Transformations of Myth Through Time

Posted on Nov 27, 2012 in Book reviews

Transformations of Myth Through Time by Joseph CambellThis was one of my many fortuitous second-hand finds. I’m lucky to have an endless source of used books as I live just half an hour from Hay-on-Wye, otherwise known as the second-hand book capital of the world!

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to read some of Joseph Campbell’s work for a long while, but this is the first of his books to present itself to me so it must be the right time. Campbell was a well-respected writer and lecturer who specialised in comparative mythology and religion. He is probably most well known for his collected works entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and the conclusions of his extensive research as well as his philosophy of “follow your bliss” has found its way into many self-development and spiritual development teachings.

This book is actually a collection of 13 lectures (I find a spiritual satisfaction in that mystical number and feel that Campbell must have planned that deliberately!) which together trace the development of myths through history and across the world. Beginning with the very origins of myth as humans evolved into Homo Sapiens, through ancient Egypt and Greece, Buddhism, and the Arthurian legends with other important cultures and religions in between, we read about how central elements of myth remain the same no matter where or when we are. The names and appearances may change, but their underlying meaning doesn’t.

We learn that throughout time myth has represented the same yearning of our human consciousness – to feel in harmony and in tune with the universe just as a baby feels completely and naturally at ease with its mother. Mythology’s main purpose is to teach us about the challenges of maintaining this harmonious connection while we are participating in a human society, and how to overcome those challenges. To quote the man himself:

“We keep thinking of deity as a kind of fact, somewhere; God as a fact. God is simply our own notion of something that is symbolic of transcendence and mystery. The mystery is what’s important.”

If my description so far makes it sound incredibly dry and boring, let me assure you that this book is anything but. Because they are written as lectures, you can hear Campbell talking to you clearly as you read, and he has a wonderfully wry sense of humour to accompany his awe-inspiring breadth of knowledge. The text is well illustrated with some truly fascinating photographs of sacred sites, artefacts, and symbols, and the chapters (lectures) are just the right length so you can read one and allow it to settle in your mind before moving on to the next. Along the way you gain an easy, approachable introduction to the secrets of all the major world religions, and an appreciation of the societies that shaped them and why. This one is going to stay on my shelf and be referred to time and again, and you can still buy it new on Amazon if you click the picture.

As a child, I could never understand why people fought over which God they worshipped, or how they worshipped Him/Her. I felt an inner certainty that they were all paths to the same destination; I thought it was obvious but had no way of proving it. For those who don’t see this basic truth, I challenge them to read Transformations of Myth Through Time and still feel the same. Thank you Joseph Campbell for proving to the adult what the child knew in innocence (inner-sense).

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Semele Xerri

Semele Xerri is a psychic intuitive healer, animal communicator, and Reiki Master Teacher. To find out more about her and her services, go to her Work with me page.

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