“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center. You find the jewel and it draws you off.”
~ Joseph Campbell
In Parts 1 (LINK) & 2 (LINK) of this series, I wrote about the first two stages of the Hero’s Journey – The Call and The Initiation. In this post, I address The Abyss, where we Find the Jewel for which the first two stages have been a preparation.
The Abyss is the dark place of limited consciousness which must be traversed in order to find the Jewel, which is the higher consciousness within you. The Jewel can be called Christ Consciousness or Buddha Mind. It is what the Holy Grail represented in the Arthurian Legends and in the Indiana Jones movies. It is that most perilous part of the journey, where the most is asked of you, and where it is easy to fail. The legendary stories are metaphors for an inner psychological and spiritual journey.
“Most heroic journeys involve going through a dark place – through mountain caverns, the underworld, or labyrinthine passages to emerge, finally, into the light.”
~ Jean Shinoda Bolen
These metaphors are guides to the Hero’s Journey. In our culture, we have lost much of our ability to understand symbols and metaphors, but they are there in the epic stories and legends of the past and present. Perhaps the great demand for the comic book heroes in cinema today is a longing for the true heroes of the stories of the past, not the wounded heroes so prevalent in our modern literature. The deep work of personal transformation requires a positive sense of the hero as an aspect of self which can strengthen you through the challenges of the journey. After all, what is at the center of the Jewel is your own destiny, a greater idea of yourself which is ready to express in your life.
“We are on the hero’s journey when we submit to the deep processes of life and allow them to affect us and bore their necessities into us. We are the hero when we take on the challenges and go through our initiations and transformations, enduring loss and gain, feeling happy and sad, making progress and falling back. The hero is engaged in life The hero is not the one who displays force and muscle without deep insight or the courage to be. The hero may not look heroic from the outside but may go through powerful developments in a quiet way. The difference is that the real hero engages life and reflects on it. She becomes more and more what he or she is destined to be.”
~ Thomas Moore
Sometimes, a Hero’s Journey can happen while you sit in a beach chair over a weekend in deep contemplation. Or it can be at a spiritual retreat where a process helps to crack you open emotionally and make something deeper available to you. Or it can be a decades-long struggle with addiction or poor self-concept which goes through many forms of The Abyss experience. There is no single version of the journey.
“The purpose of the journey is compassion. When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion.”
~ Joseph Campbell
I have written about compassion (LINK) before, and it comes up in Campbell’s motif of the Hero’s Journey as well. Remember that true compassion requires a consciousness of Oneness where you see the other as being one with you. So, moving beyond the “pairs of opposites” is an essential step of the journey. And it is always possible to expand our acceptance of Oneness, so there is always more of the true self to express. This means that we have more than one Hero’s Journey on our agenda.
Moving beyond the pairs of opposites means moving beyond our own limited beliefs, which are guarded by our ego’s fear-based emotional system. So, there is a fight to break through those guardians of the gate to our true self. Of course, all of this happens within us. We may give up, fail to gain the Jewel, slide back into our lives without the benefits of the journey. This simply means what we will have another Call, another opportunity to grow, but we may not answer that Call after the defeat in this experience.
The legends and stories tell us that entering the Abyss is the greatest challenge, and that our experience in the Wasteland with our teachers, positive and negative, have prepared us for this moment. However, we may still fall back. There is no escaping the need to stand strong in confronting our demons – the beliefs which hold us in bondage and necessitate the Hero’s Journey to begin with.
What we seek is already within us. What we seek is some aspect of ourselves which we have not yet expressed and is being called forth by some aspect of ourselves to face some challenge or to heal some condition. We are ALWAYS up to the challenge in potential because everything we require is always already within us. We do well to remember that basic truth.
“The hero’s main feat is to overcome darkness; it is only the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious.”
~ C.G. Jung
In Part 4 of this series, I will cover The Return, the final critical stage in The Hero’s Journey.
Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019
I will be presenting an online program in the Spiral Dynamics™ Model beginning in May. SD1 covers the basics of the model; SD2 leads to certification to use the model in teaching and consulting. The basic info is in this graphic. For more information and to register, email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net and I will send you the complete information.