The Hero With a Thousand Faces


Joseph Campbell

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind—whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.

There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain.

These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self.

Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life—that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

Psychoanalysis, the modern science of reading dreams, has taught us to take heed of these unsubstantial images.

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It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.  Apparently, there is something in these initiatory images so necessary to the psyche that if they are not supplied from without, through myth and ritual, they will have to be announced again, through dream, from within—lest our energies…

Sigmund Freud stresses in his writings the passages and difficulties of the first half of the human cycle of life—those of our infancy and adolescence, when our sun is mounting toward its zenith.  C. G. Jung, on the other hand, has emphasized the crises of the second portion—when, in order to advance, the shining sphere must submit to descend and disappear, at last, into the night-womb of the grave.

Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream.   

And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization. 


As with most things in life, nothing should be believed until it is proven by practice…

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The Hero With a Thousand Faces: Journeys


“The mythological hero, setting forth from his commonday hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure.

There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother battle, dragon-battle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion).

Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers).

When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero’s sexual union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again—if the powers have remained unfriendly to him—his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft, fire-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom).

The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re emerges from the kingdom of dread (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir).” 

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The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Research & Brainstorming Below


The Hero With a Thousand Faces: Questions, Notes & Quotes 

…below are my initial notes while reading the book.  Most books on this site, hopefully, will contain my first reading notes in this section.  I use and will use these bullets as triggers for the rest of my life…  I have put the author’s words into my own for a deeper understanding for myself.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

A Study of the Ultimate Principle of Reality & the Practical Application Thereof


  • Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream…
  • Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.
  • THE standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.
  • the hero as the incarnation of God is himself the navel of the world, the umbilical point through which the energies of eternity break into time.


  • Continuous journeys from the womb to the tomb… how man functions today, is how he has functioned throughout history. 
  • Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream…
  • Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.
  • THE standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.
  • A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
  • Grace, food substance, energy: these pour into the living world, and wherever they fail, life decomposes into death.
  • the hero as the incarnation of God is himself the navel of the world, the umbilical point through which the energies of eternity break into time.
  • through the sun door the circulation of energy is continuous. God descends and man ascends through it.


Myth and Dream

  • the flavor of the ocean is contained in a droplet of water, as the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea.

  • For the symbols of mythology are spontaneous productions of the psyche; within each, the germ power of its source.

  • In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly potent pantheon of dream.

  • …the first object of the child’s hostility is identical with the first object of its love, and its first ideal (which thereafter is retained as the unconscious basis of all images of bliss, truth, beauty, and perfection) is that of the dual unity of the Madonna and Bambino.

  • The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind—whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.

  • There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain.

  • These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self.

  • Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life—that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

  • Psychoanalysis, the modern science of reading dreams, has taught us to take heed of these unsubstantial images.

  •  It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back.
  • Apparently, there is something in these initiatory images so necessary to the psyche that if they are not supplied from without, through myth and ritual, they will have to be announced again, through dream, from within—lest our energies…

  • Sigmund Freud stresses in his writings the passages and difficulties of the first half of the human cycle of life—those of our infancy and adolescence, when our sun is mounting toward its zenith.

  • C. G. Jung, on the other hand, has emphasized the crises of the second portion—when, in order to advance, the shining sphere must submit to descend and disappear, at last, into the night-womb of the grave.

  • Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream.

  • And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization. 

  • The hero is the man of self-achieved submission. But submission to what? That precisely is the riddle that today we have to ask ourselves and that it is everywhere the primary virtue and historic deed of the hero to have solved

  • Only birth can conquer death—the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. Within the soul, within the body social, there must be—if we are to experience long survival—a continuous “recurrence of birth” (palingenesia) to nullify the unremitting recurrences of death.

  • The first step, detachment or withdrawal, consists in a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world, macro- to microcosm, a retreat from the desperations of the waste land to the peace of the everlasting realm that is within.

  • In a word: the first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what C. G. Jung has called “the archetypal images.”18 This is the process known to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy as viveka, “discrimination.”

  • Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.

  • The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man—perfected, unspecific, universal man—he has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore (as Toynbee declares and as all the mythologies of mankind indicate) is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.

  • It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight truly is desperate; that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart.


  •  It is, indeed, very little that we need! But lacking that, the adventure into the labyrinth is without hope… The flax for the linen of his thread he has gathered from the fields of the human imagination… we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. 

  • And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.


Tragedy and Comedy




  • “HAPPY families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Count Leo Tolstoy

  • … distracted wife, mother, and blindly impassioned mistress threw herself beneath the wheels of the train-thus terminating, with a gesture symbolic of what already had happened to her soul, her tragedy of disorientation—a tumultuous and unremitting dithyramb of romances, news reports, and unrecorded cries of anguish has been going up to the honor of the bull-demon of the labyrinth: the wrathful, destructive, maddening aspect of the same god who, when benign, is the vivifying principle of the world.

  • Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time. The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved

  • “Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the human sufferer.

  • Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it with the secret cause.”


  • The meditating mind is united, in the mystery play, not with the body that is shown to die, but with the principle of continuous life that for a time inhabited it, and for that time was the reality clothed in the apparition (at once the sufferer and the secret cause), the substratum into which our selves dissolve when the “tragedy that breaks man’s face” has split, shattered and dissolved our mortal frame.

  • Appear, appear, whatso thy shape or name, O Mountain Bull, Snake of the Hundred Heads, Lion of the Burning Flame! O God, Beast, Mystery, come!

  • This death to the logic and the emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, and shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kiss of our own annihilation, this amorfati,

  • “love of fate,” love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art: therein the joy of it, the redeeming ecstasy:

  • just as the myth of heaven ever after is for the old, whose lives are behind them and whose hearts have to be readied for the last portal of the transit into night

  • The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.

  • The objective world remains what it was, but, because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed. Where formerly life and death contended, now enduring being is made manifest—as indifferent to the accidents of time as water boiling in a pot is to the destiny of a bubble, or as the cosmos to the appearance and disappearance of a galaxy of stars.

  • Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.

  • Thus the two are the terms of a single mythological theme and experience which includes them both and which they bound: the down-going and the up-coming (kathodos and anodos), which together constitute the totality of the revelation that is life, and which the individual must know and love if he is to be purged (katharsis=purgatorio) of the contagion of sin (disobedience to the divine will) and death (identification with the mortal form).

  • “All things are changing; nothing dies. The spirit wanders, comes now here, now there, and occupies whatever frame it pleases…. For that which once existed is no more, and that which was not has come to be; and so the whole round of motion is gone through again.”

  • Only the bodies, of which this eternal, imperishable, incomprehensible Self is the indweller, are said to have an end.”

  • It is the business of mythology proper, and of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific dangers and techniques of the dark interior way from tragedy to comedy. Hence the incidents are fantastic and “unreal”: they represent psychological, not physical, triumphs.

  • Even when the legend is of an actual historical personage, the deeds of victory are rendered, not in lifelike, but in dreamlike figurations; for the point is not that such-and-such was done on earth; the point is that, before such-and-such could be done on earth, this other, more important, primary thing had to be brought to pass within the labyrinth that we all know and visit in our dreams.

  • The passage of the mythological hero may be overground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward—into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world.

  • This deed accomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing, all-sustaining love, and a knowledge of its own unconquered power.

  • Something of the light that blazes invisible within the abysses of its normally opaque materiality breaks forth, with an increasing uproar. The dreadful mutilations are then seen as shadows, only, of an immanent, imperishable eternity; time yields to glory; and the world sings with the prodigious, angelic, but perhaps finally monotonous, siren music of the spheres.

  • Like happy families, the myths and the worlds redeemed are all alike.


The Hero and the God

    • THE standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.

    • A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

    • Prometheus ascended to the heavens, stole fire from the gods, and descended.

    • Jason sailed through the Clashing Rocks into a sea of marvels, circumvented the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece, and returned with the fleece and the power to wrest his rightful throne from a usurper.

    • Aeneas went down into the underworld, crossed the dreadful river of the dead, threw a sop to the three-headed watchdog Cerberus, and conversed, at last, with the shade of his dead father. All things were unfolded to him: the destiny of souls, the destiny of Rome, which he was about to found, “and in what wise he might avoid or endure every burden.” He returned through the ivory gate to his work in the world. A majestic representation of the difficulties of the hero-task, and of its sublime import when it is profoundly conceived and solemnly undertaken, is presented in the traditional legend of the Great Struggle of the Buddha.

    • The young prince Gautama Sakya-muni set forth secretly from his father’s palace on the princely steed Kanthaka, passed miraculously through the guarded gate, rode through the night… …Assuming the garments of a monk, he moved as a beggar through the world, and during these years of apparently aimless wandering acquired and transcended the eight stages of meditation. and he thought to retain the wisdom for himself; but the god Brahma descended from the zenith to implore that he should become the teacher of gods and men. The Buddha was thus persuaded to proclaim the path. And he went back into the cities of men where he moved among the citizens of the world, bestowing the inestimable boon of the knowledge of the Way.

    • The Old Testament records a comparable deed in its legend of Moses, who, in the third month of the departure of Israel out of the land of Egypt, came with his people into the wilderness of Sinai; and there Israel pitched their tents over against the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called unto him from the mountain. The Lord gave to him the Tables of the Law and commanded Moses to return with these to Israel, the people of the Lord.

    • Jewish folk legend declares that during the day of the revelation diverse rumblings sounded from Mount Sinai. “Flashes of lightning, accompanied by an ever swelling peal of horns, moved the people with mighty fear and trembling. God bent the heavens, moved the earth, and shook the bounds of the world, so that the depths trembled, and the heavens grew frightened. His splendor passed through the four portals of fire, earthquake, storm, and hail. The kings of the earth trembled in their palaces…

    • As we soon shall see, whether presented in the vast, almost oceanic images of the Orient, in the vigorous narratives of the Greeks, or in the majestic legends of the Bible,

    • the adventure of the hero normally follows the pattern of the nuclear unit above described: a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and a life-enhancing return.

    • The whole of the Orient has been blessed by the boon brought back by Gautama Buddha—his wonderful teaching of the Good Law—just as the Occident has been by the Decalogue of Moses. The Greeks referred fire, the first support of all human culture, to the world-transcending deed of their Prometheus, and the Romans the founding of their world-supporting city to Aeneas, following his departure from fallen Troy and his visit to the eerie underworld of the dead.

    • Everywhere, no matter what the sphere of interest (whether religious, political, or personal), the really creative acts are represented as those deriving from some sort of dying to the world; and what happens in the interval of the hero’s nonentity, so that he comes back as one reborn, made great and filled with creative power…

    • We shall have only to follow, therefore, a multitude of heroic figures through the classic stages of the universal adventure in order to see again what has always been revealed. This will help us to understand not only the meaning of those images for contemporary life, but also the singleness of the human spirit in its aspirations,

    The World Navel

      • THE effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world. The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a streaming of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of grace.

      • Such varieties of image alternate easily, representing three degrees of condensation of the one life force.

      • An abundant harvest is the sign of God’s grace; God’s grace is the food of the soul; the lightning bolt is the harbinger of fertilizing rain, and at the same time the manifestation of the released energy of God.

      • Grace, food substance, energy: these pour into the living world, and wherever they fail, life decomposes into death.

      • The torrent pours from an invisible source, the point of entry being the center of the symbolic circle of the universe, the Immovable Spot of the Buddha legend, around which the world may be said to revolve.

      • Beneath this spot is the earth-supporting head of the cosmic serpent, the dragon, symbolical of the waters of the abyss, which are the divine life-creative energy and substance of the demiurge, the world-generative aspect of immortal being.

      • The tree of life, i.e., the universe itself, grows from this point. It is rooted in the supporting darkness; the golden sun bird perches on its peak; a spring, the inexhaustible well, bubbles at its foot.

      • Or the figure may be that of a cosmic mountain, with the city of the gods, like a lotus of light, upon its summit, and in its hollow the cities of the demons, illuminated by precious stones.

      • Again, the figure may be that of the cosmic man or woman (for example the Buddha himself, or the dancing Hindu goddess Kali) seated or standing on this spot, or even fixed to the tree (Attis, Jesus, Wotan); for the hero as the incarnation of God is himself the navel of the world, the umbilical point through which the energies of eternity break into time.

      • Thus the World Navel is the symbol of the continuous creation: the mystery of the maintenance of the world through that continuous miracle of vivifica-tion which wells within all things.

      • Among the Pawnees of northern Kansas and southern Nebraska, the priest, during the ceremonial of the Hako, draws a circle with his toe. “The circle represents a nest,” such a priest is reported to have said, “and it is drawn by the toe because the eagle builds its nest with its claws. Although we are imitating the bird making its nest, there is another meaning to the action; we are thinking of Tirawa making the world for the people to live in. If you go on a high hill and look around, you will see the sky touching the earth on every side, and within this circular enclosure the people live.

      • So the circles we have made are not only nests, but they also represent the circle Tirawa-atius has made for the dwelling place of all the people. The circles also stand for the kinship group, the clan, and the tribe.”48 The dome of heaven rests on the quarters of the earth, sometimes supported by Jour çaryatidal kings, dwarfs, giants, elephants, or turtles.

      • Hence, the traditional importance of the mathematical problem of the quadrature of the circle: it contains the secret of the transformation of heavenly into earthly forms.

      • The hearth in the home, the altar in the temple, is the hub of the wheel of the earth, the womb of the Universal Mother whose fire is the fire of life.

      • And the opening at the top of the lodge—or the crown, pinnacle, or lantern, of the dome—is the hub or midpoint of the sky: the sun door, through which souls pass back from time to eternity, like the savor of the offerings, burned in the fire of life, and lifted on the axis of ascending smoke from the hub of the earthly to that of the celestial wheel.

      • Thus filled, the sun is the eating bowl of God, an inexhaustible grail, abundant with the substance of the sacrifice, whose flesh is meat indeed and whose blood is drink indeed. At the same time it is the nourisher of mankind. The solar ray igniting the hearth symbolizes the communication of divine energy to the womb of the world—and is again the axis uniting and turning the two wheels. Through the sun door the circulation of energy is continuous. God descends and man ascends through it.

      • “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

      • “He that eateth my flesh, and drink-eth my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”


      • A temple is erected there to signify and inspire the miracle of perfect centeredness; for this is the place of the breakthrough into abundance.

      • Someone at this point discovered eternity.

      • The site can serve, therefore, as a support for fruitful meditation.

      • Such temples are designed, as a rule, to simulate the four directions of the world horizon, the shrine or altar at the center being symbolical of the Inexhaustible Point. The one who enters the temple compound and proceeds to the sanctuary is imitating the deed of the original hero. His aim is to rehearse the universal pattern as a means of evoking within himself the recollection of the life-centering, life-renewing form.

      • Ancient cities are built like temples, having their portals to the four directions, while in the central place stands the major shrine of the divine city founder.


        The World Navel, then, is ubiquitous. And since it is the source of all existence, it yields the world’s plenitude of both good and evil. Ugliness and beauty, sin and virtue, pleasure and pain, are equally its production. “To God all things are fair and good and right,” declares Heraclitus; “but men hold some things wrong and some right.”54 Hence the figures worshiped in the temples of the’world are by no means always beautiful, always benign, or even necessarily virtuous.

      • Like the deity of the Book of Job, they far transcend the scales of human value. And likewise, mythology does not hold as its greatest hero the merely virtuous man. Virtue is but the pedagogical prelude to the culminating insight, which goes beyond all pairs of opposites. Virtue quells the self-centered ego and makes the transpersonal cen-teredness possible; but when that has been achieved, what then of the pain or pleasure, vice or virtue, either of our own ego or of any other? Through all, the transcendent force is then perceived which lives in all, in all is wonderful, and is worthy, in all, of our profound obeisance.

      • For as Heraclitus has declared: “The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony, and all things take place by strife.”

      • “The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.”

      • The difficult point is made vivid in an anecdote from Yorubaland (West Africa), which is told of the trickster-divinity Edshu. One day, this odd god came walking along a path between two fields. “He beheld in either field a farmer at work and proposed to play the two a turn. He donned a hat that was on the one side red but on the other white, green before and black behind [these being the colors of the four World Directions: i.e., Edshu was a personification of the Center, the axis mundi, or the World Navel]; so that when the two friendly farmers had gone home to their village and the one had said to the other, ‘Did you see that old fellow go by today in the white hat?’ the other replied, ‘Why, the hat was red.’ To which the first retorted, ‘It was not; it was white.’ ‘But it was red,’ insisted the friend, ? saw it with my own two eyes.’ ‘Well, you must be blind,’ declared the first. ‘You must be drunk,’ rejoined the other. And so the argument developed and the two came to blows. When they began to knife each other, they were brought by neighbors before the headman for judgment. Edshu was among the crowd at the trial, and when the headman sat at a loss to know where justice lay, the old trickster revealed himself, made known his prank, and showed the hat. ‘The two could not help but quarrel,’ he said. ? wanted it that way. Spreading strife is my greatest joy.’ “ 57 Where the moralist would be filled with indignation and the tragic poet with pity and terror, mythology breaks the whole of life into a vast, horrendous Divine Comedy. Its Olympian laugh is not escapist in the least, but hard, with the hardness of life itself—which, we may take it, is the hardness of God, the Creator. Mythology, in this respect, makes the tragic attitude seem somewhat hysterical, and the merely moral judgment shortsighted. Yet the hardness is balanced by an assurance that all that we see is but the reflex of a power that endures, untouched by the pain. Thus the tales are both pitiless and terrorless—suffused with the joy of a transcendent anonymity regarding itself in all of the self-centered, battling egos that are born and die in time.






        The Call to Adventure

         … The princess was elated when she saw her pretty toy. She picked it up and scampered away. ‘Wait, wait,’ called the frog, ‘take me along; I can’t run like you.’ But what good did it do, though he croaked after her as loudly as he could? She paid not the slightest heed, but hurried home, and soon had completely forgotten the poor frog—who must have hopped back again into his spring.” This is an example of one of the ways in which the adventure can begin. A blunder—apparently the merest chance—reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood.

        • As Freud has shown, blunders are not the merest chance. They are the result of suppressed desires and conflicts. They are ripples on the surface of life, produced by unsuspected springs. And these may be very deep—as deep as the soul itself. The blunder may amount to the opening of a destiny. Thus it happens, in this fairy tale, that the disappearance of the ball is the first sign of something coming for the princess, the frog is the second, and the unconsidered promise is the third.

        • As a preliminary manifestation of the powers that are breaking into play, the frog, coming up as it were by miracle, can be termed the “herald;” the crisis of his appearance is the “call to adventure.” The herald’s summons may be to live, as in the present instance, or, at a later moment of the biography, to die. It may sound the call to some high historical undertaking. Or it may mark the dawn of religious illumination.

        • As apprehended by the mystic, it marks what has been termed “the awakening of the self.”

        • In the case of the princess of the fairy tale, it signified no more than the coming of adolescence. But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration—a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth.


        • Freud has suggested that all moments of anxiety reproduce the painful feelings of the first separation from the mother—the tightening of the breath, congestion of the blood, etc., of the crisis of birth.

        • Conversely, all moments of separation and new birth produce anxiety. Whether it be the king’s child about to be taken from the felicity of her established dual-unity with King Daddy, or God’s daughter Eve, now ripe to depart from the idyl of the Garden, or again, the supremely concentrated Future Buddha breaking past the last horizons of the created world, the same archetypal images are activated, symbolizing danger, reassurance, trial, passage, and the strange holiness of the mysteries of birth. The disgusting and rejected frog or dragon of the fairy tale brings up the sun ball in its mouth; for the frog, the serpent, the rejected one, is the representative of that unconscious deep (“so deep that the bottom cannot be seen”) wherein are hoarded all of the rejected, unadmitted, unrecognized, unknown, or undeveloped factors, laws, and elements of existence. Those are the pearls of the fabled submarine palaces of the nixies, tritons, and water guardians; the jewels that give light to the demon cities of the underworld; the fire seeds in the ocean of immortality which supports the earth and surrounds it like a snake; the stars in the bosom of immortal night. Those are the nuggets in the gold hoard of the dragon; the guarded apples of the Hesperides; the filaments of the Golden Fleece.

        • The herald or announcer of the adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow. Or the herald is a beast (as in the fairy tale), representative of the repressed instinctual fecundity within ourselves, or again a veiled mysterious figure—the unknown.

        • The story is told, for example, of King Arthur…, 

        • Or we have the case—from a very different portion of the world—of an Arapaho girl of the North American plains. 

        • Two dreams will suffice to illustrate the spontaneous appearance of the figure of the herald in the psyche that is ripe for transformation. The first is the dream of a young man seeking the way to a new world-orientation: “I am in a green land where many sheep are at pasture. It is the ‘land of sheep.’ In the land of sheep stands an unknown woman and points the way.”

        • The second is the dream of a young girl whose girl companion has lately died of consumption; she is afraid that she may have the disease herself. “I was in a blossoming garden; the sun was just going down with a blood-red glow. Then there appeared before me a black, noble knight, who spoke to me with a very serious, deep and frightening voice: ‘Wilt thou go with me?’ Without attending my answer, he took me by the hand, and carried me away.”

        • Whether dream or myth, in these adventures there is an atmosphere of irresistible fascination about the figure that appears suddenly as guide, marking a new period, a new stage, in the biography. That which has to be faced, and is somehow profoundly familiar to the unconscious—though unknown, surprising, and even frightening to the conscious personality—makes itself known; and what formerly was meaningful may become strangely emptied of value: like the world of the king’s child, with the sudden disappearance into the well of the golden ball. Thereafter, even though the hero returns for a while to his familiar occupations, they may be found unfruitful. A series of signs of increasing force then will become visible, until—as in the following legend of “The Four Signs,” which is the most celebrated example of the call to adventure in the literature of the world—the summons can no longer be denied.

        • The young prince Gautama Sakyamuni, the Future Buddha, had been protected by his father from all knowledge of age, sickness, death, or monkhood, lest he should be moved to thoughts of life renunciation; for it had been prophesied at his birth that he was to become either a world emperor or a Buddha. The king—prejudiced in favor of the royal vocation—provided his son with three palaces and forty thousand dancing girls to keep his mind attached to the world. But these only served to advance the inevitable; for while still relatively young, the youth exhausted for himself the fields of fleshly joy and became ripe for the other experience. The moment he was ready, the proper heralds automatically appeared: 

        • ‘The time for the enlightenment of the prince Siddhartha draweth nigh,’ thought the gods; ‘we must show him a sign’: and they changed one of their number into a decrepit old man, broken-toothed, gray-haired, crooked and bent of body, leaning on a staff, and trembling, and showed him to the Future Buddha, but so that only he and the charioteer saw him.  “ ‘Sire, he has seen an old man,’ was the reply; ‘and because he has seen an old man, he is about to retire from the world.’ “

        • he saw a diseased man whom the gods had fashioned;

        • he saw a dead man whom the gods had fashioned;

        • he saw a monk, carefully and decently clad, whom the gods had fashioned; and he asked his charioteer, ‘Pray, who is this man?’ ‘Sire, this is one who has retired from the world’; and the charioteer thereupon proceeded to sound the praises of retirement from the world. The thought of retiring from the world was a pleasing one to the Future Buddha.”

        • This first stage of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure”—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.

        • The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father’s city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent, as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon. The adventure may begin as a mere blunder, as did that of the princess of the fairy tale; or still again, one may be only casually strolling, when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man. Examples might be multiplied, ad infinitum, from every corner of the world.








        Refusal of the Call

            • OFTEN in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire of renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his Minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.
            • “Because I have called, and ye refused … I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.” “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”
            • Time Jesum transeuntem et non revertentem: “Dread the passage of Jesus, for he does not return.”
            • The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one’s own interest.
            • The future is regarded not in terms of an unremitting series of deaths and births, but as though one’s present system of ideals, virtues, goals, and advantages were to be fixed and made secure.
            • King Minos retained the divine bull, when the sacrifice would have signified submission to the will of the god of his society; for he preferred what he conceived to be his economic advantage. Thus he failed to advance into the life-role that he had assumed—and we have seen with what calamitous effect.
            • The divinity itself became his terror; for, obviously, if one is oneself one’s god, then God himself, the will of God, the power that would destroy one’s egocentric system, becomes a monster.
            • I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
            • One is harassed, both day and night, by the divine being that is the image of the living self within the locked labyrinth of one’s own disoriented psyche. The ways to the gates have all been lost: there is no exit. One can only cling, like Satan, furiously, to oneself and be in hell; or else break, and be annihilate at last, in God.
            • “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
            • The same harrowing, mysterious voice was to be heard in the call of the Greek god Apollo to the fleeing maiden Daphne, daughter of the river Peneus, as he pursued her over the plain. “O nymph, O Peneus’ daughter, stay!” the deity called to her—like the frog to the princess of the fairy tale; “I who pursue thee am no enemy. Thou knowest not whom thou fleest, and for that reason dost thou flee. Run with less speed, I pray, and hold thy flight. I, too, will follow with less speed. Nay, stop and ask who thy lover is.” “He would have said more,” the story goes…, 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.” This is indeed a dull and unrewarding finish. Apollo, the sun, the lord of time and ripeness, no longer pressed his frightening suit, but instead, simply named the laurel his favorite tree and ironically recommended its leaves to the fashioners of victory wreaths. The girl had retreated to the image of her parent and there found protection—like the unsuccessful husband whose dream of mother love preserved him from the state of cleaving to a wife.
            • The literature of psychoanalysis abounds in examples of such desperate fixations. What they represent is an impotence to put off the infantile ego, with its sphere of emotional relationships and ideals. One is bound in by the walls of childhood; the father and mother stand as threshold guardians, and the timorous soul, fearful of some punishment,17 fails to make the passage through the door and come to birth in the world without.
            • Dr. Jung has reported a dream that resembles very closely the image of the myth of Daphne. The dreamer is the same young man who found himself (supra, p. 55) in the land of the sheep—the land, that is to say, of unindependence. A voice within him says, “I must first get away from the father;” then a few nights later: “a snake draws a circle about the dreamer, and he stands like a tree, grown fast to the earth.”18 This is an image of the magic circle drawn about the personality by the dragon power of the fixating parent.19 Brynhild, in the same way, was protected in her virginity, arrested in her daughter state for years, by the circle of the fire of all-father Wotan. She slept in timelessness until the coming of Siegfried. Little Briar-rose (Sleeping Beauty) was put to sleep by a jealous hag (an unconscious evil-mother image). And not only the child, her entire world went off to sleep; but at last, “after long, long years,” there came a prince to wake her. “The king and queen (the conscious good-parent images), …
            • 20 A Persian city once was “enstoned to stone”—king and queen, soldiers, inhabitants, and all—because its people refused the call of Allah.
            • 21 Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt for looking back, when she had been summoned forth from her city by Jehovah.
            • 22 And there is the tale of the Wandering Jew, cursed to remain on earth until the Day of Judgment, because when Christ had passed him carrying the cross, this man among the people standing along the way called, “Go faster! A little speed!” The unrecognized, insulted Savior turned and said to him, “I go, but you shall be waiting here for me when I return.”
            • 23 Some of the victims remain spellbound forever (at least, so far as we are told), but others are destined to be saved.
            • Brynhild was preserved for her proper hero and little Briar-rose was rescued by a prince. Also, the young man transformed into a tree dreamed subsequently of the unknown woman who pointed the way, as a mysterious guide to paths unknown.
            • 24 Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required. So it is that sometimes the predicament following an obstinate refusal of the call proves to be the occasion of a providential revelation of some unsuspected principle of release.
            • Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device.  It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images. The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete (neurosis, psychosis: the plight of spellbound Daphne); but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost superhuman degree of self-consciousness and masterful control. This is a basic principle of the Indian disciplines of yoga. It has been the way, also, of many creative spirits in the West.
            • 25 It cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as yet unknown demand of some waiting void within: a kind of total strike, or rejection of the offered terms of life, as a result of which some power of transformation carries the problem to a plane of new magnitudes, where it is suddenly and finally resolved.
            • This is the aspect of the hero-problem illustrated in the wondrous Arabian Nights adventure of the Prince Kamar al-Zaman and the Princess Budur. The young and handsome prince, the only son of King Shahriman of Persia, persistently refused the repeated suggestions, requests, demands, and finally injunctions, of his father, that he should do the normal thing and take to himself a wife…  So he said to her: “If thou be determined not to marry and there be no help for it: abstain from going and coming in and out.” Then he placed her in a house and shut her up in a chamber, appointing ten old women as duennas to guard her, and forbade her to go forth to the Seven Palaces. Moreover, he made it appear that he was incensed against her, and sent letters to all the kings, giving them to know that she had been stricken with madness by the Jinn…
            • 26 With the hero and the heroine both following the negative way, and between them the continent of Asia, it will require a miracle to consummate the union of this eternally predestined pair. Whence can such a power come to break the life-negating spell and dissolve the wrath of the two childhood fathers? The reply to this question would remain the same throughout the mythologies of the world. For, as is written so frequently in the sacred pages of the Koran: “Well able is Allah to save.” The sole problem is what the machinery of the miracle is to be. And that is a secret to be opened only in the following stages of this Arabian Nights’ entertainment.


            Supernatural Aid


            • FOR those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. 

            • An East African tribe, for example, the Wachaga of Tanganyika, tell of a very poor man named Kyazimba, who set out in desperation for the land where the sun rises. And he had traveled long and grown tired, and was simply standing, looking hopelessly in the direction of his search, when he heard someone approaching from behind. He turned and perceived a decrepit little woman. She came up and wished to know his business. When he had told her, she wrapped her garment around him, and, soaring from the earth, transported him to the zenith, where the sun pauses in the middle of the day. Then with a mighty din a great company of men came from eastward to that place, and in the midst of them was a brilliant chieftain, who, when he had arrived, slaughtered an ox and sat down to feast with his retainers. The old woman asked his help for Kyazimba. The chieftain blessed the man and sent him home. And it is recorded that he lived in prosperity ever after.

            • Among the American Indians of the Southwest the favorite personage in this benignant role is Spider Woman—a grandmotherly little dame who lives underground. The Twin War Gods of the Navaho on the way to the house of their father, the Sun, had hardly departed from their home, following a holy trail, when they came upon this wonderful little figure: “The boys traveled rapidly in the holy trail, and soon after sunrise, near Dsilnaotil, saw smoke arising from the ground. They went to the place where the smoke rose, and they found it came from the smoke hole of a subterranean chamber. A ladder, black from smoke, projected through the hole. Looking down into the chamber they saw an old woman, the Spider Woman, who glanced up at them and said: Welcome, children. Enter. Who are you, and whence do you come together walking?’ … But I shall give you something to subdue your enemies and preserve your lives.’ She gave them a charm called ‘feather of the alien gods,’ which consisted of a hoop with two life-feathers (feathers plucked from a living eagle) attached, and another life-feather to preserve their existence. She taught them also this magic formula, which, if repeated to their enemies, would subdue their anger: ‘Put your feet down with pollen. Put your hands down with pollen. Put your head down with pollen. Then your feet are pollen; your hands are pollen; your body is pollen; your mind is pollen; your voice is pollen. The trail is beautiful. Be still.’”

            • 28 The helpful crone and fairy godmother is a familiar feature of European fairy lore; in Christian saints’ legends the role is commonly played by the Virgin.

            • The Virgin by her intercession can win the mercy of the Father.

            • Spider Woman with her web can control the movements of the Sun.

            • The hero who has come under the protection of the Cosmic Mother cannot be harmed.

            • The thread of Ariadne brought Theseus safely through the adventure of the labyrinth.


            • What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. The fantasy is a reassurance—a promise that the peace of Paradise, which was known first within the mother womb, is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past (is omega as well as alpha); that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings, protective power is always and ever present within the sanctuary of the heart and even immanent within, or just behind, the unfamiliar features of the world.

            • One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side.

            • Mother Nature herself supports the mighty task. And in so far as the hero’s act coincides with that for which his society itself is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process. “I feel myself,” said Napoleon at the opening of his Russian campaign, “driven towards an end that I do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become unnecessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me.Till then, not all the forces of mankind can do anything against me.”

            • 30 Not infrequently, the supernatural helper is masculine in form. In fairy lore it may be some little fellow of the wood, some wizard, hermit, shepherd, or smith, who appears, to supply the amulets and advice that the hero will require. The higher mythologies develop the role in the great figure of the guide, the teacher, the ferryman, the conductor of souls to the afterworld. In classical myth this is Hermes-Mercury; in Egyptian, usually Thoth (the ibis god, the baboon god); in Christian, the Holy Ghost.31 Goethe presents the masculine guide in Faust as

              Mephi-stopheles—and not infrequently the dangerous aspect of the “mercurial” figure is stressed; for he is the lurer of the innocent soul into realms of trial. In Dante’s vision the part is played by Virgil, who yields to Beatrice at the threshold of Paradise. 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.

            • The hero to whom such a helper appears is typically one who has responded to the call. The call, in fact, was the first announcement of the approach of this initiatory priest. But even to those who apparently have hardened their hearts the supernatural guardian may appear; for, as we have seen: “Well able is Allah to save.” And so it happened, as it were by chance, that in the ancient and deserted tower where Kamar al-Zaman, the Persian prince, lay sleeping, there was an old Roman well,

            • 33 and this was inhabited by a Jinniyah of the seed of Iblis the Accursed, by name Maymunah, daughter of Al-Dimiryat, a renowned king of the Jinn.

            • 34 And as Kamar al-Zaman continued sleeping till the first third of the night, Maymunah came up out of the Roman well and made for the firmament, thinking to listen by stealth to the converse of the angels; but when she reached the mouth of the well, and saw a light shining in the tower room, contrary to custom, she marveled, drew nigh, entered within the door, and beheld the couch spread, whereon was a human form with a wax candle burning at his head and the lantern at his feet. She folded her wings and stood by the bed, and, drawing back the coverlid, discovered Kamar al-Zaman’s face. And she was motionless for a full hour in admiration and wonderment. “Blessed be Allah,” she exclaimed when she recovered, “the best of Creators!” for she was of the true-believing Jinn. Then she promised herself that she would do no hurt to Kamar al-Zaman, and became concerned lest, resting in this desert place, he should be slain by one of her relatives, the Marids.

            • 35 Bending over him, she kissed him between the eyes, and presently drew back the sheet over his face; and after a while she spread her wings and, soaring into the air, flew upwards till she drew near to the lowest of the heavens. Now as chance or destiny would have it, the soaring Ifritah Maymunah suddenly heard in her neighborhood the noisy flapping of wings…  …“I conjure thee,” she commanded, “by the light of my love’s glorious countenance, go at once, O accursed, and bring hither thy mistress whom thou lovest so fondly and foolishly, and return in haste that we may lay the twain together and look at them both as they lie asleep side by side; so shall it appear to us which be the goodlier and more beautiful of the two.”

            • And so, incidentally to something going on in a zone of which he was entirely unconscious, the destiny of the life-reluctant Kamar al-Zaman began to fulfil itself, without the cooperation of his conscious will.

            The Crossing of the First Threshold

            • WITH the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone of magnified power.

            • Such custodians bound the world in the four directions—also up and down—standing for the limits of the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown, and danger;

            • just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and

            • beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe.

            • The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored.

            • Thus the sailors of the bold vessels of Columbus, breaking the horizon of the medieval mind—sailing, as they thought, into the boundless ocean of immortal being that surrounds the cosmos, like an endless mythological serpent biting its tail37—had to be cozened and urged on like children, because of their fear of the fabled leviathans, mermaids, dragon kings, and other monsters of the deep.

            • The folk mythologies populate with deceitful and dangerous presences every desert place outside the normal traffic of the village.

            • For example, the Hottentots describe an ogre that has been occasionally encountered among the scrubs and dunes. Its eyes are set on its instep, so that to discover what is going on it has to get down on hands and knees, and hold up one foot. The eye then looks behind; otherwise it is gazing continually at the sky. This monster is a hunter of men, whom it tears to shreds with cruel teeth as long as fingers. The creature is said to hunt in packs.38 Another Hottentot apparition, the Hai-uri, progresses by leaping over clumps of scrub instead of going around them.39 A dangerous onelegged, one-armed, one-sided figure—the half-man—invisible if viewed from the off side, is encountered in many parts of the earth. In Central Africa it is declared that such a half-man says to the person who has encountered him: “Since you have met with me, let us fight together.” If thrown, he will plead: “Do not kill me. I will show you lots of medicines;” and then the lucky person becomes a proficient doctor. But if the half-man (called Chiruwi, “a mysterious thing”) wins, his victim dies.40

            • The regions of the unknown (desert, jungle, deep sea, alien land, etc.) are free fields for the projection of unconscious content. Incestuous libido and patricidal destrudo are thence reflected back against the individual and his society in forms suggesting threats of violence and fancied dangerous delight—not only as ogres but also as sirens of mysteriously seductive, nostalgic beauty.

            • The Russian peasants know, for example, of the “Wild Women” of the woods who have their abode in mountain caverns where they maintain households, like human beings. They are handsome females, with fine square heads, abundant tresses, and hairy bodies. They fling their breasts over their shoulders when they run and when they nurse their children. They go in groups. With unguents prepared from forest roots they can anoint and render themselves invisible. They like to dance or tickle people to death who wander alone into the forest, and anyone who accidentally chances upon their invisible dancing parties dies. On the other hand, for people who set out food for them, they reap the grain, spin, care for the children, and tidy up the house; and if a girl will comb out hemp for them to spin, they will give her leaves that turn to gold. They enjoy human lovers, have frequently married country youths, and are known to make excellent wives. But like all supernatural brides, the minute the husband offends in the least their whimsical notions of marital propriety, they disappear without a trace.41

            • One more example, to illustrate the libidinous association of the dangerous impish ogre with the principle of seduction, is Dyedushka Vodyanoy, the Russian “Water Grandfather.” He is an adroit shapeshifter and is said to drown people who swim at midnight or at noon. Drowned or disinherited girls he marries. He has a special talent for coaxing unhappy women into his toils. He likes to dance on moonlit nights. Whenever a wife of his is about to have a baby, he comes into the villages to seek a midwife. But he can be detected by the water that oozes from the border of his garments. He is bald, tun bellied, puffy cheeked, with green clothing and a tall cap of reeds; but he can also appear as an attractive young man, or as some personage well known in the community. This Water Master is not strong ashore, but in his own element he is supreme. He inhabits the deeps of rivers, streams, and ponds, preferring to be close beside a mill. During the day he remains concealed, like an old trout or salmon, but at night he surfaces, splashing and flopping like a fish, to drive his subaqueous cattle, sheep, and horses ashore to graze, or else to perch up on the mill wheel and quietly comb his long green hair and beard. In the springtime, when he rouses from his long hibernation, he smashes the ice along the rivers, piling up great blocks. Mill wheels he is amused to destroy. But in a favorable temper he drives his fishherds into the fisherman’s net or gives warning of coming floods. The midwife who accompanies him he pays richly with silver and gold. His beautiful daughters, tall, pale, and with an air of sadness, transparently costumed in green, torture and torment the drowned. They like to rock on trees, beautifully singing.42

            • The Arcadian god Pan is the best known Classical example of this dangerous presence dwelling just beyond the protected zone of the village boundary. Sylvanus and Faunus were his Latin counterparts.43 He was the inventor of the shepherd’s pipe, which he played for the dances of the nymphs, and the satyrs were his male companions.44 The emotion that he instilled in human beings who by accident adventured into his domain was “panic” fear, a sudden, groundless fright. Any trifling cause then—the break of a twig, the flutter of a leaf—would flood the mind with imagined danger, and in the frantic effort to escape from his own aroused unconscious the victim expired in a flight of dread. Yet Pan was benign to those who paid him worship, yielding the boons of the divine hygiene of nature: bounty to the farmers, herders, and fisherfolk who dedicated their first fruits to him, and health to all who properly approached his shrines of healing. Also wisdom, the wisdom of Omphalos, the World Navel, was his to bestow; for the crossing of the threshold is the first step into the sacred zone of the universal source.

            • At Lykaion was an oracle, presided over by the nymph Erato, whom Pan inspired, as Apollo the prophetess at Delphi. And Plutarch numbers the ecstasies of the orgiastic rites of Pan along with the ecstasy of Cybele, the Bacchic frenzy of Dionysos, the poetic frenzy inspired by the Muses, the warrior frenzy of the god Ares (=Mars), and, fiercest of all, the frenzy of love, as illustrations of that divine “enthusiasm” that overturns the reason and releases the forces of the destructive-creative dark. “I dreamed,” stated a middle-aged, married gentleman, “that I wanted to get into a wonderful garden. But before it there was a watchman who would not permit me to enter. I saw that my friend, Fräulein Elsa, was within; she wanted to reach me her hand, over the gate. But the watchman prevented that, took me by the arm, and conducted me home. ‘Do be sensible—after all!’ he said. ‘You know that you musn’t do that.’”45 This is a dream that brings out the sense of the first, or protective, aspect of the threshold guardian. One had better not challenge the watcher of the established bounds.  And yet—it is only by advancing beyond those bounds, provoking the destructive other aspect of the same power, that the individual passes, either alive or in death, into a new zone of experience.

            • In the language of the pigmies of the Andaman Islands, the word oko-jumu (“dreamer,” “one who speaks from dreams”) designates those highly respected and feared individuals who are distinguished from their fellows by the possession of supernatural talents, which can be acquired only by meeting with the spirits—directly in the jungle, through extraordinary dream, or by death and return.46

            • The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades

            • . In the Banks Islands of the New Hebrides, if a young man coming back from his fishing on a rock, towards sunset, chances to see “a girl with her head bedecked with flowers beckoning to him from the slope of the cliff up which his path is leading him; he recognizes the countenance of some girl of his own or a neighboring village; he stands and hesitates and thinks she must be mae;47 he looks more closely, and observes that her elbows and knees bend the wrong way; this reveals her true character, and he flies. If a young man can strike the temptress with a dracaena leaf she turns into her own shape and glides away a snake.” But these very snakes, the mae, so greatly feared, are believed to become the familiars of those who have intercourse with them.48

            • Such demons—at once dangers and bestowers of magic power—every hero must encounter who steps an inch outside the walls of his tradition. Two vivid Oriental stories will serve to illuminate the ambiguities of this perplexing pass and show how, though the terrors will recede before a genuine psychological readiness, the overbold adventurer beyond his depth may be shamelessly undone. The first is of a caravan leader from Benares, who made bold to conduct his richly loaded expedition of five hundred carts into a waterless demon wilderness. Forewarned of dangers, he had taken the precaution to set huge chatties filled with water in the carts, so that, rationally considered, his prospect of making the passage of not more than sixty desert leagues was of the best. But when he had reached the middle of the crossing,..

            • Having received, as a symbol of his distinction, the title Prince Five-weapons, he accepted the five weapons that his teacher gave him, bowed, and, armed with the new weapons, struck out onto the road leading to the city of his father, the king. On the way he came to a certain forest. People at the mouth of the forest warned him. “Sir prince, do not enter this forest,” they said; “an ogre lives here, named Sticky-hair; he kills every man he sees.”

            • But the prince was confident and fearless as a maned lion. He entered the forest just the same. When he reached the heart of it, the ogre showed himself. 

            • “Where are you going?” he demanded. “Halt! You are my prey!” Prince Five-weapons answered without fear, but with great confidence in the arts and crafts that he had learned. … “Master ogre, you have never heard of me before. I am Prince Five-weapons. When I entered this forest infested by you, I took no account of bows and suchlike weapons; when I entered this forest, I took account only of myself. Now I am going to beat you and pound you into powder and dust!” Having thus made known his determination, with a yell he struck the ogre with his right hand. His hand stuck right to the ogre’s hair. He struck him with his left hand. That also stuck. He struck him with his right foot. That also stuck. He struck him with his left foot. That also stuck. Thought he: “I will beat you with my head and pound you into powder and dust!” He struck him with his head. That also stuck right to the ogre’s hair.50 Prince Five-weapons, snared five times, stuck fast in five places, dangled from the ogre’s body. But for all that, he was unafraid, undaunted. As for the ogre, he thought: “This is some lion of a man, some man of noble birth—no mere man! For although he has been caught by an ogre like me, he appears neither to tremble nor to quake! In all the time I have harried this road, I have never seen a single man to match him! Why, pray, is he not afraid?” Not daring to eat him, he asked: “Youth, why are you not afraid? Why are you not terrified with the fear of death?” “Ogre, why should I be afraid? for in one life one death is absolutely certain. What’s more, I have in my belly a thunderbolt for weapon. If you eat me, you will not be able to digest that weapon. It will tear your insides into tatters and fragments and will kill you. In that case we’ll both perish. That’s why I’m not afraid!” Prince Five-weapons, the reader must know, was referring to the Weapon of Knowledge that was within him. Indeed, this young hero was none other than the Future Buddha, in an earlier incarnation.51 “What this youth says is true,” thought the ogre, terrified with the fear of death. “From the body of this lion of a man, my stomach would not be able to digest a fragment of flesh even so small as a kidney bean. I’ll let him go!” And he let Prince Five-weapons go. The Future Buddha preached the Doctrine to him, subdued him, made him self-denying, and then transformed him into a spirit entitled to receive offerings in the forest. Having admonished the ogre to be heedful, the youth departed from the forest, and at the mouth of the forest told his story to human beings; then went his way.

            • 52 As a symbol of the world to which the five senses glue us, and which cannot be pressed aside by the actions of the physical organs, Sticky-hair was subdued only when the Future Buddha, no longer protected by the five weapons of his momentary name and physical character, resorted to the unnamed, invisible sixth: the divine thunderbolt of the knowledge of the transcendent principle, which is beyond the phenomenal realm of names and forms. Therewith the situation changed. He was no longer caught, but released; for that which he now remembered himself to be is ever free. The force of the monster of phenomenality was dispelled, and he was rendered self-denying. Self-denying, he became divine—a spirit entitled to receive offerings—as is the world itself when known, not as final, but as a mere name and form of that which transcends, yet is immanent within, all names and forms.

            • The “Wall of Paradise,” which conceals God from human sight, is described by Nicholas of Cusa as constituted of the “coincidence of opposites,” its gate being guarded by “the highest spirit of reason, who bars the way until he has been overcome.”53 The pairs of opposites (being and not being, life and death, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defense and acquisition) are the clashing rocks (Symplegades) that crush the traveler, but between which the heroes always pass. This is a motif known throughout the world. The Greeks associated it with two rocky islands of the Euxine Sea, which clashed together, driven by winds; but Jason, in the Argo, sailed between, and since that time they have stood apart.54 The Twin Heroes of the Navaho legend were warned of the same obstacle by Spider Woman; protected, however, by the pollen symbol of the path, and eagle feathers plucked from a living sun bird, they passed between.55 As the rising smoke of an offering through the sun door, so goes the hero, released from ego, through the walls of the world leaving ego stuck to Sticky-hair and passing on.



            The Belly of the Whale

            • THE idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died.

            • Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes, In his wrath he darted upward, Flashing leaped into the sunshine, Opened his great jaws and swallowed Both canoe and Hiawatha.56  

            • The Eskimo of Bering Strait tell of the trickster-hero Raven, how, one day, as he sat drying his clothes on a beach, he observed a whale-cow swimming gravely close to shore. He called: “Next time you come up for air, dear, open your mouth and shut your eyes.” Then he slipped quickly into his raven clothes, pulled on his raven mask, gathered his fire sticks under his arm, and flew out over the water. The whale came up. She did as she had been told. Raven darted through the open jaws and straight into her gullet. The shocked whale-cow snapped and sounded; Raven stood inside and looked around.57 The Zulus have a story of two children and their mother swallowed by an elephant. When the woman reached the animal’s stomach, “she saw large forests and great rivers, and many high lands; on one side there were many rocks; and there were many people who had built their village there; and many dogs and many cattle; all was there inside the elephant.”58 The Irish hero, Finn MacCool, was swallowed by a monster of indefinite form, of the type known to the Celtic world as a peist. The little German girl, Red Ridinghood, was swallowed by a wolf. The Polynesian favorite, Maui, was swallowed by his great-great-grandmother, Hine-nui-te-po. And the whole Greek pantheon, with the sole exception of Zeus, was swallowed by its father, Kronos. The Greek hero Herakles, pausing at Troy on his way homeward with the belt of the queen of the Amazons, found that the city was being harassed by a monster sent against it by the sea-god Poseidon. The beast would come ashore and devour people as they moved about on the plain. Beautiful Hesione, the daughter of the king, had just been bound by her father to the sea rocks as a propitiatory sacrifice, and the great visiting hero agreed to rescue her for a price. The monster, in due time, broke to the surface of the water and opened its enormous maw. Herakles took a dive into the throat, cut his way out through the belly, and left the monster dead. This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Its resemblance to the adventure of the Symplegades is obvious. But here, instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again. The disappearance corresponds to the passing of a worshiper into a temple—where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal. The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are one and the same. That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles: dragons, lions, devil-slayers with drawn swords, resentful dwarfs, winged bulls. These are the threshold guardians to ward away all incapable of encountering the higher silences within. They are preliminary embodiments of the dangerous aspect of the presence, corresponding to the mythological ogres that bound the conventional world, or to the two rows of teeth of the whale. They illustrate the fact that the devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis. His secular character remains without; he sheds it, as a snake its slough. Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise. The mere fact that anyone can physically walk past the temple guardians does not invalidate their significance; for if the intruder is incapable of encompassing the sanctuary, then he has effectually remained without. Anyone unable to understand a god sees it as a devil and is thus defended from the approach. Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting, in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act.

            • “No creature,” writes Ananda Coomaraswamy, “can attain a higher grade of nature without ceasing to exist.”59 Indeed, the physical body of the hero may be actually slain, dismembered, and scattered over the land or sea—as in the Egyptian myth of the savior Osiris: he was thrown into a sarcophagus and committed to the Nile by his brother Set,60 and when he returned from the dead his brother slew him again, tore the body into fourteen pieces, and scattered these over the land. The Twin Heroes of the Navaho had to pass not only the clashing rocks, but also the reeds that cut the traveler to pieces, the cane cactuses that tear him to pieces, and the boiling sands that overwhelm him. The hero whose attachment to ego is already annihilate passes back and forth across the horizons of the world, in and out of the dragon, as readily as a king through all the rooms of his house. And therein lies his power to save; for his passing and returning demonstrate that through all the contraries of phenomenality the Un-create-Imperishable remains, and there is nothing to fear. And so it is that, throughout the world, men whose function it has been to make visible on earth the life-fructifying mystery of the slaying of the dragon have enacted upon their own bodies the great symbolic act, scattering their flesh, like the body of Osiris, for the renovation of the world. In Phrygia, for example, in honor of the crucified and resurrected savior Attis, a pine tree was cut on the twenty-second of March, and brought into the sanctuary of the mother-goddess, Cybele. There it was swathed like a corpse with woolen bands and decked with wreaths of violets. The effigy of a young man was tied to the middle of the stem. Next day took place a ceremonial lament and blowing of trumpets. The twenty-fourth of March was known as the Day of Blood: the high priest drew blood from his arms, which he presented as an offering; the lesser clergy whirled in a dervish-dance, to the sound of drums, horns, flutes, and cymbals, until, rapt in ecstasy, they gashed their bodies with knives to bespatter the altar and tree with their blood; and the novices, in imitation of the god whose death and resurrection they were celebrating, castrated themselves and swooned.61 And in the same spirit, the king of the south Indian province of Quilacare, at the completion of the twelfth year of his reign, on a day of solemn festival, had a wooden scaffolding constructed, and spread over with hangings of silk. When he had ritually bathed in a tank, with great ceremonies and to the sound of music, he then came to the temple, where he did worship before the divinity. Thereafter, he mounted the scaffolding and, before the people, took some very sharp knives and began to cut off his own nose, and then his ears, and his lips, and all his members, and as much of his flesh as he was able. He threw it away and round about, until so much of his blood was spilled that he began to faint, whereupon he summarily cut his throat.62


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              The Road of Trials

                • ONCE having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage.

                • One of the best known and most charming examples of the “difficult tasks” motif is that of Psyche’s quest for her lost lover, Cupid.1 Here all the principal roles are reversed: instead of the lover trying to win his bride, it is the bride trying to win her lover; and instead of a cruel father withholding his daughter from the lover, it is the jealous mother, Venus, hiding her son, Cupid, from his bride. When Psyche pleaded with Venus, the goddess grasped her violently by the hair and dashed her head upon the ground, then took a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, poppy seed, peas, lentils, and beans, mingled these all together in a heap, and commanded the girl to sort them before night. Psyche was aided by an army of ants. Venus told her, next, to gather the golden wool of certain dangerous wild sheep, sharp of horn and poisonous of bite, that inhabited an inaccessible valley in a dangerous wood. But a green reed instructed her how to gather from the reeds round about the golden locks shed by the sheep in their passage. The goddess now required a bottle of water from a freezing spring high on a towering rock beset by sleepless dragons. An eagle approached, and accomplished the marvelous task. Psyche was ordered, finally, to bring from the abyss of the underworld a box full of supernatural beauty. But a high tower told her how to go down to the world below, gave her coins for Charon and sops for Cerberus, and sped her on her way.

                • Psyche’s voyage to the underworld is but one of innumerable such adventures undertaken by the heroes of fairy tale and myth. Among the most perilous are those of the shamans of the peoples of the farthest north (the Lapps, Siberians, Eskimo, and certain American Indian tribes), when they go to seek out and recover the lost or abducted souls of the sick. The shaman of the Siberians is clothed for the adventure in a magical costume representing a bird or reindeer, the shadow principle of the shaman himself, the shape of his soul. His drum is his animal—his eagle, reindeer, or horse; he is said to fly or ride on it. The stick that he carries is another of his aids. And he is attended by a host of invisible familiars.

                • An early voyager among the Lapps has left a vivid description of the weird performance of one of these strange emissaries into the kingdoms of the dead.2 Since the yonder world is a place of everlasting night, the ceremonial of the shaman has to take place after dark. The friends and neighbors gather in the flickering, dimly lighted hut of the patient, and follow attentively the gesticulations of the magician. First he summons the helping spirits; these arrive, invisible to all but himself. Two women in ceremonial attire, but without belts and wearing linen hoods, a man without hood or belt, and a girl not as yet adult, are in attendance. The shaman uncovers his head, loosens his belt and shoestrings, covers his face with his hands and begins to twirl in a variety of circles. Suddenly, with very violent gestures, he shouts: “Fit out the reindeer! Ready to boat!” Snatching up an ax, he begins striking himself about the knees with it and swinging it in the direction of the three women. He drags burning logs out of the fire with his naked hands. He dashes three times around each of the women and finally collapses, “like a dead man.” During the whole time, no one has been permitted to touch him. While he reposes now in trance, he is to be watched so closely that not even a fly may settle upon him. His spirit has departed, and he is viewing the sacred mountains with their inhabiting gods. The women in attendance whisper to each other, trying to guess in what part of the yonder world he now may be.3 If they mention the correct mountain, the shaman stirs either a hand or a foot. At length he begins to return. In a low, weak voice he utters the words he has heard in the world below. Then the women begin to sing. The shaman slowly awakes, declaring both the cause of the illness and the manner of sacrifice to be made. Then he announces the length of time it will take for the patient to grow well.

                • “On his laborious journey,” reports another observer, “the shaman has to encounter and master a number of differing obstacles (pudak) which are not always easily overcome. After he has wandered through dark forests and over massive ranges of mountains, where he occasionally comes across the bones of other shamans and their animal mounts who have died along the way, he reaches an opening in the ground. The most difficult stages of the adventure now begin, when the depths of the underworld with their remarkable manifestations open before him…. After he has appeased the watchers of the kingdom of the dead and made his way past the numerous perils, he comes at last to the Lord of the Underworld, Erlik himself. And the latter rushes against him, horribly bellowing; but if the shaman is sufficiently skillful he can soothe the monster back again with promises of luxurious offerings. This moment of the dialogue with Erlik is the crisis of the ceremonial. The shaman passes into an ecstasy.”4

                • “In every primitive tribe,” writes Dr. Géza Róheim, “we find the medicine man in the center of society and it is easy to show that the medicine man is either a neurotic or a psychotic or at least that his art is based on the same mechanisms as a neurosis or a psychosis. Human groups are actuated by their group ideals, and these are always based on the infantile situation.”5 “The infancy situation is modified or inverted by the process of maturation, again modified by the necessary adjustment to reality, yet it is there and supplies those unseen libidinal ties without which no human groups could exist.”6 The medicine men, therefore, are simply making both visible and public the systems of symbolic fantasy that are present in the psyche of every adult member of their society. “They are the leaders in this infantile game and the lightning conductors of common anxiety. They fight the demons so that others can hunt the prey and in general fight reality.”7

                  And so it happens that if anyone—in whatever society—undertakes for himself the perilous journey into the darkness by descending, either intentionally or unintentionally, into the crooked lanes of his own spiritual labyrinth, he soon finds himself in a landscape of symbolical figures (any one of which may swallow him) which is no less marvelous than the wild Siberian world of the pudak and sacred mountains. In the vocabulary of the mystics, this 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 “concentrated upon transcendental things;”8 or in a vocabulary of more modern turn: this is the process of dissolving, transcending, or transmuting the infantile images of our personal past. In our dreams the ageless perils, gargoyles, trials, secret helpers, and instructive figures are nightly still encountered; and in their forms we may see reflected not only the whole picture of our present case, but also the clue to what we must do to be saved.

                  “I stood before a dark cave, wanting to go in,” was the dream of a patient at the beginning of his analysis; “and I shuddered at the thought that I might not be able to find my way back.”9 “I saw one beast after another,” Emanuel Swedenborg recorded in his dream book, for the night of October 19-20, 1744, “and they spread their wings, and were dragons. I was flying over them, but one of them was supporting me.”10 And the dramatist Friedrich Hebbel recorded, a century later (April 13, 1844): “In my dream I was being drawn with great force through the sea; there were terrifying abysses, with here and there a rock to which it was possible to hold.”11 Themistocles dreamed that a snake wound itself around his body, then crept up to his neck and when it touched his face became an eagle that took him in its talons and, carrying him upward, bore him a long distance, and set him down on a golden herald’s staff that suddenly appeared, so safely that he was all at once relieved of his great anxiety and fear.12

                  The specific psychological difficulties of the dreamer frequently are revealed with touching simplicity and force: “I had to climb a mountain. There were all kinds of obstacles in the way. I had now to jump over a ditch, now to get over a hedge, and finally to stand still because I had lost my breath.” This was the dream of a stutterer.13 “I stood beside a lake that appeared to be completely still. A storm came up abruptly and high waves arose, so that my whole face was splashed;” the dream of a girl afraid of blushing (ereutho-phobia), whose face, when she blushed, would become wet with perspiration.14 “I was following a girl who was going ahead of me, along the dark street. I could see her from behind only and admired her beautiful figure. A mighty desire seized me, and I was running after her. Suddenly a beam, as though released from a spring, came across the street and blocked the way. I awoke with my heart pounding.” The patient was a homosexual; the transverse beam, a phallic symbol.15 “I got into a car, but did not know how to drive. A man who sat behind me gave me instructions. Finally, things were going quite well and we came to a plaza, where there were a number of women standing. The mother of my fiancée received me with great joy.” The man was impotent, but had found an instructor in the psychoanalyst.

                • 16 “A stone had broken my windshield. I was now open to the storm and rain. Tears came to my eyes. Could I ever reach my destination in this car?” The dreamer was a young woman who had lost her virginity and could not get over it.17 “I saw half of a horse lying on the ground. It had only one wing and was trying to arise, but was unable to do so.” The patient was a poet, who had to earn his daily bread by working as a journalist.18 “I was bitten by an infant.” The dreamer was suffering from a psychosexual infantilism.19 “I am locked with my brother in a dark room. He has a large knife in his hand. I am afraid of him. ‘You will drive me crazy and bring me to the madhouse,’ I tell him. He laughs with malicious pleasure, replying: ‘You will always be caught with me. A chain is wrapped around the two of us.’ I glanced at my legs and noticed for the first time the thick iron chain that bound together my brother and myself.” The brother, comments Dr. Stekel, was the patient’s illness.20 “I am going over a narrow bridge,” dreams a sixteen-year-old girl. “Suddenly it breaks under me and I plunge into the water. An officer dives in after me, and brings me, with his strong arms, to the bank. Suddenly it seems to me then that I am a dead body. The officer too looks very pale, like a corpse.”21 “The dreamer is absolutely abandoned and alone in a deep hole of a cellar. The walls of his room keep getting narrower and narrower, so that he cannot stir.” In this image are combined the ideas of mother womb, imprisonment, cell, and grave.22 “I am dreaming that I have to go through endless corridors. Then I remain for a long time in a little room that looks like the bathing pool in the public baths. They compel me to leave the pool, and I have to pass again through a moist, slippery shaft, until I come through a little latticed door into the open. I feel like one newly born, and I think: ‘This means a spiritual rebirth for me, through my analysis.’”23 There can be no question: the psychological dangers through which earlier generations were guided by the symbols and spiritual exercises of their mythological and religious inheritance, we today (in so far as we are unbelievers, or, if believers, in so far as our inherited beliefs fail to represent the real problems of contemporary life) must face alone, or, at best, with only tentative, impromptu, and not often very effective guidance. This is our problem as modern, “enlightened” individuals, for whom all gods and devils have been rationalized out of existence.24 Nevertheless, in the multitude of myths and legends that have been preserved to us, or collected from the ends of the earth, we may yet see delineated something of our still human course. To hear and profit, however, one may have to submit somehow to purgation and surrender. And that is part of our problem: just how to do that. “Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?”25 The oldest recorded account of the passage through the gates of metamorphosis is the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna’s descent to the nether world.

                  “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the second gate, The rod of lapis lazuli was removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the third gate, The small lapis lazuli stones of her neck were removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the fourth gate, The sparkling stones of her breast were removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the fifth gate, The gold ring of her hand was removed. “What, pray, is this?”“Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the sixth gate, The breastplate of her breast was removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.”   Upon her entering the seventh gate, All the garments of ladyship of her body were removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world”

                • Naked, she was brought before the throne. She bowed low. The seven judges of the nether world, the Anunnaki, sat before the throne of Ereshkigal, and they fastened their eyes upon Inanna—the eyes of death. At their word, the word which tortures the spirit, The sick woman was turned into a corpse, The corpse was hung from a stake.26   Inanna and Ereshkigal, the two sisters, light and dark respectively, together represent, according to the antique manner of symbolization, the one goddess in two aspects; and their confrontation epitomizes the whole sense of the difficult road of trials. The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream, discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed. One by one the resistances are broken. He must put aside his pride, his virtue, beauty, and life, and bow or submit to the absolutely intolerable. Then he finds that he and his opposite are not of differing species, but one flesh.27

                • The ordeal 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—unless the right caustic is applied to the mutilated stump. The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed—again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies, and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land.

                  Joseph Campbell. The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Kindle Locations 1478-1484). Fontana Press. Kindle Edition.

                The Meeting with the Goddess

                • THE ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart.


                Woman as the Temptress

                • THE mystical marriage with the queen goddess of the world represents the hero’s total mastery of life; for the woman is life, the hero its knower and master. And the testings of the hero, which were preliminary to his ultimate experience and deed, were symbolical of those crises of realization by means of which his consciousness came to be amplified and made capable of enduring the full possession of the mother-destroyer, his inevitable bride. With that he knows that he and the father are one: he is in the father’s place.

                • Thus phrased, in extremest terms, the problem may sound remote from the affairs of normal human creatures. Nevertheless, every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late. The whole sense of the ubiquitous myth of the hero’s passage is that it shall serve as a general pattern for men and women, wherever they may stand along the scale. Therefore it is formulated in the broadest terms. The individual has only to discover his own position with reference to this general human formula, and let it then assist him past his restricting walls. Who and where are his ogres? Those are the reflections of the unsolved enigmas of his own humanity. What are his ideals? Those are the symptoms of his grasp of life.

                • In the office of the modern psychoanalyst, the stages of the hero-adventure come to light again in the dreams and hallucinations of the patient. Depth beyond depth of self-ignorance is fathomed, with the analyst in the role of the helper, the initiatory priest. And always, after the first thrills of getting under way, the adventure develops into a journey of darkness, horror, disgust, and phantasmagoric fears.

                • The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom correspond to what life really is. Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell. Rather, we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all the flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else.

                • But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention, that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul.

                • O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!   So exclaims the great spokesman of this moment, Hamlet: How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this!


                Atonement with the Father

                • “THE BOW of God’s Wrath is bent, and the Arrow made ready on the String; and Justice bends the Arrow at your Heart, and strains the Bow; and it is nothing but the mere Pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any Promise or Obligation at all, that keeps the Arrow one Moment from being made drunk with your Blood…. “ With these words Jonathan Edwards threatened the hearts of his New England congregation by disclosing to them, unmitigated, the ogre aspect of the father. He riveted them to the pews with images of the mythological ordeal; for though the Puritan prohibited the graven image, yet he allowed himself the verbal. “The Wrath,” Jonathan Edwards thundered, “the Wrath of God is like great Waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher till an Outlet is given; and the longer the Stream is stopt, the more rapid and mighty is its Course when once it is let loose. ‘Tis true, that Judgment against your evil Works has not been executed hitherto; the Floods of God’s Vengeance have been withheld; but your Guilt in the mean Time is constantly increasing, and you are every Day treasuring up more Wrath; the Waters are continually rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere Pleasure of God that holds the Waters back that are unwilling to be stopt, and press hard to go forward; if God should only withdraw his Hand from the Flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery Floods of the Fierceness of the Wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable Fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent Power; and if your Strength were Ten thousand Times greater than it is, yea Ten thousand Times greater than the Strength of the stoutest, sturdiest Devil in Hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it…. “ Having threatened with the element water, Pastor Jonathan next turns to the image of fire. “The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider or some lothsome Insect over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as Worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are Ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn Rebel did his Prince; and yet ‘tis nothing but his Hand that holds you from falling into the Fire every Moment…. “O Sinner! … You hang by a slender Thread, with the Flames of Divine Wrath flashing about it, and ready every Moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no Interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the Flames of Wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one Moment….”

                  Joseph Campbell. The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Kindle Locations 1725-1745). Fontana Press. Kindle Edition.



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                The Ultimate Boon

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                  Refusal of the Return

                  • Seekers, the path up is difficult; at the top is found “that which, when known, all things are known”; Spirit is the Ultimate Reality

                  The Magic Flight

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                  Rescue from Without

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                  The Crossing of the Return Threshold

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                  Master of the Two Worlds

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                  Freedom to Live

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                  THE KEYS



                    • The popular interpretation of baptism is that it “washes away original sin,” with emphasis rather on the cleansing than on the rebirth idea. This is a secondary interpretation.
                    • Or if the traditional birth image is remembered, nothing is said of an antecedent marriage.
                    • Mythological symbols, however, have to be followed through all their implications before they open out the full system of correspondences through which they represent, by analogy, the millennial adventure of the soul.

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