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Question about a passage from The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
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  • #72767

    Hi,

    I read the following passage and was confused by something Campbell said. The passage reads as follows:

    The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream, discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed.

    I understand that Campbell is saying the hero’s journey is a means to integrate one’s shadow, but what I don’t understand is what he means by “swallowing it or being swallowed.” What does it mean to “swallow” the shadow (i.e. the opposite) as opposed to “being swallowed” by it?

    My initial interpretation was that you either integrate the shadow (i.e. swallowing it), or it will work against you (i.e. being swallowed by it).

    The issue is that Campbell explicitly states that, one way or another, whether we swallow it or be swallowed by it, we assimilate it. So my interpretation falls short.

    Can anybody shed some light on this please?

     

     

    #72781
    David
    Blocked

    Great question!

    I think you may be imposing too literal a Jungian perspective on what Campbell is saying here — I think he’s describing myths where the hero (whether it’s Jonah or Raven in the whale, or any number of other characters who end up transformed by the act of being “devoured”) have to embrace their own inner nature — or recognize their identity with the outer nature that is represented by the devourer — in order to become truly themselves. In that way, it seems to me, the act of devouring or of being devoured by the opposite is equally an act of integration.

    Does that make sense?

    #72780

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that entering into the belly of the beast – the world of adventure – and then navigating a series of trials and challenges, necessarily entails the integration of their shadow or true nature. Furthermore, the entity that devoured the hero, if there is one, is itself a metaphor for some aspect of the hero’s shadow they have yet to integrate, and must, to see the journey through to a successful conclusion.

     

    Am I in the ballpark?

    #72779
    David
    Blocked

    Yes! That’s basically exactly what I was trying to say.

    Campbell argued that dream and myth flow from the same subconscious source — that’s the secondary thesis of the book, aside from the explicit one of laying out the structure of the monomyth: “Myth is public dream; dream is private myth.”

    In dream, everything and everyone is an aspect of the dreamer. In myth, then, everything and everyone is an aspect of the hero, who serves as the target onto which we, the audience, project our own self. And there are many different paths to the integration of the hero-Self with rest of the characters, creatures, settings, and objects that represent the remainder of the hero’s unintegrated whole. The hero can marry the other, defeat the other, submit to the other, become literally one with the other — those are the tests of the road of trials. But in each case, the story is one of the hero’s integration with the denied aspects of the hero’s self — or of the hero’s failure and defeat.

    #72778

    Awesome, thanks David!

    #72777
    David
    Blocked

    You’re very welcome!

    I’d love to hear if anyone else has a different take on this question.

    #72776
    jamesn.
    Participant

    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?

    Here is an addendum link I am adding that contains a number of related quotes which include God as well as the above. Carl Jung concerning this Thomas Gospel quote.

    #72775

    Benjamin, I’m interested in knowing from where you drew your quote.

    “The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream, discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed.”

    Thanks.

    Mike

    #72774

    I’ll jump in on that, Mike, as I happen to have the reference at hand.

    In the 3rd revised edition of the Hero with a Thousand Faces (© 2008 JCF, published by New World Library), it’s near the end of “The Road of Trials” section of the Initiation chapter, p. 89.

    In the Princeton 2nd edition (which is text on the shelves of people who secured a copy between 1968 and 2008), it’s on p. 108.

    #72773

    Thank you Stephen! Nice to “see” you again. Been a while. 🙂

    #72772
    David
    Blocked

    Thanks for tracking down the quote, Stephen!

    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.

    #72771
    jamesn.
    Participant

    Thank you for taking the time to do that David; it helped a lot. I’ve been wondering about this quote for a while and the “integration” aspect certainly makes sense. So I went and did a little digging through some various indexes to try and track this idea down into a more simplistic overview relating to individuation and finally came across this one 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 I just happened to stumble across this passage from Stephen Larson’s book after looking through a number of various sources concerning “integration” as I mentioned before; and this was pure luck on my part because I’m certainly out of my depth concerning scholastic research. But this really seemed to fit the individuation model concerning the “Thomas Gospel” quote you so thoughtfully shared; and I thought you might find it of interest.

    Thank you again for your kindness in looking it up for me.

    #72770

    Thank you David, Stephen, Benjamin, James and Mike. This entire thread has been extremely valuable. “The hero, whether god or goddess, man or woman, the figure in a myth or the dreamer of a dream, discovers and assimilates his opposite (his own unsuspected self) either by swallowing it or by being swallowed.”

    #72769

    Janes and David et al.,

    Such a thought provoking discussion, I hope you don’t mind my intrusion here.

    I love how you summed the points, “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.

    Or, as Mark Twain said, ‘It’s not the size of the dog in fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog’.

    Shaahayda

    #72768
    Mars
    Participant

    either by swallowing it or by being swallowed.

    I understand it as ‘the coincidence of opposites’ (quote of JC): both polarities experience different perceptions but are the same actually. Compare this with superposition in math and physics. It is the same thing showing two (opposite) sides. The whale story is polarised (the broken mirror) to make it transferable and acceptable.

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