Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey #6: Road of Trials

Alright, we’ve been in the belly of the whale long enough, dear listeners. It’s time to embrace who we really are and go take on some monsters.

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Hello, Spiritual Seekers, and welcome to part six of the Hero’s Journey series of Think Spiritual podcasts.

This is the time when everything comes together and we find out what the first five steps of the journey have been preparing us for.

We heard and eventually answered the Call to Adventure. Our Supernatural Aid gave us tools and encouragement and pointed the way. We stepped or leaped or ran or were forced over the First Threshold so the adventure could truly begin. And we entered the Belly of the Whale where we were shaped and molded into proper adventurers.

And now...well, now it is birth time. The Belly of Whale can also be termed as “the womb of the world” and it is from this womb that we emerge and stand up and take our first steps as the Heroes that we truly are.

Let me punctuate this concept for you by referring to three scenes from three movies that exemplify this exact scenario.

If you care to watch these scenes, I will place video links in the post for the podcast on the thinkspiritual.ca website.

The first is from the 2017 movie, Wonder Woman, which is pretty much the best live-action movie from the DC Comics franchise. Pretty much every single one of their animated movies and TV series are fantastic, so I think we really should cut DC some slack when it comes to their live-action movies.

By the way, am I the only person in the world that actually liked the Green Lantern movie?

That question may have just lost me the five listeners I have, but if you haven’t learned that I have odd tastes in movies and tend to view them quite differently from the average person then I guess you haven’t been listening that closely.

Once again, I’m off on a tangent.

Back to the point: the scene in Wonder Woman that I wish to focus on is the moment that Diana Prince is arguing with Steve Trevor about helping the people at the No Man’s Land. He says that they can’t save everybody in this war and that this isn’t the job they are there to do. Diana responds that no, that is not the job they are there to do, but it is the job she is going to do.

And with those words, Diana Prince sheds her cloak, climbs the ladder out of the trench, steps onto the battlefield, deflects the first bullet that comes her way, and she becomes Wonder Woman: fully confident of who she is, what her capabilities are, and that she is going to win the day.

More on that in a few moments. Let’s move on and take a look at the 1998 film, The Matrix.

Near the end of the movie, Neo has just faced 3 agents as best as he can, but he still hasn’t reached the point that he fully believes in himself. He is gunned down and is essentially dead. However, Trinity, his ever-stalwart-companion is there for him. She talks him through the moment and because she believes so strongly that he is The One, Neo also finally believes. He gets up and stops the bullets coming towards. In this moment he becomes so powerful that he can take on an Agent single-handed and he even has the power to destroy one. Look at the moment when he flexes and the walls ripple around him. Know what I see there? At that moment the world is too small to contain him.

Alright, one more movie scene before I fully explain where I’m going with this.

In 2008 the movie Iron Man hit the theatres and I have to admit that this is still near the top of my list of the best superhero films and it is largely due to the the First Flight scene.

In this scene Tony Stark dons the Mark II Ironman armour and runs through all the tests and checks and then, because Tony Stark is an arrogant, overconfident genius, he tells his Artificial Intelligence companion, Jarvis, to do a weather and air-traffic control check. Jarvis advises that there are still terrabytes of calculations to perform before a full flight test is attempted, but Tony responds with, “Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk” and with that, Tony fires up the suit’s thrusters, blasts out of his underground garage and what follows really and truly is one of the best scenes in almost any superhero film to date.

Three movies, three scenes, and my point for bringing them all up is that they actually are all the same scene. Joseph Campbell wrote the book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and, well here are three more faces we can add to The Hero. Each one of these scenes is the birth moment of the Hero.

The Compassionate Hero, Wonder Woman, determines that she is going to help the oppressed people she has just met. She knows that she has the strength and capability to do what they cannot. She is going to do what is right regardless of what her orders are.

The Reluctant Hero, Neo, has really thought, up to this point, that Morpheus is incorrect and that there is no way that Neo is The One. It’s unthinkable. It’s ridiculous. But Trinity believes in him. Trinity loves him. Maybe he is The One. He stands up and does what only The One is capable of accomplishing.

The Arrogant Hero, Tony Stark, has always believed in himself and there isn’t anything he can’t do. However, he’s had a severe shift in his thinking lately and he’s going to do something about it, so he aims higher than he’s ever aimed before and, as usual, he succeeds...but it’s even above his expectations and for once he doesn’t just shrug off his achievement, he truly laughs with joy and glories in the wonder of understanding all that he is capable of.

“Now hold on a second, Mark,” I’m sure you’re saying at this moment, “you’re still talking about the Belly of the Whale stage, aren’t you?”

Well, no, not exactly. The end of the Belly of the Whale or the Womb of the World stage and the beginning of the Road of Trials stage are one and the same.

You, the Hero, are born upon the Road of Trials and it is here that you will grow and learn to become the Hero you were always meant to be. This first step on the Road of Trials is simply fully understanding and accepting that you are the Hero and that you have the capabilities to get the job done. This Road of Trials is the proving ground for your abilities and it is here where you find out who your real friends are.

It’s not a terribly easy stage of the Hero’s Journey to talk about because there is no clear and concise path to take. There is no specific amount of time you will spend on it and it is completely unknown what you may face...at least it’s unknown by me. I know what I had to face on my own Road of Trials, but I can’t tell you what you may face on yours.

Let me just specify though that the Road of Trials is not a place you want to stay forever though. Why? Because the Road of Trials is where you fight. And fight. And fight. And fight, fight, fight, fight, fight.

This is why it’s called a Road of Trials! You fight and the enemies within you will try to trip you up every step of the way. Those parts of you that don’t want to change and the parts of yourself that you don’t like.

Now, hold on, I know, I’m making this whole Road of Trials thing sound pretty bleak, but keep in mind that there are a lot of rest points along the way. Fact is, you can basically choose how long you wish to travel this Road of Trials and how many battles to fight each day or week or month or year. There’s no time limit, there’s no rush. It’s entirely up to you as to what you want to deal with or how much energy you have to expend. You don’t want to stay there forever, it’s important to reach the end, but it’s also important to take your time and enjoy the moments of victory.

Remember that you’ve just been born, so go a little easy on yourself, but also know that you need the exercise and you need to know your limits, so don’t be afraid to push yourself either.

Going back to Iron Man, that’s exactly what he does during his first flight test of the Iron Man Mark II armour. He attempts a flight altitude record and the armour ices up so badly that it cuts out and he begins a long freefall to the ground. However, he breaks the ice and the suit powers back up (just in time) and with a triumphant yell, Stark is off and flying free again.

I think this is the point in this Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts where I pull out a song that I feel represents the stage of the Journey we are talking about and this time we’re going fullbore metal, folks. I’ve mentioned a few times that I am a metalhead and perhaps even have a metal heart.

And if you’re not a fan, I apologize, but at least have a listen and tell me if you’ve ever heard a more triumphant-sounding anthem than this: Ten Thousand Against One by Unleash the Archers and also let me know how these lyrics grab you:

Behold!
I have arrived, time for war
Gather your shields and your swords
Try as you might to defeat me
I come as the wind, laying to waste all who dare stand in my way

It's needless (for you) to die, I won't stop until I win

Ten thousand against one
They will rise, ten thousand against one
I'll stand my ground, ten thousand against one

To me this song emphasizes exactly how The Road of Trials is your time to shine. Show off what you can do, make everyone wonder what the hell you’re up to, marvel at your real Self coming to light, revel in your new freedom. Take on your inner dragons and demons. They may rise against you, Ten Thousand Against One, but you will stand your ground and you will triumph because you ARE the Hero and, god-dammit, you’ll go down swinging rather than continuing to live some empty existence.

And when the dust clears, you’ll be standing at the end of the Road triumphant and free and ready to Meet with the Goddess.

Ahhh, but that, dear listeners will have to wait for the next Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

Thank you very much for tuning in once again. I have been your host, Mark, this has been episode 6 of the Hero’s Journey series of Think Spiritual Podcasts and I know that as you are birthed anew into the world and as you fully embrace your new superpowers you will have many glorious battles on this Road of Trials as you continue to change your Self and ultimately change your World.

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

Change your Self; change your World.

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