Born to Irish catholic parents, Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) is fascinated since his early childhood by Native American culture, and he grows up at the crossroads of these two visions of the world.
His higher education leads him to New York, Paris and Munich. He becomes convinced that myths are projections of the human mind that are transmitted through art and that mythologies, whichever culture they come from, express the universal need to make sense of reality, whether in terms of natural, mental, social or spiritual phenomena.
He spends the next years reading, writing and traveling, all the while pusuring his research in compared mythology.
At the age of thirty, he takes a position as professor in a New York university and teaches there for the next thirty-eight years while pursuing his research interests.
In 1949, he publishes The Hero with a Thousand Faces where he describes what he calls the "monomyth" or "hero's journey": under their apparent diversity, all the great myths of humanity present us with the same map of yearnings and fears, joys and throes, that every human being experiences on their way to increased awareness.
From then on, he edits numerous books and his lectures attract a passionate audience. 1965 marks his first visit to Esalen Insitute, California, where he then returns every year.
He suddenly dies from cancer in 1987, just after completing a six-part television documentary with journalist Bill Moyers that is aired the following spring as The Power of Myth.