HERO’S JOURNEY (Evolution in 4 stages)
The Hero’s Journey
Author, Joseph Campbell had a passion for comparing prophecies & mythologies from around the world, which have survived for thousands of years, and he discovered that they all share a fundamental structure called “The MonoMyth”. They all follow a similar path, which he called the “Heroic Journey”.
Campbell summarizes the MonoMyth, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are encountered there and a decisive victory is won. The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow beneficial wisdom upon his fellow man.”
The “Hero’s Journey” is the pattern of human experience, of our experience. Some journeys are longer and more difficult than others, but they are all journeys we must face throughout life.
It is important to remember that the journey is a process of separation, transformation and return. It is a process where each stage must be completed successfully if the individual is to become a hero. To turn back would mean that the individual is rejecting his own need to grow. Unless he sets out again, he may be locking himself into unending adolescence and giving up the benefits, freedom and fulfillment of adulthood. The journey has four stages: Pre-Separation, Separation, Initiation, and Return.
The Hero’s Journey appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual and psychological development. The Hero’s Journey is also a program that has been encoded by the Creator into our DNA, which is the impetus that propels humans forward in their evolutionary quest to discover who they are, where did they come from and where are they going.
Hollywood knows this! That is why the Hero’s Journey is written into every successful movie script. Humans deeply resonate with the story of the Hero’s Journey because subconsciously they are on the journey themselves. Most, however, have lacked the faith & courage to take the Hero’s Journey and thus, they reincarnate and repeat their karmic lessons over & over again. Eventually, they learn from their karmic lessons and begin to venture outward. They discover their sacred path and they take the Hero’s Journey to discover themselves.
Pre-Separation (Stage 1)
Everything is normal and the individual is happy, neutral or unsatisfied with life.
Separation (Stage 2)
In a Hero’s Journey (during Separation), a call invites the individual into the adventure and offers the opportunity to face the unknown and gain something of spiritual or physical value. The individual may choose willingly to undertake the quest, which is known as an intentional call. Or, he may be dragged into it unwillingly, which is known as an unintentional call.
Also in a Hero’s Journey (during Separation), those who accept the call must pass over the “threshold”, the “jumping off” point for the adventure. It is the interface between the known and the unknown. In the known world, the individual feels secure because he knows the landscape and the rules. Once past the threshold, however, the individual enters the unknown, a different world full of dangers & challenges. According to Campbell, this is the “world of magnified power.”
Once at the “threshold”, the individual may encounter people, beings or situations that block his passage into the journey. Their role is to frighten the individual in an attempt to make him turn back, thus protecting him from journeying before he is ready.
The true hero, however, confronts the threshold guardians and overcomes them. More importantly, to pass the guardian is to make a commitment; to say, “I’m ready! I can do this!”
At the threshold or shortly after crossing it, the hero will encounter a benign being, called the protective figure, who provides assistance or direction.
The protective figure’s role is to keep the hero focused on the goal, providing psychological stability & reassurance during the journey. Although, he assists the individual in this manner, he may not journey with the hero. He has no need, for the protective figure knows that the hero carries within the sanctuary of his heart the protective power he has bestowed upon him.
Initiation (Stage 3)
Initiation is the stage in which the hero encounters the tests & tribulations of his journey and must survive a succession of trials. The voyage can be outward into a physical unknown or inward to a psychological unknown. Regardless of which, as the hero goes deeper into the unknown, he puts himself more and more at risk, emotionally & physically.
On his quest, the hero faces a series of challenges or temptations. The early challenges are relatively easy. By meeting them successfully, he builds maturity, skill and confidence. As the journey progresses, the challenges become more and more difficult.
However, the hero will use the amulets bestowed upon him and may be aided by hero helpers or a wise & helpful guide. More significant trials & tribulations test him to the utmost, forcing him to change & grow. Thus, begins the process of transformation.
The journey’s challenges always seem to strike the hero’s greatest weaknesses; his poorest skill, shakiest knowledge, most vulnerable emotion. Challenges always reflect the hero’s needs & fears, for it is only by directly facing these weaknesses that they can be overcome. If they cannot be overcome, the hero must turn back.
In the Hero’s Journey, later on in the Initiation stage, the hero reaches the abyss. The hero faces the greatest challenge of the journey during which the hero must surrender himself completely to the quest, lose himself in the adventure, and enter into a period of introspection when he must face & overcome his greatest fears; and he must do so alone. Here, the hero must “slay the dragon,” which often takes the shape of something he dreads or needs to resolve.
Heroes can only defeat the “dragon” after they have gained the strength to become better & wiser people. However, there is always the possibility that the hero is not ready or has a flaw in his character, and the challenge beats him. Or perhaps, the hero cannot surrender himself to it and must retreat. In any case, unless the hero sets off to try again, life becomes a shadow of what it should be, and he will be dissatisfied & bitter.
[Transformation & Enlightenment]
As the hero conquers the abyss and overcomes his fears, his transformation becomes complete. Often the final step in the process is a moment of death and rebirth; a part of the hero dies so that a new part can be born. Fear must die to make way for courage. Ignorance must die for the birth of transformation. Dependency & irresponsibility must also die so that independence & power can grow. The hero moves from dependence to independence, from selfish to giving; he accepts independence and the responsibility it brings.
Transformation is the result of enlightenment; a positive, dramatic change in the way the hero thinks or how he views life. This change in thinking is crucial because it makes the hero a truly different person. The revelation usually occurs during or after the abyss, but sometimes it may actually lead the hero into the abyss.
The enlightenment leads to a transformation in behavior. The hero’s behavior is different, not because he thinks he should act differently, but because he is different. The new self leads to a new way of behaving.
This enlightenment is the ultimate boon & benefit of the journey; a gift based on the hero’s new level of skill & awareness. The boon is what the hero went on the original journey to achieve. The boon is representative of a deeper level of spiritual insight that the hero has achieved as a result of his journey. The hero becomes enlightened spiritually with a new-found knowledge that has the power to redeem his world.
There are four important elements of enlightenment: 1.) The power of self; battling past personal or historical limitations. 2.) The power to choose good over evil. 3.) Realizing that society is greater than self; the hero works for the universal good. 4.) Willingness to share enlightenment with others.
Return (Stage 4)
After transformation & enlightenment, the hero faces the final stage of the journey; the return to everyday life where he will begin contributing to his society. Here, the hero is faced with the responsibility of returning to his society transfigured, anxious to share the lesson he has learned of life renewed.
In some Hero’s Journeys, however, the bliss of the experience may annihilate all recollection of the needs of the world, and the hero may be tempted to refuse the return. This is why this part of the Hero’s Journey is the most important, for it truly defines the hero. He must return, and he must share his boon with the world.
The monomythic hero is a person of exceptional gifts who brings back from his adventure the means for the regeneration of his society as a whole. Sometimes, however, even when the hero accepts the return, things do not go smoothly.
For example, he may return with a great spiritual message, but find that his message is rejected and that he is ostracized or disdained by others for his ideal. This makes his returning task all the more difficult, and yet, all the more crucial to complete.
The hero’s job is to repay the world by teaching people to “do right”. Also the hero’s job is to increase the amount of goodness in the world and to use his knowledge to guide others to the acquired enlightenment. Essentially, the “return” is about giving back not going back.
The mighty hero of extraordinary powers is in each of us. We can become morally pure, regenerated, born again to a higher spirit. Every one of us shares the supreme ordeal; to bear the torch, not in the bright moments of our tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of our personal despair. With the help of the Creator, the Great Mystery, all is possible. Let’s use this knowledge to do the necessary work to “gather our nations together”. Inter-Tribal Unity Consciousness will reign supreme!