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Stage Seven: The Belly of the Whale

APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE – OR “THE BELLY OF THE WHALE”: The hero reaches the innermost cave. The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground, where the object of his quest is hidden (Holy Grail). At this point, we heroes on our journey are like mountaineers who have raised themselves to a base camp by the labours of testing, and the road of trials, and are about to make the final assault on the highest peak. Allies can become enemies, and vice versa. Constancy is tested.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy & co. have been tricked by the witch’s field of poppies, which sent them into a deep sleep. The witch symbolises the doubt and darkness in Dorothy’s own soul and mind, which stops her from doing things, or tells her to turn back. The poppies symbolise all temptations to take you off track (including drugs – poppies make opium/heroin). Rescued by the good witch (an ally), they arrive at the Emerald City, approaching joyfully, but are blocked by a rude sentry – one of those bureaucrats whose job is to enforce stupid, pointless rules, and who has probably made several of his own to boot. Only Dorothy’s past experience, during her testing phase, and the ruby slippers she won, allow them to pass.

Be prepared and all shall be well. This gift, from the Mentor, remind Dorothy that, like all of us, she is a unique being with a core that cannot be shaken by outside events. They are like Ariadne’s Thread in Theseus and the Minotaur – a link with a loving spirit that gets you through the darkest of labrynths. She must overcome the huge obstacle – in the world of Oz, a castle with a portcullis, moat and soldiers; in the world of her mind and soul, this represents a neurosis (mental fear) to overcome for her to live her life.

Often, the way in past the sentries will be by subterfuge and cunning – knowledge learnt on the journey and tested. Like the Plains American Indians donning buffalo robes to creep close to their prey, the hero can get under the skin of their opponent and look like one of them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. We must get into the minds of those who stand in our way. At some point, though, we might well need to use force, to break down the final wall. The hero’s own resistance and fear have to be overcome by a violent act of their will.

Questions to consider: How does a hero(ine), in facing outside challenges, also face up to inner demons and defences? Is this true for you sometimes?

Theseus and the Minotaur

Theseus and the Minotaur

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