Soul Journey (Hero’s Return)
The Soul Journey is comprised of three basic stages: Separation, Initiation, and Return. The third and final act in the Monomyth is the Return stage and is in many ways, the climax.
In this stage, the Hero must face the antagonistic force for the final time but in this conflict, the stakes are much higher. The Hero must marshal all the lessons he learned up to this point and bring them to bear in order to achieve the final victory. In this victory, she will overcome her mortal flaw, yet sometimes it will require martyrdom because only by the death of the old self can the Hero rise again, redeemed. In any case it will represent a major sacrifice.
Once the mortal flaw has been sacrificed, the Hero achieves the Divine State and must bring the life-giving power back to society for the greater good. The Hero has mastered both the ordinary and the special world and becomes a conduit or Divine Instrument (see Prodigal Returns). This will liberate the Hero from the Fears of the Past and compel a Karmic Redemption related to his Future.
Purpose of the Return
The Return of the Prodigal is in many ways the most meaningful aspect. It can be the climax of the story or it is profoundly related to it. In Erikson’s Life Stages, Maturity comes with success in establishing a Meaning to life’s coherence. The sacrifice and boon that comes with it must have relevance: Meaning must be established at profound levels both socially and for the interior psyche. After all, martyrdom has occurred within the deepest sacrifice and such valuable transformation should be worth something, generally worth a great deal. Within this Meaning and Profundity, a lot of loose ends are collected and the Hero’s life takes on renewed purpose. It is Regenerative.
Stages of the Return
The Return phase can be looked at in six auxiliary stages:
- Magic Flight
- Rescue from Without
- Crossing the Return Threshold
- Master of Two Worlds
- Freedom to Live
Plot vs. Context
The stages of the Soul Journey (discussed above) relate to the plot of the story. The context within which the plot takes place is an equally important factor and can be thought of as the Atmosphere that the story breathes, as it is essential for giving the tale any ambiance. Context also provides the plot with its Affordances along the Way. Another word for Context might be ‘Scenario’.
How this relates is of utmost importance because no personality thrives in a vacuum. Environment is on equal footing with the Organism as nutrition and recycling are dependent upon mutual exchange for energy, metabolism, and process. The Social Milieu is likewise essential for the health and wellbeing of the Psyche. Environment in this context can easily be read as ‘Community’.
Furthermore, studies continue to pile up evidence that proper relations with the Environment result in healthy epigenetic expression: keeping the healthy genes turned on and preventing the activation of unhealthy and cancerous oncogenes. Rejuvenation and delayed onset of Gerontology issues respond well to supportive environments via epigenesis, as well.
Related to yet moving beyond merely this, at least for our purposes, are the factors related to neurogenesis and the building of new brain and nerve structures. The brain and nervous system likes interacting with a nurturing, interesting, and varied environmental context, just as much as the digestive system enjoys a varied, well-balanced diet. There are many similarities between thought and digestion. Nutrition comes to us not only through the gullet but through our eyes, our socializing, our tactile and kinetic impressions, and through our breathing as well. The brain has well developed propriary systems for processing itself spatially and in motion and it is important to keep these stimulated to avoid atrophy. You might say that the sensation of movement cheers the psyche up with a sense of perpetual progress (which again, relates to meaning and purpose). Brains deprived of purpose soon atrophy.
Those old unhealthy habits and ‘stinkin’- thinkin’ programs’ were stunting our development and repressing our psychobiological health and wellbeing.