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Reply To: Mythologist John Bucher’s A Call to a Collective Adventure””


This is good, framing the question that way: Where have I encountered the collective hero. Well, we could start with the American people and I’m not saying that just to get you teary eyed. Seriously, the whole frenzied push across an entire continent and just taking over everything and pushing everybody else out as if they were so many Canaanites. Boy, those Canaanites must have been pretty terrible to deserve such utter desolation.

But yes, the same archetype of the collective hero cited so beautifully by Campbell seems to animate the western push of the American people who also had a certain sense of divine entitlement. One man’s Promised Land is another’s Manifest Destiny.

So if the colonization of free peoples ruins the scenario for you, let’s consider a different exodus, a different heroic journey. How about that marvelous eternal pull that drew people across the Atlantic to the New World. How can you beat that kind of adventure. A New World? Now there’s a story, and there’s a world class McGuffin. A new world drew the ancestors of present day United States in vast, sweeping waves of migrations.

My Great grandfather came to America in 1900 thereabouts and he did not like it. And he went back to Italy where he died. But his son, my grandfather, had the bug and he made his trip to the New World. He was on his solitary adventure. Picture Odysseus, only instead of Phaeacia, Philadelphia. Washed up on shore, naked, exhausted, and in need of kindess. That was my grandfather, Nonno. What made him so brave? How could a kid in Rosetto Italy get his teenage butt on a steamer and make it to America in time for his 18th birthday. He was so brave, so singular. And yet he was part of a phenomenon. A wave of young Italians risking everything to somehow end up in a “new world,” an Italian dream which must have some similarity to the Pure Land visualizations in Mahayana Buddhism.  Something they experienced individually and yet as a collective, a collective unknown to itself. These young poor people, restless upon the face of the earth.

So I’m glad you brought this whole concept to our collective attention. And, as a bonus, I liked Campbell’s gloss on the correspondences between Adonis resurrection, Easter and Passover. His point being that there was a heroic equivalence between Adonis and Jesus as individuals, and the Jews as a people.