Map of the Hero’s Journey

map of the hero's journey

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This is another favourite map of the spiritual journey because it incorporates the power of story, movies and myth.  As a storyteller and ardent movie lover I love this map of the spiritual journey.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell coined the term “Hero’s Journey”. The word Hero is not to be thought of as gender specific.  When I teach workshops such as Companioning YOUR Greatness a core aspect of such a workshop is the structure of The Hero’s Journey.

Many, and even most, movies incorporate all or some of this map of the journey of the movement of spirit into form.  Such movies include:-

  • Star Wars
  • The Matrix
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter

The Hero’s Journey

  • What is the Hero’s Journey?
  • Examples from Movies
    • The Hunger Games (2:48)
  • How it relates to You (3:33)

The Hero’s Journey has various key stages. There are substages but the main stages of the Hero’s Journey comprise:-

  • The Call to Adventure.
  • The Search
  • The Struggle
  • The Breakthrough and
  • The Return

I have written a more comprehensive exploration of this map of the spiritual journey that I think you will find value in reading entitled 5 Stages of Spiritual Awakening to the Life You are Created to BE.

Other Reflections on the Map of The Hero’s Journey

Audio recording and Movie Preview

Includes issues such as-

    • Quarter Life and Midlife Crisis and Life Purpose.
    • The Hero’s Journey (23:30)-(25:30) 2 minutes of highly recommended Listening
    • Recommends the book The Power of Myth (I concur – Love that book – Much easier to read than his other books)
    • Sharing making the movie via synchronicity
    • Sharing faith in letting go and having faith in the process (especially for men)

Patrick Solomon is an award winning commercial director with over 20 years behind the camera. He started his career in the early 90’s by shooting his favorite activity: extreme sports. He quickly compiled a long list of action sports titles including surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and motocross films. In 1996 he graduated to commercials where he continues to thrive.

His first venture into feature length films produced the award winning, Finding Joe, currently in release. The film explores the concept of the heroes journey, a pattern that is found in every story from every culture and includes all novels and movies. It explains that all humans are actually taking the same journey and once that’s understood, we become the heroes and heroines of own life’s story.

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you.

This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

The Ways to Journey

ways to travel the spiritual journey

Whatever map you follow it will draw you to choose one of two major ways to journey. These two ways can never be wholly independent.

They are really two sides of the same coin which makes up the whole of the spiritual journey. However, neither are they entirely merged. There is an inevitable tension that must exist between the two.

They give the two ways the names:-

  • The Exoteric Way—The Way of the Many
  • The Esoteric Way—The Way of the Few

In the never-ending evolution of the soul we will all journey these two ways of relating to the world of time and eternity.

Each spiritual seeker must largely choose one as their dominant mode. In my personal experience the individual begins with the Exoteric Way and must choose whether to step unto the way of the Few.

In the Hero’s Journey map they call this The Call to Adventure. It is where you take the Red Pill and see how far into Wonderland you might venture.

I list below what I see as the key differences between each way of taking the spiritual journey.

The Exoteric WayThe Esoteric Way
1Key focus is on beliefKey focus is on Experiential Knowing
2Literal interpretation of the TeachingsMetaphysical and Metaphorical Interpretation
3Outer Authority from Group DynamicInner Authority from Insight and Revelation
4Spiritual Guidance based on InformationGuidance based on Transformation
5Faith in Scripture or TeachingsFaith in the Unknown and Being Known Through

Aspects of the Ways

aspects of the spiritual journey

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It is important to recognize the key aspects of the two different ways of travelling the spiritual journey. This I think will also help you understand the key differences between religion as a belief system and spirituality as an experiential journey.

I will share these key aspects as follows:-

  • Focus
  • Interpretation
  • Authority
  • Perception
  • Faith


At the beginning of the spiritual journey, most teachings focus the initiate on the need to believe in the teachings. The problematic issue is that most people become what the modern spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle refers to as, “Signpost clingers.”

Clinging to signposts is the way of the many no matter what tradition they follow. This is where you assert the primary importance of belief rather than KNOWING.

Theologian Tony DeMello described it as finding a signpost to a city and thinking the signpost was the city. These people then climb the signpost and cling to it tenaciously, hoping and believing they have the answer—From Three Keys to Self-Understanding—Pat  Wyman.

This is where most of us begin the journey. Belief is the first step unto the path. If you continue to be a believer is like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.

The Exoteric Way of the many favours belief over the focus on direct experience of the follower of the Esoteric Way


the focus of the ways of the spiritual journey

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For those who travel The Exoteric Way wisdom teachings will tend to be understood literally. This is understandable when you are young but becomes a barrier too higher wisdom if continued.

For example, if you take the Old Testament Bible story of The Flight of the Jews from Egypt literally then you will miss the deeper and more profound meaning of this story and how it relates to your life.

This story is your story.

It is the story of your Call to Adventure into the unknown desert. You leave the slavery of Egypt and the tyranny of Pharaoh, which is symbolic of your sense of the personal separate sense.

You take the spiritual journey into the desert (the Unknown) to find the Promised Land, which is your experience of spiritual awakening. This metaphysical interpretation, rather than the literal interpretation, has meaning for your life as you live it now.

Otherwise, this is simply a historical story that you might find hard to believe given that parting the Red Sea is less than logical, even for ardent believers.

It will be the same if you read wisdom stories related to fairy tales and myths. These stories and myths will have no meaning. They will have no power to give your life direction. You will consider them quaint little tales for young children and miss the invitation to connection to your Soul that is the real wonderland.


authority and the spiritual journey

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As a follower of the Exoteric Way your authority will come from without. This is OK to begin with. It helps to have others guide you provided they are not sign post clingers, which most are.

This allows you the comfort of belonging to a group. You simply believe and don’t rock the boat. The challenge comes when you question that authority. Most groups will resist having the group dynamic questioned.

The follower of the Esoteric Way may belong to a group and accept the authority of certain members within that group. This was the case when I was a member of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.

However, there comes the point when rather than gain more information from others you really wish to become a KNOWER of the transcendent.  No one can ever give you this. It is not more information.

It is transformation through Grace.

You become your own authority. If this kind of authorization is working in the way, it should you become humble rather than arrogant. You recognise that any real insight and KNOWING comes through you.

Not that you become wise. It is that wisdom reveals itself through you and you recognise that you are blessed to be a channel of revelation.

This revelation requires you to be empty rather than filled with beliefs and knowledge. The paradox of real authority is that you allow the authority of the Divine to manifest through you.

This is power, but it is beyond a sense of personal power. You are authorized by Divine intent. You are awesome and authentic. There is no need for you to defend your views because they are beyond you.


the spiritual journey and the issue of perception

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When you follow the Exoteric Way, your focus is on concepts, words and for some people on dogma. You live your life from the direction of the voice in your head that is a collection of myriad voices of others. This is the voice of the sense of the personal sense of self.

This perception of the personal separate self is who you think you are. As my teacher of revelation Jiddu Krishnamurti would say, “You think you are a collection of memories.”

We carry about us the burden of what thousands of people have said and the memories of all our misfortunes. To abandon all is to be alone, and the mind that is alone is not only innocent but young — not in time or age, but young, innocent, alive at whatever age — and only such a mind can see that which is truth and that which is not measurable by words. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The movement from the Exoteric Way to the Esoteric Way can be either progressive or revelatory. If it comes through the grace of revelation, then your perception of who you think you are radically changes.

As an initiate of the Esoteric Way you KNOW that who you are is far beyond anything you can think or define in words. You become a true follower of The Way.

You recognize (KNOW) that the separate sense of the personal self is an image, but it is not your Essence. Now you live in two worlds rather than one world.

With the grace of revelation comes the KNOWING that you are both a creature of:-

  • Time and Eternity
  • Personal and Universal
  • Finite and Infinite
  • Form and the Formless

This KNOWING is what you wish each and everyone to KNOW. It is way beyond belief. It takes you far down the rabbit hole (The Red Pill). You are a revelation of wonder. You are, A Soul in Wonder (Van Morrison)

A key practice of the spiritual journey is learning to listen and have faith in that other voice. It is the Still small voice within that arises from the paradoxical power of silence.  Have faith in this unknown but not unknowable power.


the ways of the spiritual journey and faith

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In the experience of this writer those on the Exoteric Way use the word ‘Belief’ and ‘Faith’ in the same way.  Y

For the individual following the Esoteric Way the word ‘Faith’ invites a very different focus than it does for the one who is the believer clinging to signposts.

Faith is symbolized in the story of The Flight for the Jews from Egypt by the entry into the desert. The desert is empty. There is, mostly, nothing there.

This is symbolic of being willing to enter the unknown. You cannot be a believer and a KNOWER at the same time. The potential KNOWER has to take the preliminary step of entering the UNKNOWN in order to be KNOWN THROUGH.

To enter the unknown you have to declare, “I don’t know.” You have to want to KNOW. You have to want to FEEL connected to the Divine rather than believe in the Divine. This is the difference between faith and blind faith.

This is the transition point where you cross over from the Exoteric Path to the Esoteric Path. The stepping into the unknown is symbolized in the scene in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford as the hero has to step into the unknown.

Notice how the script writer uses the phrase, “You must believe,” before the character steps into the void. Setting into the void is an act of faith, not belief.

It is a real challenge because you are often left feeling alone. The group dynamic you were part of you are no longer a part off.  You step out into the emptiness and trust that it will hold you up.

You might stay within a group dynamic but you are changed. Some people make the choice to stay within the group they are familiar with. I always left even if it left me lonely.

The Guide to the Esoteric Way

guide to the esoteric way

Your Way is Unique to You

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The focus of this website is to guide those who would follow the Esoteric Way. This is not an invitation to follow a specific religion or wisdom tradition. It is the invitation to be an explorer of how the Divine expresses through you.

You are unique. You are a religion and a revelation of one. Here you are invited to be true to that uniqueness.

I am not affiliated with any religious group. I have my love of different wisdom teachings. Once you are a KNOWER, you realise that all the religious and wisdom teachings arise from the same Source.

As a KNOWER I have only one wish. This is expressed by the mystic poet Hafiz of Sharaz in this way:-

I wish when you are lonely and in darkness that I could show you the magnificence of the Light of your own being—Hafiz of Shiraz.

What will teach you about wonderland is the magnificence of the Light within. I am not here to tell you what that is.  I am here to keep reminding you to go toward that Light and share with you the practices that invite you to live as the unique radiance of Love in form that you are.

Let me end this section on The Ways of the spiritual journey with a favorite poem by Robert Frost entitled The Road Less Taken.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I am presently writing the outline of The Paths of Spiritual Awakening and will post this as soon as possible. (Feb 2020)

Meantime I share below other post that I think are essential reading for traveling the Spiritual Journey.

Other Posts Related to The Spiritual Journey

Why Does Spiritual Awakening Happen

why does spiritual awakening happen

This post includes:-

  • The Portals of Spiritual Awakening

  • Personal Portals to Awakening

  • Prelude to Spiritual Awakening

  • Transmission of Awakening

How to Recognize Spiritual Guidance

how to recognize spiritual guidance

This post includes:-

  • Understanding Spiritual Guidance

  • How to Ask for Spiritual Guidance

  • Practical Aspects of Spiritual Guidance

  • Other Aspects of Spiritual Guidance

3 Stages of Life and Why They Matter

3 stages of life

This post includes:-

  • Life Stage 1 – Recognizing the False Self

  • Life Stage 2 – Period of Transition

  • Life Stage 3 – Living as the True Self

  • Integrating the 3 Stages of Life

Tony Cuckson
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