Tag Archives: Campbell

World Religions – A Summary (Part IV)

In my previous post I discussed the unique aspect of the West: the Adventure.

The Adventure begins with a call or summons to begin a discovery.  The call requires the cardinal virtues of wisdom and courage: wisdom to look forward and recognize the call, and courage to leap into the adventure that is illuminated by wisdom.  Both of those virtues had to be attained prior to the adventure; as such, the Journey segment was needed to develop these virtues.

The adventure itself is the trials and temptations encountered to secure the boon, which was the reason for the adventure in the first place.  The training and exposure activities of the Journey, coupled with the cardinal virtue of moderation earned during the Journey or the Adventure, are required to seize the boon.

The return back to the everyday world requires the cardinal virtue of justice and the love of the hero’s neighbor.  Justice is the concern for the community of the adventurer earned during the Journey or the Adventure.  Without this virtue, the adventurer would simply remain in the adventure, refusing to return.  The love of his/her neighbor is what pulls the hero across back to the everyday world with the boon intact.

So, what does this all mean.  Well, the adventure is the connection between the Journey (shared by all religions) and happiness (shared by all religions).  This Western concept (not shared by all religions) is what pushes the individual to the top of Maslow’s pyramid – self-actualization.  It is a concept of great myths as uncovered by Joseph Campbell.  It is what brings happiness to the individual and flourishing to society.  The flourishing then can be used to help others prepare for their road to happiness.

Final comments in my next post.


Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 1)

I would like to turn to the great masters of the fine arts to further explore the achievement of happiness: Maslow’s final level of his hierarchy of needs, Csikszentmihalyi’s forging a unity with universal values, and the ability of Campbell’s hero to go back and forth between the everyday world and the spiritual world.  I would like to focus first on the individual and then later turn to the flourishing of society.

The fulfillment that is encountered upon reaching happiness is a completion of one’s destiny or mission in life.  The life that is experienced by those in true happiness is one free from all fears and human desires, competitiveness, striving, fatigue, and personal ambitions.

Let’s look at one master of the art world.

The Agnew Clinic

(Eakins, 1889, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia)

The Agnew Clinic by Thomas Eakins,

This is a work showing in stark gruesome realism the mastectomy of the woman lying on the operating table and the surgeon/instructor standing to the left.  It depicts the surgeon as the teacher/hero to those in the surgical circle as well as the stands.  He is self-sufficient and independent from the others in the painting.  He is able to go back and forth from the relaxed and fulfilled world of an esteemed teacher to a noted surgeon (depicted with scalpel in left hand) in the everyday world of medicine.

Not one character in the painting is looking directly at the surgeon/teacher – it is as if he is not present.   But the viewer sees him as one that is confident, free of all desires and ambitions, and fatigue-free and alert to his surroundings and duties.  He is free to go from the everyday world to the spiritual world (in which he is seen standing) at his discretion.  The surgeon/teacher has no need of attention or praise from others – he is above all that and perhaps witnessing peak experiences.

More great art to come

Thoughts to Begin the New Year

My book draws on the great works of the past 2400 years.  Let me provide four quotes explaining why each is so important to finding happiness in life: a philosopher, a psychologist, a mythologist, and an artist.

“Discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.” Plato regarding philosophy.

“The more we learn about man’s natural tendencies, the easier it will be to tell him how to be good, how to be happy, how to be fruitful, how to respect himself, how to fulfill his highest potentialities.” Maslow regarding psychology.

“It won’t tell you what makes you happy, but it will tell you what happens when you begin to follow your happiness, what obstacles are that you are going to run into.” Campbell regarding mythology.

“To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced and having evoked it in oneself then … to transmit that feeling that others experience the same feeling. … A means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.” Tolstoy regarding art.


Virtue Ethics: Alisdair MacIntyre (Part 2)

In my last post, I mentioned that the philosophy of virtue ethics, as suggested by Alisdair MacIntyre sounds very reasonable, but it has drawn four main criticisms.  The four are: 1) it is a way of life that is self-centered, 2) it is a way of life lacking any guidance as to appropriate actions to reach happiness, 3) it is a way of life based on luck of one’s circumstances in life, and 4) it is unreasonable to suggest that in today’s world people should live in small communities as the means of achieving happiness.

Let me address each of these criticisms.  1) It may appear to be a self-centered way of life but, as discussed in my book, Campbell teaches that a call to adventure to secure a boon for the benefit of society is needed to reach happiness.  In addition, the virtues are needed to recognize the call, act on it, and be successful in the quest.  The virtues are needed to secure the boon and deliver it to society, which, is also needed for the individual to reach happiness.  This action is anything but self-centered and contributed to the flourishing of society.

2) there is no lacking of guidance.  Campbell is very clear as to the steps needed to accept the call, win the battles, and return with the boon intact.  The virtues are needed to take the steps needed to reach happiness and the flourishing of society.

3) Indeed, luck does play a part in life and for everyone, especially regarding one’s family and society.  A dysfunctional family and/or society will make it very hard for anyone to achieve happiness.  However, luck is not the only variable, one must also be willing to be involved with others, take risks, and develop the virtues so that when the call is sent, the adventure can be accepted.

4) I think that the best vehicle for a virtuous life is to harness the gift of the entrepreneur within each of us.  I agree that in today’s world it would be very difficult to lead a life as a member of a small Medieval group.  It is very appropriate to learn how to take risks, recognize opportunities, and take action to capitalize on those opportunities so that one’s future is live above today’s expectations.

This entrepreneurial approach prepares each of us through education, social interactions, and risk-taking, to apply our virtues in ways that enhance our happiness while helping society to flourish.

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness – Part 5

Continuing with my last post: the adventurer is near the end and is at the entrance to the threshold back to the everyday world.

The philosophers discussed in my book – Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics, all mention that individuals will progress from valuing food and warmth, to social relationships with others, to valuing the moral virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice, before reaching happiness.

The positive psychologists teach of a similar progression of food and warmth to social relationships to self-esteem and finally self-actualization or simply, happiness.  Both the philosophers (especially Aristotle) and the psychologists (especially Maslow) teach that the deep-seated human motivation – the purpose in life, is to seek happiness.

The myths, as explained by Campbell, also address the human desire to achieve happiness through the adventures to secure the boons for the benefit of society.

The works of art presented in my book also illustrate the desire to achieve happiness and, in most cases, they depict the means of achieving this happiness.

The traits of successful entrepreneurs reinforce the teachings of the philosophers, psychologists, the myths, and the artists as the vehicle for traveling the road of life in search of happiness.

But there is one final link missing.  This one remaining condition is what pulls the adventurer across the threshold back to the everyday world in which the boon contributes to the flourishing of society and happiness is rewarded to the adventurer.

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness – Part 3

Continuing from my last post: those individuals that have the virtues of wisdom and courage to recognize and accept the adventure, the moderation to avoid temptations and proper training and preparation to withstand the forces to secure the boon during the adventure, must still possess the fourth virtue of justice.

As Campbell teaches, the individual existing within the adventure is usually reluctant to leave the adventure: the main reason is the risk that his/her quest or the boon captured may not be understood by society, and all the effort of the adventure was in vain.

To overcome this reluctance to cross back to the everyday world with the boon intact, the virtue of justice is needed.  This virtue is not so much a concern for the rights of others but a genuine concern for the welfare of the community.  It is this concern that drives the individual, with the boon intact, to the threshold of the return to the everyday world.

We all know of people that have left the everyday world for the adventure to never return back to the everyday world.  They have not been defeated or tempted with power or wealth so that they are driven back to the everyday world.  If that were the case, they would be recognized.  They are those who never found the fourth virtue of justice – a concern for the welfare of others – remaining afraid of the return back to the everyday world.  They simply lived the life of the adventure, again never finding happiness.