I graduated high school as an agnostic, believing God’s existence could not be proved or disproved. During my last year of high school and throughout my years in undergraduate school, I buried myself in mythology. As an English Literature major in undergraduate school, I enjoyed reading the Odyssey, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Dante’s Inferno as a few examples. But before I read the classics, as a child, I regularly read comic books. I could transcend the poverty of my youth through the superheroes of Marvel and DC Comics. I didn’t believe in the myths, but I loved the adventures.
Thinking back to why these stories intrigued me, I believe the hero’s journey adventures were the underpinnings.
I loved the journeys the heroes and heroines traveled—leaving a place of familiarity to discover or confront known evils and other unknown challenges. Conquering their fears, overcoming the evil villains, and at times dying in the process, only to be resurrected by an angelic being with superhuman powers that could bring to life what was once dead. The hero is revived, returns home with the prize, and is forever changed for the better. Sometimes the hero conquers selfishness, low self-esteem, and fear of the unknown – whatever the original challenge – the hero returns having triumphed over so much more.
At an early age, Campbell was also fascinated by mythology. As a result, Campbell conducted extensive mythological research. He identified the common themes of heroes within traditional storytelling and labeled his theory as the monomyth. Campbell’s understanding of the “hero myth’s central plot is in Jungian terms, defining it as the male or female hero’s journey to a strange, new, divine world…psychologically, the journey symbolizes the rediscovery of the unconscious, from which an adult has lost contact in the process of growing up.” Campbell’s theories fuse his extensive research in mythology, English literature, Native American artifacts, and subsequent studies of Sanskrit and Jungian influence to formulate how myths contribute and impact cultures in the East and West.
In the prologue of Hero of a Thousand Faces, Campbell asserts that the myth is the secret opening that the creative energies pour into our culture. Essentially, Campbell believed that myths are the source of our knowledge, discoveries, and religions.
I commend Campbell for the tremendous work compiled in The Hero With A Thousand Faces and the identification of the similarities of the traditions and myths from various cultures worldwide. However, I prefer to stick with my simplistic childhood understanding of heroes. Good versus evil. Uncomplicated people rise to the call of an unknown adventure—people who aspire to become better for the greater good.
Perhaps my simplistic view is outdated because, today, heroes are very complicated in our culture. For example, in the series Dexter, the main character was a villain, and in Breaking Bad, the main character, Walter White, was forced to turn to the dark side. Nevertheless, both these villains were dearly loved by the fans and critically acclaimed by their acting peers.
So, was Campbell right in his assertion that there are deep psychological currents within our heroes, fighting for access to the unconscious? Was Campbell correct in advocating “myth as a panacea for not only psychological woes but also social woes, and he attributed almost all human problems to the absence of myth…Rather than confine his subject matter to myth and the human mind, Campbell found in myth the key to the cosmos as a whole.”
In conclusion, my faith leads me to believe the following concerning myths:
Romans 1:21-23, 25 NIV.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
 R.Segal, “Joseph Campbell.” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 22, 2022: 1, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Campbell-American-author.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 1
 Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 3rd ed. (Novato: New World Library, 2008), 1.
 R.Segal, “Joseph Campbell.” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 22, 2022: 3, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Campbell-American-author.