Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   "...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

The Return Threshold

  As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeat

Master of Two Worlds

  This week we come to the second to last stage of the Hero's Journey.  Campbell called this stage "The Master of Two Worlds".  In this stage, the hero tries to integrate what they learned and gained on their journey with their old "ordinary" world.   Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."  This explains the challenge the hero must face in this stage.  All that they learned and gained must be fully mastered and the test of this mastery is being able to use it in the ordinary world.  They must simplify it so that the uninitiated can benefit from it, just as Einstein encouraged the mastery of complex ideas into simple explanations.   In the Star Wars Trilogy, this stage happens off-screen after the film is over, but before the new movie begins.  We learn in the newest trilogy that Luke created a school for Jedi, taking the wisdom he gained from his journey and sharing it with others.  In