Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

How to Find Your Calling and Follow Your Bliss

“In Tonio Kröger, the young artist moved out of the world of what had to be done. In the Magic Mountain, Hans Castorp stepped away from the world of what had to be done and followed the fascination of his nature. That is the adventure. ”
– Joseph Campbell, Collected Works, II.1.7, “Thomas Mann and James Joyce”, ‘Absorbing the Monstrous’, 5:23 mark in the audio lecture.

The key here is to discern what is the fascination of your nature. When you have found that, the “World of What Has to Be Done” simply has to take a back seat. It’s a psychological shift. Doesn’t mean you don’t pay your bills. Doesn’t mean you don’t run your errands or attend social functions, but it does mean those things are no longer your priority. You’re priority is your fascination. You follow that as long and as hard as your inner nature tells you to. And then when the inevitable need to take a break comes, you do your secondary items.
Stephen Cope has a nice phrase: “What lights you up?” I think Bob Proctor says something like “What winds your stem, what gets you jazzed?” And then really it becomes a psychological problem rather than a practical one because when you change your psychology, your consciousness, into one of making your fascination the centerpiece, the most important thing in your life, you initiate your subconscious, the doorway to eternity, and this infinite resource goes to work for you 100% of the time, even when you are running errands, paying bills, or attending social functions. And then everything starts to happen. You’re riding a wave. Your wave.

The Cure for Fear is Following Your Bliss

“I’ve said in the ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ that if you go on your own proper voyage, there will be protection, magical aid to come to protect you. If it’s not your proper voyage, that will be missing, and you’ll be in trouble. But if it’s the voyage of your own spirit and soul and destiny, don’t be afraid. There will come assistance.”

– Joseph Campbell, Collected Works, Audio Series II, Volume II – Perspectives on Creative Mythology, II.2.2 ‘Hermes, Alchemy, and The Voyage of Ulysses,’ The Adventure of Circe (1:43)

The Symbolic Meaning of a Water Fountain

Water Fountain at Chenal Country Club

One can obviously see the phallic symbology of the water penetrating a yoni from beneath, but in a deeper sense, ironically a higher chakra sense, the form of a fountain represents each person and living being itself manifesting from a world of transcendence. And since each particle is of divine nature, so it your whole being.

The water represents the energy, the ambrosia of eternity pouring into the field of time. The endless flowing, the continuous flowing, represents the eternal nature of this mystical dimension and also the infinite nature of its source. Since you can’t see the water’s source, that represents that it’s coming from the ground of being and also that it’s coming from another dimension which is invisible to our senses. On a deeper level there’s the paradox and the archetypal sense of the infinite coming from nothingness, which ironically enough is being postulated as the literal truth in the latest scientific origin stories such as the Big Bang theory.

Most fountains that you see spring from a round bowl-shaped container or vase. The inside of the bowl or pool is sacred space, a “Holy Grail” you might say, which represents the transcendence of duality or on a psychological level, the gap between our thoughts.

Water has long been seen as symbolic of the ambrosia of eternity. A fountain represents a sacred opening, gap or tunnel which is a connection to eternity itself.

In a way, a kind of mini temple, yet completely natural: a religious, mystical experience paradoxically combining both the mystical and the physical, representing a connection created by nature herself.

This is why it evokes an archetypal response of beauty in most people: The aesthetic being, at least on the symbolic level, the manifestation of a mystery.

02/09/16 Update: One element that struck me recently, especially looking at the still photograph, is the Lingam/Yoni symbolism. And there is a strong dichotomy of the Lingam, representing Shiva, coming out of the bowl/vase shaped Yoni, which is representative of the feminine aspect. But if you think about it from a Hindu perspective this makes total sense: The “Void” out of which everything comes and back into which everything goes is the Mother Goddess of the Universe. She is it. Symbolically speaking, the divine feminine represents life itself, and the Lingam, the male divine, represents the snake, who by piercing life, right through the middle, throws off death, just a snake throws off its skin.

The fact that the Lingam and Yoni are seen as together, like the Ying and Yang of Asia, as well as the water and bowl of a fountain, represents that the two are one, that the feminine and masculine are merely two different aspects of the same thing, just like the eternal and the imminent, the mysterious and the manifest, and indeed, life and death: this represents to the soul the transcendent nature of its own being.

Read this quote by Joseph Campbell

“Nevertheless-and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol-the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero.” – The Hero with a Thousand Faces, page 217, The Crossing of the Return Threshold

Here, the “realm of the gods” is symbolized by the Yoni, the void, the bowl, the feminine. And the “world we know” is represented by the Lingam/Masculine aspect. The masculine is representative of manifestation, but that manifestation has the potentiality to come in contact with the divine, indeed become divine, if it has the energy, drive, and intent to summon itself into one direction, namely that of the spontaneity residing inside the bowl of its own heart.

Another dichotomy: Notice in the fountain and in Hindu temples, the Lingam aspect is coming out of the Yoni, not going in: That’s symbolic of a resurrection. New life (Nova Vita) in this case not coming from sexual intercourse, but from a birth of the heart.

The Basic Theme of All Mythology

Opening the world to the dimension of mystery. To realize the mystery that underlies all forms.

“That’s the message of the myth: you as you know yourself are not the final term of your being.”

Joseph Campbell: The indication is of a notion of a plane of being that’s behind the visible plane and which is somehow supportive of the visible one to which we have to relate. I would say that’s the basic theme of all mythology… That there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one. Now, whether it is thought of as a world or simply an energy, uh, that differs from time to time and place to place.

Bill Moyers: What we don’t know supports what we do know.
JC: That’s right.

*About the 11:30 mark in the Power of Myth, the First Storytellers.

Ritual is one way of relating to this invisible plane.

JC: “Through the ritual that dimension is struck which transcends temporality and out of which Life comes and back into which it goes.” – 24:16

“What all the myths have to deal with is transformation of consciousness, that you’re thinking in this way and you have now to think in that way.” – JC – 16:10 Power of Myth, The Hero’s Journey.

What is Ego? Ego is Thought.

You know what I see in this symbol? The circle represents the gap between thoughts, the Grail. But a being, a "monster" one who can't reconcile himself with nature is blocking this portal, where normally the inexhaustible energies of eternity would come pouring through into your life.

You know what I see in this symbol? The circle represents the gap between thoughts, the Grail. But a being, a “monster,” one who can’t reconcile himself with nature, is blocking this portal, where normally the inexhaustible energies of eternity would come pouring through into your life.

“Becoming free of Ego means becoming free of thought, identification with thought. That’s the end of the Ego. It may reassert itself from time to time, but at least its the Awakening.” – Eckhart Tolle [video-link]

When you read enough Mythology, fairy tales, and religion, you start to realize that the most important archetype, the most important theme, if you will, that comes ringing through all the symbols, is the idea of Sacrifice. Now, in most of the stories, the sacrifice is literal, whether it be animals upon the alter, or even human beings, perhaps most famously rendered in the image of Crucifixion of the “Christ.” Taken literally, it’s very off putting, if not downright horrific to the modern reader. But when you start to read the images symbolically, a whole new realization opens up. For instance the Christ story could be read as psychologically sacrificing the impulses of the flesh, the desires of the flesh, as well as its fears, in order to give birth to the “spiritual” body. Read that way, the modern reader can use these stories as guides to real “religious” (re-linking to the Soul) experiences of their own.

Having read a lot of this material one has the realization that the Sacrifice, in its essence, is about sacrifice of the Ego. One gets the strong sensation, through reading these materials, and also through religious practices such as yoga and meditation, that if one could just simply “Sacrifice the Ego,” not only would a lot of problems be solved, not only would a lot of happiness enter your life, you would not only discover, but start automatically living and fulfilling your true destiny, your true purpose. It’s “the track” that Joseph Campbell talks about in the following saying:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. – Joseph Campbell (link)

So, the question becomes, “What is Ego?” If we are going to destroy it, dissolve it, or at the very least, reduce it, it would helpful to know exactly what we are dealing with. Today, while listening to a Deepak Chopra interview on Youtube, the interviewer asked him this exact question, and I thought he gave a very enlightening answer that I wanted to remember. So I’m going to write it down:

The characteristics of the Ego are, ‘I am either superior or inferior to someone. I need to control, manipulate, insist, beg, cojole, convince, in order to have control over the situation. I have to really try hard. And, it’s always really full of fear. The Ego is full of fear. The Ego is our Self Image. It’s not our Soul. The Ego is built up through opinions, through public opinions, and uses ‘agency power’…the power of money, the power of political office. The power of being President of the company, or the state, or the Country. That’s agency power. The power of the Soul comes from a much deeper strength. (Here’s a link to the exact moment in the Interview on Youtube).

That’s a lot to ingest, but really for me, while I was walking and listening to this, was the very first statement, ‘I am either Superior or Inferior to someone.’ that gave me a flash of Enlightenment. All my life, without realizing it, those two “see-sawing”, almost directly opposite feelings have dominated me in my relations to others. And often it will be about the very same person, which is very strange! Yet when one feels the emotion, either of superiority or inferiority, one believes in the reality of it. To have someone explain that these are not reality at all, not your real personality at all, but rather acts, reflexes, almost a hijacking by “The Ego,” is quite a relief! “Ah, there’s not something deep, dark wrong with me. There’s something deep, dark that’s artificially taken over me, and blocked me from my connection to my True Self, my soul.

So what’s the remedy for this? I think the first step is, just like in meditation the first step is not getting rid of your thoughts, but merely stepping back from them, noticing and becoming aware of them without judgement) just becoming aware that you are having this feeling. “Oh, I’m feeling Superior to this person. I wonder why? I know, that not only is it unkind and exhausting to feel this way, but inherently not true. But anyway, I am feeling it. So, I am going to acknowledge the feeling. Then gently practice letting that feeling dissappate, and instead send out feeling of love, equanimity, and compassion for this person.”

Perhaps that’s too much to think about at first. Maybe just becoming aware that you are feeling that way will help you rise above the emotion instead of drowning in it. And from there the emotion will lose a little of its energy.

Just being aware when it happens and saying to yourself, “I do acknowledge the feeling, but at the same time, I know this is Ego’s production, and not me. I know that it has to play itself out, but just awareness itself, and having the intention of seeing things the way they really are, will help it dissapate quicker, as well as slowly dissolve itself completely from my personality.”

UPDATE 1/14/14: I saw this video by Eckhardt Tolle right after I wrote this piece. As luck would have it, the very first question posed to him was this, “What is Ego?” question. Remarkable.

“There is no Ego apart from the thoughts. The thoughts, identification with thought is Ego.”

Wow! In other words: Thought is Ego. Ego is Thought! When I think about how I see the Grail, for instance, as a symbol of the Gap between thought, this statement by Eckhardt really blows me away!

I’m so tempted to erase this big ass blog post I’ve written, and just replace it with: Ego is Thought. 

Here is a link to the Eckhart video

And see, before you think, “Well, that’s fine and dandy to realize I’ve got to get my inspiration through transcendence, but in order to enjoy it, I’ve got to bring it back into this world, and THINK about it a while,” read this words by Ram Dass:

“Faith, consciousness, and awareness all exist beyond the thinking mind.” – Ram Dass

We always run back to the “thinking mind” sort of like it were “home base,” thinking that it is our real self.

But in essence, its the “thinking mind” that’s keeping us away from our true self.

Our real adventure.

As Eckhart goes on to say in this same video, “You are not the thought. You are the awareness.”

In this sense, Consciousness, Awareness can observe thought, can observe emotion, but not be trapped inside them, like Theseus is trapped inside the Labyrinth.

The Metaphorical Meaning of Sacrifice and Bliss in Mythology

Update: 10/8/14 – Reading over this post, this thought/feeling seemed to “bubble up from my archetype, from my soul:

“When you surrender, the life that is waiting for you will arrive.”

It feels an awful lot like Joseph Campbell’s famous quote:

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Notice how “give up” and surrender or sacrifice are synonymous. Ah, wait! I just had an Ah Ha! moment about what this means: You’ve got to quit planning on what you are going to do, just start doing the thing that you love. So you are surrendering control, control of the outcome, control of the results, and instead living, engaging inside that activity that you love to do because you love to do it in and of itself. You love the process of that activity (ie, writing, music, art, acting, but it could also be business or science, just as long as you are engaging your creative, visionary side to these activities, and of course, above all, it is something you truly love, in and of itself, and not for the money. But enough philosophizing! The meaning of the statements is to begin doing it, right now! Go start singing, go start writing, go start dancing and acting, or whatever it is you love. It doesn’t matter if people say you aren’t good enough. If you love the process, you are immune to criticism, and you don’t have an Ego that cares about the results. It cares about the activity itself. And when you are engaged in it, you are living your purpose. You’re on the edge of excitement all the time, as Joseph Campbell used to say.

So, what you are surrending is philosophy, philosophizing, talking about it, and what you are accepting, what you are leaping into, is activity. The activity will guide you, open doors, send “magical” helpers, not the philosophy. Not the thought.

Update: 3/28/13: Now that it’s Easter, and today is Maundy Thursday, if you wanted to bring the Mythology alive in your own life, you could practice, right now, for instance, sacrificing your need to hold on to the past, and your need to control the future. And then by this act, this psychological act, the irony is, you psychologically “rise above” the duality of time, and for that matter all dualities, and you arrive at an “a priori” transcendence, in which letting go and surrendering, ironically, paradoxically, wins you back your true nature, your true gift, your “sacred” treasure and power. When you sacrifice your need to control time, you wind up in a timeless world, living a transcendent life.

Update 3/26/13: I was blown away just now when I learned that the word Islam itself means, literally, “surrender.” Fate, kismet, “Wyrd” are all common archetypes in religion, and so it makes sense that this idea of “surrender”and or “sacrifice” would also be an important archetype that is found in all religion or mythology. These two fundamental archetypes are symbiotic, and almost call out to each other.

“You can’t control your destiny, Jack. You’ve got to just let it wash over you like a bad spray tan that won’t take.” – from “40 Rock”

“You’ve gotta learn to let go. You can’t try and control everything all the time.” – From Celeste and Jesse forever.

“This isn’t turning out the way I wanted it to!” – Debbie, from this is 40 exactly the 44 minute mark.

Orpheus died to himself, in order that he may live on through everybody else. What does that mean, “to die to yourself”? Think about this for a minute. It means surrender. It means letting go. It means dying to your ego, the sense that you and everything else in this world are separate. It means dying to your inner self which only worships eating and sex, and then also dying to your outer self, which has the potentiality for achievement and greatness, but only worships at the feet of social recognition, the addiction or the endorphin rush of attention, of being worshiped yourself.

Sacrifice of the flesh is metaphorical of this idea of dying to the ego. The ego is this psychological structure that is blocking out transcendence and bliss both from the outside and from with in you.
(“The Kingdom is within you and is without you. If you will know yourselves, then you’ll be known and you will know that you are the sons of the Living Father.” – Jesus, from The Gospel According to Thomas.)

Bliss is like a secret underground fountain that’s bubbling up within you naturally, and also like a ocean that’s trying to pour into you from the outside.
But ego blocks off both of these sources that naturally would be flowing, like a damn, or like something that’s blocking off the root of a tree.

So the idea of sacrifice, in part, is this willingness or this sense of psychologically dying to your ego, letting the ‘rat’ that’s in you, secretly nawing at the root of the sacred tree, the Axis Mundi, die. Or letting the “damn” or “dike” that’s in you, which is trying to control and manipulate the waters of life, nature herself, letting that psychological structure be destroyed, not giving it any more energy or “soul” food. Your sacrificing the inner desire of hunger and the outer desire of pride, in order for the waters to flow again through you, or the light to once again shine through you after having become transparent, once again, to transcendence. You’re trying to balance the truth of who you are, of where you came from (“the rag and bone shop of the heart”) without crushing the totality of the human potentiality going forward, but also without cutting off those supply lines from which this very potentiality, the Cerebral Cortex, is made from. Remember Indra had the power to kill Leviathan, the snake that was blocking out the waters of life from nourishing the world, but in doing so he also brought down his own potentiality out of pride of the very act. So one could say that sacrifice is a religious archetype that has been needed to enable life to carry on evolving, while at the same time not losing touch with its origin, its essence, it’s soul.

Paul: “Wouldn’t you rather have me around for less years and I’m incredibly happy rather than longer and I’m miserable?”
Debbie: “Yes, and I just realized that just now!” – This is 40 – 47:15

“I guess the party didn’t turn out like you had planned.”
“Yeah, but it was a good party.”

Here’s another good example of an everyday way of putting this idea into practice: Sacrifice your Ego’s need for attention, and instead put that same energy in the direction of your bliss, you’re “calling”, the things or thing that makes you happy in and of itself, and not because it makes you money or gets you attention (Social Reward). In this post I have used “Ego” and “Flesh” sort of interchangably both in the ideas of “Dying to the Ego” and “Dying to the Flesh.” I think there are two good reasons for the comparison: 1) In Hindu, it is the outward, most superficial “body” of all of our “bodies” that is the most cut off from spirit (the inner body, “Atman”) and needs “religion” (re-linking) back to the soul and 2) If you think about your everyday life, its the experience of your body, the impulses of the flesh, and the experience of the senses that most feed this “illusion” of ‘Ego’.

The ideas of Yoga and Meditation are Eastern exercises in metaphorically “Dying to the Ego” or “Dying to the Flesh.” It’s not that you want to really die to your flesh. It’s that you want to think of the metaphor, the psychological aspect of it. The purpose here is to rebalance psychologically so that you are experiencing the impulses of the “subtle” body (Soul) at least as strongly, or some would say more dominantly, than you are experiencing the impulses of the “Ego Body.”

Neither are wrong. Both are natural. And in a way, the aspirations of a “New Religion” going forward would perhaps be a Unification or “Marriage” of these two separate bodies. That may be the true, ultimate life experience and fulfillment. In a way it’s sort of like the current goal of cutting edge physics is to “Marry” if you will Quantum Theory (Metaphorical of the Subtle Body) and Relativity (Metaphorical of the Physical Body).

I just realized that this idea of “Destiny” and “Letting go” or “Surrender” or in our terms here, “Sacrifice” (When thought of as ‘sacrificing’ your need to control) have a lot in common, that they almost are born from each other. So, if you sacrifice your Ego, then your true Destiny will take over, and then your life’s adventure will be automatic. “It” will begin. You won’t have to try. It’ll be like getting on a ride at Disney World.

The question I still have, that’s burning inside me, is how does one, in practical terms, in terms of your everyday life, actually “Die to Yourself” or “Die to Your Ego”? That’s the question that’s burning in me: how do you do this metaphorically in the everyday, “real” world of your life?