The Monomyth, Joseph Campbell, and Me

Damn I hate it when this happens. I didn’t pick up this book to learn something about myself. It’s not me I was trying to impress.

The quick synopsis that won’t get you even a “D” on any pop-quiz is this: The Hero With a Thousand Faces is Joseph Campbell’s influential study of world mythology. He set out to explain his hypothesis that every story has already been told, and will, necessarily, be told again, and within this is the journey and the need for the journey. Campbell uses the hero’s journey as a means to understand the universality between life and literature.

The journey is something innate and common in everyone. Campbell asserts being aware of our own journey, and using each step along the path to achieve something, is the secret to happiness.

I am on a journey. I tried to return home too soon. My adventures and experiences are not complete. Neither is my story. I use the practice of story-telling to my own purpose, as do all story-tellers.

“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form.” Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Stories come from the experiences of humanity as a whole. This is why the hero has a thousand faces.

We are each a hero. We venture from our everyday world into something supernatural. We battle forces and emerge sometimes scathed, every time enlightened, if we listen. We return home to tell our tales.

The journey is not a choice. There is a catalyst across the threshold. We enter our supernatural world, our existence beyond our visible universe, with trepidation. The journey is guided by a higher power, someone with more experience, more knowledge, and more patience. And here is where I stop understanding with experience. I have certainly started sharing knowledge, but my journey is not yet complete. I am at 7 8.

"We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path."

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.”

My journey began when I escaped Donkey. The catalyst across the threshold was a threshold. (1) I was in my ordinary world of abuse. It escalated and he said, I never wanted to do that again. (2) I knew I had to leave; I was called to change my situation. (3) We moved to Florida two months later.

(4) I spoke with lawyers, DV court advocates, and shelter counselors. I spoke at length with Llona. (5) I stayed at her shelter for six weeks. (6) The divorce took two years to complete, and even though the Final Judgement has been signed, sealed, and delivered, it lives on as a Motion to Amend.

(7) I faced darkness and lived in it. (8) One journey is crossing paths with another. (9) I wonder if I’ll know, or trust that I know, when I have landed safely on the island of enlightenment. (10) I tried to return home before the trials, allies, and enemies. Full-circle as it is, I am where I needed to be at the start of this.

When the journey is complete, the story, the experience, and the knowledge is to be shared. I am sharing early, but every skeleton’s skin is its own.

References:

116 thoughts on “The Monomyth, Joseph Campbell, and Me

      • Hi Melanie! I enjoyed your post, which I linked to from Freshly Pressed. Congrats! I wanted to recommend “The Heroine’s Journey” by Maureen Murdock. It tracks Campbell’s hero’s journey from a female perspective. Thought it was interesting that I found your post by chance as I’m reading the book, and felt I had to comment! I’ve followed and look forward to more posts.

    • Thought is a gift. Thank you for the highest of compliments, also a gift. I’d be interested to hear the results of said thinking, if you have the time and desire.

  1. Hi, I found this post while being professionally interested in “storytelling”, check out the recent book “The Story Wars”, also refers to Campbell a lot. Then I understood the “donkey story” (took a while, I´m German…). Thanks for speaking out on the issue and all the best for you and the kids – I hope you reach the “10″ which, as far as I know, includes bringing a big, fat treasure home ;-)

    • Danke. Meine Deutsch ist nicht gut. Ich verlor es mit Alter. Ich lese “Story Wars.” Danke für die Bemerkung. Ich hoffe ein grosses Geschenk zu meine Haus zu bringen.

  2. What a wonderful combination of subtlety and directness. This makes me want to read more of your story, and I will! Glad FP introduced me to you. Love, too, Dante’s portrayal of the spiral journey – we travel up and around the spiral, so we encounter the same things time after time, but our perspective is different — higher. Either way, it’s circular, and it all leads towards a redemption of the pain, if we follow the path we’re given. Blessings and be well – glad you escaped. That takes so much courage.
    Melanie
    p.s. – I like your name : -)

    • I like your name too. It’s a good one. Just common enough that people have heard it, but not so common that everyone has it.
      Dante is another good one. They both talk about being willing to be on the journey and there’s something to be said for that.

    • I looked up that book. It is definitely going in my book queue. I just finished reading “The Poet of Tolstoy Park” for a second time (first time is my post titled Hermit Highway). I enjoy reading books more than once. I learn what happens the first time and how it happens the second, and sometimes third, time.

    • Absolutely. One lifetime transcends another and we strive to become stronger and wiser with each step along the road to enlightenment. Living stone Seagull is a wonderful book, as too your post!

  3. My journey may not be as painful as yours, but I take comfort in the fact that when I look at the Journey of a Hero map, I know that enlightenment will come, that the pain and the tribulations are lessons wrapped in a bitter pill, that I will emerge from the journey hopefully wiser, more discerning, and better prepared for my next journey. The battle scares and battle scars are reminders of growing up and becoming more human.

    May you emerge from your journey victorious and whole.

    • I happy to hear the map gave you some comfort. I think if we believe we return from our journeys wiser, more discerning, and better prepared for our next journey, then we will. I hope yours brings you success.

      • Every day is a journey; the difference rests on how long it takes. It takes all forms – from making a decision which school to enter, or which vocation to embrace, or living a life free from abuse and violence, we all make our own Lemniscates. Awareness, Consciousness and Choice plays a big part in our journey. We cannot finish the journey without these traits.

  4. Joseph is good but Carl Jung takes it a step further… ;> They both get a cause and effect thing going that is wonderful… it is called synchronicity… and to share is the key to you and their knowing…;;> we are all in this together.!! Journey on OH CAPTAIN !!

  5. That is an inspiring journey you have shown, I think your right that by discovering the commonalities of Campbells journey we will have an easier time understanding ourselves and we must overcome along the way, the stories of the gods always mimicking our own because that is what we need in order to carry on. It’s funny, I work for a company http://www.playgroundentertainmentgroup.com and there is a certain degree of mythology used in a modern context to help children become better people. Again thank you for sharing as I enjoyed reading your post.

  6. I haven’t yet read through all your blogs (i will) I am new to this, so bear with me… but this post caught my eye, and i wanted to wish you well… and to agree, the Hero’s Journey is a remarkable one, and Joseph Campbell’s work is amazing when you read it… enlightening. I wonder if you have read Vogler’s ‘Writers Journey’? It is based on Campbell’s work, and in my opinion is equally amazing.. i was completely overwhelmed with it when i first got hold of a copy.. and it is very apt for one who is sharing their story as you are.

    • The Writer’s Journey sounds like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m reading Campbell’s “Myths To Live By” right now. It’s another gem. I’m enjoying his writing.
      Thank you, also, for the well wishes.

      • My pleasure… a collection of ‘gems’ serves us well on such journeys:-) Never give up. I have read a few of your other posts since i was on earlier, and they are heart breaking and too familiar… you are very brave. Leaving is not always the ending people assume, but often merely the middle. Your ending will come though, as will your new beginning. Keep strong, keep reading… and keep writing, it is really admireable and it WILL get you through:-) x

        • So it actually turns out I have read part of The Writer’s Journey, but it was a single segment online and I didn’t connect the two until I was almost asleep. It’s the third bullet in my references list.
          I was completely pulled into the writing. I read the entire selection without hearing anything go on around me. It was this writing that solidified the thought about everyone being a hero, about the thousand faces being the thousand people who, every day, knowingly or not, had decided to fight their fight.
          Must finish entire book…

  7. But sometimes, the limages of evil and good are quite blurred, and they mix with each other…it leaves you doubting if you’re on the “right” side. What would you do then?
    On the other hand, I loved this post, I’m saving it to me computer (if that’s all right)!

    • You make a good point. The lines between good and evil are often hard to discern. I know there were times I was fully on the evil side, but I like to think I’ve landed on the good side. Sometimes it’s hard to know. Sometimes it’s hard to care.

      Thank you. Of course it’s all right. I appreciate the compliment.

  8. L love travelling, but seldom put it into my calendar. Cos’z I can often find excuses like not enough money, no holidays, no accompanies etc. for not getting out. All is really annoying, so I will have to travel in day dreams.

    • Travel doesn’t have to be a grand planned out event. I often take a half day and drive somewhere close and free, or close to free. I like history and it’s easy in Georgia to go somewhere in just a few hours and find somewhere to spend a few hours and few dollars. I also use the drive to listen to books.

    • Thank you much. It’s amazing. Everyone has been so nice. I’ve had fun with it. And the numbers! Oh, the numbers. I will never see stats like this again. :)

      • No kidding! I had a post Freshly Pressed. It still accounts for about 10% of my total views in a year. But you’ll get some new people who stick with you, and that’s the important thing.

        • I read your pressed post yesterday. I missed it back in August, but that was right around when I had to take the kids back after our summer together.
          It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve enjoyed meeting new people.

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  10. This was a great post! You’ve in a way summarized what many stories tell and kept the wisdom in there. I also personally believe tat we are all ‘heroes’ , I simply believe that we all have things that we need to do, we all have dreams and we need to do our best to reach them and that’s how we remain happy. Your dreams can be anything but to you it’ll mean the world. Obviously, there are things that’ll stop you from getting there and that’s where we learn lessons. Sometimes, it’s through these lessons that we reach our goals. What you’re going through is not easy, keep at it and hope your achieve your goal.

  11. Woo! Freshly Pressed! As far as the contents of the post… beautifully written, well expressed, eloquent and intricate in thought as always. :) *hugs* You are definitely a hero!

    • I don’t know about brave. I’ve already endured danger and pain; this is just the story of that. I don’t know why I can tell either, except that I like to write and there’s plenty to write about with this.
      Thank you for reading.

  12. I’m studying in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence, where Joseph Campbell taught for most of his career. I discovered his work long before, however, and the hero’s journey has always remained a key component of how I not only plot my stories, but how I try to think about my life. Thanks for the great post.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I was introduced to Campbell in college, and I read parts of this book as research for a paper on a Robert Frost poem, but I never saw it in my own life until now, at least not like this. I also picked up his collection of Cooper Union lectures “Myths to Live By”. I’m fascinated, and I’m at a point in my life to be open to new interpretations.

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  14. How delightful to see such a thoughtful post featuring, among other things, Joseph Campbell.

    Glancing back on my own life at the age of 78 (and counting) I realize that joseph Campbell probably influenced my philosophy of life & living more than any other writer.

    Clint (my real name)

    • Thank you Clint. I think when I’m 78 and looking back I will probably say the same thing about Campbell. I really feel like I’ve learned something about myself, as well as reading and writing.
      Thank you.

  15. Thanks for an enlightening post. I’m glad to find and to follow your wonderful style. Congrats on FP, may your numbers always be this high! And having travelled the DV -Court System yellow brick road to nowhere, I commend you on your persistence in staying on track. All the best to you and yours. ALWAYS. – A survivor.

    • Thank you for the compliment. I doubt my numbers will always be that high. I think that’s ok for now.
      Persistence is the only thing that gets any attention in the court system. I hope it works.

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  17. LOVE YOUR BLOG!!! Have you heard of the documentary FINDING JOE? Its all about Joseph Campbell’s teachings and how to apply them to our lives. Id love to send you out a copy to share with your community.

  18. Looking at a literal and visual chart of the journey just reminded me my path as a Priestess has been very much like what’s on the chart, however some events occurred at different times compared to others. Like the “Darkness” happened before I found my path as a Priestess, though it has tried to “revisit” a few times in my life after the worst of the Darkness I have experienced.

    When you reach your Island of Enlightenment, I have a feeling you will know when you have as I believe I will know when I have reached mine. I wish you luck and blessings upon your journey anyway despite my feelings of Faith. ;) :) Never hurts.

    • Thank you. I hadn’t picked him up in years either, since my college days when he was required reading. I’m glad I sought out this book for a second reading.

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