As I posted a few years ago in “At What Stage Are You in Your Hero’s Journey?” I drew from Joseph Campbell’s pioneering work on mythology in writing my only work of fiction, Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work. Campbell’s life work focused on exploring how religions, philosophies, arts and “the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic ring of myth.”
Campbell wrote and edited dozens of books on comparative mythology and religion. His books and thousands of lectures focused on finding the “monomyth” and core spiritual and psychological themes that all societies for thousands of years have used to deal with the challenges of life and find successful passage through life’s stages. George Lucas was highly influenced by Campbell’s classic 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces when he wrote and produced his blockbuster Star Wars movie.
Campbell often summarized his core philosophy with advice to “follow your bliss.” He doesn’t mean living a hedonistic life of pleasure seeking. Following our bliss is answering the call to adventure by embarking on our “hero’s journey” searching for our “holy grail” — finding our deep personal meaning and living an authentic life true to our values and reason for being. The great trap is following someone else’s path or what parents, friends, spouses, institutions, or society calls success.
Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind by Stephen and Robin Larsen is an authorized biography of his remarkable life. It’s an inspiring and deep look at a highly authentic and original trail blazer. Reading his personal journal entries and his prolific and insightful letters as he struggled to discover and follow his bliss provides a rich context and understanding for his huge body of work. Campbell’s love of research, learning, and extensive study is mindboggling. He learned new languages and dived deep into local cultures and traditions as he lived, traveled, and studied in Europe, India, Japan, and other countries in the early to mid-20th century.
I highly recommend A Fire in the Mind for anyone familiar with and interested in Campbell’s work. Readers don’t need to be familiar with his work to enjoy and gain insights and guidance from this engaging and well written story of an authentic life very well lived.
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