The tribal stage is the herd stage where humans are conditioned into whatever their early life impressions program into them. The tribal or herd stage, however, does not amount to being in a complete and utter zombie trance. The first three veils are indicators of one’s maturing by progressively dissolving their conditioning, learning to stretch the boundaries of what they take as real, so they can challenge their programming without completely throwing off its yoke. By the third veil one has reached the outer boundary of normalized social conditioning.
This is also the boundary beyond which cognitive dissonance and latent defense mechanisms that protect one’s sense of security (or complacency) come into play. If we continue to push the envelope and defy our status quo thinking process, we enter the domain of the true skeptic. This arena of challenge is also the point of reference where the true hero’s journey begins in my opinion. It is where the hero awakens to their potential to be a defender of integrity, cultivator of indomitable will, and a true freedom fighter.
The hero in Sanskrit is known as virya, the courageous one who generates their own vitality, is master of their sense of meaning and captain of their life; the one who stands on their own feet, without crutches. One who embodies the heroic stage is also a skeptic; one who thinks for themselves, not to be confused with the arrogant reductionist who defends the status quo. The hero doesn’t just fall into the role. They are challenged to cultivate inner self-sufficiency without sacrificing the value and integrity of all their relations. This is the dynamic of true individuation. To dissolve veils from four to six, and face what lurks behind them, one embodies the heroic ideal. This is accomplished a step at a time, as the individual bears the shock of the implications of a dissolving veil.
So far we have only scratched to surface of two frameworks associated with two stages of growth. We refer to these correspondingly as the tribal or socio-cultural framework, and the individuating/heroic framework. While moving past the first framework we can choose to adhere to the 90% who refuse to penetrate into the next threshold. We can become a professional, respected in society. We can be admired for our ideas and gesticulations, our charities and respectable alliances. We can be affluent and influential. Yet in all this, we would still be nothing more than a well adapted herd-human. Not bad really. One doesn’t have to be the last in the pecking order in a given tribe or herd. By many a definition life would be good, if it were not for the denizens of the second triad of veils that tend to shatter any sense of complacency, especially in desperate times such as ours.
When moving through the second triad of veils, however, it unwise to linger. Thus we are motivated to grow as fast as we can without leaving any stone unturned. Glossing over anything here would have us backtracking until we get things right. It is beyond the scope of this essay to go into the details of the heroic frame. Suffice it to say, just like many a shamanic initiation or dark night of the soul experience, it can appear to challenge our very sanity. Once we are past the third veil, and enter the heroic phase, it doesn’t really matter if conspiracies are true or false. We have entered the arena of the bogeyman, and this can be personal or collective, physical or incorporeal. This is the gate that tries to rip hope from our hearts, and no matter what we think or want to think it is unlikely we would be spared feeling as powerless victims.
Indeed, the monsters of the heroic phase can indeed break us, while the phase can last for years as we spin our wheels trying to get out. We can gain traction, but only when we realize there is no out. There is only through. In that orientation our priority should be to sustain determination, hope, aspiration and a strong sense of meaning and purpose. This is not where you want to be if your heroic spirit breaks. The heroic phase challenges us to relate to things that the herd person cannot even fathom. The threats that seem to arise in our field of perception especially clash with any sense of common reason. It does not mean they are in our heads, but it also does not necessarily mean that the monsters encountered are as they appear to be.
Here we can see the benefit of comparing the three systems of triadic arrangement. Namely in this case the qualities of the different models are complementary. The desire to liberate one’s mind, to be free of conditioning, deception and oppression naturally opens the mind to all its former rules and regulations forbade. To overthrow that yoke one must experience with full acceptance the terror of breaking from the tribe to divorce from mass belief, so that the power of will is nourished and true courage and strength dawns in the heart. The hero cranks the wheels of mind, even though these are rusty. She or he confronts and questions consensus ideas, even if with a head that is about to split from the dissonance.
They challenge authority, even if that pits them against the god of their religion, and they challenge science and its allegedly infallible methodologies. They challenge a moral consensus that is both hypocritical and manipulative, they challenge society and they challenge history no matter who wrote it. They can even go so far as to challenge the ground upon which they stand. In doing so they are willing to stand up to the fear of that ground giving way to an abysmal pit reserved for the faithless and insane. A hero can end up facing fears on so many levels that others might hear them speak of monsters of legend being real. And who can doubt them aside from those who still languish in the tribal awareness frame?
The mystery of the hero is that they question everything from depths of existential defiance. In doing so, any answers they receive are more than just information. They are living dynamics of transformation that promote the expansion of their horizons of meaning. Thus the middle stage of spiritual growth- the penetrated veils of the middle triad- and the way of the virya or hero both complement the way of the truly individuating human being. This is the hero’s journey as I understand it. Regardless of what looms on existential horizons, heroes eventually transform and grow to claim the treasure that is their due.
This treasure is revealed in the triad beginning with the penetration of the seventh veil, and is the emergence of mystical actualization in the individual. Works of tantra, especially involving the controversial vāma mārga or contrary path, emphasize practices for the heroic individual, but don’t seem to say much about divya (enlightened or deva-like) human types. I would say it’s redundant. One can probably figure things out at that stage. I don’t think it involves some sort of intellectual genius, moreover, that the psychopathic status quo of society can corrupt or manipulate. Dr. Peck’s mystic stage of spiritual growth is far more common than the divya stage of the Tantras. According to the math, there are just seven hundred so beyond the seventh veil, with only seven penetrating the ninth and final veil. A very select group indeed!
I don’t believe it’s that simple. Even if I could give a first-hand account of the mystic stage of awareness, I doubt if it would make sense or be anything more than just words if it did. Be that as it may, most of us interested in such things have our hands full with our own version of the hero’s journey. We are very likely all too busy with our own version of walking over the precipice of the solid ground of our former preconceptions. Let us dare to keep walking even though it appears as if an abyss stretches out from underneath our feet. We have made it this far; no small feat. So let the veils fall. Let the hero rise and walk to call forth the revelations, and grow into their calling. The calling of life, spirit and heart. It is why we are here, in ourselves and all our relations.