“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.”
In 1949 Joseph Campbell penned the above words in his seminal work ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces.’ In the book Campbell outlines his theory and seeks to prove that many myths from different times and regions share the same fundamental structure and stages.
While the life of Christ has been the subject of some focus in regards to Campbell’s work I want to focus on the individual believer’s life and its similarities to the hero’s quest. This can reveal to us something about the life that Christ has for each of us and about the character of God himself.
Campbell describes 17 stages or steps that make up the hero’s quest. Often the stages are broken into the three subsections of the Departure, Initiation and the Return. To break up what would otherwise be quite a long post I’ll deal with each of these three stages in three successive posts over the next week.
The brief description of each of Campbell’s stages has been taken from Wikipedia
The Call to Adventure
‘The hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.’
A person lives a normal day-to-day life until the gospel is proclaimed in one way or another and God gives the grace to perceive the truth of it. This is the call of God revealed in our lives.
Refusal of the Call
‘Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.’
Often a person may have some resistance to the proclamation of the truth of the gospel because of what it will cost him or her to follow Christ.
‘Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid them later in their quest.’
This is both the assistance of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life and mature Christians who mentor and disciple new believers by helping them to understand the Word of God. We have no talisman or artefact but we have the Sword of Truth, the Shield of Faith, that Breastplate of Righteousness and the Helmet of Salvation (Eph 6)
The Crossing of the First Threshold
‘This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.’
Most simply this is repentance and faith. This stage happens so closely with the ‘Call to adventure’ that they often happen simultaneously. It is the decision to follow Christ no matter what the cost and the persecution that lies ahead. It is an unknown life when we first commit to follow Christ but we commit to see it through to the end.
Belly of The Whale
‘The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.’
For the believer this is Baptism – the public declaration of new faith and a symbol of freedom from bondage and participation with Christ’s death and rebirth.
Next post, ‘The Initiation’, Part 2.