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Reply To: Campbell on Writing


    Earlier this summer I posed a question to David Kudler; the one of the most knowledgeable of the foundation staff concerning what the relevance might be to an old gnostic text quote Joseph referred to concerning the: “hero/journey/call/quest” template, and how it might translate into today’s interpretive psychological understanding of one’s own personal myth that metaphorically Joseph might be trying to communicate. (Now I bring this particular view or approach into focus because often there are various ways a particular society, culture, or religion offers what a mythic theme represents and how it is to be applied to an individual’s life course; (often with wide differences on how this is to be interpreted and integrated into the meaning and fulfilment of one’s life).

    A question was brought up in a discussion group by Shaheda concerning Chris Vogler’s version that is often applied with writers of novels and Hollywood in particular often utilizes within script writing as a go-to model in reference to plot construction.

    My problem with Vogler’s particular template is that it is often seen as a concretized construct for the alchemical process that takes place within the individuation process so that all individual stories or personal life experiences have a tendency to be interpreted through this particular lens instead of the wide variation that any persons life-course may take. In other words as Joseph states throughout the various pages of chapters: 4, 5, and 6 of the book David edited: “Pathways to Bliss”; this is a discovery process of one’s own myth by which they are living; and it is definitely not a scripted one that someone might read out of a writing manual for writers. The left hand path as described in the following foundation YouTube clip clarifies this understanding precisely because it is a mystery and not a scripted sequence of events as experienced through a patterned lens. Joseph clarified this misunderstanding by stating that: “following your bliss is not a happy, happy excursion into fantasyland; but more like a transformation by following your blisters and not something preconceived because you don’t know where you are or where you are going. (And yes; I think this aspect is very often critically misunderstood.)

    For instance you are not going to have a sequenced “personal crisis” like referred to on page thus and such and therefore you are required to take a hero’s journey to solve your problems in a specified order because each person’s life is so totally and uniquely different. Human beings are not patterned automatons responding to storybook archetypal images. And the point of the quest and it’s call to adventure is to find out “who” you are and what you might become in the living of one’s own life. This is the point about the myth coming out of your own experience when Joseph refers to the point about the learning, discovering, and living out of what your own myth “actually” is; and it is unique to you alone. In other words learning what this thing inside of us is saying!

    Nothing wrong with Vogler’s approach concerning story telling; but each individual has their own unique life course; and Joseph’s point about the individual’s ability to respond to whatever life throws at them does not follow a sequence pattern in this regard. Yes; these are elements involved within this alchemical process and the validity of these aspects run true; but in my view as within other Campbell related themes are not to be taken literally but as he so often reminds us as metaphors of the life dynamics we must learn to interprete relating to our own experience. Not the church, not the society, not the culture or the media as a vehicle of it’s value sytems; but what speaks to us from inside.

    Here was our brief conversation concerning the gnostic quote; and what it seemed to be saying to me.


    Me to David:
    There is an old gnostic quote I’m trying to remember that goes something like:

    “If you bring forth that which is within you it will save you; but if you deny that which is within you it will destroy you.”
    I know this is not the precise version of the quote; but my sense of it is that it may be saying something similar. From your understanding are we talking about: “the other in you; like the shadow; or is it a denied wish or talent that has not been given it’s voice or both; perhaps suppressed from the internal Dragon power that must be faced, assimilated, or integrated as you were just mentioning?”


    “And James, thanks for sharing the quote from the Thomas Gospel.
    I was curious, so I looked it up:

    If you (plur.) produce what is in you, what you have will save you. If you do not have what is in you, what you do not have [will] kill you. — Thomas Gospel, Logion 70

    I guess my answer to your question(s) would be… yes. It’s all of those. The point of the Hero’s Journey, from a psychological point of view, seems to be coming up against all of the unintegrated aspects of your own personality and either integrating them into your larger self, or being destroyed by them. Even the negative power has to be integrated before it can be tamed — at least from the Campbellian and Jungian perspective.”


    To which I quoted from the following:

    In Stephen Larson’s: “The Mythic Image” on page 14:

    “But Jung showed that while our (normal) sense of personal identity is forever threatening to dissolve at its deepest boundary into the mythic archetypes of the collective unconscious, once a person has accepted this (essential unreality of one’s own nature), he or she is for the first time in a position to construct an authentic selfhood (individuation, the creative, integrated psyche).

    Individuation is to normal as normal is to neurotic, and neurotic is to psychotic. And this hierarchical model of integration-disintegration suggests that it is not the presence or absence of mythic themes in personal psychology that determines sanity, but how the ego relates to these. The cards we have been dealt by fate are a hand from a recognizable deck, which like the Tarot, is made up of a finite number of archetypal forms (fools, magicians, priestesses, hanged men, and so forth). Whether one is simply possessed by these recurring archetypes or may learn to relate to them in a creative dialogue would seem to make all the difference. Jung said, “Man must not dissolve into a whirl of warring possibilities and tendencies imposed upon him by the unconscious, but must become the unity that embraces them all.” (C.G. Jung The Practice of Psychotherapy 197.)


    Now concerning Jung’s famous line from: “Memories, Dreams, and Reflections” concerning what it means to live with a myth or without one; the point about: “task of tasks” to find out what this thing is I think definitely applies here. And by engaging within this process at one’s deepest and most intimate levels without any preconceptions of what this realization might reveal about who we are and what story we are living I think refers back to Stephen’s above quote:

    “Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds itself. To a certain extent, you become the carrier of something that is given to you from what have been called the Muses—or, in biblical language, ‘God.’ This is no fancy, it is a fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious minds of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone. So when one hears the seer’s story, one responds, ‘Aha! This is my story. This is something that I had always wanted to say but wasn’t able to say.’ There has to be a dialogue, an interaction between the seer and the community.”


    I’m going to stop here and let Shaheda, Stephen, and anyone else respond since this is an open topic relating to one’s individual process of what Joseph’s themes about the hero/call/journey template represents to them.


    I would like to add a small addendum concerning Stephen’s topic statement about the writing process which is covered very nicely on pages 268-271 in Diane K. Osbon’s: “Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion”. Here Joseph goes into wonderful detail describing his process which should be of great benefit to those seeking insight into how he went about setting up his mindset before engaging his muse.

    I would also be remiss if I did not mention a book Stephen recommended to me awhile back that has been a tremendous help in my own approach to writing about my personal myth which is Dennis Patrick Slattery’s: “Riting Myth, Mythic Writing” which I will leave in the above link for purchase from Amazon if interested.