The Hero's Journey


The other day, in the midst of a discussion on the main list of the OD Network, an aphorism occurred to me:

~ Action learning is the crucible of transformation.

I immediately liked it, but wondered if I could explain (or defend) it should someone ask. So far, no one has. Maybe it sailed right past everyone, an idea ahead of its time?

Today, in the same evolving online discussion, I mentioned that, in the hero's journey, the hero often returns home, only to realize that his journey was a search for himself. When one of the other members asked for clarification, I added the following summation of the late great Joseph Campbell's famous concept.

Campbell, whose cross-cultural studies of world mythologies led him to formulate The Hero's Journey, framed the myth in three stages:

1. The Call to Adventure - Something happens (or someone arrives, like Gandalf knocking on Bilbo Baggins' door in Tolkien's great fantasy book The Hobbit) that causes a Separation, a departure, where the Hero leaves the comfort of home, and embarks upon a Search or Mission of some sort.

2. The Adventures - Like Dorothy Gale blown away from Kansas by a tornado into the fabulous Land of Oz, the Hero experiences strange and wonderful adventures, often including Escapes, Trials, Meetings, and Initiations, all of which have the effect of changing the Hero in some way.

3. The Return - Finally, after the Search is concluded, or the Mission fulfilled, it is time to go home. So the Hero faces a choice: to make his way back home, or to go elsewhere.

Quite often in many versions of the Hero's Journey, the Hero goes home, but finds that the home he had left, and the home he comes back to, are very different places (for example, consider Frodo's return to the Shire in Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings. What had once been an Eden-like refuge, had been spoiled, corrupted under the influence of the evil fugitive wizard Saruman. Because of Frodo's transformation in his journey, he and the other members of the Fellowship, were able to "scour" the Shire, cleansing it and restoring it.)

Mythologist Campbell was interested in how these ancient patterns play out in our lives. What is the Call about? And the Adventures? What does the Hero find when he or she Returns home?

I would say that...

- The Call is about the need to change
- The Adventures are the learning experiences that Life offers us, transforming us if we learn the lessons
- The Return is about the discovery of Who We Are, Why We Are Here, and What We Are Meant to Do with the talents we possess, in this Life

All of us undergo some variant of the Hero's Journey.

Along the way we meet facilitators, people who are there to help us learn life lessons that advance us toward our purpose.

So back to my aphorism:
~ Action learning is the crucible of transformation.

Hmmm. Maybe the way to end this blog posting is to say: On the hero's journey, sometimes you are Luke Skywalker. Sometimes you are Obi Wan Kenobi.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, May 16, 2010

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