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Help please! Need sources for these quotes

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    I’m a doctoral student working on a paper about the principle of storytelling. I’m citing Campbell’s work in my paper. I’m also hoping to use these two quotes that are often attributed to him. Unfortunately, I can’t find the exact book or work they come from. Without the precise citation (page number in a book) I won’t be able to use them. Can anyone here help me?

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

    “The job of the educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves.”

    Thank you!



    Hi Linda,

    It looks like the first quote is something Deepak Chopra said about Campbell for the film Mythic Journeys — he may have been paraphrasing.

    Youtube video:

    And Campbell has said “mythology is not history” in a few places, for example, in the book The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance/Page 22. “Now, mythology is not history (the rehearsal of literal fact), but vision (a pictorial symbolization of the backgrounds of existence).”

    Also, in the book The Power of Myth/Page 163 Campbell says: “It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth — penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words.”

    Hope this helps.



    Hello Linda,

    These certainly reflect Joseph Campbell’s perspective, but finding the exact source can be tricky.  Often Campbell “quotes”  found on the internet turn out to be truncated paraphrases of something Campbell said, or someone’s comment on a point of Campbell’s that someone else mistakenly assumed were Campbell’s own words and then re-shared them widely – which, as Lynn points out above, is certainly the case with the first quote, which is actually Deepak Chopra discussing Campbell (I happened to be in the room when he said it …), but has mistakenly been attributed to Joe because it does reflect his viewpoint.

    So we’ll do our  best to track the second one down, but can’t guarantee anything. However, in the meantime, here are a couple related thoughts of Joe’s on myth vs. history:

    Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed.”

    Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (Third Edition, Copyright © 2008 Joseph Campbell Foundation), p. 213

    “Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology.”

    Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (Third Edition, Copyright © 2008 Joseph Campbell Foundation), p. 219


    Hi Lynn,

    Thank you for your reply and trying to help me. I appreciate the connection to Deepak Chopra. I hadn’t found that. I think it likely confirms that the quote can’t be attributed to Campbell.

    On the plus side, I’m so happy I found this website and community. I appreciate how quickly you responded to me!



    Hi Stephen,

    Thank you so much for your quick reply. As I said in my reply to Lynn, I’m so glad I found this community of people so devoted to Campbell’s work and legacy!

    About the first quote, it’s a bit disturbing (yet not surprising) that it doesn’t belong to him. I found no less than 10 different sites using that same quote. I knew something was wrong though when I couldn’t easily source it.

    As for the second, research it only if you have time. I’ve re-worded that portion of my paper and sent it on for review. However, since my program is tied to education and teaching, I’ll likely have an opportunity to use it in the future.

    I appreciate the additional quotes and sources. I’ve added them to my “quotes with accurate sources” list.

    I appreciate your help!


      The second quote seems to link to The Hero’s Journey about the the life of JC as a teacher. A fast scan…

      In THJ 1st ed 1990, page 102: “…You see a student wake up to a whole new life possibility. That’s a wonderful moment in teaching when that happens because…” Close, but a different quote.

      No other hits alas. Maybe in a dialogue or interview.


      Linda, I’ll admit curiosity about your thesis on the principles of storytelling. If you don’t mind my asking, where are you matriculating? You mention your Ph.D. program is tied to education and teaching – is that the field your degree will be in?

      At JCF we do everything we can to advance the study of myth – but mythology is in many ways the strange bastard child of academia. Only rarely is it its own field (Pacifica Graduate Institute comes to mind, and I believe Sonoma State in California offered a degree in myth at one point); usually mythology is a subset of some other field: cultural anthropology, religious studies, , folklore – heck, even Joseph Campbell himself taught in the literature department at Sarah Lawrence.

      As for storytelling, I believe that is essential to teaching. For a number of years I taught English and Literature (and, occasionally, especially when on the wrong side of whomever happened to be principal that year, a section or two of algebra – not exactly my dessert class) in my junior high classroom. Storytelling was key to whatever success I enjoyed (even when teaching math!). In the years since, I fill in a few days a month for old friends and colleagues – and even when subbing, storytelling proves crucial, even when discussing the most mundane matters (heck, the kids respond so much better to an anecdote about little Donnie Gardner’s use of bathroom privileges in my classroom lo so many decades ago, and are far more understanding, than just having the rules laid down for them).

      I am curious if you relate the principles of storytelling you uncover to the field of education – and would love to know who else, besides Campbell, you cite (whether Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative, to Shel Silverstein and everything in between.


      The second quote is similar to something Bill Moyers said in the Power of Myth DVD Episode 1 The Hero’s Adventure:

      Campbell: …The influence of a vital person vitalizes…

      Moyers: That’s the power of the teacher, isn’t it — to bring vitality to others, to make others see the vitality in them?

      Campbell: Well, it happens. That’s one of the delights of teaching…


      Well done, Lynn! That explains the likely source of a quote we are unable to attribute to Campbell.


      Oh my goodness, Stephen: I had no idea that you taught algebra! Because you are so good with words and literary things and mythology, I find it somehow amazing that you also taught algebra~




      Thanks for the vote of confidence . . .

      My degree is in history – so naturally, over the years I’ve taught primarily English and literature, a fair share of math and science, but very little social studies or history (such is the field of education!). I can teach anything – even had to handle sex education on occasion . . .

      Toward the end of my hitchhiking years, I’d earn a little income over winter substitute teaching (which is how I discovered I had a gift for teaching). A few upper level high school math teachers would regularly request me because then they didn’t have to come up with make-work or a video for their trigonometry, calculus, or quantitive analysis classes. As long as I’m in the classroom early enough ahead of time to review the previous day’s homework and the upcoming lesson in the textbook, I’d be able to correct the homework with the class and explain difficult problems, and then present the days’ lesson with examples. Often I’d be covering those classes for several days in a row, which was even better, as after the first day I’d have more time to prepare.

      But teaching math isn’t as much fun as teaching other subjects.

      Science is a joy to teach, in part because students learn by doing (I always love lab days – busy, fun, and interactive) . . .and then so much of teaching science involves story – locating the information I need to convey within a narrative that strikes a chord with the students’ own experiences of life.

      A few years ago I covered junior high science classes for a few days for a dear friend (one of my favorite people to sub for) who had a teacher-in-training shadowing her. The student teacher assumed he’d have to step in and rescue me, since he knew the kids and I didn’t, and had seen other subs flounder.

      Instead at the end of the day he expressed pleasant surprise at how I managed the classroom and taught the lesson through storytelling – a lesson he later told me he shared with his classmates doing teacher credential coursework.

      Of course, to do that successfully you need a mastery of the subject and a wealth of life experience (there is nothing quite like sharing an episode from one of my many hitchhiking treks to command teenagers’ attention – they react like I’m Daniel Boone, or maybe an astronaut, with a lifetime of exotic adventures of which they could barely conceive – and then suddenly we slide into the point I’m making or the lesson I intend to illustrate with my tale, and you can almost see the lightbulbs going off over their heads . . .)


      Thanks Stephen!


        Rather than starting a new thread and to keep everything on the same subject of missing Sources for Joseph Campbell Quotes, I am posting my query here.

        Years ago, I read in print somewhere a Joseph Campbell quote that I can only paraphrase today. It was something like “If we are interested in creating an American Mythos, we need to begin in Detroit” or something to the effect of mythologizing Detroit to create an American Mythos.

        Despite all the failures of that earthly city, I can grasp why such a statement wouldn’t be out of character for someone like Joseph Campbell. And as someone who grew up in the city and who has been working on a poem regarding the city and its people, I would love to nail down the quote as an actual quote and not the vague paraphrase I have now.

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