7 Lessons I Learned from Joseph Campbell About Art & Spirituality


Once upon a time I had a blog about learning how to write. This is because, as you might guess, I wanted very badly to be a writer. I also was fascinated by anyone who gave wisdom that went against the grain.

So when I was cleaning up some old articles from The Iceberg Project's site, I was delighted to find this gem about Joseph Campbell's writing. 

"Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes."

I can't imagine what it would have been like to be friends with Joseph Campbell. He was so full of wisdom, vitality, and love, and who doesn't want to be around a person like that?

When I finally took the time to read this book, I wondered why it had taken me so long. If you're not familiar with Hinduism and Buddhism, the reading can be a bit heavy, but all it takes is some archaeological reading and patience. It is worth the time & the effort a thousandfold.

Here are my top 7 takeaways from this book (&yes, it was incredibly difficult to note just 7 because there are probably 157):

  1. Explore everything around you: Campbell says that all "wandering time" is positive because it helps you identify your joy. Forget about achievement all together (it's in the ego anyway), and forget about people judging you for not following the designated path of society.
  2. Men have a journey: He says that woman don't take the journey, they just become. They have to realize their womanhood. Life and its change happens to us, and we don't control that. But men have to separate from the mother and take a path to find himself through pain. Understanding this should help any woman understand a man.
  3. The entire goal of life is to experience rapture: No, this is not the rapture with the hellfire and the brimstone and the imminent death. It's the rapture inside each person that shows the eternal aspect of the soul. "Art is the way we experience it."
  4. Follow the call with courage: People are going to try to control what you do your entire life until you get to the end and you realized that you never should have listened to them. So you HAVE to wander and explore. You have to figure out what really lights you up. And if you don't answer the call, it will be painful. More painful than being judged by people you've known your wh0le life who don't understand what you're doing.
  5. Religion is so much more than laws and commands: When you look at religion like a rule book, it is sacrilegious to the experience. Religion is about love and discovery, about compassion and understanding. You must take the deities that are honored in religions and learn to find yourself through them, to mirror their images. You must understand that the stories are metaphors and not absolute truth. You must let go of the symbols you've been holding onto because they will not let you advance spiritually.
  6. "You become mature when you become the authority of your own life."
  7. Choose to live in joy: Love every single situation that life hands you. Revel in the fact that compassion coexists with suffering. Hold on and cultivate your art to the point of rapture. Choose your perspective wisely because it will dominate your entire life.

Find the book here: Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion

What do you think? Have you read/learned anything else that impacted your life from Joseph Campbell?

Hi, I’m Cher!

I write about the place where business + social responsibility meet. When I'm not researching whatever my latest obsession is, you can find me re-watching Remember the Titans, posting on Insta @___whatthehale, or hiking somewhere in the PNW. If you're interested in working with me on a marketing or PR campaign, I do that, too.

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