At risk of hurling a blogging non sequitur at readers, the Fretful Midge jumps to one of her passions: The Hero’s Journey. Today, I finished a Hero’s Journey Writing Workshop series with one of the most wonderful groups I’ve ever worked with. Not only did they all show up every week, but they showed up to write prose of the most amazing depth and beauty. By the crashing waves of Bray’s seafront, we had our last workshop today, the stage of the journey in its final stages: The Master of the Two Worlds, in which the Hero has received the Ultimate Boon, crosses the Return Threshold, and must find their way back to the Ordinary World, keeping a balance between that and the Special World.
Oh, the return. We all know what it’s like to return from an amazing adventure, and with photos in tow, we attempt to convince friends and family that THIS is the place to go, and please, oh please listen to me recount every detail of what happened. NO! They say. I DO NOT HAVE TIME. And why do they not have time? Apart from being envious, they may also be threatened by you, an emissary of another spatio- temporal reality that… actually has nothing at all to do with theirs. Or so they think. And isn’t it excruciating when the Returnee is particularly good at photography, and inflicts you with a slide show? Ho, ho!
But the thing is, it was just the same for Jesus, and for Buddha, and for Mohammed. And the same for Rip Van Winkel, and poor old Gulliver, who returned, sadly, empty handed and with nothing but their tales to tell, at the end of their extraordinary cavortings. Gulliver was deemed mad by the Royal Geographic Society, after recounting his tales of Lilliput, Laputa and the Land of Houyhnhnms. (Houyhnhnms are a race of intelligent horses described in the last part of Jonathan Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels). But this is how it is for every traveller, I believe.
But for the Spiritual journey-er, it is an even more explosive reception, the Mastery of the Two Worlds… What do you do with your message, your gift, your boon of Wisdom, when you return? Are you stoned, slated or worse again, crucified?
We each go through Hero’s Journeys every day. For there are micro and macro versions of this never-ending spiral. It’s like Yeat’s Gyre, or the Serpent shedding its scales. The serpent, demonised by the Western World as an evil, poisonous and devious creature of sin, condemned from the Garden of Eden for Eternity, is a creature revered in the East. The power, our power, resides at the base of our spine, and this in the Vedic tradition is likened to a snake coiled at the base, and over time and with much yogic practice, it climbs up through the body, clearing out the debris of conditioning, delusion and ignorance along the way, until it reaches the crown, where the practitioner becomes enlightened.
Woman brings life into the world. Eve is the mother of this temporal wold. Formerly you had a dreamtime paradise there in the Garden of Eden – no time, no birth, no death – no life. The serpent, who dies and is resurrected, shedding its skin and renewing its life, is the lord of the central tree, where time and eternity come together. He is the primary god, actually, in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh, the one who walks there in the cool of the evening, is just a visitor. The Garden is the serpent’s place. It is an old, old story.
The Hero’s Journey undertaken is an act of uncoiling that latent inner serpent, shedding the old skins, and growing a new one, infused with wisdom in insight. It is a transformation of the human spirit. Because it’s like this:
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”