The professional. A role as old as Adam.
The professional used to be someone who had a trade – a craftsman, farmer, healer, soldier. The new professional is one who follows a vocation – literally a calling.
And by following this calling, the call of the gods, we step into the shoes of the hero. We travel the mythological hero’s journey.
The hero is the intersection of three fundamental professional archetypes – the seeker, the merchant and the artist, as I wrote about in part 1.
The seeker seeks the truth and shows us the way. Their mapping of reality gives us a path through the struggle. Their unquenchable thirst for deeper understanding keeps us curious, humble, and constantly learning.
The merchant is a tradesman of the good. Whether it is material goods, political good or spiritual good, the merchant knows that by trading what they have to those who want it, the world is made better.
The artist creates beauty. Their compulsion is to make something from nothing – the mysterious process that even the artist himself does not understand. By doing so they create things that touch us and change us.
The hero is a different order of archetype. The hero is all about the journey, not the character. The journey that the hero embarks upon is defined by the process, not the content.
The hero walks the eternal quest, constantly working to unwind the code that lies deep within his soul, and to realize the vision that he is called to create.
The hero is the one who hears the call to adventure, to transformation, and through doubt and resistance finds the courage to say yes.
This great transformation changes you, and so as you complete the cycle, and return home, you return changed, and the world with it. You return to the marketplace, complete with a new consciousness, and new hands, with which you help those who need you.
“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. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to centre of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with the whole world.”
– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Tension fuels transformation
It is the creative tension that exists between the outer three types – the merchant, the seeker, and the artist – that drives the hero.
It is the contradiction or paradox between the outer trinity that demands conversation. The heroic journey is in part, the quest to integrate these languages, these aspects inside you.
How can I make money (merchant) from my creative expression (artist)? How do I bring the truth that I understand (seeker) into the marketplace (merchant)?
The hero is not simply the overlap of the three types of the trinity. It is the transcendent principle, held in tension by the first three.
The point is to mine that tension, for it is the fuel that propels the hero on his journey.
The Hero Cycle
Phase I – Disintegration
No one knows how long ‘normal’ lasts. But if you pay attention, you’ll begin to notice that sooner or later, what once felt right, now feels wrong. What once worked, is starting to suck. Something is out of whack.
This is not a fault in the execution of your life, or a fundamental flaw in who you are.
No. This is simply the wheel of transformation starting to turn. God is beginning to crank on your lever, turning you toward a fuller, more beautiful version of yourself. Can you feel it? This is the call to adventure – the whisper in your ear.
You are so much more than you dare believe.
You have a choice. Will you listen? You cannot turn off the whisper, but you can refuse its council.
You can numb the pain of your dissatisfaction. You can eat burgers. You can binge on Game of Thrones. You can bury your head in the sand and simply refuse to look God in the eye.
It is your right. But the consequence is an ever deeper journey into the cycle of phase one, into disintegration.
If you refuse long enough your life will literally fall apart.
Some choose to let themselves fall apart, and die. They live out increasingly empty and meaningless lives. They die from drugs or illness. They literally kill themselves.
This is God’s way of forcing you to choose. Life or death?
Will you choose life? Will you look into the light and see the image of who you are asked to become?
The hero is the one who answers that call.
When you surrender to this divine will, when you seize your own sovereignty and choose the path before you, you commit to something with untold power and consequence.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
– William Murray, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition
You say “yes”. You consent to the journey you have been asked to make. You step into the unknown, knowing it’s something you must do. And by doing so, you cross the first threshold.
Phase II – Initiation
The path extends before you. You are in esteemed company. Every great hero has passed this way.
“Do you think that you shall enter the garden of bliss without such trials as came to those who passed before you”
– The Quran, verse 2:214
Turn to your mentors. Turn to those inside you – the harmony of your highest potential, who you are at your most essential. Turn to those around you – your friends and advisers, the ones you trust most deeply. Read again the great minds that nourish you and show you what you don’t yet understand.
For you are on a journey that has already passed beyond the edges of your known reality. And as you consent to its invitation, you are drawn into the most challenging of new experiences.
You will be stretched beyond your edge. You will be hurt. You will feel strife and suffering. But it is not the suffering of unmet commitment in the first phase, it is the existential kicking that you will receive at the boots of the unknown.
Can you meet it? Can you rise up and face it with courage and conviction?
These are the trials. Their purpose is not to ultimately break you, but to stress the muscle of your being, so you can be built anew.
You will be tested for exactly as long as you need, in order to be ready for the great battle in the dark. Your initiation climaxes with the facing of your greatest fear – the great dragon at the heart of your being.
You are both the hero, and the foe. It is not an exorcism of your demon, it is an alchemical meeting. Can the light in you meet its equal and opposite darkness?
This is the culmination of all your initiatory challenge. The great showdown. The hero is the one whose leg shakes as he stands up tall, and looks the demon in the eye.
You will be slain. Some great rock that your identity has rested on will be obliterated. Something or someone dear to you will die. Something that clouded your eyes from the truth will be ruthlessly ripped away.
When you die, you cross the second threshold.
Phase III – Transformation
You have emerged from the dark underworld. But while you have faced down the great darkness and survived, your quest is far from over.
For now, you must come to terms with who you have become, who you are becoming. You do not understand yourself, you have new eyes, new capacities, but they are foreign. The world has changed, because you have changed.
Who are you now?
You have been gifted a great blessing – your prize for meeting the dragon and being changed in the alchemical meeting of light and dark. But what do you now do with this great boon?
If you were the protagonist in a movie, you would receive a great magical sword, or the secret to a great power. In your journey, the boon is one of deep and profound realization.
You are rewarded with the greater consciousness and greater power of one who has faced down their fear and been reborn in their own higher image.
You are on the road back home, but you may feel strangely alone. Perhaps those who you used to associate with no longer understand or see you. This is to be expected, for you no longer understand yourself.
You are being transformed. What once propped up your identity has been whipped from under you. What once lay in the realm of strict possibility has been realized.
You must come to terms with yourself – your new self – and realize what you are now capable of. What will you do with this great gift, this great boon?
When this internal transformation is re-organised into a new understanding of who you are, you cross the third threshold.
Phase IV – Integration
The legend of a hero does not end with his great achievement, or her great discovery. The imperative for the one who has discovered great power, is to return with it. To return home.
You return to the marketplace – the communities that matter most to you – with helping hands.
“The Hero shall now begin the labour of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet, or the ten thousand worlds.”
– Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
You offer your goods, you speak your truth, you reveal your beauty. You integrate this new you, back into normal life, back into your work.
You harvest the great fruits of your labour – the existential gift of your journey. You create your art, imbibed with the truth you now see. And give it, to feed those around you.
As you do this, all the pieces begin to come together. The change that has occurred inside you is transmitted through you into the world around you. You change the world.
It is not a single moment. This is your work now – to integrate who you have become with the world before you. You must straddle the two worlds of the dark and light, of the unknown and the known, and give yourself for the benefit of those around you.
Blessings to you dear one, you have made it through. God has drawn you through the great change, the turning of the wheel, the latest revolution in the eternal quest.
You now know your work. Your work is to live it, be it, create it. This is the phase of great productivity. Appreciate it honour it. For the next turning maybe closer than you would like to believe.
The eternal cycle
There is a new hero born anew with each cycle of the journey. For by the time the wheel turns full circle, and calls you on a new adventure, the hero that was born in the last chapter is now the one who clings to normality and safety.
Every great leader knows that what got them to where they now are, is the very thing that will impede them from getting to the next stage.
Where are you in the ever turning cycle of the hero? What phase do you find yourself in? For the nature and necessity of each phase is fundamentally different from the last.
If you are trying to stably define who you are, and yet are in the first half of the cycle, your attempts will be fruitless. For the point of disintegration and initiation is to break you down, and burn off the dead wood of who you think you are. Give yourself to it.
If you are looking for the thrill of adventure, and yet find yourself in the second half of the cycle, you will sabotage the work you must do. Your mission now is to understand yourself as you now are, and bring the fruits of your transformation back to the marketplace.
The quest may be eternal. But your time here in this life is not. Know where you are, what you are asked.
Your job as the hero is to devote yourself to this turning, no matter where you may find yourself on the journey.