The Hero’s Journey and Modern Spirituality

Written by Sydney Miller

Man kid on shoulders

“A hero properly is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself or other than himself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“The extraordinary is the ordinary … for those who are awake.” ~ Master Charles Cannon

When you’re ready to ask, “Isn’t there something more to life?” then you’re ready for the holistic version of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. The brilliant mythologist synthesized all the world’s cultures and religions into one “monomyth”—one story—the common underlying story of the one human life we all share.

Campbell proposed 17 phases, others have condensed them into 12 (a few people even matching it to the horoscope chart), but the multi-dimensional version has been delineated by Master Charles Cannon in his “Five-fold Cycle.” It’s helpful to overlay Master Charles’ holistic map onto Campbell’s, for a spiritual application of the individual journey through the archetypes.

“The monomyth” is based on archetypes in the collective unconscious, which have been delineated from Plato to Carl Jung to Joseph Campbell to James Hillman and even Christopher Voegler (the leading authority on adapting the monomyth to story-writing).

Archetypes like “the hero” are deeply embedded in the psyche from millennia of enculturation, and they play out in the daily lives of individuals (usually unconsciously so). Heroes are the central characters (“protagonist”) of stories and reveal the patterns of much of our behavior (very helpful to know if we want to change our behavior). Since transformation is through awareness, not analysis, just becoming aware of root causes can bring a shift, and an alertness/attention as to how they play out—that is, if there is an intention to do so. “Form follows intent:” having the intention to learn and grow in awareness will bring on the self-referential situations and evolutionary growth opportunities.

These phases occur in many layers, from small to large. They apply to our overall life cycle, as well as mini-cycles, the intensity of which is determined by the depth of the stories. The deeper-rooted the story, the more it plays out in our lives. Mini-cycles deal with smaller stories but also are chipping away at the deepest roots of the deepest stories and agendas.

People with roots

The breakdown of the journey follows: first the 5-fold evolutionary cycle by Master Charles and then the detailed steps of Campbell’s “hero’s journey” within it. The below would apply to our overall cycle, our long-term spiritual journey. Since “there is no experience before its time,” the journeyer may remain at any one level for short or long periods of time; each individual is unique. This is the process of “Individuation” delineated by Carl Jung and plays out over time (or lifetimes if reincarnation is considered a reality).

Later blogs will deal with smaller issue-driven cycles.

FIRST of the 5-fold Evolutionary Cycle: PEAK

1. Ordinary World: mundane daily life of polarized duality—life as separate from Source (God) without awareness or awakening to subtle dimensions of wholeness (oneness with Source/God). This is the constant experience of 85-90% of the world’s population, characterized by oscillating polarities that bring conflict, pain and suffering. Happiness is fleeting, despite its dogged pursuit. There may be occasional questioning whether there is “something more” to life and, if frequent enough, it will lead to the next stage.

SECOND of the 5-fold Evolutionary Cycle: EVOLUTION (Breakthrough)

2. Call to Adventure: Increased awareness begins, perhaps even with glimpses of an awakened, fulfilled life beyond the five senses and the roller coaster of dual polarities. The need for change is seen and the comfort zone of the “ordinary world” begins to be felt as limited and confining. Inner conflicts occur again and again and the “comfort zone” is increasingly threatened. Holistically, this is actually a “Call to Evolution”—evolution created by facing the conflicts and challenges that our beliefs have created along with their comfort zone for security of the “known.” The beliefs and stories face a likely demise (along with any sense of security they brought).

Red phone handset

3. Refusal of the Call: Fears arise with the possibility of losing known comfort zones and the safety of the ordinary world. The mind gets in the way of the more truthful heart-felt response to the “Call.” However, the conflict continues until the Call is accepted, creating an evolutionary breakthrough to the next stage.

THIRD of the 5-fold Evolutionary Cycle: INSIGHT

4. Meeting the Mentor: After breakthrough, there’s insight freed up by the removal of the block created by stories. Consciousness is intelligent as Master Charles says, and assistance comes to continue to break the blocks to our growth and evolution. The mentor prepares and supports the hero using the guidance, gifts and tools to face the demons of our minds. But ultimately, the hero must face them alone as he alone can surface and clear the demons—his own limiting, debilitating beliefs and stories which prevent him from a truthful, freedom-filled reality. Depending on the level of interest/evolution of the budding hero, assistance is given through many possibilities, ranging from an insightful quote to exemplary behavior, depending on the mentor. Meeting a master spiritual teacher is very rare and only happens when there is a strong commitment to truth and enlightening experience. If you know a master spiritual teacher, you are indeed lucky (and evolved) to be able to imbibe that level of truth.

5. Crossing the Threshold: commitment to change. The hero agrees to take the risk and face the demons of his own making. There’s no going back to the comfort zones and he moves forward into what-may-sometimes-seem-to-be the “battle of his life.”

FOURTH of 5-fold Evolutionary Cycle: PROCESSING (Clearing)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The details of the journey begin to manifest, along with assistance (Allies) or resistance from others (Enemies). This is where the innermost self begins reflecting,

Cartoon looking in mirror

in earnest, the depths of one’s being. There are new rules and conditions to discern in making “the unconscious conscious” and in a somewhat-balanced manner to minimize or even stop catastrophic events. People in our world tend to polarize themselves in relationship to us, either supporting our transformational journey (allies) or opposing it (enemies). They are all reflections of parts of us that have drawn them into our world, as self-referential mirrors that reveal our illusory, debilitating stories. They appear as “Challenges” yet gratitude is given for them, since they reveal the hidden beliefs that may never have otherwise surfaced for clearing. This is why Master Charles says to “Bless our History.” “Everything is a gift” as it appears in our amazing life of reflections.

7. Approach: This is the approach to the innermost cave of one’s being—the inner battleground of truth vs. illusion. A singularity event is looming on the horizon: there are glimmers of battles to be fought, identifications to be released, soaring freedoms to be experienced. A major change is coming and there is a pause to inwardly prepare.

Man fighting dragon

8. Ordeal, Death and Rebirth: Ordeals involve the arousal of our greatest fears. In that process, the hero may suffer because he doesn’t want to let go of the “security of the known”. However, the longer he holds onto it, the more intense is the experience until he hits what Master Charles Cannon calls the “sledgehammer effect” of stories (continually hitting ourselves over the head until we see what we’re really doing and stop it). Eventually, we give up the story, let go, and experience a death of the known—releasing into stillness and peace. Having reached this deep level of balance, there is a rebirth—a new form, a new worldview and state of being.

FIFTH of 5-fold Evolutionary Cycle: INTEGRATION

9. Reward: The ordeal is over and the reward is a marked new level of increased enlightening awareness of truth. The thrill of the moment is seized, with appreciation of completion and success.

Girl hugging her reflection

10. The Return: Now the journey begins its return to its origins—the ordinary life that was outgrown. There are new challenges: the hero is idealistic and identified with his new inner state and has to learn how to fit in again, without illusory judgment of others which diminishes

Man on bench in snow

truthful and blissful experience. Integrating the outer world with the new inner state of awareness is the journey of these final stages.

11. Resurrection: During the return to the previous ordinary life, there are new confrontations. The deep roots of identifications with limitations and beliefs have been pulled out, yet the layers of the long-term use surface as habits that need to be noticed and released. But it’s much easier now to release them (with roots being gone), confirming the truthful transformation in the ordeal. This stage is about demonstrating how well the lesson was learned, showing up in the recurring releases and subsequent return to the stillness and bliss of the new-found state of being.

12. The Elixir: This is Campbell’s title of this stage of mastery, which could be holistically translated as “presence.” While the journeyer may look like basically the same person on the outside, the inner state has expanded to include more awareness and bliss. The new freedom-to-live is expressed without needing words, as the presence speaks for itself. Discerning observers can see (and feel!) the difference. Stillness has increased. Wakefulness is focused upon to maintain alertness (and avoid lapsing into absence/samadhi which is a constant pull into blissful stillness). Productivity is increased because creativity comes from a quiet (balanced) mind. The typical descriptions for this stage of Campbell’s say that some elixir or treasure has been brought back to “help the ordinary world.” Master Charles Cannon describes it aptly when he speaks of “the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

Painting a diamond

“The extraordinary is the ordinary … for those who are awake. ” ~ Master Charles Cannon


About the Author

Sydney Miller

Sydney Miller

Syd Miller lives at the Synchronicity Sanctuary in Virginia, the international headquarters of Synchronicity Foundation, and is one of the founding members.  She met Master Charles Cannon when he was still with his teacher and has been with him ever since.  Her gratefulness for Master Charles and his work is reflected in this blog which focuses on "Reality 3.0 ... Harnessing Technology for the Evolution of Consciousness."