In the third episode of Power of Myth interview series with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell spoke on the rituals of initiation that human civilizations used to maintain for guiding their children into adulthood. He spoke on the rituals for boys and girls, and made it clear that the boys had to be made to go through something – to enter a cave, to go on a hunt, to be tried and tested in some way by the men of the tribe, etc. These rituals varied from culture to culture, but they were all carried out at a predetermined point in the boys’ life that enabled him “to live according to the needs and values of that tribe. He is initiated in a Short period of time into the whole culture context of his people.” It was through these inherited rituals that he became a man in the context of his people. Campbell contrasted this with the girls’ rituals where her body initiated her into womanhood with her first menstruation. As he put it, “A woman is a vehicle of life, and life has overtaken her. She is a vehicle now of life. A woman is what it’s all about; the giving of birth and the giving of nourishment. She’s identical with the earth goddess in her powers, and she’s got to realize that about herself.” He drove the point home when he clarified, “The boy does not have a happening of that kind. He has to be turned into a man, and voluntarily become a servant of something greater than himself. The woman becomes the vehicle of nature; the man becomes the vehicle of the society, the social order and the social purpose.”
It's one thing for a man to go from being weak and to learn to become strong; it’s quite another issue for a naturally strong man to pretend to be weak when it doesn’t suit him. It’s not good for anyone to be something that they’re not. The deeper issue for me, and what was really behind my depression, anger, alcoholism, and all of the other addiction patterns, was the need to hide myself from the truth: That I was stronger than I was willing to allow myself to admit. I held myself back due to a combination of a fear of failure, and a natural, human desire to be part of a tribe, and since most of the people in both my religious and personal life seemed to hold weakness as a virtue, I felt compelled to act down to a lower standard. It was never who I was, or what I wanted, though, so my soul banged on the cage I put it in, for which I tried my best to quiet it with spirits and other escapes.
It would not be so easily sated.
Like most men, I’ve always wanted adventure, and challenge, and competition. I’ve wanted to seek knowledge from numerous sources, attract the love of a good woman, and earn the accolades of respectable peers. I’ve wanted to be a leader, and a protector, and a provider, and a teacher, and a healer. I’ve wanted this, but I was swayed to believe that either I couldn’t have it, or I shouldn’t want it.
Fuck that. I will only be who I want to be…who I CHOOSE to be.
To do that though, isn’t a matter of simply flipping a switch. It’s taken me years of intense work, introspection, different types of therapies, and yes, quests into the wilderness to entreat ancient gods for help. Because I put in the hard work, and because I am is so focused on the masculine pursuits of improving across multiple dimensions and finding meaning in “societal purpose”, as Campbell called it, I received the aid of Divine Balance. Odin has moved aside, for now, to allow the goddesses to take prominence, because that male drive MUST be tempered by female power, and the profound wisdom that comes from existence itself. Without it, masculine intelligence and ambition will become a solely destructive force, as was demonstrated, ironically, by the Industrial Revolution – Minerva’s greatest work, spoiled by the hubris of men. I will not make the same mistake as my predecessors. I have come to understand the need to balance the masculine and the feminine – thought and wisdom, ambition and presence, the mind and the heart – and I will not shirk the blessings that the gods have given me.
I’m nowhere close to being like General Iroh, but in writing this miniseries I came to appreciate how much farther I’ve actually come in that regard, and I have Aphrodite and Minerva to thank for that. They inhibit my arrogance, increase my empathy, and bolster my patience (a Herculean task, in and of itself). Of course, I must again give credit to the other goddess in my life; Andrea has been the healer and sounding board I needed for this installment, and without her I might have missed the forest for the trees. I have spent so much mental energy focused on where I’ve wanted to go that I forgot to notice where I already am; deep in the fight and opening my hand to attain the Ultimate Boon.
It's from that stage that I’m now writing these words. As I said from the outset of the new round, I had intended to write these blogs in real time, but I realize now that it’s impossible, or at the very least, impractical for me to do so. The hero’s journey is indeed much, MUCH messier than even I had understood it to be (another dose of humility for me to swallow). In any case, I can tell you that as I’m writing this, I’m seeing the professional seeds I’ve planted begin to sprout, and I’m certain that if I continue in the same direction that I’ve been going, soon they’ll grow into strong plants that will yield nutritious fruit. That doesn’t mean things are getting easier by ANY stretch of the imagination. I’m ass-deep in battle with the world, but for the first time in longer than I can remember, I don’t feel like I’m at a disadvantage. The hardest part remains keeping my fear in check, as the speed with which my thoughts can run off and lead me to panic is downright impressive. This time, though, I’m not fighting myself. Now that I’ve integrated with my Shadow Warrior, I have absorbed his power and tempered it; his bravado is now my confidence, his impetuousness is now my courage, his ambition is now my drive, and his arrogance is now my confidence. In literal terms this means that I’ve developed and am maintaining the habit of interrupting the default patterns in my brain, more as a matter of course, than a conscious decision, a skill that I can only master with time and experience.
Thanks to my buddy Tom, I’ve reacquainted myself with the Wim Hof Method – a breathing and mediation technique that enables a person to endure long exposure to the cold. I’ve couple this with some of David Goggins’ mental toughness techniques as laid out in his book Can’t Hurt Me. The combination of physical and mental training has enabled me to channel my Shadow Warrior’s power into something constructive, thus completing the cycle of confrontation, death, and rebirth, which is the entire purpose of the past two phases of the monomyth, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go deeper through that mini-cycle.
What happens next? Will our hero succeed in his battle against the vicissitudes of life and achieve the Ultimate Boon? Stay tuned to Hero’s Breath and find out!
The Power of Myth: Episode 3 transcript: https://billmoyers.com/content/ep-3-joseph-campbell-and-the-power-of-myth-the-first-storytellers-audio/
Napolean Hill on Amazon:
On Ed Mylett Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdHW1YipmVo&t=8s