“The Hero With A Thousand Faces” – Book Review

hero with a thousand faces

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.

As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos.

Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form – all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void.

-Joseph Campbell

The latest book I finished reading was The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It’s about the collective mind and how certain archetypes (particularly the “hero”) are universal.

How Can So Many Different Cultures, Religions, And Belief Systems All Have Overlapping Themes And Motifs?

Every doctrine is a slightly different interpretation of the same non-effable essence inherent in us all.

Truth is ONE, although it is called by many names. -J.C.

The importance of myth is that it serves to explain the unexplainable (nature of the universe). Interpreting symbolism too literally destroys its meaning. Symbols are supposed to be transparent so they don’t block out the messages conveyed. These metaphors reveal themselves when you read between the lines.

The power of myth is that it can serve as a solid guideline for your life’s trajectory.

The book focuses on the archetype of the “hero” and his journey through an unknown world. Visualized deities are but symbols that describe what happens on the hero’s path (similar to the various doctrines of psychology and psycho-analysts).

On this path, the hero makes peace with his ego and discovers his true self. When this happens, he understands the nature of the source that all of existence came from.

What Is The Source?

It’s a hidden dimension of our physical world.

This unconscious realm can be consciously explored through meditation. Time moves much slower in the world of forms. Humans only see the chaotic ups and downs of their immediate surroundings without seeing the harmonious whole.

The essence of the universe is both flux and time… Dissolution of what is temporary.

Time and eternity are two aspects of the same experience – Two planes of the same non-dual ineffable.

The exploration of that dimension is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. -J.C.

When the hero transcends life, many things become apparent to him. He notes the duality of the universe and how he must constantly reconcile the micro with the macro in order to integrate his mind. At the same time, he sees that duality is also an illusion.

Separation Only Exists Within The Physical World

There’s no need to separate your animal self from your higher self. Spirituality can be reconciled with carnal masculinity.

The goal is to be a full human being.

The hero successfully undergoes assimilation of the self with what was formerly known as “otherness”.

The hero understands one side of the coin by virtue of the other, for every creature lives off the death of another. The union of male and female symbolizes the dissolution of opposites, and that everything is both temporal and eternal. Individuals pass, but the timeless form (self) remains.

When you realize that you ARE that essence, you are free to wander as that essence in the world. -J.C.

How Does The Hero’s Journey Apply To Your Own Life?

Reaching adulthood entails a radical readjustment of your emotional relationship to the parental images. It’s a second birth of sorts. You must pass through your own ego traps from the childish dichotomy of “good” and “evil” to a comprehension of the nature of the universe, eradicating false illusions and unnecessary fears, finding peace in true understanding.

Our conscious views of what existence SHOULD be rarely line up with what life really is. That is why your spiritual helper (intuition) guides you through the unexplainable. Knowing that you’re a part of the imperishable allows you to do your life’s work without attachment. Coming to terms with your ego makes you established in the self, and the self is the same forever.

A good life is one hero journey after another. -J.C.

Living in harmony with the universe doesn’t have to make you religious – it’s simply a harmonious way of being. Recognize that you’re a part of the universe, therefore you have access to all of the universe’s tools.

There’s no reason for you to fail. Tragedy is impossible. True being is not in the manifested physical realm but in the dreamer.

Creation emerges out of the subconscious realm of gods. The world of forms spills creativity into your mind. It’s the hero’s duty to manifest it into physical reality and share it with others.

To know eternity is enlightenment, and to lose connection with this fact leads to chaos.

This deep understanding makes your existence comprehensive.

You must open your soul beyond terror to such a degree that you are ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of being. -J.C.

There’s a lot of overlap between this book and Mastery by Robert Greene. Both emphasize the importance of a strong sense of destiny. Creation is our purpose for existing, so the hero must see his personal duty as creating forms of his own, utilizing his arena of choice.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your niche?
  • What do you see in your mind’s eye?
  • What is your contribution to the whole?

The universe will make use of you somehow – it’s crucial that you’re conscious of the role you’re playing.

P.S. Read The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

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  1. […] The ego is only a conception. The self is much deeper and limitless. The ego is about as small as a piece of plankton in the ocean of your unrealized potential. We are not immune from the ego’s influence, but we can recognize it for the illusion that it is. Recognizing yourself as infinite opens the door to a whole new realm of possibilities. […]

  2. […] to devour it in one sitting. This story ties in heavily with the archetypal hero myth explained in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.The hero of the book is a Spanish shepherd boy named Santiago, who has a recurring dream about […]

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