NOTE: The following essay contains spoilers to my book The Midknight. If you have NOT read the story, I suggest you read it first before reading the following essay.
Part V: Joseph Campbell and the Master of Two Worlds -
Achieving a Greater Good
Joseph Campbell, who Newsweek magazine once noted was "one of the rarest of intellectuals in American life: a serious thinker who has been embraced by the popular culture," created comprehensive theories of mythology that synthesized the discoveries of modern science, psychology, art history, and literature and used modern media, including television, to popularize his subject. He was one of George Lucas' main mentors (Campbell's teachings helped Lucas form the story for Star Wars), and his works continue to inspire an entire new generation of writers, filmmakers, and mythologists alike. Many of Joe Campbell's teachings and philosophies on life and hero mythology were a major inspiration for The Midknight as well.
According to Campbell, all heroes go on a cyclical journey that involves three main phases: a departure, an initiation, and a return. Launching into the departure phase, the hero leaves the isolation of home after receiving "the call." This enables the hero to cross a threshold into the wider world where he or she can then begin the initiation phase, experiencing a number of different trials. Once the individual has proved worthy of heroic status, the return phase can begin. In this final phase, our hero has somehow transcended duality to an underlying singularity. There is an integration of the familiar and the foreign as he or she becomes a "Master of Two Worlds." This involves a necessary transformation of consciousness and completes the journey.
Jesse's first part of his journey is his departure at the beginning of moving to a new city and starting at a new high school, and his cross over of the threshold is when he is forced to digest the serum. Thus he starts his initiation into standing up for himself and those he cares about by fighting back in the metaphorical and literal sense. Jesse then transcends to his higher level of consciousness when he realizes the true meaning of happiness (by comprehending Vanessa's true source of happiness) and puts the All (the people) above his own needs and desires.
Although, there are some times that this enlightenment can be very frightening and can be blinded from anyone. Jesse himself does try every thing possible to stay with Vanessa and obtain his desires. Even at the end of the story, after his sacrifice, he ignores his enlightenment of consciousness and returns to Vanessa and grave consequences ensue. Plato also has a famous story about a cave of ignorance, the condition he thinks most people live in. Here chained prisoners, unable to see one another, see only the wall of the cave in front of them upon which appear shadows cast by small statuettes of animals and objects that are passed before a burning fire by people behind a low wall. The prisoners believe that the shadows they see are all there is in the world. By this imagery, Plato wants to show us that most people are ignorant of their true selves and reality. Although they're deeply ignorant, the cave dwellers are content with the "knowledge" they think they have. Then someone releases one of the prisoners. Standing up and looking around him, the former prisoner now has a clearer perception of the cave he inhabits. Yet the light from the fire, which he has never seen before, hurts his eyes. In other words, he is quite uncomfortable with his knowledge. It even pains him and he desires to return to his chained position. Aside from the literal experience of suddenly looking at a bright light, why would he experience discomfort and pain from learning something new? Well, looking at himself in this new light would force him to revise the familiar image he had of himself and of the world he's been living in. Most people, like Jesse, welcome this change in their lives. Yet the prisoner's rescuer encourages him to search further until he's finally freed from the cave's confines and attains a vision of the Good, Plato's highest principle. Both Jesse's and Plato's story urges us to look beyond the familiar image each of us has of ourselves, so that we can be aware of our weaknesses. Being aware of our weaknesses, we are able to rectify them, which, unfortunately for Jesse, doesn't occur until Vanessa is taken.
Georg Hegel, at the conclusion of his Phenomenology of Spirit, goes along with Campbell by introducing his "Calvary of Absolute Spirit," which states that all life goes through transformations in which what at first appears to be evil turns out to be good, while the good must by crucified, as Jesus was on Mount Calvary, in order that a higher good be achieved. This transformation of light into dark and dark into light is the pathway of Spirit. This transformation of consciousness and dark into light is when Jesse realizes that he must destroy the serum that runs through his and Gideon's veins. The only way to carry out this plan is to crash the helicopter that is carrying the both of them and most probably die. In this final, self-sacrificing heroic moment, Jesse seems to begin another phase of the cycle which Campbell and Hegel write about. Campbell states, "Wherever the hero may wander, whatever he may do, he is ever in the presence of his own essence ... social participation may lead in the end to a realization of the All in the individual, so that of exile brings the hero to the Self in all." Jesse's decision to sacrifice himself for the common good of keeping the serum from harming anyone else and also continuing the fight against evil after Vanessa's demise, is an exile of the most extreme sort, which will lead to social, philosophical and personal growth.