Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell


must be willing to get rid of

the life we’ve planned, so as to have

the life that is waiting for us.

The old skin has to be shed

before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck.

When we hang onto any form,

we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

The Hoarder,

the one in us that wants to keep,

to hold on, must be killed.

If we are hanging onto the form now,

we’re not going to have the form next.

You can’t make an omelet

without breaking eggs.

Destruction before creation. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 12


OUT of perfection

nothing can be made.

Every process involves

breaking something up.

The earth must be broken

to bring forth life.

If the seed does not die,

there is no plant.

Bread results

from the death of wheat.

Life lives on lives.

Our own life

lives on the acts

of other people.

If you are lifeworthy,

you can take it.

What we are really living for

is the experience of life,

both the pain and the pleasure.

The world is a match for us.

We are a match for the world. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 13



to find deeper powers

within ourselves

come when life

seems most challenging.


to the pain and ferocity of life

is negativism to life.

We are not there

until we can say

“yea” to it all.

To take a righteous attitude

toward anything is to denigrate it.

Awe is what moves us forward.

As you proceed through life,

following your own path,

birds will shit on you.

Don’t bother to brush it off.

Getting a comedic view

of your situation

gives you spiritual distance.

Having a sense of humor saves you. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 14


FOLLOW your bliss.

The heroic life is living the individual adventure.

There is no security

in following the call to adventure.

Nothing is exciting

if you know

what the outcome is going to be.

To refuse the call

means stagnation.

What you don’t experience positively

you will experience negatively.

You enter the forest

at the darkest point,

where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,

it is someone else’s path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else’s way,

you are not going to realize

your potential. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 15



is a dimension

of here and now.

The divine lives within you.

Live from your own center.

Your real duty

is to go away from the community

to find your bliss.

The society is the enemy

when it imposes its structures

on the individual.

On the dragon there are many scales.

Everyone of them says “Thou Shalt.”

Kill the dragon “Thou Shalt.”

When one has killed that dragon,

one has become The Child.

Breaking out

is following your bliss pattern,

quitting the old place,

starting your hero journey,

following your bliss.

You throw off yesterday

as the snake sheds its skin. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 16


THE goal of the hero trip

down to the jewel point

is to find those levels in the psyche

that open, open, open,

and finally open to the mystery

of your Self being

Buddha consciousness

or the Christ.

That’s the journey.

It is all about finding

that still point in your mind

where commitment drops away. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 17



is by going down into the abyss

that we recover the treasures of life.

Where you stumble,

there lies your treasure.

The very cave you are afraid to enter

turns out to be the source of

what you are looking for.

The damned thing in the cave

that was so dreaded

has become the center.

You find the jewel,

and it draws you off.

In loving the spiritual,

you cannot despise the earthly.

The purpose of the journey

is compassion.

When you have come past

the pairs of opposites,

you have reached compassion.

The goal is to bring the jewel

back to the world,

to join the two things together. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 18


THE separateness

apparent in the world

is secondary.

Beyond that world of opposites

is an unseen (but experienced)

unity and identity in us all.

Today, the planet is

the only proper “in group.”

You must return

with the bliss

and integrate it.

The return is seeing

the radiance everywhere.

Sri Ramakrishna said:

“Do not seek illumination

unless you seek it

as a man whose hair is on fire

seeks a pond.”

If you want the whole thing,

the gods will give it to you.

But you must be ready for it. ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 19


THE goal is to live

with godlike composure

on the full rush of energy,

like Dionysus riding the leopard,

without being torn to pieces.

A bit of advice

given to a young Native American

at the time of his initiation:

“As you go the way of life,

you will see a great chasm.


It is not as wide as you think.” ~Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living, Page 20