The Enduring Power of Myth

William Blake's image of Albion
William Blake’s image of Albion

For 5,000 years humans have used the power of myth to find meaning in our lives. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell surveys myths from around the world and finds an underlying pattern which he calls the “monomyth.” Narrative after narrative from the earliest cultures to the present, secular and sacred, show us a protagonist called to a heroic task.

Most of us will admit to not being heroes, but we may recognize the monomyth in our personal landscape: the helpers, the obstructionists, the tempting diversions, the sense of purpose that, in some small way, are telling elements in our life’s journey. The psychologist Carl Jung helps us make this connection. His theories of the Archetypes and Collective Unconscious, Individuation, and Integration show how the psychological development of the individual parallels the universal myth of the hero’s journey. Is the journey the same for men and women? We will explore this question with selected writings by Clarissa Pinkola Estés on the wild woman archetype.

Bodhisattva Guanyin
Bodhisattva Guanyin/Rebecca Arnett on Wikimedia Commons

The myth of the hero’s journey is made visible through art. We will discuss painting and sculpture from Europe, India, Japan, Africa, and South America. Jung believed that art could be an expression of myth and dream, of the unconscious. He focused on mandalas which he found in Tibetan Buddhism, Christian mysticism, and his personal visions. To conclude our seminar, we will construct our own informal, even playful, mandalas.

Read more in Sean’s blog post Discovering Truth Through Myth.

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

– Carl Jung


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Sean Forester is an artist and lecturer from the San Francisco Bay Area. A veteran Classical Pursuits leader, Sean teaches painting and humanities at the Golden Gate Atelier. He is currently exploring mythic images in his own life through Buddhist meditation and psychotherapy and looks forward to deepening his experience in Toronto.

Participants are required to obtain the specified edition in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
(Princeton UP, 1972)
ISBN-13: 978-0691017846

The Essential Jung by Carl Jung, ed. Anthony Storr
(Princeton UP, 1999)
ISBN-13: 978-0691029351

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
(Ballantine, 1996)
ISBN-13: 978-0345409874

Recommended Text

The Mythic Image by Joseph Campbell
(Princeton UP, 1981)
ISBN-13: 978-0691018393

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