The hero's journey of self-transformation: models of higher development from mythology.
This article is organized into the following sections:
1. The hero's journey as a map to psychological healing;
2. Examination of each of the sequential stages of the journey;
3. Examination of factors affecting an individual's journey
a. differences between masculine and feminine approaches
b. differences between introverted and extraverted approaches
c. differences between psychological types
4. Three forms of the journey
5. Correlations between the mythological journey and other paradigms
a. The journey as resolution of conflicting complexes and healing old wounds
b. The journey as climbing the ladder of ego development
c. The journey as the journey inward for spiritual growth
"A myth is something that never was but always is." (1)
"Myth is the dream of the people--the dream is the myth of the individual." (2) Myths were always understood in archaic societies to be true stories and, beyond that, stories that are a most precious possession because they are sacred, exemplary, and profoundly significant.
Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the 'beginnings.' In other words myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality--an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. Myth, then, is always an account of a 'creation'; it relates how something was produced, began to be.... In short, myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the 'supernatural') into the World. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today.... the foremost function of myth is to reveal the exemplary models for all human rites and all significant human activities?
And so let us refresh our archaic memories about our mythological history and the lessons to be learned from them regarding how to (and how not to) reach higher stages of human development (see Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008, "Higher Stages of Human Development" (4)).
Sit back and listen to this timeless story of great adventure and inspiration. It is a story that has echoed down to us throughout the history of humankind, from every age and every civilization. (5) This story is full of mystery and intrigue, passion and violence, wisdom and folly. It is the story of a young man or woman we will call the hero, someone much like you, and it takes place "long, long ago, when wishing still could lead to something". (6)
The hero always experiences dissatisfaction with life in the conventional world of home, family and culture, and is yearning and searching for something more. The hero experiences a "call" to enter on a mythic journey, which always involves a departure from the community and travel to the "'otherworld," the Land of the Unknown. The journey is from the realm of limitation to a world wide open to unlimited possibility. The hero must discover rituals and ceremonies, rites of passage that allow access to the threshold between these two worlds. At the outskirts of the conventional world there is a threshold, an in-between place that belongs to neither world, and here the hero encounters Guardians. They are fierce, dark and dangerous. They are the gatekeepers to insure that only the worthy embark on the journey. They test the strength and resolve of the hero, and in so doing they test his commitment, fortress his strength, and build his stamina. The Guardians prepare the hero for the journey. These guardians often take the form of dragons; they are dangerous and threatening. And yet they can be an empowering ally, although it is usually difficult to recognize them as allies at the time they are threatening you. Reflect on the Guardians preparing you for your journey, the aspects of your being that would limit your development: the fear of becoming lost and of dying, the agitation of a restless mind, the heaviness of inertia that blunts awareness, and the mental laxity in which concentration has no strength. These obstacles are in fact allies, because they force you to outgrow them, to vanquish them and prevail.
The dragons of darkness may kill and eat the hero, forcing him to resurrect in a new form. Or they may be killed by the hero for him to eat their warrior heart and imbibe their strength. Or the hero may make friends with the dragon, taking him on the journey as a comrade in arms. Which of your weaknesses or bad habits or addictions killed and ate you earlier in your journey? Yet have you ultimately found new life, like Jonah's deliverance from the whale? What strengths have you gained from your struggles with those old demons? The hero's task is to avoid being overwhelmed by the adversities in life, or by one's own shortcomings, but to assimilate them instead, releasing the energy that has been tied up fruitlessly fighting them.
The hero's goal is initiation, to find the treasure, the princess or the prince, the ring, the golden egg, the elixir of life, the highest expression of self. Some become seduced upon finding the treasure and succumb to greed; they keep it all for themselves, an unfortunate choice that usually leads to misery and ruin. Most heroes want to bring the treasure back to their community, and they will undergo additional hardships and challenges in order to do so.
On returning and approaching the perimeter of the community, the hero encounters new Guardians at the threshold of return. These, too, are dragons of darkness. Here the hero finds fear of being different, fear of being rejected, the lure of complacency, the self-sabotage of unworthiness. Have you shied away from opportunities to teach or lead or write the book you know you are capable of, to quit your job and start a business, or to tell your spouse how much you love him/her? Have you stopped yourself instead, turned back by the dragons at the threshold of living your optimal life? These Guardians, too, offer you their power if you will but take it.
The story of the hero's journey teaches us how to travel safely and successfully through the challenges of life, and to achieve our own highest unique potential. The hero is the potential of every human being to follow the impulse to 'something greater'. (7) The Self (or Soul) is so powerful, so determined to become wholly conscious, that it continually haunts and prods us. We crave its depth and breadth. But the Self is not only personal, not only bounded by our skin, but transpersonal, a veritable matrix that contains us and all other people and even the whole creation as well, and tries to actualize various aspects of itself through us and other people according to our innate talents. (8) And so now we begin to learn the powerful and ancient lessons this story has to teach us.
Jung knew the realm of the Gods, the mythic realm, to be psyche's own. For him, it is in myth that psyche itself may be studied as the objective reality which is the riverbed of personal experience; without myth, "our clinical approach to the human mind was only medical, which was about as helpful as the approach of the mineralogist to Chartres Cathedral" (Jung, 1953, para. 833). In Roderick Main's (1999) masterly summary: Jung believed that through myth he could empirically demonstrate the existence of the collective unconscious and its archetypes, read as far as possible their meaning and interrelationships, and amplify and make more tolerable the varieties of psychological contents. Myth was one of the principle mediums through which he articulated his differences from Freud; it helped him to find meanings in Christian, Gnostic, alchemical, and Eastern symbolisms and texts that informed his own philosophical and psychological thinking; it gave him an empirically legitimate alternative to metaphysics for framing his speculations about the nature of reality, the origin of consciousness, the meaning of life, and the possibility of surviving death. In short, "Jung's writings on myth are of pivotal importance for his psychological theory and its many cultural and religious ramifications" (Main, 1999, pp. 160--161). (9)
Rollo May suggested that myths can serve a progressive as well as a regressive function. When regressive, myths reveal repressed longings, urges, and dreads of a person. However, myths can also expose progressive material about new insights, hopes, beliefs, dreams, and other potentials. (10) The two benefits together bring healing and growth.
Examination of each of the sequential stages of the Hero's Journey
Christopher Booker has extensively studied the stories of mankind and found that behind all of them, in all their variety, lies the same fundamental impulse.
Each begins by showing us a hero or heroine in some way incomplete, who then encounters the dark power. Through most of the story the dark power remains dominant, casting a shadow in which all remains unresolved. But the essence of the action is that it shows us the light and dark forces in the story gradually constellating to produce a final decisive confrontation. As a result, in any story which reaches complete resolution (and of course ... there are many which do not), the ending shows us how the dark power can be overthrown, with the light ending triumphant. The only question is whether the central figure is identified with the light, in which case he or she ends up liberated and whole; or whether they have fallen irrevocably into the grip of darkness, in which case they are destroyed. But, whatever the fate of the central figure, the real underlying purpose of the process has been to show us how, in the end, light overcomes the darkness. Such is the archetypal pattern around which our human urge to imagine stories is ultimately centered. (11)
Within this basic formula for the human capacity for storytelling, the Hero's Journey can be seen to always involve these five phases:
1. The Call: Identify the Ego, the True Self and the Soul
2. Preparation for our Journey: Confronting the Guardians
3. The Journey: Becoming Your Authentic Self-Generating New Visions
4. Claiming the Treasure: From Vision to Commitment
5. The Return: Transforming Your World
The Call: Recognize that there is more to me than the Ego (the True Self and the Soul)
James Hillman has said, "Troubles are calls from the gods."
The first step in any journey is the realization that such an expedition is possible, and the burning desire to go on it. Without these, no movement occurs. Some part of us is yearning for change, growth, development to a new and higher level. We might experience it as wanderlust, restlessness, fascination with the distant or foreign. Some part of us is dissatisfied with the status quo, aware that we have been living in a holding pattern, not yet fearlessly committed to reaching our full potential. We feel the absence of a clear path forward, and grief for the loss of what is slipping away every day that goes by without "seizing the moment." That is the beginning of all great adventures.
Stephen Levine says that "the presence of what is called the Great Desire, the will toward mystery, the longing for deeper knowing, the draw toward the sacred heart, redefines life. A gradual upwelling of the still small voice within is heard... It is an insistent grace that draws us to the edge and beckons us to surrender safe territory and enter our enormity." (12)
What part of us longs for fulfillment? Who issues the call? It is our soul, our connection to the depth of human experience, the vast underground inhabited by archetypal forces, the elements and all the collective wisdom and folly of time immemorial. Just as the hero finds previously unknown depths in the course of hearing and responding to the call, so we discover these forces disguised in the elements of our dreams and the murky contents of our unconscious. In other words, to be trusted to succeed, the call must not derive from the ego but rather from a source closer to one's soul. The ego is fear-based and safety-seeking, suffering from what Alfred Adler called "cosmic inferiority." And so in general the ego prefers to operate in well-lighted, predictable, controllable environments. However, in the words of Carl Jung, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular." (13) Here is a good description of what the ego is: "the operating system of the personality, the executive function.... the general manager with a team full of prima donnas trying to coordinate a winning season.... It is the manager of the separate self as well as the major block to ultimate connection with the Higher Self." (14)
And so the individual who sets out to answer the call must choose how far to go in that response: to fix up the battered ego to function better, or to "go for broke" pursuing personal transformation. Stephen Levine assessed those choices for himself in seeking psychological help, discovering that although "I thought they fixed minds, I found they didn't do that sort of thing. They dealt mostly with the content, which can be helpful. And sometimes with the patterns, which can be releasing. But rarely with the process, which can be healing. And never with the ground of being, the awareness, the presence, it's all floating in, which can be transformative." (15) The hero of the great myths is a human being who is willing to risk it all to become an extraordinary human being, to transform himself.
The call comes to the potential hero through some extraordinary experience, encounter, or epiphany. A messenger of sorts appears to announce or "herald" the call to adventure. "The herald's summons may be to live ... or to die. It may sound the call to some high historical undertaking. Or it may mark the dawn of religious illumination.... the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand." (16) Knowing in what form the call comes, what the herald is, provides important clues about what sacrifices will be required as well as where the call will lead one to follow. Is the call heralded through a friendly stranger? a dark foreboding? a blinding light? a chance encounter?
According to the Isis mysteries, one should not "hesitate when called, nor hasten when not commanded". (17) This advice keeps one from mistaking boredom, or running away from problems, with a legitimate "calling." Too often, however, people shrink away from a call received because it is challenging and appears to be difficult. And so one choice an individual can make when called is to refuse the Call, choosing instead stasis and fear of the herald, or perhaps holding out for the best offer. "Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless". (18) There is a cost to ignoring the herald and refusing the call, and paying that cost is itself an adventure. But the adventure of refusal is ultimately one of defiance of the higher self, of one's passions and destiny, of one's deities. To justify such defiance and the desertion of the gift they offer, one turns them into enemies, monsters of temptation.
Allow me to offer an example of refusing the call in the form of the ego's defense against the pain of abuse or neglect. Take the case of a girl who has been sexually abused or has received inappropriate sexual attention and uses the defense of reviling her physical beauty as something bad because it caused her to be mistreated. She may (unconsciously) make herself fat, or hide her attractiveness behind deliberately unappealing hair styles or clothing choices. The defense is understandable, of course, given the limited choices available to her as a young girl to protect herself from further harm. Yet it is tragic that she has turned one of her strengths, what could be a herald of passion and grace in her life, into an enemy to run away from and renounce. This is precisely the story of Daphne's flight from the Greek God Apollo recounted in Metamorphoses. (19) Eros (Roman Cupid), in a fit of angry pique, had maliciously shot an arrow to excite love into Apollo's heart, and an arrow to repel love into Daphne. The first arrow was made of gold and was sharp pointed, the second one blunt and tipped with lead. Apollo was seized with love for the maiden, and chased her to make her his own. Daphne, pursued because of her desirability but disdainful of Apollo's advances, was terrified of being caught, ravished, and forced into marriage. She preferred to destroy the beauty that was her essence, but that prompted the threat she perceived to her self.
She begged her father, the river Peneus, to destroy her beauty and thus to save her from the love that repelled her.
Now was her strength all gone, and, pale with fear and utterly overcome by the toil of her swirl flight, seeing the waters of her father's river near, she cried: 'Oh father, help! If your waters hold divinity, change and destroy this beauty by which I pleased o'er well.' Scarce had she thus prayed when a down-dragging numbness seized her limbs, and her soft sides were begirt with thin bark. Her hair was changed to leaves, her arms to branches. Her feet, but now so swift, grew fast in sluggish roots, and her head was now but a tree's top. Her gleaming beauty alone remained.
Daphne sacrificed her aliveness and love of life in order to avoid the love she feared and rejected. What a terrible choice to be forced to make. It is the story of every one of us who has rejected a vital part of ourselves to avoid the fulfillment of a poisoned destiny. Some have hidden (destroyed) their intellect or their desire for intimacy, others their psychic talent or their spiritual aspirations because they had been poisoned by ridicule or contaminated by another's impurity. How many children molested by a priest have turned away from their religious pursuit? How many children shamed for being spontaneous and gregarious become inhibited and cautious? How many flowering worlds become a wasteland of dry stones? This is the devastating cost of refusing the call when it comes. Ultimately, the would-be hero's summons transfers his "spiritual center of gravity" (20) from his current life in society to an as-yet unknown realm, and to refuse the call leaves him separated from his very essence.
Here is the fateful intersection of rising to the challenge and giving up in retreat. The call always presents a challenge to the status quo, to one's comfort with the familiar and secure. What has been taken for granted is called into question, and what has seemed simple becomes more complex. That challenge can drive one to resignation or disintegration, or it can activate resources within the potential hero hitherto unknown and untapped, or even denied and rejected.
Jane Loevinger accumulated evidence that individuals grow when they are exposed to interpersonal environments that are more complex than the current environment is. (21) To encourage the truly challenging and growth-producing path, the call must be to leave behind the familiar and the traditional, to be forced to find one's own resources. God commanded Abraham to "leave your father's house and all that you know and hold dear and go to the land that I will show you." Now that is a monumental call.
Often the individual who is reluctant to answer the call is visited by a protective figure - the Cosmic Mother or a mercurial figure (Hermes/Mercury) who lures innocent souls into realms of trial: one who initiates. "Protective and dangerous, motherly and fatherly at the same time, this supernatural principle of guardianship and direction unites in itself all the ambiguities of the unconscious - thus signifying the support of our conscious personality by that other, larger system, but also the inscrutability of the guide that we are following, to the peril of all our rational ends." (22) The initiate is "hermetically sealed" in protection, in a realm apart.
The fear of not living fully motivates us to yearn for the call, and then the call draws us forward into taking the initial risk. But we need more; we need a stimulating and sustaining vision of the possibilities that lie ahead. And those visions are not readily available because they can only come to us once we are on the journey. The new visions come as we develop the visionary within, the capacity to "see with new eyes." That comes as a third stage of the hero's journey, after confronting the shadow guardians at the threshold of leaving home.
Preparation for Our Journey: Confronting the Guardians
Having roused ourselves from the inertia of the status quo, we now prepare ourselves for the rigors of the journey to wholeness. Our yearning has activated the beginnings of a search; that search must lead us first to discover rituals and ceremonies, rites of passage that allow access to the threshold between these two worlds. Such "incubation rituals" heighten one's awareness and receptivity, and separate the individual from the generally accepted everyday consciousness. Discovering the rituals that create portals to "crossing over" may involve finding and recognizing teachers, learning to pay close attention to clues left by other seekers, establishing spiritual practices, learning to trust inner guidance, or joining with a group of like-minded and mutually committed seekers. One way or another, we find and invite closer a Guide, a spirit guide, a power animal, a guardian angel, a benevolent presence that sees beyond the duality of hero and demon and of two separate worlds, who sees instead integration and wholeness. Our rituals are in fact bookmarks to remind us when we forget to stay connected to this Guide. And this independent, unique and individualized approach to initiation and entry into the adventure of becoming fully human is a cardinal characteristic of the hero. No follower of orthodoxy is she; no timid feeder in the shallow lagoon of life is he. The hero is open to learning from every available source, and to earnestly honoring every available ritual; yet the hero's rite of passage is a personal confrontation with forces of inertia, obstacles in the path. "Angels train in hell for the ineffable compassion of heaven." (23)
The hero is that part of us that says "Yes!" to life, that embraces life's challenges and that always wants to grow, improve, and contribute even at the cost of going through hell. We each have another part, however, that holds the hero back, that creates the very hell which must be navigated. The power that part has over us begins in relationship to the environment, our friends and family, our cultural expectations, our life circumstances. At a deeper level, its powers derive from our own inner struggles. Now we face the deeply embedded fears and shame, rage and grief that have shaped our choices in life largely outside our awareness. These are the terrible dragons at the threshold of transformation that stand in our way, our self sabotaging patterns. They force us to find hitherto unknown strength within. These aspects of ourselves that we must confront and conquer can become no longer obstacles, but rather allies in our forward movement. Herein lies the true meaning of the phrase "the gifts in your adversity." Now compassion for ourselves has replaced self-blame and judgment. The child states within accept the wisdom of the inner elder, just as that elder embraces the spontaneity, wonder and playfulness of the child. The inner feminine and the inner masculine recognize each other's sovereignty, and form a powerful alliance of interdependence. Our dreams always contain reference to our inner saboteurs, and offer emerging visions of potential reconciliation with them.
Whether in dreams, relationships, or intrapsychically, the hero must cross the First Threshold into the entrance of the zone of magnified power. There is a watchman, the prohibitive guardian who warns against proceeding, the ogre or demon (at once dangerous and bestower of magical powers). These ogres "are the reflections of the unsolved enigmas of his humanity. What are his ideals? Those are the symptoms of his grasp of life." (24) They may take the form of social inhibition; superego preventing the breaking through of dangerous impulses and amoral choices; the cognitive rational mind that cannot process ambiguities and enigmas. To cross the threshold in spite of the obstacles is to risk self-annihilation, because one's identity is firmly attached to the social self who possesses clear roles, the ego self who reigns supreme, the known self who no longer questions. Yet in medieval cathedrals or temples the entrances are guarded by gargoyles, lions, and devil-slayers, indicating that passing through and beyond them into the sanctuary is to shed the worldly and metamorphose into the transcendent. Our dreams often point to the existence of such obstacles in one's life, the objects or beings that hold us back, threaten us or perhaps even assault us. The ogre's job is to challenge us to become stronger, more confident, better prepared for the tests that lie ahead. Not all who dare to venture across the first threshold are capable of successful passage, however; "the overbold adventurer beyond his depth may be shamelessly undone." (25)
There is a third alternative to success or failure in passing across the first threshold: to be undone, but then eventually to triumph. Here is the story of one who seemingly fails, whose courage fails him, or who cannot let go of his grasping for security, familiarity and comfort. This hero, "instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died." (26) For example, Jonah defies the destiny God has prescribed for him to prophesy against the wickedness of the city of Nineveh. Jonah hated the Assyrians and he was angry at God for showing mercy to the people of Nineveh. He balked at the mission and stole away on a boat bound for a distant land. The ship ran into a terrific storm, and believing it to be a sign from the Almighty, the crew threw Jonah overboard at the prophet's request. As the water swirled around him and death seemed at hand, Jonah asked God to have mercy on him. The Lord, hearing His name uttered in prayer, sent a whale from the depths to swallow him. After three days and three nights the whale vomited Jonah out upon dry land. The prophet had received God's mercy just as had the Assyrians. Jonah's hero journey into the belly of the whale is a descent into the dark place where digestion occurs and new energy is created (27), into the vast archaic unconscious, from which he ultimately emerges transformed.
This stage, in the vocabulary of the mystics, is the second stage of the Way, that of the "purification of the self' when the senses are "cleansed and humbled", and the energies and interests are "concentrated upon transcendental things." (28) The threshold is either outward beyond the horizon, or inward under the surface. It may take the form of a forest, a dangerous road, a sea or lake, inside an animal or fish, into the darkness, the night, an opening in the ground, the underworld. Or the threshold may come in the form of being drawn to do "The One Forbidden Thing." (29) In mythology, it may be an instruction not to open a particular closet, or travel a desolate road, or eat the fruit of a particular tree. In psychology, it may be delving back into an abusive past, or daring to recognize a parent's faults, or seeking to develop beyond the limits of one's social status. The threshold may come in the form of an encounter with temptation, evil, seduction, or descent into the "dark side." From the vantage point of the familiar consensus consciousness, any reality across the threshold is judged to be the dark side because the frame of reference is that of either/or polarities. Here we divide reality into good and evil, life and death, mine and yours, real and fanciful. But across that threshold such divisions are artificial; instead, polarities exist side by side, paradox and the inexplicable reign.
At the threshold we must confront the Guardians - our shadows. Guardians are often represented as dragons, or serpents with wings: an amalgam of the serpent (i.e., bound to the earth) and eagle (i.e., in spiritual flight). (30) And this dichotomy is highly significant in the hero's journey symbology. Guardians are shadows capable of being transformed into ally or guide. They crawl yet they also soar. The personal shadow can serve as a wisdom figure when we allow it to bring light to the hidden regions of the human psyche, but only if we confront and befriend that shadow aspect of ourselves. Sometimes, "the shadow can contain a figure who is benevolent, a kind of guide who helps one face the shadow, and in doing so, take away its ability to act autonomously.... The shadow, specifically the personal shadow, contains all aspects of Self that have been repressed or not admitted to consciousness. This includes positive traits, aspects of ourselves--such as creativity in men or assertiveness in women--that are not socially accepted, as well as the more commonly labeled negative traits.... the shadow becomes a fertile darkness we need to admit to consciousness in order to prevent it from distorting the way we view the world. But if we allow that the shadow also contains positive traits or aspects of our psyches of which we are not conscious, it then becomes a possible light that can help us lead a more fulfilling life." (31) We find in the hero's journey myths both kinds of shadows - the frightening and threatening ones of avarice, lethargy, violence, fears - and also the guiding ones that offer keys to the map, tips on how to navigate the coming turmoil. In fact, the Guide's relegation to shadow results in projection of the turmoil created when unconscious elements of the psyche seek expression but are thwarted. And "the task of the Guide is to draw attention to those aspects of the unconscious that are hidden and are seeking admission to consciousness, and through confrontation with the shadow, to bring the psyche one step closer to wholeness." (32)
According to Jung, "complexes always contain something like a conflict-they are either the cause or the effect of a conflict" (Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 79). Unless the presence of the complex is so disruptive as to require intervention, the assumption is that its breakthrough into awareness signals the psyche's readiness to resolve that conflict. The integration of a complex into consciousness, with the corresponding dissipation of its conflict, destabilizes the ego for a time. This destabilization of the ego is sometimes experienced as a kind of death. With the transformative energies released in the dying of the ego, the Guide serves as that aspect of the psyche that can lead one toward the final stages of growth. Once the Guide presents itself, it will always help the Hero along the journey (Nichols 253)." (33)
Confronting the shadows, those guardians at the threshold between consciousness and the deep unconscious universe, actually opens the doorway to the emergence of one's anima/ animus. With the appearance of these contra-sexual elements within, the journey itself can commence. The anima is the feminine archetypal influence within the male psyche; the animus is the masculine archetypal influence within the female psyche. Jung saw the sequence continuing further: having worked through the shadow material, and then through the anima/ animus, one encounters what he called the Mana-Personality. These are stages of the hero's journey: preparation, becoming one's authentic self, and then claiming the treasure. With the treasure come new challenges, however; the hero can project any of these elements outwardly onto people or institutions and become entangled, or the seeker's ego can identify with the successful search and become inflated. Douglass Price-Williams (34), in discussing this interpretation, quotes Jung:
Clearly the man who has mastered the Anima acquires her mana, in accordance with the primitive belief that when a man kills the mana-person he assimilates his mana into his own body. The masculine collective figure [mana-personality] who now rises out of the dark background and takes possession of the conscious personality entails a psychic danger of a subtle nature, for by inflating the conscious mind it can destroy everything that was gained by coming to terms with the mana. (35)
Price-Williams then goes on to say, "In other words, at this critical point in the individuation process, the ego rears its ugly head, appropriating to itself all the victories gained in overcoming problems with the shadow and the anima. It is not an unusual occurrence; it is flagrant in a great number of so-called gurus, spiritual teachers, and even church dignitaries." The alternative development is, of course, for the ego to assimilate the mana while remaining humble; in other words, for the hero to claim the treasure not for selfish purposes but for the betterment of the whole community.
There are divergent reactions that can occur upon encounters with the anima: the ego can attempt to usurp its great power, or the ego can surrender to the anima as guide and inspiration. The former is the path of projection and assimilation; the person projects the anima force outwardly onto another person and then either struggles with her or surrenders to her. Or he introjects the anima force into himself, splits it off in order to keep her as an object, and enacts the struggle or surrender internally. The second alternative is to recognize the presence of the anima for the archetypal force that she is, existing within a realm beyond the comprehension of the ego. Jung discussed this as the dual mother: one mother being the biological mother, the feminine existing within the realm of the ego; the other being the divine or supernatural mother, archetypal, cosmic. Jung wrote that this second mother "corresponds to the 'virgin anima', who is not turned towards the outer world and is therefore not corrupted by it." (36) Accepting the anima as guide through the unknown and unknowable realm of the unconscious, one becomes capable of acquiring her mana and finding and claiming the treasure.
A similar (usually unconscious) choice exists upon encounter with the mana personality. As Jung realized, inflating the egoic conscious mind can destroy everything that was gained by coming to terms with the mana. The treasure is hoarded selfishly or lorded over others. Possession of the mana treasure provides an illusion of value to the ego, because it can only be used to the extent it is transportable back to the community. The ego self must assimilate the mana essence in order to transport it, but the ego must do so without identifying with it, or everything is destroyed. This is the great dilemma of the return stage of the hero's journey: to claim the treasure without corrupting it. And the next stage in the journey prepares the hero for that ultimate challenge, to be able to claim the treasure with humility.
The Journey: Becoming Your Authentic Self- Generating New Visions
Up till now we have been confronting the outdated beliefs (early conclusions), deep-seated assumptions (myths), and immature behavior patterns (shadows) that have been with us since childhood. And on closer inspection we recognize that all of it is truly me. I am hero and dragon, I am seeker and way-shower, I live in both the world of limitation and the world of unlimited possibilities. The hunter becomes what he hunts (37); if I hunt transformation, I become transformed. Now we begin to open up to new perspectives, more positive, optimistic, and expansive ones. This step in the journey also involves discerning what aspects of the old are valuable and worth keeping intact, and integrating them into the newly evolving self. This requires an attitude of gratitude for all that has transpired in one's life, for it has all contributed to the open horizon of potential before us today on this current journey. Such humble gratitude for "what is" becomes the foundation for receptivity to "what is possible." These possible selves show up in our dreams, although often not in a form that we expect or recognize as a further stage in our growth as a human being. In other words, we often resist our destiny.
This stage continues the testing of thresholds; it "is a deepening of the problem of the first threshold and the question is still in balance: Can the ego put itself to death? For many-headed is this surrounding Hydra; one head cut off, two more appear". (38) The ego of the daylight world does not easily give in to humility, jumping directly from grandiosity to unworthiness and back again. Actually, humility comes not from attempting to kill the ego but by changing its diet. We refer here to the Buddhist concept of nirvana, which means "the extinguishing of the threefold fire of desire, hostility, and delusion." The Sanskrit verb nirva is, literally, "blown out, gone out, extinguished" in the sense that a fire ceases to draw. Deprived of fuel, the fire is pacified. (39) Lacking shame or pride, greed or dissociation, anger, lust or illusion, the ego stops identifying itself as the Self and quietly assumes its proper role of serving the Self. We will discuss more fully the lesson of being Nobody and being Somebody in the section on the Return Stage of the journey.
Crossing the thresholds generally requires meeting the Feminine, a Goddess who provides potions or secret knowledge, or intercedes directly with the demanding God. Crossing cannot be accomplished by direct assault or determined willpower alone; it requires a collaboration with the intuitive, receptive, soulful aspect--the feminine. The crossing is an "ego-shattering initiation" (40), arranged by a challenging masculine figure, and often the hero needs intercession from the feminine, the Mother.
The hero needs the assistance of the Mother to achieve the Father's blessing. "When the child outgrows the popular idyl of the mother breast and turns to face the world of specialized adult action, it passes, spiritually, into the sphere of the father--who becomes, for his son, the sign of the future task, and for his daughter, of the future husband. Whether he knows it or not, and no matter what his position in society, the father is the initiating priest through whom the young being passes on into the larger world. And just as, formerly, the mother represented the 'good' and 'evil', so now does he, but with this complication--that there is a new element of rivalry in the picture: the son against the father for the mastery of the universe, and the daughter against the mother to be the mastered world." (41)
In any case, for the hero's Visions to be clear, uncontaminated by personal bias and pathology, she must have developed the ability to see beyond the polarities.
Claiming the Treasure: From Vision to Commitment
Once found, claiming the treasure may not be as simple as it sounds. If the hero responded humbly to the call and properly prepared for this moment, it really means committing to live a newly treasured life. If the hero is operating from ego, grandiosity, or is on a political/economic errand, rather than claiming the treasure he will be stealing it. He will be removing it from its rightful place in the other world, to become a nemesis in this world rather than becoming a boon for the benefit of all the people. Claiming the treasure is an initiation into a new and different way of life, for "in true alchemy it is the alchemist who is transformed." (42) The hero can never simply go back to the old ways. There is bound to be grief about leaving the familiar behind, and the grieving process is necessary to release any attachment to it. Yet initiation opens one's eyes to an awakening, reveals the mysteries that have previously been inscrutable. The treasure brings us newfound assets: inner strength, purposeful stamina, and a return of long lost or misplaced or stolen resources. Dedication to the journey of discovery, to the search for the treasure, prepares us in turn to dedicate ourselves to bringing it back to the community and wisely investing the treasure. The mission morphs from searching to distributing. There are always elements in our dreams to represent newfound treasure, waiting to be claimed.
Foolish is the seeker who underestimates the true value of the treasure he seeks, because he will receive only as grand a prize as he is capable of valuing. "'The Japanese have a proverb: 'The gods only laugh when men pray to them for wealth.' The boon bestowed on the worshiper is always scaled to his stature and to the nature of his dominant desire: the boon is simply a symbol of life energy stepped down to the requirements of a certain specific case. The irony, of course, lies in the fact that, whereas the hero who has won the favor of the god may beg for the boon of perfect illumination, what he generally seeks are longer years to live, weapons with which to slay his neighbor, or the health of his child." (43)
Claiming the treasure is often presented as a mystical marriage. "The meeting with the goddess (who is incarnate in every woman) is the final test of the talent of the hero to win the boon of love." (44) The hero has passed through the initiation, discovered the object of his search, and is now ready to take it for his own. "Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known. The hero is the one who comes to know. As he progresses in the slow initiation which is life, the form of the goddess undergoes for him a series of transformations: she can never be greater than himself, though she can always promise more than he is yet capable of comprehending. She lures, she guides, she bids him burst his fetters. And if he can match her import, the two, the knower and the known, will be released from every limitation." (45) If he can match her is, of course, a very big if. To claim the treasure requires the hero not only to be worthy, but to prove his worth. The guardians of the treasure "dare release it only to the duly proven. But the gods may be oversevere, overcautious, in which case the hero must trick them of their treasure. Such was the case with Prometheus. When in this mood even the highest gods appear as malignant, life-hoarding ogres, and the hero who deceives, slays, or appeases them is honored as the savior of the world." (46)
Prometheus was a Titan, a gigantic race that inhabited the earth before the creation of humans. The god Zeus (Jupiter), ruler of the gods, entrusted him the task of making man out of mud and water, which he did lovingly. But man was to be superior to all other animals, and so Prometheus needed a special faculty to bestow on man. He went up to heaven, lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and returned to earth with fire for man. With this gift man was indeed superior to all the other animals. However, Zeus was incensed at Prometheus' treachery of stealing fire from heaven. So he punished Prometheus by creating woman and sending her to him, which also punished man for accepting the stolen gift of fire. The first woman was named Pandora. "She was made in heaven, every god contributing something to perfect her. Venus gave her beauty, Mercury persuasion, Apollo music, etc.... Another story is that Pandora was sent in good faith, by Jupiter, to bless man; that she was furnished with a box, containing her marriage presents, into which every god had put some blessing. She opened the box incautiously, and the blessings all escaped, hope only excepted." (47) Another version of the myth has Jupiter imprisoning in Pandora's box all manner of plagues such as Old Age, Labor, Sickness, Insanity, Vice, and Passion which were let loose on mankind when she peeked into the box. The hero Prometheus was forced to sneak into heaven and steal fire from the gods in order to fulfill his destiny. Neither could he slay Zeus nor could he appease him. Yet his resourcefulness and courage allowed him to consummate a mystical marriage which resulted in creation of man's civilization. He was punished further for transgressing the will of Zeus, who had him chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus. There a vulture preyed on his liver, which was renewed as fast as it was devoured. He was finally freed by the hero Odysseus (Ulysses).
The hero in myth is, of course, sometimes a female rather than a male. The principal roles are reversed here. Instead of the lover trying to win his bride, it is the bride trying to win her lover. Instead of a cruel father withholding his daughter from the lover, it is the jealous mother hiding her son from the bride. Psyche is such a heroine: she is beautiful, ambitious, and although a mortal she is worshipped by human beings as a goddess. This infuriates Aphrodite (Venus), the Great Mother, who feels threatened that youthful Psyche may displace her: Am I then to be eclipsed in my honors by a mortal girl? She commands of her son Eros (Cupid): My dear son, punish that contumacious beauty," give thy mother a revenge as sweet as her injuries are great. Aphrodite represents another aspect of the feminine: the consuming, competitive, judgmental, shaming Terrible Mother. Aphrodite is jealous because her followers have begun to neglect their altars to her and to worship the mortal Psyche instead. Imagine, Aphrodite fumed, preferring a mere mortal over me, the quintessential feminine Goddess, fairest of them all.
In attempting to fulfill his mother's wishes, however, Eros accidentally wounded himself with the arrow intended for Psyche and he now is infatuated with and desires Psyche. His attention has now shifted from his mother to the beautiful young virgin. They wed and Eros demands that her only contact with her husband be in the dark (the instinctual and unconscious realm of the soul). But Psyche's sisters, her shadow aspect of self-doubt and jealously, tell her she is sleeping with a monster. When she lights a lamp to look at her husband (brings in her conscious ego-realm self), she frightens him and he flees back to his mother Aphrodite. In her attempt to recapture the blissful experience with Eros, Psyche journeys to her mother-in-law Aphrodite's castle. Aphrodite, of course, is fearful of allowing her cherished son Eros to be reunited with his new wife Psyche because she jealously considers her a threatening rival.
So Aphrodite did everything she could to keep Psyche away from her son, imposing many impossible tasks for Psyche to accomplish before the two lovers could be united, with the provision that should she fail any of the tasks, she faced a death sentence, either physically or psychically. First she dumped a huge quantity of wheat, barley, millet, poppy seed, peas, lentils, and beans into a heap and commanded the girl to sort them before night. Psyche initially felt hopeless, but she was able to accomplish the feat with the aid of an army of ants. Next, Aphrodite told her to gather the golden fleece of certain dangerous wild sheep that lived in an inaccessible valley in a precarious woods. Again despairing of the hopelessness of the task, Psyche sat by a stream with the intention to drown herself. A reed in the water instructed her how to gather some of the golden fleece snagged on bramble bushes as the sheep passed by in the field. Psyche delivered the fleece as demanded, but Aphrodite now demanded a bottle of water from a freezing spring high on a towering rock guarded by sleepless dragons. An eagle offered to fly to the location to obtain the water for Psyche, and once again she succeeded in accomplishing the impossible. The final test required by Aphrodite was to bring from the abyss of the underworld a box full of supernatural beauty cream. Psyche received instruction on how to go down to the world below, and was given what she would need to buy the item there. In this circumstance, rather than winning the goddess, the hero becomes the goddess. "And when the adventurer, in this context, is not a youth but a maid, she is the one who, by her qualities, her beauty, or her yearning, is fit to become the consort of an immortal." (48) When Psyche had accomplished all the difficult tasks set out for her, Zeus himself gave her the elixir of immortality to drink, to be forever united with her beloved Eros. Psyche gives birth to a daughter Voluptas (pleasure or joy), completing her transformation to goddess.
This tale of Psyche's hero journey is the recounting of her maturation from maiden to matron, passing through the required initiation of separation and independence from the Great Mother, the Terrible Mother. (49) While this aspect of the Mother appears to be cruel and punishing, she also serves to challenge Psyche to discover greater strength within than she had ever known before, and to develop her own creative masculine energies. Psyche prevails in her conflict with Aphrodite, replacing her by becoming the "new Aphrodite." (50) The feminine soul (the Greek word psyche translates as soul and also as butterfly) must serve, suffer, labor, and descend to the depths, before it can finally achieve wholeness in love. The specific tasks required of Psyche in her initiation are highly meaningful. First, sorting the grains, she demonstrated the feminine tasks of discernment and selectivity. Next, gathering wool from the rams, Psyche used feminine patience and wisdom to disarm the destructive power of the masculine. In her third test, obtaining water that defies containment, by partnering with the eagle she demonstrates a new level of integrated masculine-feminine spirituality. The fourth and final task is the most demanding, descending to the underworld to confront Aphrodite's ally Persephone to claim the beauty ointment that will establish Psyche in her own feminine essence. Psyche's spiritual development actually comes through increased relatedness, not through successful completion of tasks. (51)
The Great Mother serves Eros in a similar way, forcing him to assert his independence in order to achieve his destiny by establishing a life with Psyche (soul) to create joy.
This tale of Psyche's hero journey is also the recounting of her expansion into an immortal being. Otto Rank, in Myth of the Birth of the Hero, (52) concludes that the hero throughout history and across cultures is portrayed as the type who combines in one person the mortal and immortal self. He/she becomes dissatisfied with contemporary cultural mores and taboos, then transgresses them in an act of individualism, and ultimately transcends them by bringing the culture itself to a new standard. In this way the hero assists society to discard old outworn values and beliefs and revitalize with new ones or with a re-discovery of old forgotten ones. For the people of that society, the hero now represents the human capacity to transcend not only the cultural limitations but indeed personal mortality.
The primordial masculine mysteries concern life and death. The primordial feminine mysteries concern birth and rebirth, (53) therefore the feminine journey is different from that of the masculine. Whereas the masculine hero must overcome dragon monsters as an act of courage in his quest for conscious development to supplant the father and take his place as king, the feminine must confront life in the material world and in the depths of the primordial as an act of love to establish consciousness in her closest relationships. The masculine journeys to conquer in the realm of consciousness; the feminine to establish relatedness in the realm of the unconscious.
But one thing, paradoxical though it may seem, can be established at once as a basic law: even in woman, consciousness has a masculine character. The correlation "consciousness--light--day" and "unconsciousness--dark--night" holds true regardless of sex and is not altered by the fact that the spirit-instinct polarity is organized on a different basis in men and women. Consciousness, as such, is masculine and even in women, just as the unconscious is feminine in men. (54)
The myth of Psyche and Eros offers a profound pathway to healing and growth, namely through a conscious encounter with the unconscious, and a reconciliation of the feminine and the masculine. The greatest obstacles to Psyche's successful initiation were feminine: the Terrible Mother and her anxious sisters. The most helpful guides along the way were masculine: the army of ants, the reed, the eagle, and ultimately Zeus himself. "With Psyche, then, there appears a new love principle, in which the encounter between feminine and masculine is revealed as the basis of individuation." (55) This is a theme we will encounter in the journey of Odysseus (Ulysses) as well. His greatest obstacles were masculine and his most helpful guides were feminine figures.
The Return: Transforming Your Worm
On the return home, the hero reflects on the one who journeyed, realizing that he is no longer the same being who first ventured onto the journey from the land of the familiar and the banal. So it was for Psyche, no longer the naive maiden; so it was for Eros, no longer the intimidated boy. And so it is for every hero who has ventured to challenge the status quo and dared to aspire to greatness--no matter the outcome of the "tasks", they have grown to identify with an expanded perspective.
Ultimately, treasure is only as valuable as what it is used for. If it is hoarded, it is useless. If it is squandered, it creates no legacy. If it is shared wisely with the community for the benefit of all, it is worthy of all the blood, sweat and tears that were required to find and retrieve it. The way of life into which the hero is initiated in the course of the journey--the way of the spiritual warrior, the wise magician, the compassionate caregiver, the magnanimous authority--becomes the blueprint for the way of life in which the treasure is most wisely shared.
So now, finally, comes the return, "the final crisis of the round, to which the whole miraculous excursion has been but a prelude--that, namely, of the paradoxical, supremely difficult threshold-crossing of the hero's return from the mystic realm into the land of common day. Whether rescued from without, driven from within, or gently carried along by the guiding divinities, he has yet to re-enter with his boon the long-forgotten atmosphere where men who are fractions imagine themselves to be complete. He has yet to confront society with his ego-shattering, life-redeeming elixir, and take the return blow of reasonable queries, hard resentment, and good people at a loss to comprehend." (56)
Thus, the hero's return can take a number of different forms: the hero may refuse to return; the hero may be aided in the return by all manner of help from gods or supernatural patrons; his return may be accomplished only with Herculean effort against all odds; or perhaps the world may have to come and get him. And the returning hero's reception can take unexpected turns as well.
Some heroes succumb to the temptation to remain in the realm where the treasure was found, to "take up residence forever in the blessed isle of the unaging Goddess of Immortal Being." (57) Such a choice may belie a selfish original intention for the journey, or a lack of commitment to the community from which the hero departed. Or the hero may have learned something along the journey to compel him to redirect his course. Some spiritual seekers, having attained their desired degree of wisdom, return to share it with the rest of us; some choose to become ascetic and remain apart from humanity. We are told that the Buddha, after his enlightenment, doubted whether the message of realization could be shared and yet chose to teach what he had learned to those who would listen. And some do both, that is they return to share the treasure found and then leave the company of humanity. An example is in the Navajo culture which incorporates thirty-two major ceremonies for healing, each an elaborate complex of mythology and practice. (58) Each ceremony is based on a specific myth about a tribal ancestor who is said to have become afflicted after breaking a taboo. The ancestor, assisted in learning a curative ritual by a supernatural being, applied the procedures to himself and was cured. Then he returned briefly to the Navajo people to teach them the procedures to use to cure others who become afflicted after breaking the same taboo. (59) After teaching the cure to the people, each of these ancestors found he could no longer live in the company of normal humans because of his increased spirituality. Each one then goes to live with the Holy People who helped create the present-day world, leaving the knowledge of his ceremony behind for the benefit of the community. (60)
The hero's return may take the form of what Joseph Campbell calls The Magic Flight: it may be eased through the assistance of the gods, guides, or guardians; or it may turn into a difficult or comical chase. "lf the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by ali the powers of his supernatural patron. On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero's wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becomes a lively, often comical, pursuit. This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion." (61)
Then again, the hero's return from the journey may need to be orchestrated by the community from which he journeyed. "The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him." (62) Have you ever gotten lost and needed a search party to come find you? Have you ever required an intervention by trusted friends to remind you that you somehow got off-course? That can happen to anyone, especially to heroes.
Crossing the return threshold presents an intimidating new initiation, because the hero has yet to confront society with his newfound and otherworldly treasure, and stand up to the puzzled questions, derision, resentments, and neighbors unable to comprehend. To the perspective of the hero before leaving the land we know, the two worlds of humanity and divinity, or cognitive consciousness and intuitive unconsciousness, appear to be separate and distinct from each other - different as life and death, as day and night. "The hero adventures out of the land we know into darkness; there he accomplishes his adventure, or again is simply lost to us, imprisoned, or in danger; and his return is described as a coming back out of that yonder zone. Nevertheless--and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol--the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero." (63) Upon his return, the hero cannot help but see the two worlds as intricately connected; indeed as one in the same. And therein lies the challenge to bring back the treasure in a way that the community can assimilate. "That is the hero's ultimate difficult task. How render back into light-world language the speech-defying pronouncements of the dark? ... How translate into terms of 'yes' and 'no' revelations that shatter into meaninglessness every attempt to define the pairs of opposites?" (64)
Returning home may sound innocuous, simple, and easy. As anyone who has tried it can attest, it is perhaps the most difficult part of the entire journey. The ten years of adventures recounted in Homer's Iliad of going to war with Troy to rescue the kidnapped Helen were only the beginning of the whole story of Odysseus' journey: the Odyssey recounts the ten-year adventure of returning home to Ithaca after the war had been won. Let's retell that tale in order to learn the lessons of this final stage of the hero's journey: the return.
The hero of the tale is Odysseus (the Greek name) or Ulysses (the Roman name). Odysseus fought the good fight at Troy and emerged victorious. The complexity of his return home from the war actually began with confusion about what course to take. Some of Odysseus' warrior comrades believed it necessary to make sacrifices to the gods before they could safely begin their homeward travels. Odysseus and some others felt that no sacrifices were necessary and decided to lead their weary troops home as soon as possible. But Odysseus was ambivalent and, on second thought, turned back to join the others. On the way he decided to sack a city for booty and provisions. He mistook that material plunder for the journey's treasure instead of recognizing the strength gained through victory to be the treasure. That turned out to be a costly mistake, because it set him on a convoluted course rather than the straightforward journey home that he yearned for. The people of the city fought Odysseus' men off, forcing them to flee back into the sea where they were blown off course. Eventually they washed ashore at the Land of the Lotus Eaters, peaceful people who were happy to share the lotus fruit with the scouting party. Once they ate the fruit, however, the sailors forgot themselves and their purpose; they forgot their goal of returning home. Odysseus is forced to go ashore on the beautiful island, find them and drag them back to the ship.
Throughout the long epic of the Odyssey, the crew represents Odysseus' lower impulses, his less developed aspects. We ali have parts that are easily sidetracked and distracted from our highest priority. Sometimes they want to just "veg out" in front of the television, or perhaps "relax" with the help of alcohol. It is only unhealthy to the extent that, in the process, we forget ourselves and our purpose. Then the part of us that is truly hero must take charge forcefully, reimpose the rightful priority, and enforce discipline on the unruly parts who have forgotten. For some people their seductive lotus fruit is an intoxicant, for some fame or fortune, for others it may be the gilded cage of security or the drive to accomplish something important. Each of us might ask, what is my lotus fruit that makes me forget myself and my purpose?
Odysseus and his crew set sail for home again, but they are in need of provisions and so they land on the next island they encounter. It is the home of the Cyclopes. These beings are huge one-eyed giants with no perspective beyond eating, sleeping, and herding the livestock that provide meat and milk. They are isolated from the world and from each other. They are unbridled, self-obsessed and ignorant of any self-reflection. They live by the basest of animal natures. Odysseus and his men seek food in the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemos while he is away, feasting on cheese and milk. Just as they are ready to sneak out of the cave and return to their ship, Odysseus lets his curiosity get the better of him and he insists that they wait for the return of the Cyclops. When the mighty Polyphemos returns, he closes the cave exit with a huge stone and Odysseus' men are trapped. Discovering these intruders, the Cyclops asks them "Tell me your name." Odysseus replies, "My name is Nobody (or Noman)." The giant brutally kills and eats several of the men, gets drunk on a special wine that Odysseus offered him, and falls into an unconscious stupor, leaving Odysseus and the remaining crew horrified, planning an escape from the sealed cave. Even if they could kill Cyclops, they would be doomed because they could not move the immense stone that closed off the cave entrance.
While the giant sleeps, Odysseus and a few of his strongest men plunge a burning stake into his one eye. Blinded, he raged in pain, calling for help. Other Cyclopes come and call out, "What is going on? Are you being attacked in there?" Polyphemos replies, "Nobody is attacking me! Nobody is killing me now by trickery and deception." Convinced there is no problem, the other Cyclopes go off to their own caves. When Polyphemos opens the cave to let his herds out, Odysseus and his men escape, hiding by hanging onto the undersides of sheep. They reach their ship and begin to sail away from the frightful island. Not content to remain Nobody, however, Odysseus can't resist calling out to Polyphemos that if he wants to know who is responsible for tricking and blinding him, it is he, Odysseus of Ithaca. Polyphemos was so infuriated that he scoops up a nearby mountain and hurls it at the ship, causing a swell that pulls the ship all the way back to the island. Odysseus barely manages to escape a second time. And again Odysseus can't resist calling out to Polyphemos to gloat about getting away, but this time from a safer distance. The Cyclops called on his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus for the next ten years with storms that frustrate his return home. "There's no escaping the moral of this tale: when faced with the violence of overblown egotism, being Nobody is the best escape. The craft of being Nobody is the antidote to the dumb brutality of self-centeredness.... To be Nobody is not to enter some fantastic condition of egolessness. It is simply to be willing and able, when it is time, to drop the self, to let Somebody go and surrender to circumstances. We do this as a discipline when we give ourselves over in meditation or in prayer. We do it, too, in those rare but always absorbing moments of abandonment that can come in art or work or love." (65) The story provides a glaring reminder, too, of the ease with which the ego can come storming back, even in the face of the dire consequences of allowing it to happen.
These are the lessons to be learned about the difficulties of the final stage of the hero's journey: the return home. We can become sidetracked by indecisiveness, by confused values, by seduction into intoxication, or by an inflated ego. What further adventures await Odysseus, and lessons await us?
Leaving the Cyclops behind (but not the curse brought on by him), Odysseus sails to the pleasant shore of King Aeolus' realm where for a full month he is treated to every luxury and kindness. When Odysseus is ready to leave, the King gives him a wonderful gift to take with him: a bagful of iii winds. This is immensely useful, because as long as the winds are kept in the bag, they can't plague Odysseus' ships. They enjoyed smooth sailing on their homeward journey for nine days, until at last they approached the shores of Ithaca. Confident that they had successfully avoided any more troubles, and exhausted from the stress of the journey, Odysseus finally rested, falling into a deep sleep. As Odysseus slept, the men in the crew began to conjecture what was in King Aeolus' gift bag, imagining that it must be silver and gold, and complained that Odysseus shouldn't get all the valuables. They are emboldened to open the sack, the iii winds rush out and the ships are carried by ferocious storms ali the way back to Aeolus. Again Odysseus is sent back to start over, and he is disheartened. "And while we sleep unruly forces within us stir up our self-destructive impulses.... When the fatigue caused by inner spiritual conflict grows deep enough, we fall asleep. And when we're asleep the inner or outer crew conspires, and out of their jealousy and perversion open up the bag of our irrational passions to let fly some destructive wind to blow us back a million miles." (66)
Among the continuing adventures that plague Odysseus and his small remaining band of men, one of the strangest is on the Aenian island. They are exhausted, traumatized, and disoriented. Odysseus sends a scouting party to investigate the island in search of food and provisions. They come to a house and see sitting inside the beautiful sorceress goddess Circe, daughter of the sun. She sings enchanting songs that put the men at ease, and they accept her invitation to come in and drink the refreshment she offers. The drink is laced with a potion that erases any memory of home, and they are changed into swine. When Odysseus learns of Circe's treachery, he sets out to confront her and free his men. On the way to meet Circe, the god Hermes (the one who initiates) appears and gives Odysseus a new potion to counter the effects of her memory-deleting potion. When her deception does not work on Odysseus, she agrees to return the men to their human bodies and never to harm Odysseus. The men are now younger and stronger than before being made into pigs. Odysseus and his men stay with Circe at her palace for a year, feasting and drinking. Odysseus has been drawn into sharing sexual passion with the alluring goddess, and again has forgotten his purpose of returning home. This time it is his men who finally bring him back to his senses, urging him to rouse from the trance of pleasure and return to the journey. And they do, with Circe's help. For Odysseus, the encounter on the Aenian island may have been a detour on the journey, but it was definitely a necessary one.
There are many enchanting distractions that have the potential to turn us into beasts, forgetfully oblivious to the demands of our homeward journey. We can safely navigate what is enchanting, alluring, and dangerous within only if we have some form of protection, like Hermes' counterpotion. For some that may be a spiritual practice, for others it may be self-reflection. But there is another layer of truth here as well: while the base impulses (Odysseus' men) may be the aspects of ourselves most likely to lead us into mindless animal behavior, it was Odysseus himself who got lost in the comforts of living in Circe's opulent palace. And it was his men who brought him to his senses, in other words our senses and sensual impulsive aspects have a wisdom of their own.
The complex relationships that Odysseus had with Circe (and with Calypso who is yet to come), are also instructive. Each one seduced him into forgetting the mission he was on and therefore represented dangerous distraction; yet each one ultimately became an ally in the forward momentum of his journey through the intervention of Hermes. This alluring, fascinating femme fatale exists for all men, and we call her the anima, just as an alluring and fascinating masculine exists within ali women, which we call her animus. This archetype offers the quicksand of intoxication and complacency when it is approached without intercession, and at the same time the inspiration and encouragement to move forward. She is the muse and the mentor.
Circe tells Odysseus that he must now go to the Land of the Dead, and she offers instructions that prove invaluable. The Land of the Dead is unknown, unknowable, terrifying. It is the land of the buried past where we encounter people and events now long gone, to grieve and forgive, to complete what has been unfinished and to make peace. Odysseus and his crew enter a realm of darkness and once onshore begin following Circe's instructions on how to make sacrifices that will draw in the dead with whom he must speak. Overcoming his terrible fear, Odysseus is greeted by many who are dead including his mother Anticlea. She tells him that she died of grief during his long absence in Troy, and he wants to comfort her but cannot. He cannot embrace her or the others from his past that he meets, for they are now unreachable. Yet he is able to hear their side of things and gain a perspective beyond his own narrow self-interest. In that there is a measure of healing. There is another poignant lesson for Odysseus in the Land of the Dead, for he has a tendency to romanticize the death of the hero. When Odysseus meets Achilles, champion of the Trojan War who died gloriously in battle, he assumes that he proudly rules the Land of the Dead as the great warrior he was when he died. Achilles corrects him, however; "Let me hear no smooth talk of death from you, Odysseus. Better I say to break sod as a farm hand for some poor country man, on iron rations, than to lord it over ali the exhausted dead." (67) Idealizing death is clearly a mistake: "death is no picnic. It is backbreaking and exhausting work. It is not the solution to life's difficulties. The realm of life, not the realm of death, is where our journey takes place. Abandoning our pretty fantasies about death and facing our fear of death's inconceivable strangeness is a necessity: for life.... The shades [dead inhabitants] in the Land of the Dead do not live in a world of peace or closure. Like us they continue to struggle and change." (68) When we romanticize death, it can become as alluring and enchanting a distraction as can Circe's paradise. And that is what happened to Odysseus. He becomes fascinated, wanting to spend more and more time with the buried past. Finally, when the hordes of dead clamoring for his attention become really overwhelming, he becomes frightened again and scurries away to his ships to continue the journey home.
Odysseus and his crew had barely departed when they encountered the Sirens, enchanting sisters whose eerie songs irresistibly pull you in until there is no escape. Fortunately, Circe had given Odysseus instructions not only for navigating through the Land of the Dead but also for avoiding the treacherously seductive songs of the Sirens. He was to plug the sailors' ears with wax so they could not hear the Siren songs. She understood Odysseus well, and knew that he would be unwilling to stop himself from listening, so he was instructed to have his men lash him to the ship's mast and no matter what he said that they were not to untie him. The song of the Sirens romanticizes the past through sublimely nostalgic melodies. Once in the clutches of this deadly seduction, the hero is doomed: the Sirens' island is littered with the bones of those who did not see the danger of indulging in wishful thinking and sanitized memories, of the "comfortable fantasy of refuge in a past that never was ... To fix and sentimentalize the past is to seal the present's doom." (69) Both of these adventures carry lessons about dealing with the past: it is dangerous to the forward movement of our journey home to become enmeshed in guilt and regret for the past, or to indulge in a romanticized or nostalgic version of the past. Follow Circe's advice and lash yourself to the mast of your spiritual discipline or contemplative practice to keep from being seduced into a past that never was. Here ends the adventures for which Circe gave Odysseus clear instructions. Now he is truly on his own.
He must sail his ship through a narrow strait, with a terrible fate waiting on either side. On one side is Scylla, a terrible six-headed and twelve-armed monster who grabs up six sailors at a time to eat in those six gluttonous and ravenous mouths. Circe herself had earlier changed Scylla from a beautiful maiden into the snaky monster. On the other side is Charybdis, a terrifying whirlpool that appears and disappears without notice, sucking everything in its clutches down to certain death in the deep darkness below. Odysseus must choose which of these two sickening fates to avoid by coming dangerously close to the other. He faces an impossible choice, because either way lies the risk of destruction. Odysseus chooses to take his chances with Scylla; he loses six good men to her, and avoids the potential of losing everything in the whirlpool of Charybdis. Sometimes we are forced to make a choice when there are no good choices available. Faced with such a dilemma, it may be tempting to hold back, not wanting to proceed. If I don't move forward then I don't have to make the difficult choice. But then, of course, I remain stuck in a holding pattern, agonizing over the dilemma endlessly. This is one of those times in our lives when we are truly on our own; we are forced to rely on our own judgment, and we must live with the consequences of that choice.
Odysseus and his remaining crew now sail to Thrinakia, an island where the sacred cattle of Helios, the Sun, live. He has been warned not to slaughter these cattle under any circumstances, and Odysseus makes his men swear that they will not. Because the winds remain idle, they cannot leave the island for a month. They have no food, so Odysseus goes off by himself to make offerings to the gods and pray for good weather, and then he falls asleep. The men are starving and, in his absence, decide to kill the cattle and feast. When Odysseus returns, he is mortified that the men have defied the warnings of disaster. As soon as a wind comes up they hurriedly sail away. Almost immediately, however, a fierce thunderstorm comes up and sinks the ship in icy seas; ali aboard except Odysseus perish. He clings to a makeshift raft, alone and desolate, drifting helplessly back to Charybdis. Having made the impossible choice once, he now is forced to experience the other alternative as well. The whirlpool swallows the raft and Odysseus barely manages to save himself by clinging to a fig tree on the cliff over the abyss. After waiting desperately for a long, long time, Odysseus drops onto a small log and, exhausted, drifts aimlessly. This is not the first time that Odysseus' men have defied him, fulfilling their base impulses while he sleeps, AWOL. Each time it leads to disaster. These aspects of ourselves, unchaperoned by a higher and wiser self, inevitably sabotage "doing the right thing" and moving forward in our homeward journey. They are our childish parts, impulsive, impatient, whining and constantly demanding, "Are we there yet?"
Odysseus' lessons are becoming unavoidably clear to us: "When we appreciate our experience as it is, engaging with it fully, but not trying to possess or control it--looking but not eating--then whatever life throws our way will be ali right. We can look to our heart's content, we can even complain ali we want, but if we don't eat--don't, that is, swallow Circe's potion without a counterpotion, or listen to the sirens' songs without being lashed to the mast, but instead appreciate and move on for the rest of the journey--then we avert disaster. Sometimes this is the way it ought to be. But there are other times, as with the sacred cattle, the lotus blossoms, and the Cyclopes' food, when we can't help but eat, to our great sorrow.... We are not simply supposed to forgo eating the fruit and the cattle, or swallowing the potion, or allowing ourselves to be seduced by sound and sight: of course we need to do these things, we are human, we eat to live, and we must pay the price of our eating. This also is our destiny, and our path home." (70) These trials and disasters strengthen us and bring us wisdom. They truly are our pathway home.
Odysseus drifted hopelessly on that small log, lost and alone, until he washed ashore on Ogygia, where he becomes captive of the beautiful goddess Calypso for seven long years. She pampers him, showers him with luxury and affection, hoping that eventually he will fall in love with her and choose to remain there for the rest of his life, even perhaps becoming immortal. But Odysseus sits on the beach gazing out toward the distant Ithaca, pining for his family and his home. While there have been interim periods of forgetting, he cannot totally forget that ultimately he is on a homeward journey. And so once again Hermes, sent by Zeus, delivers to Calypso the decree that she must set Odysseus free to resume his journey and return home. He builds a raft and sets out. Just as he is approaching the land of his beloved home, a great storm comes up sent by his nemesis Poseidon, dashing his raft to pieces and leaving him clinging to a tiny piece of driftwood. A violent wave crashes Odysseus into a rock on the shore, and then carries him back out to sea, helpless and discouraged. Despairing at coming so close to home and then being denied, Odysseus begs the gods for mercy. Sometimes that is the only thing left to do. Eventually a gentle tide washes him up on the shore of Skeria, land of the Phaiakians, hospitable people who welcome him. They are known to guarantee safe passage home to anyone who washes ashore on their land, and so before setting out to take Odysseus home, they feast and drink and enjoy music and athletic contests. Odysseus recounts for his hosts ali of his adventures since leaving Troy, and the retelling is cathartic, allowing him to express all the deep grief and despair that has been building for these years of wandering. King Alcinous and the Phaiakian people are so impressed with Odysseus' adventures that they shower him lavishly with gifts, and he now has more booty than all that was lost at sea. Then they set sail to finally bring Odysseus home.
Reaching the shores of Ithaca after being gone twenty years, Odysseus is overcome with emotion and exhaustion, and he falls into a deep sleep. The sailors must carry him ashore and lay him under an olive tree: "Odysseus lands on Ithaca not as a conqueror, or a pilgrim, or a king: he arrives like a baby or one as yet unborn." (71) As often as Odysseus has sabotaged himself by falling asleep, allowing his baser impulses to act thoughtlessly, this is not one of them. Now his sleep represents full recognition of the importance of the intuitive mind, the unconscious which exists outside of time and reaches beyond reason. "And this is how we too must return home: we must return with ali the experiences we have had in our waking lives throughout the years contained now in a fuller, more mysterious state, a state in which we are more open, more suggestible, and less in control than we would probably like. We all come home asleep." (72)
Home at last, Odysseus now faces the greatest challenge of the entire journey to get home. He must now introduce the new Odysseus to those he left behind, and re-create his relationships with them based on who he is now. He is a different person than the one who departed on the journey of self-discovery so many long years before, and they have changed, too. His wife Penelope has been putting off suitors that wanted to marry her in Odysseus' absence by weaving a death shroud by day and unweaving it each night. The suitors, more than a hundred noblemen from nearby lands, had been competing for Odysseus' kingdom through Penelope's hand in marriage and had made themselves at home in Odysseus' palace as if they owned it. She can no longer hide from life behind the uncertainty of her husband's whereabouts or whether he is even still alive. And so Odysseus recruits the help of his son Telemachus, who has grown into a man in his own right, to kill ali those who would usurp Odysseus' place in life. He stands on the threshold of his home and fights ali the suitors who want him dead for their own convenience, to block their escape and force them to deal with his return. He kills them all, and claims Penelope as his own. Victory over the suitors is essential before re-creating the deep intimate new relationships: "the suitors are entropy, inertia, inner profligacy, the tendency in each one of us toward weakness and the gradual dissipation of our spirit as life goes on.... Years, possibly decades go by while the suitors eat us out of house and home, but ali the while we've been busy with other concerns and have not noticed--until, possibly, it is too late. So, yes, we must finally recognize and admit that we stand at an important threshold; we can't avoid it any longer. We must recognize here that a battle is necessary to root the suitors out of our house once and for all, so that we can be ready to face with full creativity what is to come, and so that we will be able to love." (73)
There remains one final challenge for Odysseus to meet before he can finally and fully move beyond the threshold and be at home again. He must seek his father Laertes and reconcile with him, gaining his blessing and his forgiveness, as he had already done with his deceased mother in his visit to the underworld. With that accomplished, Odysseus is at peace with his past and ready to be fully present now that he is truly home. The gods allowed the night of Odysseus' reunion with Penelope to be longer than any other night, timeless, intimate, and mysterious. And so the long journey home is complete, and yet Odysseus knows that he continues to journey as long as he lives, and that returning home allows the next great adventure of departure to commence.
The story of the hero's journey is, of course, a metaphor for the various experiences we have throughout life. Examples are the nightly journey into dream world; the longer term evolution of our relationships, such as with parents, children, or life partners; the course of one's mental health treatment; an academic career; establishing a career or life's work; the pilgrimage of spiritual development.
Needless to say, the hero's journey never really ends. For the true hero continues to hear and heed the soul's call to reach new heights and depths of authentic living. With enough practice, we bridge the chasm between our hero and our Demon Guardians, between the world of limitation and the world of unlimited possibilities. We can easily come and go at will, embracing it all. Such a hero we recognize as Master of the Two Worlds. "Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the causal deep and back--not contaminating the principles of the one with those of the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other--is the talent of the master." (74) Mastery is elusive, even for the successful hero, and requires, as we shall discover, the integration of one's polarities: feminine with masculine, introvert with extravert, psyche with cosmos, left brain (thinking and sensation) with right brain (intuition and feeling). The true hero continues constantly to journey toward mastery.
Now we will investigate these polarities within, and the ways in which they affect our journeying.
Factors affecting an individual's Journey
We will briefly examine a number of factors that influence the approach that a given individual will tend to take in his/her Hero's Journey, specifically masculine/ feminine forces, introversion/extraversion, and psychological type.
Masculine and Feminine
We need to acknowledge and honor that there are basic differences between a masculine and a feminine approach to the hero's journey, even though there are many commonalities. In general, the masculine approach to life's challenges is goal-oriented, is to objectively identify and isolate all the tasks that need to be done, to attack each necessary undertaking with strength and determination, and to control elements in the environment in order to achieve the desired result. Just so do legendary heroes set out on their journeys of transformation, and in the process invent technologies, build infrastructure, explore uncharted territories, and conquer threats. Life is made meaningful by accomplishing one's mission, by knowing one's purpose and fulfilling it.
In general, the feminine approach to life's challenges is process-oriented, is to immerse in the situation so as to become consciously aware of the ambiance of the environment, to gather experiential knowledge through relationships, and to submit to the wisdom and guidance from deep within that is only accessible to feminine receptivity. Inherent in a feminine approach is tolerance of the uncertainty of not-knowing and of the tension of not-doing. Life is made meaningful by unfolding one's essence and expressing it within significant relationships. Feminine heroism traditionally has had less to do with physical strength and daring than emotional fortitude and selflessness, and is based on a different archetypal foundation than masculine heroism. (75) Authors Magdala Peixoto Labre and Lisa Duke offer an interesting analysis of this difference, and the social basis for it:
female heroism is "more optimistic and more democratic and equalitarian than her male counterpart's" (Pearson 1986, xvi) and most often associated with the Martyr/Caregiver rather than the Warrior archetype. The Caregiver/Martyr is the "feminine" heroic archetype that incorporates traditional social expectations of "feminine heroism"---for example, connection, fairness, responsibility, persuasion, nurture (Polster 1992)---and is encouraged in girls' early socialization experiences with family, peers, educational institutions, and the media. These categorizations correspond with Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan's (1982) identification of a female-based principle of ethical/moral judgment she calls "an ethic of care." Compared with males, who tend to be guided by an "ethic of justice" or a relatively impersonal, abstract value system of right and wrong, Gilligan attests that girls are more apt to judge situations individually, taking into consideration the impact of their decisions on others, and they have a greater tendency than boys to place importance on connection and relationships in determining what is "right." (76)
Symbolically, the masculine image of development is ascending a ladder, valuing competition and autonomy, with the goal being to get to the top of the ladder. The comparable feminine symbol is a net or web of human interconnection, valuing care and relationship, with the goal being the collective good of everyone within that web. (77) Men tend to struggle with intimacy, fearing engulfment and loss of autonomy in the feminine web. Women tend to struggle with assertiveness, fearing isolation at the top of the masculine ladder. Each finds personal transformation by risking what they most fear: for women, to establish personal boundaries and face the terror of being judged, rejected, and ultimately alone; for men, to risk vulnerable intimacy and face the terror of being swallowed up by feminine connectedness, losing himself and ultimately being annihilated.
We are speaking about basic forces at work in the world, not men and women or male and female, but masculine and feminine or yang and yin. In earlier generations of human history, men carried most of the masculine energy for the culture and women carried most of the feminine, and both genders were narrowly proscribed. In our contemporary cultures, men and women have more freedom to explore and develop both their own masculinity and femininity. Jung spoke of these two great universal patterns, "found both in the unconscious and in nature in the characteristic form of opposites, as the 'mother' and 'father' of everything that happens." (78) In the archetypal nuclear family, the father (masculine energy) builds a house, contains and protects its sanctity, and brings into it material nourishment from the outer world. The mother (feminine energy) is a home-maker, that is she makes the house into a home, and she develops within it nurturance, a capacity to digest and embody the nourishment from outside, utilizing the containing safety to relax, deintegrate, and renew. (79)
The Greek myths of Psyche and Jason provide a clear illustration of this difference in the context of the hero's journey. Jason, in the story of the Argonauts, was called to many pilgrimages. One was to retrieve the golden fleece from fiercely destructive golden rams of the sun. He set out boldly and courageously, determined to encounter and overcome the frightening enemy. Jason has a long series of wild adventures on his journey, accomplishing many seemingly impossible tasks, overcoming imposing obstacles, and finally returning with the golden fleece to be declared a hero and a conqueror by his community. His successful completion of the goal-oriented journey contributes to increased sense of autonomy, power, and potency. Yet it must be said that Jason ultimately succeeds in the impossible tasks required to obtain the golden fleece through the intervention of a beautiful woman, Medea, daughter of King Aeetes. She provides Jason with the juice of a certain herb which puts the dragon guardian to sleep, allowing him to snatch the prize and escape to his ship for the return home (with his captivating new lover Medea).
Compare this with the separate myth of Psyche's call to retrieve the golden fleece. As we have already seen, her approach to the journey was very different from Jason's. Psyche waits patiently observing the situation for clues about how to proceed, and is rewarded by a reed which advises her on how to accomplish the task. She hides in the shade until the early evening when the beasts sleep following their frenzied activity of the day (in the depths of unconsciousness when the distracting forces of everyday life are dormant); then she gathers wisps of fleece that have been caught on nearby bushes. Her motivation for the journey was to be reunited with her lover Eros; her reward was to live happily ever after with Eros and their daughter Bliss. Her successful completion of the journey results in a heightened sense of connection with the world, and attuned relationship to other living creatures and to the ever-flowing processes and rhythms of life. (80)
In general, female responses to stress are to "tend and befriend," whereas male responses are to "fight or flight". (81) Traumatized girls tend to sacrifice themselves in return for the connection with others that is so vitally important. Traumatized boys tend to prefer avoidance and emotional distance, sacrificing the connection with others in return for the illusion of autonomy. Some of the gender differences are accounted for by oxytocin, a predominantly female hormone which prompts labor as well as milk production in the nursing mother. (82) Oxytocin is also released during stressful events, prompting the uniquely female stress response of tend and befriend, i.e., tending to children or others perceived as dependent, even while seeking out social support. In an interesting experiment recently, human subjects (male and female) who inhaled oxytocin in a nasal spray showed increased trust in social interactions with unfamiliar individuals. (83) A complication is that oxytocin's effects are enhanced by estrogen, but are antagonized by androgens, male hormones. Winners in human hierarchical contests experience triumph, power, and a sense of dominance. Losers experience a sense of defeat, submission, and being crushed. Not surprisingly, defeat in males leads to marked increases in the female stimulating hormone oxytocin, (84) and female competitiveness is enhanced by testosterone. (85) Further, victory enhances immunocompetence whereas defeat compromises it. (86) As a result, defeated animals may die of infections, whereas injecting them with testosterone can lead to recovery. (87) We see these patterns reflected in mythic stories of male and female heroes, and in the people who advance to higher levels of development. The male hero learns to incorporates his inner feminine qualities not through defeat but through humility and ego surrender. The female hero incorporates her inner masculine not as competitiveness but as respectful assertive confidence.
Another clear distinction between a masculine and feminine approach to the hero's journey is the direction each takes on that journey, and the direction from which assistance is solicited. The masculine is oriented in the direction of upward, ascent toward higher aspirations and seeking help from higher powers transcendence of the mundane. The top of the mountain is a customary place of revelation and redemption, of enlightenment. The feminine is oriented more in the direction of downward, a descent into the underworld of the dark watery uterus where a seed can germinate, an embryo can develop. (88) And assistance is sought from forces that inhabit the underworld; after all, it was reeds that live in the water that told Psyche how to get the golden fleece, and it was an army of ants that helped her to sort the grains. The final test required of Psyche by Aphrodite was to bring from the abyss of the underworld a box full of supernatural beauty. This challenge is appropriate to a feminine hero, certainly; additionally, it is clear that it takes a feminine authority to command it. The masculine hero is sent out into the world and challenged to ascend to a higher realm to prove himself; a feminine hero is sent inward and challenged to descend to the depths to prove herself. The feminine opens up to the "sensible transcendental" (89), a transcendence-in-immanence which, rather than separating the flesh from spirit, discovers divinity in the depths of the flesh.
A consistent lesson in many of the ancient myths is how the masculine and feminine interrelate: connecting, separating, and reconnecting in a new and healthier way. For example, in the Iliad, Odysseus went to war with Troy because they had stolen Helen (the Feminine) from Greece. The Greek King Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods in order to obtain prevailing winds that would take his warriors' ships to Troy. "In order to undertake this masculine task of making war the men must absolutely sever their connection to the Feminine .... The Odyssey tells the tale of Odysseus's return to Greece from Troy; one element in Odysseus's 20-year journey involves his need to become reconnected to the Feminine before he can successfully return to his wife, Penelope. Odysseus must encounter a variety of female figures--Circe, the Sirens, Calypso and finally Nausicaa--before he manages to find a successful way back to civilization where the Masculine and the Feminine must live in harmony with one another." (90)
And in the same myth we learn how Penelope deals with her separation from the Masculine. During Odysseus' long absence, she was hounded by suitors who became more and more intrusive into her inner life. They moved into her home, ate her food and became more demanding of her resources. Her method of coping was to patiently occupy herself with weaving by day and unraveling her work by night, only to weave again the next day. "A feminine approach is not primarily goal-oriented.... There is a mixture of attentiveness and contemplation as one tries to attune oneself to the current of one's development, to let one's growth process happen, to avoid blocking a journey that is trying to proceed. The ego turns toward the unconscious, letting itself be guided by the organic processes of the psyche, immersing itself in its own depths rather than trying to direct the psyche." (91) And when Odysseus returns, Penelope cannot be reunited with him until he has evicted the suitors, until the newly wise and humbled masculine conquers the pretenders of aggression, greed, entropy, laziness and entitlement. Only then are the two long-separated lovers finally reunited in that night longer than any other night, timeless, intimate, and mysterious.
The masculine need not be careless and violent in its subjugation of nature and pursuit of spirit; the masculine can be forcefully in service to both. The feminine need not be passive in its surrender to the rhythms and currents of life and the relationships with nature; the feminine activates the very life force that animates everything. The wise hero calls on both the masculine and feminine strengths within, that of doing and that of being, to grow in health and wisdom through life's journeys. Another way of saying this is that attention is receptive, a feminine quality. (92) Attention is first the product of one's intention, which is projective, masculine. Then it must be nurtured, cajoled into persistence.
A hallmark of high ego development is an integration of both masculine and feminine strengths: "Self-development at higher levels apparently goes hand in hand with an awareness of emotional interdependence and granting of appropriate autonomy to others as well as to self. If this seems a complex blend of caring and autonomy, ... it is precisely this complexity that the individual at higher ego levels is successfully mastering." (93) More evidence for this integration of masculine and feminine characteristics comes from McAdams et al. (94), who showed that ego level was related to having both instrumental and interpersonal goals.
Extravert and Introvert
In a similar way to the polarity of masculine/feminine, there is a fundamental difference between an extraverted and an introverted approach to the hero's journey, even though there are once again many commonalities. An extraverted approach tends to embrace what the world offers while relegating the inner reaction to a lower priority; an introverted approach deals first with the inner reaction and only secondarily with the outer reality. "Mother Nature herself metaphorically goes through cycles of introversion and extraversion: the inwardness of autumn and winter, followed by the bursting forth of spring and summer. On a more person level, each night begins with the introversion of sleep, proceeds in the morning awakening to the external demands of daily life, and in turn is followed by a slowing and quieting introverted orientation at dusk and evening, which progresses once more into sleep. The extravert is more likely to neglect times of reflection while the more introverted person is apt to neglect extraverted relationships with others. Nature and human life demand both introversion and extraversion." (95)
Characteristics of extraversion are outward orientation, strongly assertive, sociable, flexible, liking variety and action, deciding before reflecting, and using teamwork; negative traits of the one-sided extravert are being excessively loud, aggressively invasive, impulsive, driven by time and speed, and having an insatiable need for diversity and drama. In situations that involve another person, extraversion moves to create a shared experience, by reaching out to "merge" in some way with the other person. Characteristics of introversion are inward orientation, prefers solitude, intense, concentrated, reflects before deciding, communicates better in writing than in conversation, works alone, quiet, and is puzzled or threatened by extraverted aggressiveness, which is experienced as psychic invasion; negative traits of the one-sided introvert are being aloof, secretive, moody, judgmental, and indecisive. In situations that involve another person, introversion steps back from the experience to see if it "matches" a remembered experience or an archetype within to allow understanding of what an experience like this is supposed to consist of.
An analogy to explain the difference between the two basic attitudes uses a general and his aide. "In an extravert, the general (dominant function) is outside the tent dealing with affairs while the aide (the auxiliary) is respectfully in the background or in the tent. In the case of the introvert, the roles are reversed: the aide is outside 'fending off interruptions' while the general is inside the tent 'working on matters of top priority'." (96) To be healthy and effective, men need an activated and healthy feminine, just as women need access to their healthy masculine. Introverts need a developed extroverted 'aide' to keep from becoming isolated or dominated, just as extraverts need an available introverted 'aide' to keep from becoming a bully or superficial.
Most people are able to select a dominant mode depending on what the current circumstance calls for. A normally introverted person may have learned to activate the 'inner extravert' when she is teaching in the classroom, but then indulges her preference for quiet reflection when she goes home at the end of the day. A healthy man can call on masculine aspects of himself when appropriate and on feminine aspects as well. It is similar to the way in which we ali use the left brain for linear, logical problem-solving and the right brain for a more holistic perspective, sometimes at the same time.
When an individual becomes one-sided in these polarities (masculine/ feminine or introversion/ extraversion), his/her unconscious attempts to compensate and rebalance the conscious ego complex, and becomes more extreme in an opposed direction. (97) The one-sided extravert tends toward manic excitability and aggressive invasion of others' personal space. When the undeveloped and unused introverted tendencies erupt into the life of a one-sided extravert, the more infantile and archaic these unconscious attitudes are. "The egoism which characterizes the extravert's unconscious attitude goes far beyond mere childish selfishness; it verges on the ruthless and the brutal." (98) The one-sided introvert tends toward isolation and depression, but when their undeveloped and unused extraverted tendencies erupt into the open, the pent-up fury or fears of psychic invasion may explode in rage and hatred.
Approximately 70% of Americans are extraverted and 30% introverted. More females are extraverted than males. (99)
Three forms of the journey
The journey we speak of can take any of three forms, each one an individual pilgrimage dedicated to the healing and spiritual regeneration of the greater community. (100) One is the path of questing for and discovering access to the hidden inner intelligence of elemental nature--the path of the shaman, of intuition and mystical empathy with nature. A second is the path of knowledge by remembering, remembering the lessons of our ancestors, the creation stories of our culture, and the inspiration of our sacred scriptures about the gods, prophets and saints. The third path is one of reconciliation of opposites, of peacemaking, alchemy, integration--the path of creating wholeness.
The journey of self-sacrifice in search of truth follows a classic pattern of quest, ordeal, discovery, and liberation. It is the same pattern exemplified by the vision-questing North American native peoples and the Australian aboriginal cultures of fasting, isolation, and entry into a portal connecting the lower, middle, and upper worlds. We also look for instruction to the mythological Odin, "the Germanic god of ecstatic trance, of shamans, poets, warriors, and seers. Odin was known as the truth-seeking wanderer, the vision-quester or questioner, who wandered through many worlds seeking knowledge and wisdom." (101) The mystical wisdom and animistic-shamanistic worldview of pre-Christian Northern European mythology is descended through the aboriginal Germanic, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples.
Odin's journey is thus a metaphorical image of the relationships between nature, humanity, and divinity, revealing Earth wisdom through experiences of magic and sorcery. Like the Native American Sun Dance ceremony of piercing, fasting, and dancing in homage to a great Tree of Life, Odin's initiation consisted of hanging on a great Tree, the World Tree, the axis mundi, fasting and piercing. He was rewarded with secret knowledge of the Runes divination method, told in this song:
I know that I hung on that wind-swept tree, through nine long nights, pierced by the spear, to Odin sacrificed, myself to my self, on that great tree whose roots no one knows. Neither food nor drink did they give me. I looked downwards took up the runes, took them up with a cry. Then I fell down. (102)
Odin the man is telling the story of how he offered himself in sacrifice to Odin the god in his quest for wisdom. This shamanic self-sacrifice--"myself to my self"--teaches how the lower mortal self sacrifices (makes sacred) itself by offering itself to the higher immortal Self. In one of the myths of Odin, he willingly paid the price of sacrificing one eye in his search for knowledge. The image of him as one-eyed is a reminder that following this path requires one to devote attention to both the outer world of people and nature, and the inner world of visionary intuition and invisible forces.
The second path, that of remembering our origins, is the regression journey of accessing source experiences to explain and resolve current conflict. Hypnotherapy, dreamwork, and depth psychology allow one to descend closer to the depths of the unconscious and from those depths to "well up" images from the past, both personal and collective. This is the path of honoring the elders in the community as still-living ancestors who carry our cultural wisdom and share it with those who take the time to listen. This is the path of rites of initiation into traditional ceremonies and time-honored technologies, learning the "old ways" from the "old ones."
The third path, that of creating wholeness, is the Jungian journey of individuation, of bringing to resolution the warring psychic elements of ego and shadow, conscious and unconscious. It is the path of selfless seeking for social justice taken by Gandhi, and the path of Reconciliation offered to the fragile post-Apartheid country of South Africa by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. And it is the path each one of us takes as we seek ways to incorporate both our masculine and feminine sides, to harmonize the left and right hemispheres of our brains, and to balance the tendencies to introversion and extraversion.
We are mostly caught up in a web of our own making, one which we do not understand well because we are unconscious about how it came into existence. We do not generally know the territory very well or the construction of the web. So, like a fly captured in an invisible spider's web, we struggle to gain freedom from the limitations imposed on us, without a clear understanding of what we are struggling with. The irony is that we are, in reality, the spider that spun the web in the first place as well as the unfortunate fly. In order to discover the true self hidden deep within, we must become familiar with the complexities within so that something new can emerge. Yet if we only attempt to observe ourselves with the everyday conscious mind, the ego, we fail because it is the fly caught in the spider's web, the observer within the observed.
First we need to understand our shadows. Then we need to discover our strengths.
Both are reflections of the archetypes at work in our lives. Carl Jung recognized that elements often occur in our dreams that are not individual and that cannot be derived from the dreamer's personal experience. These archetypes are primordial centers of organization that transcend the psyche but are nevertheless experienced by individuals. Jung felt that we can learn, though dreams and other modes, to cooperate with archetypes in a way that contributes to our wholeness. That is, we can learn how we may be cooperating with destructive forces (like greed, envy, aggression, etc.) and change those patterns of behavior; we can learn how to reclaim our rightful connection to powerful strengths (like courage, leadership, gratitude, humility, etc.).
These archetypes, positive and negative, must be seen for what they are: archaic images, collective memories, the lexicon of ancient myth and species' instinct. This is a vast underworld of dream and archetype and soul. At some point in our spiritual development, we gain the strength to face our own hidden complexity, including the darkness, and to consciously take responsibility to dissolve and transmute it into good. When this occurs, our spiritual power blossoms. Because the integration of shadow elements into consciousness is the first step toward individuation (the process of accessing and integrating unconscious elements of the psyche into consciousness), the shadows are truly our guides.
The shadow is the part of oneself that sabotages, one's inner demons, the dark side of our essence. It is the unconscious parts of our basic nature which consist of our projections onto others, repressed desires, ignorant or gluttonous inner urges, and the unpleasant parts of ourselves we have attempted to deny, disguise, neglect, reject, hide or separate from self. The shadow exists not only individually, but also collectively: the dark side of human nature. So long as the individual, or the society, remains ignorant of and separate from the dark power, they are condemned to incompleteness. Completion arrives with the resolution of our dark and light aspects, when the primal power of the shadow is harnessed for the purposes of the self, when "myself" is sacrificed to my "self".
The Hero's Journey as resolution of conflicting complexes and healing old wounds
"You could say much of therapy is about the conflict between cultural mythology and individual mythology, or about the conflict between different personal myths." (103)
"Less do we know that we follow him whose shadow we are, as our own shadow follows us." (104) We usually have an idea about who our shadows are, but whose shadow am I? That is the hero's journey to discover. The dragons and trolls and monsters that we encounter make up a mosaic that, taken together, forms the totality of who we truly are. They are not, as it turns out, separate from us; indeed, "we have met the enemy, and he is us." (105) Poet Rainier Maria Rilke has said that our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure. (106)
Donald Sandner, a Jungian analyst, studied primitive healing practices such as the work of medicine men and shamans in many indigenous cultures. He differentiated symbolic healing from scientific healing: the former "explains, or at least provides a context for, the sufferings of [the patient]" whereas the latter does not. (107) The structural pattern of ali such healing processes, and the experiences that symbolic healers commonly take with or for their patients, parallel the myth of the hero's journey. The healing process in this cultural context is an individual's journey deep into not his/her own individual unconscious, but rather down into the tribe's collective archetypal patterns. Sandner identifies five stages in symbolic healing within the Navajo tradition, which parallel the stages of the hero's journey (108):
The journey begins with a purification in which the healer and patient cleanse themselves and create a space safe enough to contain the healing experience. The container for the journey or the healing exploration is set apart from the ordinary world in a transitional between-worlds space.
Fairy tales and myths always view the solution to the proponent's impossible task as magical, relying on powers that ordinary people do not really possess. The other-worldly forces necessary to sanctify and empower the mystical processes must be evoked from their habitat in the Lower World or the Upper World, a return to humanity's deeply embedded origins. Such an evocation requires access to these other realms through ritual and ceremony, often through the efforts of a designated intermediary (priest/ doctor figure). These forces may be perceived as guardian angels, power animals, benevolent ancestors, spirit among us, divinity. The powers evoked manifest through metaphorical forms and symbolic images, which themselves may require interpretation by a knowledgeable facilitator.
The second stage of a psychotherapeutic healing journey is really a return to origins, to the source of pathology where one encounters ali sorts of negative underworld forces. Yet it is unknowingly (and to be learned only later, upon retrieval of the treasure) also a return to the source of power which will fuel the healing process. This is so because a return to origins is, archetypally, a descent into the unconscious where one always finds a confrontation of polarities such as good and bad, weak and strong. In that confrontation, one is forced to take sides, to identify with the good and strong, in which case he or she ends up transformed, liberated and whole; or to fall irrevocably into the grip of darkness, in which case he is destroyed. In regression therapy one returns to the parents' wrongs and other wounding, and identifies as a victim; calls on deep inner resources of outrage to confront the transgressors psychically; and eventually confronts one's own self-sabotaging shadows. The final stage of release, if the journey has been successful, brings a new rebirth of optimism, invigoration, and confidence--the restoration of the collective belief in tribal traditions and a "triumph of the human spirit."
And so the hero's mission is to explore the dragons and trolls and monsters, and the princesses and wizards, that are encountered along the journey, and to finally discover that, having met them, they are me. "Psychologically, the dragon is one's own binding of oneself to one's ego. We're captured in our own dragon cage.... The ultimate dragon is within you, it is your ego clamping you down." (109)
John Beebe, a Jungian analyst, writes about subpersonality complexes: "the psyche consists of different centers of agency and identity capable of entering into meaningful relations with each other." (110) Jung's study of Pierre Janet's ideas of "simultaneous psychological existences," and of William James' concept of a "rivalry and conflict of the different selves," led to Jung's conception of complexes as fragmentary personalities or splinter psyches, within which there is perception, feeling, volition and intention, as though a subject were present which thinks and is goal-directed. The ego is only one complex among many, and consciousness is a consequence of the ego's capacity to appropriate as one's own and use effectively and freely the various complexes that already populate one's existence. (111) Without the ego's self-reflection, the complexes function automatically and have a compulsive quality. (112)
These complexes have a tendency to exist in opposed and conflicting pairs and to operate with an archetypal quality. In fact, "a complex is a concrete internalization or incarnation of the archetype." (113) Complexes always contain something like a conflict--they are either the cause or the effect of a conflict. First we will take up what Jung considered the fundamental complexes: persona, ego, shadow, anima/ animus, and mana personality. Then we will consider our mythic hero's journey as metaphor for the interactions between these intrapsychic forces. Indeed, James Hillman suggests that we interpret archaic Greek myth psychologically, seeing the various gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines as representing these inner complexes. (114)
The following discussion of Jung's fundamental complexes persona, ego, shadow, anima/animus, and mana personality--is an abbreviated version of that to be found in "Dream Journey: A New Heart-Centered Therapies Modality" by Hartman and Zimberoff, 2008. (115)
Complexes are dissociated parts of the mind holding clusters of memories together in an unconscious grouping which is dissociated from the rest of mental functioning and serves healthy as well as pathological purposes. (116) Our complexes are created to allow us to multi-function, to operate on autopilot, and to provide cover and deniability to the ego who wishes to appear innocent. "Jung thought that whatever its roots in previous experience, neurosis consists of a refusal--or inability--in the here and now to bear legitimate suffering. Instead this painful feeling or some representation of it is split off from awareness and the initial wholeness--the primordial Self- is broken .... This splitting is a normal part of life. Initial wholeness is meant to be broken, and it becomes pathological or diagnosable as illness, only when the splitting off of complexes becomes too wide and deep and the conflict too intense. Then the painful symptoms may lead to the conflicts of neurosis or to the shattered ego of psychosis". (117)
The ego creates two colleagues along the way of its development. One is the persona, a projection of ali the acceptable qualities to be displayed to others, a mask to hide behind and an autopilot to allow effortless social intercourse. The other is the shadow, a repression of all the qualities to be hidden from others (and oneself), either because they are shamefully unacceptable or they are unattainably out-of-reach. The shadow also provides a convenient actor to "do the dirty work" for the ego, who can then maintain the hero's blameless self-image: "the shadow made me do it."
In order to deal successfully with the shadow, and reach the second stage of individuation, we must face and resolve two seductive options. First, because it is considered either unacceptable or unattainable, we may want to disown our shadow by projecting it onto other people. Creating a scapegoat to carry the blame for our own self-sabotaging aspects only delays our confronting the clear messages about what we need to change in ourselves to grow and heal. The second temptation to be resisted is that Of suppressing the shadow, which means putting it back into the cellars of the unconscious and locking the doors on it. Jung said, "Mere suppression of the Shadow is as little a remedy as beheading would be for a headache." Acknowledging the existence of the shadow is a good beginning, but only the beginning. "If the encounter with the shadow is the 'apprentice-piece' in the individual's development, then that with the anima is the master-piece'." (118)
An elaborate dynamic exists between the ego, persona, and shadow. The ego believes itself to be master of the others, and that is the grand illusion. To be sure, the ego has fashioned the persona as a social mask, a convenience behind which to hide. And the ego also creates shadows through judgment, shame and repression. But shadow is an active player with a mind of its own, and a proclivity toward the depths, darkness, the lure of the netherworld. "Shadow, then, in psychology is not only that which the ego casts behind, made by the ego out of its light, a moral or repressed or evil reflection to be integrated. Shadow is the very stuff of the soul, the interior darkness that pulls downward out of life and keeps one in relentless connection with the underworld." (119) Shadow provides the link between worlds, the seedy part of town that we must traverse in order to reach the outskirts on the way to leaving town altogether. Shadow, the active player, directs itself also toward uptown, toward the ego/ persona collaboration, "literalizing an ego in front of it and behind which it can remain hidden." (120) Just as the ego creates and uses the persona as a shield against the world, so the shadow creates and uses the ego as a shield behind which to hide.
And that is the ego's grand illusion. Far from being master of the others, ego is propped up by them, pulled in different directions by them, and the foil behind which both persona and shadow hide.
The second stage of the individuation process means encountering what Jung calls the 'soul-image', the archetypal images of the contrasex. For a man this is the 'anima', the feminine aspects of a male psyche; for example, gentleness, tenderness, patience, receptivity, closeness to nature, readiness to forgive, but also moodiness, possessiveness, vanity. For a woman, the 'soul-image' is the 'animus', the male side of a female psyche; assertiveness, the will to control and take charge, to build, to lead, a fighting spirit, but also aggression, self-absorption, manipulation.
"If the image of the shadow instills fear and dread, the image of the anima/us usually brings excitement and stimulates desire for union. It engenders attraction. Where there is anima/us, we want to go, we want to be a part of it, we want to join it, if we are not too timid or afraid of adventure. The charismatic charge that electrifies an audience when a great orator casts his spell enlists the anima/us and constellates its presence." (121)
When the anima or animus has not yet been distinguished from the shadow, the same two seductions lure us away from integration: projection and suppression. In this case, the male may be tempted, through fear and neglect of his own femininity, to repress the feminine in himself, but also to project his idealized or pathological conceptions of femininity onto the females in his life. If his unconscious conception is fearful, castrating, or engulfing, the man may suppress those females in his life, keeping them subordinate and powerless. If the unconscious conception he projects is idealized as sexy (femme fatale) or chaste (mother), he may create unrealistic demands on the females in his life. If, instead of projecting his own soul-image onto members of the opposite sex, the man acknowledges and becomes acquainted with it, he expands into a balanced expression of his total human potential.
The female, too, can project or suppress her own soul-image. She may suppress her own masculine and express the figure of the damsel in distress, or the seductive nymph. And surely she will attract a man whose anima leads him to rescue every damsel in distress, or a man whose anima compels him to succumb to the nymph's guile and lose himself to her powers. Jacoby (122)
suggests that "in using the term animus Jung tried to give an appropriate name to an autonomous Logos principle operating out of a woman's unconscious. This autonomous, unconscious Logos may manifest itself in a creative spiritual or intellectual quality, or in bold initiative and energy. But it may also show itself in an overly critical attitude toward one's surroundings and a compulsive need to indulge in destructive self-criticism." (123)
When the anima or animus structure has been denied or projected, it is undeveloped and inadequate to do its job when called upon. Men will then typically look for a woman to help them manage their emotions, and women will typically find a man who can receive their inspired thoughts and do something with them, manifest them into the world.
"The natural function of the animus (as well as of the anima) is to remain in place between individual consciousness and the collective unconscious; exactly as the persona is a sort of stratum between the ego-consciousness and the objects of the external world. The animus and the anima should function as a bridge, or a door, leading to the images of the collective unconscious, as the persona should be a sort of bridge into the world." (124)
The soul-image is a mediator, a go-between who establishes communication between the conscious persona and ego and the unconscious soma and self. When allowed to, the soul-image reconciles the two realms.
So it is with the engagement between ego and anima/us. This is the work of raising consciousness, of becoming aware of projections, of challenging our most romantic and carefully guarded illusions. To have an Auseinandersetzung (German word that means literally "taking something to pieces") with the anima/us is to dismember the illusory world of unconscious fantasy. It is also to allow oneself to experience most profoundly the heights and depths of one's own mental universe, the unconscious assumptions that keep us salivating for more when we are already overfed, that keep us lusting although we should have long since been satisfied, that drive us to repeat endlessly the emotionally engorged patterns in our iron chain of stimulus-response sequences. (125)
"What we can discover about them [anima and animus] from the conscious side is so slight as to be almost imperceptible. It is only when we throw light into the dark depths of the psyche and explore the strange and tortuous paths of human fate that it gradually becomes clear to us how immense is the influence wielded by these two factors that complement our conscious life." (126)
Mario Jacoby warns that it is self-delusion to believe that "one need only plunge into the mythic depths and existence would be transfigured into a kind of Paradise--psychic deep-sea diving, as it were." (127) But the bridge across which communication between the conscious and the unconscious occurs is a two-way bridge. To reconcile the two realms, they must first be intermingled, which is as difficult as mixing oil and water.
So let us not imagine anima bridging and mediating inward only as a sibylline benefactrice, teaching us about all the things we did not know, the girl guide whose hand we hold. This is a one-way trip, and there is another direction to her movement. She would also 'unleash forces' of the collective unconscious, for across her bridge roll fantasies, projections, emotions that make a person's consciousness unconscious and collective.... As mediatrix to the eternally unknowable she is the bridge both over the fiver into the trees and into the sludge and quicksand, making the known ever more unknown.... She mystifies, produces sphinxlike riddles, prefers the cryptic and occult where she can remain hidden: she insists upon uncertainty. By leading whatever is known from off its solid footing, she carries every question into deeper waters, which is also a way of soul-making. Anima consciousness clings to unconsciousness, as the nymphs adhere to their dense wooden trees and the echoes cannot leave their caves. (128)
Stage three of individuation is the fruition of the reconciliation between conscious and unconscious, in which one's journey through the underworld has succeeded. The treasures of intuitive powers and wisdom that reside in the depths of our psyche are brought back to conscious, everyday life. This is recognized and honored as wisdom that is not directly accessible to intellect, but can only come from the unconscious. Man meets the Wise Old Man and woman meets the Great Mother. Jung calls them 'mana personalities', because in primitive communities anyone with extraordinary power or wisdom was said to be filled with 'mana' (a Polynesian word meaning 'holiness' or 'the divine'). Jung took the term from his contemporary, Marcel Mauss, an anthropologist, who explained mana in this picturesque way:
mana may be communicated from a harvest stone to other stones through contact ... It may be heard and seen, leaving objects where it has dwelt. Mana makes a noise in the leaves, flies away like a cloud or flame ... there is mana to make people wealthy and mana used to kill ... Mana is the magicians' force ... Mana is the power of a rite ... Mana ... causes the net to bring in a good catch, makes the house solid and keeps the canoe sailing smoothly ... On an arrow it is the substance which kills ... It is the object of a reverence which may amount to a taboo ... It is a kind of aether, imponderable, communicable which spreads of its own accord ... It is a kind of internal, special world where everything happens as if mana alone were involved. (129)
If the ego over-identifies and becomes 'possessed' by these 'mana' personalities, it can result in ego inflation and arrogance. lf the ego disowns and projects these mana personalities onto someone else, it can lead to idolizing that person and following blindly. When properly integrated, the conscious and unconscious complement each other and unfolding of the wise self arises harmoniously with healthy ego transcendence. After all, individuation is the attainment of a personality at midpoint between the ego consciousness and the unconscious. (130)
Jung speaks of stage three as the second liberation from the mother (the first liberation from mother being stage two, when anima or animus is integrated into conscious life). This second and fuller liberation means achieving a genuine sense of one's true individuality. This is the liberation from the mother, the Great Mother, the Terrible Mother, that both Psyche and Eros finally achieved.
The fourth stage of individuation deals with the Self, which is both "guide" of the process of individuation, the unconscious regulating center of the personality, and "goal" of the process of individuation, the symbol derived from the deepest levels of the collective unconscious of realization of all potential. Because of its unconscious, transpersonal nature, the Self can never be truly integrated by the ego. Instead, the ego must learn to surrender its need to always be in control by recognizing the value of the Self's guidance and deferring to its superior wisdom, without either projecting it onto others (idolizing), over-identifying with it (arrogance), or becoming overpowered by it (annihilation).
The ego, Jung says, is the center of the conscious, and if it tries to add unconscious contents to itself (i.e. collective contents, not the personal unconscious or shadow which does belong to the ego) it is in danger of destruction, like an overloaded vessel which sinks under the strain. (131) The self, however, is the function which unites all the opposing elements within, and thus can include both the conscious and the unconscious, good and bad, male and female, and a unity of all four functions of thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. The self appears to act as something like a magnet to the disparate elements of the personality and the processes of the unconscious, requiring the anima/ animus, the soul-image, as a mediator and go-between since the ego cannot do so.
"So the realization of what Jung is speaking of ... is reserved for the few individuals with the kind of subtle psychological discernment that pertains to Kundalini masters and others like them. For the rest, the anima/us is Maya, the creator of illusions, the mystifier, the trickster, the ever-receding mirage of the eternal beloved." (132) There is always a part of our selves that will forever elude us and be outside our will. So powerful is the anima/animus that it has the ability to completely enchant us and make us believe what the ego believes (positive or negative). Or the anima/animus can become our guides to the unknown, the mediators of the deep unconscious. Since they lurk around our undeveloped parts, they are our guides to what we don't know about ourselves and lead us along the path of wholeness. Since they are connected to deeper layers of the unconscious, they can also be the mediators of our journey towards the Self. The anima and animus are each unique influences, however, that manifest differently in our lives.
An exciting observation is that "by paying careful attention to the motifs of archetypal appearances within their dreams, individuals should be able to estimate which stage in the process of individuation they have reached." (133) In other words, we can assess our current location on our hero's journey by the dragons, guides, gods, and fellow journeyers that we find ourselves surrounded by at a given time in our life.
Jung's view of the psychic configuration between ego, persona, shadow, and anima is that the ego/ persona is incomplete and longing for the gift of completion, the shadow is the gift giver and the anima is the gift. (134) The shadow's function is to lead the conscious personality to the anima, to serve as a "bridge" and a mediator between consciousness and the unconscious. (135) The individual's shadow aspects can only serve the function of bridge and mediator once they have been openly recognized and assimilated by the ego. Until then, the shadow stands between the ego and the anima, producing "an isolating layer of personal unconscious", (136) a literal shadow that hides the anima. (137) Until then, the anima may be indistinguishable from the shadow because they are contaminated with each other. In this psychic situation, the masculine shadow takes on feminine characteristics, while the feminine anima takes on masculine characteristics. Likewise for a woman, the feminine shadow takes on masculine characteristics, while the masculine animus takes on feminine characteristics.
Here we begin to see the symbolism in humanity's great myths of the dramas being played out between ego, persona, shadow, and anima/animus. In our mythic stories, the one who stands between the hero and the treasure often mysteriously becomes, in fact, the gift giver; obstructing dragon guardian transforms into knowledgeable guide. What is at first feared becomes revered. There are other possible outcomes, however, in the encounter with the monstrous guardian. One is that the dragon consumes the hero. Jung cautions repeatedly that the assimilation of unconscious contents by the ego, necessary though it is for mature individuation, carries with it a very real danger. It may go too far: "a liberated unconscious can thrust the ego aside and overwhelm it", (138) an unmitigated psychic disaster that Jung equates symbolically with being "devoured by the monster". (139)
Another possible outcome of the assimilation of unconscious contents is that the hero kills and consumes the dragon, becoming overconfident, arrogant, and lost. The guardian, destroyed through the hero's belief that he has become the guardian, is no longer available to provide its essential service as gift giver to the hero. Who now can give directions to circumventing the remaining obstacles and finding the treasure? This overreaching of the ego leads to a "psychic inflation," or the "state of being puffed up". (140) The conscious ego, or worse yet the unconscious persona, has identified itself to be the totality, what Jung calls the Self. Thus "the great psychic danger which is always connected with individuation, or the development of the self, lies in the identification of ego-consciousness with the self. This produces an inflation which threatens consciousness with dissolution". (141) He sees this inflation as an almost literal blowing up, the personality likened to an overinflated balloon that bursts. The personality comes apart, breaks into pieces, when the conscious personality "takes too many unconscious contents upon itself." The ego needs a bridge to approach the unfathomable totality that is "bright and dark and yet neither". (142) The ego is not that bridge, even less is it that totality. The hero in our mythic tales is usually humbled into recognizing this truth that he/she needs guidance and direction and protection and mediation in order to survive, let alone find the treasured gift.
In Homeric terms, the hero faces his own Scylla and Charybdis, a crucial choice between two forms of certain loss; in Jungian terms, the shadow first comes between the ego and the persona, and then between the ego and anima/ animus, also presenting crucial choices. In the first case, the ego must face the loss of an idealized personality: either that or hang onto denial of reality and face the loss of the potential to grow into an expanded self. To cling to the persona's roles and self-beliefs and entitlements, denying the reality of one's shadow parts, is ultimately to stunt the individual's psychic growth. In the subsequent case of shadow standing between the ego and anima/animus, the choice is equally profound but more difficult because it is more subterranean. Confronting the persona is easier because it is the conscious ego's own creation, and the extent of what can be lost is convenience, comfort, and station in life.
Openly confronting the anima/ animus, without the protection of the shadow standing between, requires journeying into the underworld of sexuality and relationship with parental figures. The mother is, after all, the "first incarnation of the anima archetype" (143) and, Jung says, "the numinous qualities which make the mother-imago so dangerously powerful derive from the collective archetype of the anima, which is incarnated anew in every male child." (144) The hero must separate from her, and separate her from shadow contamination, in order to proceed on the journey and find and claim the treasured gift of self-realization. Now the Scylla and Charybdis crucial choice is the loss of the original anima: "the relation to the mother must cease, must die, which itself almost causes man's death" (Jung's emphasis). Either that or lose the promise of eventual reconciliation with one's own anima, and expansion into a transfigured hero self returning home carrying the treasured prize.
The progression, then, is from confronting the persona to acknowledging the shadow to approaching the anima/animus. The shadow stands between ego and persona, then pivots to stand between ego and anima. And a crucial initiation must be passed: before reconciliation with anima, the male must flee from identification with mother's world to identify with father's world; before reconciliation with animus, the female must identify as an equal with mother's world and 'accept the exclusion from father's world, recognizing that she has now entered the reproductive phase of her life, with access to a sacred realm of experience that man can never know. In many cultures the task of awakening this new feminine consciousness falls to the initiated male; for example, the myths in which the heroine lies inert, the Sleeping Beauty, till a prince comes to awaken her with a kiss (awakening his own anima in the process). (145)
The archetypal tasks of childhood, adolescence and initiation into adulthood for male and female are symbolized in the hero myths. For males, these tell how the hero leaves home and is subjected to a series of tests and trials, culminating in the 'supreme ordeal' of a fight with a dragon or a sea monster. The hero's triumph is rewarded with the 'treasure hard to attain', i.e. the throne of a kingdom and a beautiful princess as a bride. To achieve all this and to win a bride, he must overcome the power of the mother complex still operative in his unconscious (the fight with the dragon). This amounts to a second and final severing of the psychic umbilical cord: "victory over the dragon-monster often involves the hero being swallowed into its belly from which he cuts his way out in a kind of auto-Caesarian section: as a result, he 'dies' as his mother's son and is 'reborn' as a man worthy of the princess and the kingdom.... Failure to pass the ordeals of initiation or to overcome the monster signifies failure to get free of the mother: then the princess (the anima) is never liberated from the monster's clutches. She remains trapped and inert in the unconscious in the custody of the mother complex." (146) Jung identifies the dragon as the Terrible Mother, (147) who guards the "incomparable treasure" of the son's libido, so that the son is forced to do battle with the mother dragon to gain this "source of life and power". (148)
Separating from the mother and acculturating to a new life and role within the greater community is a central focus of development in the transition from childhood to adulthood. This is largely a process of the growth and stabilization of consciousness, and the activation of the unconscious which is "literally turned 'inside out' through the natural processes of assimilation and projection". (149) The adolescent's unconscious is projecting outward onto new relationships in the world one's archetypal mother and father, the anima and animus. These archetypal forces are actively directing the initiate adult to invest inordinate energy on the outside world. The adolescent and young adult is creating a life, an identity of his own, and progressively adapting to and ultimately mastering the world. And in the second half of life we face a mirror-image of this natural process; that is, the overriding tasks are to free oneself from worldly attachments, to turn consciousness 'outside in' through reflection and deep self-observation, and to master the unseen world of the unconscious. This is the lifespan pattern of Jung's individuation process.
Whereas the childhood-to-adulthood transition led to the development of the ego and to the differentiation of the psychic system, individuation
brings development of the self and the integration of that system. But, although the transformation process runs in the opposite direction to the development which took place during the first half of life, the ego and consciousness are not disintegrated; on the contrary, there is an expansion of consciousness brought about by the ego reflecting upon itself. It is as though the ego were restored to its original position: it emerges from its monomaniac self-obsession and becomes once again the vehicle of the totality function. The unconscious activity of the self dominates the whole of life, but it is only in the second half that this activity becomes conscious. While the ego is being built up in early childhood there is a gradual centering of consciousness, with the ego as the representative organ of wholeness. In puberty the individual, as an ego, feels himself to be the representative of collective wholeness.... Then, with individuation, comes the mastering of the inner dialectic between the ego and the collective unconscious. In the integration process the personality goes back along the path it took during the phase of differentiation. It is now a question of reaching synthesis between the conscious mind and the psyche as a whole, that is, between the ego and the self, so that a new wholeness may be constellated. (150)
This is the hero's journey: leaving the familiar comfort of childhood's inner vision, venturing out into the world of differentiation and mastery, and then the return to a new expanded experience of the inner vistas.
Conscious and unconscious do not make a whole when one of them is suppressed and injured by the other. If they must contend, let it at least be a fair fight with equal rights on both sides. Both are aspects of life. Consciousness should defend its reason and protect itself and the chaotic life of the unconscious should be given the chance of having its way too--as much of it as we can stand ... This, roughly, is what I mean by the individuation process. As the name shows it is a process or course of development arising out of the conflict between the two fundamental psychic facts ... How the harmonising of conscious and unconscious data is to be undertaken cannot be indicated in the form of a recipe ... Out of this union emerge new situations and new conscious attitudes. I have therefore called the union of opposites "the transcendent function". This rounding out of the personality into a whole may well be the goal of any psychotherapy that claims to be more than a mere cure of symptoms. (151)
"Although our culture no longer provides rites of initiation, there persists in all of us, regardless of gender, an archetypal need to be initiated. We can deduce this from the dreams of patients in analysis which become rich in initiatory symbolism at critical periods of their lives--e.g. at puberty, betrothal, marriage, childbirth, at divorce or separation, at the death of a parent or spouse." (152) And that archetypal need to be initiated helps to explain the ongoing fascination with myth.
In working with complexes, Jung wanted to find an organized way of sorting out the empirical material that comes up in an individual's analytical work, and used the concepts involved in "psychological type" to do so. Such use of type, according to Jungian analyst John Beebe, enables one "to see where a particular complex lives in the psyche." (153) So now we briefly turn our attention to Jung's psychology of type.
What Type of Hero Are You?
Jung laid out a theory of personality structure involving not only the two attitudes of introversion and extraversion previously introduced, but also four functions of the personality: sensing, intuiting, thinking, and feeling. Once when asked for definitions of these four functions of consciousness, Jung told an interviewer:
there is quite a simple explanation of those terms, and it shows at the same time how I arrived at such a typology. Sensation tells you that there is something. Thinking, roughly speaking, tells you what it is. Feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not, to be accepted or rejected. And intuition ... is a perception via the unconscious. (154)
Jung recognized these four functions as two pairs of opposites: sensation and intuition (perceiving), which he called irrational; and thinking and feeling (judging or evaluating), which he called rational.
People perceive their world and adapt to it differently. Some (about 75%) prefer sensing their environment, taking in information through their five senses. Others (about 25%) prefer to include multiple possibilities and meanings of that information in their perception of their world: intuiting. Sensors are practical and down to earth and tend to want details, while intuitors are more abstract and prefer a vision of the "big picture."
People make decisions differently, too. Some people (50% of men and 25% of women) use the thinking function: they analyze the available data, think carefully about consequences of the decision, and want to know "why" about everything. Others (50% of men and 75% of women) use the feeling function predominantly: they use subjective data to make decisions, such as personal preferences, values, memory associations and other people's opinions, and to them everything is personal.
People tend to live their outer life by either judging (with either thinking or feeling being predominant) or perceiving (with either sensing or intuiting predominant). Judgers tend to be organized, orderly, and want to make decisions quickly. Perceivers tend to be messy and tend toward "going with the flow," postponing making decisions.
Approximately 70% of the American population is sensing and 30% intuitive. More men (as many as two-thirds) than women prefer the thinking function and more women (as many as two-thirds) than men prefer the feeling function. And approximately 55 to 60 percent of the American population prefers judgment, and 40 to 45 percent prefer perception. (155)
For each person one of these functions becomes dominant, two become auxiliary, and the one opposite to the dominant one becomes inferior. The dominant function is the most developed and most familiar way of being. That function becomes for that person strong and effective, and Jung labeled it dominant or superior. Jung noticed that whichever of the four functions was dominant for a given individual, he/ she would identify themselves as that, and associate it as the archetype of the hero. (156) Thinkers might visualize the hero to be someone objective and systematic in pursuing the journey, such as Sherlock Holmes. Feelers might relate to the hero as someone intensely personal and relationship-oriented on his journey, such as Odysseus. Sensors may feel that the hero is observant, detail-oriented, and practical on the journey, such as Psyche. And intuitors might imagine that the hero in his journey relies on an inner guidance and is focused on a panoramic view of unlimited possibilities, such as Mahatma Gandhi.
People also have a second-most developed function, the one from the other pair of functions that works the best for them. If their dominant function is judging (thinking or feeling), then their auxiliary function will be perceiving (either sensing or intuiting), and vice versa. The biggest challenge for most people is the function that lies opposite the dominant one, so that for thinkers the inferior function is feeling; for feelers, it is thinking; for sensors, it is intuiting; and for intuitors, it is sensing. That inferior function is repressed and is experienced as "other" (and is therefore usually projected onto others as despised). Further, if the dominant function is expressed as extraverted, the inferior function will be introverted, and vice versa.
The complex representing the inferior function is undeveloped and remains entangled in the collective. That part of oneself is trapped in arrested development, and its relationships reflect archetypes rather than individuals. It then attempts to compensate through either projecting the deficiency onto others and blaming, judging or controlling them, or turning that same blame, judgment or control onto oneself and splitting that part off from the remaining ego personality. In either case, the inferior function is "eruptive in character, so that normally it is not in the picture at all, and then all of a sudden it quite possesses him", (157) much as what Jung calls an autonomous complex. That choice is dictated largely by one's attitude: the extravert focusing on the other, the introvert focusing on himself.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The inferior function is the most autonomous: "outside the control of the conscious mind", (158) and likely to appear suddenly and unexpectedly, and to be most unwelcome. This complex is inferior only in the sense that "something discordant, unassimilated, and antagonistic exists, perhaps as an obstacle, but also as an incentive to greater effort, and so, perhaps, to new possibilities of achievement." (159) The inferior function serves as a portal or entry into the unconscious because it is the product of repression. And this is precisely the quality of the guardian at each threshold on the hero's journey. Look at the obstacles put in the way of any hero's progress on their journey, and see their own inferior function at work.
The less heroic aspects of ourselves, the dragons and saboteurs and guardians who live in the shadows, are associated with the inferior function by the ego.
The inferior function is the door through which all the figures of the unconscious come into consciousness. Our conscious realm is like a room with four doors, and it is the fourth door by which the Shadow, the Animus or the Anima, and the personification of the Self come in.... when one becomes somewhat conscious of the shadow, the inferior function will give the animus or the anima figure a special quality so that, if personified by a human being, the anima or animus will very often appear as a person of the opposite function. (160)
Jung saw individuation, the unfoldment of consciousness and blossoming of the soul, to be intricately related to the progressive emergence of the psychological types. (161) Bringing the repressed and unconscious inferior function into consciousness brings healing and an expanded capacity for development.
The Hero's Journey as climbing the ladder of ego development
"Myths inspire the realization of the possibility of your perfection, the fullness of your strength, and the bringing of solar light into the world" (162)
There is an innate tendency for the human being to unfold and develop his mental and spiritual potentials. "Long ago, Plato spoke of Eros and Tibetan Buddhism of the self-liberating nature of mind. More recent recognitions include neuroanatomist Kurt Goldstein's actualization, Karen Horney's self-realization, Carl Rogers's formative tendency, Carl Jung's individuation urge, Abraham Maslow's self-actualization and self-transcendence, Erik Erikson's self-perfectibility, philosopher Ken Wilber's eros, and Aldous Huxley's moksha drive." (163) The Hero's Journey is a recounting of the steps taken in that unfoldment, a map for those who seek to develop to their full potential.
What do we know about the qualities of experiences that lead to such development? Transition to a higher stage of development occurs in response to life experiences that are structurally disequilibrating, personally salient, emotionally engaging, and interpersonal. (164) To be growth producing, experiences for the Hero along the journey must disturb the status quo in relation to existing ego structures. Some heroes begin their journey at a higher level of ego function than others; the challenges to ego must be commensurate with their beginning level. Of course, as we have seen, the hero is almost always motivated to journey in the first place in order to achieve a higher level of being.
Jane Loevinger (165) noted that only when the environment fails to conform to the person's expectations is there potential for growth. She referred to "pacers" as complex interpersonal situations that might pull an individual to a higher level of ego functioning. "When we are faced with difficult life circumstances, we have the opportunity to develop the complexity of our perspectives.... Difficult life circumstances may be seen as opportunities to grow." (166) Loevinger postulated a series of sequential stages of ego development (see Table 1), and developed a reliable assessment instrument for measuring an individual's current predominant stage, what we might call their center of gravity. Many people have about 25% of their scores at the level below their center of gravity, reflecting areas they are lagging behind in and consolidating into the center of gravity. Additionally, they generally have about 25% of their answers at the level above their center of gravity, reflecting their growing edge. (167)
Table 1 on the following page summarizes Loevinger's sequential stages of ego development.
Recent research has begun to address the question of whether it is possible to nurture ego development, and if so how? One of the leading researchers in the field, William R. Torbert, discusses his point of view (168):
Do people who are Achievers, for example, become Individualists? Do Individualists become Strategists, and so forth? ... In the general populations that we've measured the modal stage is the Expert stage. This implies that for most people most development stops after high school. Most people never do make another developmental transformation.... I do think it is tremendously helpful to become familiar with this theory, because it does lay out some of the markings of a path that seems to be consistent across religious traditions and so forth. There is a path and knowing a little bit about it helps. But then, you know you can't just read books and you can't just go to groups and talk about it. You have to engage in first person and second person research. You have to get engaged in some kind of personal discipline: meditative, martial arts. You have to get engaged in some kind of second person discipline where it really counts--some kind of dialogue or team that's really trying to do something, where there are real problems and you have to try to bring your first person research, your meditation or martial art, to the second person setting. You have to be trying to do the three types of research, first, second and third person, subjective, intersubjective, and objective research. You have to be trying to do them. Not everybody does it by being a social scientist obviously. Some people do them through the crafts and the arts, dancing and theater.
There is a path, or rather many paths, and they seem to be very consistently prescribed by wisdom traditions across cultures and history. The three basic elements needed for transformational work are summarized by Sanchez and Vieira (169)
* presence (awareness, mindfulness)
* the practice of self-observation, gained from self-knowledge
* understanding what one's experiences mean (an accurate interpretation provided by a larger context such as a community, a teacher, or a spiritual system).
Distilled from wisdom traditions across cultures and history, these elements are operationalized as engagement in some kind of personal awareness discipline, and a mutually committed engagement with a like-minded group dedicated to a challenging task. (170) Challenge, or disequilibrium, is necessary for most people to leave the familiarity of the known to adventure into the realm of new possibilities. "Without an adversary we are nothing." (171) And without an adversary, the Hero cannot be called to her highest level of advancement. That adversary may take the form of dragons or trolls, jealous sisters or the Terrible Mother, impossible tasks or the specter of death itself. In any case, the Hero knows somewhere deep down inside that the challenges presented are necessary to growth, and that leaving the ordinary world behind is necessary to discover these existential challenges.
In the ordinary world, our daily routine conscious world, our earthly personal existence, "the self is asleep and the ego is awake." (172) We are entangled in the roots of our personal lives, of the ever-demanding ego identities. "As long as the ego is identified with consciousness, it is caught up in this world ... Only when we have become acquainted with the wide extent of the psyche, and no longer remain inside the confines of the conscious alone, can we know that our consciousness is entangled." (173) It is almost the case that you can't get there from here: one must escape the confinement of limited thinking in order to realize how limiting it has been. Challenge or disequilibrium provides the nudge, and guides of some kind provide the larger context.
In Susanne Cook-Greuter's (174) perspective, people reach the conventional "adult" worldview by growing through the preconventional and conventional stages, up to the Conscientious stage, which is the highest of the conventional stages in ego development theory. Because it represents the culturally well-educated norm, it acts as a kind of ceiling barrier. Moving beyond it is difficult because it represents the frame of mind that is most attached to rationality and ordinary reality and most defended against the nonrational. The major limitation of the conventional mind set is its acceptance of appearance as fact and the external world as real, and its blindness to the arbitrary nature of beliefs, especially the grand myth of conventional science as infallible. Cook-Greuter's work documents that at least 80% of our culture's population does not, in fact, move beyond the conventional tier of development.
Advancement to levels of development beyond the conventional involves results in these observable structural changes: greater abstraction of thought, greater inclusiveness and greater self-awareness; integration and incorporation of predecessor levels of development; and broader equilibrium and greater wisdom, i.e., integrating affect with cognition, internal self processes, and self with environment; an ego that interprets the self in more interdependent, long-term, abstract, and internal terms (175); emotional expressions that are guided more by an internal gyroscope than by fleeting circumstances, a more positive view of self and humanity, better able to integrate dichotomies, awareness more stabilized in the here and now, and more adaptive response to both internal and external challenges. (176)
David Orme-Johnson (177) summarizes:
experiences of higher stages of consciousness are empirically associated with a wide range of changes indicative of greater personal fulfillment and increased adaptability and efficiency in thought and behavior (Alexander et al., 1987a, 1990, 1994a, Dillbeck & Alexander, 1989). For example.... experiences of higher states are positively correlated with increased cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills, capacity for absorption and episodes of total attention, creativity (flexibility, fluency and originality), self-concept (self-actualization, internal locus of control), neurological efficiency (as indicated by faster spinal neuron recovery rates--H-reflex recovery), long range spatial ordering of the cerebral cortex (increased alpha and theta EEG coherence), and decreased symptoms of stress (lower anxiety, aggression, depression, introversion, and neuroticism) (Alexander et al., 1989a, 1987a).
Little did the Hero know that all this laid in store by accepting the call and persisting on the journey. Another way of assessing the changes produced through the Hero's Journey is to interpret the psychological development chronicled above as individuation into terms of consciousness development. That is, a central key to achieving the state represented by returning from the journey with the treasure seems to be transcendence of ego boundaries, an expansion of one's sense of self that is at the same time not self-conscious. It is a merging of the I and the Me, it is both transcendent (incorporating the masculine stretch for the upper realm) and immanent (incorporated into the manifest feminine lower realm). The hero becomes more self-reflective with each new advancement, i.e., the subject of one level becomes the object of the next. In healthy development, the I of one stage becomes the me or mine of the next stage, to be observed and reflected on by the newly expanded I. By contrast, in unhealthy development, I is converted not to "me," but rather to "it;" in other words, I becomes the shadow. When the ego (I) expands in an unhealthy way, it is what Jung called inflation (grandiosity). When the hero believes himself to be unconquerable, immortal, then he is about to suffer an immense setback. Remember the occasions of Odysseus' grandiosity, and the long delays they created in his eventual return home.
Characters in myths, like elements in our dreams, are a collaboration of the subject and object, the I and me, the observer and the observed. "The secret of dreams is that subject and object are the same." (178) In your dreams, those "myths of the individual," the I of the dreamer observes the me of the dreamer, and yet the I of the dreamer is now a policeman and now a thief, now a man and now a woman. This perspective is both an expansion and a dissolving of ego boundaries, and represents the cultivation of a "Transpersonal Witness."
It is extremely useful to acknowledge that the ego actually makes many Me's (179) contained within the "ego realm" or what Jung called the "ego complex." Each Me may fall within the general category of the ego's personas and shadows. James Hillman (180) describes the process as building the me's out of accumulated spare parts from here and there, with the T determining whether to reject a given constructed me or not just as the body's immune system decides whether to reject an organ transplant or a skin graft. The 'me' is built out of parts from here and there; e.g., introjects from parents or early authorities, social and cultural norms. The 'I' is an enduring presence with "subject permanence" (181) that ultimately accepts or rejects the imported parts. The 'I' is equivalent to the body's immune system when presented with an organ transplant or a skin graft, it has the capacity to discern what is native essence and what is foreign, to claim the former and to reject the latter. As ego development progresses, defining the object me becomes less important and transcending the object me (immersion in the subject I) becomes the focus. Recall Abraham Maslow's (182) reference to what he Called self-forgetfulness in moments of peak experience, i.e., becoming less dissociated than usual into a self-observing ego and an experiencing ego.
Higher stages of ego development bring a predictable change in the relationship between the subject and object and how their developmental trajectories interrelate. The higher stages bring what Loevinger (183) calls "the consolidation of identity"; as the ego moves away from traits and personal goals and individual accomplishments, it moves in the direction of identity. Consolidation of identity is a unifying of the I-perspective and the Me-conceptions; storytelling and living the story are collapsed into one smooth operation. Bringing the I and Me together is to construct one's life and to live it seamlessly, providing life with unity and purpose amid ambiguity and conflict.
To trace the development of this perspective through the Hero's Journey, we refer to Cook-Greuter's (184) languaging for the progression, from 1st person perspective to 5th or higher person perspective. At the lowest levels of development, the ego perspective is limited to that of the first person. There is no recognition of the existence of any other point of view than what I experience in this moment. At the Self-protective and Conformist stages, an awareness grows of the second person perspective, i.e., that you may experience and interpret differently than I do. While this perspective helps to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of the previous stage, it is usually exhibited as motivation to "fit in" and is exemplified by grade school and high school children, and by the hero who is just beginning her journey.
At the Self-conscious and Conscientious stages, and consolidated at the Achiever stage, one is able to take a third person perspective, watching oneself interact with the world. This worldview serves as the basis for respect and tolerance for people of other faiths, cultures, and walks of life, and often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or early adulthood, and for the hero as she journeys deeper into the land of the unknown and encounters a wider variety of experiences.
Signifying postconventional development, beginning with a pluralistic appreciation that there are multiple ways of seeing reality, the Individualist begins to take a 4th person perspective, one in which he can actually observe himself observing himself interacting with the world in the past and present and even in the future with his possible selves. This is a demonstrable step toward the Witness state of consciousness. Here one is a participating observer, and one's inner process becomes more interesting and important than the behavioral outcome. Where the Achiever was focused on causality (by looking into the past) and goals (by looking into the future), the Individualist is more fascinated with now, the present. This stage of development is represented by the hero who has survived many dangers and challenges and is now beginning to understand the deeper psychical implications of the journey itself.
The Strategist, or Autonomous/Integrated stage, takes this perspective even further, to a 5th person perspective, that of the developmental process. Here one acknowledges that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth and has an important role to play in the human experience. Not only does the hero at this stage see his own past, present, and future, he adds an awareness of his own lifespan, the lifetimes of previous and future generations, and fitting this perspective into the context of society, other cultures, and historical civilizations. The hero at the Autonomous stage is now capable of rediscovering and owning parts of the self which have previously been disowned. The shadow side of the self can be acknowledged to a greater degree and therefore a new integration and wholeness is possible. This acceptance was the catalyst for Psyche's triumphant reunion with Eros, and for Odysseus' long-delayed return home.
Individuals at the Magician, or Construct-aware stage, consciously experience the ego's clever manipulations to preserve its self-appointed status. It is the first time in development that the ego has become transparent to itself, assisting the movement closer to the Ego-transcendent stage. The regular practice of turning inward and observing one's own mental processes can also lead to experiencing the knower and known momentarily merge, and the personal self-sense disappear. The hero, having claimed the treasure, is now homeward bound, humbled, insightful, and wise.
This progression corresponds to the traditional Sufi teaching of the Three Journeys. In this teaching, the first journey is the Journey to Presence. The seeker is trying to remember the Beloved amidst the incessant tidal waves of ego activity and mental chatter. He is struggling to remember that he can be present and awake to the mystery that surrounds him. He sees that his ego seems to forever have other plans and devalues taking even a moment to find out what is actually the truth occurring in and within him.
The second journey is the Journey with Presence. At this stage, Presence is more stabilized as part of the seeker's ongoing sense of herself and of reality. The seeker experiences a relationship with Presence, much like the relationship with a lover. Sometimes the relationship is intimate and deeply satisfying. At other times, the seeker feels more distant or possibly even frustrated, but still the seeker remains aware that the Beloved is always near.
The third Journey is the Journey as Presence. At this stage, the seeker arrives at a true realization of the non-dual nature of reality and knows that what he is as his deepest identity is the Presence itself. He understands in a clarity beyond words that he and the Beloved are one, and always have been. This is the condition of union mystics speak of and that is possible for anyone who is willing to undertake the journey into the depths of one's own soul. When we do so, we directly experience the Oneness of Being, the "Transpersonal Witness," not merely as a philosophical or spiritual idea, but as a lived reality. (185)
Ultimately, the hero enters onto journey after journey, and each new calling offers opportunities to explore higher realms and develop an expanded self.
The Hero's Journey as the journey inward for spiritual growth
"The gods ... are not ends in themselves. Their entertaining myths transport the mind and spirit, not up to, but past them, into the yonder void." (156)
Myths provide a myriad of models for how to advance spiritually, individually as well as within the context of a group or community. One element incorporated into these models is horizontal affiliation, that is working together with others who have similar aspirations. Another element is vertical association in which the hero must seek, find, and follow a guide or teacher, someone or something at a higher hierarchical level of development, in order to advance. Both of these factors are presented in most myths.
Current research has identified several commonalities among individuals who have experienced spiritual transformations, including release from chronic negative affect, a change in priorities and values, an increased capacity and desire for intimate relationships, and experiences of interconnection. (187)
Cassandra Vieten and her co-authors identify predictors, mediators, outcomes, and developmental milestones that appear to be common to the process of spiritual transformation. They define transformation as a "profound shift in our human experience of consciousness that results in long-lasting shifts in worldview or ways of being and changes in the general pattern of the way one experiences and relates to oneself, others, and the world. Spiritual transformation is transformation that occurs through spiritual experience or practice." (188) Spiritual transformation has also been defined as a "radical reorganization of one's identity, meaning, and purpose in life." (189)
Vieten speaks of transformation as a turning of attention and a redirecting of intention that shifts the entire landscape and one's trajectory through it. Common words used by research subjects to describe this shift in perspective are "opening," "a larger, wider, more inclusive and expanded depth perception," "a shift in worldview, assumptions, values, and beliefs," "a perception of vastness and being in touch with a larger consciousness," and "an expanded awareness."
Vieten's respondents reported an expanded worldview and an alteration of one's sense of self, often described as radical widening and deepening of one's personal identity. Many respondents described spiritual experiences of awakening to a witnessing self fundamentally distinct from particular thoughts, impulses, feelings, or sensations, accompanied by a feeling of being more real, more genuine, more authentically themselves. A part of many spiritual experiences involved less sense of a personal identity and a greater sense of connection to others, leading to less reactivity and judgmentalness, and a greater sense of compassion for one's own and others' failings.
Other words used to describe this shift in sense of self from a self-centered perspective to a more communal sense of self: "a deep connection with all of life," "feeling aligned with a greater force," "a deepening into the self," "less feeling of fragmentation and isolation," "a feeling of not being separate, of being interconnected," "a realization that 'I am part of a consciousness that is so much bigger'."
The most common indicator across traditions of a "transformed" person was a consistent sense of presence, an authenticity, and a lightness or ease of being, across situations. Other words used commonly to describe a transformed person were: childlike, simple, transparent, loving; wise, compassionate, patient, tolerant, forgiving, collaborative, mindful, solid, real, whole and possessing the qualities of equanimity, integrity, peace of mind, generosity and a deep acceptance of self and others as they are. Others characterized this state of being by what was not present--not ego-driven, ostentatious, achievement-oriented, narcissistic, not hiding anything, and not necessarily perfect or having everything worked out, but bearing difficulties and failings with grace and humor.
One enduring outcome commonly reported was the presence of an observing or witnessing self, described as a heightened awareness, detachment, or mindfulness, of one's experience, regardless of the content. Another commonly reported outcome that remained present in times of difficulty was an increased ability to stay open, to allow, to not attempt to avoid, contract, resist or harden in response to painful experience. An increased capacity for acceptance and compassion toward self and others in times of conflict was also a theme. An overarching theme was less reactivity to painful experience and a greater self-efficacy for coping.
Direct subjective experience is an essential element of spiritual transformation. Such noetic understanding often stimulates a shifted worldview, without need for objective confirmation. This certainty without need for confirmation is differentiated from dogmatism or fundamentalism by an accompanying sense of inclusiveness and tolerance for other worldviews--an increased capacity to hold complexities.
One essential milestone commonly described in the transformative process was the movement from "I to We." This was described as a sort of spiritual watershed, prior to which one can remain stuck in what has been termed "pseudo-enlightenment," where spiritual experience and practice is gained in service to one's narcissistic needs.
Peak experiences such as moments of insight or epiphany are often followed by plateaus. Such insights can fade quickly without the presence of a "scaffolding" for the learning process to assist with making meaning of the unfamiliar experience, such as: (1) having a language and cultural context for the experience, bringing it from unconsciousness to conscious awareness; (2) having supportive like-minded community, including contact with more experienced practitioners (also necessary for ego development); (3) encountering or intentionally placing daily reminders of the experience in one's environment, which in NLP terms are called anchors; (4) continuing to access similar teachings; or (5) expressing the insight through art, writing or other action (using the sensual alpha brain wave state as a bridge from deep subliminal theta experience to everyday mind beta experience). The process was inhibited by lack of quiet solitude, not enough time in nature, staying too busy, and too quickly returning to contexts apathetic or inimical to transformation.
We see a pattern in which qualities associated with spiritual transformation are very similar to those associated with higher stages of ego development, and activities which contribute to developing and maintaining spiritual transformation are very similar to those for higher stages of ego development. And in both cases, they are the basis for the hero's journey in most of the enduring myths of humankind.
We have embraced some of the oldest stories known to humankind, hopefully in a respectful way, as poetic metaphors presenting roadmaps for how we can best live our lives today. We end this article by reminding ourselves that it is not necessarily incompatible to also recognize literal reality in the contents of these stories. Describing the work of analysis, Carl Jung wrote: "Together the patient and I address ourselves to the two million-year-old man that is in all of us. In the last analysis, most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us. And where do we make contact with this old man in us? In our dreams." (190) Paula Gunn Allen writes of the "living reality of the Medicine world" and says that stories "connect us to the universe of medicine ... the universe that medicine people inhabit. Many of the stories contained in the oral tradition concern that universe, detailing its features: its terrain, the physical and psychical laws by which it operates, the orders and kinds of beings who dwell there, their ethos, ethics, and politics." (191) She directly challenges the usual and traditional psychological interpretations of mythological symbols. She states that myths are "factual accounts" that "connect with deep levels of being, not because the figures they tell about are ... denizens of ... the unconscious but because the supernaturals live within the same environs that humans occupy." (192)
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David Hartman, MSW and Diane Zimbcroff, M.A., The Wellness Institute, 3716--274th Ave SE, Issaquah, WA 98029 425-391-9716
Table 1--Loevinger's Stages of Ego Development Presocial and Symbiotic (E1) Exclusive focus on gratification of immediate needs; strong attachment to mother, and differentiating her from the rest of the environment, but not her/himself from mother; preverbal, hence inaccessible to assessment via the sentence completion method. Impulsive (E2) Demanding; impulsive; conceptually confused; concerned with bodily feelings, especially sexual and aggressive; no sense of psychological causation; dependent; good and bad seen in terms of how it affects the self; dichotomous good/bad, nice/mean. Self-Protective (E3) Wary; complaining; exploitive; hedonistic; preoccupied with staying out of trouble, not getting caught; learning about rules and self control; externalizing blame. Conformist (E4) Conventional; moralistic; sentimental; rule-bound; stereotyped; need for belonging; superficial niceness; behavior of self and others seen in terms of externals; feelings only understood at banal level; conceptually simple, "black and white" thinking. Self-Aware (E5) Increased, although still limited, self-awareness and appreciation of multiple possibilities in situations; self-critical; emerging rudimentary awareness of inner feelings of self and others; banal level reflections on life issues: God, death, relationships, health. Conscientious (E6) Self evaluated standards; reflective; responsible; empathic; long term goals and ideals; true conceptual complexity displayed and perceived; can see the broader perspective and can discern patterns; principled morality; rich and differentiated inner life; mutuality in relationships; self critical; values achievement. Individualistic (E7) Heightened sense of individuality; concern about emotional dependence; tolerant of self and others; incipient awareness of inner conflicts and personal paradoxes, without a sense of resolution or integration; values relationships over achievement; vivid and unique way of expressing self. Autonomous (E8) Capacity to face and cope with inner conflicts; high tolerance for ambiguity and can see conflict as an expression of the multifaceted nature of people and life in general; respectful of the autonomy of the self and others; relationships seen as interdependent rather than dependent/ independent; concerned with self-actualization; recognizes the systemic nature of relationships; cherishes individuality and uniqueness; vivid expression of feelings. Integrated (E9) Wise; broadly empathic; full sense of identity; able to reconcile inner conflicts, and integrate paradoxes. Similar to Maslow's description of the "self-actualized" person, who is growth motivated, seeking to actualize potential capacities, to understand her/his intrinsic nature, and to achieve integration and synergy within the self (Maslow, 1962). From Manners, J., & Durkin, K. (2001). A critical review of the validity of ego development theory and its measurement. Journal of Personality Assessment, 77(3), 541-567, page 544. Note (Manners & Durkin). Adapted from Hy and Loevinger, 1996; Loevinger, 1976; Loevinger and Wessler, 1970; Loevinger, Wessler, and Redmore, 1970.
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|Author:||Hartman, David; Zimberoff, Diane|
|Publication:||Journal of Heart Centered Therapies|
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