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Myths to Live By Paperback – February 1, 1993

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About the Author

Joseph Campbell was interested in mythology since his childhood in New York, when he read books about American Indians, frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History, and was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Columbia in 1925 and 1927 and went on to study medieval French and Sanskrit at the universities of Paris and Munich. After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years. During the 1940s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The many books by Professor Campbell include The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Myths to Live By, The Flight of the Wild Gander, and The Mythic Image. He edited The Portable Arabian Nights, The Portable Jung, and other works. He died in 1987.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140194614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140194616
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) 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 continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich. While abroad he was influenced by the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the novels of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, and the psychological studies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. These encounters led to Campbell's theory that all myths and epics are linked in the human psyche, and that they are cultural manifestations of the universal need to explain social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.

After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, and then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years. During the 40s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. He also edited works by the German scholar Heinrich Zimmer on Indian art, myths, and philosophy. In 1944, with Henry Morton Robinson, Campbell published A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, came out 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.

Throughout his life, he traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, authoring many books, including the four-volume series The Masks of God, Myths to Live By, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space and The Historical Atlas of World Mythology. 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.

For more on Joseph Campbell and his work, visit the web site of Joseph Campbell Foundation at JCF.org.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

200 of 206 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on April 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
MYTHS TO LIVE BY consists of a dozen essays/talks Joseph Campbell prepared between 1961 and 1971. He described the period as a "new age" where "..we are...participating in one of the very greatest leaps of the human spirit to a knowledge not only of outside nature but also of our own deep inward mystery."
At the time he wrote these essays, Campbell was a professor on a campus, surrounded by young people whom he found hard to understand at times. For example, in his essay "The Moon Walk--the Outward Journey" he relates his own feelings of awe on viewing the Apollo moon landing and contrasts them with the reaction of a student who wrote "So What" on a photo of the moon landing posted on a campus bulletin board. In another essay "Schizophrenia--the Inward Journey" he contrasts the use of mind-altering drugs by shamans and psychotics (including the LSD induced version) as the difference between divers and non-swimmers in "the waters of the unviersal archetypes of mythology."
I find Campbell's essays are very relevant, 30 years later. The most obvious example is "Mythologies of War and Peace" which addresses the underlying belief systems of participants in the Mideast crises. Campbell says the cruel fact is that "killing is the precondition of all living whatsoever: life lives on life, eats life, and would not otherwise exist...it is the nations, tribes, and peoples bred to mythologies of war that have survived to communicate their life-supporting mythic lore to descendents." He suggests that "we" in the West "have been bred to one of the most brutal war mythologies of all time." He then goes on to cite Deuteronomy and Isaiah and follows with excerpts from the Koran such as Sura 2, verse 216.."Fighting is prescribed for you.
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217 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth G. Ramey on November 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read this book while on a cruise, and found myself spending a lot of time reading. Of all his works, this is the most down to earth. The others are too 'professorial' as if intended to impress, while this one simply lays it on the line. Psychology and mythology relate to each other very nicely, as Mr. Campbell realized when asked to share his concepts with those of a Psychologist. Jung was a favorite because of his concept of Universal Mind. Contrary to what might be thought, the book is not anti-religious, but it does explode particular Christian beliefs. Rather, it reveals the Universal meaning of 'life' which each community resolves in its own way, frequently as not, in similar ways. Boil away the variety of customs, etc.,and you have the essence of Joseph Campbell's work, and a better appreciation of man's universal mind.
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98 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Campbell selected and compiled a selection of a talks on mythology from a series of discussions that he delivered between 1958 and 1971. There is an academic quality about his style, but this will not be a barrier to most people who enjoying thinking and reflecting about what humans share in beliefs. The ancient mythic themes come alive as he weaves the observations of 20th Century everyday living with flashbacks of times ago. He storytells and teaches using 13 broad topics such as love, the beginnings of Humankind, War and Peace, schizophrenia, and the moon walk. Campbell's text reads as if he is in your home; quite possibly having a glass of wine; discussing love relationships in the theater of Life; balancing the ideas of such people as St. Paul, Shaw, Sarte, Persian poets, Buddha, and Lord Krishna. He is at his strongest in his chapters on journeys: inward and outward. A word of caution: Your mind's ear will be listening to a Master Teacher. If you liked Bill Moyer's interview with Campbell, you will appreciate Campbell's theme choices and style. His art of making sense of human potential and challenging its boundaries is a stimulating reflective exercise.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By OAKSHAMAN VINE VOICE on April 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am glad that I finally got around to reading this collection of Campbell's lectures delivered between 1958 and 1971. Since they deal with eternal subject matter there is little chance of them being "dated." The common theme running through them all is the deep power of myth on the inner, spiritual lives of human beings throughout the ages. This includes our own age, whether we personally want to admit or recognize it.

The Lectures include:

1) The Impact of Science on Myth (1961),

2) The Emergence of Mankind (1966),

3) The Importance of Rites (1964),

4) The Separation of East and West (1961),

5) The Confrontation of East and West in Religion (1970)

6) The Inspiration of Oriental Art (1958),

7) Zen (1969),

8) The Mythology of Love (1967),

9) Mythologies of War and Peace (1967),

10) Schizophrenia- the Inward Journey (1970),

11) The Moon Walk- The Outer Journey (1970),

12) Envoy: No More Horizons (1971),

The reader will recognize much of the subject matter from the later talks with Bill Moyers in the "Power of Myth" series. All in all there is enough material covered to make this an excellent introduction to myth, true spirituality, and depth psychology.

One of the topics that stuck with me was the fundamental difference in the nature of religion in the East, the Near East, and the West. Traditional Eastern societies were seen as governed by one great cosmic law through which all members were seen to draw their purpose, their worth, their meaning. God was in all things and the divine spark was in all individuals. Union with the divine was possible to those that transcended their ego.
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