In Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book Hero with a Thousand Faces, he devotes Part I to the adventure of the hero. His three chapters correspond to the nuclear unit of the Monomyth which was based on the work of ethnologist Dr. Arnold van Gennep, author of Rite of Passage. Now, I have read the individual sections of each chapter, not as stages of the hero’s journey, but as amplifications of each element of the nuclear unit. Unfortunately, others have read this part of the book very differently. They read it as a directed loop consisting of 12 connected stages of the hero’s journey, and some have even gone as far as to say that every piece of new storytelling must have these stages. It is quite unfortunate, but the organization of this part of Campbell’s book has led to a certain concretization of the hero’s journey and, in addition, its use in storytelling. One thing I point out to people is that the Monomyth was a proposal, not a theorem, that there exists a pattern underlying all myths, that pattern being the hero’s journey. And in the rest of Campbell’s ~20+ books, he refers to the Monomyth only a handful of times. It is most unfortunate that the Monomyth has been so concretized.
There can be no doubt that there exists an archetypal motif (archetypal image) for the hero which Campbell and Jung have examined. And as we have gathered many examples of the hero from numerous cultures, it might be more appropriate to stress that this should be plural – archetypal motifs for the hero. James Hillman holds that the hero pattern is not applicable in our time under our present circumstances. There is a certain validity to this view, because depth psychology and other fields have shown the hero pattern to be problematic as a lens and as a behavior. Having said this, let us look at a critical event which occurred toward the beginning of Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious.”
In the Black Book entry for December 18, 1913, Jung writes that he had a dream (in the Red Book, it is described as a vision) where he and a companion murdered the heroic prince Siegfried of old German and Norse epics. In the Red Book, this is contained in Liber Primus, chapter 7, “The Murder of the Hero.” What Jung says about this dream makes clear that he was in great danger and that he had to fulfill his responsibilities in this journey of confronting the unconscious, for he wrote:
But after this dream I went through a mental torment unto death. And I felt that I must kill myself, if I could not solve the riddle. I knew that I must shoot myself, if I could not understand the dream.
So, here, at the beginning of Jung’s confrontation, he kills the hero! Jung laments:
Oh that Siegfried, blond and blue-eyed, the German hero, had to fall by my hand, the most loyal and courageous! He had everything in himself that I treasured as the greater and more beautiful; he was my power, my boldness, my pride. I would have gone under in the same battle, and so only assassination was left to me. If I wanted to go on living, it could only be through trickery and cunning.
So, what does this indicate? For Jung, he came to realize as a result of this dream and his reflections on it that “the highest truth is one and the same with the absurd.” Murder of the hero may be understood in other ways. Perhaps it means, as Hillman may see it, that the hero should no longer be the ideal in our time. Or, put a different way, there are numerous patterns to the hero, but this specific one may no longer be the ideal for the 20th (and 21st) century.
From an astrological hermeneutic, given Jung’s analysis of the two millennia since the birth of Christ in Aion (CW 9ii), we have some basis from which to make predictions on what is coming in the next astrological age of Aquarius. The Aquarian Age is one of the few in which the zodiac sign is a human. The Aquarian figure is one who pours water from a vase (the Water Bearer). Now, since Pisces was the age of the opposites (“hostile brothers”), Jung felt that Aquarius will constellate the problem of the union of opposites. Aquarius, according to Jung, “is the sign of the man whose ideal is the union, the oneness, of animal and divine,” where the Water Bearer symbolizes the Self. So, this is the possible path of human beings which addresses your issue of the need to recognize the dynamic process of becoming.
One more thing. It is critical to always note that the Self, like all psychoid archetypes, governs both the realm of the psyche as well as the realm of matter (physis).