Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987) was a brilliant scholar and maverick of sorts who saw a common thread in all of the world's mythological traditions and religions. Through his meticulous studies, he helped to bridge the gap for the layman between the outer cultures and traditions of the world with the inner journeys and experiences of sages, shamans and mystics. Perhaps his most groundbreaking book of the time was The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Through it, he explores countless myths and stories from different cultures and finds that they all have one common theme: the hero's journey. Moreover, his findings reveal that this journey is composed of archetypal stages and is taken up by all those who hear the knock on their door and answer the call. Many of the popular modern movies look to the Hero's Journey to tell their story. In fact, George Lucas consulted with Campbell before he produced Star Wars.
Campbell was a prolific writer and a fantastic storyteller. He became widely known in popular culture through the PBS television series, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers. For those who are interested in his work, The Power of Myth is an excellent jumping off point.
A good video introduction:
Links providing more information:
"All religions are true, but none are literal."
"There is no security in following the call to adventure."
"You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else's path. You are not on your own path. If you follow someone else's way, you are not going to realize your own potential."
"Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths."
"Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else."
"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come."
"Furthermore, we have not even to risk the journey alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world."
"If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path."
"I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive."
"...a mythology is a control system, on the one hand framing its community to accord with an intuited order of nature and, on the other hand, by means of its symbolic pedagogic rites, conducting individuals through the ineluctable psychophysiological stages of transformation of a human lifetime - birth, childhood and adolescence, age, old age, and the release of death - in unbroken accord simultaneously with the requirements of this world and the rapture of participation in a manner of being beyond time."
"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure."
"Each individual is the center of a mythology of his own, of which his own intelligble character is the Incarnate God, so to say, whom his empirically questing consciousness is to find."