The Hero’s Journey (aka The Monomyth), as outlined by Joseph Campbell
Culture may be described as a product of both logos and mythos, with both modes of interpretation and understanding working in synthesis, or with one as a product of the other. Artists, musicians, poets, philosophers, theologians, political theorists, statesmen and others rely on the tools of logos in order to create their own works of mythos. While some my favour and utilise one to a greater degree than the other, the realm of culture is a playground of both the concrete and the abstract, the rational and the intuitive. The academic study of mythology itself may be best understood as the application of logos to the products of mythos. This is nicely illustrated by the term’s etymology.
A theme of particular prominence and endurance in the mythological canon is that or the hero and his journey. The hero, upon hearing the call to action, typically embarks upon a dangerous journey into the unknown. Often, this journey is a descent. Often, as with Psyche, Horus and Christ, it is a descent to the very bottom of the pit, down to Hades, the Egyptian underworld, to Hell. Christ shares common themes in the unlikely form of Dionysus, who, like Shiva and many other deities, exemplifies the long tradition of the dying-and-rising God of life-death-rebirth. The hero who returns from the underworld expresses a number of eschatological themes, with the cyclical nature of time and existence being one of the most prominent.
“In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythic hero, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time.” – Mircea Eliade
By virtue of being alive, I feel obligated to those who have made my material existence possible in the first place. This sense of obligation and responsibility does not stop short of my immediate family but extends to every sage, warrior, and innovator who have fought to preserve my people and the land I live on.
For those of us fortunate enough to have grown-up with some semblance of parental involvement and guidance, most of what struck us as unfair at the age of six probably make perfect sense to us as reasonably mature adults. We understand that the limitations placed upon us were, for the most part, entirely for our own benefit. Boundaries kept us safe from harm, behavioural expectations ensured that we were fit for society, rules and regulations provided us with a sense of security and stability, and denial made us all the more appreciative of any privileges we did receive. As the years went by, parental authority softened and we were afforded more and more of our little freedoms; freedom to choose, freedom to decide, and freedom to accept this or reject that. Of course, these newly granted liberties turned out to be conditional. ‘With freedom comes responsibility’, as the saying goes. Without self-restraint, self-denial and the ability to self-limit, freedom gives way to chaos, therefore freedom is absolutely out of the question. And so our parents guide, nurture and provide for us as children, while our duty to them is to stand as the fruits of that labour, provide them grandchildren, and to offer them care in their old age. It is through a sense of responsibility and obligation that we ensure that life consistently improves for each successive generation. Families, and by extension, communities, nations and empires are built and sustained through self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence. As soon as the individual is elevated above the community that birthed and sustained him, that community starts to decay.
The Western world’s love of technology is a Faustian bargain. Trapped within the commercial world, the democratic majority tend only to see the sides of technology that bring material pleasure and instant gratification; a trend that is only accelerating into greater social atomisation with individuals adrift in various virtual worlds. Liberal capitalism and socialism have been condensed into an Anglo-American ‘communitarianism’, which sees man reduced to a consumer of commodities. In the process, modernity’s foundational neurotic need for material satiation is reinforced. The status quo reduces the individual’s life aims to profit, excluding any traditional, holistic good. Our good impulses towards caring for the health of the whole are channelled into ineffectual ’causes’, from donations to sustain the sick and impoverished half a world away, to endless campaigns in the never-ending struggle for equality. Man, for all his technics, is an inadequate animal. The notions of progress, evolution and betterment have been a blind alley into the dead-end of herd morality and egalitarian delusions. ‘Science’ is pulled up as a trump card of atheists and other humanistic crusaders, invariably to condemn traditional social standards that maintain a semblance of social order, but never in favour of ‘scientific racism’ or to recognise the myriad biochemical realities which account for the many disparities between the sexes. Indeed, the most damaging aspect of the progressive mind is an inability or unwillingness to recognise when reality conflicts with the popular utopian viewpoint or dream. Beneath this staunch denial is the deeply held belief that truth is subject to change (if not entirely subjective), that man and nature are malleable, and that history has and will continue follow a linear trajectory. To them, mankind is being pulled in exactly the right direction, moving quickly towards the land of milk and honey.