The Heroic Journey
Darren Austin Hall, Guest Writer
“We need a great rebirth of the heroic in our world. Every sector of human society, wherever that may be on the planet, seems to be slipping into an unconscious chaos. Only the heroic consciousness, exerting all its might, will be able to stop this slide toward oblivion. Only a massive rebirth of courage in both men and women will rescue the world. Against enormous odds, the Hero picks up his sword and charges into the heart of the abyss, into the mouth of the dragon, into the castle under the power of an evil spell.” —Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette in King, Warrior, Magician, Lover
The kids are not alright. Neither are the adults. It’s endemic, and if you don’t have it, it’s hunting you down, mercilessly—malaise, drudgery, listless purpose, addictions, fragmented identity, boredom. Boredom means the soul, the deepest part of ourselves, is bleeding. We’re not supposed to be bored, and because we live in sedated states (drugged on caffeine, toxins, refined foods, artificial landscapes of media and banal pop culture, and more miasmas of the matrix), we’re not even aware of how revolting, how anathema it is to be bored in a world that is beautiful, majestically intriguing and a wonderland of evolving creativity by its very nature.
As I wrote once, love perishes in the city. It does if no resistance is offered, if we simply give in and acquiesce to the slow downward spiral of livelihood afforded by our cultural propagations: get job, acquire goods, consume, alcohol and tobacco good, expanding and liberating plant medicines restricted, terrorists are constant threat, and, well, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley have done probably the greatest work rendering the dystopian modern world. It’s a quagmire. It’s quicksand, and it’s taking us down. What to do? Our own lives are hard enough to right, but when we consider the world beyond us with its horrendous issues, it’s just too much to bear. We hovel. We get depressed, diligently. We take ‘drugs’ to ‘heal’ but they only steal what bearings we had to navigate a potential natural resiliency and regeneration. We are wasted in and on wasteland…
OK. Enough of that. It’s a cynical view and one that’s only true on ONE dimension of reality. Luckily, there are many dimensions and planes/worlds to choose to live in. For instance, we can exist in a paranoid, conspiratorial world that constantly assures us of victimhood (and the strange morbid fascination with suffering that comes with addiction to shirking self-reliance). We can exist in a fanatically religious world of good and evil absolutism that cleaves us to rigidity and inevitable disastrous psychology, as we attempt to cage the human spirit that inevitably melts every lasso; burns every wall of control. We can also exist in a world that we revere as something sacred; gestating with infinite possibilities of goodness and integral living that transcends divisiveness. A world that we can embrace as co-creators, co-sustainers, and co-players, reveling in the fun of trusting through direct knowing that truth and beauty are at its essence, that, as Rob Brezsny famously considered, “the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings.” It’s up to you. Did you know that? YOU!
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.” —Buddha
However, most of us are not taking the reins. It seems too difficult, too much of a commitment. Or perhaps it’s just sheer ignorance—we had no idea we had the choice to choose what world we live in AND the choice to actually partake in its creation, sustenance and celebration. This is a very different picture of the human animal than what social norms depict, namely being a sedentary citizenry whose only real democratic action is a vote cast every couple years, guided philosophically by ambiguous quotas of nationalism and commercialism which offers terrifying vacuity of intrigue…Oh, we’ve already been over this. On the other hand, we can choose to wake each morn to a whole new self-anointing as hyper-dynamic, multidimensional players in a cosmic game (called Lila in Sanskrit) where we are seated as the heroes of our lives, constantly defying odds, charging days with passion and romanticism that leaps over mere interpersonal connectivity to rub against the blessing of Earth and the nimbus of the sky; capitulate with the moonlight and orgy with the stars. We can even choose to recreate ourselves each day, dance our prayers, dare our truths to hatch and actually befriend death constantly as the ever-vigilant ally daunting time into an ecstatic womb that bemoans we seize each day as our last.
The ancient Gnostics (luminaries of the Pagan or indigenous European culture) went through incredibly complex and harrowing training and initiations, culminating in a once-per-lifetime imbibing of a psychedelic brew called kykeon (made from fermented barley, we’re told) that would melt the last ramparts of their already soul-evaporating ego (or separate sense identity) so that they could have a life-changing experience of communing their consciousness with the great consciousness of the Godhead, which was not some heavenly father skyward but the Earth itself, kissing their very feet, holding them in atmosphere; Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom; the planetary being that the Earth is! We are told by the Gnostics that we actually live within Her soul! And when these neophytes journeyed through such ecstatic excursions they were dubbed telestai—those who are aimed — because from that experience they would gain the deepest understanding of what they are, what life is, without a shade of a doubt. For the rest of their lives they would be driven from the stability of such a foundation toward noble purposes of sharing such wisdom with others, training the young generations to foment as well into wild wisdom, and to revere and be a frequent field of playful respect to the essential dharma or eco-spiritual laws that assured empowered lives of infinite happiness. Just like plants, they were: only when properly rooted in the Earth below can we grow and reach up to the Light of true knowledge.
We’ve come a long way since those Pagan times of indigenous rapport and how much we’ve lost, of course, but with the opportunity of so much to gain. We stand aimless compared to such lofty ideals of our ancient ancestors. Our civilization affords us the vaguest of inner-structuring toward something ennobling for our lives. There’s a maelstrom of ambiguities that only seem to grow in the great ceasepool of disinformation spewed forth from the infected orifices of the corporate mass media.
Our children show the boredom worst. And even worse, we listen to the social mechanisms and drug them to make them more alert, somehow, believing the BS that it’s some internal wronging of chemistry; some cerebral misstep that is somehow affecting the masses. But it’s not that at all. The real reason is why millions upon millions of kids love Harry Potter: they long for a world of magic and to be so learned in a place like Hogwarts that raises wizards not consumers; heroes not cowards and infantilized beings; initiates co-creative magicians suffuse with wonder, not glazed-over, programmed subjects.
Life is meant to be an adventure, something that ceaselessly arrests us into passionate purpose. So it was with the romantic knights of King Arthur’s Round Table: life was a quest of the highest degree whose perpetual tests catalyzed more revealing of the splendours of the human spirit within each of us; rousing us to new strengths, new dimensions of beingness and motivating us to constantly train ourselves to creatively evolve and cherish this emblazoning inner-soul. With the Native Americans it was much the same in their own vision quests and with indigenous initiations the world over: the young were put through profound challenges of mind-body-soul to steward them from the Eden of childish innocence to reckoning with the greater truths of the world we engage with as adults, taking on reins of responsibility to family, culture and the Earth at large. We were initiated into a great mythology or world story that varied in depictions the world over though finding common strands of mythic values, archetypal consolidations and virtuous aims (Joseph Campbell’s works are great expositions of the grand synthesis of world mythologies). Myths were not mere stories but prime movers for the being. They threw us into a great stream of purpose, heroism and duty to which our life was owed but not by thrusting us by the barrel of a gun or the levy of financial doldrums as inspiration but the truth-beauty of heroic elders and ancestors and the magical mysteries of the grand life journeys of romantic partnership, death, familial generation and all the wealth of experiences, codified as educational stages for the soul to grow and evolve to ever-newer and robust heights of loving power.
As many of our great contemporary mythological explorers such as Campbell and John Lamb Lash have alluded, what our civilizations are starving for more are new stories to rouse us into heroic life. For what our modern commercial cultures afford are anorexic elixirs at best, vacuous stories of corrupt politicians and malevolent industrialisms, and the nightmare of materialism that has terrorized any talk of world soul. This is a pioneering we can and must take on. It is nothing short of enchantment of a disenchanted world. And we need not have to plume the depths of history to tousle ourselves to mythological relics from the past persay. We are, in fact, right in the midst of one of the grandest adventures possible and to situate oneself in the present context as someone participating actively in what is nothing short of myriad revolutions toward alignment and harmony on our planet. We are rectifying the detrimental passage of our civilization from a wayward path that some have traced back to the Dark Ages and beyond. As a species, we have never been more connected and aware of ourselves and the cosmos.
This is no easy journey, and we would wish for nothing less. The heroic personality faces all adversity as the buffalo do whenever a storm washes furiously over the land: they turn directly towards it and face it in all its fury. When we choose to hunt what has been hunting us all along, namely our apparent imperfections and weaknesses, our shadowy selves that hide from the glory of our potential shining, and all the cunning doubts that would question our every motive to rise above. Popular culture is wickedly a culture of mediocrity: we are made passive before the pantheon of so-called celebrities and worldly leaders, and further belittled by our impotent democratic rights that seem to be endangered progressively by neo-conservatist government policy. When we choose to turn every fear upside down the instant it appears, tickling them to truth with an indomitable love that says it will leave no part of our personality in sickening schism, we begin to hoist ourselves into a luminous centering. We gain strength as fears show themselves as the great revealers of our natural power that we’d forgotten or were never taught about.
Each day is a microcosm of the story of our lives. What rhythms do we set in place that deny our heroism? Where can we take a stand TODAY as if this were the last day of our lives? What are we telling ourselves in our inner world about ourselves in constancy? Are we alive in purpose? Are we loving ourselves, not with callow narcissism, but with a sturdy, resilient belief in our power to ever-rise from our inevitable failures; a love that knows the best of what we are and is in perpetual honouring of that authenticity by continually turning us toward it? Are we ready to do away with readiness about being heroes and realize that heroism is our natural disposition as amazing conduits of creatively evolving life? Today is page one of your creative mythology, your heroic story and your time to take part in the great, grand cosmic adventure. Write long, freely, messily, clumsily, fervently, and relentlessly, with all the bastion of your being; all its pain, all its beauty, trysting into wisdom. We are what we’ve been searching for. The only question now is what is there to be done when the seeking is over?
“At this critical time, we are called into action to preserve our environment after modern industry’s catastrophic impact. Habitat collapse and extinction caused by our willful, greedy, consumptive species is out of control and on a suicidal course. The human unconscious shares tremendous grief and guilt over this destruction, leading to an epidemic of depression medicated with legal and illegal drugs. Humankind must acknowledge its errors, actively grieve and beg forgiveness from Mother Earth. Loving our planet, we realize the miracle of the interdependent Net of Beings, from the tiniest microorganisms to giant whales singing in the deep. Conscious of Worldspirit, we hear the cry of nature and compassionately, wisely, and creatively act to awaken one another to heal what remains of God’s gift to us.” –Alex Grey from Net of Being
About the Author
Darren Austin Hall is a healer, writer, and the author of Inner Traditions Healing.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.
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