How to Read a Myth

Joseph Campbell’s Ten Commandments for Reading Mythology

Myths to Live By 1. Read myths with the eyes of wonder: the myths transparent to their universal meaning, their meaning transparent to its mysterious source.

2. Read myths in the present tense: Eternity is now.

3. Read myths in the first person plural: the Gods and Goddesses of ancient mythology still live within you.

4. Any myth worth its salt exerts a powerful magnetism. Notice the images and stories that you are drawn to and repelled by. Investigate the field of associated images and stories.

5. Look for patterns; don’t get lost in the details. What is needed is not more specialized scholarship, but more interdisciplinary vision. Make connections; break old patterns of thought.

6. Resacrilize the secular: even a dollar bill reveals the imprint of Eternity.

7. If God is everywhere, then myths can be generated anywhere, anytime, by anything. Don’t let your Romantic aversion to science blind you to the Buddha in the computer chip.

8. Know your tribe! Myths never arise in a vacuum; they are the connective tissue of the social body which enjoys synergistic relations with dreams (private myths) and rituals (the enactment of a myth).

9. Expand your horizon! Any mythology worth remembering will be global in scope. The earth is our home and humankind is our family.

10. Read between the lines! Literalism kills; imagination quickens.