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Book Summary: The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Understanding the Hero’s Journey Through Psychology and Mythology

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948) is a seminal work of comparative mythology. It reveals that foundational myths from around the world share similar structures and themes, which trace back to some of our earliest stories and continue to hold a strong power over us today.

Introduction: Discover the psychological power of the classic hero myth.

When Joseph Campbell traveled to Europe as a college student in the mid-1920s, he began to hear first-hand the philosophies and mythologies of other cultures. It led to a lifelong passion in comparative mythology.

After studying cultures around the world, including Asian, African, European, Polynesian, and Native American, Campbell noticed their stories didn’t just share thematic elements. The heroes in these tales also had a tendency to go through three distinct stages: they would be separated from their communities, made to endure a series of difficult trials, and emerge as enlightened beings who then returned home to share their newfound wisdom and powers.

Book Summary: The Hero with a Thousand Faces - Understanding the Hero’s Journey Through Psychology and Mythology

These stages became known as the monomyth, or the archetypal hero’s journey, and the structure Campbell describes has been influential to countless storytellers ever since. Perhaps most famously, George Lucas was only able to finish his screenplay for the first Star Wars movie after reading Campbell’s work.

In this summary, we’ll guide you through all the steps and stages of the hero’s journey – and discover why it’s been such a reliable story for so many centuries.

Stage One: The Departure

As we embark on the hero’s journey, it’s important to know that we’re going to be dealing with mythology, which is a world of symbols and metaphors. Campbell notes that this is very much the same world as our unconscious dream state. After all, these myths are the result of the fertile human imagination, and were often created in response to our ancestors’ deepest fears and concerns. In fact, after studying the case files of the famous psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Campbell found that modern people’s dreams were still full of the same symbols and conflicts that make up the monomyth.

So, why is this important? Because the hero’s journey is as much about unlocking inner truths as it is about slaying dragons. Along the way, the hero inevitably discovers they had everything they needed to overcome adversity and find enlightenment the whole time.

So, let’s start at the beginning – at the first stage of the hero’s journey – which is known as the Departure. The Departure covers five steps, or subsections, in which the hero leaves the comfort of their ordinary environment and crosses the threshold into a more dreamlike world.

The first step is known as the “Call to Adventure.” This is the moment when the hero is confronted with something that lures them away from their normal routine. It could be a mysterious stranger standing by the side of the road, or something as fantastic as a talking animal. In some cases, the hero might catch a brief glimpse of a hidden world. Either way, in symbolic terms, this encounter is also a momentary personal revelation. The hero recognizes that the call to adventure is speaking to something special that has been repressed within them – which is why the hero often greets this development with a mix of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.

Right from the start we have a conflict, which leads us to the second step: the “Refusal of the Call.” Often, we don’t want to leave the comfort of our normal lives. We don’t want to venture forth into some new and potentially dangerous world. Or, more to the point, we don’t want to confront that scary, repressed element that lies within us.

But for the heroes who eventually do answer the call, there is encouragement in the third step, known as “Supernatural Aid.” This often comes in the form of a mercurial elder or mentor who supplies the hero with the advice and protective amulets they need to embark on their journey. This is the character who first mentions that the hero has a “destiny” they must fulfill – that the repressed element within them is a gift that must be unlocked. The mentor figure might be the fairy godmother of children’s lore. But more often than not, they’re a mixture of friendly and menacing. Yes, they serve as guardian and guide – but also as someone who is luring the hero into danger. In Dante’s Inferno, this is the character of Virgil. In Goethe’s Faust, it’s Mephistopheles who sends the hero off to face the trials and tribulations that await.

Essentially, this supernatural guide is leading the hero across the border into a realm of darkness and mystery, which is why the fourth step is called the “Crossing of the First Threshold.” At this point, the hero tends to encounter another menacing figure – a “threshold guardian” who challenges and wards off intruders. Numerous mythologies are populated with fearsome characters and monsters who reside on the borders of uncharted forests, oceans, jungles, or deserts.

This brings us to the fifth and final step of the Departure stage: the “Belly of the Whale.” This is where the hero is consumed by the unknown. The first impression at this point is that, rather than capturing the power of the mysterious dark world, the hero is overcome and killed by it.

Death is one of the most important parts of the journey. Throughout the mythologies of the world, there’s a common notion that to attain a higher state of being, the old form must cease to exist. So before the hero can continue their journey of transformation, their previous unenlightened form must be extinguished.

Stage Two: The Initiation

Having left home, crossed the threshold, and emerged like a metaphorical newborn from the belly of the whale, the hero can now embark on the second stage of the journey: the Initiation.

This is the part of the hero-myth where the transformation to a powerful, new being really begins to take place. It starts with the sixth step of the journey, the “Road of Trials.”

Countless stories involve putting the hero through a series of trials that both test their resolve and expand their capabilities. Take Psyche, who was trying to win the love of Cupid. Cupid’s mother, Venus, made her sort a giant pile of grains and seeds, collect the golden wool from a poisonous wild sheep, then get a bottle’s worth of water from a mountaintop inhabited by dragons. Each challenge was more difficult and deadlier than the last. But without fail, Psyche received help at just the right moment – which is another common trope. An army of ants helped her sort the pile of grains. A magical reed helped her gather the wool. An eagle helped her retrieve the water.

During their trials, the hero tends to be humbled by the gift of help. This further eliminates the ego, and it focuses their energies on the path to enlightenment. Often, the help they receive is, in one way or another, pointing them in the direction of their newfound higher purpose.

After clearing the barriers along the road of trials, the next step – the seventh in the overall journey – is the “Meeting with the Goddess.” Here, the hero comes face-to-face with the Queen Goddess of the World. If you were to look at the hero’s journey as a circle, this would be the bottom point – but it’s also the apex of the quest.

From here on, things can get a little complex and contradictory. This makes sense: in many cultures, as well as some Eastern philosophies, the ability to reconcile the contradictory facts about life is one of the keys to enlightenment.

In the “Meeting with the Goddess,” the hero is confronted by a figure who represents all women, and all the creative power that entails. She is the sister, the mistress, the wife. She is the benevolent, loving mother as well as the overbearing, disciplinary one. This part of the journey is about the hero understanding both the womb and the tomb – two things that go hand in hand.

Next is the eighth step, known as “Woman as the Temptress.” How willing is the hero to give up the earthly pleasures they once knew in order to attain the higher powers of a more enlightened being? This is yet another test the hero must pass.

The hero is then confronted by the other parent in the ninth step: “Atonement with the Father.” Much as with the “Meeting with the Goddess,” this step is about abandoning any lingering dependencies or notions – such as the superego and the id – that might stand in the way of achieving transcendence. This is also the step where the hero has to reconcile the potentially conflicting concepts of God and sin. It’s about finding harmony in contradiction, letting go, and moving on.

The tenth and penultimate step of the Initiation stage is called “Apotheosis,” which means deification, or the act of becoming a god. After confronting the Goddess and the Father, the hero has achieved a true understanding of the world – and the transcendence and enlightenment that comes with it. In Buddhist terms, the hero becomes a bodhisattva, or “he whose being is enlightenment.” Things like fear, pain, and pleasure, as well as concepts like “good” and “bad,” become outmoded concerns. In Hinduism, it’s called jivan mukta, “the one freed in life.” The hero is now desireless, compassionate, and wise. The ego is utterly dissolved to the point where even enemies are beloved.

The Initiation stage closes with the eleventh step, the “Ultimate Boon.” This is the achievement of the goal that set the journey in motion. Everything that has come before has prepared the hero for this moment. Given the transcendent state they’re now in, the boon is finally captured with grace and ease.

So what comes after this? Aren’t we finished? Not quite. In the final section, we’ll wrap things up with the third and final stage of the hero’s journey.

Stage Three: The Return

The hero’s journey is not one of selfish desires. The point is to share the boon, along with the wisdom and enlightenment that have been achieved. A hero is, after all, someone who helps others. So to do this, we must return home to the community we left behind.

Appropriately enough, the Return is the name of the final stage of the journey. But the first section of this stage, which is the twelfth step overall, is called the “Refusal of the Return.”

Sometimes, the hero is simply too overcome with the ecstasy of transcendence to return home. Other heroes might doubt the point of going back – would it even be possible for the people there to understand the profundity of the gift? Still others might attempt to go further and prolong the Departure stage.

But for the journey to truly continue, they must turn homeward. This return is often kicked off by a thirteenth step called the “Magic Flight.” You’re probably familiar with tales where the ultimate reward is protected by a sleeping giant or some other threatening guardian. So when the hero snatches the boon, a chase ensues that often involves fantastic feats of derring-do. More magical barriers may be in place, but the hero makes a narrow escape – perhaps with the help of some supernatural aid.

In other stories, the hero needs assistance in getting back home, which is why the fourteenth step is called “Rescue from Without.” Maybe the hero is stuck in a blissed-out euphoric state. Or maybe they’re trapped or imprisoned somewhere. In the case of the Japanese goddess Amaterasu, she leaves a message before she begins her journey, saying something to the effect of, “If I don’t return by a certain time, come and get me.” That’s exactly what happens, and rescuing Amaterasu becomes its own hero’s journey.

Whether by rescue or magic flight, the fifteenth step is the “Crossing of the Return Threshold.” Here, we explore what happens when everyone discovers that the hero has been forever changed by their adventure. In the story of Rip Van Winkle, who returned home after being asleep for 20 years, the hero is unrecognizable. The people from his hometown treat him as a suspicious and potentially dangerous outsider. This is why reintegrating into society, and sharing the ecstatic joy of enlightenment with an unwitting and unprepared community, can be one of the biggest challenges of the entire journey.

The sixteenth step is called “Master of the Two Worlds.” The hero has found a way to cross the divide, and displays this mastery to the people. This moment is so compelling that it crops up in the foundational stories of numerous religions. It’s when the unenlightened see the hero’s display of power – and instantly recognize the significance. It’s often a frightening thing to witness, but the profound meaning of this godly power is undeniable.

Finally, we come to the seventeenth and last part of the journey: the “Freedom to Live.” Sounds pretty good, right? This stage indicates the immovable nature of the enlightened hero we discussed during the “Apotheosis” stage: No fear of death. Zero attachment to pain or pleasure. The ability to see everything as an equally valuable part of the whole.

But now that the hero has shared the gift, they’re also truly free to live without concern – they know that what’s within them will live on inside of others.


The hero’s journey forms the backbone of our most foundational mythologies, which date back to ancient times. This three-act structure isn’t just a powerful storytelling tool. It’s also a symbolic narrative that has become the basis for multiple religions, and which continues to influence the stories we tell each other today.

The idea of “reaching our full potential” isn’t our only concern – we want to be certain we’ll be remembered. The hero’s journey reminds us that we can achieve this goal by sharing our wisdom and making a positive impact on those around us. In this way, the people we help can continue our work long after we’re gone.

About the author

Joseph Campbell


Psychology, Communication Skills, Motivation, Inspiration, Creativity, Nonfiction, Mythology, Philosophy, Writing, History, Religion, Classics, Anthropology, Spirituality, Counseling, Medical Psychoanalysis, Popular Psychology Psychoanalysis, Folklore and Mythology Studies, Affirmations and Inspiration, Comparative Religion, Self-Help, Relationships, Social Sciences, Literature

Table of Contents

Preface to the 1949 Edition

PROLOGUE: The Monomyth
1. Myth and Dream
2. Tragedy and Comedy
3. The Hero and the God
4. The World Navel

The Adventure of the Hero
CHAPTER I: Departure
1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
5. The Belly of the Whale
CHAPTER II: Initiation
1. The Road of Trials
2. The Meeting with the Goddess
3. Woman as the Temptress
4. Atonement with the Father
5. Apotheosis
6. The Ultimate Boon
1. Refusal of the Return
2. The Magic Flight
3. Rescue from Without
4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
5. Master of the Two Worlds
6. Freedom to Live

The Cosmogonic Cycle
CHAPTER I: Emanations
1. From Psychology to Metaphysics
2. The Universal Round
3. Out of the Void-Space
4. Within Space-Life
5. The Breaking of the One into the Manifold
6. Folk Stories of Creation
CHAPTER II: The Virgin Birth
1. Mother Universe
2. Matrix of Destiny
3. Womb of Redemption
4. Folk Stories of Virgin Motherhood
CHAPTER III: Transformations of the Hero
1. The Primordial Hero and the Human
2. Childhood of the Human Hero
3. The Hero as Warrior
4. The Hero as Lover
5. The Hero as Emperor and as Tyrant
6. The Hero as World Redeemer
7. The Hero as Saint
8. Departure of the Hero
CHAPTER IV: Dissolutions
1. End of the Microcosm
2. End of the Macrocosm

EPILOGUE: Myth and Society
1. The Shapeshifter
2. The Function of Myth Cult, and Meditation
3. The Hero Today



Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

As part of the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, this third edition features expanded illustrations, a comprehensive bibliography, and more accessible sidebars.

As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists—including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers—and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.


“I have returned to no other book more often since leaving college than this one, and every time I discover new insight into the human journey. Every generation will find in Hero wisdom for the ages.” — Bill Moyers

“In the three decades since I discovered The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it has continued to fascinate and inspire me. Joseph Campbell peers through centuries and shows us that we are all connected by a basic need to hear stories and understand ourselves. As a book, it is wonderful to read; as illumination into the human condition, it is a revelation.” — George Lucas

“Campbell’s words carry extraordinary weight, not only among scholars but among a wide range of other people who find his search down mythological pathways relevant to their lives today….The book for which he is most famous, The Hero with a Thousand Faces [is] a brilliant examination, through ancient hero myths, of man’s eternal struggle for identity.” — Time

“In the long run, the most influential book of the twentieth century may turn out to be Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” — Christopher Vogler

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Chapter One: Myth and Dream

Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture thin translations from the sonnets of the mystic Lao-tse; now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale: it will be always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told.

Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, the myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of myth.

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale—as the flavor of the ocean is contained in a droplet or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of thepsyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

What is the secret of the timeless vision? From what profundity of the mind does it derive? Why is mythology everywhere the same, beneath its varieties of costume? And what does it teach?

Today many sciences are contributing to the analysis of the riddle. Archaeologists are probing the ruins of Iraq, Honan, Crete, and Yucatan. Ethnologists are questioning the Ostiaks of the river Ob, the Boobies of Fernando Po. A generation of orientalists has recently thrown open to us the sacred writings of the East, as well as the pre-Hebrew sources of our own Holy Writ. And meanwhile another host of scholars, pressing researches begun last century in the field of folk psychology, has been seeking to establish the psychological bases of language, myth, religion, art development, and moral codes.

Most remarkable of all, however, are the revelations that have emerged from the mental clinic. The bold and truly epoch-making writings of the psychoanalysts are indispensable to the student of mythology; for, whatever may be thought of the detailed and sometimes contradictory interpretations of specific cases and problems, Freud, Jung, and their followers have demonstrated irrefutably that the logic, the heroes, and the deeds of myth survive into modern times. In the absence of an effective general mythology, each of us has his private, unrecognized, rudimentary, yet secretly Potent pantheon of dream. The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.

“I dreamed,” wrote an American youth to the author of a syndicated newspaper feature, “that I was reshingling our roof. Suddenly I heard my father’s voice on the ground below, calling to me. I turned suddenly to hear him better, and, as I did so, the hammer slipped out of my hands, and slid down the sloping roof, and disappeared over the edge. I heard a heavy thud, as of a body falling.

“Terribly frightened, I climbed down the ladder to the ground. There was my father lying dead on the ground, with blood all over his head. I was brokenhearted, and began calling my mother, in the midst of my sobs. She came out of the house, and put her arms around me. ‘Never mind, son, it was all an accident,’ she said. ‘I know you will take care of me, even if he is gone.’ As she was kissing me, I woke up.

“I am the eldest child in our family and am twenty-three years old. I have been separated from my wife for a year; somehow, we could not get along together. I love both my parents dearly, and have never had any trouble with my lather, except that he insisted that I go back and live with my wife, and I couldn’t be happy with her. And I never will.”

The unsuccessful husband here reveals, with a really wonderful innocence, that instead of bringing his spiritual energies forward to the love and problems of his marriage, he has been resting, in the secret recesses of his imagination, with the now ridiculously anachronistic dramatic situation of his first and only emotional involvement, that of the tragicomic triangle of the nursery—the son against the father for the love of the mother. Apparently the most permanent of the dispositions of the human psyche are those that derive from the fact that, of all animals, we remain the longest at the mother breast. Human beings are born too soon; they are unfinished, unready as yet to meet the world. Consequently their whole defense from a universe of dangers is the mother, under whose protection the intra-uterine period is prolonged. Hence the dependent child and its mother constitute for months after the catastrophe of birth a dual unit, not only physically but also psychologically. Any prolonged absence of the parent causes tension in the infant and consequent impulses of aggression; also, when the mother is obliged to hamper the child, aggressive responses are aroused. Thus the first object of the child’s hostility is identical with the first object of its love, and its first ideal (which thereafter is retained as the unconscious basis of all images of bliss, truth, beauty, and perfection) is that of the dual unity of the Madonna and Bambino.

The unfortunate father is the first radical intrusion of another order of reality into the beatitude of this earthly restatement of the excellence of the situation within the womb; he, therefore, is experienced primarily as an enemy. To him is transferred the charge of aggression that was originally attached to the “bad,” or absent mother, while the desire attaching to the “good,” or present, nourishing, and protecting mother, she herself (normally) retains. This fateful infantile distribution of death (thanatos: destrudo) and love (eros: libido) impulses builds the foundation of the now celebrated Oedipus complex, which Sigmund Freud pointed out some fifty years ago as the great cause of our adult failure to behave like rational beings. As Dr. Freud has stated it: “King Oedipus, who slew his father Laïus and married his mother Jocasta, merely shows us the fulfilment of our own childhood wishes. But, more fortunate than he, we have meanwhile succeeded, in so far as we have not become psychoneurotics, in detaching our sexual impulses from our mothers and in forgetting our jealousy of our fathers.” Or, as he writes again: “Every pathological disorder of sexual life is rightly to be regarded as an inhibition in development.”

For many a man hath seen himself in dreams
His mother’s mate, but he who gives no heed
To such like matters bears the easier fate.

The sorry plight of the wife of the lover whose sentiments instead of maturing remain locked in the romance of the nursery may be judged from the apparent nonsense of another modern dream; and here we begin to feel indeed that we are entering the realm of ancient myth, but with a curious turn.

“I dreamed,” wrote a troubled woman, “that a big white horse kept following me wherever I went. I was afraid of him, and pushed him away. I looked back to see if he was still following me, and he appeared to have become a man. I told him to go inside a barbershop and shave off his mane, which he did. When he came out he looked just like a man, except that he had horse’s hoofs and face, and followed me wherever I went. He came closer to me, and I woke up.

“I am a married woman of thirty-five with two children. I have been married for fourteen years now, and I am sure my husband is faithful to me.”

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind—whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life—that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

Psychoanalysis, the modern science of reading dreams, has taught us to take heed of these unsubstantial images. Also it has found a way to let them do their work. The dangerous crises of self-development are permitted to come to pass under the protecting eye of an experienced initiate in the lore and language of dreams, who then enacts the role and character of the ancient mystagogue, or guide of souls, the initiating medicine man of the primitive forest sanctuaries of trial and initiation. The doctor is the modern master of the mythological realm, the knower of all the secret ways and words of potency. His role is precisely that of the Wise Old Man of the myths and fairy tales whose words assist the hero through the trials and terrors of the weird adventure. He is the one who appears and points to the magic shining sword that will kill the dragon-terror, tells of the waiting bride and the castle of many treasures, applies healing balm to the almost fatal wounds, and finally dismisses the conqueror, back into the world of normal life, following the great adventure into the enchanted night.

When we turn now, with this image in mind, to consider the numerous strange rituals that have been reported from the primitive tribes and great civilizations of the past, it becomes apparent that the purpose and actual effect of these was to conduct people across those difficult thresholds of transformation that demand a change in the patterns not only of conscious but also of unconscious life. The so-called rites of passage, which occupy such a prominent place in the life of a primitive society (ceremonials of birth, naming, puberty, marriage, burial, etc.), are distinguished by formal, and usually very severe, exercises of severance, whereby the mind is radically cut away from the attitudes, attachments, and life patterns of the stage being left behind. Then follows an interval of more or less extended retirement, during which are enacted rituals designed to introduce the life adventurer to the forms and proper feelings of his new estate, so that when, at last, the time has ripened for the return to the normal world, the initiate will be as good as reborn.

Most amazing is the fact that a great number of the ritual trials and images correspond to those that appear automatically in dream the moment the psychoanalyzed patient begins to abandon his infantile fixations and to progress into the future. Among the aborigines of Australia, for example, one of the principal features of the ordeal of initiation (by which the boy at puberty is cut away from the mother and inducted into the society and secret lore of the men) is the rite of circumcision. “When a little boy of the Murngin tribe is about to be circumcised, he is told by his fathers and by the old men, ‘The Great Father Snake smells your foreskin; he is calling for it.’ The boys believe this to be literally true, and become extremely frightened. Usually they take refuge with their mother, mother’s mother, or some other favorite female relative, for they know that the men are organized to see that they are taken to the men’s ground, where the great snake is bellowing. The women wail over the boys ceremonially; this is to keep the great snake from swallowing them.” —Now regard the counterpart from the unconscious. “One of my patients,” writes Dr. C. G. Jung, “dreamt that a snake shot out of a cave and bit him in the genital region. This dream occurred at the moment when the patient was convinced of the truth of the analysis and was beginning to free himself from the bonds of his mother-complex.”

It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows from the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexorcised images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood. In the United States there is even a pathos of inverted emphasis: the goal is not to grow old, but to remain young; not to mature away from Mother, but to cleave to her. And so, while husbands are worshiping at their boyhood shrines, being the lawyers, merchants, or masterminds their parents wanted them to be, their wives, even after fourteen years of marriage and two fine children produced and raised, are still on the search for love—which can come to them only from the centaurs, sileni, satyrs, and other concupiscent incubi of the rout of Pan, either as in the second of the above-recited dreams, or as in our popular, vanilla-frosted temples of the venereal goddess, under the make-up of the latest heroes of the screen. The psychoanalyst has to come along, at last, to assert again the tried wisdom of the older, forward-looking teachings of the masked medicine dancers and the witch-doctor-circumcisers; whereupon we find, as in the dream of the serpent bite, that the ageless initiation symbolism is produced spontaneously by the patient himself at the moment of the release. Apparently, there is something in these initiatory images so necessary to the psyche that if they are not supplied from without, through myth and ritual, they will have to be announced again, through dream, from within—lest our energies should remain locked in a banal, long-outmoded toy-room, at the bottom of the sea.

Sigmund Freud stresses in his writings the passages and difficulties of the first half of the human cycle of life—those of our infancy and adolescence, when our sun is mounting toward its zenith. C. G. Jung, on the other hand, has emphasized the crises of the second portion—when, in order to advance, the shining sphere must submit to descend and disappear, at last, into the night-womb of the grave. The normal symbols of our desires and fears become converted, in this afternoon of the biography, into their opposites; for it is then no longer life but death that is the challenge. What is difficult to leave, then, is not the womb but the phallus—unless, indeed, the life-weariness has already seized the heart, when it will be death that calls with the promise of bliss that formerly was the lure of love. Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream. And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilization.

The story is told, for example, of the great Minos, king of the island-empire of Crete in the period of its commercial supremacy: how he hired the celebrated artist-craftsman Daedalus to invent and construct for him a labyrinth, in which to hide something of which the palace was at once ashamed and afraid. For there was a monster on the premises—which had been born to Pasiphaë, the queen. Minos, the king, had been busy, it is said, with important wars to protect the trade routes; and meanwhile Pasiphaë had been seduced by a magnificent, snow-white, sea-born bull. It had been nothing worse, really, than what Minos’ own mother had allowed to happen: Minos’ mother was Europa, and it is well known that she was carried by a bull to Crete. The bull had been the god Zeus, and the honored son of that sacred union was Minos himself—now everywhere respected and gladly served. How then could Pasiphaë have known that the fruit of her own indiscretion would be a monster: this little son with human body but the head and tail of a bull?

Society has blamed the queen greatly; but the king was not unconscious of his own share of guilt. The bull in question had been sent by the god Poseidon, long ago, when Minos was contending with his brothers for the throne. Minos had asserted that the throne was his, by divine right, and had prayed the god to send up a bull out of the sea, as a sign; and he had sealed the prayer with a vow to sacrifice the animal immediately, as an offering and symbol of service. The bull had appeared, and Minos took the throne; but when he beheld the majesty of the beast that had been sent and thought what an advantage it would be to possess such a specimen, he determined to risk a merchant’s subtution—of which he supposed the god would take no great account. Offering on Poseidon’s altar the finest white bull that he owned, he added the other to his herd.

The Cretan empire had greatly prospered under the sensible jurisdiction of this celebrated lawgiver and model of public virtue. Knossos, the capital city, became the luxurious, elegant center of the leading commercial power of the civilized world. The Cretan fleets went out to every isle and harbor of the Mediterranean; Cretan ware was prized in Babylonia and Egypt. The bold little ships even broke through the Gates of Hercules to the open ocean, coasting then northward to take the gold of Ireland and the tin of Cornwall, as well as southward, around the bulge of Senegal, to remote Yorubaland and the distant marts of ivory, gold, and slaves.

But at home, the queen had been inspired by Poseidon with an ungovernable passion for the bull. And she had prevailed upon her husband’s artist-craftsman, the peerless Daedalus, to flame for her a wooden cow that would deceive the bull—into which she eagerly entered; and the bull was deceived. She bore her monster, which, in due time, began to become a danger. And so Daedalus again was summoned, this time by the king, to construct a tremendous labyrinthine enclosure, with blind passages, in which to hide the thing away. $o deceptive was the invention, that Daedalus himself, when he had finished it, was scarcely able to find his way back to the entrance. Therein the Minotaur was settled: and he was fed, thereafter, on groups of living youths and maidens, carried as tribute from the conquered nations within the Cretan domain.

Thus according to the ancient legend, the primary fault was not the queen’s but the king’s; and he could not really blame her, for he knew what he had done. He had converted a public event to personal gain, whereas the whole sense of his investiture as king had been that he was no longer a mere private person. The return of the bull should have symbolized his absolutely selfless submission to the functions of his role. The retaining of it represented, on the other hand, an impulse to egocentric self-aggrandizement. And so the king “by the grace of God” became the dangerous tyrant Holdfast—out for himself. Just as the traditional rites of passage used to teach the individual to die to the past and be reborn to the future, so the great ceremonials of investiture divested him of his private character and clothed him in the mantle of his vocation. Such was the ideal, whether the man was a craftsman or a king. By the sacrilege of the refusal of the rite, however, the individual cut himself as a unit off from the larger unit of the whole community: and so the One was broken into the many, and these then battled each other—each out for himself—and could be governed only by force.