Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey #8: Temptation

This episode of Think Spiritual was such a struggle to produce that it became a Hero's Journey of it's very own! It just never seemed to turn out right. Something was always off and I even had to ask myself if it was "supposed to be" produced at all. There was genuine Temptation to quit!

However, the struggle and the Temptation just made the end result that much sweeter. Always persist!

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This episode of Think Spiritual has been a real struggle to produce. The audio is no problem, but I’ve had a few successful attempts at the videos by now and I would like to continue the trend. Unfortunately, the equipment and the environment have not be cooperating at all. I believe this is attempt number sixteen.

But maybe that’s okay. Maybe I needed to wait for this time and add in this new introduction to this episode because I have to admit that I had my own struggle with Temptation today and that was to give in to despair.

I found out today that an acquaintance of mine was recently physically attacked by some transient drug addicts.

There was quite the write-up and blow-up on Facebook about this act and the overall problem with homelessness and crime in the city that I live in and I have to admit that I got caught up in it as well. It’s a really difficult problem without any particularly good solutions. I’m trying to figure out where the line between compassion for marginalized people in pain and safety for law-abiding, tax-paying citizens is.

Filling our prisons up with drug addicts will do nothing, but there has to be boundaries set as well.

I have opinions as to what some boundaries could be, but that is not the point of this Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual. The point is to not give into Temptation. The point is to not abandon the Journey. The point is that no matter what happens around me, I have to keep moving forward. I have to keep doing what I CAN do and not despair about what I CAN’T do.

As I continue to move forward, as I continue to encourage others to be their own Hero, I can only hope that others will also take up the battlecry of “Change your Self! Change your World!” and perhaps at least one of those others will be the person with solutions to problems that I don’t know how to fix.

I know how to fix myself. I know how to encourage others. I know which way I am going and I’m going that way whether anyone joins me or not.

So, welcome to step eight of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey that I am simply entitling: Temptation.

[intro]

Hello Spiritual Seekers and welcome to yet another Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

As always, I am your host, Mark.

As I said in the opening, I have titled this eighth step of the Hero’s Journey “Temptation”. The proper title for this stage of the Hero’s Journey is actually “Woman as Temptress”, but even I’m going to acquiesce and admit that this is terribly outdated terminology.

Normally, I wouldn’t particularly care if the title offends someone, but people jump to conclusions and make assumptions so quickly these days that I am going to hand-hold them a bit here and walk them through the fact that, yes, women were often portrayed as symbols of temptation in many ancient stories.

This was particularly notable in stories of King Arthur and his knights: the knight would be off on a quest and it wasn’t rare that some fair maiden would bat her eyelashes at him and he would lose his head both figuratively and literally.

That’s an oversimplification of any one of the stories, but the point is that women were a representation of the desires of the body to pull the adventurer away from his spiritual quest.

Even the Buddha was tempted with carnal pleasures as he sat under the bodhi tree.

Joseph Campbell considered women to be the Goddess incarnate, so how could they also be the Temptress? Well, this is another common theme in stories: the divine and the trickster being two faces of the same being.

However, I’m not going to explore that avenue of mythology today.

It seems to me that in our modern age, women are as often the daring adventurers as men and perhaps they are able to be pulled away from their quests by lesbian lovers, but I also believe that the temptations we face in our modern age are more numerous, more subtle and more insidious.

I feel I’m also not overstepping by declaring that I believe that due to the continued demand for workplace equality in a free market society, that women have become just as spiritually lost as men tend to be. You can be mad at me about that statement if you want to be. It’s essentially my way of treating women and men completely equal throughout the narrative of this Hero’s Journey series: in other words, I make no differentiation between the Hero and the Heroine.

This Temptation stage of the Hero’s Journey is going to be very similar to Refusal of the Call in some ways, though your reasons for refusing to move forward are kind of going to be the opposite of the reasons for not starting the adventure.

Am I sounding cryptic? Sorry about that.

Perhaps I’m avoiding telling you the real reason why you’re here. The real reason that you began this quest at all. The real reason you have to accept and understand before you can take the next step in becoming a fully actualized hero. At this Temptation stage of the Hero’s Journey, you have to face yourself.

That may sound a little cliche, but it’s quite accurate.

The Call to Adventure and taking up the quest of the Hero’s Journey is very much about finding out who and what you really are. The Belly of Whale and Road of Trials stages furthered your becoming who and what you really are. And now, at the Temptation stage, you will face absolutely everything about yourself - and especially the parts you don’t like about yourself.

This Temptation stage of the Hero’s Journey is what I call a Roadblock stage. Refusal of the Call, Belly of the Whale, Temptation and the upcoming Refusal of Return are all Roadblocks to the Hero’s Journey because they are stages where one can become stuck.

To put it as directly as possible, the Temptation stage is where you must face yourself and ultimately stop blaming others for how your life has turned out.

Let me emphasize this point with a graphic I saw posted to a Facebook page a few months ago.

It says, They kill when they can heal,

They destroy when they can build,

They pollute their planet when they can keep it clean,

They kill dreams when they can create them.

When I saw this graphic, I suggested in the comments that this image and these words were disempowering and ultimately of no help whatsoever. One thing I have always wanted Think Spiritual to be is a resource for solutions to the world’s problems, not just endlessly talking about the problems and definitely not adding to the problems. This graphic and the words on it are the epitome of the Temptation stage of the Hero’s Journey.

Is the graphic true? Yes, it is true, but truth is not enough. While it is very important to know the truth of the situations in the world today, once you know the truth, what then? Are you going to abandon your Hero’s Journey and go fight someone else’s war? Are you going to endlessly point fingers and keep blaming society for your helplessness? Don’t we see this happening all the time in Western Society today?

Didn’t I just talk about my own struggle with it today? I consider myself to be a fairly awakened and aware individual and even I get mired down and feel helpless from time to time. I want to blame someone and get someone else to fix the problem simply because I don’t know what to do about it.

And this is why our society gets roadblocked at the Temptation stage of the Hero’s Journey: because groups and individuals are wanting to blame society for all their problems and they want someone else to fix it for them.

And to top it off, this same Temptation persists in our personal lives as well.

Are you going to continually point fingers at the people and hard times from your past and cast neverending blame upon them for the way your life has turned out? What good will ever come out of that action?

This is the point in the Hero’s Journey where you absolutely must stop laying blame and start taking responsibility. And I mean stop laying blame entirely - stop laying it upon others and especially stop laying it upon yourself! Don’t cast blame for your past actions, take responsibility and own those past actions. Say, “yes, I did that” or “yes, that happened”. Accept it, own it, move on from it.

But maybe you still want to point fingers. Maybe you’re entitled to some time to finger-point. Maybe you’re crying right now and saying, “But, Mark, I had this happen and this happen and this happen, and those people hurt me and my life was awful!”

I empathize. I get it, but I have to ask, what are you going to do about it?

Your life was awful - past tense. Are you going to allow those past events to control the entire rest of your existence? I don’t care if you’re 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or on your deathbed at this moment: are you going to allow a particular time of your life to control what’s left of your life? Are you going to allow 1 absolutely awful hour or even 20 awful years of your life to control the next 70 years of your life?

Because that is the Temptation of this life: to let our pasts control everything we do in the future and to refuse to acknowledge that at some point we have to be accountable for our own actions that led up to or led us away from terrible times in our life.

We cannot control the crazy dips and turns of the rollercoaster ride that life sometimes feels like, but we absolutely can control how we act and react and recover from the chaos.

Now, one thing that I want to specify here is that I am not talking about forgiving people or things or events. Taking responsibility and forgiveness are two entirely different processes and my opinion is that if you don’t want to forgive someone or something then you bloody-well don’t have to.

My caveat to that statement is that forgiveness is ultimately for your best benefit in the long run. And I do mean for your benefit. It is absolutely not for the person or thing that requires forgiveness.

As I’ve been saying, the Temptation stage is really about blaming others, including governments and politicians and other public figures, and avoiding taking a good hard look at yourself and realizing that you’re not so perfect either.

Pointing fingers and laying blame is easy. It’s lazy and it prevents you from doing the hard and sometimes unpleasant work of directly facing yourself with all your flaws intact and then owning those flaws and then further working to transform those flaws into qualities that you can use to make your life better.

And it’s extremely important that you begin that transformation process because you don’t want to slip into the other side of Temptation and start endlessly blaming yourself for all your problems.

Wow, this Temptation stage is really a bit of a knife’s edge to walk.

Let’s further emphasize this stage of Temptation with a few Metallica songs: The Unforgiven series of songs to be specific. The Unforgiven, The Unforgiven 2 and the Unforgiven 3 essentially follows a man from birth through to, what I assume to be, bitter middle-age or maybe he is on his deathbed.

The Unforgiven blames the life and family the man was born into: he feels he was Never free, never me.

The Unforgiven 2 blames the relationship the man found himself in later in life: he asks the question Or are you unforgiven too?

And in The Unforgiven 3, the man finally blames himself for his entire existence: How can I blame you, when it’s me I can’t forgive?

Believe me, I’ve been in this exact place in my life. I blamed my church upbringing for ruining my early life. I blamed my ex-wife for ruining my 20s and early 30s. And finally, I blamed myself for everything and feeling like I had ruined my own existence.

These stages of blaming were normal and somewhat necessary, but it was more important to...not let it go...but to own everything that happened, everything that had been done to me, and everything that I had done. I had to face it all and accept it for what it was and the way it was. If I had followed the path of Temptation and continued to blame my past and myself I would not be standing here talking to you today.

I know that it’s not easy to move past things. It takes time and it can be really painful, but I want to show you today that a little bit of a perspective twist can help you along the way.

Let’s go back to the graphic that I showed you earlier and let’s remove the Theys from it and replace it with I.

You’re finally looking at it the right way, but it’s too negative now. Remember, we don’t want to be blaming ourselves either.

Let’s remove the first half of the graphic entirely...woah...okay...now we’ve got something that can truly change the world:

I can heal.

I can build.

I can keep the earth clean.

I can make dreams reality.

I can, I can, I can, I can. Because you can. Because you are the Hero and the Hero always can.

Yes, now, my dear Hero, you are absolutely ready to take your place in the pages of history, because you are ready for your Atonement with the Father.

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 listening today. Please like, share, comment, subscribe, and provide an iTunes review if you enjoyed this or other Think Spiritual episodes.

I have been your host, Mark. This has been step eight, the Temptation stage of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and I know that if you stop blaming your past, your society, and yourself for the troubles of your life, that you absolutely will move past them and cause the change in your self that will 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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