29A - Atonement/Apotheosis Redux - Cycles Within Cycles
When he was on the Ed Mylett Podcast, former Navy SEAL David Goggins talked about the fact that many of us believe that our lives and our development happen in neat, successive segments that are easily edited into a movie, but that’s just not the case. He says that real life is messy, that it’s not so easily graphed out, and he’s absolutely right, and it wasn’t until I was writing this set of fourteen blog that I realized that while I have said something similar at times, I don’t think I’ve said it enough or stated it effectively.
I’ve quoted my partner Tom a lot when he said that the hero’s journey is composed of “cycles within cycles”, but I think it’s become somewhat of a footnote in my work, which is evidenced by the debates that I’ll sometimes have with people about Campbell’s legacy. This seems to be an artifact of speaking in general; that things get misconstrued or missed altogether. Another Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink found this out after he and his partner, Leif Babin – another Navy SEAL, wrote their seminal work, Extreme Ownership. Not long after it became a national best-seller, the pair of authors found that people had taken it far too literally in every aspect, often not allowing for any nuance in their outlook or behavior. Because of this obvious misunderstanding they quickly followed that book up with The Dichotomy of Leadership just three years later, specifically to focus on gaining a properly balanced perspective.
I want to state clearly that when it comes to understanding the hero’s journey and applying it to your life, you must have a balanced perception and allow for nuance. Yes, there are stages that have to follow each other in a specific order, and strangely enough, these stages do follow each other as prescribed. Sometimes, however, you end up doubling back and repeating one or two or more stages. When this happens it’s important to understand that it’s usually not to do things over because you hadn’t learned anything, rather it’s a chance to go deeper into the lessons each section of the journey provides. That’s exactly what happened to me over the past few months after I finished writing the last blog miniseries in late September 2020.
In my latest round through the monomyth, the Atonement with the Father stage would see me go down into a much deeper and darker personal cave than I did in the previous round. There I would confront my Shadow Warrior – a mentally juvenile replica of myself that is driven only by ambition as a means to compensate for its fears and insecurities, which were of course, MY fears and insecurities. Before I could integrate this dark twin into myself as I did my Dragon throughout the last story, I had first to disarm it, which involved publicly divulging my fears and inadequacies. First, I exposed my fears by laying out the chain of reasoning behind the terror that I feel watching the country I love be demoralized, destabilized, and ultimately subverted, exactly as Yuri Bezmenov predicted, while picturing my beautiful daughter trapped in the dystopian hellscape that would result. Next, I unfurled my inadequacies by admitting that although I’ve always been a non-conformist that doesn’t care all that much about what others think of me for the most part, I’m still human, and so a need for approval by SOME group still lingers deep within my spirit, and this manifested in my life in two very different, but still toxic ways.
On one level my penchant for engaging in fruitless political arguments (both online and in person) was another form of addiction behavior, but on a deeper level I realized that I was simply trading externalized identities, going from an extreme leftist some years ago, to being a devout “right-winger” now. (Jung was right; people don’t have ideas, ideas have people.) Unironically, it was as a result of those more current arguments that I found a tribe with whom I could draw solace and feel less afraid for the future, and it was to this crowd that I did not want to appear as a weak fence sitter. This was an unfounded concern, of course, since most people who are right-leaning value individuality and the difference of opinion, so a shift in my public behavior would matter little to them overall. Still, my insecurity gained power over me for a time, and the whole point of the Apotheosis is for some part of ourselves to die, in order for our best self to rise. This meant that it still wasn’t enough for me to simply abstain from engaging in fruitless, ideological skirmishes, or to merely admit that I had more care for the opinion of others than I first believed; that was only half the process. After I asserted myself over my Shadow Warrior, I would have to integrate with it, and that required, not merely abstinence from bad habits, but proper action to create new ones.
I didn’t say it openly in the last miniseries of blogs, but a long-term goal for my life is to become Uncle Iroh. For years I’ve wanted to go from being a loud, boisterous, arrogant, callous, opinionated, stubborn, domineering, aggressive, and impatient man to…well…NOT any of those things. However, knowing the laws of Nature as I do, for a person to say, “I don’t want ‘X’” or “I don’t want to be ‘X’” is to create more of that which you claim you don’t want. This concept was popularized in “The Secret” but the understanding actually goes back thousands of years.
To get what you want, whether that’s money, a job, a relationship, or even a set of personal characteristics, it’s best to follow the advice of Napoleon Hill in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich, and fix what you DO want in your mind and work TOWARDS that, instead of AWAY from the alternative. The man that I want to be is embodied in Iroh, so that’s the ideal I’ve spent the last few years working towards becoming, which is more or less why I went to such painstaking ends to outline his philosophy so extensively in the previous seven blogs. Admittedly, I have a LONG way to go before I’m much like the calm, wise, unrelenting badass that is the Dragon of the West, but in the months that have elapsed I have inched closer toward my ultimate goal, by achieving the smaller ones that I had set out for myself.
I had made a lot of progress in my first round through the monomyth, but by the next Road of Trials I was in great danger of losing it all as my mind had once again started to become a toxic morass of boundless ambitions and self-soothing addiction behaviors. In that period, I endured losses both professional and personal, but the real loss I suffered was actually much deeper; I was losing myself, and it would take me months to even see that it was happening. I had forgotten my real passion for the work I was doing, and had become driven solely by Ego, which was obvious to everyone but me. Or maybe I did understand it to some degree, which is why I started eating more garbage “food”, violently abusing myself to copious amounts of porn, and even smoking cigarettes (sporadically by any reasonable metric, but it was becoming more frequent). When it comes to addiction, these are all warning signs of an oncoming relapse and I knew that if I didn’t get a hold of myself, I’d find my ass at the bottom of a bottle, yet again.
Andrea had started to help me heal a lot of the initial damage from my Road of Trials, but we had stopped seeing each other for a number of weeks because of New York State regulations over the Covid crisis, and although I thought I was “fine”, I would later realize that I failed the Woman as Temptress phase, which caused the gods to use *ahem* percussive maintenance to get me back on track (with a Honda). That’s when Andrea re-entered the narrative to help me further heal and prepare for the eventual journey into the darkest caves to deal with my Shadow Warrior, not just with needles, but with her trademarked kindness and guidance. This time she really pushed for me to get back to the meditation I had been avoiding.
One of the reasons that I was never all that tempted to try hallucinogenic drugs (despite Joe Rogan’s adamant advice) is because I discovered years ago that I can, in limited bursts, apply my ADHD hyper-focus inward and go into deep meditative states that are not too different from the acid trips described by professional psychonauts. In these sessions I would take excursions into an inner world that are similar to dreams in that I would often have an unspoken “knowing” about what a lot of the symbolic imagery created by my subconscious mind meant as I was seeing it unfold before me. Unlike a dream, though, everything is a little more “solid” in that things don’t shift and morph so much, and I would be able to maintain a certain level of control over what I was seeing and doing. Paradoxically, the more I tried to control things, the more jittery and unfocused the scenes would become, yet the more I allowed the narrative to play out on its own, and simply react as a character within the story, the more things would flow, and the more wisdom I would be able to glean from it by the time my concentration finally broke and I returned to the “real” world.
It seems that within my mind there exists an alternate reality. It’s a fantastical realm, much like “The Grid” from the film Tron, except the aesthetic is less technological and more fantastical, with bits of ancient techno-magic laced throughout. There are huge expanses of deserts, seemingly endless oceans dotted with strange islands, and vast underground cave systems that contain entire cities. This world is populated by interesting characters, each one a personification of something about myself, such as a concept, a personality trait, or even a memory. There’s a narrative thread that runs through it all, and every time I start a meditation session, I pick up in the story where I left off, sometimes with a short rewind to refresh my memory. It’s as if my brain is actually working WITH me on this endeavor, which might be a latent effect from my time with the Mind Program, but that’s a story for another time.
When I meditate, I will listen to music; often movie or videogame soundtracks; Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a personal favorite for this practice. Regardless of the score, the story of my meditative hallucination will move with the music, flavoring glorious battles and daring escapes as I traverse the fantastical world of my subconscious mind. Even when I play a random mix off of a streaming service that I haven’t heard before, my mind is still able to create a narrative piece that fits the score. I don’t know how any of this works, but I’m telling you this because it sets the stage for what I will tell you. The next few blogs will recount what happened during my introspective adventures, as well as another kind of meditative exercise, both of which play directly into the lessons that I learned to get me to where I am.
On Ed Mylett Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdHW1YipmVo&t=8s
Dichotomy of Leadership:
Napolean Hill on Amazon: