Crossing the First Threshold of the Hero’s Journey

When we take that first step toward becoming the heroes we are called to be, it is truly one of faith, trusting that the courage which compels us to cross the First Threshold will be maintained throughout the rest of our journey. And though the specters will continue to whisper in our ear, deriding our sense of self worth and seeking to immobilize us with fear, we must trust in the strength that provided the impetus to take our first step.

Truly, that first step is the journey. It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In that step, the hero finds all of the hope, faith, and courage that he will need to complete the journey, provided he can maintain the impetus.

Crossing the First Threshold also opens us up to an all new world of possibilities. When we step out in faith and leave the life that we knew behind, with all of its securities, rules, and safeguards, we introduce ourselves to a new world. This world beyond the threshold of the old, having none of the securities, rules, and safeguards that defined the Ordinary World, offers us untold boundaries, unset limitations, and the freedom to blaze our own trails. When we this first step toward becoming what we are called to be, we step directly into our new being by becoming that which we have never been, a step closer to what we imagine.

The Commitment to the Hero’s Journey

Once we have overcome our initial fears and complacency, we make a Commitment to ourselves and to the powers that be, which directed us to chart this course of victory, to live up to the heights to which we are called. When we hear the call, condemn our stubborn refusal, and cross the first threshold of acceptance in our journey, we make a commitment to write our own mythology and become the hero we have been waiting for.

This is where we live up to Gandhi’s call to be the change we want to see in the world. This is where we live independent of the good opinion of others. This is where we do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. This is the hero’s way.

The Meeting of a Mentor on the Hero’s Journey

There is an old axiom which states that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And so, when the hero is ready, the mentor will appear. In the Hero’s Journey, one of the most significant stages is the Meeting of a Mentor, that sage advisor who acknowledges, supports, and spurs the hero onward. Luke Skywalker had Obi Wan and Yoda. Bilbo and Frodo Baggins had Gandalf. King Arthur had Merlin. The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi.

But a mentor can be more that a wise old man with a flowing white beard. Though the textbook adventure might paint him as such, the mentor can often be found in those we least expect. I’ve talked to many parents whose children have offered them unparalleled wisdom. Sometimes, even the challenge from a would be enemy can spur us on and help us to realize our full potential.

Since ours is not a fixed mythology, we are not thus restrained to the idea of our mentor being a single human being. As a matter of fact, we are not constrained by the need to have our mentor be a human at all. In the book Ishmael, the mentor is a gorilla. For many of us, the mentor may be an ideology. For some, the mentor may be a blade of grass or a grain of sand.

For those that fall under the label of Generation X, finding a mentor may prove to be a difficult task, as their faith in humankind has been mired down in disillusionment. However, with the first step of the hero’s journey, the hero finds the long absent sense of self esteem that allows him to see that spark of bravado in himself, and so more able to see it in others. Once they are able to look up to themselves, they will be able to look up to others.

The mentor gives us a glimpse into what has come before us. He offers us time tested paradigms, practices, and structures that have been developed to aid us in our journey. For the journey in which each hero partakes is often more a carrying of the torch than the cultivation of the fire. Through the mentor, we find that the fire has been burning for quite a long time before we came onto the scene, and the call to carry it has echoed for generations.

Though the meeting of the mentor finds us in good company and gives us a map for our journey provided by those that have gone before us, the mentor also inspires us to go beyond the edge of the map. For the mentor who has reached the true pinnacle of heroism does not desire a protégé that will simply live up to the standard he has set, but one that will surpass it.

Additionally, few of us are given a singular mentor for we are often on multiple journeys without even realizing it. For each role we fill, we are faced with new challenges and have the capacity to act with heroic abandon. In our roles as parents, employees, employers, artists, athletes, statesmen, we are given abounding opportunities to both accept the help of mentors that we meet and to serve as mentors to others who are on their own hero’s journey.

There is another old axiom that states, “Every man is my teacher and every man is my student.” As we go forth on our journeys of excellence, let us be thankful for those who share their wisdom with us, and let us also be open to encourage others on their paths. A big part of being a hero is being a mentor.

Refusal of the Call to the Hero’s Journey

According to Joseph Campbell, a common theme among those who are called to the Hero’s Journey is the Refusal of the Call. When faced with the daunting challenge to step out of his comfort zone, the hero often flinches, doubts, or runs the other way. Both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo did it before going to rescue Princess Leia. Even Jesus toyed with the idea when he asked God if there was any way this cup could be taken from him.

Should we refuse the call, as so many of us are apt to do, as it is indeed a step in the journey of every hero, the call will still go forth. For even if the answer is ‘no’, the call is still there awaiting the hero to become the affirmative he is destined to become. Every hero, when beckoned to rise to his natural stature, must first face the specters of fear, doubt, comfort, and security that beg him to remain in his complacency. It is a natural response to lean on the foundation of self preservation and wait for someone else, surely someone more suitable for the task, to take up the gauntlet and answer the call we try so desperately to avoid. Nevertheless, the call will persist until we come to the realization that if we are not the heroes to our own stories, there will be no one else to rise to the task.

The Hero may find several reasons to refuse the call to adventure. He may bring up familial obligations. He may not think he has what it takes and has intercepted someone else’s call. He may simply be selfish. Or he may be afraid. In all actuality, whatever reason he may cling to, it is usually based in fear. Indeed, whenever one of us shirks from a challenge, it is often fear which motivates us.

Perhaps we are afraid of letting down our loved ones or losing their respect. Perhaps we are afraid that we are unable to succeed so we opt not to even make an attempt. Perhaps we are afraid of losing out on something which is dear to us, to let go of our security blankets. Or perhaps we are afraid of our own success.

Marianne Williamson puts it extremely poignantly in her book A Return to Love when she quotes A Course in Miracles and states, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

For each of us, in whatever adventures we may be called to, no matter how big or small, let us remember that we are never given a problem to face without the means to achieve it. Though we may flinch, or balk, or run the other direction, let us realize that we truly do have the power to face any challenge and accept the success we envision.

The Call to Adventure of the Hero’s Journey

According the Joseph Campbell, the next stage in the Hero’s Journey, after he is established in the Ordinary World, is the Call to Adventure. In each of our lives, when we find ourselves in our own little comfort zones, we often get the opportunity to expand our reach to new endeavors. Be it a new relationship, a new project, or an actual journey, every day we are called to a new adventure. For those who live consciously, every day is an adventure.

In his interview with Bill Moyers on the Power of Myth program, Campbell stated that we needed a new mythology. Although we have multiple myths that are drawn from our legends and folklore, our religions and histories, and even our books, movies, and TV shows, it would seem that the influx of these stories has somewhat diluted the message as it has been spread all around us.

I think that we are at a point where it’s not that we need a new mythology, but we need to bring the mythology inward and realize that we are the heroes that we have been waiting for. Throughout our cultures we have told tales, written stories, and enacted adventures about other beings that have risen to heights of which we can only dream. But we have dreamed them. And the fact that we have created them means that we can attain them. This Hero’s Journey which has encased our consciousness is our story, and on some level, we have created a map to follow in order to become that which we dream of.

This is the new Call to Adventure. Not to necessarily write a new mythology, but to Become the new mythology. As we face this world we live in and the myriad of problems that comprise it, we are called to supply the answers to the very questions we are asking. Though the task before us may be daunting as we look out on a world ravaged by centuries of war, irresponsibility, hatred, and misuse, it is important that we realize that just as there is no up without a down, no right without a left, and no north without south, there is no problem without a solution, and no call without an answer.

In all of our stories and legends and prophecies, there must come a point where they intersect with reality. Our history is an image from our past. Our prophecies are images of our future. But our Lives must take the essence of them and culminate them into the moment of Now.

This is our new Call to Adventure. To become the heroes we have been waiting for.

The Ordinary World of the Hero’s Journey

According to Joseph Campbell, every Hero’s Journey begins in the Ordinary World. This involves the status quo that he faces every day. Luke Skywalker’s dirt farming on Tattooine. Frodo’s unremarkable life in the Shire. Neo’s oblivion to the Matrix. It is the place from whence we all come that compels us to where we must go.

The Ordinary World, though possibly filled with comfort and security, carries with it a banality that we know is not our full potential. We know there is more that we are capable of and we know that there is more that the world has to offer.

What is your Ordinary World? Perhaps you feel as if you are just going through the motions. Perhaps you feel unchallenged by your current profession. Perhaps you feel trapped. Perhaps you just have a deep knowing that there is more to life than you are presently experiencing.

Rest well in the knowledge that this is the first step of your Journey. Next comes the Call to Adventure.

The Hero's Journey

A few years ago, I was introduced to Joseph Campbell through a PBS special titled The Power of Myth, hosted by Bill Moyers. In the program, Campbell discussed ideas from his book A Hero with a Thousand Faces and what he calls “The Hero’s Journey.” It is a series of steps that are seen in almost all mythologies in one form or another that guide the hero toward his goal. Even in modern life, away from the drama of the epic tale, these steps are prevalent in each adventure and endeavor we embark upon.

As Campbell puts it, ” A hero ventures forth from the world of common day 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.”

Campbell stated that this generation needed to establish a new mythology to inspire them to live up to the ideal of the hero of which they are capable. A noted anthropologist and expert on mythological studies, Mr. Campbell taught of a blueprint regarding the Hero’s Journey, a series of stages prevalent in all of the stories that intertwine throughout our various cultures and traditions. Though this melting pot generation may not have a singular mythology to which we can all aspire, the Hero’s Journey affords us a roadmap for weaving our own mythology from the fabric of our very lives.

George Lucas stated that his inspiration for Star Wars was highly influenced by the teachings of Joseph Campbell, and if you are to look at most of the movies ever made, you will be able to pick out the stages that Campbell describes. The McAllister Code is my Hero’s Journey, and it is my hope that it will provide you with a boon to take you to whichever ‘next level’ you are seeking.

There have been a few derivations on these stages as the information has been disseminated, but I think that this is the most complete accounting.

The Ordinary World
The Call to Adventure
The Refusal of the Call
The Meeting of a Mentor
Crossing the First Threshold
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
Approach to the Inmost Cave
The Supreme Ordeal
The Reward for Seizing the Sword
The Resurrection
The Road Back
The Return with the Elixir