The Three Essential Phases of the Hero's Journey

If you want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it

– Joseph Campell

 We have found ourselves coming back to this particular passage often over the years.  We have now come to the striking conclusion that if we are going to have something meaningful to contribute to this chaotic and uncertain world, we will indeed have to learn to live in two worlds – the world of our everyday reality, and the world of the universal Hero’s Journey® myth that lives deep in our collective psyche.

By doing so, we become a human bridge between these inner and outer worlds, moving freely between them.  This is especially relevant and important in such difficult times as these, when everything can feel so daunting, overwhelming,  and beyond our ability to handle.

It has often been said that we are living in unprecedented times.  But now there can be no doubt about this fact.  We are living in an unignorable and inevitable reality of a global pandemic, experiencing an invisible and uncertain threat to our way of life, and to our very lives.  We are at the unfolding edge of a new way and time, one that is not yet clear to us, yet the ordeals we suffer so persistently can move us forward just as much as it can take us down. As it does, it gradually begins to reveal a future that has never been here before.

The current Hero’s Journey Foundation offering, the Ensemble Hero: Journey Through The Unknown Forest, is our best effort to provide support, connection, and authentic hope.  We have to do more than just survive our circumstances or attempt to go back to a past that will never quite be the same.  This is a journey that can you beyond where your ego would typically dare to venture, especially when on its own.


“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”  

Joseph Campbell

The Journey Begins with the Call To Adventure

Everyone has a natural resistance to and fear of what they do not know, and even more so, for what cannot be known.  It takes a great deal of courage and faith to accept what is yet to be known, and surrender to living into it, rather than anxiously trying to control it.

In this stage, destiny summons us towards a call, and we must learn to transfer our center of gravity from what is known to now being pulled towards a territory that is unknown, where adventure – the possibility for illumination as well as devastation – awaits.

 Any meaningful journey requires a fateful separation from what is familiar and most known to us, often seemingly against the ego’s wishes, and takes us across a threshold to an unknown territory where trials and ordeals bring forth what is latent and awaiting, within us.


The Call to Adventure – The Time Comes To Take The Journey

Hero with a Thousand Faces – The Call To Adventure Notes


 “You enter the forest at the darkest point,
where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.
You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize your potential.”

Joseph Campbell,

Crossing the Threshold – The Road of Trials & Challenges

It takes a great deal of courage and faith to accept what is yet to be known, and surrender to living into it, rather than anxiously trying to control it – or attempt to revert back to a familiar path that is no longer there, or no longer works.

Campbell spoke of the ordeal as a deepening of the struggles as a result of entering the unknown.  A fundamental question hangs in the balance.  “Can the ego learn to surrender to something within, that is a part of the self, and yet larger than just the self?”  

He goes on to say that the ego must surrender pride, and bow before that which he or she finds to be intolerable.  All that is vast and sacred, beauty or beast, does not wish to be controlled by our little egos.

It is a strength to accept the unknown as it comes,

to let it bring forth the trials that test your character,

and bring forth what is unknown from within you.

Read More About The Adventure of Ordeals:

Adventures & Ordeals

Read More About The Belly of the Beast:

The Belly of the Beast

Read More About The Boon:

The Discovery of the Boon


This is the true joy in life,
the being used for a purpose recognized

by yourself as a mighty one;
the being a force of nature…

I am of the opinion that my life
belongs to the whole community
and as long as I live,
it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
for the harder I endeavor, the more I live.

– George Bernard Shaw

Crossing The Threshold – The Return Home

When the adventure has been lived, and the hero has accomplished something of value – by being able to penetrate into, and be penetrated by, the source of all life – the journey still requires of he or she a return back across the threshold of mythic life to the day-to-day that was left behind.

Upon return, the responsibility remains to bring forth what is of value, and to not let it be wasted or withered within, due to excessive self interest or self concern.  The ultimate aim is to be of service to one’s community, which is the true joy in life – entering into the psychic territory of interconnectedness, where the role of the giver and the role of the receiver become indistinguishable.

This is not easy to achieve.  There are many places to fail and fall short.  But as Campbell states, it is not human failure that matters, nor is superhuman success of any consequence.  It is the achievement of the one who has become fully human, capable of realizing one’s potential and potency, that allows their aliveness to burn brightly, to be a source of life for others.

The work of becoming a living embodiment of eternity in time, and becoming capable of perceiving eternity in time, cannot be avoided.

Read More about The Return Home:

The Return Home – Bringing Aliveness Back To Daily Life

Listen to Pat Solomon’s rendition of the Hero’s Adventure through the phases of Separation, Initiation and Return.  

Pat was one of our early guests on HJF’s Essential Conversation broadcasts. 

He is the director of the documentary on the work of Joseph Campbell, called Finding Joe.

Read more about the various stages and challenges to the Hero’ Journey myth:

The Hero’s Mythic Adventure Essay

by Michael Mervosh

If You Follow Your Bliss

You put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.

When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.

Joseph Campbell