43 Quotes by Joseph Campbell for Reflecting on Life

Are you an avid reader of Joseph Campbell's books? We've collected some of his best quotes here.
43 Quotes by Joseph Campbell for Reflecting on Life

Last update: 01 October, 2022

Joseph John Campbell (1904-1987) was an American writer and professor known for his theories on religion and mythology. He gained popularity after the publication of his work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). His ideas have been applied to cinema, literature, philosophy, and psychology.

Founded in 1990, the Joseph Campbell Foundation is charged with keeping the author’s legacy alive. George Lucas is one of many who’s recognized the writer’s direct influence on his work.

Far from being forgotten, Joseph Cambell’s books continue to attract the interest of millions of people. Here, we’re going to review some of his best phrases.

The best phrases of Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell worked as a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, New York. He taught there for 38 years, so almost all of his life was linked to this university.

Next, we leave you with a selection of the best phrases of Joseph Campbell with the intention of paying tribute to his thoughts.

1. “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us”.

The life plan you have in your mind doesn’t always fit reality. However, it’s on the basis of reality that you must build your plans.

2. “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value, that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about”.

You’re often so occupied in carrying out activities to satisfy your external desires, you forget what living is really all about. Therefore, you need to focus more on your inner world.

3. “If you follow someone else’s way, you are not going to realize your potential”.

Most of us just follow the path that others have laid out. Without a doubt, it’s much easier than starting to build your own trail.

Books by Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell left a great legacy in the field of comparative mythology.

4. “Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It’s a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer”.

Life doesn’t have a universal meaning. In fact, meaning characterizes everyone’s life in a different way. Each life has a purpose and this, far from being universal, is specific and individual.

5. “All religions are true but none are literal”.

How could it be otherwise? We’ve included several quotes on religion by Joseph Campbell in our list. This is the first of them.

6. “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes”.

You can’t expect to save others if you haven’t done anything meaningful with your life.

7. “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everyone with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends”.

The fact of not understanding life is an experience that we all have to deal with at times.

8. “Regrets are the illuminations come too late”.

The feeling of regret often arrives when it’s no longer of any use. Nevertheless, it can be useful for future occurrences.

9. “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold”.

You shouldn’t fear failure since every failure is, at the same time, a space to connect with your own ability to overcome.

10. “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life”.

There are several ways to get through life. However, everyone’s lives contain abysses, and all, sooner or later, find ways to come out the other side.

11. “You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or a path, it is someone else’s path”.

This quote can temporarily help you get out of the darkness. As soon as you come into the light, you should try to forge your own path.

12. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”.

One of the most quoted Joseph Campbell quotes. Words with which many readers will identify.

13. “I don’t think [the meaning of life] is what we’re seeking. I think it’s an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our most innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive”.

Long discussions have generated questions about the true meaning of life. Those who only think about it though, end up living a meaningless life.

14. “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”.

That’s because it’s you who’s forging it. There’s no set path.

15. “If the path in front of you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s”.

These words complement the previous quotes. There’s nothing wrong with following the path of others, but, in the end, you must risk experiencing a feeling of emptiness.

16. “The goal of life is to match the beating of your heart with the beating of the universe, to match your nature with Nature”.

A purpose will always give greater meaning to life.

17. “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again”.

This is the place where you feel most comfortable and can be yourself. If you have one, treasure it with all your heart.

18. “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain”.

While it won’t make it go away completely, it’ll temporarily lower its intensity and calm you down.

19. “Sit in a room and read – and read, and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time”.

If you’re a follower of the work of Joseph Campbell, you might want to adopt these words as a philosophy of life.

20. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”.

A privilege that very few people can say they have. Could you say it yourself?

21. “Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there, all the while, waiting for you”.

Of all the phrases about happiness by Joseph Campbell, this is one of the best known.

22. “When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else”.

Life is far simpler than you might think. We just tend to spend too much time complicating it.

23. “The big question is whether you’re going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure”.

Doing so requires courage and determination, which is why many choose to take a step back.

24. “When we quit thinking primarily of ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness”.

Although it may be paradoxical, when you stop thinking about yourself, that’s the moment when you learn the most about yourself.

25. “Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the high road to the soul’s destiny”.

This isn’t an essential condition, of course, but it’s true that it happens in many situations.

26. “You become mature when you become the authority of your own life”.

In other words, when you take responsibility for your own life.

27. “I believe that the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave”.

The work you do will always be tedious if you don’t approach it with passion or purpose.

28. “Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair is a totally different thing. A marriage is a commitment to that which you are. That person is literally your other half. And you and the other are one. A love affair isn’t that. That is a relationship for pleasure and, when it gets to be unpleasurable, it’s off. But a marriage is a life commitment, and a life commitment means the main concern of your life”.

Another of Joseph Campbell’s phrases about love that we couldn’t leave out from our list.

29. “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging”.

You don’t know your skills and abilities if you haven’t given yourself a chance to test them out.

30. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself “.

This is why it’s so difficult to find a hero in current times.

31. “The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light”.

Again, these are words of encouragement to overcome the falls that we all have to experience in life.

32. “Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required”.

Even the most confident people have doubts. Doubt is part of life, and even has a leading role.

Coffee, book and glasses
Campbell worked with Swami Nikhilananda on the translation of The Upanishads.

33. “The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons, into spheres of ever-expanding realization”.

Many fans of Joseph Campbell’s quotes have found that these disciplines have been of great help to their personal growth.

34. “Instead of clearing his own heart, the zealot tries to clean the world”.

They don’t realize that they can’t change others without first starting with themselves.

35. “Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love”.

This type of pain has a specific name: heartbreak.

36. “When looking back at your life, you will see that the moments that seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life of now. You’ll see that this is really true”.

These words may sound like a cliché, but the truth is that those who’ve experienced great failures have, over time, gained great experiences from them.

37. “You are the hero of your own story”.

You’re also the protagonist, the antagonist, and the writer.

38. “There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall”.

This is one of the reasons why it’s not always advisable to follow the path of others.

39. “The way to find out about happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you are really happy – not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis”.

Those who are constantly seeking happiness clearly haven’t ever asked themselves what moments in their lives have made them truly happy. If they did, they’d have realized that they’re looking for something that’s always been closer to them than they think.

40. “It’s only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself, if not of the world”.

We all have inner demons, and we all have the ability to tame them.

41. “Love is a friendship set to music”.

A curious way of interpreting what love is.

42. “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy”.

Pain, sorrow, and disappointment are part of life. You have to assume this to avoid being left behind on the path of life.

43. “Tragedy is an unfinished comedy”.

We end this selection of phrases by Joseph Campbell with a reflection on tragic events. Perhaps, with a little more time, every tragedy could be an unfinished comedy.

Did you like this list of short phrases by Joseph Campbell? Remember that they’re only a taster of his work since he wrote more than a dozen books. They’re well worth a look and can be broadly summarized by the idea of following your own happiness.

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