Hero: Mastering The 17 Spiritual Stages (Kindle Edition)

by M. A. Stephenson, originally published as a paperback in July 2017.

Amazon Link to the Kindle Edition:

Review

A book that I immensely enjoyed reading. I actually devoured it in half a day. This shows that it fluently written and I must add I found only two little typos and this is exceptional these days as even books from renowned international publishers contain typos.

The author affirms in the Introduction that he has not put up his own model but tries to most authentically reflect the original teaching of the late Dr. Joseph Campbell as outlined in his book ‘The Hero with the Thousand Faces’ which I have reviewed as well.

Purpose of the book is to present this teaching as a model that can be applied in daily life in any life situation, as he shows with an example in the Annex.

—See Appendix A – Example Journey (Getting Healthy)

There is a firm structure in this model that I found convincingly presented as an archetypal pattern by itself, the pattern of the Hero’s Journey, as a passage, a movement of growth and self-transformation. The book has its practical take-away value in the fact that for each of the 17 chapters there is an exercise to do. The exercises are placed in Appendix C of the book.

It is useful to resort first to Appendix B – Inventory of Gifts, where the structure of the journey is outlined. (See below under Quotes).

I was especially captured by stage number 8, Woman as Temptress, where the author explains that the union of the hero and the goddess can only truly take place if the union is based upon love, not when it is based upon lust. He gives very good explanations why this is so that I quote below.

I have only two little points where I would tell the author to change the text a little or add something on. It is the word ‘Goddess’ that is today not really cognitively graspable for many young people. Instead I would explain when I first use this term that in modern language this is usually called ‘Your Soul Mate.’

Second, when the author gives examples of specific hero journeys, he often mentions athletes, and artists, poets, or painters, or performers. Now, life is more diverse than that: what about entrepreneur hero’s? Was and is Bill Gates’ journey not a hero journey? I can’t think of a better example, really. And what about Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh, the founder of Grameen Bank, the first large-scale microfinance institution in the world? Stephen R. Covey has commented on his success in his book ‘The Eighth Habit.’

Here, the figure of Mohammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2006 and creator of microfinance in Bangladesh, stands out as an unforgettable example. After years of struggle and hardship, Grameen bank, the bank Yunus created for granting small loans to poor people, then worked in more than 46,000 villages in Bangladesh, through 1,267 branches and over 12,000 staff members. They have lent more than $4.5 billion, in loans of twelve to fifteen dollars, averaging under $200.

With this little caveat I give the book still 5 stars and highly recommend it especially for younger people who are unfamiliar with the rules and secrets of success in life and who may be brought up in a too materialistic and too soulless fashion.

Quotes

Appendix B – Inventory of Gifts

1. Call to Adventure

Freedom from boring, average, normal life

2. Refusal of the Call

Assurance that the task is worthy; inner commitment to the call

3. Supernatural Aid

The encouragement and approval of the external world

4. Crossing the First Threshold

The knowledge that you are capable of completing the task

5. Belly of the Whale

Psychological transformation; a new perspective aligned the truth of reality

6. Road of Trials

The concrete skills necessary for success

7. Meeting with the Goddess

Grace to give and create

8. Woman as Temptress

Proof that the prize is valuable and worthy of sacrifice

9. Atonement with the Father

Inner transcendence; mastery of yourself and the world

10. Apotheosis

Divine insight into the nature of reality

11. Ultimate Boon

Supernatural ability to perform beyond what is natural or reasonable

12. Refusal of the Return

Understanding of the value you bring to the world

13. Magic Flight

Aid of the external world in accomplishing your task

14. Rescue from Without

Confirmation of the world’s desperate need for your achievement

15. Crossing the Return Threshold

Acknowledgment of internal value in the lives and actions of the external world

16. Master of the Two Worlds

External victory, achievement, accomplishment, and success

17. Freedom to Live

Peace, harmony, fulfillment of having accomplished your personal quest or destiny

If your goals are completely self-serving or self-centered, they will come with all sorts of trials and opposition along the way. You will likely destroy yourself under their weight, and if you do meet with success, you will likely end in ruin. Think of all the pop idols we have seen rise to such heights of fame only to crumble under the weight of their popularity. Drugs, alcohol, erratic behavior in the public spotlight—fame is too much for the intact ego-self to take. (…) In every quest or goal, there is an underlying current of serving the world. For the true hero, he finds in this stage that he is not only pursuing his quest for his own selfish ambitions but to save the world from persecution and tyranny. At this point, his motivations change, he grows and matures as a hero, and we as an audience suddenly see him in a new light.

On a more practical level, when you give in to temptation, you lose sight of what is important. Unvirtuous acts have a way of blinding us. They prevent us from seeing what is important. They weaken our bodies and minds of the spiritual energy we need to disrupt the darkness and create truly good things in life. (…) Whether you are male or female, temptation comes to us all. Understanding this, and that on this quest we seek union and harmony with the giving energy, not obsession with the self-absorbed ego, prepare yourself for the temptation when it comes. By so doing, you will be mentally prepared to pass the text and move into the next stage of realization. (…) Temptation can be any vice—not purely sexual, although that is typically what we see in myth and common stories. We give in to our vices and are destroyed by them when we have no hope, no vision for the future. (…) Clarity of purpose, a defined vision and goal in this regard, is our greatest strength. (…) The trade-off between vice and virtue must be well established.

Your ultimate boon stage will come when, having tapped into the transcendent and transformative energy, you are now able to create a great masterpiece. Whether a work of art or a masterful performance on the field or stage, your ultimate boon represents the sought after prize. It is your magnum opus, or ‘great work.’ It is that masterpiece of art, literature, or sportsmanship that can put on display, through the human vessel of clay, a supernatural grace that transcends the limitations of the physical world.

Imagine how they will benefit. See them rejoicing, celebrating in the product of your victory. Imagine the ways their lives might be changed or transformed. As your vision clarifies, you will ensure you have exceeding levels of power and momentum to return and move forward on your quest. You will also be more willing to pay the price of the road of trials because you will know just how much the world stands to gain from your victory. (…) When a traveler embraces the return, the universe itself once more aids him or her. The magic-flight stage is one in which the universe supernaturally aids us in our return to the precise point to provide the greatest benefit to the world.

At the beginning of the journey, you set out to accomplish something great. In the second act, the middle section, you mastered your internal world and self. Now, in the third act, you manifest that mastery into the external world. And in this final battle moment, you put on full display both internal and external masteries. Once you complete this stage, the people of your world, your family and friends, will see you as the hero you have become. Within, however, you will know that you are much more than just a hero. You are a master of the two worlds. This is the grand finale, that final summation of your skills, gifts, strengths, transformations, and masteries. It is the moment when you put on full display every ounce of skill and strength you have gained all along the way.

The hero who arrives at this stage has completed the grand journey. He has mastered every single element of a successful human life both individually and in the previous stage, all at once. There is no feat that is beyond his power to achieve—as long as it is in line with his personal calling and quest in life. He may never be an astronaut, but only because an astronaut he is not called to be. Instead, for all his days, he will be a grand personification of the quest to which he was called.

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The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries

 

The Fairy Faith in Celtic CountriesLondon: Frowde, 1911, Minneola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2002.

The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries is the final account of an immensely complex and long-standing research on fairy faith in Britain and Brittany, the French Bretagne. The research Dr. Evans-Wentz conducted on fairies was meticulous and scientific.

There was obviously an effort from the part of the researcher to somehow classify and objectivize the fairy world, and this was perhaps necessary at a time when holistic science was not yet born in the West and scientists had to give an appearance of ‘pedantic detachment.’

On the other hand, this old-fashioned pedantic, meticulous and detailed research approach is perhaps a good counterpoint to the hairy stories this book abounds of. Continue reading

Shamanism

 

ShamanismAncient Techniques of Ecstasy, New York: Penguin Arkana, 1989, First published by Pantheon Books, 1964.

Shamanism by Mircea Eliade is considered to be the classic on shamanism, and it remains a reference book. However, the book is not an easy read.

Especially when compared with Terence McKenna’s books, and those by Richard Schultes, Michael Harner or Ralph Metzner, Eliade’s book takes the appearance of a rather dry scholarly work, reference manual, or standard academia. But this is its value!

The book contains so many details that one single lecture will generally not leave very deep traces, except you dispose of a photographic memory. Continue reading

The Power of Myth

 

The Power of MythWith Bill Moyers, ed. by Sue Flowers, New York: Anchor Books, 1988.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell is an extraordinary book because it’s not a book. It’s a typescript of radio dialogues, which makes for the liveliness of the content. I recommend it to everyone who lacks time to read more of the great scholar, or who is a bit at pains with reading highly academic diction.

This book can be savored word for word, it can be read aloud, it can be read at night, as bedtime lecture, and it will always give a fascinating read. I read it in one night, as it was such a fascinating lecture. Bill Moyers is a very present interviewer and he surely had a liking for interviewing ‘the Great Campbell;’ his sympathy for him is not to be overlooked, and was most conducive to bringing about an invaluable document of the deeper thoughts of the great scholar. Campbell initiates the discourse with a general thought on modern science and its strong focus upon specialism. Continue reading

Oriental Mythology

 

Oriental MythologyNew York: Penguin Arkana, 1991, Originally published in 1962.

When we want to learn what the difference is between our culture and its patriarchal roots, so well described by Joseph Campbell in Occidental Mythology, then we are on a path of synthesis, and of unification.

Campbell expresses it in Oriental Mythology in the terms ‘The Indian point of view is metaphysical, poetical; the biblical, ethical and historical.’

We could also say that the Oriental mind is better able to tolerate opposites instead of being trapped by them, and as a result can assume the simultaneous existence and non-existence of reality, god or truth. Or, to use modern terminology, the Orient did not need quantum physics for understanding that life is essentially patterned and nonlinear, not hierarchical and linear. Continue reading

Occidental Mythology

 

Occidental MythologyPrinceton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series, XVII, 1973.

Occidental Mythology, to say it coarsely, renders the murder culture eventually comprehensive. It is Joseph Campbell’s merit to have unveiled Isis a second time, after her first veil was torn by Helena Blavatsky …

It all started with a murder, the Murder of the Goddess, and it became the mold of all the murders perpetrated thereafter. And he, the scholar, politely talks about ambivalence and inversion for explaining that the basic symbols of the Bible address a pictorial message to the heart that exactly reverses the verbal message addressed to the brain, and that this nervous discord inhabits both Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism, since they too share in the legacy of the Old Testament. We do have a constant rhetoric in the Bible that uses the word ‘love’ like a strange kind of balm for the wounds torn by violence and the patriarchal fear of the female. Continue reading

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

 

The Hero with a Thousand FacesPrinceton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series, XVII, 1973

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is one of Joseph Campbell’s best books. It contains much of the other books, but when it comes to presenting the material, this book really is well-edited. The headers are comprehensive and the book in its overall makeup addresses not only scholars but also a young and always-young audience as it has a significant contact with present-day reality.

We are now once again in the midst of a Hero Cult, and Campbell has to be credited with the merit to have shown the negative sides of this patriarchy-related phenomenon and its many undesirable consequences. Contrary to the proponents of the cult of hero modeling, Campbell makes it all clear that, by following this idea, you miss your soul entirely. In the meantime, he is not the only one who is saying that. We are going to see further down in the review of Care of the Soul (1994) by Thomas Moore, that there are more authors now being alert to warn us about the dangers of hero modeling, and perfectionism, as these are symptoms of both individual and cultural narcissism. Continue reading