Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 3)

In my two previous posts I presented the works of Eakins and Degas.  Both of these two artists presented individuals that have attained happiness.  The artworks depict masters of their respective occupations who have achieved Maslow’s self-actualization level, Csikszentmihalyi’s unity with universal values, and Campbell’s ability to cross between the spiritual and everyday worlds with contaminating the one with the other.

In both artworks, the main character appears suspended, distant from the others but still present in the scene.  In fact, none of the other characters in the scenes are looking directly at the main characters; again, reinforcing the separateness of the main characters from the everyday world.

Below is a third representation of this depiction of individual happiness by another great artist.



Freedom from Want (Rockwell, 1943)

Freedom From Want Painting by Rockwell


Attention is now on the isolated grandparents, who as a couple, accepted the call to adventure and sacrificed through hard work and dedication for the successful upbringing of their family. Their journey’s accomplishment is illustrated by their humble gestures (grandmother cooked for all the others to enjoy) and the successful gratification of their offspring’s physiological and safety needs – most assuredly the grandparents’ quest.  

Just as in the two paintings mentioned in the previous posts, the characters seated at the table in this painting are not looking at the two main characters standing.  The two grandparents are almost hovering above the table, isolated from the conversations of those seated at the table.


Happiness as Portrayed by the Artists (Part 2)

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.

As I discussed in the previous post, Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell, the three modern thinkers presented in my book, teach that 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 another master of the art world who depicts such a life of one who has achieved true happiness (has reached Maslow’s final level of the hierarchy, Csikszentmihalyi’s unity with universal values, and Campbell’s comfort with the everyday world as well as the spiritual world.

The Dance Class (Degas, 1874)

The Dance Class by Degas

Jules Perrot, the great dancer and ballet master of Europe, is teaching the class. The musicians have taken a break. All the girls are engaged in conversation, except one.   That one girl is seen dancing for the master. She is in a state of ecstasy. As she executes her pirouette, the viewer is uncertain as to the success of its execution; the tutu of the girl in the foreground hides the result. But the outcome does not matter; the master is seemingly enthralled by her enthusiasm and courage to come forward.

As expressed in the Eakins painting in the previous post, the master is standing apart from the others in the scene.  None of the other characters is looking at him.  Perhaps he is alone in a spiritual world, to return soon to the everyday world of his class.  He expresses autonomy, effortlessness, self-sufficiency, and a willingness to assist others.  He exists in both worlds and, as a result of his mastery, has been able to bring the boon of teaching and instruction to others.

What is Happiness? (Part 3)

Continuing with the thoughts of my previous post, we now witness the much-anticipated convergence of the conclusions arrived at by the intellectual “prose” of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell.  The three academics, independent of one another, have reached identical conclusions regarding those who have reached the highest levels of human development.  Maslow’s theory presents the ultimate level of human development – self-actualization: fulfillment of a mission (or call or destiny), acceptance of one’s own nature, and a drive towards integration with others.  Campbell’s study of world myths presents the hero who successfully crosses the threshold back to the everyday world: one released of all personal ambitions, limitations, and fears.  Finally, Csikszentmihalyi’s research reveals the individual who has reached the final level of development: integration with other people and with universal values.

The ancient thinkers echo in their teachings the conclusions of the above three modern thinkers that, if our moral and intellectual development goes as it should, we will progress from valuing food and warmth, to valuing social relations, to valuing moral virtue.  We will require four virtues to reach the threshold of happiness: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.  But, as stated brilliantly by St. Aquinas, the final virtue of love of neighbor is necessary to pull us across the threshold into the realm of happiness.  It is at this moment of passage into happiness that the boon of the adventurer is delivered for the benefit of society.

Characterized by each of the three modern thinkers as the ultimate level of human development, and reflected in the teachings of the four ancient thinkers, happiness is: 1) fulfillment of one’s call or destiny and the subsequent acceptance of one’s nature and limitations, 2) freedom from personal ambitions (desires), fears, and limitations, and 3) integration with universal values and the promotion of the greater good of society.

More to come!

What is Happiness? (Part 2)

In my previous post I began discussing the concept of happiness as presented by two modern psychologists, Csikszentmihalyi and Maslow.  In particular, Maslow mentioned that an individual enjoying happiness is “motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization… as fulfillment of a mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation)…”  It is the fulfillment of this mission or call that is further explored by Campbell in which the returning hero of myth, having crossed the return threshold with the loving help of others and whose boon is accepted by society, is awarded the position as the master of two worlds – the material and the spiritual.

For Campbell, “Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the casual deep and back – not contaminating the principles of the one with the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other – is the talent of the Master.” Campbell goes on to say, “The individual, through prolonged disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes, and fears. … His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him …” 

It is now that we witness the convergence of the conclusions arrived at by the intellectual “prose” of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell.  More to come!

Book’s Summary in Images – Part 5

In my previous posts, I talked about how the thinkers and artists provide a three dimensional view of happiness, with the thinkers and artists verifying one another.  I also talked about how the harnessing of the entrepreneur within each of us serves as the vehicle for traveling within the three dimensional pyramid.

The vehicle takes us upward to the apex of the pyramid if we use our entrepreneurial instincts.  Once prepared for the journey with assistance from our family and a just society, we enter into “involvement” activities and then “exposure” activities leading to proper self-esteem.  We then must recognize and accept the call, if sent, to begin the adventure.  The virtues of wisdom and courage help us with this segment of the adventure.  We must all resist temptation and use the preparation earned earlier to fight the many battles to secure the boon.  Once the boon is secured, we must be willing to return to the threshold (justice) and await help to return back to the everyday world with the boon intact.

The following work by Homer is a great representation of this moment in which the hero adventurer, aided by the virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice, is at the threshold looking for the love of others to pull him back to the everyday world.  In this painting, the veteran has put aside his Civil War gear for those of the farmer.  He has survived the war and is now willing to help his country begin a new period of growth and prosperity.  But, he is alone.  He needs help to reconnect to his community that he left to fight the war.  In 1865, when this work was completed, is was uncertain if he would be accepted.  Fortunately, he was accepted and the boon of his desire to help rebuild a new country was delivered to his countrymen and happiness was achieved for the veteran.

Homer - The Veteran in a New Field

The Veteran in a New Field, Winslow Homer (1865)

As mentioned above, only with the love of one’s neighbor from those in the everyday world is the adventurer able to cross the threshold.  This crossing brings great happiness to the adventurer and the boon to society.  Just as with the veteran in the painting, the IOUs of life are now cashed in for happiness – the happiness of the returning veteran and the flourishing of society.

The IOUs are the many trials and suffering of the veteran during battle that he was courageous enough to accept, remain focused to the task at hand, and noble to secure the boon that was his to find.  He reward for these many IOUs are his happiness and the flourishing of his society.  Spectacular art representing a spectacular way of living!

Book’s Summary in Images – Part 2

In my previous post, I mentioned that the format of my book relies on four dimensions.

The first two dimensions are the ideas of four ancient philosophers, two “positive” psychologists, and one mythologist, Joseph Campbell.  These great thinkers provide the structure to the book – what I call the “prose” portion of the Prose/Art Exposition.

First Two Dimensions of Book

Basically, these three segments of the triangle tell us that we are all motivated instinctively to achieve happiness in life or, at least, “self-actualization,” which I consider to be a fancy psychological word for happiness.  We are all motivated to try and reach happiness; but, as these great thinkers mention, most of us don’t reach happiness in our lives for a number of different reasons.

The great thinkers also tell us that there is a progression that we all must follow.  This progression, which differs among the thinkers, is basically: a need for food, shelter, and warmth, followed by safety and education, social interactions, exposure to many and varied risks, and if successful, finally a state of happiness.  Along this progression each of us will need to acquire certain cardinal virtues to withstand the many risks in life and succeed in our own adventures towards happiness.

This triangle of seven great thinkers is all that is needed to set the stage for what each of us needs to do.  However, each of us needs inspiration to trust the great thinkers and get going on our own personal rad to happiness.

Up next, the great artists.

Book’s Summary in Images

If you are still thinking about buying my book, I thought it might be helpful to explain the structure of the book using three images.

I think that my book can best be described as one operating in four dimensions.  The first two dimensions, forming a geometric plane, are the ideas presented by the ancient philosophers and modern thinkers.  The ancient philosophers provide the base of the triangle.  Two modern “positive” psychologists provide one side of the triangle and the works of Joseph Campbell regarding the myths of the world provide the other side of the triangle.

First Two Dimensions of Book

However, the above is only two dimensions and doesn’t do the subject of happiness any justice.  If you add the viewpoints of the masters of the fine arts, you get a much more three dimensional perspective.  Now, the attainment of happiness becomes much clearer.

Three Dimensions of Book

However, there is one thing missing – the means of climbing to the top of the pyramid and the achievement of happiness.  For finding the means to reach the top, a fourth dimension is needed – a set of stairs.  The means for climbing the stairs is the entrepreneur within each of us.  The traits of the entrepreneur propel each of us upward along the stairs to the very top of the pyramid; the very top is where happiness resides!

Fourth Dimension of Book

Virtue: A Must have for Happiness – Part 6

The final link in the whole virtue process is what pulls the adventurer across Joseph Campbell’s threshold back to the everyday world.  This final link is what the philosopher St. Aquinas described as the ultimate virtue: love of neighbor as oneself.

This love is as much from the community or society towards the adventurer as the adventurer’s love towards his/her community.  In other words, it takes the love of one’s neighbor in both directions to bring the adventurer across to the everyday world.  It is at this moment that the adventurer is greeted with the warm and admiration of society, contributing to his/her happiness.  It is also at this time that the boon is presented to society, adding to the flourishing of society.

Joseph Campbell mentions that, “The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without.  That is to say, the world may have to come and get him.  For the bliss of the deep abode is not lightly abandoned in favor of the self-scattering of the wakened state.”  But why should the world come and get the hero who, motivated by the virtue of justice, is waiting at the threshold.  The world may not recognize the hero or the boon that has been captured.  The reason is simply the love of one’s neighbor  to help the hero with the crossing.  For this one gesture, which might require a lot of effort, the hero is brought back to a world of happiness, and the boon is presented to society.

Next, a great example from the world of cinema.

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness – Part 4

Continuing with my last post: those that have secured the four virtues are able to go very far towards happiness.  The virtue of wisdom, obtained during the journey of involvement and exposure with others, allows one to see the illuminated path of the adventure.  The virtue of courage, also earned during the journey, provides the faith that the illuminated path is the correct one.

The virtue of moderation, earned during the journey or along the adventure, steers the individual away from temptations.  Finally, the virtue of justice, also earned during the journey or along the adventure, propels the individual towards the threshold of return to the everyday world, away from the adventure.

It is at this point that the adventurer has survived the many trials and has secured the boon.  The adventurer is now at the entrance of the everyday world and ready to relinquish the boon for the benefit of society.  But there is one final condition that must be met to complete the mission.

Maslow believed that less than 1% of the American population would reach this point.  Such a low number appears reasonable: so much preparation, so many involvement and exposure activities, so many virtues to earn, so many trials to win.  And one final condition needed: one not easy to find.

Virtue: A Must Have for Happiness – Part 2

So, the first two virtues of wisdom and courage are needed to recognize and accept the call to adventure.  Once the call is accepted, then the individual is transported into the adventure.

The one goal of the adventure is to capture the boon or gift for society that was the reason for the quest in the first place.  As Campbell teaches, the virtue of moderation or temperance is needed to combat the many temptations that will be encountered in the quest for the boon.

I don’t think that the virtue of moderation is needed before accepting the call to adventure, but it doesn’t hurt.  Also, without moderation, the individual will most likely not endure the adventure and will return back to the everyday world with the knowledge that the adventure is lost, as is any chance for happiness.  How many times have we heard of those who inherit large sums of money, or a family business, or even win the lottery, only to squander the newly-aquired wealth.  Soon, the individual is left with nothing and no chance of ever returning to wonders of the adventure.

Also, Campbell teaches that adventurer may not have had enough exposure to risks, and is not strong enough to withstand the forces that must be battled to capture the boon.  This failure is not due to a lack of moderation but a lack of proper training and preparation.  In this case, the individual also returns to the everyday world but with the understanding that in the future a new adventure may come along.  The individual still has the wisdom and courage to recognize and accept the new call, and hopefully the moderation to avoid temptations, but may need to engage in additional exposure activities to gain the proper training for future battles.

Of course, there are those who do have the proper training and preparation but lack the virtues.  In this case, these individuals will never recognize or have the courage to enter into the adventure; they will be denied happiness in the future.