Throughout time and culture people have needed heroes, and these heroes have arisen in myth and reality to serve humankind. Though every era has presented its own challenges that must be transcended, it is only in modern history that we have been faced with the conscious possibility of irretrievably damaging the planet in ways that could extinguish all life. Our era's need for heroes is, therefore, perhaps greater than at any other time. Where will we find a large enough measure of heroism to save us not only from the forces of nature but the forces within ourselves? What can we bring forward from the past, and what do our new, unique problems require? This discussion explores the origins of the hero and the muse, the creative process, the chakra system, Ruumet's model of psycho-spiritual development, the evolving face of heroism in response to the materialism of the modern world, the saving grace of compassion, overcoming sexism and exclusion, and the ways in which gaining understanding of these complex concepts, archetypes, myths, and theories can foster the heroic and creative potential of young people in service to the world.
At the dawning of consciousness, people struggled not only to survive but also to make sense of the death that was all around them. Sacred story or myth, which is a way of knowing that includes ritual, survival skill, transcending limits, and connecting to the beyond, emerged to bring meaning to precarious existence. For Paleolithic-era boys who lived to puberty, this played out in ceremonies that required them to confront death in ritualized trauma in order to mark their arrival into manhood. If they emerged from this experience, they were forever changed and stronger than before, transformed from boys to the hunters their community needed (Armstrong, 2005, pp. 1-35).
This is where the myth of the hero was created. Heeding a call larger than oneself, taking the transformative journey, and finding the gifts and sharing them with others is such a powerful story in us that “even the lives of historical figures, such as the Buddha, Jesus or Muhammad, are told in a way that conforms to this archetypal pattern” (Armstrong, 2005, p. 36). The steps of this journey, handed down throughout history.
Heroes have risen in every era and culture to meet the challenges of their times and play a pivotal part in the survival and evolution of the human collective. However, sometime in the last century, the certainty of life stretching into eternity suffered a fatal blow. One sign was the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, where the world was collectively enlightened that any one of a number of national powers could wipe out all life by deploying a nuclear payload. The bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, proved that the power to kill thousands was now in the hands of a few random individuals.
Beyond that we have discovered, in the guise of such phenomena as global warming, overpopulation, and superbug bacteria, that we have run out room and time to pretend that our actions do not affect the possibilities for sustaining all life on the planet. These phenomena are not capricious acts of spiritual gods. They are caused and perpetuated by us, even as we find ourselves inextricably dependent on something beyond ourselves: a global economy and thoroughly monetized, materialistic approach to life.
If there was ever a need for a hero it is now. Yet the challenge before us is too complex and too imminent for any one Herculean effort to save us. Rank and Campbell (Campbell, 1988) postulate that we are all born with an inner hero. What if we could awaken more people to their innate, heroic potential within? We would then have the strength to confront, at least, our own culpability and partner with others to do the transformative work our society needs to thrive.
I personally feel called to do what I have the power to do to make this happen. Through study and intuition, I have been led to see that the heroic myth—our universal and timeless teaching story for how to make meaning in a finite life—is changing to meet the challenges we face. One way to connect others to this understanding is to do what our ancient ancestors did: help the young people who are going to have to live in this word to experience the power of this world. The vision I have for how to do that is called the Heroes Circle. This will be a youth-empowerment program to facilitate the heroic search for a sustainable world beyond ourselves, as well as facilitate the creative search of the world within ourselves.
This paper defines the core ground of the Heroes Circle by exploring the origins of the hero and the muse, the creative process, the chakra system, Ruumet's (1997) model of psycho-spiritual development, the evolving face of heroism in response to the materialism of the modern world, the saving grace of compassion, overcoming sexism and exclusion, and the importance of fostering the heroic and creative potential of young people in service to the world.
Though the twists and turns of this exploration can seem complex (like walking a labyrinth), approaching the Heroes Circle in this way will reveal a focused center for this spiritually inspired, social-action initiative. Following these diverse threads of understanding then weaving them together creates a strong model for fostering the growth of individuals who have the integrity to transform our global society in the present and in the generations to come. We start by merging the deeply meaningful, timeless experience of the hero to the strength of another mythological archetype —the muse, keeper of creativity.
The Muse and the Creative Process
While the archetype of the hero has inspired our search for meaning in life, the archetype of muse has inspired us to create meaning from within our own lives through the arts, ways of being, and innovations. Each of these archetypes reside in the collective unconscious, available to every human who lives (or has ever lived), as understood by Jung:
This borderline state where time, space, and eternity are united forms the backdrop for Jung's most basic formulation about the structure and dynamics of the psyche: the existence of an objective psyche or collective unconscious, which is the reservoir of human experience both actual and potential, and its components, the archetypes. (Salman, 1997, p. 54)
Muses originated as goddesses of memory and keepers of epic poetry, which was the original technology for spreading and handing down myth or knowledge. As epic poetry was replaced by the technology of writing, muses became known as inspirations for artists and innovators, a function this archetype still performs today.
In my mind, the muse is the keeper of creativity and, like the hero, belongs to all of us. Whether we consider ourselves artistic or not, we are all creative beings. According to Richards (1996), “Creativity is like the original bringing forth. It is not judgmental, is not aesthetic, is not critical” (p. 144). We use our creativity to make up our lives as we go along, out of what we are given and what we seek.
Jung (as cited in Starko, 2005) believed that important creative ideas were “the common heritage of humankind” (p. 51) coming from the collective unconscious. Although we all access this primordial database just by virtue of being human, “individuals most adept at tapping into the collective unconscious are those most capable of high-quality creative activity” (2005, p. 52).
So we all have access to creativity, although some of us can do it better than others. Still, we can cultivate a deeper, more meaningful connection to our muse, our creativity. It is only a matter of learning how to open ourselves to it; this is a key step in the creative process as articulated by Wallas and Rogers.
Amabile has written extensively on how to nurture creativity in children as well as in adults in the workplace. She cites intrinsic motivation, or desire from within, as the most significant factor in creativity:
Our culture places great emphasis on intelligence, talent, skill and hard work. Certainly all of these are important. But they make up only two-thirds of the creativity formula; the remaining third is intrinsic motivation. In helping children to become their most creative selves, it is not enough for us to train them in skills or give them opportunities in which to develop their talents. Nor is it enough to teach them good work habits. We must help them identify the places where their interests and their skills overlap: the Creativity Intersection.
(Amabile, 2007, p. 63)
Amabile makes the case for the importance of also using intrinsic motivation not only in school but in the workplace as well. Just as we misguidedly emphasize intelligence in education, in business the focus on “productivity, efficiency, and control” (2007, p. 63) unconsciously undermines the creativity which companies so deeply desire to solve the business problems that arise in our ever-faster, always-changing world. Beyond work and school, the crucial gift of creativity is that it is central to healthy human growth.
Humanistic psychologist Rogers (1993) makes the “creative connection” (p. 22) that personal growth is achieved through self-awareness, and self-awareness is positively affected by the expressive arts. Her father and noted psychologist Carl Rogers (as cited in Starko, 2005) identified three characteristics which enhance creativity. The first is being open to experience, the second is being able to trust one's own judgment (or intuitive discernment), and the third is being able to play with ideas and concepts (2005, pp. 57-58). These three characteristics can certainly be enhanced by one's environment and education.
Making a safe space for people to experience their creative process may sound like soft work in a hard world—until you realize the similarity between the creative process and the heroic journey. I believe that the two processes, when yoked together, provide a powerful, symbolic opportunity to create the kind of modern heroes we need to save the modern world.
Showing the relation between these two processes and the end result of transformation can help youth see a bigger picture, and appreciate that creativity takes courage just as acting courageously takes creativity. For me, showing the two processes together also strengthens the ability to know each process on its own. In this spirit, I present two more elements that work together: The ancient teaching of the elemental chakras, which informs the modern theory of Ruumet's (1997) Helical Model of Human Development.
Balancing the Hero With the Muse One of those dragons is sexism. As a woman in 21st-century America, the world and history as I understand it is highly weighted toward the heroic being a male domain. Women have, of course, always participated in this archetypal experience of hunting, finding, and sharing. However, only recently in my lifetime has there even been mainstream discussion about gender and gender-bias in culture and perspective. The Heroes Circle is planned as an inviting place for all people, but how can we balance an unconscious tendency to see that circle as being only about masculinity and strength?
In my own life, I have shown strong “male” characteristics of being active, driven, goal oriented, and highly social, needing to go out into the world. At the same time, I have always been deeply “female” showing high sensitivity, creativity, need for connection, and the ability to improvise and “make stuff up” given whatever is in front of me. However, both at home and professionally, I operated in the world of what Jung defined as the animus, projecting the heroic, conquering story as the prime vehicle even for my innate proclivity to be deeply caring, nurturing, and inspirational—those things that are more the provenance of the muse. The muse, as Ulanov (1971) discusses, is bound in the anima archetype, which is “represented mythologically in stories having to do with the eternal feminine in all its forms, such as Mother Earth, love or wisdom” (Ulanov, 1971, p.37).
When I studied for my black belt, the warrior and heroic archetypes the training embodied fostered high self-reliance, which I consider pivotal to my maturation and development. However, as I continued on my path of individuation by pursuing my masters in transpersonal psychology, I realized how one can be heroically self-reliant without being self- loving. The self is the ground on which one stands—or heroically fights from. For best results that ground should be solid. Studying my specialization of creativity and innovation underscored how one can positively grow the ground of self-awareness by participating in the expressive arts. The arts help us understand and heal our relationship to ourselves, and the world in which we are creating ourselves if we realize that the important element is not the product, but the process: When using the arts for self-healing or therapeutic purposes, we are not concerned about the beauty of the visual art, the grammar and style of the writing, or the harmonic flow of the song. We use the arts to let go, to express, and to release. Also, we can gain insight by studying the symbolic and metaphoric messages.
Our art speaks back to us if we take the time to let in those messages. (Rogers, 1993, p. 2) The arts are no more female than the ability to be heroic is male. However the muse, a female archetype, is associated with creativity in a way that makes her useful to our purposes of creating a complete and well-balanced Heroes Circle program. Together, the hero and the muse can bridge the gender gap and put our young heroes in touch with the strength they most need to serve the world—their compassion. As previously shown in Figure 3—Creative Process (articulated by Wallas and Rogers), Heroic Process (articulated by Campbell), and Change—the heroic journey and the creative processes align not only in number of steps, but even in the purpose of each step. Looking at this juxtaposition occasioned an insight that there is something beyond the fourth step in each process.
What happens when either creativity or the hero brings something novel and true into the world? The answer seems to be transformation. Those who complete a creative or heroic process foster a change in themselves. Since, as transpersonal practitioners we know we are all connected, a change in the self is a change in the world.
Read the complete paper here:
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