Joseph Campbell – The Hero with a Thousand Faces (e-book)

“THE TRUTHS contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised,” writes Sigmund Freud,
“that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that new-born babies are brought by the stork. Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what the large bird signifies. But the child does not know it. He hears only the dis-torted part of what we say, and feels that he has been deceived; and we know how often his distrust of the grown-ups and his re-fractoriness actually take their start from this impression. We have become convinced that it is better to avoid such symbolic disguisings of the truth in what we tell children and not to with-hold from them a knowledge of the true state of affairs commen-surate with their intellectual level.”

It is the purpose of the present book to uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-diffiailt exam-ples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself. The old teachers knew what they were saying. Once we have learned to read again their symbolic language, it requires no more than the talent of an anthologist to let their teaching be heard. But first we must learn the grammar of the symbols, and as a key to this mystery I know of no better modern tool than psychoanalysis. Without regarding this as the last word on the subject, one can nevertheless permit it to serve as an approach. The second step will be then to bring together a host of myths and folk tales from even’ corner of the world, and to let the symbolsspeak for themselves. The parallels will be immediately apparent; and these will develop a vast and amazingly constant state-ment of the basic truths by which man has lived throughout the
millenniums of his residence on the planet.

Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the correspondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primitive traditions. The same objection might be brought, however, against any textbook or chart of anatomy, where the physiological variations of race are disregarded in the interest of a basic general understanding of the human physique. There are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but this is a book about the similarities; and once these are understood the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed. My hope is that a comparative elucidation may contribute to the perhaps
not-quite-desperate cause of those forces that are working in the present world for unification, not in the name of some ecclesias-tical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding. As we are told in the Vedas:
“Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.

J. C.
New York City
June 10, 1948

read the book:

The Hero With A Thousand Faces

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