The reward of each and every hero’s journey is life-transformation on every level—caterpillar into butterfly, base metal into gold. Gifts from experiencing this process are legion. They range from radiant wellbeing, creativity and joy, to becoming free so you can live your life authentically from the core of your being. If you have not yet read “Transfigure Your Life Part One”, I suggest you do this now before reading further...
As we move into the second part of every hero’s journey, we enter an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous realm. Yet it is here, within your own dark inner cave, that you begin to discover your unique life purpose and values.
In Arthurian legends, this Innermost Cave is the Chapel Perilous—a dangerous room wherein the Grail is hidden. As each hero enters his or her dark cave, they need to be prepared for a new reality. To a woman, this is the place where the mythological Dark Goddess dwells. To a man, the cave is often the arena in which he will need to fight his unique dragon so he can win his treasure. In stories of male heroes, the central image for what is sought is often a gem or a radiant jewel. For a woman, it is frequently the image of a child—an offspring of her own spiritual rebirth. Instead of having to slay a dragon, a woman often has to remain in this place, enduring what can seem like unendurable silence. She needs to listen and learn before she unearths her own treasure.
Sometimes, as a woman makes her descent into the innermost cave, she tumbles headlong into an experience of the dark night of the soul. Often the hero’s journey a woman makes takes place around the time of menopause. It can be fraught with confusion and grief, or filled with loneliness and anger. Meanwhile, in this place of bone-chilling darkness within her own being, she may feel turned inside out, naked and exposed. For all the things she thought she knew about herself and her life no longer apply here.
Far away from comfort and companionship—which she may, at this point, only vaguely remember—silence pervades. Endless tears without name she may shed. Occasionally, when a woman enters the innermost cave, she may not even have the strength to get dressed—let alone cook or clean or buy food. To friends and family, she may seem like a lost creature. She may forget things. She may dig in her garden or wander in the woods. Yet all these tasks are wise woman’s work.
The route that can eventually lead her out of the underworld and then return her home in a transfigured state is not the same as that of a man. He often needs to move up, away from himself, to locate his path. For a woman to find the treasure, she must lay aside any interest in culture or games of the mind and turn within. As she does this, she becomes more and more connected with her body, her sexuality, her dreams, images and desires. And, as she moves even further into the depths, she begins to reclaim those parts of her that have been lost. Here, in the ground of her being, she will come face to face with her greatest yet most rewarding challenges. Here she will confront her fears and touch the pivotal crux of her hero's journey. Here she tastes “death” by facing her own shadow. And, when at last it is all over, the Dark Goddess waits ready to bless her and bestow upon her the greatest treasure of all—her body and soul. But this is not the end of any man or woman’s hero's journey. These heroes are soon faced with the task of bringing this treasure back home. It’s a job easier said than done.
THE ROAD HOME
The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy escapes from the castle of the wicked witch. Luke rescues Princess Leia and gets the plans of the Death Star. The Princess throws her frog against the wall and he turns into the beautiful prince. Yet the game is far from over. Having survived the ordeal, withstood the pressure, slain the monster and taken possession of the treasure, every hero now has to make his or her way home.
Further challenges invariably appear. Dorothy discovers that the hot air balloon which the Wizard has provided to take her back to Kansas is not the sure form of transport she had hoped. Toto runs off after a cat. In trying to bring him back, the balloon takes off without her and we fear she may be trapped forever in the underworld. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are pursued by Darth Vader as they make their escape from the Death Star. Joan Wilder—having defeated the evil men who wanted to kill her and steal the stone—returns to New York, where she faces the arduous task of turning what has happened into her next romantic novel. It is never an easy task for any hero to pass back and forth between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. For much energy is spent during the supreme ordeal, and he or she may not have banished their enemy completely. Sometimes, on the road home, the hero experiences a sudden reversal of fortune just when he or she thought that the worst was over. Should this take place, he or she is being given a chance to test out those newfound powers by overcoming adversity.
There may still be a few shadows lurking—old ideas, old ways of doing things. But the game has changed now. While within the innermost cave, an alchemical process has been completed. We are no longer the men or women that we once were. Now we need to learn new ways of living, and new methods of returning to the surface, because most of the rules we once lived by may no longer apply.
In primitive societies, after a woman had entered the traditional moon lodge for a few days during her menstrual period, or when a man returned from a hunt, they were required to be washed and purified before being allowed back into the community. After all, they too had visited an underworld of non-ordinary reality while away. They had walked in the land of the dead. Any blood that had stained their hands during this experience, or any soil that remained on their bodies, needed to be washed away. At the end of a hero’s journey, the newly born offspring is now returning home in its transfigured form. This, too, is a time for spring-cleaning the body and mind, for doing whatever is most comforting and rewarding so the returning hero regenerates him or herself—perhaps by listening to music for hours on end, awakening at dawn to take a long walk, or carrying out some ritual or meditation to help refocus life while getting used to being home again.
Finally, he or she arrives back home with the elixirs, treasures, wisdom and knowledge. The mysterious world of non-ordinary reality has been entered. Trials have been faced and overcome. In the process, they have made a deeper connection with their own essential being.
Dorothy gets back to Kansas having learned that she is loved and finds that, after all is said and done, "there's no place like home." Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star so peace and order can return to the galaxy. Joan Wilder writes her book, keeps the faith and gets her Jack, complete with alligator boots and a boat in which she can sail around the world. Their hero's journey has come full circle. They have returned to the place from which it started. Yet for neither is this place as it was before their journey began. For, having brought back home the power and the blessing they earned while in the numinous realms they visited, they have been reborn. In truth, even the world itself has been renewed.
ENDS AND NEW BEGINNINGS
A woman who completes her passage into the underworld and returns discovers that, within her darkness, confusion and loneliness, she has discovered a new joy, a new sense of meaning. She now knows that the world which once seemed fragmented now all fits together. She has tasted—often for the first time—her own authentic power and freedom. She knows that she no longer has to live by other people's rules. Indeed, she is likely to find it is no longer possible for her to do so. She is no longer ‘seducible' by those who once made her feel inadequate so they could sell her another body, another BMW, another love affair to fill up the emptiness that used to be there. Having been released from all of this, she has become set free to learn the new art of living as mistress of her own life.
And so a hero's tale ends. Yet one big question remains for each man and woman who has chosen to make the journey. What will they do with the treasure they brought back? In most of the male myths, there are said to be two choices. Either he takes his treasure into his castle and lives happily ever after or, like Percival, having found the Grail, he decides to share it with the world, so that the Fisher King's wounding is healed and the land that had become barren and devastated by his wound becomes fertile again.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE
It is my observation that, having completed her hero’s journey, a woman has no such choice. By her nature, woman is more connected with the energies of life and the powers of the earth than her male counterpart. She is therefore more aware of the interrelatedness of all things than most men. Sooner or later, most women heroes have no choice but to share with others the wisdom they bring back. The female hero has by now incorporated the essence of the Dark Goddess—the most essential, generous, wise and healing of female energy—into her heart. The mysterious goddess has communed with her wordlessly. Now she too has become a keeper of the wisdom by which battles are won and lost. She has also tasted the power and the joy of transfiguration. Now, like the Dark Goddess, she often develops a passion to share all this with the world by nurturing her own life as well as the lives of all living things.
Doing what somebody else wants you to do is living by a slave mentality. It is a perfect way to encourage physical degeneration and lose touch with your own unique truth and creativity. Now, however, you begin to live in freedom. Whatever you do or say as you learn more and more to trust yourself flows forth with enthusiasm from the core of your being. Little wonder, since the word entheos means ‘god-filled.”