The Hero's Journey according to Joseph Campbell

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The Hero's Journey according to Joseph Campbell

Joined: 16 Nov 2015, 19:24

30 Jul 2017, 09:01 #1

 One of my favorite thinkers on psychological growth is Joseph Campbell. He did some amazing cross-cultural studies of world myths and art, and developed the theory about the Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

He is basically saying that a lot of myths and stories, from the ancient Gilgamesh to the original Star Wars trilogy, are based on one story, the story about the hero who has to face tremendous obstacles (monsters and dragons), get wounded (or die), and the rise again in face of all this adversity. This video gives you the gist of the myth. It is relevant to transgender people.


For instance: A lot of crossdreamers surpress "the other side" out of fear and shame. The other side demands to be heard, however, and if the crossdreamer has been raised in a transphobic atmostphere or (in the case of MTF crossdreamers) a misogynistic environment where femininity in men is ridiculed, the other side may seem like a monster. 

The transgender hero will have to face that side, kill the prejudices that hinders acceptance and embrace a side of the pysche that was once hated and feared. That takes a lot of courage. 

One variant of the myth that makes very much sense to me is the knight who is to kill a dragon in order to free the princess. The dragon is his fears and the transphobic aggression of his community. The princess is his other side and the treasure inside the mountain is the life force that is released when the princess is accepted and integrated. This applies to MTF transgender women (who are women ) as well as cis men (who have a feminine side).    


Full film here: [url=
Last edited by jackmolay on 30 Jul 2017, 11:29, edited 2 times in total.

Joined: 20 Nov 2015, 18:07

31 Jul 2017, 10:07 #2

Here's a bit of what it's like once you reach 'the other side' of that growth process.. ... bsent-god/

It's a good read for all 'seekers', who aren't inclined to call other people 'evil' for no good reason..
It's more a matter of progressively de-programming yourself, so potentially you can enter into someone else's worldview and program them.
TL/DR; specific values are arbitrary memes, emotional-vectors are a constant source of energy..

(I guess if you've spend enough time programming computers, you kind of learn to think in these terms anyway, as you are always working on both building and consuming new abstractions, and sharing them with other programmers, or building 'friendly' abstractions for the end-user to inhabit, which mostly protect them from having to understand certain complexities, and give you space to 'innovate', or maybe make you indispensable, if you're the only one who knows how it actually works..)

It's not altogether a nice place to be, once you've understood and torn down every mental framework placed there to 'protect' you as you grow,.
you kind of become a 'free agent' (mason?) and then can sort of do practically anything you can square with your own conscience, if you can figure out how to be convincing enough to pull it off..


If you can't figure out how to convince other people, then maybe stick to convincing computers, they are easier to manipulate and they implicitly trust everything you say..

An alternative well-written (if somewhat lengthy..) perspective is available here: ... art-1.html ... art-2.html ... art-3.html

Without HRT I'm firmly a 'clueless', with it I have 'empathy', well maybe..

Joined: 20 Dec 2015, 20:48

01 Aug 2017, 02:23 #3

What a timely post, Jack. Just today I wrote to my new gender therapist in Seattle that I hope she will be my mentor on my Hero's Journey. I believe in it as the hero finds themselves fighting their fears, external forces, and reluctantly journeys on despite lack of assurance of an outcome. I also agree that part of the battle, especially for folks around our age, is dealing with shame and guilt that arises from so much negative messaging from society all of our lives.

For me the issue really boils down to this: if I do not embark on this journey I know that some day - hopefully at least a couple of decades from now - I will find myself on my deathbed carrying a trunk full of regrets that I allowed my fears to waste my life's opportunity. I have done a lot of wasting over the past 61 years. It's freaking scary to go on the Transgender Journey, at least for me, but come hell or high water I am marching forward one tenuous baby step at a time.


Joined: 16 Nov 2015, 19:24

01 Aug 2017, 08:44 #5

Here's a bit of what it's like once you reach 'the other side' of that growth process.. ... bsent-god/
That was a fascinating read. It really was! But no, I do not believe Venkatesh Rao has grasped what people like Joseph Campbell and Carl Gustav Jung are about. 

He reads like someone who has grasped the message of Nietzsche, and who therefore think that the only endpoint of psychological individuation must be some kind of nihilistic cynicism. That as far from my own experience and personality as you can possibly get.

To use the word "sociopath" for people like Campbell and Jung makes absolutely no sense at all. 
Sociopath: a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.
Campbell and Jung do indeed transcend some of the traditional ethics of society, but their journey is clearly driven by a deep compassion for humans and empathy in face of their suffering. It is, in part, this empathy that makes them question established traditions and mores. They find that they limit personal growth, cause enormous suffering and uphold established power structures.

They did not use transgender identities as  examples of this (only Campbell touch upon cross-gender identities, in his discussion of shamans), but it is clear that they consider facing and overcoming social taboos an important part of personal growth. The Hero's Journey (also known as individuation) is a tool for liberation, not social control.

I am sure you will find naive and gullible followers of people like them, in a New Age "ding dong" kind of way. There will alwasy be people who aks for shortcuts in crystals and cards, but that has very little to do with what Campbell and Jung write about.

Hitler was a sociopath. I would argue that people like Mussolini, Stalin, Scaramucci and Trump  are as well. Campbell and Jung were not. Indeed, the socipaths listed here had or have absolutely no patience or ability to understand what individuation is about. They live in a world of absolutes (Hitler) or meaningless fragments of libido (Trump); none of them believe there is a deeper personal nature that has to be unfolded and explored. They believe in total obedience to their own inflated egos.

This is why the following paragraphs make so little sense to me:
That is what Sociopaths ultimately do with their lives if they survive long enough: generate amoral power from increasing inner emptiness, transforming themselves into forces of nature.As a side-effect, they also manufacture transient meanings to fuel the theaters of religiosity (including various secular religions) that lend meaning to lives of Losers and the Clueless. This meaning is achieved via subtraction, through withdrawal of complexities that the latter are predisposed to ignore, leaving behind simpler, more satisfying and more tractable realities for them to inhabit.

Jung and Campbell were not believers in traditionalst religion, or aiming at producing more religious "opium" for the Losers and the Clueless.This is also why traditionalist religion avoid them or ban them. There is nothing simple about the realities they present.

Using "The Office" to document the sociopathy of psychological individiation is like using "Big Brother" to prove that all human beings are sex driven idiots. The Office is indeed full of "hollow men", as T.S. Eliot would have called them, but they are not "hollow" because of Jung and Campbell. They are hollow because they have never been given a language that could make sense of their lives, and most likely also because the people behind the TV series are cynics. Ricky Gervais is not a man of the heart, or maybe he is, but his dissapointment in life has made him surpress that side of himself.

It would make more sense to go to Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Goethe, Ibsen, Tolkien, Kierkegaard or the old myths to make an analysis of personal growth and the Hero's journey.

Rao makes a big point about "the absent god". That is Nietzsche again. Jung and Campbell were both religious  persons. But their God is not some kind of security blanket for "The Losers" and "The Clueless" (to use Rao's terms). His is more like the God of the mystics, an entity that cannot be reduced to dogma, laws or scientific forumulas.  Nor do you need to believe in a God to find individuation meaningful. Actually, for Jung the tearing down of his childhood's ideas about God was an essential part in his journey.

Jung and Campbell do not dismiss the cold realities presented by Nietzsche. They build on Nietzsche and transcends him. Rao does not.

Rao despises the people he is writing about. All of them, it seems. And he puts himself in the place of the courageous and unprejudiced prophet who sees clearly, while the others do not. There is no love here. No compassion, and little humility. That saddens me.

Still, I am glad you shared this article. There is much to reflect on here.

I think that ultimately that all of  this boils down to a question of faith. Not faith in the Conservative traditional sense (believing in dogma and laws), but faith in the mening of life, regardless of brutal and senseless it might seem. The individuation journey is not about understanding the whole of the Universe or God the creator. That is hubris and leads nowhere. This is more about having some kind of faith in your own self and your own potential. That in this world of structure meeting chaos, you might make a difference for yourself and others, if you manage to make use of the gifts you have been given.

If those gifts seem like a threat to the social order, others will try to stop you from doing so ("finding your bliss" to use the words of Campbell). Following Deborah, you can say that being transgender is a gift. It can make you see things other cannot. Transgender people can enrich the whole of society, like the shamans of old. But in order to do that, many will have to take the Hero's Journey, break with traditions and become themselves. That is not the journey of sociopaths. That is the journey of people trying to heal, to become whole.


Maybe the Universe is a kind of "pixelated computer program" or maybe not. I can only speculate. But there is no conflict between Steve Yegge's reflections on the boundaries of knowledge and the ones of Jung and Campbell. If individuation is about unfolding an inborn self in the universe, that inborn self (spelled with captial S by Jung) is part of the program. Happiness is  to allow it to run its course.

Joined: 16 Nov 2015, 19:24

01 Aug 2017, 08:48 #6

For me the issue really boils down to this: if I do not embark on this journey I know that some day - hopefully at least a couple of decades from now - I will find myself on my deathbed carrying a trunk full of regrets that I allowed my fears to waste my life's opportunity.
That is the call to action, and what you say may perfect sense to me.

Reflecting on what you will think on the deathbed puts your own life in perspective; it puts you outside time (in a sense) and forces you to think about the journey as a whole.

I must admit that I am not sure how that moment in my life will be. I will probably grieve the lost opportunities. But I will also take satisfaction at having lived a meaningful life full of learning and love. Now that is a great thing!

Joined: 08 May 2017, 11:09

01 Aug 2017, 10:53 #7

Whenever we talk about our other sides, this video comes to mind

Barbara Haskell
Joined: 14 Sep 2016, 12:12

01 Aug 2017, 12:14 #8

Sociopaths can be seen as Shadow of the Hero, as Villains. Many (if not most) Villains, both in tales and and reality are sociopaths. There are similarities between Heros and Villains, but from the very beginning there are differences. When Gods are absent, one of the choices is to restore the order. Seeing unjustice, which is left unfixed, Hero will choose to repair the damage, to bring justice back. This is a long journey, but from the start desire to fix the broken order is present.

Journey of Villain starts differently. Villain desires to use this moment to his own advantage. This is also a long journey, with twists and turns. It becomes a self-fulfied prophecy, as actions of Villain and their consequences serves as further proof, that morality is not rewarded, and the world is like a butter. You should cut it, as long as you have enough power.

We can see it in tales, and also in reality -- Heroes usually have very loyal friends on their sides. Brotherhood of the Ring is the one of good examples. On the other side, Villains usually have no friends, only subordinated and superiors. Interesting, that both sides, Heroes and Villains are consistently favoring one type of social relations over another. They both see, that society is not perfect, and they choose what they percieve as the best. Difference is: Heroes puts more emphasis on horizontal bonds, Villains on vertical (hierarchy).

Joined: 20 Nov 2015, 18:07

02 Aug 2017, 13:31 #9

I can't figure out who are heroes or villains anymore. Control is good, control makes good stuff happen, we have a social safety net of sorts now, so people don't fall right off the bottom unless they are pretty screwed up in other ways.
If consequence are mostly artificial, and it's just about what feels good or bad in the moment, not what is good and bad objectively, then you can be working completely at cross-purposes with someone else, and still feel like you are doing the right thing, even the good thing, based on superior knowledge or perspective.

I guess Anakin Skywalker thought that his teaming up with the emporer actually was the best thing for the galaxy as a whole, 
order, peace and stability and so forth, make a few heads roll as an example to all the rest..

Did it take till his own son was being threatened, by his own master, for him to figure out he was on the 'wrong' side of history?
Image ... ealed.html

I guess Blanchard has lots of actual friends, not just superiors.. 
To him we are the weirdos who want to collapse centuries old traditions, 
threatening social stability, and threaten cis-women in public facilities.
Last edited by Xora on 03 Aug 2017, 11:21, edited 2 times in total.

Joined: 20 Nov 2015, 18:07

02 Aug 2017, 13:44 #10

We control their chromosomes, it's really not that difficult.. ... f3c48c733d

No, I'm simply saying that life, uh, finds a way.. ... af202052ae

They're lethal at eight months, and I do mean lethal.. ... cc98e4e09d

Oh, I can see the fleas.. Mummy, can't you see the fleas? ... abf7f366fc

Was John Hammond a sociopath?
Last edited by Xora on 03 Aug 2017, 11:17, edited 1 time in total.