The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you were to read only one book in your lifetime, what book would you want that to be? Well, that is certainly an unfair question since it is difficult to make that choice. However, if I was given the option of choosing only 20 books to read in my lifetime, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell would certainly be on that list.
This book is about popular myths from different cultures leading up to present day beliefs and practices. It is much more than that as well – it is about life, purpose and what we can be if we can learn lessons from myths and the universe. The book is in a Q&A format based on interviews of Bill Moyers with Joseph Campbell.
I read Joseph Campbell’s “A hero with a thousand faces” a few years back. I found it a difficult (and hence a slow) read with its references to various cultures and legends. The scholarly nature and importance of the work was evident though and since then I have read several passages of his work, which have always been insightful and inspiring.
Joseph Campbell very easily picks stories from several cultures of the world and how they share common patterns. He is respectful, at the same time gently advising on the kind of lessons one must draw. Rather than being literal with myths – we need to understand them as metaphors to deeper truth and lessons. He describes how many rituals evolved as a way to reinforce outlook to life. A large part of that is now lost and people tend to live at the surface missing the depth of the metaphors. The examples are all excellent. For instance - viewing marriage from the perspective of myth makes you view it in a healthy longer term perspective rather than as a love affair (which is always temporary and will end).
There are interesting discussions on divinity, femininity, rituals, practices, non-duality. There are insightful passages on how - many of the myths encourage you to look inward to find yourself, and follow your bliss.
A book which is expansive, profound and inspiring, at the same time engrossing – strongly recommended as a must read!
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