The Hero with a Thousand Faces

July 11, 2016

 

Part I  -  THE ADVENTURE OF THE HERO

Chapter I : Departure

1.  The Call to Adventure

2.  Refusal of the Call

3.  Supernatural Aid

4.  The Crossing of the First Threshold

5.  The belly of the Whale

 

Chapter II : Initiation

1.  The Road of Trials

2.  The Meeting with the Goddess

3.  Woman as the Temptress

4.  Atonement with the Father

5.  Apotheosis

6.  The Ultimate Boon

 

Chapter III : Return

1.  Refusal of the Return

2.  the Magic Flight

3.  Rescuer from Without

4.  The Crossing of the Return Threshold

5.  Master of the Two Worlds

6.  Freedom to Live

 

Chapter IV : The Keys

 

PART  II  -  THE COSMOGONIC CYCLE

Chapter I : Emanations

1.  From Psychology to Metaphysics

2.  The Universal Round

3.  Out of the Void --- Space

4.  Within Space --- Life

5.  The breaking of the One into the Manifold

6.  Fold Stories of Creation

 

Chapter II : The Virgin Birth

1.  Mother Universe

2.  Matrix of Destiny

3.  Womb of Redemption

4.  Fold Stories of Virgin Motherhood

 

Chapter III : Transformation of the Hero

1.  The Primordial Hero and the Human

2.  Childhood of the Human Hero

3.  The Hero as Warrior

4.  The Hero as Lover

5.  The Hero as Emperor and as Tyrant

6.  The Hero as World Redeemer

7.  The Hero as Saint

8.  Departure of the Hero

 

Chapter IV : Dissolutions

1.  End of the Microcosm

2.  End of the Macrocosm

 

Epilogue : Myth and Society

1.  The Shapeshifter

2.  The Function of Myth, Cult, and Meditation

3.  The Hero Today 

 

Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood he became interested in mythology. He loved to read books about American Indian cultures, and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum's collection of totem poles.

 

Campbell was educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature, and continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich. While abroad he was influenced by the art of Pablo Picassoand Henri Matisse, the novels of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, and the psychological studies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. These encounters led to Campbell's theory that all myths and epics are linked in the human psyche, and that they are cultural manifestations of the universal need to explain social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.

After a period in California, where he encountered John Steinbeck and the biologist Ed Ricketts, he taught at the Canterbury School, and then, in 1934, joined the literature department at Sarah Lawrence College, a post he retained for many years.

 

During the 40s and '50s, he helped Swami Nikhilananda to translate the Upanishads and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. He also edited works by the German scholar Heinrich Zimmer on Indian art, myths, and philosophy. In 1944, with Henry Morton Robinson, Campbell published A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake.

 

His first original work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, came out in 1949 and was immediately well received; in time, it became acclaimed as a classic. In this study of the "myth of the hero," Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book he also outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero's journey.

Throughout his life, he traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, authoring many books, including the four-volume series: 

The Masks of God,

Myths to Live By,

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, and

The Historical Atlas of World Mythology.

 

Joseph Campbell died in 1987. In 1988, a series of television interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, introduced Campbell's views to millions of people.  For more on Joseph Campbell and his work, visit the web site of Joseph Campbell Foundation at JCF.org.

Myth and Dream

The story is told, for example, of the great Minos, king of the island empire of Crete in the period of its commercial supremacy: mhos he hired the celebrated artist-craftsman Daedalus to invent and construct for him a labyrinth, in which to hide something of which the palace was at once ashamed and afraid.  For there was a monster on the premises --- which had been born to Pasiphae, the queen.  

 

Minos, the king, had been busy, it is said, with important wars to protect the trade routes; and meanwhile Pasiphae had been seduced by a magnificent, snow white sea born bull.  

 

It had been nothing worse, really, than what Minos' own mother had allowed to happen: Minos' mother was Europa, and it is well known that she was carried by a bull to Crete.  the bull had been the god Zeus, and the honored son of the sacred union was Minos himself --- now everywhere respected and gladly served.  how then could Pasiphae have known that the fruit of her own indiscretion would be a monster: this little son with human body but the had and tail of a bull?

 

Society has blamed the queen greatly; but the king was not unconscious of his own share of guilt. The bull in question had been sent by the god Poseidon, long ago, when Minos was contending with his brothers for the throne.  Minos had asserted that the throne was his, by divine right, and had prayed the god to send up a bull out of the sea, as a sign; and he had sealed the prayer with a vow to sacrifice the animal immediately, as an offering and symbol of service.

 

The bull had appeared, and Minos took the throne; but when he beheld the majesty of the beast that had been sent and thought what an advantage it would be to possess such a specimen, he determined to risk a merchant's substitution --- if which he supposed the god would take no great account.  Offering on Poseidon's altar the finest white bull that he owned, he added the other to his herd.  

 

The Cretan empire had greatly prospered under the sensible jurisdiction of this celebrated lawgiver and model of public virtue.  Knossos, the capital city, became the luxurious, elegant center of the leading commercial power of the civilized world.  The Cretan fleets went out to every isle and harbor of the Mediterranean; Cretan ware was prized in Babylonia and Egypt.  The bold little ships even broke through the Gates of hercules to the open ocean, coasting then northward to take the gold Ireland and the tin of Cornwall, as well as southward, around the burg of Senegal, to remote Yorubaland and the distant marts of ivory, gold, and slaves.

 

But at home, the queen had been inspired by Poseidon with an ungovernable passion for the bull.  And she had prevailed upon her husband's artist-craftsman, the peerless Daedalus, to frame for her a wooden cow that would deceive the bull --- into which she eagerly entered; and the bull was deceived.  She bore here monster, which, in due time, began to become a danger.  And so deadfalls again was summoned, this time by the king, to construct a tremendous labyrinthine enclosure, which blind passages, in which to hide the thing away.  

 

Therein the Minotaur was settled; and he was fed, thereafter, on groups of living outs and maidens, carried as tribute from the conquered nations within the cretan domain.

 

Thus according to the ancient legend, the primary fault was not the queen's but the king's; and he could not really blame her, for he knew what he had done.  

 

He had converted a public event to personal gain, whereas the whole sense of his investiture as king had been that he was no longer a mere private person.  The return of the bull should have symbolized his absolutely selfless submission to the functions of his role.  The retaining of it represented, on the other hand, an impulse to egocentric self-aggrandizement.  And so the king "by the grace of God" became the dangerous tyrant Holdfast --- out for himself: Just as the traditional rites of passage used to teach the individual to die to the past and the reborn to the future, so the great ceremonials of investiture divested him of his private character and clothed him in the mantle of his vocation.  Such was the ideal, wether the man was a craftsman or a king.  By the sacrilege of the refusal of the rite, however, the individual cut himself as a unit off from the larger unit of the whole community: and so the One was broken into the many, and these then battled each other --- each out for himself --- and could be governed only by force.

 

The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to the mythologies, folk traditions, legends, and even nightmares of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same.  He is the hoarder of the general benefit.  He is the monsteramid for the greedy rights of "my and mine."  The havoc wrought by him is described in mythology and fairy tale as bing universal throughout his domain.

 

This may be no more than his household, his own tortured psyche, or the lives that he blights with the touch of his friendship and assistance; or it may amour to the extent of his civilization.  The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world --- no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper.  

 

Self-terrorized, fear-haunted, alert at every hand to meet and battle back the anticipated aggressions of his environment, which are primarily the reflections of the uncontrollable impulses to acquisition within himself, the giant of self-achieved independence is the world's messenger of disaster, even though, in his mind, he may entertain himself with humane intentions.  Wherever he sets his had there is a cry: a cry for the redeeming hero.

 

The hero is the man of self-achieved submission. But submission to what?  That precisely is the rifle that today we have to ask ourselves and that it is everywhere the primary virtue and historic deed of the hero to have solved.  Only birth can conquer death --- the birth, not the old thing again, but of something new.  Within the soul, within the body social, there must be --- if we are to experience long survival --- a continuous "recurrence of birth" to nullify the unremitting recurrences of death.  For it is by means of our own victories, if we are not regenerated, that the work of Nemesis is wrought: doom breaks from the shell of our very virtue.  Peace then is a snare; war is a snare; change is a snare; permanence a snare.  When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified --- and resurrected; dismembered totally, and then reborn.

 

Thesus, the hero-slayer of the Minotaur, entered Crete from without, as the symbol and arm of the rising civilization of the Greeks.  That was the new and living thing.  But it is possible also for the principle of regeneration to be sought and found within the very walls of the tyrant's empire itself.

 

The terms "detachment" and "transfiguration" may be used to describe the crisis by which the higher spiritual dimension is attained that makes possible the resumption of the work of creation.  The first step, detachment or withdrawal, consists in a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world, a retreat from the desperations of the waste land to the peace of the everlasting realm that is within.  But this realm is precisely the infantile unconscious.  It is the realm that we enter in sleep.  We carry it within ourselves forever.  

 

All the ogres and secret helpers of our nursery are there, all the magic of childhood.  And more important, all the life-potentialities that we never managed to bring to adult realization, those other portions of ourself, are there; for such golden seeds do not die. If only a portion o that lost totality could be dredged up into the light of day, we should experience a marvelous expansion of our powers, a vivid renewal of life. 

 

In a word: the first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effectsto those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate then in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture ) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what C. G. Jung had called "the archetypal images."  This is process known to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy as viveka, "discrimination."

 

The archetypes to be discovered and assimilated are precisely those that have inspired, throughout the annals of human culture, the basic images of ritual, mythology, and vision.  These "Eternal Ones of the Dream" are not to be confused with the personally modified symbolic figures that appear in nightmare and madness to the still tormented individual.  

 

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream' both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche.  But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in nth the problems and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.

 

The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms.  Such a one's visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought.  Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn.  The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man --- perfected, unspecific, universal man --- he has been reborn.  His second solemn task and deed therefore is to return them to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.

 

The dreamer is a distinguished operatic artist, and, like all who have elected to follow, not the safely marked general highway of the day, but the adventure of the special, dimly audible call that comes to those whose ears are open within as well as without, she has had to make her way alone, through difficulties not commonly encountered, "through slummy, muddy streets"; she has known the dark night of the soul.

 

It is remarkable that in this dream the basic outline of the universal mythological formula of the adventure of the hero is reproduced, to the detail.  These deeply significant motifs of the perils, obstacles, and goof fortunes of the way, we shall find inflected through the following pages in a hundred forms.  The crossing first of the open sewer, then of the perfectly clear river flowing over grass, the appearance of the willing helper at the critical moment, and the high, firm ground beyond the final stream (the Earthly Paradise, the Land over Jordan): these are the everlastingly recurrent themes of the wonderful song of the soul's high adventure.  And each who has dared to harken to and follow the secret call has known the perils of the dangerous, solitary transit.

 

The dreamer is assisted across the water by the gift of a small wooden box, which takes the place, in this dream, of the more usual skiff or bridge. This is a symbol of her own special talent and virtue, by which she has been ferried across the waters of the world.  The dreamer has supplied us with no account of her associations, so that we do not know what special contents the box should have revealed; but it is certainly a variety of Pandora's box --- that divine gift of the gods to beautiful woman, filled with the seeds of all the trouble and blessings of existence, but also provided with the sustaining virtue, hope.  By this, the dreamer crosses to the other shore.  And by a like miracle, so will each whose work is the difficult, dangerous task of self-discovery and self-development be ported across the ocean of life.

 

The multitude of men and women choose the less adventurous way of the comparatively unconscious civic and tribal routines.  But these seekers, too, are saved --- by virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rise of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to mankind of old by the redeemers and handled down through millennia.  It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight truly is desperate; that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart. 

 

Alas, where is the guide, that fond virgin, Ariadne, to supply the simple clue that will give us courage to face the Minotaur, and the means then to find our way to freedom when the monster has been met and slain? 

 

Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell in love with the handsome Theseus the moment she saw him disembark from the oat that had brought the pitiful group of Athenian youths and maidens for the Minotaur.  She found a way to talk with him, and declared that she would supply a means to help him back out the labyrinth if he would promise to take her away from Crete with him and maker her his wife.  

 

The pledge was given. Ariadne turned for help, then, to the crafty Daedalus, by whose art the labyrinth had been constructed and Ariadne's mother enabled to give birth to its inhabitant. Daedalus simply presented her with a skein of linen thread, which the visiting hero might fix to the entrance and unwind as he went into the maze.  It is, indeed, very little that we need!  But lacking that, the adventure into the labyrinth is without hope.

 

The little is close at hand.  Most curiously, the very scents who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of the labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom.  But the hero-heart must be at hand.  For centuries Daedalus has represented the type of the artist-scientis: the curiously disinterested, almost diabolic human phenomenon, beyond the normal bounds of social judgement, dedicated to the morals not of his time but of his art.  

 

He is the hero of the way of thought --- single hearted, courageous, and full of faith that the truth, as he finds it, shall make us free.

 

And so new we may turn to him, as did Ariadne.  The flax for the linen of his thread he has gathered from the fields of the human imagination.  Centuries of husbandry, decades of diligent culling, the work of numerous hearts and hands, have gone into the hackling, sorting, and spinning of this tightly twisted yarn.  Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.

 

 

And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

 

Tragedy and Comedy

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  With these fateful words, Count Loe Tolstoy opened the novel of the spiritual dismemberment of his modern heroine, Anna Karenina.  

 

During the seven decades that have elapsed since that distracted wife, mother, and blindly impassioned mistress threw herself beneath the wheels of the train --- thus terminating, with a gesture symbolic of what already had happened to her soul, her tragedy of disorientation --- a tumultuous and unremitting dithyramb of romances, news reports, and unrecorded cries of anguish has been going up to the honor of the bull-demon of the labyrinth: the wrathful, destructive, maddening aspect of the same god who, when benign, is the vivifying principle of the world.

 

Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time.  The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.

 

"Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it which the human sufferer.  Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it which the secret cause."  As Bilbert Murray has pointed out in his preface to Ingram Bywater's translation of the Poetics of Aristotle, tragic katharsis (i.e., the "purification" or "purgation" of the emotions of tragedy through his experience of pity and terror) corresponds to an earlier ritual katharsis ("a purification of the community from the taints and poisons of the past year, the old contagion of sin and death"), which was the function of the festival and mystery play of the dismembered bull-god, Dionysos.

 

The mediating mind is united, in the mystery play, not with the body that is shown to die, but with the principle of continuous life that for a time inhabited it, and for that time the reality clothed in the apparition (at once the suffer and the secret cause), the substratum into which our selves dissolve when that breaks man's face" has split, shattered, and dissolved our mortal frame.

 

This death to the logic and the emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, and shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kid of our own annihilation, this amor fati, "love of fat," love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art: therein the joy of it, the redeeming ecstasy:

 

Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figurations that abound before us, around us, and within.  Where the natural impulse to complain against the holocaust has been suppressed --- to cry out blame, or to announce panaceas --- the magnitude of an art of tragedy more potent (for us) than the Greek finds realization: the realistic, intimate and variously interesting tragedy of democracy, where the god is beheld crucified in the catastrophes not of the great houses only but of every common home, every scourged and lacerated face.  And there is no make-believe about heaven, future bliss, and compensation to alleviate the bitter majesty, but only utter darkness, the void of unfulfillment, to receive and eat back the lives that have been tossed forth from the womb only to fail.

 

In comparison with all this, our little stories of achievement seem pitiful; too well we know what bitterness of failure, loss, disillusionment, and ironic unfulfillment galls the blood of even the envied of the world!  Hence we are not disposed to assign to comedy the high rank of tragedy.  Comedy as satire is acceptable, as fun it is a pleasant haven to escape, but the fairy tale of happiness ever after cannot be taken seriously; it belongs to the never-never land of childhood, which is protected from the realities that will become terribly known soon enough; just as the myth of heaven ever after is for the old, whose lives are behind them and whose hearts have to be readied for the last portal of the transit into night --- which sober, modern Occidental judgment is founded on a total misunderstanding of the realities depicted in the fairy tale, the myth and the divine comedies of redemption  These, in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete.

 

The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.  The objective world remains what it was, but because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed.  Where formerly life and death contended, now enduring being is made manifest --- as indifferent to the accidents of time as water boiling in a pot is to the destiny of a bubble, or as the cosmos to the appearance and disappearance of a galaxy of stars.  

 

Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.  Thus the two are the terms of a single mythological theme and experience which includes them both and which they bound: the down-going and the up-coming (katharsis = purgatorio) of the contagion of sin (disobedience to the divine will) and death (identification with the mortal form).

 

"All things are changing; nothing dies.  The spirit wanders, comes now here, now there, and occupies whatever frame it pleases....For that which once existed is no more, and that which was not has come to be; and so the whole round of motion is gone through again."  "Only the bodies of which this eternal, imperishable, incomprehensible Self is the indweller, are said to have an end."  

 

It is the business of mythology proper, and of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific dangers and techniques of the dark interior way from tragedy to comedy.  Hence the incidents are fantastic and "unreal": they represent psychological, not physical, triumphs.  Even when the legend is of an actual historical personage, the deeds of victory are rendered, not in lifelike, but in dreamlike figurations; for the point is not that such-and-such was done on earth, this other, more important, primary thing had to be brought to pass within the labyrinth that we all know and visit in our dreams.

 

The passage of the mythological hero may be over-ground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward --- into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world.  This deed accomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing, all-sustaining love, and a knowledge of its own unconquered power.  

 

Something of the light that blazes invisible within the abysses of its normally opaque materiality breaks forth, with an increasing uproar.  The dreadful mutilations are then seen as shadows, only, of an immanent, imperishable eternity; time yields to glory; and the world sings with the prodigious, angelic, but perhaps finally monotonous, siren music of the spheres. Like happy families, the myths and the worlds redeemed are all alike.

 

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  With these fateful words, Count Loe Tolstoy opened the novel of the spiritual dismemberment of his modern heroine, Anna Karenina.  

 

During the seven decades that have elapsed since that distracted wife, mother, and blindly impassioned mistress threw herself beneath the wheels of the train --- thus terminating, with a gesture symbolic of what already had happened to her soul, her tragedy of disorientation --- a tumultuous and unremitting dithyramb of romances, news reports, and unrecorded cries of anguish has been going up to the honor of the bull-demon of the labyrinth: the wrathful, destructive, maddening aspect of the same god who, when benign, is the vivifying principle of the world.

 

Modern romance, like Greek tragedy, celebrates the mystery of dismemberment, which is life in time.  The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending: death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms that we have loved.

 

"Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it which the human sufferer.  Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant in human sufferings and unites it which the secret cause."  As Bilbert Murray has pointed out in his preface to Ingram Bywater's translation of the Poetics of Aristotle, tragic katharsis (i.e., the "purification" or "purgation" of the emotions of tragedy through his experience of pity and terror) corresponds to an earlier ritual katharsis ("a purification of the community from the taints and poisons of the past year, the old contagion of sin and death"), which was the function of the festival and mystery play of the dismembered bull-god, Dionysos.

 

The mediating mind is united, in the mystery play, not with the body that is shown to die, but with the principle of continuous life that for a time inhabited it, and for that time the reality clothed in the apparition (at once the suffer and the secret cause), the substratum into which our selves dissolve when that breaks man's face" has split, shattered, and dissolved our mortal frame.

 

This death to the logic and the emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, and shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kid of our own annihilation, this amor fati, "love of fat," love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art: therein the joy of it, the redeeming ecstasy:

 

Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figurations that abound before us, around us, and within.  Where the natural impulse to complain against the holocaust has been suppressed --- to cry out blame, or to announce panaceas --- the magnitude of an art of tragedy more potent (for us) than the Greek finds realization: the realistic, intimate and variously interesting tragedy of democracy, where the god is beheld crucified in the catastrophes not of the great houses only but of every common home, every scourged and lacerated face.  And there is no make-believe about heaven, future bliss, and compensation to alleviate the bitter majesty, but only utter darkness, the void of unfulfillment, to receive and eat back the lives that have been tossed forth from the womb only to fail.

 

In comparison with all this, our little stories of achievement seem pitiful; too well we know what bitterness of failure, loss, disillusionment, and ironic unfulfillment galls the blood of even the envied of the world!  Hence we are not disposed to assign to comedy the high rank of tragedy.  Comedy as satire is acceptable, as fun it is a pleasant haven to escape, but the fairy tale of happiness ever after cannot be taken seriously; it belongs to the never-never land of childhood, which is protected from the realities that will become terribly known soon enough; just as the myth of heaven ever after is for the old, whose lives are behind them and whose hearts have to be readied for the last portal of the transit into night --- which sober, modern Occidental judgment is founded on a total misunderstanding of the realities depicted in the fairy tale, the myth and the divine comedies of redemption  These, in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete.

 

The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.  The objective world remains what it was, but because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed.  Where formerly life and death contended, now enduring being is made manifest --- as indifferent to the accidents of time as water boiling in a pot is to the destiny of a bubble, or as the cosmos to the appearance and disappearance of a galaxy of stars.  

 

ragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.  Thus the two are the terms of a single mythological theme and experience which includes them both and which they bound: the down-going and the up-coming (katharsis = purgatorio) of the contagion of sin (disobedience to the divine will) and death (identification with the mortal form).

 

"All things are changing; nothing dies.  The spirit wanders, comes now here, now there, and occupies whatever frame it pleases....For that which once existed is no more, and that which was not has come to be; and so the whole round of motion is gone through again."  "Only the bodies of which this eternal, imperishable, incomprehensible Self is the indweller, are said to have an end."  

 

It is the business of mythology proper, and of the fairy tale, to reveal the specific dangers and techniques of the dark interior way from tragedy to comedy.  Hence the incidents are fantastic and "unreal": they represent psychological, not physical, triumphs.  Even when the legend is of an actual historical personage, the deeds of victory are rendered, not in lifelike, but in dreamlike figurations; for the point is not that such-and-such was done on earth, this other, more important, primary thing had to be brought to pass within the labyrinth that we all know and visit in our dreams.

 

 

The passage of the mythological hero may be over-ground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward --- into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world.  This deed accomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing, all-sustaining love, and a knowledge of its own unconquered power.  

 

Something of the light that blazes invisible within the abysses of its normally opaque materiality breaks forth, with an increasing uproar.  The dreadful mutilations are then seen as shadows, only, of an immanent, imperishable eternity; time yields to glory; and the world sings with the prodigious, angelic, but perhaps finally monotonous, siren music of the spheres. Like happy families, the myths and the worlds redeemed are all alike.

 

PROLOGUE

The Monomyth

2. Tragedy and Comedy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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