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MythA Biography of Belief$
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David Leeming

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195142884

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195142888.001.0001

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The Hero

The Hero

Myth, Psyche, Soul, and the Search for Union

(p.107) Chapter IV The Hero

David Leeming

Oxford University Press

Heroes are those humans who, in the mythological traditions, are in varying degrees infused with divine or superhuman qualities. Heroes reflect our priorities as individuals and as cultures. As analyzed archetypally in Joseph Campbell's “monomyth,” the hero reflects our priorities as a species, priorities involving the body's, the psyche's, and the soul's search for union. Warlike cultures create warlike heroes who seek the union of hegemony; heroes such as Jesus and the Buddha reflect the search for spiritual union; the hero pattern as a whole reflects our life's psychological journey toward wholeness. Modern thinkers have recognized new mythologies that reflect new understandings of reality based on, e.g., psychology, mysticism, ecology, and physics. New hero values have emerged from this modernist process, values perhaps reflected in William Carlos Williams's little poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

Keywords:   ecology, hero, monomyth, mysticism, myth, physics, psyche, soul, Red Wheelbarrow, William Carlos Williams

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