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"The adventure of the hero normally follows a pattern...
a separation from the world
a penetration to some source of power, and
a life-enhancing return."
-From The Hero with a Thousand Facesby Joseph Campbell



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The whole of the Orient has
been blessed by the boon brought back by Gautama Buddha—his
wonderful teaching of the Good Law—just as the Occident has
been by the Decalogue of Moses. The Greeks referred fire, the first
support of all human culture, to the world-transcending deed of
their Prometheus, and the Romans the founding of their worldsupporting
city to Aeneas, following his departure from fallen Troy
and his visit to the eerie underworld of the dead. Everywhere, no
matter what the sphere of interest (whether religious, political, or
personal), the really creative acts are represented as those deriving
from some sort of dying to the world; and what happens in the interval
of the hero's nonentity, so that he comes back as one reborn,
made great and filled with creative power, mankind is also unanimous
in declaring. We shall have only to follow, therefore, a multitude
of heroic figures through the classic stages of the universal
adventure in order to see again what has always been revealed.
This will help us to understand not only the meaning of those images
for contemporary life, but also the singleness of the human
spirit in its aspirations, powers, vicissitudes, and wisdom.
The following pages will present in the form of one composite
adventure the tales of a number of the world's symbolic carriers
of the destiny of F-veryman.

The first great stage, that of the
separation or departure, will be shown in Part I, Chapter I, in
five subsections: (1) "The Call to Adventure," or the signs of the
vocation of the hero; (2) "Refusal of the Call," or the folly of the
flight from the god; (3) "Supernatural Aid," the unsuspected assistance
that comes to one who has undertaken his proper adventure;
(4) "The Crossing of the first Threshold"; and (5) "The
Belly of the Whale," or the passage into the realm of night.

The
stage of the trials and victories of initiation will appear in Chapter
II in six subsections: (1) "The Road of Trials," or the dangerous
aspect of the gods; (2) "The Meeting with the Goddess"
(Magna Mater), or the bliss of infancy regained; (3) "Woman as
the Temptress," the realization and agony of Oedipus; (4)
"Atonement with the Father"; (5) "Apotheosis"; and (6) "The
Ultimate Boon."
The return and reintegration with society, which is indispensable
to the continuous circulation of spiritual energy into the world,
and which, from the standpoint of the community, is the
justification of the long retreat, the hero himself may find the most
difficult requirement of all. For if he has won through, like the
Buddha, to the profound repose of complete enlightenment, there
is danger that the bliss of this experience may annihilate all recollection
of, interest in, or hope for, the sorrows of the world; or else
the problem of making known the way of illumination to people
wrapped in economic problems may seem too great to solve. And
on the other hand, if the hero, instead of submitting to all of the
initiatory tests, has, like Prometheus, simply darted to his goal (by
violence, quick device, or luck) and plucked the boon for the world
that he intended, then the powers that he has unbalanced may
react so sharply that he will be blasted from within and without—
crucified, like Prometheus, on the rock of his own violated unconscious.
Or if the hero, in the third place, makes his safe and willing
return, he may meet with such a blank misunderstanding and
disregard from those whom he has come to help that his career
will collapse. The third of the following chapters will conclude
the discussion of these prospects under six subheadings: (1)
"Refusal of the Return," or the world denied; (2) "The Magic
Flight," or the escape of Prometheus; (3) "Rescue from With-
out"; (4) "The Crossing of the Return Threshold," or the return
to the world of common day; (5) "Master of the Two Worlds";
and (6) "Freedom to Live," the nature and function of the ultimate
boon.42


Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Myths