“The Hero With a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell
This is by far the best book ever written on mythology and religion, and I can confidently say with absolute certainty that there won’t be anything like this book ever again in our lifetime. It’s that distinguishable.
The author, the now-legendary Joseph Campbell, read a lot of religious scriptures and mythology from many different cultures and can identify the common themes and surprisingly common story developments among them, in which he then proceeded to write them all into one single unifying timeline without corrupting the original texts. It’s quite literally reading multiple mythological and religious journey all at once (hence the book title) and it’s a mind-blowing experience.
So what’s really going on, as it can’t be a coincidence that multiple mythology and religious texts that were born hundreds or even thousands of years apart can have a similar “hero’s journey”?
A single passage captures the essence of the book perfectly, at Emanations chapter: “it appears that through the wonder tales – which pretend to describe the lives of the legendary heroes, the powers of the divinities of nature, the spirit of the dead, and the totem ancestors of the group – symbolic expression is given to the unconscious desires, fears, and tensions that underlie the conscious patterns of human behaviour. Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology. The modern psychologist can translate it back to its proper denotations and this rescue for the contemporary world a rich and eloquent document of the profoundest depths of human character.”
It is by far the hardest book I’ve ever read because every word is seemingly important and could become the key to understand the next few sentences. It’s so packed, concise, and inter-connected. Heck, it took me 2 years to finally finish this book, as every single paragraph in this 432 pages book is so damn interesting and important. I’ve said it once and I’m going to say it again, there’s simply no other book that can match this masterpiece.