Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey #9: Atonement with the Father

Welcome my Dear Heroes!

Today is half-way day! This is the half-way point of the Hero's Journey! This is the half-way point of the series! This is the abyss! This is the time when you face what holds the most power over you.

I am excited today, Dear Listeners! While Step 10 is my favourite favourite part of the Hero's Journey, Step 9 - Atonement with the Father - is my favourite stage because this step is the entire point of the journey. This is the part where you face the very thing that sent you on your journey and when you make it past this part...oh ho ho! The best parts are still to come!

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Well, my Dear Listeners, you have come a long, long way and have overcome many obstacles.

You heard your Call to Adventure and perhaps you Refused that Call at first, but you did, indeed, accept it.

You met your Mentor or had some form of Supernatural Aid come your way and you finally Crossed the First Threshold on your quest to become the best version of yourself that you can be.

That First Threshold caused a transformation to happen and you spent some time in The Belly of the Whale only to be birthed out anew upon your Road of Trials.

You Met with the Goddess when you realized that you have both a Masculine and Feminine archetype within you that you need to nourish and then you finally faced yourself when the Temptation to continually blame others for your problems arose.

And now, my Dear Heroes, you have arrived at the Abyss. It’s time to face the demon that holds the most power over you.

[intro]

Hello, Spiritual Seekers, and welcome to yet another Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts. As always, I am your host, Mark, and today we are taking on a really big step in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Today we are going to atone with our fathers.

Well, okay, perhaps we shouldn’t take that too literally, although we could take it very literally. Some of you out there may have issues with your fathers.

Perhaps you or your father has to make amends to the other for a wrong that was committed by one or by both of you.

This is a very common theme in old tales and in new tales for that matter. The relationship between fathers and children is very often fraught with misunderstanding and hurt feelings generally due to the father’s inability to deal with their own emotions often due to the issues they had with their own fathers.

Following that example, it’s easy see how the broken trail of trauma can be created or travelled if there is never any Atonement with the Father along the way.

Maybe it’s plain to see and maybe it’s still not clear to you, so I’m going to talk about a few examples of Atonement with the Father in daily living, in modern stories and I’ll also tell you about my own life experience: and that will be one example that has nothing to do with my actual, physical father.

With the Atonement with the Father step of the Hero’s Journey, the Father is a symbolic stand-in for whatever holds the most power over you.

I began Think Spiritual Podcasts November 2017 and my reason for doing so was because I was having a difficult time learning anything new from many of the spiritual teachers I listened to. It seemed like I was having most of my own thoughts and feelings just thrown back at me.

And then I had a bit of a shocked and confused moment when two teachers that I regularly listen to disagreed harshly on a particular subject and I didn’t know which one of them I should keep listening to.

The choice I made was to stop listening to both of them and to strike out on my own and to begin to speak out my own ideas and teach my own thoughts.

So, you see, those two teachers were metaphorically my “Father”and I was the rebellious son who had to answer my Call to Adventure and take up the quest of finding out who I really was. I had to follow my destiny and do what I felt was necessary and right.

Creating and producing Think Spiritual Podcasts has been a Hero’s Journey of its own and it seems like I go through each step of the Hero’s Journey every time I need to produce another Hero’s Journey episode.

Remember the last episode when I actually faced the Temptation of possibly giving up?

The same is true this time around. I had to atone with the two teachers who initially sent me on my quest. Now, I did not set about to purposely do this. It simply happened to be that I’ve occasionally tuned in to some of their new material during the last couple of months and I have also completely accepted that they don’t agree on some subjects and I am okay with that.

They don’t have to agree and I don’t have to hang on their every word as I have found my own path and my own way - but that does not mean that they have nothing to teach me anymore.

By combining what I have learned on my own and by listening to and incorporating their teachings, I am a far more powerful Hero now than I was when I began my journey.

To expand on the Hero theme, let’s take another look at Thor Odinson from the Marvel movie series. If you’re a regular listener, I’m sure you know how much I love Thor: Ragnarok, but in preparation for this episode I went back to the original 2011 Thor film to examine Thor’s birth stages.

And, wow, am I glad I did! You know, I’ve loved the Thor films right from the first moment he appeared on the screen, but I have a newfound respect and love for this first film now. There is something very powerful and satisfying about seeing the end result in Thor: Ragnarok - the Hero becoming King - and then going back to see his humble beginnings again.

Or not so humble as is the case with Thor. As I watched the movie again, it was really interesting to note just how one-dimensional he was as a character and that alone made me realize how taking the Hero’s Journey makes us multi-dimensional.

We move from flat, egocentric, passions-driven, automatons to deep-feeling, compassionate, empathic, connected individuals.

Such is the case with Thor when his first movie begins. He is prideful, arrogant, brutish, impatient and his whole identity is rooted in his accomplishments in battle. Now, that is a pretty cool character to have at your side because, Archetype-wise, Thor is the Warrior. However he is possessed by that Warrior energy and he is enacting nothing but that Warrior. There is nothing else of substance to him.

Odin, Thor’s father and King of Asgard, eventually sees this in his son. I think Odin was so proud of Thor for so long that he was willfully blinded into nearly giving him the throne - perhaps that is the downfall of only having one eye.

Thor, possessed by his Warrior archetype, thinks his father is a doddering old fool who has grown soft and weak.

So, Odin, in his great wisdom, strips Thor of all that he believes himself to be: he takes Thor’s symbols of authority, his armour, and the mighty Mjolnir. He curses Thor as he calls him unworthy and Odin casts Thor out of Asgard.

That right there is the rift between the Father and Son that must eventually be atoned and repaired.

No, I’m not talking about the fact that they had a fight and they have to mend their relationship, I’m talking about how Odin called Thor “unworthy”, but he then creates a path back to Asgard for Thor to follow as well.

Odin imbues Mjolnir with the ability to grant the power of Thor to whoever is “worthy” and Thor gains his power back by giving up his pride.

That is Thor’s Atonement with the Father moment: when he lets go of his pride and accepts that he cannot control everything and that he cannot fight his way out of every single situation. When he understands that he is not only a nearly-indestructible, nearly-immortal god, but he is also a fallible and nearly-human bag of flesh it is at that point when he becomes worthy of the power that he once possessed.

What really happened is that Odin, in his infinite wisdom, sent Thor to earth to nourish his humanity. To become a good King, Thor had to first learn to become a decent human being.

Honestly, I could spend hours talking about different movies and different Atonement with the Father scenarios. This stage of the Hero’s Journey is the entire reason that you began your quest in the first place.

Case-in-point is my personal Hero’s Journey away from Evangelical Christianity. This began March 2007 - 12 years ago from the production time of this episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

For many years I was very angry at that religion and I spent a lot of time railing against it. As more years went by, I began to ignore it and not give it as much of my attention - I was spending time finding my own path of spirituality.

And eventually, I made peace with my Christian past and began to accept that there was some truth in the Bible and in the words of Jesus Christ.

That was my personal Atonement with the Father moment: when I was able to be “okay” with my Christian past and upbringing and was able to look at Christianity with new eyes.

None of that meant that I had to become a Christian again. I didn’t have to accept Jesus as my saviour and beg for his forgiveness for leaving.

Hell, it could be successfully argued that Jesus or Father God was the one who sent me on my journey away from that stifling religion!

No, my Atonement with the Father happened when I could shake Christianity by the hand and not challenge it to a duel to the death. When I could look it in the eye and not rage in anger, but just simply say, “Thank you for the good times, but I’m going this other way now. I’ll be here if you ever need me.”

And, yes, I did just put myself on the same level as a global religion. Sometimes it’s okay to be the Arrogant Hero.

Okay, in these Atonement with the Father examples of my podcast journey and Thor’s beginnings and in my atonement with Christianity, there is one particular word that I’ve used that I want to focus on, because it is the true meaning behind this Atonement with the Father step of the Hero’s Journey:

Acceptance.

Acceptance of the way things have been is the cold, hard, ugly demon that we all have to face.

I understand that acceptance was something that I brought up in the Temptation step of my Hero’s Journey series, and it’s something I’m going to bring up in the next episode as well. This is because these middle stages of the Hero’s Journey are all tightly interwoven.

Temptation is always the urge to abandon the quest because in order to continue on, we have to face and deal with things we’ve been avoiding.

The next stage, Apotheosis, grants us new knowledge and/or wisdom. We “die” to our old ways and are “resurrected” anew.

Without these other two stages, our Atonement with the Father means nothing. We have to overcome something to get to it and we have to gain something from the atonement.

Or vice-versa. One thing I don’t think I’ve brought up during this Hero’s Journey series is that these stages don’t always happen in this specific order. The order of these presentations is, shall we say, the average procedure.

Now, back to the point of acceptance:

As we continue our individual Hero’s Journeys, we all must come to that place of acceptance. We all have to accept that life may not have dealt us the greatest hand. We all have to accept that we’ve either done some terrible things or had some terrible things done to us. We all have to accept that we are where we are because of the choices we have made.

We have to get to that point of accepting that this is how our life has turned out and that we can only change now. Because if we don’t accept how things are, we become Batman.

Wait. What? We become Batman? You make that sound like a bad thing.

That’s what you’re saying to me at this moment, right?

Trust me, Dear Listeners, you don’t want to be Batman.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the Marianas Trench, I’m quite certain that you have at least an inkling of Batman’s origin story.

The young Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents, billionaire philanthropists Thomas and Martha Wayne, being murdered during a mugging:

Sorry, non-related side-note here, but if you ever have the chance to watch the DC animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, it depicts an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne was gunned down as a child and his father, Thomas, becomes Batman and his mother, Martha, becomes, get this, the Joker! From that moment they also, obviously, stop being philanthropists because their own hope for the future is dead. All they care about is revenge and their own love/hate relationship. It’s a brilliant play on the archetypes - actually, good god! Flashpoint as a whole is an Atonement with the Father film - go find it and watch it - but I digress from my main point:

Alright, so Bruce Wayne sees his parents killed and vows to spend his life doing something about it and he does so by becoming Batman and fighting crime.

All good so far, right?

Sure. Batman is the Hero and by embracing the Hero he takes up the Hero’s Journey, but now comes the problem...Bruce Wayne’s true Hero’s Journey is to become Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Batman is the tool, the archetype, the alter-ego that Bruce Wayne needs to get him through to, aha! Acceptance that his parents are dead and they are never coming back to life.

Every single time that Bruce Wayne is faced with his Atonement with the Father moment, his moment of acceptance, he turns away from it and flees back into his Batman persona.

Bruce Wayne is stuck in an endless loop of behaviour.

There was a birth moment for Batman: that was his Belly of the Whale step. His Road of Trials are his constant battles with crime in Gotham City. Batman has met with numerous “Goddesses” along the way: Catwoman could be considered as one, Vicki Vale another, and the Joker could even be one as he is definitely Batman’s polar opposite.

There is always the Temptation for Batman to abandon his quest and leave Gotham in its misery. For that matter, I’m sure he could become a criminal himself if he so chose.

But now, rearing up like a spectre from the past, comes Batman’s aka Bruce Wayne’s Atonement with the Father: acceptance of the death of his parents.

It is the thing he fears the most and not because he won’t accept that his parents are gone, but because Bruce Wayne does not know who he is without Batman.

To continue his Hero’s Journey, Batman has to die so Bruce Wayne can continue to live.

And Bruce Wayne either rejects that outright or the Batman persona is so strong - again, possession by the Warrior archetype - that he refuses to leave.

When that moment comes - and it always comes - Bruce Wayne resets to his Road of Trials phase of the Hero’s Journey. So, he is stuck: Road of Trials, Goddess, Temptation, here comes Atonement with the Father and - no thank you, reset: Road of Trials, Goddess, Temptation, Atonement - nope! Reset: Road of Trials, Goddess, Temptation…

Good god, I’m going to get stuck in an endless loop if I continue that paragraph!

Do you see my point? You don’t want to be Batman. You don’t want to be stuck in endless loops of behaviour that leave you stuck on your Hero’s Journey.

Although, you definitely could be like Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman. That would be okay. I’ll talk about that series of movies in some upcoming episodes of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

So, perhaps this has been a very long-winded way of saying that Atonement with the Father is about acceptance of your situation in life and maybe I could have said it in a much simpler way, but I’ve enjoyed my meandering path today.

I completely admit that acceptance is a difficult thing to achieve, but I will let you know that the Hero’s Journey has you covered there as well. The next step, Apotheosis, another death and rebirth stage, very much goes hand-in-hand with Atonement with the Father.

But, as always, that’s just a bit of a teaser to prepare you for the next Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

And I just realized that I completely forgot to find a song to emphasize this step of the Hero’s Journey! The writer and creator in me is freaking out at the moment because I shouldn’t break with a tradition that I’ve carried through all these episodes.

However, the Warrior part of me is saying, “F*** it, I’ve given you enough examples today and I’m tired of writing. Go find your own damn songs!”

And you know what? I think he’s right. Go find your own damn songs and then let me know about them. I’d love to hear some music and lyrics that bring great meaning to your life.

Also, I gave you the extra example of The Flashpoint Paradox. Honestly, DC animated films are the best superhero films - no exceptions. Definitely check that one out as the whole film is an Atonement with the Father film and you’ll even see Batman have one of his Atonement moments that he will feel, but will ultimately reject.

Thank you, yet again, for listening today. Please don’t be afraid to like, share, comment, subscribe and never feel like you’re bothering me if you have any questions. I’m always happy to chat.

One final thought and question before ending today’s episode: how do you think this subject of acceptance could be applied to Western Society today?

I have been your host, Mark. This has been a talk about step nine of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and how it applies to your life - how’s that for a convoluted title? - and I know that if you accept the way your life has been that you can change your Self now so that your future world will be changed into the best world it can be.

I will see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

Change your Self; change your World.

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Posted in Archetypes, Podcast, The Hero's Journey.

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