Take a look at how the hero’s journey is a cosmic glimpse at how we live our own lives.
Traditionally, the hero’s journey is a common story pattern that involves a character going on an adventure, learning a lesson, winning a victory, and coming back home changed. But how is this journey also a cosmic, spiritual take on how we are living our lives?
And more specifically to this video essay, how do Harry Potter and Dumbledore model a cosmic pattern of our own relationship with ourselves, a higher power, and our spirituality.
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For as long as there have been stories, there have been heroes. The Greeks had Perseus. The Japanese had Momotaro. The Nianga, they had Minwindow. You have Harry Potter. Perseus was the outcast son of a God who fought monsters and became a King. Momotaro, who was a gift from the gods, who fought demons and brought peace to the land. Mewindow was a miracle born son who fought oversized creatures and brought order to an unjust kingdom. Harry Potter was the boy who lived, fought back death eaters, and brought balance to the force. It’s not true. I mean, technically it’s true. These stories speak to a hero’s divine origins, their innate potential and struggle to accomplish great feats, and their triumphant returns and victories. So how is it that these heroes existed worlds apart and hundreds of years from one another, but share so many commonalities? And how is their story really your story? So let’s talk about the origin of myth. Stories of heroes and heroic deeds have existed across every known culture and civilization. But the singular person who began to tie together their common threads was this man, Joseph Campbell, with his groundbreaking book, A Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Campbell saw that the many shared traits across thousands of years, cultures and religions, and how each of their respective heroes underwent similar patterns of adventure, temptation, defeat, but eventual victory. And for poor Harry Potter, this was a continual cycle. Adventure, temptation, then defeat and eventual victory. Then more adventure and temptation, defeat, but still eventual victory. And adventure, temptation, defeat.
Victory. Oh, at last. Look, you get it. Campbell, a proponent of Carl Young and his codification of archetypes, incorporated his own archetypes into his explanation of these common adventures and the characters that we find them in. The hero, the ally, the herold, the trickster, the shapeshifter, the threshold Guardian, the shadow. Campbell went on to create a visual understanding of this journey, adequately named the hero’s journey, which has held such a long lasting influence over media that much of how you watch your hero s rise and fall can find credit to Campbell himself.[00:02:18.990] – Speaker 2
I had an idea of doing a modern fairy tale, stumbled across a hero with a 1,000 faces. After reading more of Joe’s books, I began to understand how I could do this. It was a great gift and a very important moment. It’s possible that if I had run across that, I would still be riding Star Horse today. So while. [00:02:40.800] – Speaker 1
Campbell’s work has been incorporated into film, TV, and theater, it’s important to note that the basis of his work was to understand the human story and examine why this journey was so prevalent across vastly different times and geographical locations and what those shared identifiers mean for our own story. [00:02:59.620] – Speaker 2
It’s a clue to the spiritual potentialities of the human life. But what does. [00:03:05.520] – Speaker 1
That have to do with us Muggles? Magic in the perusing of the story of our soul? Actually, everything. So let’s talk about the ordinary world and the special world. The world of us Muggles is rather ordinary. Work, keeping house, throwing a proper soiree from time to time, we keep up appearances and seek routine. When we witness something truly magical, and I’m going to add classical divinity on top of this. When the miraculous presents an opportunity, we often prefer that it did not and look forward to return to routine. Unless we were willing to choose differently, like the boy who lived. He living in the cupboard under the the stairs, and for all he knew, unknown to any outside of the walls of Fort Private Drive. He does not remember his parents. They are separated from him in his ordinary world, but he has clues of them in their reality. This is what Campbell terms the ordinary world. Adequate time has to be spent in these trenches of the mundane to appreciate an opportunity or a call of adventure, as he says. That way you can enter into the special world. [00:04:08.870] – Speaker 3
You’re a wizard, Harry. [00:04:11.510] – Speaker 1
Imagine you are this hero and this is your story. A magical opportunity presents itself and the choice is yours. But you will have to step into the unknown, even if the unknown still appears ordinary enough. The special parts of this new world will show themselves to you, even if others cannot see them. As for magic itself, our naive but heroic expectations see them as needing to operate larger than life because is that not what magic does? We have heard or even witnessed the acts of the impossible and the miraculous, but all we can do is… Turn this stupid fat guy yellow. Exactly who is watching over all of this learning? Who knew us before we came into this special and secret world? And who knows the events unfolding inside and out and the very real dangers that we’ll have to face? Why, the headmaster, of course. The headmaster knows of our heritage, the evil that chases us, and even orchestrated a home for us. This ordinary home would be far from perfect and by many comparisons, even terrible. But it was safe as it pertained to the enemy who truly would destroy us before we were ready. [00:05:17.430] – Speaker 1
Speaking of the enemy, the headmaster knew him, witnessed his fall from grace, and knew his methods and intentions. Yet he allowed him to act. It is this allowance that most often upsets other students, colleagues, and even us, the human hero. Why would you allow this snake to continue on? Why do you allow others that are like him and show clear signs of following after him to carry on with this facade? Because this is a school. But this is a campus for students and teachers, and these are the prices for learning what not to eat, what love and heart it can tell, who can be trusted, and who he shouldn’t tell his secrets to. Because we all knew she was going to snitch at the first sign of trouble. What did Harry ever see and show? What good is a school if you cannot learn? You cannot learn if you cannot have choice and choice brings all outcomes and affects all students. To eliminate this process removes learning and subplants it with rote obedience. It indicates a poor headmaster. Perhaps the most common complaint level at this particular headmaster is the time and manner in which he chooses to act or not act at all.
I will remain close by to provide unseen moral support, but I will never help him. I will let harm befall him. I will even. [00:06:26.250] – Speaker 1
Let him die. It could be that we come up in a world thinking all is black and white, good or bad, and that a superior headmaster would put an immediate stop to all that is wrong while promptly promoting what is right. Why did you prevent this event? Why send what I needed at this moment and not that? Why did you prevent these students’ safety but not me? Do you not care for me? Why did you not tell me everything from the beginning? Why do you not have a more rigid hiring process for the teacher of the dark arts, but like, seriously? Now, at first, our misunderstanding stemmed from our lack of knowing the headmaster personally, and then not understanding the headmaster’s designs, until we finally have a sense that there is so much that the headmaster can teach us. But only in the time and manner that is needful. He also gave his life for ours. Wait, are we still talking about Dumbledore? I think so. So why is a Dumbledore so vital in your journey? Remember, you’re the hero. Relative to Joseph Campbell’s work, every hero encounters a mentor or guide in their journey to personal revelation, to pull back the veil, as it were, to teach the hero about the force, to teach the hero about the matrix, to teach the hero about wax on. [00:07:33.210] – Speaker 3
Wax off. [00:07:34.940] – Speaker 1
Dumbledore knows your past, your family, your friends, your potential, but most importantly, does not intervene at every single instance of danger, heartache, and very real pain. You’re Harry Potter, you have allies, you have insights. You’ve gained abilities and powers during your time spent in this special world, so use them. Adventure, temptation, defeat, and eventual victory, you remember? While we now live in a time where constant repetition of similar stories dull the simple truths of a hero’s journey, much like Harry Potter’s journey. Understanding basic story truths reveals a pattern that spans human history and yet holds true for each individual, which is this. Your origins are miraculous. The odds, they’re against you. You are known and loved by many, though you may not understand this where you currently are. You will be called to adventure and not for adventure’s sake, but because the calling can change your very nature. You will be challenged. You will fail. You will face the very depths of your fears. And somewhere in that undertaking, you will have a revelation and perhaps uncovered by the headmaster himself. And you will return home, but this time as a hero, forever changed. Now it’s your turn. [00:08:43.320] – Speaker 1
You’re ready to step outside the ordinary world. Take a glimpse at the magic that exists all around you and become more of a hero than you are now. You. You.