The Hero With a Thousand Faces

The Hero Path

Why (did you call your book) The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

Because there is a certain typical hero sequence of actions which can be detected in stories from all over the world and from many periods of history.  Essentially, it might even be said there is but one archetypal mythic hero whose life has been replicated in many lands by many, many people.  A legendary hero is usually the founder of something – the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life.  In order to found something new, one has to leave the old and go in quest of the seed idea, a germinal idea that will have the potentiality of bringing forth that new thing. 

   The founders of all religions have gone on quests like that.  The Buddha went into solitude and then sat beneath the bo tree, the tree of immortal knowledge, where he receives an illumination that has enlightened all of Asia for twenty-five hundred years.

   After baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the desert for forty days; and it was out of that desert that he came with his message.  Moses went to the top of a mountain and came down with the tables of the law.  Then you have the one who found a new city – almost all the old Greek cities were founded by heroes who went off on quests and had surprising adventures, out of which each then founded a city.  You might also say that the founder of a life – your life or mine, if we live our own lives, instead of imitating everybody else’ life – comes from a quest as well. 

The Hero With a Thousand Faces    'The hero is the man of self-achieved submission ...     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.'

The First Work

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.”  

  ... All the ogres and secret helpers of our nursery are there, all the magic of childhood. 

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.  But this realm, as we know from psychoanalysis, is precisely the infantile unconscious.   

“The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitation to the generally valid, normally human forms."

His second solemn task and deed therefore is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed. 

... only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the "treasure hard to attain."  He alone has a genuine claim to self confidence, for he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby has gained himself.

The first stage – Separation or Departure

1.  “The Call to Adventure,” or the signs of the vocation of the hero

2.  “Refusal of the Call,” or the folly of the flight from the god

3.  “Supernatural Aid,” the unsuspected assistance that comes to one who has undertaken his proper adventure

4.  “The Crossing of the First Threshold”

5.  “The Belly of the Whale,” or the passage into the realm of night

The second stage – The Trials and Victories of Initiation

1.  “The Road of Trials,” or the dangerous aspect of the gods

2.  “The Meeting with the Goddess: (Magna Mater), or the bliss of infancy regained

3.  “Woman as the Temptress,” the realization and agony of Oedipus

4.  “Atonement with the Father”

5.  “Apotheosis”

6.  “The Ultimate Boon”

The third stage – Return

1.  “Refusal of the Return,” or the world denied

2.  “The Magic Flight,” or the escape of Prometheus

3.  “Rescue from Without”

4.  “The Crossing of the Return Threshold,” or the return to the world of common day

5.  “Master of the Two Worlds”

6.  “Freedom to Live,” the nature and function of the ultimate boon

“Whoever embarks upon the personal path becomes to some extent estranged from collective values, but does not thereby lose those aspects of the psyche which are inherently collective.  To atone for this “desertion,” the individual is obliged to create something of worth for the benefit of society.”

Furthermore, 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.   

" The hero is the one who can participate in (life) decently, in the way of nature, not in the way of personal rancor, revenge, or anything of the kind."

The finest of all symbols of the libido is the human figure, coneived as a demon or hero.  Here the symbolism leaves the objective, material realm of astral and meteorological images and takes on human form, changing into a figure who passes from joy to sorrow, from sorrow to joy, and, like the sun, now stands high at the zenith and now is pluged into darkest night, only to rise again in new splendour.  SoT 171

In myths the hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing.  Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the ‘treasure hard to attain.’  He alone has a genuine claim to self-confidence, for he has faced the dark ground of his self and thereby has gained himself.  This experience gives him faith and trust, the pistis in the ability of the self to sustain him, for everything that menaced him from inside he has made his own.  He has acquired the right to believe that he will be able to overcome all future threats by the same means.  He has arrived at an inner certainty which makes him capable of self-reliance, and attained what the alchemists called the unio mentalis. 

In American Indian mythologies, the little heroes who are going to save their mother from the monsters are warned by her not to go north, that’s where danger is.  They can go east, south, or west.  So the boys go north.  The only way to get past the rules of the society is to go north, to break the rules.  You find something that the society knows nothing about and you bring it back, and that serves as a saving, amplifying, force.  TMTT 138

It is not for nothing that our age calls for the redeemer personality, for the one who can emancipate himself from the inescapable grip of the collective and save at least his own soul, who lights a beacon of hope for others, proclaiming that here is at least one man who has succeeded in extricating himself from that fatal identity with the group psyche.   For the group, because of its unconsciousness, has no freedom of choice, and so psychic activity runs on in it like an uncontrolled law of nature.  There is thus set going a chain reaction that comes to a stop only in catastrophe.  The people always long for a hero, a slayer of dragons, when they feel the danger of psychic forces; hence the cry for personality.  TDoP 178

   The Grail hero must achieve his result through character, through the integrity of character, and the clergy plays no role whatsoever.  The Grail is not in a church; it’s in a castle.  The keeper of the Grail is not a king, not a clergyman.  The carrier of the Grail is a woman, the Grail Maiden, and she is accompanied by maidens, and it is required of these maidens that they should be absolutely pure in virtue.  In other words, this is a direct challenge to the Church in the twelfth century, and it was understood to be such, so that when the Inquisition was instituted in the beginning of the thirteenth century, we hear no more of the Arthurian romances for a while.   RG 31

The Supreme Heroic Attitude

The supreme heroic attitude is the continued growth and development of the self throughout life.  This herioc attitude is characterized by each individual's process of individuation, which is lifelong.  Complacency with mere survival represents a cowardly attitude.  Each individual has the key to release the prisoner of childhood, with which so many clients identify.  Individuals can ultimately honour their fathers and mothers specifically by becoming fully mature adults.  When this process takes place, the Self at the center of the circle feels satisfied, and the issues on the circumference of the circle fade in significance as the unconscious continues to awaken more and more.  The continuous development of the unconscious allows one to experience the multifaceted aspects of ordinary life on a deeper and deeper level.  JewishViJP 117

Archetypal Motif/Background

   Now, you see, if you think of an archetypal motif and of an archetypal background, such as appears very often in myths and fairy tales, people get caught in a trap.  They enter a castle and the door shuts behind them, and that always means that now they are in the Self.  Now they have reached that point in their psyche where they can no longer run away from themselves.  Now they are in for it, and the ego, which always flirts with the idea of getting away from what it ought to do, knows that it is caught in the mousetrap and hitherto has to fulfill the requirements of the Self and will not be released before that is accomplished.    AAI 24

  In all fairy tales and mythological patterns one is always released again, in spite of everything, but only after one has done the heroic deed.  Trying to run away is no good, for you cannot escape.  AAI 24

A higher value is placed on the more human hero than on the conventional noble knight, for to be able to doubt oneself, to grope one’s lonely way, step by uncertain step, appears to represent a higher achievement of consciousness than naively to follow collective ideals.  TGL 215

Joseph Campbell