In Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill gives another perspective on the Withdrawal and Return stages of the Hero’s Journey through which all heroines and heroes, all spiritual initiates and sages, must trek.

We’ve just forgotten what many of our ancestors and the wayshowers among them knew. Reclaiming that lost knowledge and wisdom is a purpose of the Hero’s Journey.

Once the journeyer has persevered and moved through the previous stages of the great initiatory journey, she or he,

“…becomes a source, a “parent” of fresh spiritual life … This forms that rare and final stage in the evolution of great mystics, in which they return to the world which they forsook; and live, as it were, as centers of transcendental energy …

But, having established that communion, re-ordered their inner lives upon transcendent levels … they were impelled to abandon their solitude; and resumed, in some way, their contact with the world in order to become the medium whereby that Life flowed out to other men.

To go up alone into the mountain and come back as an ambassador to the world has ever been the method of humanity’s best friends.” ~ Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Chinatamani - Treasure of the World, 1936, by Nicholas Roerich (See Roerich Museum, NYC)
Chinatamani – Treasure of the World, 1936, by Nicholas Roerich (See Roerich Museum, NYC)

Come back as an ambassador for what, exactly?

Transformed by the journey, embodying a new gravitas, and ready (or at least willing) to share the hard-earned wisdom gained through the journey — the missing something that the Journeyer was called into the wilderness to seek and find — the hero or heroine becomes a source or ‘parent’ of ‘fresh spiritual life’ and an ‘ambassador’ of what’s been lost and is now needed … a part of the world’s lost heart.

That’s why, as Joseph Campbell said, after we’ve “separated from the herd” and wandered the wilderness, the Return is considered to be perhaps the most difficult part of the journey, even moreso than taking the uninterpreted path, the trials and dark night of the soul, which are not for the faint-hearted.

A Roman Matron, 1905, by John William Godward.
A Roman Matron, 1905, by John William Godward.

And yet having persevered through the varying stages of the journey; and experienced the ongoing uncertainty, the murkiness of purpose and orientation, the different-than-expected outcomes, and learning a wholly new way of being; for the journeyer, the Return might be seen as just another in the series of creative adventures that makes up the Initiate’s, or Hero-Sage’s, life.

Unlike the previous phases of the journey, though, this time there has been something learned, something found, Wisdom gained, and poison that has been alchemized into medicine, that can be shared with others hero-trekkers who are journeying that particular terrain.

Figuring out just what that medicine is, and just how it can be shared … well, that’s what makes it a creative experiment and adventure, yes?

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Featured Image Credit: River of Fire Flies, by Kobayashi Kiyochika. PD-US.