The Hero’s Journey ~IX~

There is much confusion about the archetype of the Hero. It is generally assumed that the heroic approach to life, or to a task, is the noblest, but this is only partly true. The Hero is, in fact, only an advanced form of Boy psychology – the most advanced form, the peak, actually, of the masculine energies of the boy, the archetype that characterizes the best in the adolescent stage of development. Yet it is immature, and when it is carried over into adulthood as the governing archetype, it blocks men from full maturity.

The Hero begins by thinking that he is invulnerable, that only the “impossible dream“ is for him, that he can “fight the unbeatable foe“ and win. But if the dream really is impossible, and if the foe really is unbeatable, then the Hero is in for trouble.

In fact, we see this often. The sense of invulnerability, a manifestation of the Grandstander Bully and of the God-like pretentions of all those immature masculine energy forms, leaves the man under the influence of the Shadow Hero open to the danger of his own demise. He will shoot himself in the foot, in the end. The heroic general Patton, though immensely imaginative, creative, and inspiring to his troops, at least at times, sabotaged himself with his risk-taking, his immature competition with the British General Montgomery, and his insightful, but boyishly brash remarks. Rather than being assigned a mission for which his true talent qualified him (the head of the allied invasion of Europe, for instance), he was sidelined precisely because he was a Hero and not fully a Warrior.

As is the case with the other immature masculine archetypes, the Hero is overly tied to the Mother. But the Hero has a driving need to overcome her. He is locked in mortal combat with the feminine, striving to conquer it and to assert his masculinity. In the medieval legends about heroes and damsels, we are seldom told what happens once the Hero has slain the dragon and married the Princess. We don’t hear what happened in their marriage, because the Hero, as an archetype, doesn’t know what to do with the Princess once he’s won her. He doesn’t know what to do when things return to normal.

The Hero’s downfall is that he doesn’t know and is unable to acknowledge his own limitations. A boy or a man under the power of the Shadow Hero cannot really realize that he is a mortal being. Denial of death – the ultimate limitation on human life – is his specialty

The boy possessed by the Coward, the other poll of the Hero’s bipolar Shadow, shows an extreme reluctance to stand up for himself in physical confrontations. He will usually run away from a fight, perhaps excusing himself by claiming that it is more “manly“ to walk away. But he will feel wretched in spite of his excuses. It is not only physical fights he will avoid, however. He will tend to allow himself to be bullied emotionally and intellectually as well. When someone else is demanding or forceful with him, the boy under the power of the Coward – and unable to feel heroic about himself – will cave in. He will easily acquiesce to pressure from others; he will feel invaded and run-over, like a doormat. When he has had enough of this, however, the hidden grandiosity of the Grandstander Bully within him will erupt and launch a violent verbal and/or physical assault upon his “enemy,” an assault for which the other is totally unprepared.

Having described the negative, or Shadow, aspects of the Grandstander/Coward, we nonetheless have to ask ourselves why the Hero is present in our psyches at all. Why is this a part of our personal developmental history as men? What is the evolutionary adaptation that it serves?

What the Hero does is mobilize the boy’s delicate Ego structures to enable him to break with the Mother at the end of boyhood and face the difficult tasks that life is beginning to assign him. The Hero energies call upon the boys masculine reserves, which will be refined as he matures, in order to establish his independence and his competence, for him to be able to experience his own budding abilities, to “push the outside of the envelope“ and test himself against the difficult, even hostile, forces in the world. The Hero enables him to establish a beachhead against the overwhelming power of the unconscious (much of which, for men at least, is experienced as feminine, as Mother). The Hero enables the boy to begin to assert himself and define himself as distinct from all others, so that ultimately, as a distinct being, he can relate to them fully and creatively.

The Hero throws the boy up against the limits, against the seemingly intractable. It encourages him to dream the impossible dream that might just be possible after all, if he has enough courage. It empowers him to fight the unbeatable foe that, if he is not possessed by the Hero, he might just be able to defeat.

Once again, it is our position that all too often therapists, not to mention relatives, friends, coworkers, and people in positions of authority, attack, knowingly or unknowingly, the “shining“ of the Hero in men. Ours is not an age that wants heroes. Ours is an age of envy, in which laziness and self-involvement are the rule. Anyone who tries to shine, who dares to stand above the crowd, is dragged back down by his lackluster and self appointed “peers.”

We need a great rebirth of the heroic in our world. Every sector of human society, wherever that may be on the planet, seems to be slipping into an unconscious chaos. Only the heroic consciousness, exerting all its might, will be able to stop the slide towards oblivion. Only a massive rebirth of courage in both men and women will rescue the world. Against enormous odds, the Hero picks up his sword and charges into the heart of the abyss, into the mouth of the dragon, into the castle under the power of an evil spell.

What is the end of the Hero? Almost universally, in legend and myth, he “dies,” is transformed into a god, and translated into heaven. We recall the story of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, or of Oedipus’s final disappearance in a flash of light at Colonus, or Elijah’s ascent into the sky in a fiery chariot.

The “death” of the Hero is the “death” of boyhood, of Boy psychology. And it is the birth of manhood and Man psychology. The “death“ of the Hero in the life of a boy (or a man) really means that he has finally encountered his limitations. He has met the enemy, and the enemy is himself. He has met his own dark side, his very unheroic side. He has fought the dragon and been burned by it; he has fought the revolution and drunk the dregs of his own humanity. He has overcome the Mother and then realized his incapacity to love the Princess. The “death“ of the Hero signals a boy’s or man’s encounter with true humility. It is the end of his heroic consciousness.

True humility, we believe, consists of two things. The first is knowing our limitations. And the second is getting the help we need.

If we are possessed by the Hero, we will fall under the negative aspect of this energy and live out – as Tom Cruise’s character did – the inflated feelings and actions of the Grandstander Bully. We will walk over others in our insensitivity and arrogance, and eventually we will self-destruct, ridiculed and cast out by others.

If we are in the passive poll of the Hero’s bipolar Shadow, possessed by the Coward, we will lack the motivation to achieve anything of significance for human life.

But if we access the Hero energy appropriately, we will push ourselves up against our limitations. We will adventure to the frontiers of what we can be as boys, and from there, if we can make the transition, we will be prepared for our initiation into manhood.

~ Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette in King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering The Archetypes Of The Mature Masculine (p.38-40)

[Art: Kucing Kecil]

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