The hero’s journey

Discussion Post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP6140 Course – October 14, 2020

The timing of this week’s assignment is excellent as I’m the speaker at my Church’s service on Sunday, and I plan to talk about the hero’s journey. I’ve enjoyed learning about this archetype over the years, and once again, Campbell’s insight and commentary add multiple layers for consideration (Moyer, Campbell, 1988). The first concept that struck me is Campbell’s assertion that there are two types of hero’s journey: physical and spiritual. I’ve focused primarily on physical journeys, where someone like Frodo, for example, must overcome many tests and nearly dies on several occasions. And the concept of a spiritual journey provided a whole new realm for me to consider. Campbell notes with spiritual journeys, a hero or heroine learns a supernormal range of teachings and then comes back and communicates them to the community. He mentions Moses as an example of such a hero, and certainly Jesus falls into this category as well. Both the physical and spiritual journeys are transformational on the spiritual level. However, the main difference is that the messages are communicated more widely with the spiritual journey, whereas with a physical journey, the individual alone is transformed by the experience.

A second concept that struck me from the Moyer-Campbell interviews was how water, and in the case of Jonah, a whale, represents the subconscious. I know that Carl Jung influenced Campbell, so it makes sense he makes that connection. I found it profound yet so simple. I never viewed Jonah’s story, or Moby Dick in keeping with the whale theme, as a descent into the subconscious. It brings out the notion of how many layers and how deep mythology and the hero’s journey, in particular, can take you, with seemingly endless metaphors and allegories. I don’t think I’ll look at another water or fish scene the same way again!  The third concept Campbell discusses is how the European dragon represents the ego. Again, I had not considered that connection, and it makes a lot of sense once he explained it. Part of the confusion I had regarding dragons is that I know a little about the Chinese dragon, and as Campbell notes, these have different meanings. The ego is the biggest obstacle to spiritual growth, and until we’re able to “slay our dragons” as part of the hero’s journey, we won’t transform. And Campbell explains that the way to defeat your dragon is to “follow your bliss.” Again, a simple yet profound concept that’s extremely difficult to carry out.

Reference

Moyer, B. (Host). (1988). Joseph Campbell and the power of myth [Documentary], Nicasio, CA: Public Broadcasting System (PBS).  

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