The hero’s journey has been the stuff of story from earliest times. Today’s popular heroes include Harry Potter, Frodo, Spiderman, Neo, and Luke Skywalker. They are all ordinary guys who suddenly receive the Call to Adventure, mythologist Joseph Campbell’s term for the beginning of the journey.
The would-be hero first declines, then answers the call; he suffers tests and trials, succeeds with help from unexpected sources, and returns with the gifts of all he has learned. The hero’s journey is the human story–we are all called to be more, often in seemingly mundane ways.
As we go to work, raise children, and experience setbacks, we are called to sacrifice personal interest and ego-driven desires for the sake of something greater. The hero’s journey is a metaphor for the inner adventure Jung described as individuation, ‘the treasure hard to attain’ and life’s true goal.
“The dream consisted of 3 segments. In the first, I was outdoors, looking up, observing a group of men, they were engaged in some project involving large, structural pieces of architecture e.g. old stone walls. One item was made of clay and included a large carving, I think it was of a face. The men had made a mistake in handling the clay, so that it appeared to have become moldy: white spots had appeared on it. I thought or heard a voice saying something like “they didn’t appreciate that the clay is alive, it breathes, it absorbs and retains moisture.” The men were trying to remedy the situation: they poured red wine on the clay, as if that would destroy the mold. In the second part of the dream, I was indoors with other women, in a small, bright jewelry shop or workshop. A young woman had brought a tiny, delicate watch that had broken. She also brought wonderful, intricate drawings of the watch and the repairs needed. With another woman, I began planning the repair. I was confident we could repair it, but my companion was fretful, fearing we wouldn’t be able to. Her worries didn’t seem to interfere with my confidence. I continued to explain two possible ways we could repair the watch. In the third part of the dream, I was neither clearly indoors nor outdoors, but in a large, bright space, seemingly boundless, maybe like a marquee or gazebo outdoors. A woman had given me a task: I was to write, beautifully, the list of guest names for a wedding. A man was nearby, I think he was somehow involved, too. He was a little effeminate. I was left pretty much alone, and the paper with the names was crumpled and stained.”
C.G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Amazon)
James Hollis. Mythologems (Amazon).
Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Amazon)