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The Hero’s Journey: A Modern Magician’s Guide to the Unknown

The aim of this guide is to provide modern magicians with a comprehensive understanding of their journey through the realms of chaos magic, a path that leads to the discovery of the mystical elixir of life. Within the practice of modern magic, practitioners find themselves at a crossroads between two distinct moral paths: the left-hand path and the right-hand path.

The right-hand path, often compared to traditional village mythology, involves aligning oneself with a community, adhering to established dogmas and rules. This path promises safety and a sense of belonging, as it is paved with the collective wisdom and guidelines that have been passed down through generations.

In stark contrast, the left-hand path offers a journey of personal discovery and danger. It is a path where the magician follows their own bliss, unbound by any rules or societal expectations. Here, there are no guidelines to adhere to, and one’s bliss is uniquely their own. This path is characterized by a life filled with danger, creativity, and possibly a lack of respect from society. However, it is undeniably intriguing and rich with the potential for innovation. It is along the left-hand path that a magician has the opportunity to bring forth something entirely new and unprecedented.

Let’s start with a brief overview of chaos magic. Chaos magic, is a contemporary form of magic that emerged in England during the 1970s, part of the broader neo-pagan and esoteric subculture. It was significantly influenced by the occult philosophies of artist Austin Osman Spare.

The pioneers of chaos magic critiqued other occult traditions for being overly dogmatic and religious. Their goal was to distill these practices to their fundamental techniques, removing the symbolic, ritualistic, and theological layers they believed obscured the core of magical practice.

Central to chaos magic is the concept that our perceptions shape our reality, influenced by our beliefs. Therefore, by altering these beliefs, we can change our reality. This philosophy leads chaos magicians to view belief as a tool, enabling them to devise unique magical frameworks while also incorporating elements from other magical traditions, religious beliefs, popular culture, and philosophy.

Hugh Urban describes chaos magic as blending traditional occult practices with applied postmodernism, particularly the postmodern skepticism of objective truth. Chaos magic asserts that there are no absolute truths and regards all occult systems as subjective frameworks effective solely because of the practitioner’s belief in them.

In addition to exploring chaos magic, this guide will delve into the archetypal journey of a hero on the left-hand path, using Joseph Campbell’s monomyth as a framework. Understanding this journey is crucial for modern magicians to grasp what is expected of them on their mystical quest.

The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, is a concept popularized by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his seminal work, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (1949). He argued that most mythic narratives share a common structure, which is broken down into several stages. Campbell’s work has profoundly influenced storytellers worldwide, from novelists to screenwriters, reshaping how we perceive narrative structure.

This guide aims to delve into the depths of the Hero’s Journey, explaining all of its stages in detail.

Before we explore Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey framework, it’s crucial to understand why chaos magic is not just relevant but necessary in the context of evolving human consciousness. As we grow and expand our awareness, it’s imperative to also evolve our belief systems to prevent them from becoming stagnant dogmas.

This concept echoes the observation of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who noted that everything in the natural world is in a constant state of flux. People age, develop habits, change environments, and even the seemingly immutable elements like rocks are shaped over time by their surroundings. “You cannot step into the same river twice,” he famously stated, highlighting the perpetual change inherent in nature.

Consider the magician of several hundred years ago, deeply entwined with religious fears, perceiving spirits as malevolent entities to be appeased with offerings of wine and sweets. This perspective was a reflection of the human psyche at the time, a psyche mired in fear and misunderstanding.

But does this mean magic isn’t real? On the contrary, magic becomes a reality when you truly believe in your role as a magician, adopting a shamanic state of mind. This shift in belief and perception can fundamentally alter your psyche, and consequently, your reality. This is in line with the Hermetic principle that “All is mind, the universe is mental.” The power of the mind is immense, and mastering it is crucial; otherwise, you become its servant rather than its master.

Chaos magic emphasizes the importance of avoiding dogmatic approaches to magic. It encourages a blend of old and new magical techniques, learning through practice and results, and ultimately, the creation of a unique style of magic. This approach is particularly valuable for beginners who require guidance but are also cautioned against falling into the trap of dogmatic practices.

Avoid magicians who cling to rigid dogmas and preach a single path to enlightenment, especially if they remind you of the very dogmas you once escaped. These individuals often get trapped in their own teachings, including extreme practices like demon worship, and stop growing spiritually because they can’t move beyond their fixed beliefs.

When practicing magic, believing in its reality is essential to alter your psyche. However, it’s equally important not to become trapped in this altered state. A true magician uses magic for personal benefit and the betterment of society at large, bringing something of value from the magical realm into the mundane.

With this understanding of chaos magic’s place in the evolution of magical practice, let’s proceed to examine the Hero’s Journey framework as outlined by Joseph Campbell. This journey is not just a template for storytelling but a metaphor for the transformative path a magician might navigate, embodying the principles of chaos magic through personal growth and societal contribution.

The Call to Adventure

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The Hero’s Journey begins with the call to adventure, where the hero is introduced in their ordinary world. They receive a call, often from a mentor or a significant event, pushing them into a strange, unfamiliar world. This is the beginning of their journey towards transformation.

“The first step, detachment or withdrawal, consists in a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world.”

The Helper

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Following the call to adventure, the hero encounters a helper or mentor figure. This character provides assistance, advice, and even tools for the journey ahead. They serve to prepare the hero for the trials they are about to face. The hero’s interaction with the helper is a significant component of their growth.

“For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.”

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

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In the unfamiliar world, the hero faces tests, meets allies, and confronts enemies. These trials test the hero’s courage, determination, and abilities. They force the hero to adapt, learn, and grow, revealing their strengths and weaknesses. This stage is pivotal in the hero’s character development and understanding of their new world.

“Where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

Flight

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In the context of the hero’s journey, the flight represents the hero’s retreat or strategic withdrawal after a victory or defeat. This stage allows the hero to regroup, reflect on their journey so far, and prepare for the final confrontation.

“Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required.”

Elixir

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The elixir, often referred to as the reward, is what the hero gains as a result of their journey. It could be a physical object, wisdom, or inner transformation—something that can restore balance in the hero’s ordinary world.

“What is the secret of the timeless vision? From what profundity of the mind does it derive? Why is mythology everywhere the same, beneath its varieties of costume?”

Threshold Crossing

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This stage refers to the hero’s movement between the familiar and unfamiliar world, often marked by a ‘guardian’ or challenging event. It’s a step into the unknown, signifying the hero’s willingness to undertake the journey and confront whatever lies ahead.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Brother-Battle

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The brother-battle stage involves conflict with someone who is close to the hero. This confrontation tests the hero’s loyalty, courage, and moral code. The battle can be literal or symbolic, and it often deepens the hero’s understanding of themselves and their relationships.

“When you are going to do a deed of daring, it is good to have someone on your side. It is always better to have the gods with you than against you.”

Dragon-Battle

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The dragon-battle is the ultimate test, where the hero faces their greatest enemy, often a representation of their deepest fears or weaknesses. This battle is a turning point in the hero’s journey and often signifies their transformation.

“Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”

Dismemberment

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Dismemberment represents a significant loss or sacrifice that the hero must endure. This stage further tests the hero’s resilience and commitment to their journey. This loss can be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Crucifixion

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The crucifixion stage symbolizes the hero’s self-sacrifice for a greater cause. This ultimate surrender often results in new knowledge or the attainment of the elixir. It’s a powerful demonstration of the hero’s growth and transformation.

“The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth.”

Abduction

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The abduction stage involves the hero being captured or going into hiding, forcing them to confront their situation and find a way out. This stage further develops the hero’s resourcefulness and determination.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Night-sea Journey

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The night-sea journey refers to a period of darkness and despair that the hero must endure. This stage represents the hero’s descent into the subconscious, where they confront and overcome their darkest fears and doubts.

“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation.”

Whale’s Belly

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Similar to the night-sea journey, the whale’s belly stage represents a time of introspection and self-discovery. It’s a place of isolation where the hero faces their deepest fears and emerges stronger.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

Sacred Marriage

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The sacred marriage represents the hero’s union with a significant other or even a divine entity. This union often symbolizes a balance between opposing forces within the hero, such as masculine and feminine, or conscious and unconscious.

“Woman is the guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure.”

Father Atonement

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Father atonement involves the hero reconciling with a father figure or authority. This reconciliation often signifies the hero’s acceptance of their identity and their role in the greater world.

“God is within you! You yourself are the creator. If you find that place within you from which you brought this thing about, you will be able to live with it and affirm it, perhaps even enjoy it, as your life.”

Apotheosis

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The apotheosis is the culmination of the hero’s transformation. Having faced and overcome their greatest challenges, the hero achieves a new level of understanding, often gaining wisdom or spiritual insight.

“The hero is the one who comes to know.”

Elixir Theft

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In the elixir theft stage, the hero must retrieve the elixir, often from a guarded place. This theft represents the hero’s defiance of authority or breaking of societal norms, embodying their transformation into a fully realized individual.

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”

Return

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After achieving their goal, the hero must return to their ordinary world. They bring with them the elixir or the lessons learned, ready to share with their community. This stage often presents its own challenges, as the hero must reintegrate into their old life.

“The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Resurrection

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Resurrection involves the hero undergoing a final test where they must apply all they’ve learned. This stage often includes an element of death and rebirth, cementing the hero’s transformation.

“The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become.”

Rescue

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The rescue stage involves the hero being saved from a seemingly impossible situation, often in a dramatic fashion. This rescue, often by allies made during the journey, symbolizes the power of friendship and teamwork.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

Threshold Struggle

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The final stage, the threshold struggle, is the hero’s last step before returning home. It’s the ultimate test of their transformation, signifying their readiness to leave the unfamiliar world behind.

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”

Conclusion and Gnosis

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In the concluding stages of the Hero’s Journey, the transformed hero begins their return to the ordinary world, bringing with them the elixir – a token of wisdom, healing, or power gained from their quest. Their return is not always easy; they often face a final, dangerous test in the resurrection phase, where they must confront death and emerge victorious, showcasing the growth and wisdom they have attained.

This triumph, however, may often require external aid, represented in the rescue stage, underscoring the importance of alliances and friendships formed along the journey. Finally, crossing the last threshold, the hero reenters the ordinary world. Yet, they are fundamentally changed – richer in wisdom, courage, and experience. They have not only grown personally, but are also capable of enriching their original world with the knowledge or power they’ve acquired.

As Joseph Campbell said,

“The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

It serves as a reminder that the Hero’s Journey is not only about personal transformation but also about contributing to the collective good. The conclusion of the Hero’s Journey thus symbolizes a cycle of growth and giving, portraying the heroic potential within us all.

The Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, as conceptualized by Joseph Campbell, is a powerful narrative framework that serves as a universal template for storytelling. Its genius lies not only in its ability to encapsulate the essence of countless myths and stories from various cultures but also its profound connection with the human experience of growth, transformation, and understanding.

The Hero’s Journey presents a cyclical process, where an ordinary individual is called to an extraordinary adventure, encounters trials, allies, and enemies, experiences significant transformation, and returns, enriched with new wisdom or power. Each stage of the journey serves to test, shape, and ultimately transform the hero. But it’s not solely about personal transformation – it also focuses on the hero’s contribution to their community upon their return, stressing the interconnectedness of personal growth and societal well-being.

Moreover, the Hero’s Journey is a potent allegory for personal and spiritual growth. It resonates deeply with our individual life experiences – our struggles, transformations, and triumphs. It embodies the process of overcoming obstacles, learning, and growing, both in external achievement and internal understanding. Each stage of the journey reflects different aspects of human life and psyche – challenges, relationships, inner conflicts, growth, achievements, and the constant quest for knowledge and self-improvement.

A powerful quote from Campbell encapsulates this:

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.”

This illuminates the idea that the Hero’s Journey is not just a narrative tool, but a pathway walked by all – a shared narrative of the human experience.

In the final analysis, the Hero’s Journey is a mirror to humanity, reflecting our individual and collective quests for meaning, growth, and fulfillment. Its enduring relevance across cultures and times attests to its universal appeal. It is not just a story structure but a philosophical guide to life’s journey, emphasizing that within every individual lies the potential for heroism.

In conclusion, the Hero’s Journey is a rich narrative structure encapsulating the human experience of growth and transformation. It provides a guide for understanding our personal journeys and the stories that resonate with us, celebrating the power of the individual and their capacity for change.

Integrating Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey framework into one’s magical practice offers a profound pathway for personal transformation and enlightenment. This path, rich with potential for discovery and growth, also bears the risk of becoming lost in the metaphorical cave of our fears and obsessions. Here, the magician may either emerge with a great boon—new wisdom or powers—or become ensnared by the very shadows they sought to understand, worshiping instead the fears and deities that represent their deepest anxieties.

In the realm of chaos magic, the journey begins with foundational practices such as creating sigils, a form of symbolic magic aimed at manifesting the magician’s will. As one progresses, they might explore established magical systems like Thelema, gradually evolving their practice to include the creation of personal deities and ultimately transcending these constructs to engage with the unknown. This evolution is not a straight line but a cycle, reflecting the continuous process of death and rebirth that characterizes our existence in the material world.

My personal journey through chaos magic led me to an experiment where I blended the energies of three mythological figures: Shamayza, Lilith, and Inanna. Imagining a union with these entities, I created a deity named Eshara. This act of creation serves as a powerful example of how one can engage with and influence the psyche through symbolic acts.

Let’s consider the implications of such a magical working. By invoking Shamayza, Lilith, and Inanna, and uniting them in a single imaginative act, I was not merely engaging in a fantasy but actively reshaping my inner landscape. This process mirrors the Hero’s Journey, where the hero ventures into the unknown, faces challenges, and returns transformed. The creation of Eshara symbolizes the integration of different aspects of my psyche and the transcendent potential of chaos magic to generate new forms of understanding and power.

Let’s craft a narrative that blends these figures into a unified concept and assigns each a corner in a symbolic triangle, culminating in the birth of a mythical child that embodies their collective qualities.

The Triangle of Transcendence

Let’s name this speculative triangle The Triangle of Transcendence, reflecting the surpassing of limits and the blending of rebellion, autonomy, and divine power into a new form of existence.

  • Shamayza’s Corner: Rebellion – Shamayza stands at the corner symbolizing rebellion, representing the challenge to celestial order and the breaking of boundaries.
  • Lilith’s Corner: Autonomy – Lilith occupies the corner of autonomy, symbolizing the relentless pursuit of independence and equality.
  • Inanna’s Corner: Power – Inanna claims the corner of power, embodying divine authority over life, death, love, and war.

The Mythical Child: A Progeny of Transcendence

The mythical child born from the union of these three entities would be a deity or spirit of unparalleled might and complexity, embodying Rebellion, Autonomy, and Power in equal measure. Let’s call this entity Eshara, a name suggestive of new beginnings and the synthesis of their parents’ most potent qualities.

Eshara’s Attributes:

  • Rebellion: Eshara inherits the spirit of rebellion from Shamayza, challenging the existing order and encouraging beings to question the status quo.
  • Autonomy: From Lilith, Eshara embodies autonomy, promoting the importance of self-determination and equality across all realms.
  • Power: Inherited from Inanna, Eshara wields power with both creativity and destruction, mastering the cycles of life and change with wisdom and compassion.

Eshara would serve as a guardian of thresholds, a deity of transitions and transformations, guiding entities through the process of surpassing their inherent limitations. This child would not belong to any one realm but would move freely among them, teaching the value of embracing one’s full potential beyond the confines of predefined roles or identities.

The Triangle of Transcendence, with Shamayza, Lilith, and Inanna at its corners, creates a space where the interplay of Rebellion, Autonomy, and Power fosters the emergence of Eshara, a symbol of unity and evolution that transcends the individual narratives of their parents, embodying the potential for change and growth inherent in all beings.

The nature and outcome of engaging with chaos magic, especially through the creation and interaction with a deity like Eshara, are inherently unpredictable. This unpredictability is a fundamental aspect of chaos magic, which thrives on the potential for transformation and the unknown. When one ventures into the astral realms with the guidance or protection of Eshara, or seeks her intervention in their magical workings, the effects can vary widely. Such an entity might offer wisdom, protection, or pose challenging inquiries reflective of deeper existential questions.

Imagine Eshara, a deity born from the union of diverse mythological essences, asking her creator, “Father, why did you create me?” This question mirrors the fundamental human inquiry into the nature of existence and purpose. In the context of chaos magic, where the fabric of reality is understood to be shaped by belief and will, the question from Eshara invites a reflection on the intentions and desires that drive our creative impulses.

Responding to Eshara, or pondering the reason for our own existence, might not yield definitive answers. In chaos theory and magic, the lack of a clear answer is not a problem but a reflection of the complex, interconnected, and often paradoxical nature of existence. The act of creation itself, whether it’s bringing forth a new life, a work of art, or a magical entity, often stems from a deep, sometimes unconscious drive to express, explore, and understand our place in the universe.

This ethos encourages a playful, experimental approach to magic and life. The message is clear: embrace the chaos, engage with the mysteries of existence without the burden of seeking absolute answers, and approach your magical practice with a sense of curiosity and openness. The journey itself, with its twists, turns, and revelations, is where the value lies. In the end, everything might not make perfect sense, but the experiences, insights, and transformations along the way contribute to our growth and understanding of the cosmos.

Thus, in the grand, chaotic dance of creation, destruction, and rebirth, the key is to maintain a light-hearted yet respectful approach to the mysteries we explore. Through this lens, the uncertainties and challenges of magic—and of life itself—become not just bearable but enriching, offering endless opportunities for discovery and self-expression.

In chaos magic, all thoughts and beliefs are seen as both true and false simultaneously, reflecting the Hindu concept of Shiva’s cosmic play, where the universe is perceived as a divine drama, and all phenomena are expressions of Shiva’s consciousness. This perspective encourages us to view our magical practices and beliefs as both profoundly meaningful and playfully arbitrary, allowing for a fluid and dynamic approach to spiritual growth.

The journey of a magician, then, is one of continuous exploration and reinvention, moving through cycles of creation, dissolution, and rebirth. By embracing the uncertainty and potential of the unknown, we open ourselves to the possibility of achieving extraordinary insights and abilities, contributing our unique wisdom to the collective human experience.


The Ballad of the Cosmic Journey

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In the realm where shadows dance and light does play,
A modern mage embarks upon the unseen way.
Chaos magic, a path both wide and deep,
Where intentions sow the dreams that we reap.

From the heart of the storm, a guide is born,
A manuscript for the journey, tattered and worn.
It speaks of paths diverged beneath the moon’s glow,
The Left Hand’s danger, the Right’s safe flow.

A call to the wanderer in the night,
To embrace the unknown, to kindle the light.
Within the cave where secrets dwell,
Lies the elixir, the story to tell.

Morality’s spectrum, a dual thread,
Where myths of old are quietly shed.
A dance of dogma and bliss entwined,
A tapestry of belief, uniquely designed.

Chaos magick, with its roots so deep,
A tradition of power, not for the meek.
Stripping away what time has sown,
To find the essence, purely honed.

Belief, a tool, reshaping perception’s mold,
Crafting realities, both new and old.
A union of skepticism and ancient rite,
Where every magician finds their own light.

And so, the hero ventures, a journey through the soul,
Following Campbell’s map, playing out the role.
A path of transformation, where the unknown is faced,
Where fears are conquered, and the self is embraced.

Beware the dogma, the ensnared mind’s cry,
For true magic is freedom, under the vast sky.
Create, ascend, let your spirit unfurl,
In this dance of chaos, let your magic swirl.

From sigils to deities, a cycle unbound,
In the material realm, where our lessons are found.
A chaos spell cast, with intention and might,
Bringing forth Eshara, a being of dark and light.

Yet, what of creation, and the questions it brings?
The chaos, the order, the essence of things.
Play in the cosmos, without stress or fear,
For in the end, all paths clear.

So let this poem be a lantern bright,
Guiding through chaos, through darkest night.
A reminder to all who wield the arcane,
That in magic, as in life, there’s everything to gain.


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