Updated: Jun 19, 2019
While it’s true that the hero can, and often does, receive aid at various points throughout their journey, in most cases, they cannot begin without something to get them started. Campbell labeled the aid as “supernatural” but this doesn’t have to mean “magical”, it just means that without it they could not begin or continue on in the journey. Like the call to adventure, this aid will be found in many forms, but can be broken down into two main categories, and several subdivisions.
Object: The aid can appear as a physical object, like a tool or weapon, or in a more abstract form, like a special word or an acquired skill that comes into play later on in the story. I know it may seem at first strange to consider a skill or knowledge as an “object” but I do so for the simple fact that it can, to a very real degree, be “held” by person. In fact, we use that term in our modern vernacular, even though we know that we do not keep it in our hands or in a box. In more philosophical terms you can think of a physical object as “yin” and knowledge as “yang”. In either case, the object can be found, or it can be gifted to the hero. Furthermore, the object can be something consistent that the hero keeps with him throughout the story, which can be upgraded, or it can be something progressive which helps the hero attain the next aid, and is traded for that artifact.
When it comes to objects as aids, my personal favorites are the small, seemingly innocuous ones. Things like the Mockingjay pin that Katniss Everdeen receives at the beginning of The Hunger Games, or the doubloon that Mikey finds at the start of The Goonies. Sometimes though, the “object” is more abstract, and exists as nothing more than a word, or even a special set of skills that that hero “just so happens” to have. A perfect example of this is seen in the highly underrated, Tron: Legacy. When Sam begins his hero’s journey in The Grid, he’s already adept at not only hacking, but motorcycle racing and some physical arts, all of which helped him survive and surmount dangerous challenges that most people would have succumbed to.
While Mikey found the doubloon, Katniss was gifted the Mockingjay pin, and these are really the only two ways an object can come to the hero. Likewise, knowledge can be passed on, or gifted, to the hero, such as when Obi Wan began to teach Luke the ways of the force, or it can be “discovered” through life lessons, such as how Sam acquired the skills to survive The Grid throughout a lifetime of his own penchant for thrill-seeking.
Aid that comes in the form of an object can be consistent throughout a hero’s journey, and can even become an icon that is synonymous with the hero themselves, such as that of Excalibur, the magical sword of King Arthur, or the vibranium shield of Captain America. Sometimes, though, the story can only be moved along when one object of aid is sacrificed for, or leads to another. One of the best examples is found in ancient literature when Hercules slays the Nemean Lion as one of his twelve labors, and uses his magical hide to protect his body throughout the rest of his quest, which he probably wouldn’t have been able to complete without the protection that that hide provided.
Mentor: This a person who helps the hero along in their journey, mostly as a teacher. Sometimes they appear along with the object of aid, and sometimes they help the hero in place of one. If the mentor does not come bearing a physical object of aid, then he will help the hero with the knowledge or wisdom he dispenses. This mentor can either initiate the hero on their journey, or they can remain with them throughout it. If they do remain with the hero, this can either be done in physical form, or in spirit; sometimes as a “ghost” or sometimes just in memory, which would be played out in flashback.
In the recent adaptation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Balthazar gives young Dave a ring, through which he is able to channel magical power, and once he has that ring, he can then learn magic from Balthazar. In that case, the object and the knowledge from the mentor are codependent. In, The Matrixhowever, Neo received only knowledge to guide him, most of which came directly from his mentor, Morpheus.
Although a mentor often remains with the hero throughout their journey, such as in The Matrix, they sometimes only serve to help the hero get started, such as was the case in The Lord of the Ringstrilogy. In the first part of that story, Gandalf the Grey dies, leaving Frodo and Sam to progress on their own toward Mount Doom. However, if the mentor remains with the hero, it doesn’t always have to be in physical form. In the case of Star Wars, Obi Wan stayed with Luke in spirit, sometimes serving to guide young Luke as a whisper in his mind, and other times as an apparition that only he could see. The other way that a mentor can remain with the hero, at least how it’s displayed to the audience, is in the form of the remembered lessons. In cinema, these are often shown in flashbacks, such as those of The Bride in Kill Bill.
In our modern world, it’s not often that a gnarly doubloon or sword imbued with special properties will help us solve our problems although I’m not ruling it out, either. More often than not it is knowledge itself that gives us the aid that we need in surmounting the obstacles we face, as well as the people that bring us such knowledge, so that’s what this blog will focus on, beginning with an understanding on what the Mentor actually is.
Like Tom and I, it is well known that Joseph Campbell was also an adherent of Carl Jung, so his characterization of the Mentor (like most mythical motifs) was that as an Archetype. What are archetypes? In short, they are primordial patterns of story that are encapsulated into a single character, easily understood and interchangeable between stories. In the documentary, Finding Joe, the highly influential and respected psychologist, Deepak Chopra, summarized archetypes as “a seed in consciousness”, and that after being planted in the psyche, they “start to sprout, and as it sprouts, the patterning forces create the situations, circumstances, and relationships for the unfolding of the story.” He even goes so far as to advise us all to invoke some of these archetypal characters in our minds, and that when we do so, we will see amazing synchronicities occur, and even people, events, and aids suddenly show up in our reality to help us explore the story that we are seeking to express in our own lives. As Jung was developing the concept of archetypes, he first described the idea as “primordial images” and said, “These images must be thought of as lacking in solid content, hence as unconscious. They only acquire solidity, influence, and eventual consciousness in the encounter with empirical facts." In essence, until they are channeled through us, these archetypes are pure abstraction, and can be endlessly analyzed until the end of time, but will always remain as theory until the moment we bring them into being through our very tangible existence. Once we do that, amazing things begin to happen. So how do we find mentors in our lives?
Most people typically think of mentors as the people that take us “under their wing” and guide us through life like a parent, or maybe just in a specific avenue of life such as business. Many of us have at least one teacher that we can look back and call a mentor, for if we are fortunate enough to find mentors to guide us directly, we may only understand the relationship as such in hindsight, as it’s not very often that we refer to someone as such. While these models for mentors are certainly valid, there’s another dimension to mentorship to consider.
Tai Lopez, the social media figure famous for reading the equivalent of a book a day, has espoused his alternate theory that mentors don’t have to be only people that we know personally, but can be the people whose counsel we absorb tangentially through their work such as book or lectures. This may seem like an idea from someone with a poor grasp on the concept of mentorship, but Tai’s track record of success would suggest otherwise. Going from life on a couch in a mobile home to a mansion in the Hollywood Hills in little over a decade is an accomplishment for the limited few humans with the will and insight capable of such a Herculean feat. Tai himself credits not only the few mentors that he’s known personally, but the many that he’s known only in books, and he certainly has the success to back up his claim. For those of us who don’t own private jets and mansions (and for those of us who do) this opens up a world of possibility when it comes to how we can come to find a mentor in our lives to guide us, and how that wisdom could be presented to us. This means that not only can we acquire knowledge directly from the minds of people who have walked upon this planet, but potentially from those who exist only in the minds of human beings as well.
For thousands of years, humans have told stories to not simply entertain, but to explain; to analyze and understand not only the tangible aspects of existence, but the abstract forces of reality as well. From their theories on which gods were responsible for what natural phenomena, to what you should do when you encounter a situation to which you are unaccustomed, our ancient ancestors devised tales to teach and inspire younger generations, who would both carry on, and expound upon, the works of those who went before, so as to create a more capable society. In so doing they created a wealth of characters from whom we could draw inspiration, and we have continued this tradition down to this day.
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” This quote, dripping with profound wisdom applicable to any people or time period, came from the mouth of Gandalf the Grey, the mentor figure from The Lord of the Rings. Now, while the words themselves were penned by J.R.R. Tolkien, it is Gandalf we picture speaking them. After Joe Simon and Jack Kirby brought Captain America to life, dozens of writers have channeled their beliefs in the American ideal through his mouth, using him to say many inspiring things, but every time he did, it wasn’t the writers who were quoted, it was Steve Rogers that got the credit, and rightly so. As Tom and I brought out in our third podcast, when humans create characters; when we channel our creative energy into those fictional people, they come to take on a life of their own. The great philosopher and author, Napoleon Hill can certainly attest to this.
Hill learned, quite literally, at the feet of some of the greatest and most successful people of the twentieth century, including (but not limited to) Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab, FW Woolworth, and Theodore Roosevelt. Despite the fact that he had personal encounters with men that most of us would kill to spend five minutes with, Napoleon Hill said that he would often have meditation sessions where he would imagine himself sitting in a room with some of the great thinkers and leaders from history. He even confessed that often times, one or more of these mental apparitions would express something that he himself couldn’t possibly have known or conceived. Now, whether Mr. Hill was simply able to use the psychological exercise to put his mind in the kind of state needed to solve complex problems, or he was actually able to call the dead into the privacy of his office is a matter of conjecture, and one that’s irrelevant, for the quality of the resultant body of his work can speak for itself. When writing his books such as The Law of Success, Think and Grow Rich, or The Master-Key to Riches, he put himself to the task of acting as a mentor for the entirety of his reading audience, not only at the time of his writing, but for the generations yet unborn who would turn to him for counsel in matters of success both professional and personal. Napoleon Hill focused, not on merely expressing something of his own understanding, but on channeling something deeply profound. It was precisely for that reason that he was able to create a basis of thinking that future generations could build on, and would allow him to take his place among all the mentor figures that humanity has to draw wisdom from, both real and imagined, throughout time.
If you go to my website page, “My Tribe” you can scroll down and see just a few of the people that I consider mentors. Some of them helped me cross the first threshold from the world of restrictive religious thinking, while others helped me continue on out of the darkness of socialistic misery, blame, envy, and greed. Some of these mentors I have known personally and closely, while others I’ve only had access to through the glories of the Internet, but all have had an equally profound and significant impact on me. I highly recommend you take some time to examine the links I left on that page next to each of their names, as I believe that they might be able to help you as well.
All relevant links, including links to purchase any of the books or movies that we've mentioned, are always available in the description below.
Mind Program Page: https://www.phicenter.nyc/peak-performance
Dr. Jordan Peterson:
Jordan Peterson - His Finest Moment:
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos: https://amzn.to/2WQROn9
Joseph Campbell on Amazon:
The Hero With a Thousand Faces: https://amzn.to/31KzRKw
The Power of Myth: https://amzn.to/2XwiCO9
Finding Joe (documentary):
Carl Jung on Amazon:
Man and His Symbols: https://amzn.to/2Is3Dw6
The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: https://amzn.to/2IUgjuR
The Undiscovered Self: https://amzn.to/2IsPpv7
Gary on Amazon:
The Thank You Economy: https://amzn.to/2KtaFCU
Crushing It: https://amzn.to/2Iv0Nqp
Winning the Story Wars:
Napolean Hill on Amazon:
Think and Grow Rich: https://amzn.to/2KsB6Jg
How to Own Your Mind: https://amzn.to/31Fen1X
The Secret: https://amzn.to/2ZAwELY
Star Wars on Amazon:
The Matrix on Amazon:
The Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit on Amazon:
AVATAR on Amazon: