the underworld was about Orpheus and Eurydice and he went on to introduce an important idea he had about how mythology, great literature and great art made you transparent to the transcendent. That speaks to what the entire experience was like that first time. Joe was masterful. The material moved through him. He was like this magnet for meaningful metaphors.”

When asked why she feels so many people were interested in Joe’s work, Lynne says that it brought people together and into the “one”—our commonality.

“One of his great gifts was the story of the hero’s journey or the monomyth; that this human adventure was cross-cultural and applied to everyone’s life and that it wasn’t just for the Star Wars hero, although certainly George Lucas understood that and was a big fan of Joe’s work,” Lynne says.

“When Joe talked about ‘following your bliss,’ what he was talking about was following your path, something that was authentic and meaningful to you and disconnected to the wider community. The point of the hero’s journey is that after discovering the obstacles and discovering who you are, you bring that boom or gift back to the community. It was a sense of blending your individual passion with the wider, deeper good. He lived that life.”

A Hero For Our Times

When Joe died in 1987, Newsweek wrote, “Campbell has become one of the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture.”

Today, Joe’s work continues to have tremendous influence. Even for Bill Moyers, who retired in 2017 from overseeing the website, BillMoyers.com. In February of this year, the website’s editor asked Bill a compelling question about society’s current state of affairs: What would Joseph Campbell think?

“I don’t know what in particular Joseph Campbell would say about our situation today,” Moyers wrote. “But I can imagine him lamenting, as he did when we talked some 30 years ago, our failure ‘to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever that is endemic to human nature.’ Malevolent greed was on the loose then—it was the mid-1980s as Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko popularized the mantra that “greed is good”—and the disease was infectious.

“So I am sure he would not be inclined to place all the blame for the vulgarity and decadence of today on a single individual, no matter how venal, but would say that one conspicuous culprit is the symptom, not the cause, of our discontent.”

Al believe that Joe’s wisdom can be used as a vital tool for society in 2020 and beyond.

“More than ever, Joe’s work will help heal our current divisive society to transcend nationalistic boundaries and find peace and harmony in the ‘oneness’ in the world,” he shares. “I believe Joe’s work can help all people on this planet become fully human again.”

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Reflections on Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Spirit
"The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is the cardinal initiation of every heroic adventure—fearlessness and achievement." —Joseph Campbell

This month marks what would have been Joseph Campbell’s 116th birthday. A revered mythologist who spent many of his birthdays teaching at Esalen, he once said, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

For many people, that was Joe. His fervent quest to understand and embody the courageous hero’s journey found in ancient myths—and to share how deeply embedded those tales were in the stories of our own lives—influenced millions of people.

His seminal book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and 1988’s Power of Myth television series with Bill Moyers, offered a road map to connect the mythic and modern-day worlds—a courageous act in that it allows individuals to explore and engage with archetypal patterns within themselves.

“Joe was a master teacher, a mentor to me and a colleague—my dancing partner in mind, body and spirit,” says Chungliang "Al" Huang, longtime Esalen faculty, Tai Ji teacher and founder of the Living Tao Foundation. “Our 10 consecutive years of teaching together during his birthday week [March 26] at Esalen had been the most treasured times in my lifelong learning. Joe helped us open our minds to world culture through teaching world mythology, which is applicable in everyday living.”

Born in White Plains, New York, Joe became consumed with Native American culture at a young age and it shaped his worldview. As an adult, he was greatly influenced by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and when he spent nearly a year living in Pacific Grove, Calif., he found himself in great company with John and Carol Steinbeck, and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. The success of The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949 fueled his future works, The Hero’s Journey and Myths to Live By among them.

Joe had been a professor at Sarah Lawrence College when he began teaching at Esalen in 1965. Author and former Esalen faculty Lynne Kaufman recalls how inspired she was by Joe’s very first Esalen lecture that year, calling his mind “encyclopedic.”

“He never used a note,” Lynne says. “One of the stories he shared about the underworld was about Orpheus and Eurydice and he went on to introduce an important idea he had about how mythology, great literature and great art made you transparent to the transcendent. That speaks to what the entire experience was like that first time. Joe was masterful. The material moved through him. He was like this magnet for meaningful metaphors.”

When asked why she feels so many people were interested in Joe’s work, Lynne says that it brought people together and into the “one”—our commonality.

“One of his great gifts was the story of the hero’s journey or the monomyth; that this human adventure was cross-cultural and applied to everyone’s life and that it wasn’t just for the Star Wars hero, although certainly George Lucas understood that and was a big fan of Joe’s work,” Lynne says.

“When Joe talked about ‘following your bliss,’ what he was talking about was following your path, something that was authentic and meaningful to you and disconnected to the wider community. The point of the hero’s journey is that after discovering the obstacles and discovering who you are, you bring that boom or gift back to the community. It was a sense of blending your individual passion with the wider, deeper good. He lived that life.”

A Hero For Our Times

When Joe died in 1987, Newsweek wrote, “Campbell has become one of the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture.”

Today, Joe’s work continues to have tremendous influence. Even for Bill Moyers, who retired in 2017 from overseeing the website, BillMoyers.com. In February of this year, the website’s editor asked Bill a compelling question about society’s current state of affairs: What would Joseph Campbell think?

“I don’t know what in particular Joseph Campbell would say about our situation today,” Moyers wrote. “But I can imagine him lamenting, as he did when we talked some 30 years ago, our failure ‘to admit within ourselves the carnivorous, lecherous fever that is endemic to human nature.’ Malevolent greed was on the loose then—it was the mid-1980s as Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko popularized the mantra that “greed is good”—and the disease was infectious.

“So I am sure he would not be inclined to place all the blame for the vulgarity and decadence of today on a single individual, no matter how venal, but would say that one conspicuous culprit is the symptom, not the cause, of our discontent.”

Al believe that Joe’s wisdom can be used as a vital tool for society in 2020 and beyond.

“More than ever, Joe’s work will help heal our current divisive society to transcend nationalistic boundaries and find peace and harmony in the ‘oneness’ in the world,” he shares. “I believe Joe’s work can help all people on this planet become fully human again.”

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Reflections on Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey
Category:
Spirit

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About

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Reflections on Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

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