In 2007 I found Joseph Campbell. My brand-new husband was living in a hotel in North Carolina, and I was in Texas, packing up the duplex and thinking about how my life was going to change so completely. (“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”) I’m a huge fan of documentaries, and I like to put them on in the background while I’m doing other things. I found an online video called the Power of Myth, It sounded like something I’d like, so I put it on, cranked up the volume, and put everything I owned into one box after another.
Joseph Campbell was a folklorist and a scholar. He traveled the world and he gathered myths and stories from all corners of the globe. (“I don't have to have faith, I have experience.”) He wrote about the Hero Cycle and the Hero’s Journey and myths from all over the world. He inspired scholars and entertainers, writers and poets.
I was familiar with the concept of the hero’s journey because of a Greek myth class I had taken. That class was an eye-opening moment in my life, but that was during my pre-Pagan days, so I looked at the Hero’s Cycle with the eyes of an academic. (“The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”) It wasn’t until after a few years of intense religious and spiritual study that I was ready for the Hero’s Cycle.
That summer, with nothing but me and my boxes and all of my world’s possessions, Joseph Campbell changed my life.
It wasn’t just learning about how the Hero’s Cycle manifests in myth, but little real world applications blew my mind. The concept that we are all heroes, all the time, on our own hero journey… wow. (“The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience.”) I remember at one point I was in my living room and Brother Joseph said something so beautiful and profound and paradigm shattering that I just broke down and cried.
It wasn’t until listening/watching the Power of Myth that I really began to integrate what I had been studying for all those years, that I was really able to internalize the ideas of interconnectedness, Oneness, forgiveness, cycles, beginnings, endings, integration, and all of these other details. It wasn’t until Joseph Campbell that myth changed from being something to read and think about with my mind, but also something I could feel with my heart. ("Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”)
I broke down and cried because I realized that I no longer had to reject my Christian background. I didn’t have to be a literalist when it came to religion. It was okay to worship the metaphor. It was okay to indulge in ritual and magic. (“All religions are true but none are literal.”) Joseph Campbell was my introduction into Gnosis and mystic Christianity, which prepared me for reading the Jesus Mysteries later that summer.
It was Joseph Campbell who prepared me for reading thebible, for reading the Gnostic texts, for eventually earning my ordination into what would eventually become the Fellowship of the Sacred Path. He helped recognize my anger with Christianity, which helped me to forgive Jesus. (“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”)
Over the years I’ve tried to proselytize the gospel of Brother Campbell upon my friends and family, with varying success. And I’m delighted when I’ve encountered friends who have had a similar awakening to their own Hero’s Journey. (“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty 'yes!' to your adventure ”)
I realized I don’t have to be Perseus or Luke Skywalker to have my own Hero’s Journey. We’re all on our own Hero’s Journey all the time. We’re always in this glorious cycle of life, death, rebirth, journeying, underworld travel, dark nights of the soul, etc. (“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”) Myth reminds us that we are the heroes! And Joseph Campbell reminds us to follow our bliss, whatever bliss that might be. (“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”) And it will be glorious.