Question of the Day: “What can I learn from Joseph Campbell?”

All English teachers are familiar with Campbell’s work. He was a professor and a writer. He is the one who noticed the undeniable patterns in all great stories. It is the pattern of the Hero’s journey. His famous text The Hero with a Thousand Faces details how this pattern plays out time and time again, not only in great works of literature, but in our own lives as well. We are all heros in our own journey through life. We are all asked to to rise, but only some heed the call.

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path…

James Campbell

The Steps of the Hero’s Journey

Step One: Call to Action

All great journeys start with the call to action. This call is foreign to us. It appears intriguing but at the same time scary and often dangerous. We long for the adventure but the cost of going seems too great. Perhaps it is a new job or the opportunity for an education. It can be a literal trip to a foreign land. It can be finding the love of your life.

Step Two: The Refusal

Great heros often deny the first call, but the signs and the desire only becomes stronger. The hero is pushed emotionally, spiritually, physically towards the call. Great heroes heed the call. If the call is ignored, the person loses hope and faith and slowly feels the desire inside her slip away.

Step Three: Meeting the Mentor

Every great hero has a mentor who guides him. The mentor can never stay, but is often ephemeral and pops in and out at all of the “right” times. Think Dumbledore in Harry Potter and Gandalf in The Hobbit. These mentors always have a spiritual or physical end. In our own lives, it can be the classroom teacher, the coach of your sports team, a grandparent.

Step Four: Crossing the Threshold

This is where the Hero starts her journey. She puts her fears aside and decides to act on the call. It is the physical representation of her commitment.

Step Five: Tests/Allies/Enemies

All along the hero’s journey, she is met with a mixture of tests. Each test strengthens the hero, but it also takes a toll. Allies can be friends or foes, and the hero is often confused by whom to trust. This is also the part where trust is broken and doubt is sown. It is the moment that Luke is told that Darth Vader is his father. It is the part in Frozen where Elsa creates the snow creature to protect herself. There are many challenges but each step brings the hero closer to the end of the journey. For you, these are your daily struggles, the people who support or work against you along the way, and it is keeping the energy to move through them to the next step.

Step Six: Approach to the Innermost Cave

This is either physical or spiritual. The hero must enter the cave to finally face his greatest fears before he can truly defeat his true foe. These are the final moments of struggle before the real struggle begins. It is often the dark time in the hero’s journey. He doubts everything and everyone. When he leaves this cave, he is reborn and ready to meet his foe. It is Harry Potter before he is “killed” by Voldemort and he is visited by his parents and deceased friends who tell them they will be with him at the end. It is when you don’t feel like you can go any farther and you are forced to see certain truths about yourself. These truths make you feel certain that the path you are on is the right one. You find clarity on the other side.

I will continue this tomorrow…

Where there is a path, it is someone else’s path.

Joseph Campbell
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Love and Light