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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine #32: Archetype - The Myth Of The Hero Myth

  

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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine  #32: Archetype - The Myth Of The Hero Myth

 

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THE MYTH OF THE HERO MYTH

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This is the 32nd in our articles series and I hope this information is helpful.

All previous articles in the series can be found in our Library:
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Upon request, reprint permission and an addendum of substantiating resources are available for all magazine articles. When requesting reprint permission or addenda, please include the issue date and full issue title. All magazine articles are copyright © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself ™ International. All rights reserved. ISSN 2474-820X.
 

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Did you watch the eclipse on 21 August 2017?  The final stages of an eclipse process mirrors the beginning.

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        Johann Zahn’s Oculus Artificialis (1685) Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus Sive Telescopium (The Long-Distance Artificial Eye, or Telescope).

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This may or may not be something you already know, so it occurred to me I should mention it.  For those of us with sufficient decades behind us, we find similar patterns, as we look back on our lives. The start of any new pattern, and the ending of the previous one, is always somehow similar; similar events will occur. 

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Van Gogh's own self portraits, animated.

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Usually, we can find at least one major pattern, repeating over time, linking beginnings and endings with similarities that after awhile, we just can't miss. We can also usually find many smaller cycles. These patterns act as pairs, like bookends, for those of you who remember what bookends are. This is interesting, because beginnings and endings are usually so complex and complicated, they're notoriously hard to discover without such markers. 

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Van Gogh lost in his own woods.

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Granted, shorter time frame cycles are easier to discover,. However, regardless of their frequency or duration, these cyclic reoccurrences, big or small, are intrinsic to our lives, and one of their most striking features is that their endings mirror their beginnings. Other than yourself, they rarely involve precisely the same people, places, or circumstances, but nonetheless, they end and begin in similar ways.  Patterns beginning in sudden disruption end in something similar; a story that begins by being swallowed by a whale has an ending involving regurgitation.

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Atomic structure sequences:

Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N), Oxygen (O,) Fluorine (F), Neon (Ne), Sodium (Na), Hydrogen (H), Helium(He,) Lithium (Li), Beryllium (Be), Boron (B).

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Some patterns simply involve an annual flux of energy, such that the entire situation evens out in the end. We may have gain and loss pairs: a periodic gain always followed by a subsequent loss equal to the gain. For example, financial windfalls might be followed by sudden increased expenses, or an annual cold will always be caught just before one's annual 2-week vacation. 

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How orbital shells (energy levels) fill with successive pairs of electron energy.

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Some patterns take longer, occurring every seven or fourteen years. For example, relationships, major or minor, might seem to begin and end within certain time frames. 

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Snowman's tit for tat.

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Some patterns are only apparent because they have a similar progression, such as two steps forward, one step back. As an example, a pattern involving a periodic change in residence, job, or marriage, might always end with a subsequent change in position, such as a promotion, relocation, or with the birth of a son, and then a grand-child.

Hopefully, these examples suffice to help you find your own personal examples.

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 Two Marx Brothers in an excerpt from the mirror scene in the movie Coconuts.

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In our literature, the Hero Myth depicts one such cycle. It's an epic cycle that's the basis for stories, tales, and narratives forming most of our literary tradition. Like all cycles, its' essential nature is its' particular form (its' progression from beginning through middle to end); this never changes, and as a result, we can identify its' shape whenever we're reading a story, watching a tale, or participating in a narrative, including our own life.

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 Jason and the Argonauts, the slaying of the hydra who guards the Golden Fleece (the fleece is in the background hanging over a dead tree limb). 1963, film directed by Don Chaffey, with animation by Ray Harryhausen.

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This predictability of the overall cycle gives us some idea of what to expect. Once we can identify the cycle we're in, we have some idea of what will happen, and in what order, even without specific particulars. It's "Been There, Done That".

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Animated Greek vase illustration.

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The mythologist Joseph Campbell articulated the universality of these enduring processes as his life's work. 

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Diagrams of the Hero's inner and outer journeys.

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Studying such reoccurring patterns was a major aspect of the life work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. The physicist Eugene Wigner recognized interconnectedness, summarizing it succinctly in 1960 as an article titled "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" a copy of which is here:
http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Ematc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

The mathematician Jacques Hadamard investigated this in his work "The Psychology of Invention In The Mathematical Field".  The physicist Erwin Schrodinger evaluated this puzzling relationship in his essay "Mind and Matter".
 

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Piet Mondrian animated Ping Pong.

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Our awareness of these processes is not new. Obviously, belief is not required. We acknowledge, and can't deny, its' existence, but we are, very much, still developing our understanding of it.  We do not yet have a comprehensive understanding of the repercussions, or ways to make effective practical use of it in our daily lives. 

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Mr. Peabody's Improbably History Wabac machine,  from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, produced by Jay Ward Productions, 1959 - 1964

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We know basic energy manifests in myriad ways by forming structural patterns, in a similar manner to the period table of elements, where what matters, pun intended, is structure itself, formed from fungible particles of energy; we now know that what emerges as "chemistry" is the property of structure, not the property of any fungible single particle by itself.

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Properties are the result of structure, and not any individual atom; all energy is fungible. Picasso animated music band.

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As interesting and vitally important as cycles and their stages are, equally important is what any given culture choses to ignore about cycles, to leave out, to obscure, when communicating this. 

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Equally important is what's left out. Jason watching the feet of the giant statue, Talas.
Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, film directed by Don Chaffey, with animation by Ray Harryhausen.

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In our culture, what's missing, what's not told, what's left out, obscured, and ignored, are the problems of re-entry, of what happens when the hero manages to survive the adventure, return with the boon, and then tries to bring it, to integrate it, into the world.  This question is not "I found it and brought it home; can I keep it?" but rather "I can't live without it, now whatever do I do with it?

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Uma Thurman as Venus in the shell. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1988, Terry Gilliam.

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Today, we rely on media to transmit our stories to us; that's how most of us first encounter cyclic patterns.  We don't have an oral tradition. Few of us read, or are read, bedtime stories. We don't, as a rule, tell stories to each other.  All the exposure most of us will ever get to cyclic tales is through media, before we attend "school".  Unfortunately, media is a business, and aside from the distribution of propaganda and minimal news, the primary purpose of commercial media is financial, to make money. 

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Fractured Fairy Tales, from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, produced by Jay Ward Productions, 1959 - 1964.

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Most forms of media entertainment in our culture are commercial businesses operating for profit; the more addictive the better, as far as the producers and distributors are concerned. It's not in media businesses' interests to end anything, but rather to promote addiction to what it controls.  

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   The Brain That Wouldn't Die, 1962, directed by Joseph Green, Sterling Productions.

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These businesses perpetuate cycles without end, so as to make the most money from the most familiar; substituting  a genuine real life experience for an imaginary process of continual high points with no waiting around for something interesting to happen, yet nothing is truly unexpected or unanticipated. Thus we see endless sequels, reality shows, alternate identity video games.  It's one thing to admire and identify with a fictional character's traits, skills, and circumstances.  It's another thing entirely to adopt their identity and live it instead of your own.

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Mickey Mouse Club Meeting c.1930.

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We cannot look to media to accurately depict cycles; if anything, media encourages a shorter attention span and addiction, so it can sell us even more. As a result, our current culture is, in general, cyclically unaware, and that's causing problems.  It's a serious disadvantage. 

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The Cyclops from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 1973. Ray Harryhausen. 

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Stories in our culture begin at high points, at the first action pivot, where something interesting is in the middle of happening. No script starts at the actual beginning, but at a point beyond where the plot is actively pivoting.  The stories don't elaborate until much later, on what lead up to these points; they'll only fill us in on a few aspects in retrospect, as necessary, on a need-to-know basis, and only after we're caught up in the story and wondering what happens next. 

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Scene from the movie Ghostbusters, 1984.. 

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There are no endings, no beginnings, only continuings. There are no pauses, no dull interludes as in real life. There is no waiting, no waiting to be served, no waiting for the bus, no waiting for the ferry. There is no waiting for a phone call. There is nowhere you are alone.  There is no walking without music piped into your ears. There is no sitting quietly. There is nothing not explained, nothing that needs explaining, nothing that is not explicit, nothing unexciting, nothing unrewarding, nothing irrelevant, nothing extraneous, so long as you watch the story arcs and watch them long enough. This is not life. And yet, now, in our culture, it is.

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An animated aimless house based on the drawings of M.C. Escher.  

Our culture ends the Hero's story just before the most critical point and long before the story is over.

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The best that can be said of the past fifty years is that we have not blown ourselves and our planet to smithereens, and one reason may be precisely because we've been too stuck.  There has been no substantial or fundamental change or increase in understanding, no fundamental changes towards answering outstanding questions, no fundamental progress towards solving outstanding fundamental problems. 

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Evolution, ein16, cartoon by Sidney Harris, www.sciencecartoonsplus.com.

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All this proliferation, of technology, of ideas, of materials, is not moving us forward. We are in fact making no fundamental progress whatsoever, no real improvements, changes, or alterations.

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Japanese rotation animation. 

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We are just chasing our own tale, pun intended, as in tail and tale both, locked in an endless commercial spiral loop, endlessly repeating the same cycles in a forced and artificial environment, perpetuated through planned obsolescence by altering formats, connection standards, legislation, and there has been no fundamental change. 

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Mickey Mouse and Ouroborus. Walt Disney Studios, 1928.

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Commercial products with short life cycles abound, and while they continue proliferating, we are developing an ever increasing dependency on them by using them to support more and more of our information infrastructure. No health care system is concerned for your welfare.  No insurance or drug company is interested in your health.  All the while, the profligate use of finite resources threatens what remains of our planet's resources.

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Ethics eth04, cartoon by Sidney Harris, www.sciencecartoonsplus.com.

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Complexity is increasing.  Confusion is increasing, errors are increasing, and thus, complications are increasing.  Discernment, on the other hand, is decreasing, as is the ability to make fundamental changes to an ever-chaotic structure.  It is getting harder and harder to find things, and harder and harder to make changes.  This chase-your-tail cycle too has an end, when resources to fuel it and fund it run dry, disappearing usually suddenly in spite of "predictions", and there are absolutely no workable substitutes.

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Drawings by M. C. Escher.

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A prerequisite for a culture in a decline of this kind is an intrinsic denial of endings.  

When we view our culture's media entertainment, it's missing that part that informs you what happens AFTER you bring home the Boom, uh, Boon. For example, no one just gets married and "lives happily ever after"; marriage is just the beginning - it just puts you on a different level of the game.  Completion information in our culture is missing. We're a commercial culture, and we've traded entertainment and profit for awareness of cyclic completion; the very information that would keep our culture continuing is rejected, lost, hidden, and buried, for much shorter term gains.

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Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, film directed by Don Chaffey, with animation by Ray Harryhausen. Hera wipes the water pool as Jason kisses Medea and the words THE END appear.

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LIFE COMES WITH MARGINAL INSTRUCTIONS 

OK;  so just what does happen when you have come back with a boon?  Well for the starters, a lot of this reintegration, and the return, depends on how you acquired the boon / realization / understanding in the first place. How you acquired your awareness has a bearing, pun intended, on how you get back into the world, and how you integrate your awareness into the world once you're back. Why? Because the boon, of course, symbolizes self-realization, a process of initiation into the mysteries of life.  

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Scene from Marie Antoinette, 2006, written and directed by Sofia Coppola.

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You went on the Journey in search of consciously integrating what you've previously suppressed, purportedly because the world felt you should repress these things. Having reached this awareness, you have made something new and good with this stuff that the world really needs but hasn't handled.

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Releasing puppet strings.

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To do this means coming back into the world, and bringing the awareness with you. This means you have to brave crossing the same horrid threshold that you previously crossed on the way in. And once back across,  you have to figure out some way to make this awareness acceptable to the world, so the world is the better for having what its' missed. That's why you did all this, after all. And how to do this is just what the culture won't tell you. 

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"I've Got No Strings". A scene from the animated film Pinocchio, 1940, Walt Disney Studios.

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This reintegration, of your epiphany into the world, is the whole point of the journey, and frankly, the whole point of life, and our culture ends the story just at this point.  It has removed not only all references to what to do here, but all instructions, directions, and any and all acknowledgements that this part of the story even exists.  In our culture, we're not supposed to do anything with what we bring back, we're only supposed to want more, and wonder what happens next.

There are four hurdles that seem to symbolize all the possibilities for acquiring this awareness. 

There's a divine marriage, the Hieros Gamos, and subsequent bearing and rearing of a child who represents the spiritual life. This is, in Jungian terms, the reconciliation of animus with anima, the hieros gamos. 

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Scene from Marie Antoinette, 2006, written and directed by Sofia Coppola.
The wedding of Maria Antonia (Kirsten Dunst) and the Dauphin of France, the future Louis XVI of France (Jason Schwartzman). 

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There's atonement with the father, where the father and son save one another, and the woman becomes either the guide or the seductress that blocks the way. An example of this appears in the original Star Wars movie trilogy. 

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La Belle Et La Bête (Beauty and The Beast), film by Jean Cocteau, 1946. By saving the Beast, Beauty redeems and saves her father.

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There's apotheosis, meaning the discovery that you are what you're seeking.

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Scene from the movie Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) 1977, Lucasfilm. Obi Wan Kanobi disappears when fighting Darth Vader, after stating that if struck down he'll become more powerful than Vader can possibly imagine. 

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The fourth kind of realization is of an entirely different character; I call it the "Grab And Run"

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Tintin et Milou

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Instead of making slow progress learning the mysteries, this has the hero making a violent rush, past all the obstacles, straight to the goal, grabbing the boon, and making a run for it.  An example is Prometheus stealing fire.

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Quote from Carl Jung: "There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of the creative fire."

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Sometimes, the hero is grabbing his bride back from an ogre who's run off with her. But whatever the boon, it's grab it and run. There's nothing nice about it. It's theft, pure and simple, and the whole unconscious system, the unconscious psyche, has a violent reaction, rebelling against it as a violation. This is a psychotic condition; you've wrenched some knowledge from the deepest abysses of your own unknown self, and now the demons are let loose to wreck their vengeance. This is where you run like hell, with help.

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Il ne peut plus faire sans doigts. This shadow puppet dog doesn't play fair. 

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At this point, the stories that depict this sort of realization have the motif of the magic flight.  The hero or heroine, while running, constantly throws small bits of protection over their shoulder or behind them, and these miraculously morph into something else. Pebbles tossed behind become mountains. Hair combs tossed behind become forests.  Shards of glass or mirrors tossed behind become lakes. This is meant to thwart whatever is pursuing; it's very violent, negative, and frequently some form of devouring mother.

It's at this point that the crossing of the line comes again, what is referred to in literature as the return across the threshold. Whatever line you passed when you went into the unconscious, into the abyss, is the line through which you must pass again when you leave behind those powers. 

 

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A hero with his heroic helper.

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Can you get back up into the world of light? Will you have a spontaneous remission, so to speak, of this quite psychotic condition? Or are you going to remain prey to these powers beneath? 

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Never ending hallway doors.

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The crises of descent and the crises of return will match.

 If you passed into the adventure through water, you'll return through water, as Odysseus was washed up on the shores of Ithaca. If you entered by sailing between the Clashing Rocks, as did Jason and the Argonauts, you'll have to pass through them again, or something similar, to come back out. 

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Depiction of Carl Jung archetypes.

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And here's the clincher. You're not done when you do get back. In fact, you're just beginning.

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Changing the clock. A scene from the animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians (101 Dalmatians), 1961, Walt Disney Studios.

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Here's a quote from Joseph Campbell, from his book "Pathways to Bliss", in the chapter "The Self as Hero"; here he's referring to the end point of the "Hero's Journey":
"The whole idea is that you've got to bring out again that which you went to recover:  the unrealized, unutilized potential in yourself. The whole point of this journey is the reintroduction of this potential into the world; that is to say, you living in the world. You are to bring this treasure of understanding back and integrate it in a rational life. It goes without saying, this is very difficult. Bringing the boon back can be even more difficult than going down into your own depths in the first place....The point is that what you have to bring is something that the world lacks - that is why you went to get it."

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Albert Einstein with his Einstein Puppet. 1956.

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When you do get back, there are only three possible reactions that the world can have to your prize. I call them "coming, going, enduring".  

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Quote from Carl Jung: "The Kaballah tree is a fruit-bearing genealogical tree, and hence a kind of tribal mother."

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The first possibility is that you're completely ignored. There's no reception at all; no one cares about this great thing you've brought back that you know they need, and they just ignore you. Are you going to give up at this point, and say to hell with them?
 

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Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1912. Her favorite spider kite trick. 

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The second possibility is to go commercial; give society what it wants instead of what you have that you know it needs. That dialogue goes something like this: "Now that I have this hard won awareness and skill, I can sell out, just for a little while. I can give them what they're asking for,  and then, when I've made enough money, I'll just quit and do my own thing."   Unfortunately, inevitably, and of course, this never happens, because you've created a whole pitch for your expression that doesn't allow you to include the boon of awareness that you brought back, and so it gets lost. You're not giving them anything new; they're only getting what they want. But you've established an income for yourself. Is that comforting?

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Hanging out at the beach, literally and figuratively.

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Both of these are refusals of the return. 

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An on - off switch for feelings.

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The third possibility, enduring, is a compromise. You must persist, and try to find some means, some vocabulary, some way, that enables you to deliver to the culture even one small part of what you've found to be the life boon, and to do this in terms, and in proportions, that are proper to their ability to receive. There is always some way to do this, and it will require a great deal of skill, compassion, patience, and time.  But if you keep at it, and if you can make just one little hook into the culture, you will presently be able to deliver your message. Some hook, just one little one, will eventually present itself, you will be watching and waiting and fully prepared for it,  and you will be able to take advantage of it to open up the way.

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The Thinker with YoYo. Le Penseur,  bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, Musée Rodin, Paris.

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This, then, is the information our culture has dropped: what the Hero needs to do with the boon brought back, and how this can be accomplished. 

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Bullwinkle's Chemistry Cookbook, from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, produced by Jay Ward Productions, 1959 - 1964.

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Your life is chemistry. When a story or character resonates with you, they are a special element from all those around you,  that you are using to build something into form in your own life. There is always a reason for the resonance.  You can think of these stories, or characters,  as your electrons, helping you to build your own expressive  molecular structure. Understand the role they're playing in your life. 

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    There's always a reason for the resonance. Bubo, the mechanical owl, from the movie Clash of the Titans, 1981, MGM.

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Consider how they relate to each other in your context, not how they relate to something out there, not how they were relevant to the people who told the story hundreds of years ago, but how they are relevant to you, right now, unless meditating on their former meaning amplifies your understand of the role they are playing in your life. When something resonates with you, when something attracts you, it is telling you something about yourself and the part of the cycle you are in; figure out what this is.

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    Mother and baby Halloween Costumes adapted from the book Where the Wild Things Are, 1963, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, originally published by Harper & Row.

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The Hero Journey is only one of many universal patterns through which radiance and pattern shine. Heroes, and heroines, artists, and poets, are meant to reconfigure the objects of the world in such a way that illumination shines through to us, and makes increased awareness possible.  A "good life" should be full of such journeys, one after another. You should be called to the journey, over and over again, to the realm of adventure, to a new horizon. With each call, you will face the same problem: Do I Dare? And if you do, all the dangers will be there, all the help will be waiting, all the risks, and always, the possibility of disaster. But always also the possibility of joy.

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    Pas parapluie.

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

If you're interested in pursuing this topic further, then I recommend the following resources.

Campbell, Joseph  Pathways to Bliss
New World Library, 2004

Dirac, P. A. M.  The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 4th Edition.
Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press 1958

Hadamard, Jacques  The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field
Princeton University Press, 1945

Lanczos, I. C.  The Variational Principles of Mechanics, 4th Edition.
University of Toronto Press, 1970

Schrodinger, Erwin  What is Life?, Mind and Matter, Autobiographical Sketches
Combined reprint, Cambridge University Press, Canto Classics

Spencer, Debra The Eternal Sherlock Holmes
Suit Yourself™ International Press, 2016

Von Franz, Marie-Louise  Number and Time
Northwestern University Press, 1974

Weyl, Hermann Mind and Nature 
Princeton University Press, 2009

Wigner, Eugene P. "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" 1960 
http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Ematc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html
(accessed 170821).
"The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences," in Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I (February 1960). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1960 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wigner, Eugene P.  Group Theory and its' Application to the Quantum Mechanics of Atomic Spectra
New York, Academic Press, 1959

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I sign our magazine articles "See Into The Invisible". Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes, 
Debra Spencer

All Content is © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself™ International. Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.

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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill