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Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation

Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation
By Joseph Campbell

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A look at the way in which myths work on and for the psychological and spiritual development of the individual.

Product Description

Joseph Campbell famously defined myth as “other people's religion.” But he also said that one of the basic functions of myth is to help each individual through the journey of life, providing a sort of travel guide or map to reach fulfillment — or, as he called it, bliss. For Campbell, many of the world's most powerful myths support the individual's heroic path toward bliss.

In Pathways to Bliss, Campbell examines this personal, psychological side of myth. Like his classic best-selling books Myths to Live By and The Power of Myth, Pathways to Bliss draws from Campbell's popular lectures and dialogues, which highlight his remarkable storytelling and ability to apply the larger themes of world mythology to personal growth and the quest for transformation. Here he anchors mythology's symbolic wisdom to the individual, applying the most poetic mythical metaphors to the challenges of our daily lives.

Campbell dwells on life's important questions. Combining cross-cultural stories with the teachings of modern psychology, he examines the ways in which our myths shape and enrich our lives and shows how myth can help each of us truly identify and follow our bliss.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #26245 in Books
  • Published on: 2004-10-26
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 8.75" h x 5.75" w x 1.25" l, .83 pounds
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 224 pages

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
This ninth volume of Campbell's previously unpublished material deftly marries his sweeping grasp of myths with the needs of contemporary people looking for meaning and inspiration. Expert editor and seasoned Campbell authority David Kudler makes the mythic-stature-mythicist come alive again. Fans will recognize Campbell's comforting cadence and intimacy, conveyed by use of the second person and by his masterful storytelling. Campbell realized he was essentially saying the same things over more than two decades. As such, this volume breaks no new ground, but does give explicit directions for identifying and connecting oneself to a meaningful mythic overview, unbounded by specific cultures or historical facts. Campbell gives adequate coverage to the historical development of myth as it pertains to the individual, especially through the eyes of Jung. The final chapter, a distilled jewel of the hero's journey mono-myth that Campbell made famous, is followed by "Dialogue," several pages of conversation between Campbell and anonymous people, exploring the application of gender differences to the hero's journey. Campbell assesses life now as pathless: "We are in a sort of free fall into the future." He is, however, perennially hopeful that if we discover our own mythological underpinnings, carried on the wings of artists and poets, we can find our way to individual bliss. This is a fine volume for old friends and new followers.
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If you followed the television series with Bill Moyers or have read any of Campbell's books, this book presents a new look at some of his ideas and a clearer picture of how to interpret myths for your own journey. --Bayswater Books

Wonderful insight into the essential Joseph Campbell... a guidebook for finding one's own inner hero or heroine, and for finding the guts to listen to one's own story.  --Bloomsbury Review

“No one in our century — not Freud, not Thomas Mann, not Lévi-Strauss — has so brought the mythical sense of the world and its eternal figures back into our everyday consciousness.”
— James Hillman

“Campbell has become the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture.”
— Newsweek

“In our generation the mythographer who has had the fullest command of the huge scholarly literature, the analytic ability, the lucid prose, and the needed staying power has been Joseph Campbell.”
— Commentary

About the Author
JOSEPH CAMPBELL was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood he became interested in mythology. He loved to read books about American Indian cultures and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles. Campbell was educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature and, after earning a master's degree, continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich. His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, was published in 1949 and was immediately well received; in time, it became acclaimed as a classic. In this study of the ''myth of the hero,'' Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book he also outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero's journey. Joseph Campbell died in 1987. In 1988, a series of television interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, introduced Campbell's views to millions of people.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

162 of 165 people found the following review helpful.
5A Mythology Self-Help Book!
Everyone with the slightest familiarity with Joseph Campbell, of course, knows the famous catch-phrase: "Follow Your Bliss". And everyone pretty much knows what it means, as well: Figure out whatever your passion is, and responsibly and diligently move forward, and pursue it... for the rest of your life... above and beyond anything else.

Sounds like words of wisdom from a worthy and knowledgable teacher.... but how exactly does one go about following their bliss?

That's what this book aims to answer.

Joseph Campbell, of course, died in 1987, yet this book didn't appear on store shelves until 2004. That's because it has been assembled posthumously by the Joseph Campbell Foundation from many of Campbell's unpublished notes/lectures/interviews/drafts/etc... Their aim is to bring the great mythologist's unfinished works into a form suitable for public consumption. With that as their aim, the Foundation had the inspired idea to organize a whole book around the premise: How To Follow Your Bliss.

So, it's the usual brand of Campbell's 'Mythology as Psychological Resource', albeit this time around in the guise of a sort of 'mythological self-help book'. A satisfying one nonetheless.

As ever, Campbell's basic premise is that the grand purpose of mythology is to ground an individual in relation to an order of being that is larger than himself. Through metaphor and through ritual, an individual is brought into accord with:

1. The great mystery

2. The physical world

3. The societal order

4. The appropriate stage in one's own development as an individual

(These you may recognize as Campbell's four functions of myth.)

The book starts by laying out all four of these as the foundation for the overall theme, and then focuses on the fourth one, the 'personal development' function of myth, throughout the remainder of its pages. A typical scenario where the fourth function of myth may be considered is the following:

All is well, of course, when an infant lives in a dependency on its mother. It is not alright, however, when a thirty-year-old man depends on his mother for decision-making capabilities. Obviously, at some point between infancy and maturity must come the realization that the correct value is to become an autonomous being. Often these realizations that come at specific transition points in the lifecycle are challenging for a developing ego to embrace.

And myths are often stories that show us, through metaphor, that it is possible to negotiate these thresholds-- often they even point a way as to HOW these thresholds may best be negotiated. In a nutshell, what the great stories tell us is this: let the you that you are now DIE so that something new can be born in its place. Let your current incarnation go.

Following the development of the above ideas, the book continues on into the territory of Jung and the idea of one's personal myth. Each of us may become sensitive to one particular myth over another because it has something essential to tell us specifically about our own unique particular journey.

Finding one's own myth, and living it, in essence, is one's pathway to bliss. Campbell gives suggestions to his students (and to us readers) as to how to find, identify and live one's personal myth.

So, here you get the flavor of the book. If you like the ideas behind The Power of Myth and/or Hero With A Thousand Faces and find them to be a nourishing resource in your own life journey, here's a book that attempts to express and focus on those ideas in a way that makes them seem much more immediately relevant and applicable to one's own life journey.

So, if that's what you're into, you'll find it in this book. Because 'mythology as resource for one's psychological development' is what primarily compells me above all else when it comes to myth, I devoured this book and then cried like a little baby when I finished the last page because I was sad it was all over. Those who can't stomach Campbell should move along move along, because they'll find more of the same here as to what they're used to.

* As a bonus, for everyone out there who finds Campbell's ideas of the Hero's Journey to be somewhat not inclusive of women, this book tries to address that as well. The final chapter is a transcript of dialogues in which many of Campbell's students (male and female) challenge him to broaden the conception of the Hero's Journey to include women in a fuller way. It brings what many consider a sour omission from Campbell's writings to light and is definitely worth the read for anyone who follows that discussion closely.

- Phil Robinson


"Paint the walls of your cage with a dream."

124 of 129 people found the following review helpful.
5"Practical" Mythology
By Stephen L. Gerringer
I am drawn to Pathways to Bliss because it is very much "practical Campbell," focusing directly on the wisdom that myth presents pertaining to our individual lives. "Pathways" offers practical observations for life based on Joseph Campbell's study of mythology.

I find "Pathways" a delightful read. Campbell's's voice is fresh, his words full of wit and wisdom - definitely has more of an intimate feel than some of his heavily referenced scholastic tomes. There is no mincing of words, either - Campbell makes very clear that ancient myths remain guideposts for our individual lives today - if we know how to read them ... as in the following passage:

"Now all of these myths that you have heard and that resonate with you, those are the elements from round about that you are building into a form in your life. The thing worth considering is how they relate to each other in your context, not how they relate to something out there - how they were relevant on the North American praires or in the Asian jungles hundreds of years ago, but how they are relevant now - unless by contemplating their former meaning you can begin to amplify your own understanding of the role they play in your life."

Here Campbell makes clear that his books aren't just for armchair scholars, as he brings mythology out of the Academy and into the street

... which is indeed unnerving for many in specialized disciplines. They might study myth, but to apply patterns discovered therein to one's own life carries the same stigma as an "objective" anthropologist "gone native."

For Campbell, though, the same elements of story that power myth remain active in our lives today.

Of course, another reason i enjoy Pathways is that David Kudler has done a wonderful job of stitching together these lectures into one seamless whole - far from easy to do. The result, though, should not only appeal to the Campbell afficionado, but will also serve as an excellent introduction for those new to the work of this original thinker.

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful.
5Fantastic Introduction to Joseph Campbell
By Jeff Lorenzini
I used to recommend people start with Myths to Live By, but now I think people should start with Pathways To Bliss. It's just a fantastic overview of the ideas that Joseph Campbell expands on and reiterates throughout his other books.

I started reading this book and my wife was joking with me, saying all you have to do is read the last paragraph to get the gist of the book. So as a joke I turned to the last paragraph and read it out loud to her. It was so moving, well, that was it, we both read the book cover to cover together.

It's just an amazingly affirmative view of life and nobody explains the mysteries of the cosmos better than Joseph Campbell. I'm a huge fan of his, and this book is the best one yet.

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