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The MythoSelf Experience
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Monday, 31/05/2010

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The Collected Papers of Joseph Riggio

The Heroes Journey

Almost every story contains a single common theme. That of a hero figure embarking on a journey of some kind. This can be seen in mythology, fairy tales, literature, films, and in the story of your own life. The reason for this commonality is because the heroes journey is the pattern of life, regardless of who, where or when in time, the pattern remains the same. 

The MythoSelf Process is a series of exercises that have been carefully and deliberately built around this journey - a journey known as the "Heroes Journey"


The discovery of this heroic journey came about when scholars studied mythologies and folklore from around the world. This began in the 19th century with Otto Rank (1884-1939) who was the first person to develop a theory of the heroic journey pattern. Other scholars whose work contributed to the formation of a heroic journey included folklorist Lord Raglan and psychologist Carl Jung. But it was Joseph Campbell that became the most renowned researcher of the heroic journey, made most famous through his book called "The Hero with a Thousand Faces".

The journey itself is a magnification of the 3 stage pattern of the rite of passage - Separation, Initiation, Return

  • The first stage involves a separation from the familiar world that the hero has always known.
  • In the second stage the hero undergoes all manner of tests and challenges, and in doing some he is transformed.
  • In the third stage the hero returns to his ordinary world with a gift within himself that has the potential to transform others

"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man"  Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p.30


Examples of this are Prometheus who ascended to the heavens, stole fire from the gods, and descended. Jason who sailed through the Clashing Rocks into a sea of marvels, circumvented the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece, and returned with the fleece and the power to take his rightful place on the thrown. Or the group of disillusioned Sheffield men whose self-respect and confidence had hit rock bottom since the steel works had shut down and they'd lost their jobs. Gaz coaxed them into doing the "Full Monty" on stage in front of all the women in their town, and by the end of the show they were bestowed with the gift of having found a new way to be men in a new society.

The heroes journey provides a clear map upon which you can make sense of our own life and make decisions. It helps to put every day life events into perspective.  It is also what the MythoSelf® Process has been built upon.


The adventure of the hero as defined by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, has the following stages:

DEPARTURE

  • The Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Supernatural Aid
  • The Crossing of the First Threshold
  • The Belly of the Whale

INITIATION

  • The Road of Trials
  • The Meeting with the Goddess
  • Woman as the Temptress
  • Atonement with the Father
  • Apotheosis
  • The Ultimate Boon

RETURN

  • Refusal of the Return
  • The Magic Flight
  • Rescue from Without
  • The Crossing of the Return Threshold
  • Master of the Two Worlds
  • Freedom to Live

DEPARTURE/SEPARATION FROM THE KNOWN

The Call to Adventure

This is the first stage of the mythological journey and it signifies that destiny has summoned the hero to begin his adventure. The hero might willingly accept the call, he might find himself swept along into it, or perhaps even dragged into it kicking and screaming.

The call itself could come in many forms. For example:

  • The hero might start getting a sense that there's something lacking in his life or a vision of "something more" available out there
  • He may have something precious taken away from him, and decide to try and reclaim it
  • Someone close to him may die, and this forces him into a new reality
  • He might fall ill, and a close encounter with death might cause the hero to make new choices about his life
  • He may feel strongly about a particular cause and choose to fight for it
  • The hero might find himself absorbed in a particular hobby or interest which he has a natural proclivity for
  • He may sense an imbalance in his life that needs addressing

Refusal of the Call

Many a time in actual life, and sometimes in the myths and tales, the hero refuses the call. He is in effect turning his back on himself. This refusal is most often driven by fear of the unknown and the security and comfort of sticking with the familiar. People can be heard using phrases like "Some day I'll...." or "Maybe another day..." in regard to answering the call. Some people never answer the call and as a result they experience life as a succession of problems and hardships. Boredom with life takes hold. To combat this self made misery, some people loose themselves in work and keeping busy generally. Ill-health might also become a feature of their life.

Depending on the nature of the hero, refusal may be a single occurrence before crossing the threshold, or it may be that they are reluctant every step of the way, yet somehow forces conspire that cause them each time to continue on.

King Minos refused the call and his flowering world became a wasteland of dry stones and his life felt meaningless. Everything that he tried to do throughout his life served only to create new problems for him.

Refusal of the call is rejection of having the experience of your life and as a result the emptiness inside grows until eventually a crisis occurs where upon its resolved one way or another.

Young Luke Skywalker dreamed of being a fighter pilot for the rebel alliance but year after year he remained on the farm to be of service to his aunt and uncle. Then the storm troopers came to the farm and killed his aunt and uncle. His fate had now been decided.

Supernatural Aid

This is the stage at which a mentor or guide arrives on the scene. The ‘supernatural aid' gives the hero just what he needs to enable him to progress further into their adventure. This may be a piece of knowledge or some other tools that will help him safely pass the dragon forces that lay ahead. The helper appears not only to those who have accepted the call, but also to those who have hardened their hearts in the constant hope that perhaps they will wake up and follow their bliss.

Examples of the helper are Ariadne who gave Theseus a thread which got him safely through the labyrinth. Or Glinda the Good Witch who gave Dorothy the red shoes and a yellow path to follow.

People often reference the arrival of supernatural aid as synchronicity, good luck or coincidence. How ever it is described, the universe certainly has a way of opening doors and supporting adventures who have decided to follow their bliss.

The Crossing of the First Threshold

This is the point at which the hero leaves behind the safety and comfort of the familiar, and steps into the unknown. It's the "jumping off point" that lands the hero in a new world filled with dangers and challenges.

The non-hero is more than content, and is even proud to conform to the rules of the society to which he identifies. Even though occasionally "breaking free", "escaping from the rat race", "following a dream" is thought about, the pull to conform is greater.

The hero however has answered the call and by virtue of doing so he leaves behind life as he knew it.

The threshold itself is often guarded by people, beings or situations which are intended to block his passage. This "threshold guardian" has two purposes. To protect the hero from taking the journey before they are ready, and also to point the way once they have met the threshold challenge because beyond the threshold is a new territory through which the hero must find his way. In fairy tales, mythology and modern day scripts for books and movies this new territory often shows up in the form of the desert, jungle, space, deep sea, forest, city or open countryside.

The threshold guardian could use seduction; engage him in battle, or use logic and reasoning to cause him to rethink taking his adventure. The threshold guardian can show up in any number of ways, but always with the same purposes in mind.

(Gargoyles are the threshold guardians that are found at the entrance to churches and temples, in part serving as a deterrent to people who are about to enter the zone of magnified power.)

The Belly of the Whale

The teeth of the whale are symbolic of threshold guardians, and in passing across the threshold, the hero is metaphorically swallowed into the belly of the whale and dies. The passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation; the hero goes inward and a metamorphosis occurs whereby he sheds his old self to be born again.

For the hero in everyday life, times will pass where he feels as if he is being torn apart. Everything that had once given him security and purpose is ripped away leaving him naked and vulnerable. Taking the hero's journey is the path unknown and by virtue of that fact life becomes an un-predictable journey with steep hills to climb and pot holes to climb out of. However the belly of the whale and the new path that it opens out to (the heavenly land beyond), are what awaits the hero now that he's crossed the threshold.



INITIATION

The Road of Trials

The hero's journey takes him deep into the unknown and along the way he faces a series of challenges and temptations which are both emotionally and physically and demanding.
The challenges escalate in difficultly and the temptations grow more and more enticing as the journey continues, but along the way the hero is helped by the supernatural aid (mentor/guide) who gives advice or lucky objects to the hero to help him along his way.

The challenges are part of the hero's metamorphosis, and in meeting them, he builds the maturity, skills and confidence necessary for his chosen life. It's typical for the challenges and temptations to strike the initiates greatest weaknesses. Perhaps his poorest skill, where his knowledge is most lacking, or his most vulnerable emotions. It's a constant test to bring death to the hero's ego. Along the way there will be rewards, moments of great illumination, and glimpses of the heavenly land beyond, but to get to these, barriers have to be passed again and again.

At some point along the road of trials the hero will have to face his greatest challenge. This challenge requires confronting his greatest fears, something that the hero dreads or needs to resolve, and the challenge will be so significant that the hero will be able to do nothing but surrender himself completely to the quest, lose himself in the adventure and become one with it. Either that or he retreats and allows the challenge to beat him, in which case he will become dissatisfied and bitter until hopefully he's ready to begin again.

Receiving the Gift

The hero who has traveled along the road of trials has undergone a transformation. He is a different person in terms of how he thinks, how he views his life and possibly how he chooses to live it. This is the hero reborn, and in a spiritual sense, the transformation has brought the hero into harmony with life and the world. The imbalance that sent him on the journey has been corrected. The hero has received the gift of a new level of skill and awareness enabling him to go on to achieve personal greatness and to help others with their journey should he be so inclined.



RETURN

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The full round of the hero's journey requires that the hero returns back to his ordinary world carrying with him the gift from his adventure to bestow upon others. The intention is that the hero uses what he has learnt and experienced to help others on their journey (Buddha and Jesus are examples of this), but sometimes the hero becomes a hermit, retreating from the world. This is known as the refusal of the return.

Life tends to be a succession of journey's all contained within the single journey from birth to death. In a person's lifetime, several calls may be answered, or for others, none at all.

The hero's journey forms the basis for most of the books and movies that become best sellers or box office hits. This is because they resonate with the audience; it's the journey of life that every individual has the potential to experience.

We hope that in learning about the hero's journey you'll begin to look upon the difficulties and challenges of life as events to make you stronger, rather than things to feel stressed or anxious about.

We urge you to read the book by Joseph Campbell called The Hero With A Thousand Faces. ISBN: 0 586 08571 8.   "It's a brilliant examination, through ancient hero myths, of man's eternal struggle for identity" - TIME.


Did you know......every person has life forming myths that are implanted by peers, teachers, parents, film, music, the media - just about everything around them. 

Psychologist Carl Jung wrote, "I asked myself, 'What is the myth you are living?' and found that I did not know.  So I took it upon myself to get to know my 'myth', and regarded this as the task of tasks...I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me."


Book a Private MythoSelf Facilitation session with Charles Moore, or for longer term support, arrange Private MythoSelf Mentoring

Alternatively, call 020-8974-8974 to arrange an appointment to speak with Charles to discuss your needs.

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