The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Wes Pinkston's Must Read Book List

One of the most common questions I get is, "What books do you recommend?" 

Well, here you go!

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1. The Book

On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

by Alan Watts

In The Book, Alan Watts provides us with a much-needed answer to the problem of personal identity, distilling and adapting the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta.

At the root of human conflict is our fundamental misunderstanding of who we are. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world. To help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe, Watts has crafted a revelatory primer on what it means to be human—and a mind-opening manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence.


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2. Prometheus Rising

by Robert Anton Wilson

Prometheus Rising describes the landscape of human evolution and offers the reader an opportunity to become a conscious participant. In an astoundingly useful road map infused with humor and startling insight, Robert Anton Wilson presents the Eight Circuits of the Brain model as an essential guide for the effort to break free of imprinted and programmed behavior, Bob writes, "We are all giants, raised by pygmies, who have learned to walk with a perpetual mental crouch. Unleashing our full stature–our total brain power–is what this book is all about.”


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3. How Can I Help?

by Ram Dass

Not a day goes by without our being called upon to help one another--at home, at work, on the street, on the phone. . . . We do what we can. Yet so much comes up to complicate this natural response: "Will I have what it takes?" "How much is enough?" "How can I deal with suffering?" "And what really helps, anyway?"

In this practical helper's companion, the authors explore a path through these confusions, and provide support and inspiration fo us in our efforts as members of the helping professions, as volunteers, as community activists, or simply as friends and family trying to meet each other's needs. Here too are deeply moving personal accounts: A housewife brings zoo animals to lift the spirits of nursing home residents; a nun tends the wounded on the first night of the Nicaraguan revolution; a police officer talks a desperate father out of leaping from a roof with his child; a nurse allows an infant to spend its last moments of life in her arms rather than on a hospital machine. From many such stories and the authors' reflections, we can find strength, clarity, and wisdom for those times when we are called on to care for one another. How Can I Help? reminds us just how much we have to give and how doing so can lead to some of the most joyous moments of our lives.


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4. Quantum Psychology

by Robert Anton Wilson

Quantum Psychology offers a coherent and humorous description of how our thoughts, values and behaviors have been colored by our use of language and our prevailing view of the universe. While Quantum Mechanics, relativity, non-Euclidean geometries, non-Aristotelian logic and General Semantics have revolutionized our view of the world, the habits of daily human thought still sit deeply rooted in the thought patterns and linguistic conventions of the middle ages. Through an introduction to E-Prime (English without use of the verb “to be”), the Eight Circuits of the Brain Model, and the labyrinth of Quantum Mechanic’s various views of reality, Quantum Psychology can help your brain improve your perception of yourself and the world.


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5. Freedom from the Known

Krishnamurti shows how people can free themselves radically and immediately from the tyranny of the expected, no matter what their age-opening the door to transforming society and their relationships.


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6. The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching

Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

by Thich Nhat Hanh

In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, now revised with added material and new insights, Nhat Hanh introduces us to the core teachings of Buddhism and shows us that the Buddha’s teachings are accessible and applicable to our daily lives. 

Covering such significant teachings as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Three Doors of Liberation, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Seven Factors of Awakening, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching is a radiant beacon on Buddhist thought for the initiated and uninitiated alike.


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7. Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo

by Shohaku Okumura

Dogen, the thirteenth-century Zen master who founded the Japanese Soto school of Zen, is renowned as one the world's most remarkable religious geniuses. His works are both richly poetic and deeply insightful and philosophical, pointing to the endless depths of Zen exploration. And almost precisely because of these facts, Dogen is often difficult for readers to understand and fully appreciate.

Realizing Genjokoan is a comprehensive introduction to the teachings and approach of this great thinker, taking us on a thorough guided tour of the most important essay-Genjokoan-in Dogen's seminal work, the Shobogenzo. Indeed, the Genjokoan is regarded as the pinnacle of Dogen's writings, encompassing and encapsulating the essence of all the rest of his work.

Our tour guide for this journey is Shohaku Okumura, a prominent teacher in his own right, who has dedicated his life to translating and teaching Dogen.


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8. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

by Shunryu Suzuki

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." 

So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books.  Seldom has such a small handful of words provided a teaching as rich as has this famous opening line.  In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen as to completely miss what it's all about.  An instant teaching on the first page.  And that's just the beginning. 

In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.


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9. The Origins and History of Consciousness

by Erich Neumann

The Origins and History of Consciousness draws on a full range of world mythology to show how individual consciousness undergoes the same archetypal stages of development as human consciousness as a whole. Erich Neumann was one of C. G. Jung's most creative students and a renowned practitioner of analytical psychology in his own right. In this influential book, Neumann shows how the stages begin and end with the symbol of the Uroboros, the tail-eating serpent. The intermediate stages are projected in the universal myths of the World Creation, Great Mother, Separation of the World Parents, Birth of the Hero, Slaying of the Dragon, Rescue of the Captive, and Transformation and Deification of the Hero. Throughout the sequence, the Hero is the evolving ego consciousness.


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10. The Hero with a Thousand Faces

by Joseph Campbell

Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.