JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 1 – THE CALL

The mythological motif called The Hero’s Journey represents a significant passage in human consciousness and experience – from one place to another; from one way of being to another; from one sense of self to another. In his classic book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES (LINK) (LINK to PDF) Joseph Campbell (LINK) describes this almost universal motif across several of the world’s mythic traditions.

It is always an inner journey, and often as outer one as well. Hero’s Journeys can last a lifetime or a weekend. There are a number of stages to the journey, represented in this graphic:

Heroes Journey Graphic

The Call is the first step – we are enticed, encouraged, coerced, even kidnapped into a new experience. In some cases, we have no choice, in others we can accept or deny the call. When we deny the call, we also deny the treasure – the form of higher consciousness – which awaits us when we are successful in moving through the journey. We are called away from our comfort zone and deeper within to realize something that has not been called forth from within us before. It may be a whisper from within that it’s time for a new job or to alter a relationship; it may be leaving home for the first time to attend college or for a job; it may be being conscripted into the military or getting a diagnosis of cancer. There are many versions of The Call to the Hero’s Journey. We may be involved in several at once. Campbell writes of The Call as the moment of choice when the gods call us forward to a greater expression of ourselves. “Yes” means we begin the journey, “no” means that we stagnate, and perhaps putrefy.

“The hero’s journey has been compared to a birth: it starts with being warm and snug in a safe place; then comes a signal, growing more insistent, that it is time to leave. To stay beyond your time is to putrefy. Without the blood & tearing and pain, there is no new life.”

~ Joseph Campbell

 

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.” 

~ Joseph Campbell 

 

“If a person has had the sense of ‘the Call’ – the feeling that there’s an adventure for him — and if he doesn’t follow that but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to a condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder and found that it’s against the wrong wall.
If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. If one follows what I call one’s bliss — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life – doors will open up. They do!”

~ Joseph Campbell

The Call is frightening at first. After we have been through the cycle a few times, we may come to welcome The Call, but it always signals a time of trial and deep learning. Our egos fear this process, as the role of the ego is to support the current worldview, the current consciousness. When we announce that we are changing, or are thrown into change, we upset the ego which resists the change process. How we deal with this resistance is a sign of our emotional and spiritual intelligence.

“Resistance blooms naturally in the presence of change. You will encounter resistance in attempts at ascendance, physical or spiritual. … Remember, though, that resistance is also a good omen. It means you’re close to something important, something vital for your soul’s work here, something worthy of you. … The degree of resistance … is probably proportionate to the amount of power waiting to be unleashed and the satisfaction to be experienced once the ‘no’ breaks through to ‘yes’ and the call is followed.”

~ Gregg Levoy

 The Hero’s Journey, when completed, is nothing short of transformational. The ego is right to fear it, for comfort and security are going to be set aside for exploration and the chance of personal growth and deep realization. There are any number of places along the way where you might choose to leave the pathway, the most critical being with the first step, The Call. Fear is the edge of your known reality, so taking leave of that reality is going to be scary and disturbing, even terrifying.

“In becoming a hero or heroine, we undertake the extraordinary task of dying to our current, local selves and being reborn to our eternal selves. And then we continue to travel deeper still until we reach the eternal place of sourcing and resourcing.
“There are two great works for heroes and heroines to perform. The first is to withdraw from everyday life and open ourselves to the inner creative life through which lie our only means of reaching the Source. The second work is to return to everyday life, carrying the knowledge we have gained in the depths and putting it to use to redeem time and society.”

~ Jean Houston

 

When we open to the journey, we align with the forces – the gods – seeking to drive us forward in our development. Our soul wants to experience the fullness of life, to be fulfilled in terms of experience and meaning in our lives. It is this inner urge which calls forth the Hero’s Journey, often unconsciously until the moment that The Call comes to our awareness. The motif of the journey will constantly arise in your life – in fact, the trajectory of your entire life can be seen as a Hero’s Journey. When we come into awareness and alignment with the dynamics of this motif, our pathways to self-development open to us. Saying “YES” begins the journey.

In Part 2, we will explore the second major leg of the journey – The Wasteland – Challenges & Temptations.

“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully 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.” 

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

heros-journey girl

As always, your comments are welcomed. Feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

 

Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 1

“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag

“There are people who have an amazing knowledge of themselves…. But even those people wouldn’t be capable of knowing what is going on in their unconscious.”

~ C.G. Jung

I offer two maxims to guide the reader through this series of posts, which will cover some difficult and uncomfortable terrain.

  1. We are more driven by unconscious patterns and impulses than we realize.
  2. Spiritual Bypassing is common in New Thought spiritual communities.

The first maxim is one which can be seen as limiting some of what we are often taught in New Thought – that we can bring everything to conscious awareness and direct (or re-direct) any aspect of our lives using positive thinking. While our ability to change our unconscious mind is real, it is not an absolute; that is, we cannot empty our unconscious of its contents. The unconscious is too vast to bring fully into conscious awareness, and aspects of our inner psyche which affect everything from our perception to our decision-making, will remain beyond our awareness. At best, we can bring up what most needs to be healed and make the needed changes to develop a consciousness which is more of a representation of our best selves.

This brings up the idea of free will, and the degree to which we are completely free to perceive and decide, with no unconscious conditioning or biases affecting our seeming freedom to choose (LINK to Scientific American Article). As the most recent research shows (LINK), our unconscious conditioning has a greater effect on us than we realize – and must be considered as we do our spiritual and psychological practices. We must look deeper and more closely at ourselves or we miss the evidence of our unconscious conditioning and biases.

“Consciousness, no matter how extensive it may be, must always remain the smaller circle within the greater circle of the unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea; and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self-replenishing abundance of living creatures, a wealth beyond our fathoming. ”

~ Carl Jung, Psychology of the Transference

Ernest Holmes emphasizes the importance of using our conscious mind to program our unconscious, because the objective (conscious) reflects the subjective (unconscious) mind.

“The objective form to which we give our attention is created from the very attention which we give it. The objective is but the reflection of the subject state of thought. Life is a blackboard upon which we consciously or unconsciously write those messages which govern us. We hold the chalk and the eraser in our hand but are ignorant of this fact.”

~ Ernest Holmes

The first maxim is important in helping us to both understand the essence of the second maxim and to create a practice of compassion around our approach to it. Almost all spiritual bypassing is unconsciously driven; bringing this to the awareness of someone engaging in bypassing must be done compassionately to have the best chance of meeting a willingness to change within that person or persons. As we begin to address the second maxim, I encourage the reader to hold this in mind.

Regarding the second maxim, I am guided here, at least in part, by two articles which awakened something within me – some of which I was aware, and some of which I was unaware. In other words, more of my blind spots (LINK) became apparent. I think they are worth addressing here, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those who read this, so an increased level of awareness may result. They are (both titles are hotlinks):

Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag by Robert Augustus Masters, PhD (he also authored a book with the same title)

and

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting, by Camille Williams – this article will be the focus of Part 2 of this series.

“Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

With this definition of spiritual bypassing in hand, we can begin to explore how it manifests within a New Thought setting. It is helpful here to have some knowledge of Spiral Dynamics, especially the Green Level of Existence (LINK). Although bypassing can occur at any stage on the spiral, Green, because of its feelings-based nature, is particularly prone to several of the manifestations noted in Masters’ quote above, especially “overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries.”

So, spiritual bypassing is the opposite of authenticity. It is the often-unconscious desire to have everything appear to be what one desires at the expense of dealing with inner and outer realities. It can be used to stifle conflict or differing viewpoints (as in calling a group to prayer-treatment at the first sign of conflict); to deny realities such as financial lack or a decline in the capabilities of aging leaders; to maintain unconscious patterns of discrimination; or to create a false sense of security so that one or a group does not have to face a difficult reality or decision.

At its core, however, spiritual bypassing is a refusal to do the deep work necessary for true spirituality to express in a person or community. We are all, to one degree or another, terrified of the power within us. Bringing it forth in a more complete and authentic way, which most of us claim to desire, would also cause chaos in the order of our present lives. Nothing would be safe. Those in spiritual leadership are not free of this fear, nor are they necessarily more spiritually authentic than anyone else (LINK). In fact, much of what goes on in spiritual community is going through the motions of a surface piety to some theological principles while being careful not to upset the comfort zones of ourselves and others.

“True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state. It has been fine to romance it for a while, but our times call for something far more real, grounded, and responsible; something radically alive and naturally integral; something that shakes us to our very core until we stop treating spiritual deepening as a something to dabble in here and there. Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, not a psychedelic blast-through or a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, not a bubble of immunity, but a vast fire of liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for what must be done. Most of the time when we’re immersed in spiritual bypassing, we like the light but not the heat, doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from the flames.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

To be sure, everyone in a spiritual community is unlikely to want to live at that level. There are lots of reasons for this and finding even a handful of people who are willing to go deep into themselves and stir up shadow selves is a challenge. A spiritual community which can accommodate that smaller group within its larger community will have a source of richness missing in most communities. To do this requires attuned leadership who have credibility with those on a deeper and more authentic spiritual pathway. Such leaders are also rare.

“Is not the shadow of a group more than the sum of individual shadows, and might it not create a whole new dimension of unconsciousness?”

~ James Hollis, Author & Jungian Analyst

What is important to gain from this post is that spiritual bypass is common, it is mostly unconscious, and it is a big turn-off to those who seek authenticity in their spiritual leaders and spiritual community. It is also an obstacle to achieving significant mission-centric expression. Here is where we get to utilize our free will to direct ourselves in a more authentic direction. Leaders can empower their members to speak up when they suspect spiritual bypass, and train themselves and others how to compassionately respond when others are not being authentic. This approach will go a long way toward aligning a spiritual community to create #TheBelovedCommunity.

“To truly outgrow spiritual bypassing—which in part means releasing spirituality (and everything else!) from the obligation to make us feel better or more secure or more whole—we must not only see it for what it is and cease engaging in it but also view it with genuine compassion, however fiery that might be or need to be. The spiritual bypasser in us needs not censure nor shaming but rather to be consciously and caringly included in our awareness without being allowed to run the show. Becoming intimate with our own capacity for spiritual bypassing allows us to keep it in healthy perspective.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

“The more ‘enlightened’ we believe ourselves to be, the vaster we discover that which remains unconscious.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the more destructive elements of spiritual bypassing, the things which can tear a spiritual community apart.

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I used several quotes by Robert Augustus Masters in this post. At the time, I was generally unfamiliar with his work, other than an article on spiritual bypassing. I have since learned that he has admitted to abuse of students and members of a group which he led. I will not be referring to him or to his work again. – Jim Lockard October 2018

 

 

WHEN THE TRUTH GETS REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE

“If the Truth makes free when it is told, and we are not free, then the Truth has not been told. The Truth that the Good belongs to us is greater than the idea that we might give our time, our labor, our life, and all we are to the Good, and still never satisfy it. To tell how impossible it is for us to give enough to God breeds rebellion at existing orders. To tell that the Good asks nothing of us but to receive its substance, will rest and comfort the people.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice

1a Michelle Wolf

Michelle Wolf – NYTimes photo

The uproar over comedian Michelle Wolf’s appearance at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner the other night is the latest example of how our differing worldviews (NYTimes – LINK) (RedState -LINK) and our insecurity about them can mushroom into something both ugly and filled with potential. Our idea of truth is always influenced, if not wholly determined, by the worldview which we bring to any situation (as can be seen in the articles in the links above). This is something that we usually ignore or deny. We have had many such moments of contested “truth” across the globe in this time of disruption – this time of movement along the Spiral where the upward movement is driven by the creation of increasingly complex systems of technology and social structures. The concepts and worldviews we bring into changing times are insufficient to carry us through those times. We must adapt, creatively and, ideally, in healthy ways.

“One prerequisite for originality is clearly that a person shall not be inclined to impose his preconceptions on the fact as he sees it. Rather, he must be able to learn something new, even if this means that the ideas and notions that are comfortable or dear to him may be overturned.”

~ David Bohm

The usual responses from the political left and right emerged quickly on social and regular media, with many in the press being caught in the middle, fearing a further erosion of trust in them and their institutions. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion and no one has room for a different opinion than his or her own. The details of the situation are less important than how the incident reflects on the national and international mood these days – we are in a culture war, and a few shooting wars as well, and every position must be defended with volume and righteousness, despite the lack of evidence of many minds being changed on any side.

The complexity of life is an essential part of the evolutionary processes by which we, and the entire universe, develop. Complexity is a sign of growth, something to be nurtured, adapted to, and embraced. It is not to be confused with being complicated, which is something else altogether.

“I want to say that short circuiting complexity is never a good idea. It makes life complicated. Complicated and complex are not the same thing. Complex looks like an ocean; whole and alive with a vitality that is generated through interrelational, interdependent processes.”

~ Nora Bateson

Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on my own worldview(s) and to notice my reactions to things said and done, whether in actuality or on social media. This advice applies no matter my position on any issue, by the way. We could all do with a bit more honest introspection about our beliefs as well as our sensitivities to dissonance and discomfort. The world around us is struggling to grow toward a greater capability to support humanity on this planet, and this will require expanded capacities from us.

“You can get sympathy, or you can get better, but you can’t get both. You can be in your comfort zone or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You can be interested, or you can be sold-out-committed, but you can’t entertain both. You can have excuses or have results, but you can’t do both. Choose the path that develops your visceral fortitude.”

~ Mario Cortes

Here, Cortes hits the nail on the proverbial head. We all design our response systems – the ways that we automatically react to behaviors and ideas – and we too seldom examine whether these systems are working for or against us. Once we have programmed our habitual ways of reacting, we are at the mercy of what we experience – the locus of control shifts from within to without – and we are at risk of continual disruption of our power to act wisely. We do this, mostly unconsciously, as a way of avoiding fear and discomfort – natural things to want to avoid. But in doing so, we often redesign our response system to avoid growth, because nothing new grows from comfort. Comfort is overrated.

“The invitation to accept the diamond of life is not an invitation to safety and comfort. It is an invitation to live life fully and completely, which is never safe and is often uncomfortable…’If I am safe enough, then I can relax.’ I am talking about recognizing that you can relax right now, even though you aren’t completely safe, and you never will be.”

~ Gangaji

Spirituality is not an invitation AWAY from life, it is an invitation TOWARD life. And the fullness of life is messy, glorious, uncomfortable, joyful, terrifying, and challenging. We are designed to adapt upward along the Spiral (LINK) toward greater and greater capacities for living fully in a complex world. There are, of course, times when we need to retreat for a time, to heal or to rest, but such times are the exception, not the norm. Thriving requires alignment of mind, heart, and action toward the greatest possible expression of personal potential. We serve creation by living fully, creatively, and with courage.

I Affirm

My affirming statement regarding this is:

I am free of the need and the capacity to be knocked off balance by the comments or actions of others. I see the need for all kinds of expression by those who are on their own path, or who may be trapped by unconscious biases. I help where I can but take no responsibility for the behaviors of others. My life is an unfolding affirmation of possibility. I do not react with fear, I respond with love. I am comfortable with who I am and willing to be uncomfortable in the fact of what I do not understand. I know that my good is not affected by the limitations of others unless I give them that power. I hold my power within, I continually scan my responses to ensure my consciousness is one of love, power, peace, and compassion.

Make your own version of this and repeat as needed. We who are on a spiritual pathway are called to be part of the ongoing resolution of humanity’s growing pains. We recognize the struggles of birth and know that they are a natural part of our experience. We resist nothing and accept only the good. All is well. Incidents such as Michelle Wolf’s comedy need not do anything other that lead us to take a deeper look within ourselves to see where we can express greater compassion.

Let us use our spiritual communities as places where we affirm all of this for ourselves. Let us put our energies into creating spaces of care, love, compassion – but also courage, strength, and engagement. Let us learn to be examples of how to be in the face of fear, fake news, narcissism, greed, and other examples of human frailties. Let us make a difference for good in some way, every day.

“I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn’t easy. I want to push back and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can.”

~ Kristin Armstrong

As always, your comments are welcome!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard