LIVING WITH THE HERO’S JOURNEY:
It would be fair to say that 2017 did not turn out the way that I planned. Strangely what eventuated worked out better than I could have ever imagined for myself. This was however, not before living through a deeply anguishing time. A ‘dark night of the soul’.
Let me share my story with you.
But first, let me tell you about The Hero’s Journey. It’s an archetypal pattern for all good story, and has become an important guide in my life over many years (1).
Part One: Early Encounters with The Hero’s Journey
Professor Joseph Campbell, a former Harvard University academic who died in 1987, spent over 30 years researching myths and legends in cultures all around the world, before accidently writing a best-selling book. The Hero with a Thousand Faces was first published in 1949.
Campbell reached the profound conclusion that all myths and legends around the world, and indeed all good stories, follow the same archetypal pattern – that of a hero on a quest.
Typically, the Hero goes out into the world and battles with demons and enemies – internal and external – to achieve great deeds, before returning to normal life. The Hero however can never quite return to normal life, as they are forever changed or transformed by their experiences.
The pattern can be distilled to as few as three main stages – life, death and resurrection. But the model can also be expanded to provide more detail, as in Christopher Vogler’s practical guide to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, describes twelve stages (2):
- The Ordinary World: The Hero is at home in his or her usual world.
- The Call to Adventure: Something happens to disrupt the usual world. Either the external or internal world is calling to the person to leave their normal world and pattern of
- Refusal of Call: The notion of disruption to the regular pattern of life is rejected and the Hero attempts to keep going as though nothing has
- Meeting with the Mentor: A wise person or guide comes into The Hero’s life and assists them to make sense of what might be required and also work through the courage required to
- Crossing the Threshold: The decision to follow the Quest is made. The Hero moves out of their normal world and the Adventure
- Test, Allies and Enemies: Along the way there are numerous obstacles or hardships, as well as people who work against the Hero in a variety of ways. The Hero also encounters Friends or Helpers. Sometimes these are not readily identifiable and might take surprising
- Approach: As the Hero moves further into the journey there is often a place of great desolation and loneliness. These might be represented with images such as a cave, desert or wilderness. The Hero contemplates and prepares for the great trial that they must endure or
- The Ordeal: The Hero faces a time of great suffering and challenge. They often feel very ill-prepared. The Ordeal might involve battling forces in the outside world or it might involve battling with inner demons. The Hero may or may not overcome the challenge in the first attempt.
- The Reward: The Hero receives something positive as a result of confronting or overcoming the challenge. Unexpected Gifts or acts of grace in the form of meaningful co-coincidences often occur in the darkest most difficult places and times. Events happen at just the right time. People or things come into the Hero’s life at just the right time. New learning and insights gained can start a transformational
- The Road Back: The greatest trial is over and the Hero is on the way back to the normal world. However, there is often one more unanticipated challenge to overcome. Something else that must be done before returning to usual
- The Resurrection: The Hero returns to normal life but they are not the same person. They have been forever transformed by the journey.
- Return with the Elixir: The Hero returns from their journey with a Gift. This might be something tangible obtained on the journey or it might be part of their transformation. As a result of their journey, they have something new to offer the world that can be shared with