The Graduate Institute Blog


Where Are We Going? by James D. Trifone, Ph.D., Academic Director for the Learning and Thinking Program at The Graduate Institute

As we enter into the New Year we, at The Graduate Institute, invite you to reflect on the following question posed by internationally recognized visionary, speaker and author Duane Elgin. In his book The Living Universe, Elgin asks the thought-provoking question: “Where are we on our journey of collective awakening?” Toward that end, we ask you to consider making a New Year’s resolution to walk the Hero’s Journey.

Over the past few million years, the human journey has involved creatively adapting to the vicissitudes of change imposed on us by nature. Humans, like all nature’s creatures, are shaped by natural selection pressures arising from evolving changes in environmental niches. However humans, unlike other organisms, have been endowed with the capacity to alter their environment to their needs and, therefore, have transcended nature’s biological process of evolving adaptations. Moreover, as a consequence of consciously altering our environment towards satisfying our own ends, we have severed the inherent umbilical ties with our life source, nature, and have resultantly become a species adrift and isolated from our ancestral roots. One of the major messages of Elgin’s work has been to illuminate the ways that we occupy a living universe whose inhabitants are interconnected physically, chemically, biologically, psychologically and spiritually. The challenge before us, as Elgin has so eloquently presented, is to re-member our relationship with the earth and re-turn to a way of living that sees humans as members of a living planet that belongs to a living universe. The opportunity before us is living authentically, which is aligning one’s thoughts and actions towards finding significance, value, purpose and therefore meaning in our existence. This authentic path will not just passively unfold before us. Rather, we will need to discover unanticipated challenges and obstacles that test our mettle and resolve. It is here that those with the courage of heart, keenness of mind and stalwart of spirit persist, persevere and eventually gain the perspicacity to find their way through the quagmire referred to as their life path. Those who have emerged victoriously know first-hand why it is mythologized as the Hero’s Journey. Mythologist Joseph Campbell metaphorically described this journey as a process underlying all growth, learning and self-discovery or what philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer referred to as “the dialogue that we are”.

The Hero’s Journey requires that the journeyman explorer be willing to shed her shallow and ephemeral “egoic self” and open oneself to realizing her relationship with a deeper and persistent “cosmic Self”. While mythic stories abound from all cultures regarding the specifics of the journey, all can be reduced to a process that takes the hero on a path of separation from her everyday world and subjects her to myriad tests and challenges that serve as an initiation to a new perspective of self and reality and culminates with the return of the hero, who has been transformed and enlightened with some new insight or discovery that is then shared in communion with her people. The hero’s journey is an archetype that we, as individuals, are challenged with taking in our lives. However, as Elgin emphatically urges us, the time has come for us, as a collective species, to take the next step in Humanity’s Heroic Journey and re-awaken to our deep connections with our planet and the universe. Re-awakening to our ancestral ties with Mother Universe will, in time, restore a sense of integration and unity with Her.
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Photo Credits: Maureen Edwards.
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