Monomyth: The Hero’s Journey

December 16, 2008


Joseph Campbell suggests in The Hero with a Thousand Faces that there were 12 steps in a hero’s journey. A similarity across cultures that reflect a deeper understanding that all humans share a common experience: a collective unconscious.

He believed that almost all nominally exterior journeys or trials ran along these lines.

Campbell thought all individuals should Follow your Bliss: say yes to you life’s unique purpose or destiny. A failure to say a hearty yes is the source of most individual pain. Everyone is called to be a hero in their lives.

Mythology or large stories or narratives provides clues to how we are to live our lives. Free will allows us to choose a life-giving or a life-taking philosophy.

  • There are real costs (manifested in physical and mental pain in your ordinary life) if you refuse your adventure or get “stuck” along the way.
  • I have seen many people in franchising refuse their life-task  (secular vocation from the Latin, vocatio, vocare: a call) because of their fear of death.
  • They end up losing their life in the eternally mistaken self-deception that economics or the majority view will preserve it.

I like Christopher Vogler‘s  explanation (below) although this animation is nice too.

The Hero’s Journey

1. The Ordinary World: Potential hero senses that something’s wrong and he might be able to do something about it.  A general uneasiness. (You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson.)

2. A Call to Adventure: It becomes clearer that you have to do something.

3. Refusal of the Call: The natural fear of something different causes you to resist changing anything.

4. Meeting with a Mentor: You are provided what seems to be supernatural aid to move you along in your trip. (At last.)

5. Crossing the 1st Threshold: Move in to a different world. The preparation has been done; now it is the start of doing. (We’re in.)

6. Test Allies & Enemies: You experience the new world; what you can eat and what will eat you.

7. Approach: Getting ready to face the big battle. Rehearsal. (Guns; Lots of guns.)

8. Ordeal: You face your biggest fear. You face and deal with your death. Test.

9. Reward, gifts  if you Survive: A new awareness. A re-ordering.

10. The Road Back: Call to come back to the ordinary world or face annihilation. Often a chase scene. (He’s beginning to believe.)

11. Rebirth, resurrection: You face death once again but in a more final, deeper way. Tested on your understanding of the lessons the journey has manifested to you.

12. Return with the Elixir: It’s all worthless effort if the prize is not returned for everyone’s benefit. (ie. Golden Fleece, Holy Grail, Star Wars, Fisher King, The Matrix: personal change but profiting the group by affirming and restoring life).

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