joseph campbell
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The Hero’s Journey Summary – Joseph Campbell

Scholar Joseph Campbell’s the Hero’s Journey, is a basic pattern found in many cultural defining stories from around the world. This widely distributed story pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

Campbell held that numerous myths from various historical times and cultures share the same fundamental structures and stages. The point being that all through mans story telling and cultures a similar pattern and life lesson is told to instruct the new generation how to live.

In concise terms it starts  with a man or woman who ventures forth from the ordinary common life into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow-man. There are 3 basic steps, the departure, the initiation and finally the return. Many powerful stories such as Star Wars always incorporate the Hero’s Journey into their action narrative.

Why is it important to us today? Simple, The Heroes Journey is a journey we eventually all embark upon to discover who we are, and why we are here. For myself, and for most  it takes a lifetime to complete.

It is a circuitous journey of self discovery, setting sail from our familiar world, the world we were born into, to a strange new world full of action and peril and lessons learned, and finally back to home. But, when we arrive back we are a completely different person than when we departed.

Understanding the Heros Journey is understanding your life. Knowing these 18 steps helps you find your way along your journey to self-actualization and enlightenment. Bon Voyage…and safe trip home !

The 18 steps of the Hero’s Journey

Heroes Journey Diagram
Heroes Journey Diagram


1.The Call to Adventure
this is the launch of your journey. It is the point in your life when you feel it necessary to leave the safety of your dependent world, the world you were born into and feel relatively safe in your current situation.

2.Refusal of the Call
Often the future hero refuses to heed the initial call to change. This may be because of a myriad of reasons, such as  sense of obligation, fear, insecurity, or inadequacy, that hold you to your present life

3.Supernatural Aid
Once you answer the call and set out on your journey a supernatural mentor or guide appears, or becomes known to you to help you on your Journey.

4.The Crossing of the First Threshold
this is the point of action where you cross into the field of adventure, leaving the perceived limits of your ordinary world venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are totally strange and unknown. You are in a new world. Either a new physical external, or new unknown internal world

5.The Belly of the Whale
This part of the journey represents the final separation from your known world and self. It is sometimes described as the Heroes/ Heroines lowest point. It is however the point when the Hero is transitioning between known world and unknown self. The separation has been made, or is being made, between the Heros old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The dramatic experiences that will alter the new world and new self begin with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening, such as a great loss or frightening experience. By entering this stage, the Hero /Heroine demonstrates their willingness to accept and undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself. A spiritual or physical death of Ego or Body.


1.The Road of Trials
On the road of trials the Hero is subjected to a difficult series of tests, tasks, and challenging ordeals. Often the person fails one or more of these often time tests of three challenges. Failure and continued trying is required for the transformation of the Hero/Heroine to occur however.

2.The Meeting with the Goddess
Meeting with the goddess symbolizes the point in the adventure when the Hero experiences a spiritual awakening. It is also the union of opposites, and his/her awakening to the . The Hero/Heroine now experiences himself as a part of the whole of life. This is the final step in the Journey to enlightenment and self-actualization. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman. It could be the reconciling of the male in the female, and female within the male…animus and animus.

3.Woman as the Siren or Temptress this step is about those temptations that lead the hero/Heroine to stray. The Temptress is an Archetype and not actually a female. This step in the journey is more about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent projection of that revulsion to women. Perhaps this explains why men are so violent to women in our world.

4.Atonement with the Father
In this step the Hero must confront and be tested by that which holds the ultimate unconscious power in his life. In many myths and folk stories this is the father figure who has life and death power over the Hero/Heroine.

5.We have now reached the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have brought the Hero/Heroine to this place. All adventure that now occurs moves the Hero out from this center. For the final transformation to take place, the Hero must “Die” so the new self can be “reborn”. The death can be literal or spiritual.

To apotheosize is to “deify”…raise to the level of a god. When someone dies a physical death, or spiritual death she/he rises above belief in the pairs of opposites to a divine knowledge, love, compassion, forgiveness and as Campbell calls it “bliss”. In this awakened state; the Hero now resided in but not of the world. The Hero is in heaven above the fray of the ordinary world.

7.The Ultimate Boon
The ultimate boon is the receiving of Grace or The Gift, and the final achievement of the goal of the adventure. It is what the Hero left the Ordinary World seeking. The Hero sought and won the Holy Grail.


1.Refusal of the Return
Everything has been won. The Boy is now a King, the Woman a Queen. The Hero sees the world in a different light. He or she sees the world…a dream for what it is…a mirage. Why come back?

2.The Magic Flight. Despite his awakening transformation the Hero somehow knows he must come back. The return is as full of peril as was the outward trek.

3.Rescue from Without
Just as the Hero needed mentors and allies on the Journey outward he will need magical and powerful allies to bring him back home safely to the Ordinary World.

4.The Crossing of the Return Threshold
This is a difficult part. The re-entry. The Hero/Heroine must hold onto the enlightenment gained on the quest and carry it back with him and integrate it into his Ordinary World. He has to figure out how to share his enlightenment and new opposite truths about life with the un-enlightened world. How can he convey the Mystery? Why even try? Most in the Ordinary World do not want it.

5.Master of the Two Worlds
In ancient myth, this step is represented by a spiritual hero like Jesus, or Buddha. For me mastering the two worlds is living a balance between physical and spiritual. Between “Being” and “Doing” The balance is to be in both the internal and external world; being and serving.

Learning to live in balance, without fear of death or of life, and no longer needing to please others is the reward of the Journey. One now lives in the moment and is now not alone but is one with all…himself, God, nature, animal and eternity.

I believe that we all eventually travel the Heroes Journey at one point in our life and career. I set out on my journey 7 years ago after surviving a terminal illness. I had to leave the common world I was accustomed to so I could find out why I survived. I had to set out to find the real me, and find my purpose for being here.

It was an exciting journey full of unexpected trials and wonderful discoveries. It fluctuated some years from happiness to despair. But eventually I found my answers and found my way back home with the boon.

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