“We have not even to risk the adventure alone for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.” And where we had though to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone we shall be with all the world.”
Metamorphosis refers to the process of transformation, whether it’s the changing of an immature insect into an adult insect, or the changes that occur in each of us throughout our life span. Metamorphosis was the theme of the Eurotas Conference I attended in Crete last week with my fellow transpersonal psychologists. The workshop topics were poignant and powerful; including everything from whether we need crisis to evolve, Kabbalistic psychology, mythology, metaphor and healing, transpersonal research, Mother Kundalini, astrology, awakening, and the art of dying, just to name a few. Yet whatever the topic, the overarching theme was the quest for transformation.
The idea of transformation and metamorphosis reminds me of my mother’s comment whenever someone says that they are aging. Without hesitation, she stops and says, “You start aging from the day you are born.” I take those words of wisdom one step further to say; we start transforming even before birth and if you believe in the afterlife, transformation continues even after our physical body dies.
As Crete is rich in mythological stories, the discussion of the hero’s journey brings a close connection to the idea of metamorphosis, reminding us of Joseph Campbell’s classic book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell shares the structure of the “monolith,” otherwise known as the hero’s journey, with the premise that whatever your life’s journey or path, various forms of metamorphosis are inevitable along the way. In the same vein, he claims that during our lives, we all experience similar yearnings, fears, joys, trials and tribulations. Along the way, the connections we make and the encounters we have, in some way increase our awareness and/or growth. This ultimately leads to a better understanding of our inner landscape which in turn helps us on our path to transformation and empowerment. According to Campbell, the hero ventures from a common life into a supernatural world where there are challenges and victories. Then the hero returns from this mystical adventure, more powerful and aware of the self and others.
In essence, life is an adventure into the unknown and mysterious. When we are born, we follow a particular path, but as time goes on, we expand our quest, perhaps undertake an adventure or try something new and different; it is about stepping out of the box to discover something outside our comfort zone, and welcoming some sort of metamorphosis or change. We might respond to a particular calling, some pull in a different direction, and we are compelled to face the challenges offered on that path.
Along the way we meet guides, mentors or role models who help us and are available with love and support. While on the path of metamorphosis, we realize that there is no turning back, we are submerged in an adventure, one where new opportunities present themselves. Mythologically, a warrior or dragon might be awaiting us, guarding the entrance to new destination. This is what might be considered the crossroad of decision, the place where we have the chance to incorporate what we learned from our guides. Unfortunately, sometimes this comes with great consequences or risks. In the mythology of the hero’s journey, the hero reaches the Mysterium, a supernatural world with unknown rules. Here, the hero continues to learn and discover new things about him or herself and the surrounding world, growing and transforming and metamorphosing in the process.
In the final stage of the hero’s journey, there is the confrontation with death, sometimes called our primal or original fear. This is an opportunity to abandon all that we have carried that no longer serves us, thus offering the opportunity to begin a new life. In other words, this is the resurrection into a completely new life. During this time, the hero conquers the grail or treasure, which symbolizes what, was lacking in the former life. The hero is then given the choice whether to return to the former or ordinary life or stay on the new path (The Mysterium), enjoying its magic. When the hero is back to daily life, he or she realizes that he or she has attained a new sense of awareness about the self and openness to others. This results in the ability to live more happily and freely.
Note: While Campbell used the term “hero” instead of “heroine,” I would like to change this to “The Human Journey.” The fact that the Minoans paid a great deal of homage to women and the power of women, is indicative of the fact that equality of power between the sexes is an idea that goes way back.
For more on this, please read the blog of my friend and colleague, Steve Taylor, also in Crete, who offers a wonderful perspective on the feminine.