Stumbled across an author called Maureen Murdock this afternoon. I wasn’t a paragraph into the synopsis about her book The Heroine’s Journeywhen I burst into tears. The book and the author’s name hit home straight up, as Maureen is my Mum’s name. And the idea of mapping the contemporary woman’s psycho-spiritual journey resonated deeply. I’ve been quietly experiencing feelings of great sorrow and loss anew the past couple of months, though she passed 13 yrs ago. Reading a little from The Heroine’s Journey and studying the below illustration has helped me to see why, from a mythic journey perspective, I’m revisiting my relationship with my mother at this time.
The journey isn’t necessarily linear, with one step leading to the next. Some steps may be experienced simultaneously with others, and some not at all. We might jump to one then seep back to another. All in all, I’d agree that this journey inward is a powerful metaphor for all women to connect with. We can support each other, and remind each other that every step is “perfect” for each person. There’s no getting ahead or being behind.
Symbolically, our journey is one “inward”. So this afternoon it dawned on me that the drawing I’ve subconsciously doodled for years – a spiral inward – is symbolic of my own mythic heroine’s journey. The inward spiral is a metaphor for the woman looking within or going within for the answer that is already there, but dormant, or as yet unseen. And the so-called unseen is often right in front of our own face – as in the case of my doodling!
The opportunity is to come to experience ourselves as a devine being or mother, goddess, or wise, balanced person with complete self-awareness and self-knowledge – whatever label you prefer.
The man’s mythic journey, as detailed by Joseph Campbell, is very different. Spiralling out from a central point as he sets off on adventure, the heroic man encounters danger, experiences doubt and eventually must overcome adversity, or beat his demons and dragons. He is “the fool becoming wise”. He can then discover a boon or riches, which he can choose to bring back for the benefit of many people.
As I understand it, both man and woman have the opportunity to take the heroic journey through life to wisdom and self-knowledge. The final step for both is integrating both masculine and feminine energies – to become balanced, centered beings able to offer our unique gifts to others, without sacrificing our own needs.
But it is one thing to understand all this, and quite another to have experienced or integrated it.
We often assume that simply because we understand something intellectually…we have actually realised it. This is a great delusion.
– Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan spiritual teacher
Maureen’s book is a response to Joseph Campbell‘s seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, about the archetypal hero’s journey in world mythologies. If you’re not aware of Joseph Campbell’s work, you’d know the Star Wars trilogy? Well, George Lucas credited JC with mapping Luke Skywalker’s heroic journey. Joseph’s work has inspired the narratives of many other notable 20th century filmmakers, writers and artists. Though the hero’s journey is perhaps the world’s oldest, most repeated narrative, it was Joseph Campbell who saw the pattern, and articulated it in his book.
Which makes me wonder – what other patterns exist that we haven’t seen yet, that could help us on our paths in life?
If I had to choose one place to look, it would be Nature.
Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA