170 Joseph Campbell Quotes on Life, Bliss, and Death

There’s nothing more eye-opening than this collection of the top 170 Joseph Campbell quotes.

So, if you need a little reminder to ‘follow your bliss,’ then be sure to read up on the full list below.

In his career as an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, he’d built up a bunch of life lessons you can apply to live a more meaningful and significant journey in life.

We’ve gathered some of his most famous quotes for you today, with topics ranging from destiny and happiness to life’s struggles and having hope.

Start reading the full list here.

And make sure to check out these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes and George Bernard Shaw quotes.

Best Joseph Campbell Quotes

Joseph Campbell Quote - What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you.

1. “What you are living is but a fractional inkling of what is really within you—what gives you life, breadth, and depth.”

2. “If you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

3. “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. Follow the path that is no path, follow your bliss.”

4. “There is an Indian fable of three beings who drank from a river—one was a god, and he drank ambrosia; one was a man, and he drank water; and one was a demon, and he drank filth. What you get is a function of your own consciousness.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Wisdom and foolishness are practically the same.

5. “Wisdom and foolishness are practically the same—both are indifferent to the opinions of the world.”

6. “Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you have the answer.”

7. “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

8. “You are more than you think you are.”

9. “Midlife is when you reach the top of the ladder and find that it was against the wrong wall.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's.

10. “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

11. “The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for.”

12. “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”

13. “There are dimensions of your being and a potential for realization and consciousness that are not included in your concept of yourself.”

14. “Marriage is not a love affair. A love affair has to do with immediate personal satisfaction.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

15. “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

16. “If you are on the right path, you will find that invisible hands are helping.”

17. “Marriage is an ordeal; it means yielding, time and again. That’s why it’s a sacrament. You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you’re giving, you’re not giving to the other person; you’re giving to the relationship.”

18. “Your life is much deeper and broader than you conceive it to be here.”

19. “Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

Joseph Campbell Quotes on Life and Fate

Joseph Campbell Quote - A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.

20. “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

21. “I have found that you have only to take that one step toward the gods, and they will then take ten steps toward you. That step—the heroic first step of the journey—is out of, or over the edge of, your boundaries, and it often must be taken before you know that you will.”

22. “Let the world be as it is and learn to rock with the waves.”

23. “You’ve got to say yes to this miracle of life as it is, not on condition that it follows your rules.”

24. “When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We’re not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - We're in a freefall into the future. We don't know where we're going.

25. “We’re in a freefall into the future. We don’t know where we’re going.”

26. “Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act.”

27. “The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory—the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed.”

28. “Eternity is not the future or past. Eternity is a dimension of now.”

29. “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe—to match your nature with Nature.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Whatever the hell happens, say, 'This is what I need.'

30. “Whatever the hell happens, say, ‘This is what I need.’”

31. “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

32. “Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”

33. “The eternal principle, which never was born, never will die—it is in all things, it is in you now. You are the wave on the face of the ocean. When the wave is gone, is the water gone? Has anything happened? Nothing has happened. It is a play, a game, a dance.”

34. “A goal is what specifically you intend to make happen.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Dreams and goals should be just out of your present reach, but not out of sight.

35. “Dreams and goals should be just out of your present reach, but not out of sight.”

36. “Dreams and goals are coming attractions in your life.”

37. “What if we choose not to do the things we are supposed to do? The principal gain is a sense of an authentic act and an authentic life. It may be a short one, but it is an authentic one, and that’s a lot better than those short lives full of boredom.”

38. “Respect your curses, for they are the instruments of your destiny.”

39. “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love.

40. “Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love.”

41. “Perfection isn’t human. Human beings are not perfect.”

42. “The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it.”

43. “When you go through life, it all seems accidental at the time it is happening.”

44. “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time.

45. “Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.”

46. “The purpose of the journey is compassion. When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion.”

47. “The problem of making the inner meet the outer of today is, of course, the function of the artist.”

48. “Every moment is utterly unique and will not be continued in eternity. This fact gives life its poignancy and should concentrate your attention on what you are experiencing now. That source of eternal energy is here, in you, now.”

49. “The demon that you can swallow gives you it’s power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.”

Joseph Campbell Quotes on Personality and Identity

Joseph Campbell Quote - This, I believe, is the great Western truth -  that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world.

50. “This, I believe, is the great Western truth—that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities, not someone else’s.”

51. “The ego is as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them.”

52. “The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of. And you’re stuck with your past when you’re stuck with the ego.”

53. “Because if all you know about yourself is what you found out about yourself, well, that already happened.”

54. “The self is a whole field of potentialities to come through.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.

55. “Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.”

56. “Revolution doesn’t have to do with smashing something, it has to do with bringing something forth. If you spend all your time thinking about that which you are attacking, then you are negatively bound to it. You have to find the zeal in yourself and bring that out.”

57. “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

58. “You become mature when you become the authority of your own life.”

59. “Our demons are our own limitations, which shut us off from the realization of the ubiquity of the spirit. Each of these demons is conquered in a vision quest.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - There are something like 18 billion cells in the brain alone.

60. “There are something like 18 billion cells in the brain alone. There are no two brains alike; there are no two hands alike; there are no two human beings alike.”

61. “You can take your instructions and your guidance from others, but you must find your own path.”

62. “The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for and it’s really a manifestation of his character.”

63. “All men are capable of reason. That is the fundamental principle of democracy.”

64. “Because everybody’s mind is capable of true knowledge, you don’t have to have a special authority, or a special revelation telling you that this is the way things should be.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that's what is threatening the world at this minute.

65. “Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute.”

66. “Love your enemies, for they determine who you are.”

67. “It’s only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself, if not of the world.”

68. “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”

69. “The creative act is not hanging on, but yielding to a new creative movement. Awe is what moves us forward.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - The dreamer and his dream are the same.

70. “The dreamer and his dream are the same. The powers personified in a dream are those that move the world.”

71. “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

72. “Humanity has nothing to do with political theory. Political theory is in the interests of one group of humanity, or one ideal for humanity.”

73. “But humanity—-my heavens, that’s what proper art renders. We have a paradox.”

74. “Going into the deepest aspects of inner space connects you with something that is the most vital for the outer realm.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Questing is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself.

75. “Questing is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself.”

76. “The goal is to live with God-like composure on the full rush of energy, like Dionysus riding the leopard, without being torn to pieces.”

77. “Seek to know the power that is within you.”

78. “The quest for fire occurred not because anyone knew what the practical uses for fire would be, but because it was fascinating.”

79. “You know, when real trouble comes your humanity is awakened. The fundamental human experience is that of compassion.”

Joseph Campbell Quotes on Happiness and Contentment

Joseph Campbell Quote - What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call 'following your bliss.'

80. “The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you really are happy-not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call ‘following your bliss.’”

81. “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

82. “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

83. “You must have a place to which you can go in your heart, your mind, or your house, almost every day, where you do not owe anyone and where no one owes you—a place that simply allows for the blossoming of something new and promising.”

84. “Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - It's a very interesting shift of perspective and that's all it is - joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.

85. “It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is—joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”

86. “When you follow your bliss, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you.”

87. “When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then, go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous.”

88. “Change the focus of the eye. When you have done that, then the end of the world as you formerly knew it will have occurred, and you will experience the radiance of the divine presence everywhere, here and now.”

89. “There is no security in following the call to adventure. Nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Follow your inner heart and the world moves in and helps.

90. “Follow your inner heart and the world moves in and helps.”

91. “A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future.”

92. “There’s something inside you that knows when you’re in the center—that knows when you’re on the beam or off the beam. And if you get off the beam to earn money, you’ve lost your life. And if you stay in the center and don’t get any money, you still have your bliss.”

93. “Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer.”

94. “Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a continuous and increasing joy.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - What you have to do, you do with play.

95. “What you have to do, you do with play.”

96. “The best things cannot be told because they transcend thought. The second best are misunderstood because they are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which cannot be thought about. The third best are what we talk about.”

97. “What evokes our love—and I mean love, not lust—is the imperfection of the human being. So, when the imperfection of the real person peaks through, say, ‘This is a challenge to my compassion.’ Then make a try, and something might begin to get going.”

98. “There’s nothing you can do that’s more important than being fulfilled.”

99. “You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your own personal myth.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go.

100. “I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.”

101. “The best advice is to take it all as if it had been your intention.”

102. “It is not society which is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse.”

103. “All societies are evil, sorrowful, inequitable; and so they will always be. So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it. And that no one can do who has not himself learned how to live in it in the joyful sorrow and sorrowful joy of the knowledge of life as it is.”

104. “The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Art is the clothing of a revelation.

105. “Art is the clothing of a revelation.”

106. “If you want the whole thing, the gods will give it to you, but you must be ready for it.”

107. “Both the artist and the lover know that perfection is not loveable. It is the clumsiness of a fault that makes a person lovable.”

108. “If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.”

109. “If marriage isn’t a first priority in your life, you’re not married.”

Joseph Campbell Quotes on Hope and Faith

Joseph Campbell Quote - At the darkest moment comes the light.

110. “At the darkest moment comes the light.”

111. “I think of compassion as the fundamental religious experience and, unless that is there, you have nothing.”

112. “You don’t ask what a dance means. You enjoy it. You don’t ask what the world means. You enjoy it. You don’t ask what you mean. You enjoy it.”

113. “How do you find the divine power in yourself? The word enthusiasm means ‘filled with a god,’ so what makes you enthusiastic? Follow it. So I have a little word—follow your bliss. The bliss is the message of God to yourself. That’s where your life is.”

114. “It is within you that the divine lives.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts, abilities, and possibilities.

115. “No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts, abilities, and possibilities.”

116. “Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts, but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message.”

117. “When you are on your path, and it is truly your path, doors will open for you where there were no doors for someone else.”

118. “Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”

119. “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - I think of mythology as the homeland of the muses, the inspirers of art, the inspirers of poetry.

120. “I think of mythology as the homeland of the muses, the inspirers of art, the inspirers of poetry. To see life as a poem and yourself participating in a poem is what the myth does for you.”

121. “Religion is misunderstood mythology.”

122. “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value—the rapture that is associated with being alive—is what it is all about.”

123. “God is within you. You yourself are your creator. If you find that place in yourself from which you brought this thing about, you will be able to live with it and affirm it, perhaps even enjoy it, as your life.”

124. “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth of wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being reminded of the wisdom of your own life.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.

125. “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.”

126. “Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation.”

127. “In meditating, meditate on your own divinity. The goal of life is to be a vehicle for something higher.”

128. “The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.”

129. “Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - t's amusing that the origin of life out of water is in myths and then again, finally, in science, we find the same thing. It's exactly so.

130. “When you look at that natural world, it becomes an icon; it becomes a holy picture that speaks of the origins of the world. Almost every mythology sees the origins of life coming out of water. And, curiously, that’s true. It’s amusing that the origin of life out of water is in myths and then again, finally, in science, we find the same thing. It’s exactly so.”

131. “The god you worship is the one you’re capable of becoming.”

132. “Gods suppressed become devils, and often it is these devils whom we first encounter when we turn inward.”

133. “The Garden is a metaphor for the following: our minds, and our thinking in terms of pairs of opposites—man and woman, good and evil—are as holy as that of a god.”

134. “Mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centers of life beyond the reach of vocabularies of reason and coercion.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity.

135. “When people get married because they think it’s a long-time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity.”

136. “Could God exist if nobody else did? No. That’s why gods are very avid for worshipers.”

137. “If there is nobody to worship them, there are no gods. There are as many gods as there are people thinking about God.”

138. “In choosing your god, you choose your way of looking at the universe. There are plenty of Gods. Choose yours. The god you worship is the god you deserve.”

139. “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 Quotes on Life’s Struggles and One’s Emotions

Joseph Campbell Quote - And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god, you're alive and it's spectacular.

140. “Suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god, you’re alive and it’s spectacular.”

141. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

142. “Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. Many of us would enter a tiger’s lair before we would enter a dark cave.”

143. “While caution is a useful instinct, we lose many opportunities and much of the adventure of life if we fail to support the curious explorer within us.”

144. “People forget facts, but they remember stories.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.

145. “Art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement.”

146. “The hero journey is inside of you; tear off the veils and open the mystery of yourself.”

147. “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

148. “It is the function of art to carry us beyond speech to experience.”

149. “The conquest of fear yields the courage of life. That is the cardinal initiation of every heroic adventure—fearlessness and achievement.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Survival is the second law of life. The first is that we are all one.

150. “Survival is the second law of life. The first is that we are all one.”

151. “We’re not on our journey to save the world, but to save ourselves. But in doing that, you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”

152. “When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.”

153. “Vegetarians are people who cannot hear tomatoes screaming.”

154. “Successful marriage is leading innovative lives together, being open, non-programmed. It’s a free fall—how you handle each new thing as it comes along. As a drop of oil on the sea, you must float, using intellect and compassion to ride the waves.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - If you are to advance, all fixed ideas must go.

155. “If you are to advance, all fixed ideas must go.”

156. “The principal loss is security. Another is respect from the community. But you gain the respect of another community, the one that is worth having the respect of.”

157. “The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”

158. “If you want resurrection, you must have crucifixion. The hoarder—the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on—must be killed.”

159. “The stronger the love, the more the pain. Love itself is pain, you might say—the pain of being truly alive.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - I don't think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life.

160. “I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.”

161. “Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve, and these are not disclosed unless required.”

162. “What’s made up in the head is fiction. What comes out of the heart is a myth.”

163. “Man actually needs the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

164. “Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon.

165. “Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon, but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end.”

166. “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.

167. “When you translate the Bible with excessive literalism, you demythologize it. The possibility of a convincing reference to the individual’s own spiritual experience is lost.”

168. “Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.”

169. “Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life.”

Joseph Campbell Quote - Everything starts with a story.

170. “Everything starts with a story.”

Now That You’ve Read up on the Best Joseph Campbell Quotes, Are You Inspired to Follow Your Bliss?

Joseph Campbell is famous around the world for his works’ focus on comparative mythology and comparative religion. He had an interest in different cultures, faiths, and religions, and believed that all religions and its symbols are metaphors for a transcendental truth that is beyond our reach. That is why he preaches that uncovering this ‘unknowable’ truth should not be our ultimate goal in life. Instead, what we should strive for is to follow our bliss. Our lives are our own. No one can ever dictate what we should do in our lives. It is up to us—and it is our right—to live a life that focuses on our happiness. Living a meaningful life is living a life that’s solely focused on us and what we want.

What do you think about Joseph Campbell’s ideals? Which quote greatly had an impact on how you’d live your life moving forward? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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