I was just reading the book The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson and read this quote: “…any time you identify a wasteland element in your life—illness, boredom, lethargy, alienation, emptiness, loss, addiction, failure, anger or outrage—it is time to take a journey.” I spent some time thinking about journeys this evening and have a few words to share.
If you have read my other blog posts, perhaps you are aware that I am a fan of Joseph Campbell and his work studying myths. Many have analyzed myths to identify specific characters who show up in story after story, playing their appropriate role. Indeed, writers have studied these typical characters and learned how to artfully employ them in their craft.
What psychologists like Carl Jung pointed to are the archetypal energies embodied by these characters. There seems to be some universal force that enlivens the characters that perpetuate themselves from myth to myth. Jung identified archetypal energies within the collective human consciousness and many other psychologists have followed in his footsteps, getting more and more nuanced in their work as our society rapidly evolves. These archetypes morph and change with the collective, and it is interesting to see that Pearson has published three editions to The Hero Within, each with significant updates based on changes in our collective human psyche.
But this brings me back to this collective time of Covid and the beginning of the month of August. It seems, perhaps, that August has a more active energy. It is a time of acting and choice making. Perhaps over these last months we have identified areas of our lives where we have wastelands. I just read an article published by Forbes a couple of days ago that pointed out that people are taking stock in their careers and that the pandemic may in fact bring many career changes as people consciously choose to perform work they find more fulfilling. Wow!
So, if you have identified a wasteland in your life, what to do next? I was contemplating the process of active transformation and the archetype of the hero. The “hero’s journey” is a well-established model for such transformation. I mentioned in a previous post that we really inherit this concept from shamanic culture when a holy person would leave ordinary reality in search of wisdom, have an adventure and then return home, to share their knowledge. This can be seen in the character of Bilbo Baggins, who had taken an adventurous journey outside of the Shire and when he returned he was quite obviously “different” than when he left.
I was thinking a bit about the idea of packing for a journey. What to take with us on such a journey into the unknown lands of transformation? When King Arthur went on a dangerous quest, which Knights did he take and why? I keep coming back to the idea of the round table as it is indicative of our inner community. If we are to have inner peace, inner democracy is a great model. So, what Knights do you have sitting at your round table? Carolyn Myss wrote a book that I recall reading maybe ten years ago called Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. In this work she gives a framework for identifying the “major players” in our inner community—those parts of ourselves that we rely on most often to help us meet the challenges of life.
What just came to me right now is that sometimes Knights die; meaning that those archetypal energies at our round table are periodically refreshed and transformed. Pearson says that “Heroism today requires us all to find the treasure of our true selves and to share that treasure with the community as a whole—through doing and being fully who we are. To the degree that we do so, our kingdoms are transformed.” As the hero evolves, so do those around her/him.
You may know that I have a great love for the BBC television show Merlin. I was just thinking about the episode where Arthur undertakes a quest to retrieve the trident of the Fisher King. There is deep symbolism in the Fisher King myths, though for this post I want to focus on a scene where Arthur meets the sorcerer Grettir guarding a bridge that leads to the “perilous lands,” the wasteland of the Fisher King. Arthur believes that he must complete this quest alone; however, Grettir tells him that he will need magic and strength and that the rules of the land where he is going are quite different to the land that he knows. This is indicative, of course, of the hero entering another realm, another reality, or another frequency of consciousness.
Arthur is somewhat bewildered and crosses the bridge. Arthur has been enchanted and while he shows amazing courage and perseverance, he becomes quite weak and has great difficulties. Meanwhile, we see that Merlin and Gawain have followed Arthur and they meet up with Grettir at the bridge. Grettir says, “aha, Magic is here!” when he sees Merlin. After a short exchange Gawain shows up and Grettir says, “and the trio is complete, here’s Strength!” Merlin and Gawain are (almost) as equally bewildered as Arthur but cross the bridge. They soon meet up with Arthur, who has almost been overcome, and then all three play their parts (Courage, Magic, Strength) in recovering the trident. Arthur returns to Camelot with a great prize for his kingdom.
What this says to me is that while we may go on a hero’s journey, we are never alone. Arthur “thought” he was alone, though alas his allies knew better and supported his righteous quest. (I use the term righteous sparingly due to its association with duality, though here it seems to be right fitting.) While in this case the hero did not plan his company, he was given the aid he needed to be successful because the quest was beneficial to all. The trident was a trinket; however, the larger work was about restoring abundance to the land of the Fisher King. By entering the perilous lands with courage, magic and strength and retrieving something of great value, there was a major healing of the wasteland. This is symbolic of the journeys we take within our psyches to visit those neglected parts of ourselves that also hold great treasures of wisdom and vital energy.
This brings me back to the discussion of the wastelands we may have identified in our own lives and how we go about revitalizing them. To go on a quest, we may want to employ some help from the inner planes of our existence. We have a vast, no infinite, inner community. Knowing our allies and developing allies is of great benefit. If you can bring yourself together into a field of Oneness, this is exceptional. If that is not “where you are” right at the moment, okay! Either way, think about the symbolic “Knights” you require for your quest. Have you been alone for 10 years and want to find an intimate relationship? Would you like to revitalize your relationships within your life or family? Do you want to find work that satisfies your soul? Rather than see what is “wrong” with your situation, think of this as what you can do to enhance your current life experience. This is coming at this quest from an entirely different lens than “fixing” it – you are consciously and responsibly engaged in creation. Amazing! (Note: Pearson also has some nice words around this concept.)
Once you have identified what area(s) you are choosing to revitalize, think about the archetypes that may be helpful to you. If you are calling in a mate, the Lover archetype could be a great ally to work with! If you are into Angels, you may choose to select certain Angels with influence over these areas of life. If you are into nature, you may choose some flowers, crystals or animal totems to join you on your journey. One suggestion is to ask for allies of the middle path (those who are unified and no longer engaged in battles of duality...) Whoever your allies are, consciously ask them to help you revitalize your area of wasteland. Be specific about your quest. Meditate with your “Knights,” – better yet, give this group a name. Frodo had the ‘Fellowship’; what do you want to call your crew? Each time you sit to meditate with them (which is helpful to do semi-regularly), recall your mission statement for your revitalization journey. Greet each energy by name, welcome them, and offer thanks for their help and support. You may choose to engage in some visualizations in your meditations. This is fine, but also remember to spend time just being open, and allowing your allies to speak also.
In your daily life, take small actions that align with your mission. If you desire a new job, submit a resume, call a contact, or look at the job postings on LinkedIn. Ask your crew to help you recognize when to act. What happens is that you will FEEL an energetic shift sometimes, like a slight empowerment or rush of energy. If you don’t feel this, okay! You may just get a knowing. Even if you don’t, just take small steps, one at a time, to ground your actions in the material world so that they align with your intention. Also pay attention to the words you say. If you are looking for a new lover, don’t tell a friend that you think it will never happen! These are aspects of self that may not be as mature and perhaps are not on board with your quest. So, always stay alert to the energy in front of you. I listened to something today about the Warrior archetype. Acute present moment attention was something warriors trained for in eastern traditions. Think of Luke in the original Star Wars training with the blindfold. This is a very “positive” and helpful trait of the Warrior archetype.
This brings us to a point about non-judgement. To complete quests and bring peace to the kingdom, it is essential to lead from a point of non-judgement. I will get a little off topic here and say that to transcend duality we must embrace the whole – exactly as it is. Spiritual development is really all about preparing a soul for the point in time in which they are fully able to embrace All That Is. Why I wanted to mention this is because you may have unexpected allies. For example, do not be so quick to judge your Warrior by thinking that s/he does not know peace. The Warrior has many admirable qualities that may be developed and employed for times of peace. Likewise, there may be aspects of your consciousness that you have previously condemned, only to find that they are your greatest advocates.
One last thing to say is that a journey of conscious transformation of the sort that I have described here is a deeply sacred process. It is one that must be endowed by the Creator (consistent with however you interpret this) to be successful. Confidence and trust in yourself and in your allies is mandatory. If you find yourself losing faith along the way, do not despair. Sometimes there are much greater workings that must take place before we can accomplish what we have set out to do. Persevere with faith and with the support and friendship of your unseen allies and your True Self. Do not lose heart if you become enticed by the enchanting call of a siren and momentarily lose your way. It is all a grand sacred journey fully of deeper meaning. No seeming “side track” is without purpose and benefit.
While I noted Pearson’s book The Hero Within, I also recall reading another work by her called Awakening the Heroes Within wherein she discusses twelve archetypes. I do not immediately recall how this compares to the book by Carolyn Myss, but it may be a nice complement if you are engaged in the work of identifying the players at your round table, and/or discerning who to take with you on a sacred journey.
So much, much love to you and blessings for your success in all that you do with the intent of love. I pray for your efforts to transform the wastelands of your life into succulent gardens of plenty. May you also be granted safe passage through the perilous lands and emerge anew.
With love, Orianna
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