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..:: The Hero ::..


Alan Schneider


            Although the Shadow is probably more psychologically influential, acting as it customarily does from the concealment of the unconscious, there is no question that the Hero is the most universally recognized archetypal symbol in the history of all cultures of the Earth. And this is conscious recognition at that – fully apprehended in the ego’s waking perception as an ultimate goal to be attained, or at least strived for, in material existence. This universal presence of the Hero in all cultures is what Joseph Campbell was alluding to through the title of his monumental work on heroism – The Hero with a Thousand Faces – still one of the best treatments in print of this subject. No archetypal symbol is more important in history than the Hero.  

            The Hero expresses the idealistic vitality of society. In this representation, we see our most laudable characteristics, and believe, however subtlely or overtly, that we mirror those qualities in our own behavior to a greater or lesser extent. The universality of this image points to a profound psychological need – one that has its roots located in the deep personal and collective unconscious – a need to connect to life at the most meaningful and significant level attainable. The Hero lives a life filled with superlative exemplifiers of potency and purpose; a life that is meaningful in the fullest sense of the term. The lives of more generic individuals frequently seem to be bland in comparison. The Hero is larger than life in psychological importance to the struggling world ego that so deeply needs the reassurance of this symbol that life can be worth the cost of living. 

            The Hero is perhaps most significant as the counterpoint to the harsh realities that compose much of our experience on the manifest physical plane of expression.  Now, there do seem to be many literal cases of both heroes and heroism that occur in life, and this author by no means wishes to disparage those real, legitimate examples of people who surmount the obstacles set before them, and achieve measures of excellence and self development in the process. The fact remains that there are also many, many charlatans who have come to appreciate the social power of the Hero archetypal symbol, and have learned how to exploit what really only amounts to their fortunate Karma in that regard for personal gain. As is the case with everything everywhere, it is our personal and collective Karma that is the deciding influence at work in life. We can only go where and accomplish what God will continence for us.  Even the role of personal will and determination is Karmic – we must be born with those capacities inherently present in our Psyche to subsequently utilize them in life.  

            In this vein of examination, we can say that true Heroic presence is also Karmic in nature – real Heroes are born by the Grace of God with that potential present in their personal Psyches. What these people can show us – in the event of their full archetypal development – is the world of substantial meaning and purpose behind the trite superficiality of many of the acculturated rites and rituals practiced in modern society. The real Hero is not an athlete or a soldier or a politician – although these people can still display heroic behavior in individual cases – the real Hero is the person who can see beyond the social roles that superficially define us to the higher and deeper levels of truth that eclipse the socio-economic definitions of success – to the levels that sense the inner motivations of the individual persona confronted with the ultimate issues of life, the issues of  mortality, sacrifice, agape love, the existence and nature of God and Truth.  The implications of these factors in this life of  turbulence and uncertainty define the background condition of Heroism.  Beyond this, the real Hero is that individual who then displays the courage and discipline needed to come forward with what has been learned of these genuinely important conditions and concerns and publicly offer them to the community and the world, through selfless service, literary and communicative discourse, and personal sacrifice. 

            The Hero is humbled by the knowledge of mortality and eternity, by the enormous power and Presence of God, and by the infinite expanse of the essential mystery of life, which seems to be present and remains intangible. The Hero understands that knowing the Truth means sharing the Truth with humanity. The Hero lives personal truth as an expression of universal Truth. Given all of these conditions as the defining elements of Heroism, it is perhaps not so hard to comprehend why such individuals are rarities in the world – the personal cost is astronomical to even the motivated individual, and incomprehensible to most of us as we struggle along. Yet, the Light still shines forth, and Heroes still emerge to carry that Light. 

            How can we apply the principles of Heroism in our lives, should we be motivated by the still, small voice of Conscience to do so?  First and foremost, by being willing and able to interrupt our daily routines to intervene meaningfully in each others lives. The temptation exists to say “when needed”, but the truth of the matter is that such intervention is always needed, because we are always blinded by Maya, delusion, and materialism. This meaningful intervention involves the further willingness to share on an emotional level as well as the intellectual level – the intellect cannot penetrate, nor perceive, the existential agony of the Soul, but the emotions can. We must be capable of accepting and understanding the emotions as the workshop of the Spirit. This is very intimidating to many people, steeped as we are in callous materialism and “thing” worship in modern culture, but still very true. We must learn to function as feeling beings to support the Truth of Consciousness in ourselves and for each other. Undergoing a course of psychological therapy is excellent training for this qualification, and I unreservedly recommend this for everyone – most particularly for those who are imprisoned by the intellect in the Mind Trap. 

            The second requirement of Heroism in daily life is the capability of spontaneous expression of perception. The ego normally censors every word and deed with reference to social acceptability and personal consequences, resulting in a more or less completely artificial social “shell” encasing our otherwise authentic consciousness. To the extent that we censor our words and deeds, we deny the Truth. It goes without saying here that untold amounts of suffering are required to remove the conditioning that holds personal censorship in place in the case of those severely so afflicted, but this is one of the prices to be paid for Enlightenment – there’s no easy way to be free! 

            The third, and (arguably) last, requirement of Heroic practice is the willingness to sacrifice personal interests for universal interests. One who would be a Hero must be able to place the collective well-being of humanity above personal matters of desire and acquisition. The Hero lives for the sake of all sentient beings – really for the sake of all of God’s Creation – not merely the personal expressions of sentience seen in the ego.  This philosophy of sacrifice takes many forms as dictated by Karma, from feeding the homeless in one’s community to the Presidency and Papacy, and many more stages in between. This author has taken the path of personal and written sacrifice.  I speak often and earnestly to others, sharing my experience of God and the Truth of Consciousness. This work is a privilege to me, afforded to one such as myself who has had such a severe struggle to attain Enlightenment, a struggle spanning this entire incarnation, with frequent moral failings and reversals along the way. It was worth it, and is worth my ongoing sacrifices as well. Nothing surpasses the Glory of God living within the Psyche. 

            The consideration of the Hero is not complete without some discussion of the Antihero, the counterpoised archetypal influence at work in consciousness. The Antihero is frequently referred to in theatrical literature as the Protagonist – a representation of a dramatically involved figure who does not quite conform to the Heroic standards thus far discussed. It is perhaps sad to say that, when the salve of ego gratification is removed by the harsh light of personal examination, most of us appear to be Antiheros. The hallmark characteristic of this orientation is the tendency to fail in self sacrifice, through deference to self gratification. The Antihero is so attached to the senses that this demarcates consciousness, not the universal well being of humanity. It must be stressed here that there is no neutral ground present in the moral battle of life – if we do not make Heroic decisions, we make Antiheroic ones by default. To suppose otherwise is to bask in the illusion of Maya, while in reality wasting the precious opportunity that we have been given as sentient beings to make a significant difference for the good in each others lives. This is the reality of choice that confronts us always on the material plane. 

            C. G. Jung once observed that “The meaning of life is that it is a battle. It always has been, and always will be.”  How does one “win” this battle? Is this accomplished by simple material gain? Well, all material gain is lost at death – one who dies with the most toys, still dies, leaving the toys behind. Is it accomplished by sensory gratification? All such experiences are transitory, coming and going as wisps of time however captivating they may be in the moment, and leaving us only with the meager lessons that we may have learned from their experience.  One wins the battle of life by seeking the truth behind personal experiences – a truth that can only be known by turning within and searching through consciousness until it is revealed as the essence of meaning present in those experiences. If one searches in this manner long enough, God will stand revealed. 


                                                                             - With Love, Alan -

                                                                     (CR2007, Alan Schneider)


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