Chris Vogler: We’re all on the Hero’s Journey

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

Photo Credit, Pablo García Saldaña

“What is it we are searching for? It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself.” –Joseph Campbell

I initially found out about A Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Writer’s Journey from a friend, who continues to be one of my biggest allies. I can always count on her to bring something new, helpful and incredibly relevant to my “journey.”

In reading The Writer’s Journey, I have come to realize that although Vogler’s brilliant translation of the Hero’s Journey is for writers, his translation of Campbell’s work can be used as a guide, not only for our professional lives but also for our personal lives.

According to Vogler, “The Writer’s Journey was intended as a practical guidebook for writers, but can also be read as a guide to the life lessons that have been carefully built into the stories of all times.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey, on the “stories we write, and perhaps more importantly, the stories we live.”

BJB: What is the Hero’s Journey?

CV: It’s a metaphor. We need metaphors to help us process reality.

Life is so complicated and so mysterious that we have all these existential questions for which we want the answers:

  1. · Why are we here?

  2. · Why do we have certain limitations upon us?

  3. · Why do we have to die?

Stories provide us some kind of a metaphor, or handle that allows us to get a grip on something that is very slippery and difficult to come at in any other way.

You have to find comparisons.

By comparing it to something else, sometimes you get clues about how to live or why things are the way they are. It’s a natural response to look for answers in metaphors.

BJB: Where did the concept of a universal journey derive from?

CV: Some of this comes out the work of anthropologists who went around the world and just asked questions in various cultures. They also looked at creation stories.

They found lots of differences but also interesting similarities and patterns that seemed to repeat. Every culture has a creation story, every culture has a family tree of gods and those patterns repeated reliably across cultures. That got people thinking, what are the deep patterns?

Is it accidental or something deeply built in human beings?

Joseph Campbell, author of A Hero with a Thousand Faces, was drawing on the work of other scholars who were looking at cultural patterns.

I think that’s where Campbell came down, that these things are somehow hardwired into the human nervous system so that we recognize these symbols in myths and react to them.

BJB: What would you say is the underlying driving force in this unity of patterns and creation stories that call for transformation?

CV: I think the idea of transformation is behind all of Campbell’s thinking. He looks at these stories of heroes fighting dragons, going to the underworld and doing all these heroic things as metaphors.

They’re metaphors for the journey of the soul through life.

Even though the metaphor comes out in sometimes almost frivolous superhero stories and fantastic legends, it has a serious purpose.

What’s really behind all of this is the effort to come to a higher level of consciousness.

The purpose is to give you some guidelines of how to manage the different stages of life we all go through. It’s all oriented around consciousness and trying to bring about a life changing, transformative peak experience.

The peak experience that shifts or amplifies consciousness can be large or small. Any change in your understanding of life can make a big impact in your life.

My work and Campbell’s work have been to guide people to be a little more conscious of these processes that are going on all the time. You don’t realize why you’re paying attention to movies, or why they stick with you. You’re processing these things that you’ve seen and read.

This metaphor of the Hero’s Journey that is embedded in storytelling culture is a gold mine of guidance for your life.