The Hero’s Journey and Yoga : An Explanation

March 20, 2018 // 

Joseph Campbell was an American author known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. In his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, he combines modern psychology with comparative mythology.  Campbell popularized the idea of the “monomyth”, also known as the “hero’s journey”.  The hero’s journey can be thought of as a template, or structure for a broad category of tale.  It entails a ‘hero’ going out into the world, embarking on a journey or quest, facing a series of tests and trials, overcoming the challenges, gaining wisdom or insight, and eventually returning to his ‘home’ with a sense of transformation.  We see this framework in movies such as Star Wars and The Hunger Games, or in literature with The Odyssey and The Hobbit. We can play with this concept, in a metaphoric sense, in relation to our lives.  As though, our life is a journey.  Our life IS the journey.  And our yoga practice is a journey, or at least part of the broader, all-encompassing ‘journey’.

“In his lifelong research Campbell discovered many patterns running through myths and stories from around the world. Years of research led Campbell to discover several basic stages that almost every hero-quest goes through (no matter what culture the myth is part of). He calls this common structure “the monomyth” (Hamby, n.d).

Yoga, as a study, encourages us to peel back the layers (in yogic language known as koshas) in an effort to connect with our essence or Self (in yogic language known as Atman).  The term Self, in the framework of Jungian psychology (Campbell being heavily inspired by Jung), is the integration of the conscious and unconscious under an all-encompassing term known as the psyche.  As yogis we can utilize our practice to soften our callused (protected and defended) self. Sri Swami Satchidananda (2011) in his translation of The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali,  references this concept in the language of, unraveling the threads which weave the “veil of  mental darkness” (Sri Swami Satchidananda, 2011, p.163)….the dark veil which covers our inner light, or Prakasa (Swami Satchidananda, 2011).  Through a consistent practice, which includes asana (physical practice), pranayama (breathwork), and self-study we can access, or begin to catch a glimpse of, what is underneath.

“Our basis is  Self. As long as we identify with body or mind, we feel we are mortal. Pranayama  indirectly helps us to understand the Oneness, the never-changing One, because it removes the veil” (Swami Satchidananda, 2011, p. 164).

In my experience, the ‘underneath’ is composed of a universal.  More specifically, the universality of human experience, consisting of patterns, symbols, and totems which have existed long before ‘us’ as a single human in the world.  It is Jung’s study of archetypes and the collective unconscious, and it is  Joseph Campbell’s work with the hero’s journey.  It is art, myth, story, religion, symbol…. In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Jung (1959) states:

“But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn.  This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious.  I have chosen the term “collective” because this part of the unconscious is not individual, but universal…”(p.3). 

My yoga practice, a large component being self study, has awakened awareness to the idea of universality.  It has assisted in breaking down the compartments that I had created as a means to divide. My study has begun to uncover a broader perspective, and a beautiful simplicity.

It is an experience that is difficult to put into form (words).  This workshop, “The Hero’s Journey”, is an attempt to bridge.  It is an effort to open up our perspective to something much larger.  It is an invitation to peel back the layers in an effort to discover the hero within.


Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. (2008). The Hero With A Thousand Faces.  California: New World Library.

Hamby, Zachary. (n.d). The Hero’s Journey. Retrieved from http://mythologyteacher.com/documents/TheHeroJourney.pdf

Hero’s Journey. May 24, 2017. In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey

Joseph Capbell. (n.d).  In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

Jung, C.G..  (1969). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C.G. (1996). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. Ed. Sonu Shamdasani. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sri Swami Satchidananda. (2011). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.

 

 

 

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