“All the gods, all the heavens are within you”. That phrase is something that you might have heard said to you at some point in the past. And it’s a shortened version of the quote “all the heavens, all the hells are within you”.
This is a phrase coined by literature professor Joseph Campbell. It means that you and you alone are responsible for your destiny, and how you live your life, and what’s right and wrong.
Such a quote might seem like you need a degree in philosophy to know what it means. However, it just means that we are solely responsible for our own happiness. If you want to feel fulfilled and live a meaningful life, then you cannot rely on others to do it for you.
You and you alone will need to live your life in a way that enables you to make the most out of it.
Origin of the quote
As with most philosophical quotes, this one comes from a book.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell is about how Myths and legends have spoken about human philosophy and the roles that everyone plays within our society.
As a professor of Literature, Campbell knows how to analyse some of the most ancient and influential stories known to humanity.
He wrote this book shortly after the release of a documentary of the same name which he was responsible for. And if you’re still not sold on him, George Lucas has credited him for inspiring the Star Wars Franchise.
Let us look a bit deeper into what each of the words in the quote represents. By understanding this, we’ll be able to get a better idea of how we can use his quote to help us to make a better life.
By referring to heavens, Campbell is talking about our goals. And when I say goals, I’m not just talking about the kinds of stuff that you put onto a to-do-list. I’m talking about what your life goals are. This could be related to your work, your family, your relationships.
And gods are the way for you to achieve this goal. Much like how gods are the way to get into heaven, your plan is the way to get your goals.
Is it Atheistic?
One could argue that by saying “all the gods, all the heavens” are within you, you deny the existence of a god or supernatural power. Therefore, this seems like the type of quote you might find on an Atheist’s Instagram page.
A religious person might argue that gods and heavens aren’t within you, but rather outside of you. Some would say in the same physical world that we inhabit, whereas others would say in some kind of non-physical realm.
Either way, a religious person might avoid using this phrase.
Is Campbell religious?
The fact his quote is seemingly so critical of religion does raise a valid question “Is Campbell religious?”. And to answer that question, it’s hard to tell. He’s never given a solid yes or no in response to that question.
Although he had a religious upbringing, and his parents still follow that religion, I don’t know for sure if he has given up religion completely.
It’s no secret that he isn’t a fan of Orthodox religion, but it’s unsure if this covers all religion too.
A quote of his that makes the answer even fuzzier is “All religions are true, but none are literal”.
god vs God
Earlier, we mentioned how a religious person might not be too happy with “All the gods, all the heavens are within you”. But there is a loophole.
There is a difference between God and a god. This is important to look at as it makes it possible to agree with Campbell without giving up your religion.
God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, perfect being. Whereas, a god is just a mighty creature that rules over humans.
You can believe that you’re in charge of your own life and destiny but still believe in God.
Where’s the “and”?
As a big fan of the English language, there is one part of the quote that is slightly irritating to me. And that is the lack of an “and”.
“And” is the word that we tend to use to show that our list is coming to an end and the next thing we’re going to say will be the last. But what’s annoying here is that even though he left out the “and” his sentence still makes perfect sense.
This is because he uses a full stop before talking about something else. Abandoning the “and” might work in writing but probably not in speaking.
Self Help Gurus
Recently, there seems to have been an influx of these “self-help gurus”, such as Tony Robbins. People who have made millions off of telling people how amazing they are, and giving them advice on how to live a better life.
These people will often say similar sorts of things, stuff along the lines of “You are in control of your life”. But what these gurus lack that Campbell has is a background in literacy and philosophy.
They might tell you how amazing and capable you are. However, they don’t connect it to mythology, stories, or religion in any way.
I do think that quotes like these do have a place in our society. They can help us to become better people. However, it’s essential to also talk about situations where these sorts of quotes are easier said than acted upon.
Some issues, such as poverty, death, and famine, can be horrible. But they’re out of our control. You can’t “inspire” your way out of thousands of pounds of debt.
And if you have a mental health condition, taking control of your life is easier said than done.
“All the god, all the heavens are within you” is a philosophical quote written by Literature professor Joseph Campbell. What is means is that we are in control of our destiny, and we get to decide what happens to ourselves and our lives.
It’s a great quote that can be looked at as a critique of religion but can also be seen as a complement to it. While it does have some flaws, it’s certainly something to keep in mind.