Discovering Treasure

Veronika Bond Articles 2 Comments

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(9/12 on the Heroic Journey)

The Elixir of Life
The Golden Touch
The Sacred Marriage
Becoming the Gift


“Every heroic myth will see to it that the hero or heroine must endure a period of her own exile. It’s only then, when the way home is completely lost, that she comes into contact with the true medicine of her calling.”Toko-Pa Turner

In 1998 I hit on a goldmine in my creative work. I had been writing morning pages for over a year, and I had been working on my first book. It was a fantasy story containing lessons about the creative process.

Before finishing my book I realised that I didn’t yet understand the creative process as much as I needed. I switched my focus fully on morning pages and put the book on hold.

That’s when it happened. All of a sudden masses of insights came gushing into my head, and I wrote them down as fast as I could.

Every morning I woke up around 6 a.m., my head buzzing with ideas, and I had to start writing. Sometimes I couldn’t stop until midday because so much information was flooding in.

After several weeks of faithfully scribbling everything down, I realised that I had ‘downloaded’ a complete model of human Consciousness. I felt exhausted, grateful, and very humbled. I knew I had received a precious gift.


The Elixir of Life

“Oh the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind!”Dr. Seuss

In the narrative of the hero’s journey this stage leads the protagonist to what Joseph Campbell calls ‘the Ultimate Boon’.

This is the ultimate reason for which the hero has left home, gone through hardships, fought monstrous battles and risked his life. It must be worth all the effort. The gift awaiting those who are courageous, patient and persistent enough to make it this far must be something very precious and rare.

In mythology and folktale it is often something that makes human life indestructible or gives an individual special powers. The elixir can be a potion from a vital source which – when drunk under certain conditions – is supposed to grant immortality.

For Jason and the Argonauts it was the Golden Fleece from the winged ram, which gave his father authority and kingship. For the Alchemists it was the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary substance or formula that enabled them to produce the elixir and/or turn base metals into precious gold.

All gifts on the Heroic Journey carry the promise of a better life. The water from the Fountain of Youth is said to restore vibrant health and beauty. The Golden Fleece might bestow special royal powers. Many Chinese emperors ingested precious substances in the belief that they contributed to their longevity.

Unfortunately going after the elixir is a risky business. Some ‘elixirs’ were made from highly poisonous elements such as mercury, sulphur and arsenic. Chinese emperors are said to have died from lethal doses of a supposed ‘Elixir of Immortality’ conjured up by their specialists.

Everyday heroines and heroes also risk their lives to gain that special elixir, which promises relief from hardships and support for our endeavours. Once you leave the Ordinary World and follow the Call to Adventure you are committed to find your version of the elixir. And you need to be discerning. Not all magic formula on offer deliver the expected results.


The Golden Touch

“It’s tempting to think you can just march into foreign territory, take the prize and leave.”Christopher Vogler

In Greek mythology the story of King Midas stands out as a stark warning for those who confuse gold with the true elixir. The unfortunate King believed that being able to turn anything into gold by a mere touch with his hand would give him great powers.

Wondering whether the wish had been granted to him, King Midas immediately put his new magic power to the test: “He plucked, experimentally, the twig of an oak tree and it was immediately gold; he took up a stone, it had turned into gold; an apple was a golden nugget in his hand.

“Ecstatic he ordered to prepare a magnificent  feast to celebrate the miracle. But when he sat down and set his fingers to the roast it was transmuted; at his lips the wine became liquid gold.

“And when his little daughter, whom he loved beyond anything on earth, came to console him in his misery, she became, the moment he embraced her, a pretty golden statue.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces)

There is a vital difference between a true elixir of life and a substance that appears to bestow humans with powers over life and death. The elixir may not look as attractive, but it enables you to experience life in all its abundance.

The gold may promise power, freedom, and security. The prospect of being able to buy anything you could possibly want may be tempting. The price for the Midas touch, however, may be unexpectedly high.


The Sacred Marriage

“Until an aspect of ourselves recognises our pain, has compassion, and asks ‘What ails thee?’ we will not be healed.”Maureen Murdock

Maureen Murdock calls this part of the heroine’s journey The Sacred Marriage. It is the moment when the heroine reclaims a part of herself that has been lost or stolen.

Sometimes the gift comes in a hideous form. This happened to Lady Ragnell – or Sir Gawain – depending on how you read the story. At their engagement Lady Ragnell didn’t look very pretty.

“She was almost as wide as she was high, her skin was mottled green, and spikes of weed like hair covered her head. Her face seemed more animal than human.” (Ethel Johnston Phelps, The Maid of the North)

Neither Sir Gawain nor King Arthur knew that Lady Ragnell had been bewitched by Sir Gromer, her evil brother. But after Gawain’s wedding kiss the spell was broken, and she turned into the beautiful maiden she had always been.

In everyday life a heroic gift sometimes comes in a repulsive form. It may require courage, compassion and commitment to break the spell and reveal the beautiful treasure within the ugly shell.

When the gift is released from its initial form – which can sometimes look wicked and threatening – it turns out to be something that the heroic traveller can no longer imagine being without!

In other words, your treasure is not just a nice little addition to your life. It becomes part of you. It makes you feel more whole. It enables you to be more who you are.

The Sacred Marriage is a metaphor for discovering and releasing the part of you that is under a spell. We all have such a part. It doesn’t look attractive. You might be ashamed of it. Committing to this ‘ugly aspect’ of yourself may be the last thing on your mind. But that might be exactly where you have to go, if you want to discover your treasure.

You may have to break the spell of your equivalent to Lady Ragnell, kiss the ugly hag, and reveal the true gift of her companionship.


Becoming the Gift

“Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.”Neil Gaiman

The gift that awaits the heroic traveller is very personal and unique. It cannot be picked up by anyone else or taken away from you. However, you can let others get in the way from claiming your gift. You may miss your gift, if you expect it to come in a certain form.

The overall goal of the Heroic Journey is to become a more heroic human. This means becoming a more mature, courageous, authentic, and empowered version of yourself.

The accomplished heroine or hero lives her/his life at a more fulfilling level in every area of life.

Here is a general outline of what that might look like:

You know your place in the world.
Your lifestyle is balanced and healthy.
You have loving and mutually nurturing relationships.
You are clear about your purpose and make your unique contribution to human life.

In order to achieve your most desirable way of living, however, you may need to look at some parts of you that are not functioning as well as you feel capable of.

Nobody enjoys facing dysfunctional aspects in themselves that keep them from living a more fulfilled life. We tend to look outside in search of meaning, love, joy, success, security, prosperity, and strength.

But all of those can only be found within. They are part of the treasure waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to travel the distance.

Your gift is as unique as you are. You are the only one who can discover and claim it. Your journey will be different from all others, and your challenges will match your potential.

You can turn your Heroic Journey into a treasure hunt. You’ll find clues along the way, and each clue is a gift in itself. As you pick them up and claim your treasure you are transformed. One way or another, everyone who accomplishes their Heroic Journey becomes a gift.


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Comments 2

  1. Post
    Veronika Bond

    Thank you so much for your comment, Ali! Yes, it is a little scary sometimes (and sometimes even a lot) because no one can really tell us where our personal journey takes us. But if you stay true to yourself, even when it’s scary, then at least you know you’re on the right track – you know you are on YOUR track.
    I recently read somewhere that transition is ALWAYS uncomfortable. Even though that doesn’t take the discomfort away, I found it very reassuring to be reminded of this. So I can say to myself, “Ok, I’m in transition, now that I know this, it’s easier to accept my discomfort” – that sort of thing.
    I also read in various places that we often feel fear in relation to the size of the leap we’re about to take. So when I feel that kind of fear, I take a deep breath, relax into the challenge, and wonder where the next leap is going to take me…

  2. alison

    This part of the inner journey is so valid to me right now….I am working on it at this very moment, (as I have been for some time) but it is not always clear as to which direction is the right one. It seems we are always offered the more immediate solution to make us feel secure, to refuse this leads us more into the unknown and less secure but maybe more true to our own sense of our own destiny…..? I love the journey and am eternally grateful for all that it has brought me and taught me, but sometimes it is a little scary to hang on to being true to oneself! As I write this I wonder why we fear so as the universe always seems to be there and lift us when we most need it.

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