We all get jealous and angry. We all laugh and cry. If we’re lucky, we fall in love … and are loved. People have all the same emotional responses as…as the myths. We can take pleasure in what we recognize. And we can also find excitement in the unfamiliar, the imaginary, and the extraordinary. Are the myths relevant? What follows are some answers to that question by someone who can speak with more authority than I on the subject of myths.
"The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual potentialities of every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke their powers in our own lives."
— Joseph Campbell
“The Power of Myth” author, Joseph Campbell's theory is that all myths are linked as cultural expressions of the universal need of the human psyche to explain social, cosmological and spiritual realities.
"The Hero With a Thousand Faces" (1949). In this work, Campbell asserts that there is a single pattern to the heroic journey and that all cultures, wherever they have been situated geographically and historically, share this essential structure in their various heroic myths. This pattern is eminently simple, yet profoundly elegant. To sum it up, the hero "ventures forth from the world of the common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man"
The story of King Arthur, or of Hercules ( two of the Myths my character Constantio is based upon ) follows this classic pattern of the heroic journey. But to make the myths relevant to our own lives, we need to undertake our own "heroic journey" to discover our true inner strengths. Myths serve as a road map for this inward voyage of self-discovery. "The passage of the mythological hero may be over ground incidentally; but fundamentally it is inward — into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified."
Are our mundane lives really comparable to the amazing characters that appear in these fantastical myths? Campbell believed that mythical heroes serve as archetypes of human possibility — they are besieged with problems, and their resulting actions and decisions give us an idea about how life might be handled. For Campbell, mythology also offered an escape from loneliness, for within it were guides for the human spirit belonging to everyone, providing direction for every cycle of life or experience we may go through. He called mythology "the song of the universe," performed by a myriad of different cultures and peoples. With myth, all experience can be empowering; without it, life can seem just a meaningless series of ups and downs.
Campbell goes on to suggest the reading of mythology as a method to discover your true "bliss." He described bliss as an activity, work or passion with the power to endlessly fascinate. It is unique to us, yet may come upon us as a total surprise, and we may resist it for years. Bliss is the "track" that has always been waiting for you, with "hidden hands" seeming to help you attract the right circumstances for the fulfillment of your work. Campbell suggests that by reading mythology, and reflecting on the stories and characters that attract and fascinate you, the outline of your particular "bliss" may become apparent. If your work and life seem more like dull drudgery than a heroic journey, it might be time to reassess your life's path and seek new enlightenment.
So be forewarned, you may dismiss my Mythles as mere flights of fancy and imagination, but deny the myths at your own risk! The real King Arthur might have been a grubby Celtic warlord, and Camelot a dumpy Dark Age hill fort, but the heroic mythical journey of the literary Arthur still has great relevance today. Read, learn and discover your true bliss through these adventures, and you may achieve your inner Holy Grail of life fulfillment.