The Hero’s Adventure
Adventuring in Holotropic States has an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”. His framework describes a wide-ranging category of tales in which a character ventures out to get what they need, faces conflict, and ultimately triumphs over adversity and returns to their community to share their stories and all in some way are changed by them. It is a universal story structure woven into every culture and is in 3 parts:
The trajectory of a holotropic journey from preparation (Depart) to session (Initiation) to integration (Return) can be likened to the structure of many successful Hollywood epic adventure movies. They have the popular form of structure derived from Campbell’s Monomyth from his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces called the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey.
Adventuring in holotropic states whether it be for accessing your own deep wisdom, for inspiration or for healing requires courage, authenticity, honesty, accountability and curiosity to find and bring back to the ordinary world your gold to share with your community.
It can take a day or a week or month or years to go around the cycle. You may have two or three or more cycles going on at one time each with a different duration.
Sometimes models such as these can be helpful in orientating your experience, serving as a compass if you like. They can be a map for the internal experience and you are less likely to be swept away by trials and tribulations.
The model sets out the Hero’s Journey across the ordinary world and the Holotropic world. It starts and ends in the ordinary world:
- Ordinary Life
This is where the Hero’s exists before their present story begins, oblivious of the adventures to come. It’s a safe place… or it may not be. This is where the Hero is conditioned wth cultural and familial values and principles, shaped and baked for them to break free from.
- Call To Adventure
The Hero’s adventure begins when they receive a call to action, such as a direct threat to their safety, their family, their way of life or to the peace of the community in which they live. It may not be as dramatic as a gunshot, but simply a phone call or conversation but whatever the call is, and however it manifests itself, it ultimately disrupts the comfort of the Hero’s Ordinary World and presents a challenge or quest that must be undertaken.
- Refusal Of The Call
Although the Hero may be eager to accept the quest, at this stage they will have fears that need overcoming. Second thoughts or even deep personal doubts as to whether or not they are up to the challenge. When this happens, the Hero will refuse the call and as a result may suffer somehow. The problem they face may seem too much to handle and the comfort of home far more attractive than the perilous road ahead.
- Meeting The Mentor
At this crucial turning point where the Hero desperately needs guidance they meet a mentor figure who gives them something they need. They could be given an object of great importance, insight into the dilemma they face, wise advice, practical training or even self-confidence. Whatever the mentor provides the Hero with, it serves to dispel doubts and fears and gives the Hero the strength and courage to begin their quest.
- Crossing The Threshold
The Hero is now ready to act upon their call to adventure and truly begin their quest, whether it be physical, spiritual or emotional. They may go willingly or may have to be pushed, but either way they finally cross the threshold between the familiar world and that which is not. It may be leaving home for the first time or just doing something they have always been scared to do. However the threshold presents itself, this action signifies the Hero’s commitment to their journey and whatever it may have in store for them.
- Tests, Allies, Enemies
Now finally out of the comfort zone the Hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test in a variety of ways. Obstacles are thrown across the path; whether they be physical hurdles or people bent on thwarting progress, the Hero must overcome each challenge they are presented with on the journey towards the ultimate goal.
The Hero needs to find out who can be trusted and who can’t. In this work these are our different parts. The Hero may earn allies and meet enemies (again our different parts) who will, each in their own way, help prepare them for the greater ordeals yet to come. This is the stage where skills and/or powers are tested and every obstacle that is faced helps us gain a deeper insight into our own character.
- Approach To The Inmost Cave
The inmost cave may represent many things in the Hero’s story such as an actual location in which lies a terrible danger or an inner conflict which up until now the Hero has not had to face. As the Hero approaches the cave they must make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.
At the threshold to the inmost cave the Hero may once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon the call to adventure. They may need some time to reflect upon the journey and the treacherous road ahead in order to find the courage to continue. This brief respite helps in understanding the magnitude of the ordeal that awaits.
The Supreme Ordeal may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the Hero must face in order to survive or for the world in which the Hero lives to continue to exist. Whether it be facing their greatest fear or most deadly foe, the Hero must draw upon all of their skills and experiences gathered upon the path to the inmost cave in order to overcome their most difficult challenge.
Only through some form of “death” can the Hero be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection that somehow grants greater power or insight necessary in order to fulfill their destiny or reach their journey’s end. This is the high-point of the Hero’s story and where everything they hold dear is put on the line. If they fail, they will either die or life as they know it will never be the same again.
After finally overcoming their greatest personal challenge, the Hero is ultimately transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and often with a prize.
The Reward may come in many forms: an object of great importance or power, a secret, greater knowledge or insight, or even reconciliation with a loved one or ally. Whatever the treasure, which may well facilitate the return to the Ordinary World, the Hero must quickly put celebrations aside and prepare for the last leg of the journey.
- The Road Back
This stage of the journey represents a reverse echo of the Call to Adventure in which the Hero had to cross the first threshold. Now it is the return home with the reward but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with that of acclaim and perhaps vindication, absolution or even exoneration.
But the Hero’s journey is not yet over and may still need one last push back into the Ordinary World. The moment before the Hero finally commits to the last stage of the journey may be a moment in which they must choose between their own personal objective and that of a Higher Cause.
This is the climax in which the Hero must have the final and most dangerous encounter with death. The final battle also represents something far greater than the Hero’s own existence with its outcome having far-reaching consequences to the Ordinary World and the lives of those they left behind.
If they fail, others will suffer and this places more weight upon their shoulders amplifying the Hero’s hopes, fears and trepidation. Ultimately the Hero will succeed, having neutralised his enemy and emerging from experience cleansed and reborn.
- Return With The Elixir – Mastery
This is the final stage of the Hero’s journey in which they return home to the Ordinary World a changed person. They will have grown as a person, learned many things, faced many terrible dangers and even death but now looks forward to the start of a new life. The return may bring fresh hope to those they left behind, a direct solution to their problems or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider.
The final reward that the Hero obtains may be literal or metaphoric. It could be a cause for celebration, self-realization or an end to strife, but whatever it is it represents three things: change, success and proof of the journey.
Ultimately the Hero will return to where they started but things will clearly never be the same again.
Adapted from Christopher Vogler’s adaptation of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.