The film Dark City is a powerful cinematic experience in its stunning visuals and setting, as well as rich in themes of mind power and memory.
The film merges several genres – science fiction, horror, film noir, German expressionism, with overtones of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis. The ideas and themes open several mind-expanding and thought-provoking lines of deep inspiration.
The late great film critic Roger Ebert named Dark City the best film of 1998 and one of the great modern films. He called it a great visionary achievement, “a triumph of art direction, set design, cinematography, special effects – and imagination.”
Ebert so admired the film he did a commentary for the DVD. At a four-day film festival in Hawaii, he went through the film shot by shot and debated visuals and meaning.
Appropriately, the movie is set in a dark city run by the Strangers, beings that resemble Nosferatu-like vampires, who are studying humans.
Every night at midnight, they erase human memories and inject new memories as they remold the city into a whole new arrangement.
The film opens with a Kafka-esque mystery: a man wakes in a hotel with a woman’s body in the room, with absolutely no idea who she is, or even who he is. The phone rings; a Dr. Schreber urgently tells him that he must flee immediately as he is in great danger. He does so just before the Strangers enter the hallway.
Thus, the story is launched. He comes to discover that he is John Murdoch, and he wanders the city trying to make sense of what is happening through many twists and turns of place and plot.
In this nightmarish shadow world, he is hunted by both a police detective and the Strangers. Many humans are searching for a place in distant memory called Shell Beach, but no one can remember how to get there.
The plot reveals itself: The Strangers came from another galaxy whose civilization is on the brink of extinction to study humans. They have created this alternate city where they can “tune” the city and people by running experiments. Everything stops as they make massive changes in the city and in the memories of the inhabitants.
They are aided in this process by Dr. Schreber, who under coercion injects new memories. He was in the process of injecting Murdoch, but it was incomplete; Schreber tells him he has proven resistant to it.
Murdoch eventually discovers that he has the same power as the Strangers, the ability to use his mind to create and change the physical and world and memories. Without giving too much away, what he does is literally world changing.
The denouement, the weaving of all the strands of the story, is magnificent and satisfying.
The whole story turns on revealing his childhood memories, in which he is trained by Dr. Schreber in mental power exercises. The doctor urges him to focus, to remember, to gather his energies.
It turns out that the doctor, in injecting Murdoch, inserted himself into Murdoch’s memories with this mental training. Eventually, he can overcome the power of the Strangers in the future. He is the one who must bring light back into the continual city of darkness and shadows.
The bigger lesson for us is the possibility that we might do the same thing. Could we, as our present-day personalities, go back and insert ourselves into our memories? Give our younger self advice, warnings or encouragement?
Perhaps we could train ourselves, equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and power to face whatever we need in the present moment.
Yes, it is a movie, but the possibilities are intriguing. It’s worth a try. Let me know!
Cast: Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch; William Hurt as Inspector Bumstead; Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel Schreber; Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch; Richard O'Brien as Mr. Hand
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Written by: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, David S. Goyer
The Law of Attraction states that what we tend to think about, we bring about. Where attention goes, energy flows. While this is a metaphysical law, we see it in everyday life. Someone thinks often of ill health; another thinks of good health; one thinks of failing a test; another thinks of making a good grade – the law works the same for any situation.
We might accept that our dominant thoughts create our reality. However, putting this concept into action is not always easy, especially with troubling or fearful thoughts.
The tendency in thinking is to simply follow along the train of thoughts. We think one thought, which directs us to another and another, and soon we realize we’ve traveled far away from the original thought. This is sometimes called the “monkey mind,” that jumps all around.
In order to direct thinking at all, we must be mindful about what we’re thinking. You might ask yourself: What am I thinking? And do I want to experience the effect of the kinds of thoughts I’m thinking?
The Golden Key is one way to help keep mindful of thoughts. Written as a small pamphlet in 1931, these five pages contain one of the most useful practices we can do to direct thoughts. You can find the full text on Amazon https://amzn.to/2I8RBVW
The key is this: Stop thinking about the difficulty, whatever it is, and think about God instead. Fox adds you may hold any views on religion, or none, and it still works. For the word God, you could substitute higher power, great spirit, beauty, wisdom, truth, love, peace, positivity or whatever word you choose that represents a positive presence.
Fox says, “If you can become so absorbed in the consideration of the spiritual that you forget for a while about the difficulty, you will find that you are safely and comfortably out of your difficulty – that your demonstration is made.”
He adds that while the golden key is simple, it is not always easy to turn your thoughts. But it is the only way.
In addition, repeating affirmative statements can help, such as “Everything is in perfect order,” “The Universe is guiding me,” or “Peace surrounds me,” or even just “All is well.”
We train our minds like we train a puppy by repeating a command over and over until it sinks in or becomes habituated.
There’s an old phrase from the 1500’s, “a golden key can open any door.” Basically, this means that enough money, or the promise of it, will accomplish anything. Yes, money can be helpful.
But even more helpful – and rewarding – is to be in charge of our own thoughts. Then we are richly creative, for we are creating the world we want through directing our minds.
These words of W.H. Murray come to mind, about the power of commitment.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. 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 never 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 could have dreamed would have 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.”
Commit to being mindful of your thoughts. Commit to entertain only the thoughts you wish to experience. When difficult or negative thoughts intrude, use the Golden Key: turn away from them and turn to that which is uplifting and joyful. You have that power!
Think and Grow Rich is one of the most famous inspirational books ever written, often cited as number 1 on many lists. Napoleon Hill wrote this book in 1937 during the time of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and the world greatly needed this inspiration. Not surprisingly, these ideas express the main ideas of the Law Attraction, which have roots in ancient spiritual traditions. The book describes the power of mind, the power of thoughts to transmute into reality.
Wouldn't you love to grow rich? Of course we do. It's the "think" part we need to grasp.
He consistently talks of the “secret,” predating the film that recently brought mental principles into popular consciousness, with the powerful theme that thoughts are things. He does name this secret directly but place it in each chapter to be discovered, like a vein of gold.
He gives another description of the law of attraction: “…our brains become magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds, and by means with which no man is familiar, these “magnets” attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts.” Therefore, to accumulate riches, we must magnetize our minds with an intense DESIRE for riches.
Hill credits Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, with introducing him to the secret formula. Carnegie challenged Hill to spend the next 20 years to bring it to the world. Hill actually spent 25 years in research and analyzing more than 250,000 to fully understand why wealthy men became that way.
He discusses the work of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Marshal Field, George Eastman, Charles Schwab, John Rockefeller, F. W. Woolworth, and so many more. In fact, Hill says, “I have never known anyone who was inspired to use the secret, who did not achieve noteworthy success in his chosen calling.” He tells the story of the Chicago fire, after which many of the store owners packed up and left. One man decided to stay and was determined to rebuild and succeed. That man was Marshal Field, and his store became one of the most successful department stores, eventually to be acquired by Macy’s. Education is not the primary key, for in the case of Edison, he had only three months of formal schooling; Ford did not make it to high school.
No summary of the book is adequate to convey the power and intensity of the words. The energy almost leaps off the page, as though the words have a vibrational power transmuted through 81 years. Clearly, Hill had a burning desire to convey this material and reach as many people as he could and must account for its popularity for so long. Thoughts are things, affirms Hill, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence and a BURNING DESIRE for their translation into riches or other material objects. He adds that when riches begin to come they come so quickly and with such great abundance that one wonders where they have been hiding all those lean years.
He tells the story of Edwin Barnes who had a burning desire to become a business associate of Thomas Edison. He had no background and no money for the fare. But he traveled by freight train and when he spoke to Edison, the inventor was taken by his expression of determination and gave him a menial job. Barnes eventually found an opportunity that made him a valuable associate and brought riches to himself and Edison. He knew what he wanted and the determination to stand by that desire until he realized it.
Napoleon Hill tells story after story of sheer determination to accomplish some desire and repeat the main ideas until they penetrate the subconsciousness and into belief. Hill bought a dictionary and when he went to the page with word “impossible,” he neatly clipped it out of the book.
He discusses the old idea of “ether” as a substance, “…a form of energy moving at an inconceivably high rate of vibration, and that the ether is filled with a form of universal power which adapts itself to the nature of the thoughts we hold in our minds and INFLUENCES us, in natural ways, to transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent.”
It all starts with an intense desire, but without emotion they lack sufficient fuel for the flame. The power of emotion, to see and feel and believe the riches are already present right now, is the key. But you might ask, how can you feel money is present when it isn’t?
This is where faith comes in, which he calls the head chemist of the mind “When FAITH is blended with the vibration of thought, the subconscious mind instantly picks up the vibration, and transmits it to Infinite Intelligence, as in the case of prayer.” Faith can be developed through affirmations, which he calls auto-suggestions, which instruct the subconscious mind into belief. The subconscious mind acts on that belief, which transmits definite plans for procuring your desires. In other words, any impulse of thought which is repeatedly passed on to the subconscious mind translates that impulse into its physical equivalent, by the most practical procedure available.
“FAITH is the basis of all “miracles,” and all mysteries which cannot be analyzed by the rules of science!” Faith is demonstrated expectancy, actually expecting the results of riches. We are dealing with a mystical idea, but which has laws just as laws in the physical world. The thoughts, ideas, and plans of the human mind are constantly attracting vibrations that harmonize with what dominates the human mind. Clearly, it’s important to eliminate or neutralize negative and self-defeating thoughts, as those will manifest as surely as positive thoughts.
He gives six definite, practical steps to engage in. I won’t give them here because I urge you to read the book! Many summaries are present on various websites, but the only thing that can convey the power of the ideas is from Hill’s own words. It is not a long book and can be found on many websites for a free download, so it can be read in short stints until absorbed. I am familiar with the ideas of mental science, but as I re-read the book, I was again inspired to engage again with his formula and practice. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. I would love to hear from your experience with these ideas. You can find contact information on the “About” page. Let me know!
Imagination is one of our greatest creative powers. Creation starts with a vision. In the philosophy of the Law of Attraction, this concept is sometimes called a mental equivalent, a picture of some good that we want. Everything you see or feel on the material plane is the concrete expression of a mental equivalent that you hold. This belief is the core of mental science: Our thoughts out-picture as our reality.
The Law of attraction concept is that what we tend to think about attracts things of like nature, or “where attention goes, energy flows.” Believing it as true on the mental plane is a step to its appearance on the physical plane. Along with the image, we add strong feelings to affirm that this is our experience NOW.
To imagine is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before perceived in reality. Sometimes imagination is seen as fanciful or empty assumption, as “it’s all in your imagination.”
However, according to Einstein – a pretty smart guy – “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”Creative thought is literally using creative power to direct/manifest something in our lives or move our perceptions beyond a present experience. Change your thinking, change your life.
Feeling is very important in creating. You might speak a rote and bland affirmation: “I am whole perfect and complete.” But we speak of troubles with great emotion: I HURT ALL OVER! I’M SO TIRED TODAY! Which has more power? You build a mental equivalent by being truly interested in what you want to create.
What about things we don’t want? Same principle: focusing on them, produces more of them. Instead, think more strongly about what you DO want. Turn away from the negative, replace them with positive images and thoughts and emotions.
Thomas Troward was a British judge who wrote several books on Mental Science. Troward talks of creating a prototype, or model. Within a seed is the prototype of the tree (miniature). Within DNA is the prototype or blueprint for the body and personality. To build a house, we create a blueprint – a representation to build the finished product. He said, “Having seen and felt the end, you have willed the means to the realization of the end.”
As Steven Covey says in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People: “Begin with the end in mind.” We begin by imagining the outcome we want, a vision of the achievement or manifestation. We might add more details, more feelings, and inspiration for action. This vision is the propellent, the driving force. A model rocket needs a propellent or fuel to push it into the air, or into reality. We need vision to drive us to fulfillment.
Eric Butterworth, in The Creative Life, says that everything is energy moving at a different frequency or rate of vibration. To create something, tune your mind to the frequency of faith, tapping into the creative power that flows from within you.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith is a mental attitude which is so convinced of its own idea, which so completely accepts it that any contradiction is unthinkable and impossible. And in our faith and imagining, know that it is true now, not some state in the future which can never become present.
Einstein said, Problems cannot be solved with the same energy with which they were created. We need to think on a different vibration. Take an opposite stance, go upside down or backwards, anything to get a different energy and perception.
Butterworth cites a study using 45 mental patients at a VA Hospital. They were given some questions and told to answer them as they imagined a well-adjusted person would answer. The result was that 75% of the patients showed improvements, some dramatically. We too can imagine ourselves as sane!
Neville Goddard spoke to packed auditoriums on metaphysical themes from the 1930’s to his death in 1972. In his book, Awakened Imagination, he emphasized that feeling is the strongest element and that we must really feel the truth of what we’re imagining. The crucial matter is not thinking OF the end but thinking FROM the end, by centering your imagination in the feeling of the wish fulfilled. He urges to move beyond repeating affirmations to using creative power, fully sensing – seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling.
He also has exercises to change your past! Looking over the day, if there is something that didn’t go right, or you didn’t like, you can rewrite and visualize it as exactly as you wished it to be. We can also do that with difficult memories or situations. You can change the past! By changing your perception of the past, you can change it.
One note: This mental equivalent, this imagining and feeling, is to be done with ease. Stress and effort shows a lack of faith and belief, which blocks the flow of manifestation.
Everything we see or feel on the material plane is the concrete expression of a mental equivalent - a picture that we hold. Life mirrors our thoughts and beliefs.
We don’t have to spend our days watching old re-runs of the past. Our life is our choice, and we can use our imagination to create a new reality. We can always create a new script, a new program, and act in a new life. Set aside some time every day to imagine and feel what you want to experience. Imagine that.
You might remember MAD magazine and this motto of the mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. Maybe that’s why he has such a big smile – he has released the habit of worry.
We talked in the last post about fear and the Hero’s Journey. A hero is not someone who has no fear but who acts despite the fear. So, you might say that fear is really a gateway, a portal to living a heroic life.
Fear has many faces, and one of its devious forms is worry. Definitions of worry are to give way to anxiety or allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty over actual or potential problems. In these definitions, it’s easy to see that one has allowed one’s mind to be enslaved by certain thoughts.
Another definition of worry is to choke or strangle, to harass by tearing, biting, gnawing or snapping, as a dog or other carnivorous animal. We could say that when you worry, you are really strangling, choking, or gnawing yourself!
Worry seems inconsequential, not as big as fear or facing demons or dragons. However, the real danger of worry is that it becomes a state of mind, blocking our good from reaching us. Worry is expecting the worst-case scenario. Worry is always apologizing, being sorry, doing or saying the wrong thing. Worry is negative prayer. Worry is bringing up thoughts, words, and emotions about the past or future.
Changing the mind set of worry is necessary for living a happy and productive life.
Books abound on how to stop worry – Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie is a well-known one.
But’s it’s difficult to do a “don’t.” The mind responds to a don’t as though it was something you told yourself to do
More helpful is to think - what’s the opposite of worry?
We think of qualities like calmness, certainty, confidence, joy, trust, peace.
So, in the midst of worry, we affirm things like:
I am calm in all circumstances.
I am confident I can handle whatever comes to me.
I feel joy at the ease and beauty of my life.
I trust in a higher power always directing me perfectly.
I feel peace in all areas of my life.
Worry is living in the past or future. As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery.” All we can do is live in this day, or even more so, to live in this present moment. All we have is this present moment, so we have a day filled with moments of “now.” Tomorrow will be a whole new set of “now’s.”
Many books address this. I would like to recommend Be Here Now by Ram Das, and The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle. The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn has many books to soften your mind and heart into the present.
I would also like to recommend 10-minute mindfulness: 71 Habits for Living in the Present Moment by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport. This book gives many practical tips and triggers for living a life in the present.
As well, you might engage in relaxing exercises and meditation. On the meditation page, I give a short meditation you could try. I will have some relaxing exercises coming soon.
All of these are excellent to awaken to the pleasure of living in the now. Once you start doing this, you won’t want to go back. Living in the present moment is the key for a life of calm, peace, and joy.
Be Here Now, Ram Das https://amzn.to/2F1sgL3
The Power of Now, Ekhart Tolle https://amzn.to/2HFt6m6
Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hahn.
10-minute mindfulness: 71 Habits for Living in the Present Moment, S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport ttps://amzn.to/2vwkzx5
We’ve been talking about the Hero’s Journey as a main structure in most stories, and then Your Heroic Life, applying the hero journey to your own life.
An inspiring film that sheds some light on this topic is Defending Your Life. The story focuses on how we are often run by our fears and the importance of overcoming them, not only for this lifetime, but for our whole soul journey. It was written, directed and starring Albert Brooks in 1991, but it has retained its popularity since then.
Daniel Miller, a successful ad executive, is celebrating his 39th birthday and the purchase of a $39,000 BMW. Out on a celebratory drive, he becomes distracted by his birthday CD’s falling on the floor, and he runs into a bus. That’s the prologue.
The real movie starts when he wakes up in a bland kind of purgatory called Judgment City and ushered onto a tram. We see billboards and placards heralding the resort’s various events and attraction. He is numb as the staff checks him into a bare Motel 6 type of room and gives him a white gown (toga-like with a cummerbund). He is told he can eat all he wants and not gain weight, and he later finds the food wonderfully superb.
Judgement City is designed to be like earth (in a conference center kind of way) to make the visitors feel comfortable. He sees the TV channels available in the hotel rooms (including a soap-opera, a game-show, a talk-show, and a “perfect weather” channel); he can visit restaurants, two hotel lobbies, a nightclub, and a miniature golf course; and are told about the recently built mini-malls on the outskirts of town.
He meets his affable attorney Bob Diamond (a terrific Rip Torn) who explains that between lifetimes there is an examining period in a trial like setting. This will determine whether one will be sent back to earth or go onward and keep getting smarter. For example, Bob uses 45% of his brain. Most humans use 3-5%, as they use most of their brain dealing with fears, because that’s what “little brains” do.
In the courtroom, he meets the tough prosecuting attorney Lena Foster (Lee Grant) and finds that each side will show scenes from nine days of his life over the next four days that illustrate their case. She shows him being bullied and not standing up for himself; Bob shows him as a toddler in a crib watching his parents argue, and his loud cries of anguish stop them. And back and forth the attorneys go.
Later, Daniel goes to the comedy club The Bomb Shelter, where he meets Julia (Meryl Streep). They really have an attraction. He finds that Julia is on very good terms with her attorney, and that she has a much better hotel room. He goes to a sushi bar where the cooks ask him how many days he is looking at and they yell out: 9 days! 9 days!
Back in the courtroom, Lena shows him missing out on a chance to invest in Casio. Bob shows him with his wife, who is acting the part of a boss as Daniel refuses to take anything less than $65,00 a year. Lena shows the actual encounter, where the boss offers $49,000 and he says, “Done!”
That night, he and Julia go to the Past Lives Pavilion, introduced by Shirley MacLaine, where Julia sees a past life as Prince Valiant and Daniel is in a jungle running from a lion. He finds that Julia died when she tripped on a chaise lounge, hit her head, and drowned in a swimming pool.
The next day at the courtroom, Lena shows him having an anxiety attack before a big presentation. He tries to get out of it, but he’s pushed onstage frozen with fear. At the last second, the room is emptied for a big gas leak. He joins Julia in her courtroom to see footage of her saving her children from a fire, then going back in to save a kitten.
According to the movie’s metaphysics, fear and stupidity are virtually the same thing. And nearly all of us in the world today are plagued by the resulting inhibitions.
Now spoiler alert! After the trial, he is disappointed when finds that he is being sent back to earth, while Julia is will be sent onward. Bob walks him to the tram and advises him: “Don’t let others get to you. Follow what’s in here” (pointing to his heart).
The ending is immensely satisfying. Daniel is strapped into the tram, when across the way at the next tram, Julia is calling out to him. In a moment of bravery, he manages to get out of his seat belt and open the door. He starts across to Julia, despite being shocked along the way by the electrified pavement. He gets to her door and struggles to open it.
We cut back to see the attorneys watching this happening. Bob says, “how’s that for bravery?” They give the signal to open the doors. Daniel is reunited with Julia and they leave to start their next life together.
There’s so much more to the film than a synopsis can give, with the subtle humor and ease of the story unfolding. I’ve seen this film many times, and as I watched it again a few days, I was touched by Daniel’s vulnerability and could relate to his fear. And the ending brought a near tear in its satisfaction and happiness.
Indeed, fear is one of the biggest blocks to living a satisfying and heroic life. I think most of us would find this trial process excruciating, to view all the examples of when we let our fears take over. I know I would.
There are so many books and seminars on how to overcome your fears. The acronym for FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real – is sometimes used to affirm the idea that fears are simply a mental choice, and we could instead choose to step out beyond our comfort zones and dare to do what we long to do.
The book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers advises just that: acknowledge the fear but don’t let it stop you. For we cannot wait until we have no fear, but act in the face of fear. In doing so, we find that we are opened to many more opportunities and a greater life.
It’s interesting that Bob Diamond tapped his chest and said to “follow what’s in here.” The word courage is from the French word coeur, which means heart. These words are like Joseph Campbell’s advice: “Follow your bliss.” The hero’s journey is a journey of courage. As we connect to our heart, we are guided forward along our journey to reap the benefits and rewards.
The significance of his final act of courage– which is the beginning of a new life – means that it’s never too late to move past your fears into braver actions. I know I’m taking the lesson of this film to make it a goal to do one braver thing every day, no matter how large or small, which also means being more conscious. How can I move past complacency and mindlessness into greater awareness today? I commit to courage.
The last blog post focused on the Hero’s Journey, the deep inner structure of most stories. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell studied the world’s myths and stories and found they followed this Hero’s Journey pattern, as referenced in his book Hero with a Thousand Faces. He felt that this pattern expressed the deep inner connections and symbolism of the human experience.
The Journey has a spiritual element: the quest to connect with the true self and find meaning purpose. This quest is the essence of your heroic life story.
The Hero’s Journey in a book or film has a definite starting point. The hero makes a Departure, leaving ordinary surroundings to risk moving into unfamiliar territory. In the Initiation phase, the traveler opens into a new world, meets a mentor, finds both allies and enemies, and moves through thresholds with dangers and challenges. In the Return, the traveler goes back home to enrich the community with the wisdom of the journey.
In living your heroic life, there might not be specific demarcations, so you can decide. Where are you in the journey? Are you departing, going through initiation, or returning? Sometimes there are clear divisions – leaving a job or relationship means departing from the unfamiliar into a new world. Moving from one town to another also begins a new journey.
Your journey can start at any time with a decision to embark on a heroic path, to live with more courage, to make a change. This is answering a deeper inner call. Where in your life do you want a change? How can you live with more courage? The difficulty is that change requires…changing. To transform, to be something different, more courageous, we must give up the old self, the old beliefs. What can you release about yourself, that no longer serves you?
We are not following a storyline; we are making a story with our lives. We are the hero, the main character. Through our intentions, choices, and actions, we move through obstacles and struggles to become the Hero. This transformed self is who you were meant to be, the fulfillment of your potential.
Once the decision is made to change, to be more, to do more, to serve the world, the journey moves you along. Rather than being a struggle, Joseph Campbell recommends that you “follow your bliss.” What do you really love to do? Follow that. He also said that in following your bliss, doors open where there were no doors. You surrender to allow the path to move you.
Living heroically means not being passive but fully embracing the challenges and obstacles. As well, it requires you to embrace both allies and enemies. The dragons and enemies you fight are fear, resentment, greed, hate, sadness, depression, anger or other limiting emotions. The journey operates on both inner and outer levels, in that the inner issues you are dealing with show up externally by way of people or events. As you face these inner and outer obstacles with courage and perseverance, they become healing.
Are you facing threshold guardians that are seemingly blocking your way? Perhaps that guardian is you, holding your own self back. Have you ever felt crucified by someone, going through the supreme ordeal? Something is being healed and transformed at a deep psychic level.
But you might ask, “What if I don’t have courage but am filled with fear?” The famous words are “Act as if.” Take a leap of faith into the life you want to live. For you are playing the greatest role of your life, so play it to the hilt. The act of moving through your fear is the smelter for your heroic life. Is your life fate or destiny? It’s said that fate is the cards you are given; destiny is how you play those cards.
See your life in bigger mythic terms as playing archetypes on the stage of life. We are living great archetypes: mother, sister, brother, father, sage, healer, teacher, survivor, as well as victim, villain, outcast and hundreds more. We look at the parts of ourselves or roles we play that we don’t like and come to accept them with compassion. We give all parts of ourselves a seat at the table. In this way we become whole and integrated and strong. We grow our courage as we do what is difficult, face dragons, and move past obstacles. The Journey is one of continual choices.
Each day is a fresh journey. You enter a new world, that has never been lived before. Each day you connect with mentors and allies, and face obstacles and challenges. Our misfortunes teach us; wounds transform us. We come to not just fight our demons but come to embrace them as teachers and channels for healing.
Each day is an opportunity to grow more heroic, to activate our courage, move past our fears, and to live big. We call someone a hero who has shown bravery and made sacrifices for others. As we move into our hero light and life, we are a greater service to the world.
The goal is to not only to win a great thing, but to become great, the greatness we were meant to be. The journey itself is the treasure.
Many books can help you deepen your heroic life journey. Do an Amazon search for what appeals to you. Some are listed below.
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.
Craig, Will. Living the Hero's Journey: Exploring Your Role in the Action-Adventure of a Lifetime. Highly recommended. https://amzn.to/2uReyuz
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.”
I have a passion for stories and inspirational literature.