I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell
In the early 20th century, while studying world mythology, Joseph Campbell discovered a pattern hidden in every story ever told and he called it “the heroes journey”. The heroes journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis and comes home changed or transformed.
Joseph Campbell studied the classical myth traditions, native American mythology. He fell in love with it when he was a kid. He also studied Greek mythology, Arthurian legend, he dissected and really diagrammed all of our stories. He compared philosophies, mythic stories of the whole world. All myths, all movies all novels, all romances He found this one story within all the stories, that we can relate to, no matter where you come from. He recognized that in spite of all the different stories we seem to be telling, there is really only one. And He called it the Hero’s Journey.
“The snake that cannot shed its skin must perish.” Frederick Nietzsche
The movie starts with Best selling Author Alan Cohen telling the story of the golden buddha:
Many years ago in Thailand, there is a temple that was called the temple of the Golden Buddha. And there was a huge statue of the Golden Buddha. And word came to his village where the monastery was that an army from a neighboring country was about to invade. And they got the brilliant scheme to cover the Golden Buddha which is quite large with mud and concrete so it looks basically like a stone Buddha and the army would perceive no value in it. Sure enough, this army rolled in with its…arms and weapons and as they passed by the monastery they saw nothing but a big stone Buddha and they have no reason to plunder it.
Well, years went by because the army continued to occupy until there was a time in the monastery and the village when no one remembered that the Buddha was golden until one day a young monk was sitting on the Buddha meditating on his knee and as he got up a little piece of concrete happened to crack off and he saw something shiny.
He realized there was gold under there and so he ran to his fellow monks and said “The Buddha is golden, the Buddha is golden”, and they all came out and realized he is telling the truth they took their picks and hammers and eventually they unearthed the Golden Buddha.
The Metaphor of the story:
The metaphor is that each of us is golden by nature. We were born golden, we were born high, we were born knowing, were born connected to our bliss, were born knowing the truth, we were born knowing everything that every great spiritual master has ever said, we were one with the Christ, the Buddha, everyone but then we went to school and they said you had to be just like this, and they said these are sweat boys and sweat girls, white people and black people and on and on and on, and so we developed the casing of stone over the Buddha to a point where at a young age, maybe four or five-six or seven, we believe that we were the stone Buddha, not the Golden one.
And then, something comes along that cracks our casing, maybe it’s an injury, a divorce, financial setbacks, our governmental change, something that really scares us and bugs us and knocks off a piece of our armour and only in that moment of the armour being knocked off, do you get to look inside and see the gold. Let me tell you, friend, that the moment you see that gold the armour and the concrete will never satisfy you again. At that point, you truly enter the true heroes adventure and all you want to do for the rest of your life is pick away the stone because the gold is so much more fun.
The hero’s journey is a pattern. You can almost think of it as an algorithm…that has three basic parts: separation, initiation and return.
Separation: you are in one kind of a reality in one kind of a place and you are separated from it.
Initiation: you’re put into another place, where you are in some manner initiated.
Return: you come back.
A SIMPLE VERSION OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY is, someone starting out in their normal protected world and then getting a call to adventure.
A call to adventure.
There’s a vision, there’s a quest. It’s the story of the hero enduring some trials, various trials and ordeals, meeting different obstacles along the way. People that hurt you. People that help you. Doors will open as Campbell would say, for you where there are no doors for others. Dragons will appear that are your dragons alone. You get to like the innermost cave where you’re really challenged, like the greatest crisis, in which you find your true self.
The achievement, the glory. but then that’s not the end of it, he has to bring that back to the community. There’s a return to tell the story. That is a heroic journey: Separation, initiation, return.
All of the adventures of the human story are in there. All the heroes, all villains, all the gods and goddesses, and all of the nights and of all the fantastic creatures we can conjure up in animation, they’re all in there.
If you look with a piercing eye you can recognize his outline in just about any move your story you would read. Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz: that’s a classic story of the hero’s journey. You first see Dorothy and our natural environment and just like out here in regular life a person is operating in their natural environment every day and living in their house and that kind of thing. and then something happens to shake that world up, and you go on a journey in which you have to face certain tests and challenges.
Life is a Journey
Storytelling is typically about people learning something. You go to a place that is dark and mysterious, you are faced with yourself, there is a relationship between facing fear and this kind of soul game. You acquire a quality, a hidden strength, a value, moments where somebody is tested, somebody moves to a place where it feels like a crisis point, and then they are restored, redeemed, made better through that trial.
And we call them heroes. If all of these stories boiled down into one map, we can use that map, because all human beings are the same whether they’re going through a war like World War II or going to a war inside. It’s basically the same kind of process. In other words, we’re not separate from the characters we see in our movies and our novels, they are us, it’s one journey.
The whole idea of the hero’s journey is a journey of life, clear patterns to guide you through. You’re born, you have a childhood, you have adolescence and you try to find the place for you to become an adult. And you go through adventures, you struggle with the inner conflicts and finally, you become a hero: you slay the dragons, you succeed in conquering all the demons and use them to step over the threshold, and finally, you have arrived.
We get old, we die, but within this short span we have to have some meaning, some reason for this existence. It doesn’t have to be higher mighty and fantastic. You can have a very simple life and still go through a similar pattern. We’ve grown up watching great heros’ journey movies, it’s that impulse within us, that seed of potential that wants to be actualized. It’s being talked to during those movies and being whispered to: “It’s time for you to do that!”
That’s the story here, that’s what it’s all about. It is a wonderful narrative iconography for how to live life. The idea that “Try hard, you get”, the little engine that “I could, I think I can, I think can, I think I think I can, I CAN!” This idea that we really can do better, be better than our greatest selves are still hidden and that the future is the prospect of coming to terms with that self.
It’s kind of the ordinary moving into the extraordinary. Its going through the dark to come out to the light. Going from an unsatisfying life to a satisfying life by pushing through the scariest things you can imagine.
“The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of Aha! Yes. I know what it is, it’s myself” – Joseph Campbell
The most important thing that the myths teach us is to go beyond what we perceive as the limits of our possibility. So, mythology needs to be seen for what it is: Which is a metaphor for our human existence. It’s not a history lesson. It’s a metaphor for life and for universal experiences.
Having been brought up in a mythical culture, I was very familiar with the different motives, and themes that were encapsulated in say a mythical being. Whether it was the Lord Shiva or Ganesh, or a goddess, just thinking the name of that person, the whole story was evoked. Carl Jung called these archetypes. Archetypes of primordial, encapsulated stories or mythologies and they are there in this form of a seed in consciousness.
When you plant that seed in consciousness, that archetypal seed, that mythical journey, and that seed start to sprout and as it sprouts. The patterning forces create situations, circumstances, events, and relationships for the unfolding of the story.
The Tiger and Sheep Story
Once upon a time in the forest, there was this little tiger cub amongst the flock of sheep. And he ate grass, and he wondered around with the sheep, and when he tried to say anything all that came out was a certain a little meow not much of a roar and one day through the forest comes a large male tiger and he is just about to pounce on the sheep and he sees this tiger cub. He says, what are you doing here?
And the tiger cub goes, beeee.
He picks the tiger cub up by the neck and carries him over to a pond and he puts his face over and he says: “Look, you see that face? “You’re not a sheep, you’re a tiger!” The male tiger says, okay, we need to do something. He slays a sheep and he grabs a big chunk of raw meat, and he shoves it into the little tiger’s mouth. And the little tiger gagged on it as we all do on the truth. but it went down. and he got a little bit of energy, and pretty soon, he had a bigger tiger roar. And eventually, he had a full Tiger roar and he went off with the male tiger.
The Moral of the story:
if you’re a tiger living among sheep you’re a pretty poor specimen of a tiger and we are all Tigers living among sheep. We are all individuals with a self that we don’t even begin to understand and unfortunately, when you can open the metaphor out, the food we get from the culture around us is maybe food for sheep.
“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself” – Joseph Campbell
Rebecca Armstrong – Reverend:
We have to catch at least the spark of what your life is going to be or you may spend those dreary decades in corporate America, climbing the ladder only to discover its against the wrong wall. You get to the top, who cares?
If this path of the hero’s journey is fairly simple in design, why then isn’t it that everybody is not living it? Well, the answer is that most people on the planet live under a kind of mass hypnosis.
most people on the planet live under a kind of mass hypnosis.
There’s a tremendous pressure even in the media on really keeping people in their place in the sense of keeping them happy, tranced out consumers. It’s a trance of comfort, it’s a trance of not sticking your hand up above the crowd very much. That keeps the enterprise going.
Norman Ollestad: Best Selling Author
Most people think it’s a luxury and a great privilege to stay home and look at their 800-inch television you’re just spaced out, not developing. We’re stimulated by some images, by some loud noise.
It’s about collecting things and stuff, and making a lot of money and doing a lot of things and it’s impossible to enjoy that because you end up on that treadmill and you can’t get off.
And so most people, unfortunately, because they are so victimized by the environment, they have no time to think or be themselves, they become bundles of conditioned reflexes and nerves that are constantly being triggered by people and circumstance, into very predictable outcome and predictable patterns of behavior. There’s no creativity
Brian Johnson – Philosopher/Entrepreneur
That’s the trance, that’s the wasteland, where we’re just guided toward this weird sense of what’s real on our lives, and those ideas that are imposed on us from the outside about what we should and should not do.
It usually starts out with something like you shouldn’t talk to that person because they’re from a different tribe, you certainly shouldn’t marry that person. You should go to this school, you should have a certain type of car, you should live in a certain type of house, you should have a certain number of kids by this type of age, should should should should.
It’s very difficult for a person who was brought up in this environment of instant gratification with the media and with advertising with all the promises of instant gratification by buying something, for example, or having a certain level of afluence that you lose contact with this mythical domain which is actually part of your soul. It’s there in everyone. It’s their passion, it’s their bliss, it’s their unique skills. It’s their unique ways of expressing themselves, is their soul, which if they think, they could do anything.
If you look at every heroic journey, the hero has been confronted with the fact that the world that they thought was reality was nothing more than illusion. I go back to The Matrix…what was the matrix? It was just this big illusion, it was the dominant values and beliefs that the world had put around this guy Neo, the seeker on the hero’s journey, and what did he do? He felt this longing to go beyond the illusion, to go beyond the matrix, So he took the red pill, and he woke up to reality.
“The call to adventure signifies that destiny has summoned the hero.”- Joseph Campbell
The Call to Adventure
Separation begins with what we call “The call to adventure”. Campbell tells us there’ literally almost a phone ringing. It’s like the universe, the divine, god, whatever you want to call it, literally dialing you up and ringing and giving you a call asking you to step out into what is your journey. Something breaks into your quotidien reality and makes it impossible for you to continue. Well, you can hang up the phone, you can run away. But it will keep coming back, it will keep coming back until you finally… answer the call.
If you’re not paying attention, the wake up calls come in the form of a sledge hammer. You know, if you’re paying attention, they might come in a ticklel feather. So we don’t always get the call as a choir of angels with trumpets singing to its beautiful and warm sunny morning.
In Star Wars, Luke comes back as his house has been burnt down. He’s gotta go. Often times it comes in the depth of our despair in losing a job, getting fired, getting divorced, having your house foreclosed on…These things that you would never want to have happen or often, the exact things we need to catapult us, to catalyse us into that next version of ourselves.
Bad things happen to good people and when that happens to them they typically are thrown for a loop because they frequently have felt everything’s going along, I’m doing everything right, what happened..Well, you know, the universe has just upended you and it does do that.
The Chinese symbol for crises are two symbols. The first one is danger and the second one immediately is opportunity. So crisis are both danger and opportunity.
Sir Ken Robinson
This idea that if one storyline collapses, that that’s the end of the movie is not true in human life and never was true in human life. I know people who have prospered in the most extraordinary way in the worst type of adversity,
what does it mean to be the hero of your own life? It means to be responsible for your own adventure.
Follow your Bliss
“What will they think of me? Must be put aside for bliss.”— Joseph Campbell
Joseph Marshall III:
There are two roads in life, the Red Road and the Black Road. The Red Road is the tough road cause it’s narrow, it’s winding, it’s full of storms, it’s full of obstacles. The Black Road is easy. It’s straight and it’s wide, it doesn’t offer any challenges. The storyteller never says you have to travel this road or you have to travel this road. They end up telling you the story of the Red road and the Black road by saying this. The choice is yours, always the choice is yours.
Slaying the Dragon
Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves comes when life seems most challenging.
Campbell talks about the fact that when we go on the hero’s journey there’s a dragon we must slay. Now, a dragon is the most challenging fierce creature that can ever be created in mythology. Joe Campbell describes the dragon as being a beas covered with scales and on every scale it says either “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not”.
So, this beast is a construction of all of the rules, regulations, social obligations, cultural creations that have made you feel that you either have to or can’t do certain things.
Fear is anything that gets in you. it’s a beast, it’s a monster. Fear is what we face every day. The
fear that we are going to be rejected, that we’re going to be… no ones gonna answer, return our
phone call, that no one’s gonna like what we made or what we did or what we said.
Fear that is unfaced…has a tendency to creep. It moves through your experiences, It starts to toxify your perception.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.