The hero’s journey always begins with ‘a call to adventure’, having to leave the ordinary world and our ordinariness behind. The heroic journey is a metaphor for the process of individuation and the quest for something beyond (current) consciousness. Consciously or unconsciously, we are in search of the innermost Self, what Jung called the Archetype of the Self, or the God image within. In myths and fairy tales the hero or heroine ventures forth from a familiar world into strange and sometimes hostile lands - or they may a descent into the Underworld. According to Campbell this is symbolic of the individual’s departure from their conscious personality, descending into the unknown uncharted regions of their psyche in search of the “ultimate boon” (2); to return back to the ordinary world with ‘the Elixir’ to share with others, having incorporated the insights from the figures encountered on the journey. Jung suggests that “the treasure hard to attain” (3) lies hidden in the deep waters of the unconscious.
Campbell mapped the hero’s journey in three major phases (with subphases): departure, initiation, and return. First there is a disturbance or disruption of the familiar world, throwing it off balance. In real life this may be a challenge, upheaval, set-back, crisis or loss. These are ‘the ordeals’ we have to face. The hero’s journey involves facing tests, crossing various thresholds, meeting mentors and allies, confronting enemies, and learning the rules of the ‘special world’ in ‘approaching the innermost cave’ - going deeper into themselves. The death-resurrection motif inherent in the Hero’s Journey may be seen as a purification with the hero being transformed or reborn, having sacrificed personal interest and ego-driven desires for the sake of something greater.
Written for @jungsouthernafrica
- Campbell, J. (2012). The hero with a thousand faces (3rd ed.). New World Library.
- Campbell, J., Kudler, D., & Joseph Campbell Foundation. (2004). Pathways to bliss: Mythology and personal transformation. Novato, Calif: New World Library.
- Carl Jung, CW 14, par. 756
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