Monday, November 10, 2008
Part IV: Crossing the First Threshold
After attending a wonderful spiritual retreat over Halloween and spending time with friends in Minneapolis, I'm back in D.C. (which looks brighter and more full of hope given recent events!). I want to continue on with adapting Joseph Campbell's hero's journey to a heroic community, a group of people willing to take on a unique position in the world, uplifting themselves and all peoples.
This installment is all about crossing the first threshold, where the hero encounters the "threshold guardian at the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions - also up and down - standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon."
This is the point where the hero really has to pony up and step into the great beyond in a deeper way. This has happened, to some extent, by heeding the call to adventure, but that was before encountering a major challenge and an embodied experience of what it means to leave the comforts of everyday life.
"The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored."
Campbell references the ancient maps of the world where dragons lie at the ocean's edges or the monsters who wait in the wilderness for the wandering tribespeople.
However, a key point is that this first threshold often focuses on "the pairs of opposites (being and not being, life and death, beuaty and ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defense and acquistion) are the clashing rocks that crush the traveler, but between which the hero must always pass."
Now, here's my spin on that pairs of opposites thing - this is where Queer Magick can serve every hero (community or otherwise). Part of Queer Spirit's power lies in the recognition of walking a third road - not black or white, good or bad, male or female, but something altogether different - a third road that encompasses all paths.
To the task at hand: what does crossing the first threshold look like for the heroic community?
I think a great amount of it might have to do with ego/self, which can tie in nicely to overcoming binary/polarizing thinking. The community members need to accept and understand that life is not all about them as individuals, but about the health and vitality of that community. That's not to say that our individual happiness is dirt - that would be binary thinking. What if our individual happiness and the community happiness can be shared goals and ideals? That's a third road.
In our American culture, which greatly values the power of the individual to overcome all obstacles by himself (and I use "him" acknowledging the patriarchal aspect of this construct), coming together into a community can be really challenging to everyone's notions of the four directions and how the world has acted up until this point.
Some personal confession: I'm all for these ideas. I think they're great. Does that mean I'm all happy-go-lucky about it? Hell, no. Part of it freaks me the fuck out. Do I have to live on a commune spinnng hemp bracelets in order to do this? Do I, even worse, have to share a room? On a more serious note, does this mean that an entire community of people whom I love have access at all times to hold me accountable for my actions and choices? That definitely sounds like a big threshold to cross into an unknown that, given the way I've lived until now, is pretty god damned scary.
Yet, as Campbell points out, when Jason and the Argonauts make it past the clashing rocks (two cliffs in the sea that smash together, making passage a dicey prospect), the cliffs fell still and have not smashed together since. Once we go beyond those polarities, they cease to exist. Consciouness once raised can not be lowered.
(The forest image can be found here. The image of Pan, seen by Campbell as a prime example of a figure who stands at the threshold of opposites, was done by Eric Pouhier. This photo is by the AP and accompanied a story about a modern attempt of the Argonautika.