Joseph Campbell’s “Pathways To Bliss”.


What do the title of this post and the image above have to do with each other?  Please wait till you reach the last paragraph.  But to reach there, please do go through this brilliant story told by Joseph Campbell.

“I had a very amusing experience once lecturing in the Pacific North-west. I was talking about Dante’s view of the ages of man – he too, came up with an astrological schema for the great cycle of life.


“Unlike the Yeatses with their lunar metaphor, Dante likens life to the daily transit of the sun. He names four ages, each of which corresponds to a time of the day, and any of which has its proper set of virtues. The first is infancy, which goes to the age of twenty-five, would you believe. The qualities for infancy are obedience, a sense of shame, comeliness of appearance, and sweetness of conduct. This is the morning.


“Then you come, at the age of twenty five, to what he calls maturity, and this stage will last to year forty-five. You have reached the high moment of life, and for this stage he names the values of the medieval knight: temperance, courage, love, courtesy, and loyalty. When you have lived your life in terms of what the society asks of you , you will come to a moment at midcareer, at around thirty-five, when you will actually have the experience of what, formerly, you had simply been taught; then you are eligible to teach. This is the afternoon.


“Dante calls the age from forty-five to seventy the age of wisdom. In India, the wise get sent out to the forest; not here in the West. Here we expect the aged to stay in society, look around with a critical eye, and share the benefit of their experience. At this stage, the qualities are wisdom, justice, generosity, and humor or cheerfulness. After all, you have got nothing to lose. You’ve reached the evening.


“From seventy on he calls decrepitude, and the qualities are looking back over your life with gratitude and forward to death as a return home. Now it is night.

“This little schedule, this life pattern – this is mythos.

“In any case, when I’d finished my lecture up in Seattle, one young lady came up to me, and she said very seriously, “Oh, Mr. Campbell, you just don’t know about the modern generation. We go directly from infancy to wisdom.”

“I said, “That is great. All you’ve missed is life.”


PS.  Alas, in India too the wise do not get sent to the forests any more.  In fact, few of them want to any way and those who do want to are prevented from doing so by their near and dear ones.  Or at least that is the myth now here.  JC would love to hear about that myth.

Wise Woman.

My readers and I know of one wise woman. This story reminds me of her!

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”
~ Author Unknown

Wisdom From Afghanistan.

There was a student who had been studying for many years at a madrassa. He had memorized the Koran and learned all the lessons his teacher taught. One day he went to his teacher and said, “I am ready to leave and go be a mullah.”

His teacher said, “I think you should stay here for a few more years.”

“Why?” asked the student. “Is there some additional degree or higher certificate that I will get?”

“No,” said the teacher, “all you will get is wisdom.”

“But I’m ready to be a mullah now,” said the student. And he left the madrassa and wandered from village to village looking for a mosque where he could be the prayer-leader.

Finally the student came to a village where a corrupt old mullah was using the mosque as a stall for his cow. The student was outraged. He gathered the villagers together and told them, “I have studied at a madrassa. I have memorized the Koran. It is a great sacrilege for your mullah to use the mosque as a stall for his cow.”

The villagers beat him up.

The student limped back to the madrassa and told his teacher what had happened. The teacher said, “Follow me.” They went back to the village where the mullah was using the mosque as a stall.

The teacher gathered the villagers together and told them, “I see you have a beautiful cow being kept in your mosque. It must be a very blessed animal. And I hear the cow belongs to your mullah. He must be a very holy man. In fact, I think that this cow is so blessed and your mullah is so holy that if you were to take one hair from the cow’s hide and one hair from the mullah’s beard and rub them together, you would be assured of paradise.”

The villagers ran into the mosque and began plucking hairs from the cow’s hide. The cow started to buck and kick and it bolted from the mosque and disappeared. Then the villagers ran to the mullah’s house and began plucking hairs from the corrupt old mullah’s beard. And they tugged and they yanked so hard at the mullah’s beard that he had a heart attack and died.

“You see,” said the teacher to the student, “no cow in the mosque and a need for a new mullah—that is wisdom.”

New Mast.

I have just changed the look of the mast on my blog.

I have removed the “hindsight” of the elephant and instead inserted a rear view mirror showing lightening in the back.

I had originally inserted the elephant’s rear in response to a reader’s query as to what I meant by “hindsight”. I had posted about it in one of my blogs to oblige another reader who has since then, stopped visiting and commenting on my blog. No, I did not kick her out.

Had my friend Conrad anything to do with that decision, (He has been dreaming of sailing away to the South Seas and retire on an island inhabited by only people like these.) he would have insisted that I use this one.

Now here is the challenge. Why did I choose the rear view mirror for the change?

Since posting this on the web, I have had the pleasure of reading Ursula’s comment which has inspired me to add a few lines more.

Ursula says, “Ramana, what a well rounded person you are.

I am sure your new (half) mast will grow on us. Though I will miss the elephant and its sweet, so very expressive, tail.”

Let me respond to her comment here to generate some humour, I hope, here.

Ursula, you haven’t seen me. But I can assure you that I am indeed well rounded. Not quite obese, but some people who have seen me and comment on my posts have called me Humpty Dumpty Rummy. Wait for a couple of days and another blog post on my well roundedness is likely to appear.

You must go back and read my post “The Lungi” to appreciate this picture below. We call this the half mast lungi. When I want a little freedom of movement, I wear the lungi, which is my normal attire, in this fashion. Alas, I wish that I could look like that model!

Wisdom With Foresight.

My byline is “Wisdom By Hindsight”. Someone decided that I was eligible for this message and sent it to me by email. I leave it to me readers to come to their own conclusions about the wisdom of the sender of this message.

frog and wisdom

This guy is 72 years old and loves to fish.

He was sitting in his boat the other day
when he heard a voice say, “Pick me up.”

He looked around and couldn’t see anyone..

He thought he was dreaming when he heard the voice say a gain, “Pick me up.”

He looked in the water and there, floating on the top, was a frog.

The man said, “Are you talking to me?”

The frog said, “Yes, I’m talking to you. Pick me up then kiss me and I’ll turn into the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. I’ll make sure that all your friends are envious and jealous because I will be your bride!”

The man looked at the frog for a short time,
reached over, picked it up carefully, and placed it in his front breast pocket.

Then the frog said, “What, are you nuts? Didn’t you hear what I said? I said kiss me and I will be your beautiful bride.”

He opened his pocket, looked at the frog and said,
“Nah, at my age I’d rather have a talking frog.”

With age comes wisdom.