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Transformation - Death & Suffering


The next stage of the Cosmogonic Cycle is called "Transformation".  Sometimes Joseph Campbell refers to it as a stage of death and suffering.  This is the point at which the Hero suffers a loss of self in some way.  Sometimes they die, sometimes their naivety falls away, sometimes they suffer something that leaves them forever changed.  Whatever manifestation it takes you can be sure that you are left to wonder if there is any way the hero could recover.  Remember that the Cosmogonic Cycle within the Hero's Journey is pointing to spiritual truths that mirror the physical journey; so this suffering, death, and change is often an internal or mental struggle.  

I recently finished a book by Terry Brooks where the sister of the hero is taken captive and tricked with an illusion to believe that she was tortured.  While it was just an illusion the trauma was very real for this young woman.  When she escaped, the illusionist pursued her and cornered her and her rescuers.  The illusionist taunted her and created an image of the torturer to frighten her and control her.  The young woman was frightened, but instead of being controlled, she lashed out.  She let out a scream of rage and then something unexpected happened.  A powerful magic that had run in her family, but had been dormant for generations, was awakened.  Her scream channeled the magic and the illusion and illusionist both exploded.  The young woman passed out and remained catatonic for the rest of the book.  It was her suffering that led to an internal death and transformation.  I have not started the next book in the series, but I suspect her transformation will follow.  When she wakes from this symbolic death, she will either become the greater hero, or she will become the villain.  

The Bible is full of agricultural imagery that reflects this truth.  Seeds are planted and lie dormant in the soil until it is time for growth.  The old plant dies and the new one is born.  Pruning, cutting, and grafting are all images of the death of the old and care for the new.  Like the rest of the Hero's Journey, this is a stage we all experience in our own lives.  We tell stories using this pattern because the stories teach us what to do when we face those stages ourselves.  As we quickly approach winter, the leaves are starting to fall.  The soil is growing cold, but deep within there are seeds resting among the decay of the previous year's growth.  When Spring comes, the land will burst forth with new life. 

What is it in you that seems to be dying away right now?  Are you resisting it?  Do you have the faith and wisdom to see that letting it go will bring new life?  Are you resting enough?  The land will not bring forth new life if it does not rest over the winter.  Likewise, you will not experience the transformation promised after pruning if you do not rest and grieve when it is time.  

God, help us to rest in you.  Help us to let go of what we cling to.  Let us watch the seasons of the Earth and learn to mimic the cycles of rest and growth instead of always striving and pushing as if it were always Spring.  Bless each reader and comfort them through the difficulties of their suffering.  Amen.


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