Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is famous in circles of Jungian Psychology and comparative literature. His book helped lay the foundation for understanding the hero's journey motif in almost every good story with a memorable character. I found this cool diagram that gives his theory in a nutshell:
Thousands of years before Campbell and Jung, the Taoists had captured the essence of this journey in their understanding of the Tao. There's no room to go into it here, but suffice it to say that this essence entails embracing the dark and the light, "Meeting the Shadow Self," what Jung called "individuation." In all memorable stories, the main character (the hero) embarks on a journey that seems to eradicate any inkling of dualism (light OR dark, good OR bad, right OR wrong, etc.). By story's end, our hero has become more wholesome, experienced, in-depth, and wiser. And that comes by embracing the dark and the light. So it's no surprise that the Taoist version of the hero's journey is also represented as a circle:
It's interesting that, just as Campbell's circle seems to sink into the darkness through the first and second thresholds and climb into the light through the third and fourth thresholds, the taijitu (yin and yang) swirls into the darkness ("yin") and rises into the light ("yang). There's darkness in the light, and there's light in the darkness.
Soon I'll read for some elementary school kids in the community. I picked the Dr. Seuss classic, I had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. The main character walks this hero's journey almost precisely.
In search of "Solla Sollew, on the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo, where they never have troubles! At least, very few," our hero faces untold, seemingly never-ending troubles. But, after a descent into the deepest abyss of fate, our hero emerges with newfound spirit and a new way to walk in the world.
Well, you've probably guessed by now that Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday, which is this week, focuses on an episode in our hero's journey. This episode is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). We'll approach it from Matthew's perspective. And, as we've learned over the past few weeks, Jesus, for Matthew's author, is the new Moses. It's no surprise, then, that the lectionary calls attention to the story of Moses on the mountain, receiving the law. Moses' mountain experience and Jesus' mountain experience couldn't be more similar. Everything from high mountains, to six day intervals, to overshadowing clouds, to God's word/revelation coming from the cloud indicate that these stories serve as a major mark along the journey for our heroes.
We'll save the rest of the story for Sunday. However, we can begin to see where these hero journeys matter to you and me. What did Moses gain in his journey worth giving to the world? What did Jesus reveal at this leg in his journey worth giving to the world? The boon (reward) the hero brings back home from the journey is a gift to the world. It moves all of humankind, touching the hero within each of us and giving us valuable information for the way we embark on our own hero journey.