The hero as lover is in the role of the fighter, conquering Holdfast (the dragon, tyrannical parent, etc.) who tries to stop the rhythm of change in order to maintain the status quo. These are “the hero gets the girl” stories. There are also, however, “the hero goes to his father” stories where the goal is a little different. This hero travels to the center of the world, is blessed by his father, and returns to his people to rule wisely (or not). His role is to be the communicator between humanity and the One, but he can only do that by always keeping in mind that he’s of the One and not above the One. If he forgets, he becomes a tyrant.

The Invisible Unknown

The journey to the father, Campbell tells us, is really the journey to know the All Knowing or Source. The father’s dwelling is the World Axis, World Tree, World Mountain, etc. Recall that this is the place where the knowledge of existence can be communicated to the hero and the hero can receive it.

Recall also in order to receive the father’s blessing and the father’s knowledge, the hero must undergo tests. Campbell recounts a Pueblo tale where the son was questioned repeatedly by his father, told he’d never find him, and then given a menacing look. Having gotten through these tests, he was happily accepted by his father and taught his secrets. Sometimes the tests are pretty severe, going as far as endangering the hero’s life (with the magic guidance of the helpers getting him out of it).

King Herod, classic tyrant. "Herod the Great" Painting by James Tissot (1900?). In the public domain.

King Herod, classic tyrant. “Herod the Great” Painting by James Tissot (1900?). In the public domain.

Hero as King

The hero’s reward for braving the father is a deep knowledge of Source and the meaning of existence. He returns to his people to rule over them and is looked upon as the mediator between the physical world and the spiritual world.

Since he is now centered in the source, he makes visible the repose and harmony of the central place.

His community, seeing that he is filled with the love of Spirit, obeys him. There’s peace and prosperity under his reign.

However, he’s still only human with all too human weaknesses. If he’s truly great then he can resist them (think of Aragorn as king in Lord of the Rings). But if he lets his power go to his head then he becomes tyrant. He lifts himself above the source of life. He misuses his power so that the spiritual aspect recedes into darkness and only the physical world is left. His power is based on force, not love or righteousness.

This is an intriguing idea. The hero who we saw fight the dark forces, receive the blessing of the father, and gain the knowledge of existence turns into the tyrant that the world needs to be saved from. This shows that the journey to the World Center and the profound wisdom gained there are not, in and of themselves, enough to keep the hero enlightened. He must constantly remind himself of what he knows and has returned to the world to teach.

I see here lessons we can learn. If we care about becoming better people, we must constantly fight dark forces to reach illumination. But mere knowledge isn’t enough. It’s not enough just to talk the talk; we need to walk the walk, constantly. Such is human nature.