The Hero with a Thousand Faces: Reading Reaction
The prologue of the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, written by Joseph Campbell, contains a precise definition of a myth. It is placed in the first chapter of the prologue called Myth and Dream. The author states, “myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation” (Campbell, 2020, p. 17). In many respects, this quote is a thesis to the first part of the book’s prologue as it explains how a myth can influence humans individually and human civilization at large.
The quote is used in the context of the myth’s importance for the human world and its development throughout history. Campbell (2020) explains that myths have shape-shifted as different people in different places have told them in various ways. Thus, people can listen to “the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo or read with cultivated rupture thin translations from the sonnets of the mystic Lao-tse” (Campbell, 2020, p. 17).
However, the author claims that despite the differences between the myths around the world, they are practically the same constant story (Campbell, 2020). The most common element of all myths is their persistent suggestion that there is always more to be experienced compared to what will be told or known. This principle is the reason why myths have always inspired outstanding achievements and accomplishments of human minds and bodies.
The meaning of the quote is vast and can be interpreted in different ways. However, the author explains a myth as a channel between human culture and the cosmos. First myths appeared a long time ago, and they helped people find explanations for the events they could not understand, such as flashes of lightning or storms in the sea. The knowledge about the world has dramatically increased, but there are still many unknown phenomena since the cosmos is endless and full of mysteries. Although it is normal for humanity to seek truth and answers about the surrounding world, the lack of knowledge has significantly contributed to the development of human culture. A myth can connect the power of the whole universe to a single human’s mind, allowing them to build an image of the world beyond the veil. Therefore, human culture has been established through the years with the help of people sharing shape-shifting but constant stories with each other.
The quote is the thesis of the prologue’s first chapter because it is an explanation of a myth’s impact on people and civilization. Throughout the whole chapter, the author illustrates the significance of myths and tries to explain why mythology is the same everywhere despite its varieties that may seem extremely different. It is not easy to imagine that people from opposite edges of the world could tell stories that were so similar in their plot and setting. Most myths have the same subjects, heroes, gods, visions of outer worlds, and many other common elements. Although many scientists attempt to seek the reason in ancient ruins and sacred texts of the past, Campbell believes there is a more straightforward explanation. It is the reason why myths have appeared in the first place – to help people deal with everything they could not understand and embrace the world as it is.
Campbell, J. (2020). The hero with a thousand faces. Joseph Campbell Foundation.