The stages of the hero’s journey described through excerpts from Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth” Scheme

Campbell divides the hero’s journey into three main moves: departure, initiation, and return.  Within these three great categories are several subcategories, summarized below. Please acquaint yourself with each category and push yourself to decode Campbell’s sometimes elaborate use of language. If asked on a reading quiz what, for example, the Meeting with the Goddess stage is, you should be able to provide an answer that demonstrates that you read and thought about the following summary.

Departure

Call to adventure
Refusal of the call
Supernatural aid
Crossing the first threshold
Belly of the whale

Initiation

Road of trials
Meeting with the goddess/Woman as temptress
Atonement with the Father
Apotheosis
Ultimate boon

Return

Refusal of the return
Magic flight/Rescue from without
Crossing the return threshold
Master of two worlds
Freedom to live
What follows is a brief summary of each subcategory of the hero’s journey in Campbell’s own words.
The Call to Adventure—The adventure may begin in many ways
Refusal of the Call—The hero may refuse or contemplate refusing the adventure
Supernatural Aid—The hero encounters helpers along the way and may receive items and information necessary to completing the adventure successfully
Crossing the First Threshold—The hero eventually comes to the point of no return and must overcome whatever obstacles (including his/her own fear) that prevent him/her from going forward
The Belly of the Whale—The hero enters the adventure proper, depicted as a region of powerfully transformative powers embodied in many (sometimes terrifying) forms
The Road of Trials—The hero faces many tests of his/her courage, resilience, resourcefulness, and intelligence
Meeting with the Goddess—The hero encounters a figure or situation that represents all that the ordinary man/woman can conceive of human happiness
Woman as Temptress—The hero discovers that mastery of the world can be a trap that prevents him/her from achieving full transformation
  • “The mystical marriage with the queen goddess of the world represents the hero’s total mastery of life; for the woman is life, the hero its knower and master.”
  • “But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention, that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion…”
Commonly, the Goddess is represented by a situation or offer that would seem to answer the hero’s most desperate prayers. However, the Road of Trials is all about putting the ego to death—along with all its wishes for comfort, ease, and safety.  This is why the Temptress is often the shadow side of the Goddess; the very thing that seems to promise so much happiness turns the hero aside from the Road of Trials altogether.
Atonement with the Father—The hero must face his deepest fears, must embrace the very annihilation of body and ego, to complete the ultimate transformation
Apotheosis—The hero’s highest self or divinity is revealed
The Ultimate Boon—The hero achieves the purpose of his original quest which symbolize the achievement of ultimate transformation
Refusal of the Return—The hero is tempted to stay where he/she is and not return to the world he/she left behind.  Alternatively, the hero may be prevented from doing so.
The Magic Flight—The hero returns from region of his/her adventure with relative ease, signifying his/her accomplished transformation
Rescue from Without—Prevented from returning to his/her home from the region of adventure, the hero must be rescued by others
Crossing the Return Threshold—Upon leaving the region of adventure, the hero again crosses the threshold—but now experiences it as a changed person
Master of Two Worlds—Now the hero has achieved ultimate transformation, he/she can live in this world without being contaminated by it
Freedom to Live—The hero, having transcended his/her ego, can live without fear of anything