Daily Reading Notes

January 18, 2019

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Every culture has it's myths and legends. In this book, Joseph Campbell runs a common thread through countless cultures.

We don't evolve through falling back to tradition nor pushing through to an ideal future. It is through rebirth that we progress in life.

You will come to an impasse where you must give up the past in order to embrace the future. If you decide to cling on to the past, you will never be able to move forward. If you refuse to change with the circumstances, you will deny yourself the opportunities presented to you. This is how people become stagnated in life.

Instead push through your personal challenges, push through the cultural challenges around you. Allow them to mold you into what you need to be. They will prepare you for the next phase of your life.

Myths speak to us through familiar stories. We can see ourselves in the hero that goes on a great journey. Where he is separate from the rest of the world.

On this journey, he finds something within himself. A power he didn't know he possessed - revealed to him through trials. He gains insights into the inner working of the world.

This power allows him to overcome the challenge that forced him on the journey. But it also gives him a gift to share with the rest of the world. Like Prometheus, the hero will use his power to push the entire world forward.

We all go on similar journeys on a smaller scale. There is something within all of us waiting to be realized. We might not be able to effect the entire world like the heroes of myth, but we can effect the people around us.

A journey starts with a call to adventure, often in a form of a mishap. It could be a broken promise, or a failed duty. These fumbles stem from deeper issues that need to be addressed through the journey to come.

If the hero accepts the call, they are presented with a guardian or an intervention to spur them on their adventure. This can be a blacksmith that provides an amulet for protection, or an image to trigger an important realization. This is the source of courage the hero will need for the trials that face him.

However, the hero could refuse the call. In that case, he will only create more trouble for himself. The call isn't for the benefit of someone else, as it may first appear. The adventure is there to help the hero. The situation will continue to degrade with further rejection of the call until two option remain. The hero is finally pushed into taking action, or the hero is pushed too far and becomes the villain. Someone that refuses to move on and only creates grief and disaster around themselves.

The first challenge a hero faces could be the greatest. He must pass the threshold of his society. This requires him to abandon the warnings uttered since his childhood. To push past the limits of others.

The only way to get past this threshold is to give himself fully to the unknown. He must relinquish his old self and be reborn into a greater form than before.

The magnitude of the sacrifice required makes this the hardest part of the journey. Losing everything he has and being humbled is the least of the sacrifices he might face. Some heroes like the Egyptian god Osiris had to die multiple times to pass their threshold. However, without this sacrifice the hero does not reach his potential and becomes another cautionary tail of the dangers lurking in the outside world.

The last obstacle the hero faces tests him in an unexpected way. He doesn't have to slay a beast or solve a riddle. This challenge requires him to love his fate no matter how grim and vile it seems.

Others wouldn't even attempt what the hero faces. They lack the divinity to accept the challenges of the world. Unlike others, the hero was prepared for this task by the preceding challenges.

Accomplishing this challenge reveals the hidden beauty. By going through the ugliest of times he will uncover the gems underneath. The frog will become the prince.

This is also true for life, not just stories. To obtain the best things in life we must go through the worst of times. As seen through history, peace and prosperity have to we won through war and sacrifice.

The hero must abandon the view of the father as a villain. This childish view is holding him back from moving into adulthood.

The father could come in many forms. It could be the literal father, an authority figure, or even god. In either cases, the challenge remain the same.

The father appears cruel. He terrifies the hero and force him to seek solace in others. But the hero must see through the immediate consequences of the father's actions. They are not malicious. They are part of the hero's rite of passage.

The true hero has nothing to fear in these trials. But an ego driven hero could be undone by them. Like the rest of the journey, they will filter the weak and harden the strong.

The world is filled with dualities. Everything, including life and death, is part of a greater cohesive whole. They can't be separated and can't survive without the balance of the other.

You can see this notion everwhere. When you respond to hate with love, you are bringing balance to the whole. With balance, you negate the impact of the original action. You create a calm once again.

This cancellation of forces is counterintuitive. It means that enlightenment isn't a gaining power. It's the quenching of the forces around you. The settling down of the world. You can't be happy in the world if you have forces pushing against you at all times.

A hero must be weary when searching for the ultimate boon. It never comes easy. There are many challenges to overcome and much to give up. In addition, this boon is rarely what it seems.

Like King Midas, if a hero looks for the wrong thing, it can destroy his life. Midas got all the gold he ever wanted. The price he payed was everything that made him happy.

Make sure you are after the right thing in life. Often, you don't need to find anything to make you happy. You just need to learn to appreciation what you already have.

The victory the hero achieves can be too great a pleasure to leave behind. Why would a hero want to leave paradise? He faced unimaginable challenges to reach it.

The final push can come in many forms. If he receives a divine favor, the gods themselves want him to return. They shared a gift with him that needs to be shared with others. He feel inspired to return.

The hero may be given chase. If what he gains wasn't obtained with consent, he needs to run. This is seen with Jason and the golden fleece. After all the toils, he must escape to finally obtain his reward.

If the her finds pleasure or a trap, he may need assistance. This can be a friend, family, or society itself. They need to either assist with the trap or snap the hero out of a trance. Then he can return with all he has gained.

Regardless of how the hero is triggered to return, it is critical that he returns. He must share what he gained through his journey. Otherwise, the entire journey would be for nothing.

Trying to bring what the hero learned into the everyday world can be an impossible task. The hero witnessed a world beyond ours. He caught a glimpse to the inner working in the universe. He understood that the world of myth and ours is one and the same. How can he explain this to the common man that barely knows this other world exists?

The world won't look the same anymore. The hero won't be the same anymore. Yet in order to move on he must integrate back into the world. If he thinks that the world is derange and he is above it all, he is at fault. Despite what he gained, he must not place himself above others. This will bring resentment or worse madness.

He is still mortal. The lesson handed down was that of surrender not grandeur. The hero must realize the futility of it all and become an instrument in the world. Being of service to others is his ultimate reward.

The meaning of many myths has been lost. They are reduced to comedy, romance, or history. Only a portion of the story is made important. Secondary meanings were layered over the original. This takes away from the lessons myths are meant to teach us.

They should show us the cycles of life. Through them we see that our duty is to answer the call of adventure full heartedly. We much persevere despite the great obstacles that we face. It's at the worst of times that we win the ultimate prize and become reborn into a better versions of ourselves. The version that's needed to change the world.

Cycle are present in stories throughout the world. These stories weren't made up by a lone person dreaming up an adventure. They were passed on through generation. Retold by the most esteemed people of their societies. They shaped entire cultures. The cycles within them hold a real representation of what we see in the world.

The idea of the cyclical world is so common it seeps into saying we don't pay much attention to anymore. "History repeats itself" isn't just a convenient saying. It's a profound way to express what we see happening every day. An example we all experience, everyday, is sleep.

As we go throughout the day, we are drained of energy. Until finally we are tired enough to go to sleep. During the deep sleep, we recover our energies through dreams. A world not quite like ours but very similar. When we wake up, we are recharged and proceed through our day. We make use of this energy to accomplish great things. Until we spend all of our energy once again.

By noticing these types of cycles throughout your life, you can make the bad times feel better. Every downward spiral is charging you up for an even greater success.

The less understanding the world has, the greater hero it needs. This can be seen through who cultures consider heroes. When people need to account for things that can't be explained, they reach for a mythical hero.

This is the type of hero that is given birth from a primordial time or being. He is more than human. He is meant to accomplish miracles. He is the ideal for others to follow. This creates a base for all the heroes to come. Although it's an unattainable base, it is a point needed to strive for.

With each hero bringing society to a higher place, it's only a matter of time before they need to explain less. When that occurs the hero needs to be less divine. People can see the hero in themselves.

This is the time when societies start looking closer to history. It looks to the kings that grew the country. It celebrates the veterans of wars. These are the heroes that a maturing society needs. These are the heroes the societies people can become.

Once a society progresses to human heroes, they have no need for the mythological hero. The life giving minotaurs and dragons of the earlier cultures become the monsters of the new culture.

It is a rare hero that can move into a new age. In order to do this, he must shed his mythological past. Like the rest of the world, his story can't stay permanent. He must evolve if he wants to survive. Otherwise, his energy will be used to fuel a new hero.

This cycle makes you wonder what will become of todays heroes in the future. Will society progress to the point of replacing human heroes with something else as well?

The myth keeps the same purpose through its evolutions. As society changed, it needed different rituals to band its people together.

When tribes were afraid of the predators around them, they had great heroes to protect them. When villages struggled with the changing seasons, they had ceremonies and gods to prepare them for the season. When the basic needs were met and society started wondering about the afterlife, they invented explanations and trials for the after life. Each cycle produces greater understanding and bring together a greater number of people.

The challenge today is bringing together the entire world. We need to get rid of the cultural barriers that held together smaller tribes. These barriers were useful at one time. Now, they are preventing us from coming together in peace.

Another ogre we must face today is the extreme focus on the self. As the world grows larger it's easier for individuals to lose touch with society. If they withdraw within unprepared, they become isolated. They get stuck in the early stages of life. They can't reach their full potential. Before, societies had rituals for helping with progression, but they have been forgotten.

We must bring forth a new kind of myth. A myth that will remind everyone that we are one with the society around us. We are born into society. We can't survive without society, and it can't survive without us. Despite the size of the world, we are all still one.

Copyright © Artem Chernyak 2020