Joseph Campbell, Class of 1925

The author (1904-1987) on mythology and bliss

NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Author of 17 books, including The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), considered one of the most influential books of the last 100 years and acknowledged as an influence by Star Wars creator George Lucas
  • Studied math and biology at Dartmouth (1921-22) before transferring to Columbia; later studied Carl Jung, James Joyce, and Sanskrit; spent one five-year period reading nine hours a day
  • Professor at Sarah Lawrence College (1934-72); married Jean Erdman in 1938
  • Awarded National Arts Club Gold Medal of Honor in Literature in 1985
  • Popularity surged posthumously when PBS aired Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers in 1988

“People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we are seeking is an experience of being alive.”

“Remember the last line of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt? ‘I have never done the thing that I wanted to do in all my life.’ That is a man who never followed his bliss.”

“The world is perfect. It is a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

“How does the ordinary person come to an experience of the transcendent? For a start, I would say, study poetry. Learn how to read a poem. You need not have the experience to get the message, or at least some indication of the message.”

“I don’t write unless the stuff is really working on me, and my selection of material depends on what works. Usually, with mythology, you are almost cheating, because it’s all in shape anyhow. All the elementary ideas are there. You only have to recognize them, and the work cooks.” “I was totally fed up with Dartmouth. So I left there and I switched to Columbia.”

“The chaos in the world today is not a function of the illumination of humanity today; it’s a function of the bungling of a bunch of self-interested politicians.”

“The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, ‘Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well there’s not enough of you there.’ And so it starts.”

“Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something out. The earth must be broken to bring forth life.”

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

“No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities. It’s a shame to waste those by doing what someone else has done.”

“I think the idea of life after death is a bad idea. It distracts you from appreciating the uniqueness of the here and now.”

“Follow your bliss.”

Portfolio

Shared Experiences
Excerpts from “Why Black Men Nod at Each Other,” by Bill Raynor ’74
One of a Kind
Author Lynn Lobban ’69 confronts painful past.
Going the Distance

How Abbey D’Agostino ’14 became one of the most prolific athletes in Dartmouth history. 

Joseph Campbell, Class of 1925
The author (1904-1987) on mythology and bliss

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