The Hero’s Journey is a deep pattern imbedded in many stories. In fact, it has been called the one story, the monomyth, of human existence. The acclaimed mythologist Joseph Campbell studied myths from all over the world and time periods. He found that they had a similar structure, which is discussed in his classic book, Hero with a Thousand Faces. He felt that this pattern expresses the deep inner connections and symbolism of the human experience. For the Journey has a spiritual element, the quest to connect with the true self.
Many stories and films loosely use this structure, such as Star Wars, Matrix, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, and many more. The pattern is not rigid and limiting but can be adapted and rearranged as fits the narrative. George Lucas openly gave credit to Campbell’s work for Star Wars. Bill Moyers' interview with Campbell for the PBS special, The Power of Myth, was held at Lucas Ranch.
The basic structure is Departure, Initiation, and Return.
- Departure. In taking a journey, there must be a departure, leaving ordinary surroundings to risk moving into unfamiliar territory.
- Initiation. The traveler opens into a new world, meets a mentor, and finds both allies and enemies. The journey has thresholds at each stage, with new dangers and challenges. There might be a symbolic death, releasing the old to open to the new.
- Return. And there is a return, going back home to enrich the community with gifts or boons of the wisdom of the journey.
I’m using the familiar story of Wizard of Oz to show the stages of the hero’s journey. I have drawn from the excellent and inspiring book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, using his sequence of the journey. The book explores many stories and films, showing the inner symbolism in great depth. I highly recommend it.
Ordinary World. The hero starts in the Ordinary World, the everyday world, usually with some dissatisfaction or longing. In Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is living on the farm with her aunt, uncle and dog Toto in a black and white world. She feels lonely and ignored and like she doesn’t fit in. Her dog Toto has dug up the flowerbeds of her neighbor Miss Gulch, who threatens to call the police.
Call to Adventure; a problem, a challenge. Miss Gulch takes Toto away, but he escapes. Feeling there is no way out of this dilemma, Dorothy packs her bags to leave with Toto, singing of a better place somewhere else.
Refusal of the Call; fear of the unknown. As she runs away, Dorothy meets up with the magician/salesman Professor Marvel in his carnival wagon. After listening to her story, he advises that the best thing would be to return home.
Crossing the First Threshold. She finds her house is empty, as her family has taken shelter from the oncoming tornado. Fate has a different idea for Dorothy as the tornado propels her house into the colorful world of Oz. On landing, she finds that the house has killed a wicked witch. She meets a mentor, Glinda, the Good Witch, who gives her magic slippers and points her on the yellow brick road.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies. She also meets new allies, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion, who represent three qualities to be developed within her: reason, love, and courage. Her enemy, the Wicked Witch, follows her journey, wreaking havoc at various times.
Approach to the Inmost Cave. The group sees the Emerald City ahead. They are put to sleep by a field of poppies sown by the Wicked Witch, but Glinda saves them by covering the flowers with a blanket of snow. After getting past various gatekeepers, they finally meet with Oz, a gigantic head surrounded by flames and thunder. He gives Dorothy the difficult test of stealing the Wicked Witch’s broomstick. They set off for the Witch’s castle, guarded by the flying monkeys, who tear up Scarecrow, dent the Tin Woodman, and kidnap Dorothy. The witch threatens to throw Toto in the river unless Dorothy gives up the ruby slippers but finds she cannot take them because of Glinda’s protective spell. Meanwhile, the three allies have managed to penetrate the castle, and Toto, who escaped from the witch, leads them to Dorothy.
Supreme Ordeal. Here all seems lost. The witch now has them all captive and is determined to kill them. She first lights the broomstick to set the Scarecrow on fire. Dorothy quickly grabs a bucket of water and pours it on him. However, the water also splashes onto the witch, which makes her melt.
Reward. Now Dorothy is free to retrieve the ruby slippers and take the witch’s broomstick back to the Wizard, who seems reluctant to keep his promise. Toto noses around behind the curtain and finds a little old man controlling the illusion of the great and powerful Oz. He then gives a diploma to the Scarecrow, a medal of courage to the lion, and a windup heart for the Tin Man. These tokens are outer representations of their own changes and growth. He orders a big hot air balloon to be built to take them both back to Kansas.
The Road Back. As they are about to take off, Toto chases a cat and Dorothy chases Toto, and the balloon goes off without her.
Resurrection. Just when all seems lost, the Good Witch Glinda appears. She tells Dorothy she had the power all along, but that she had to learn it for herself.
Return with the Elixir. Dorothy thanks her allies for their gifts of love, courage, and common sense. Tapping her heels, she chants, “There’s no place like home,” and wishes herself back to Kansas. She wakes up in her bed, back in the Ordinary world, back in black and white. She is now truly home, home in her true self.
The popularity and power of Wizard of Oz is due in large part to its expression of the of the heroic journey that touches something deep within our own spirit. Campbell believed that these timeless archetypes continue to have a powerful influence on the choices we make and the ways we live. In the next post, I will explore how to use this format for exploring and writing your own Hero’s Journey.
Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces. https://amzn.to/2uskVUX
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. https://amzn.to/2J3evy
The Power of Myth, PBS special. The six episodes include The Hero’s Adventure, The Message of the Myth, The First Storytellers, Sacrifice and Bliss, Love and the Goddess, and Masks of Eternity.
Christ taught by metaphor and similes and images, in stories the people could hear and understand. He speaks several times of “the Kingdom of heaven is like….”
He spoke of things they were familiar with: a rift between a father and a son, sowing seeds, working in vineyards, and the differences among groups of people. A parable can be understood on many different levels, a personal level, a social description, or a metaphysical teaching.
One is a story of a kind of man that has become synonymous with a kind helper: Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. This is a priest who is supposed to help people!
So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense.”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The interesting part of this is that Samaritans at the time were considered a lower class by the Jews, as they had intermarried with non–Jews. Even in this story, the lawyer can’t quite say the word Samaritan, but says, the one who had mercy. It doesn’t matter what class you are – priest or Levite – they did not practice what they preached.
The Good Samaritan phrase lives on today, as someone who goes out of the way to help another, even though that person might have looked down upon him.
So, no matter the differences or conflicts, all people are our neighbors, and deserve our love and attention.
The quote below is one of my favorites, written by W. H. Murray. He was a Scottish mountaineer, author and soldier. While serving in North Africa in the Second World War, he was captured and spent three years in Nazi prison camps.
During this time, Murray wrote his famous book Mountaineering in Scotland on the only paper available, the rough lavatory paper. It was found and destroyed, so he started over again. After the camp was liberated, the book was published, the first of many on mountaineering and the environment.
His autobiography was entitled The Evidence of Things Not Seen, which refers to the Biblical quote on faith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”
The basis of the Law of Attraction is that what you tend to think about, comes about. Seems so obvious, the effect can be overlooked. We attract things and experiences that match up with our thoughts.
This ancient spiritual law has become popular recently in the film The Secret but has been written about thousands of years ago in Hindu scripture and early Greek philosophy. This spiritual or mental law works on a mystical as well as an everyday level, in sayings such as “smile and the world smiles with you,” “attitude is everything,” “accentuate the positive/eliminate the negative” and many more.
The Law lends itself to merchandising ploys – “use the law of attraction to sell more real estate!” Many criticize it as simplistic and a panacea – “just be happy!” And perhaps it can seem that way, but we have to start somewhere as consciousness develops. The process doesn’t work like a gum machine in instant gratification, where you put in your penny of thought and out comes your gum. The process is a little more subtle, working on an energy level of consciousness. What you want is yours by right of consciousness.
Our consciousness must align with the feeling of having the desired product, whether a car or inner peace. For example, if we are desperately craving something, trying to lasso it in, we’re not in alignment with that desired effect, but in alignment with desperation and craving, so that’s what we attract. As Stephen Covey said in his famous book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Start with the end in mind.” We have to start with the thing or experience we desire, and the work of consciousness is to create a real sense of that. Our mind attracts like circumstance.
Spiritual laws operate much like natural laws such as gravity, electricity, magnetism. You plant a seed, and that’s what you get; jump from a high building and gravity takes over. There are many spiritual laws, but they basically come under the major heading of the Law of Cause and Effect. We see this all the time. Stay up too late as you binge watch Absentia and are tired the next day. Overeat, especially sweets, you gain weight. Mentally, it shows up in thoughts of worry and fear tending to produce more of the same.
Louise Hay, a new thought pioneer, says that negativity can keep you from obtaining the things you want in life, and that you can transform your life by staying positive. "You have to start saying things that you feel really good about yourself. 'I love who I am. I love life. Life loves me. It's going to be smooth and easy. Life works for me.' And you just start doing that—it's planting seeds. You're not going to get it the first day, but you plant a seed and you water it and you continue the affirmations, and things start to shift and change in your life."
And yet look at a similar quote by an unlikely source, Groucho Marx: “Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
Both quotes involve affirming the desired reality as real now. The process is like changing identity, from “have not” to an identity of “have.” Yes, the Law takes some effort of changing consciousness from one to the other. Like the Bible quote from the chapter of Mark, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath shall be taken away.” Seems terribly unfair, doesn’t it? We want to be on the hath side. It’s about consciousness: if you have a consciousness of have, more comes to you; if you have a consciousness of don’t have, even the good you have doesn’t exist.
But how can I feel I have when I don’t have it? That’s the whole name of the game, the work of consciousness. Some of the tools discussed involve affirmations, which is a positive description of the experience as happening now. “My life is opening to greater good every day!” “I expect abundance and happiness.” “Everything I need is coming to me now.” I am fulfilling my purpose.” “I am a blessing to the world and the world blesses me now.” Make up your own words to describe experiencing what it is you desire.
Another powerful tool is gratitude. Adding gratitude to your affirmations gives a quantum leap. “I’m so grateful for all the good in my life.” “I’m so grateful for immense love and abundance as my life now.” “I give thanks for my dynamic health.” “Thanks for my creative success.” Right now, add gratitude to the affirmations you wrote.
Life can be seen as one grand experiment, where we’re always seeking greater good, greater purpose, and greater service. What are you attracting? What’s the state of your consciousness? Change your crave mode to have mode, right now.
For more information: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/the-law-of-attraction-real-life-stories_1/all#ixzz595rhJUul
A ship in the middle of the ocean was caught in a violent storm. As the storm raged, the captain realized his ship was in danger of sinking. He called out, “Does anyone here have the faith to pray?” One man stepped forward. “Aye, Sir, I have the faith.” “Good,” said the captain. “The rest of us will put on life jackets – we’re one short.”
There are times that seem to call for extraordinary faith, and the Bible story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den is an example of faith. Though sometimes used as a children’s story, it can be interpreted on different levels of spiritual understanding.
When it was written around 160 BC, the Jewish people had been conquered and dispersed. Daniel was one of the Jews deported to Babylon and trained to serve in the royal Court, where he gained a reputation as an interpreter of dreams and signs.
One night, the royalty of Babylon was having a wild party – after all, this was Babylon - when suddenly a hand appeared and started writing words on the wall. They were terrified and sent for Daniel to interpret them. He had the courage to tell him the bad news: the Persians were about to conquer Babylon. This account is the origin of the “writing on the wall” as a premonition of some danger. Indeed, that very night the king of Babylon was slain, and the Persians took over the country.
The Persian King Darius was so impressed with Daniel’s insight and integrity that he appointed him as a governor and eventually gave him authority over the kingdom and all administrators. Some of those officials were jealous and tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel, but they could find nothing to discredit him.
They knew he was diligent in praying, so they devised a trap for him. They went to Darius and said, “You are so great, so wise! There should be a law that your subjects should worship only you for 30 days. Anyone who worships anyone else would be thrown into a den of hungry lions.” Darius agreed this was a very wise idea.
When Daniel heard this, he went home to the upstairs room with windows facing Jerusalem, and on his knees gave thanks. The men spied him praying and ran to tell Darius who tried to save Daniel, but the law was set.
Daniel was calm as he was brought to the lion’s den, which was really a pit in the ground. As he was lowered into it, Darius said, “Your God whom you serve continually will deliver you.” Then the pit was sealed with a stone.
At dawn, Darius hurried to the den and called out to Daniel. Daniel answered: “My God sent his angel and He shut the lions’ mouths.” Darius was overjoyed and had him lifted out of the den and issued a proclamation that in every part of his kingdom people would revere the God of Daniel.
When we look at the story metaphysically, it offers very specific ways to know and use the power of consciousness to increase faith. This story vividly demonstrates that our spiritual understanding does create the circumstances of our lives.
There are three main sections and points of the story.
The first is about trusting intuition. Daniel represents a high level of attunement with Spirit, but we all have access to this inner intuition. Infinite wisdom is contained within us, and is always available to us, to the extent that we call upon it.
Have you ever seen “the writing on the wall?” Perhaps a situation where intuition tells us is not positive or healthy to stay in. Perhaps it’s time to leave a job, a relationship, or a way of being. Perhaps it’s counsel to turn away from negative or fearful thoughts – If we tune in, we can feel when there’s a sense of Don’t go there!
And it’s not only being alert to an inner guidance, it’s having the courage to follow through on it, or speak up. This first part is about remembering to turn to our inner wisdom when we need guidance. And when we turn to our intuition, even our ruling ego, represented by Darius, gives it a place of authority.
The next point is the scheming by the administrators. They represent lower consciousness thoughts of lack and jealousy that inflate the ego over the higher Self. Daniel could have said: “Oh, right, pick on the exile.” No. He went to his upstairs room, meaning to a higher place in consciousness, to a place of oneness with higher power. He got on his knees and gave thanks.
Daniel’s faith didn’t come in a box; he shows us how he created the consciousness of faith, by turning his mind resolutely to the Divine, to be receptive to clarity, peace, and harmony. He gave thanks knowing that this was already done. Gratitude activates the state of mind of completion and so attracts to us what is like our thought. In this way we our faith and gratitude make us co-creators with God.
Have you ever felt betrayed or treated unfairly? Or just me? Some time ago in a work situation I was singled out for using my computer too much for personal use – something that everyone else never stopped doing! But was I bitter? YES! Unlike Daniel, I jumped on the victim train with a ticket stamped “poor me.” However, I learned the hard way the view is terrible and that train is going nowhere.
Ernest Holmes says, “In order to keep faith, we must allow nothing to enter our thought which will weaken this conviction. We go to the upper room of consciousness and give thanks that the experience we desire is already done.
In the third part, Daniel is taken to the lion pit. He didn’t fall apart or pretend they’re not there, like “What lion?” For he has done his work in consciousness to prepare for this time, so that even Darius, his ruling ego, reminds him: “Your God whom you serve continually will deliver you.” This shows the benefit of spiritual practice. By continuing to daily meditate, pray, and affirm, we build up our spiritual muscles. So that in a challenging time, we can remember that the Infinite Power and Presence is right where we are.
We don’t have a record of what happened in the den, but we can be sure Daniel wasn’t just napping, but staying steadfast in his consciousness. And he was protected, as an angel comes to shut their mouths. But this isn’t like some spiritual hit man sent to “take care of it.” For it is not faith in God that we’re calling on, we are responding with the faith of God. The angel comes from our own high consciousness, a recognition that we have the power to create the effect we want in our lives.
Have you ever been in the pits? Facing some very convincing and frightening images of despair, destruction or ruin? Whatever the “lion” is we’re facing, it’s mirroring our own state of mind - either fear or courage. When we call upon the angel of our higher consciousness, “shutting their mouths” is closing off danger from either teeth or any negating or disempowering words.
Some years ago, I happened to close a garage door on my finger. I went to the emergency room, and when I finally saw a doctor, he looked at it and said: “Hmm. I’m rather underwhelmed.” I was a bit taken aback, and it’s ironic just which of my fingers he was looking at. But thinking about it – we’ve all seen the ER programs to know the kinds of intense traumas that come up, so that my swollen finger was not that big a deal. In the pit of despair, we might be saying, “My problems are so big, I’m so overwhelmed, so stressed!” And our higher self says: “I’m underwhelmed. It’s not that big a deal. Have you forgotten that you are creating it all?”
Again, quoting from Ernest Holmes: When we use our creative imagination in strong faith, it will create for us, out of the One Substance, whatever we have formed in thought. Strong statements of faith should be used to erase thoughts of doubt and worry.”
We need to speak our word, with conviction. Not just mouthing generic affirmations, but something in our own words that has meaning and gives a feeling of absolute confidence and power. We might say to some “lion” we’re facing, “Oh sweetie, you’re trying to scare me, but you are sadly mistaken. Because all the Power of the Divine is right here in me!
So you can just shut your mouth!
Find the words of faith that are powerful and expressive of you as a unique representation of the Infinite Power on this earth. Call upon the powerful angel of your consciousness and know that it is literally creating what is in front of you. And when you say it, say it like you mean it, as though life depended on it! Because it does.
I have a passion for stories and inspirational literature.