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17 November 2014

The Hero's Journey and the Spiritual Path

The spiritual path is in one sense very rational and scientific. We encourage everyone to meditate and improve their health with a natural lifestyle, and there is an ever growing mountain of scientific papers and mainstream media programs supporting the value of these techniques in reducing stress. At the same time, often hidden from the public view, there is tremendous fierceness, magic, and mystery on the spiritual path. I would like to point out the power of these mysteries by comparing them to the work of American historian Joseph Campbell.

Campbell (1904-1987) studied myths, religions, and narratives from around the world. His famous advice, “Follow your bliss”, came from the phrase satcitananda in the ancient Upanishads, which translates as “being, consciousness, bliss”, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence. Campbell said he wasn’t sure about “being” and “consciousness”, but he could understand “bliss”! He taught many years at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, at that time an all-women’s institution. He always told his graduating students, “Whatever you do, don’t do what Daddy says, because he is only interested in your security. If you bargain away your life for security now, you will never find your bliss.”

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