A Thesis


to the faculty of

California State University Dominguez Hills


In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree

Masters of Arts





Dale S. Hull

Summer 2019

Copyright by



All Rights Reserved

Dedicated to my wife Kimberly and my mom Sandy.



I am grateful to Professor Lyle Smith for his guidance and patience, to my friend Steve Barbone for his encouragement, Matt Slater and Kimberly Sherman for their help, Fran Joselyn for getting me started, and the entire Humanities External Degree Program staff

and faculty at California State University, Dominguez Hills.





DEDICATION ...... iii



ABSTRACT ...... vi


1. INTRODUCTION ...... 1




5. FILM AS ...... 54

WORKS CITED ...... 65



Campbell’s monomyth or hero’s journey provides a template for many artists, including filmmakers. In this thesis, the hero’s journey as portrayed in seven religiously themed films is examined. It is shown that the structure of the journey is the same in both

Christian and Buddhist traditions, but the special knowledge gained by the hero is derived from the film’s cultural milieu. Going beyond the stereotypical monomyth, creative mythology allows filmmakers and their audiences to generate new mythologies that help to give their lives meaning in the modern, pluralistic world.




The theory of the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, as presented by in

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, attempts to show the transcultural nature of the hero’s journey across time and place. It is the claim of this author that the nature of the metaphysical knowledge acquired in the hero’s journey is dependent upon the mythological (religious) underpinnings of that culture. Campbell says, “All over the world and at different times of human history, these , or elementary ideas, have appeared in different costumes. The differences in the

costumes are the results of environment and historical conditions” (Power 61). In this thesis, seven Buddhist and Christian-themed films will be analyzed using the framework of

Campbell’s monomyth to illustrate the interplay between metaphysical knowledge and the creation of mythology by artists in modern culture.

To begin, one could ask the question, “What is ” The word “myth” is derived from the Greek mythos, which is defined as a word or story. Traditionally, human beings have used these or stories to explain the world in which they live (Leeming 3). It is often assumed by the modern mind that these myths are primitive ways of understanding the universe, and that they therefore don’t have a place in modern thinking. However, this point of view has changed as

“psychologists, linguists, and anthropologists have taken us beyond an appreciation of myths as primitive literature” (Leeming 5). Instead, it is possible to view myths and the psychological meanings they convey as of utmost importance to human beings and the lives they live. Joseph

Campbell says the following:


Mythology has been interpreted by the modern intellect as a primitive, fumbling effort to

explain the world of nature (Frazier); as a production of poetical fantasy from prehistoric

times, misunderstood by succeeding ages (Muller); as a repository of allegorical

instruction, to shape the individual to his group (Durkheim); as a group dream,

symptomatic of archetypal urges within the depths of the human psyche (Jung); as the

traditional vehicle of man's profoundest metaphysical insights (Coomaraswamy); and as

God's Revelation to His children (the Church). Mythology is all of these. The various

judgments are determined by the viewpoints of the judges. (Hero 382)

Myth and mythology are, therefore, infinitely flexible. Myth contains the meaning one seeks.

One can embrace myth and mythology as a way to bring meaning to one's life. “Mythology shows itself to be as amenable as life itself to the obsessions and requirements of the individual, the race, the age” (Hero 382).

The modern person can feel existential angst when he or she lacks a sense of connectedness. And such angst can lead to alienation and a sense of life’s meaninglessness. One way to imbue life with meaning is through interacting with myth. The understanding that a person is a part of the whole will give meaning to the lives of humans and humankind. Richard

E. Hughes writes,

. . . myth is the detector of the long, slow rhythms of human behavior that drum beneath

the staccato beats of temporality. Myth sees history not as a series of isolated events, but

as a continuum, a pulse that moves beneath the episodic janglings. Myth catches the

constants on human actions . . . Mythic awareness begins with believing in what James

Joyce called “the grave and constant” in life. (3)


Myth is the constant, while individual human lives are the variable. Modern man has lost that understanding about the constant and the individual. As Campbell argues, in order to put meaning back into people’s lives, myth needs to be understood.

One way to understand myths is to use Campbell’s masterwork The Hero with a

Thousand Faces. In this book, Campbell uses to illustrate what he calls the “hero’s journey,” also called the monomyth. “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (Hero 30).

The hero’s journey occurs when a hero ventures forth on an adventure, overcomes obstacles, and then returns to bring special knowledge to the community. According to

Campbell, this journey is one underlying story, which can give our lives meaning, if we only can understand it, and according to Hughes, also understand our place in the journey.

A preliminary discussion of the monomyth is presented here. Later chapters will analyze the monomyth in more detail and will show that the Eastern of along with the

Western religion of Christianity can both be found in films using the monomyth as the overarching story.

Although there are different versions of the monomyth, Campbell divides the hero’s journey into three stages which are then divided into the seventeen sub-parts. The three main stages are: departure, , and return.1

1 The monomyth has been divided into a number of different stages by different scholars. In Schechter and Semeiks Discoveries: Fifty Stories of the , the hero’s journey has six parts: the Call, the Other, the Journey, Helpers and Guides, the Treasure, and Transformation. David


The departure begins with the hero living in the ordinary world. Through blind chance the hero is to an “ world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood” (Hero 51). Typically, the hero refuses the call, although the hero sometimes undertakes the adventure without a refusal. Either way, the hero is helped to begin the adventure by supernatural aid, perhaps a wise man or wise woman. The hero begins the journey and crosses what Campbell calls the first threshold. Here the hero leaves the mortal realm and enters the “belly of the whale.”2 Campbell says,

The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of is

symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of

conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown,

and would appear to have died . . . This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that

the passage to the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Instead of passing outward,

beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward to be born again. (Hero


The hero has now moved beyond the ordinary world and entered what Campbell calls the initiation.

Adams Leeming, in his 1988 book Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero, divides the journey into eight stages. also divides the hero’s journey into eight stages in his book, The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on his Life and Work. Finally, Christopher Vogel uses the stages as a way to write screen plays. His book, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriter, divides the journey into twelve parts. 2 “The Belly of the Whale” refers to being swallowed by a large fish or whale. Jonah is cast overboard where he spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish before it spat him up onto dry land. During this time, he experiences a conversion, a symbolic death and rebirth. See the Book of Jonah in the for more information. See Power of Myth 180-1 for Campbell’s analysis of Jonah and how it relates to the death and resurrection .


The initiation occurs when the hero travels along the road of trials (Hero 97). Campbell calls the steps various names such as “the meeting with the goddess,” or “woman as temptress,” but here, the hero meets with friends, including and goddesses, encounters foes, and gains special knowledge. Campbell states, “What the hero seeks through his intercourse with them is therefore not finally themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance. The miraculous energy substance and this alone is the Imperishable” (Hero 181). As shown, there is an apotheosis (the moment when the hero achieves divinity or the highest point of glory, power or importance, the apex of the road of trials) and an ultimate boon or gift of knowledge, or a

“special elixir.” After the initiation, there is the return.

The return has several different stages just like the departure and the initiation. The main idea is that although the hero has achieved an ultimate boon, he is loath to return to the realm from whence he came. The hero, therefore, is likely to receive supernatural aid in returning with his boon. This aid allows him to return, but the additional challenge is that the hero must cross the threshold and retain the he has acquired. The hero must be the “master of two worlds” (Hero 229), both the material and the spiritual. The final stage in the hero’s journey is termed “Freedom to Live.” He writes,

The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is.

“Before Abraham was, I AM.” He does not mistake apparent changelessness in time for

the permanence of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment (or of the “other thing”),

as destroying the permanent with its change. “Nothing retains its own form; but Nature,

the greater renewer, ever makes up forms from forms. Be sure that nothing perishes in the


whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form.” Thus the next moment is permitted

to come to pass. (Hero 243)3

The hero no longer fears death, making him free to live. He exists in the moment, no longer fearing the future or regretting the past.

In the four-volume series titled Masks of , Campbell attempts to show how mythology developed from its beginnings in Masks of God: Primitive Mythology to its apparent end in Masks of God: Creative Mythology. In the middle two books, Masks of God: Occidental and Masks of God: Oriental, Campbell discusses the differences between and Eastern thought. According to Campbell, Western mythological thought is concerned with a patriarchal view. In Campbell’s view, in the West, mankind is concerned with individuality, with men being seen as dominant, and women as passive. The goal of Western mythology is to be an individual with the goal of seeking salvation. The Masculine view is the desire to be independent. Man is separate from God, but needs God for salvation. Hence, the promotion of the self.

On the other hand, Eastern mythology is decidedly matriarchal and seeks to promote community at the expense of the self. Instead of the individual, there is a goal of reducing or eliminating the self. He says,

In both Greece and India a dialogue had been permitted to occur between the two

contrary orders of patriarchal and matriarchal thought, such as in the biblical tradition,

[which] was deliberately suppressed in favor exclusively of the male. However, although

in both Greece and India this interplay had been fostered, the results in the two provinces

were not the same. In India the power of the goddess-mother finally prevailed to such a

3 In this passage, Campbell is quoting Ovid’s , XV, 252-255.


degree that the principle of the masculine ego initiative was suppressed even to the point

of dissolving the will to individual life; whereas in Greece the masculine will not only

held their own but prospered in a manner that at that time was unique in the world.

(Masks: Occidental 173-74)

The difference between the two ultimately shows that the metaphysical knowledge acquired in the hero’s journey is determined by the mythological underpinnings of that culture. This can be explained through an examination of each culture’s theory of reality (metaphysics). The discussion that follows derives from my own work in the study of religion,4 and is in concordance with Campbell’s views as shown in the Masks of God: Occidental and Masks of

God: Oriental.5

Western religion, with its dominant Abrahamic traditions, has a dualism of various designs. Judaism, for example, while not perfectly clear about the nature of the afterlife, still has some form of dualism in the form of both body and spirit, at least in some versions. This dualism is more easily seen in both Christianity and Islam. In these traditions, belief in good and evil, the distinction between materialism and (as seen in the beliefs about bodies and souls) as well as the claim about the material realm of Earth and the spiritual realm of the afterlife, all demonstrate the dualistic nature of Western Abrahamic .

One could say that there is a dualism between good and evil in Western mythology and religion. This idea of good and evil can be seen in 2:17, which features the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Bodies, as well as the assertion about the physical Earth, are the

4 I have a minor in Religious Studies and have taught college level courses in Religious Studies. 5 Although Campbell’s work first began to appear in the 1940s, he is still relevant and being cited today. See for example “The Power of Religion: Methodological Themes in the Work of Joseph Campbell” by Paris Mawby.

8 material part of the dualism, while opposite to materialism are the claims about non-physical things such as spirits or souls, and heaven.

As mentioned above, this type of metaphysics also supports the idea of individuality.

Since there is a separation of spirit and body, it also follows that there is a tendency for individuality. Campbell writes:

Man is made in the image of God, indeed, and the breath of God has been breathed into

his nostrils; yet his being, his self, is not that of God, nor is it one with the universe. The

fashioning of the world, of the animals, and of

Adam . . . was accomplished not within the sphere of divinity but outside it. There is,

consequently, an intrinsic, not merely formal, separation. And the goal of knowledge

cannot be to see God is not in things. God is transcendent. (Masks: Oriental 10-11)

These ideas about the nature of reality dominate beliefs of the Western tradition and represent the knowledge, which would be acquired by the hero’s journey in the Western World.

Eastern religion has a different metaphysical scheme which seeks to minimize the self.

Instead of a promotion of the self, there is the desire to reduce the self. This leads to the reductionist view that instead of their being a duality, all is one. The self is not separate from the body and the body is not separate from the self. Rather, they are one. Campbell says this about the Indian version of reality which he contrasts with the Western version: “In the Indian version it is the god himself that divided and becomes not man alone but all creation” (Masks: Oriental


One should be careful here. Eastern metaphysics, according to Campbell, is not reducing the claim about the self to merely a physical substance. Instead, Eastern religions claim that there is a substance which is both physical and non-physical, but they are not separate. They are one.


Therefore, the type of knowledge acquired by the hero’s journey would be the reduction or elimination of the self and a oneness with reality.

In Chapter 2 the religious elements of Christianity and Buddhism in their “pure” form will be presented. Christianity will be investigated using King of Kings. In this film, it will be shown that ’ story exemplifies the divine hero's journey. Buddhism will be analyzed with the film Little Buddha. This 1993 work will demonstrate how the Buddha’s life story is a version of the divine hero’s journey.

In Chapter 3 the monomyth as exemplified by the heroic man will be discussed. The heroic man in Christianity will be presented through The Last Temptation of Christ. This version of the Christ myth shows a very human Jesus who attempts to live a moral life. The heroic man will be viewed in Buddhism through The Light of Asia, a film which shows a mortal version of the Buddha (i.e., a hero) as he follows the hero’s Journey.

Chapter 4 will show the hero’s Journey by using films in which the ordinary man is portrayed. The Christian hero’s journey will be illustrated through Leap of Faith. This film tells the story of an ordinary man who, by following the hero’s journey of Christianity, becomes more heroic and Christ-like. The ordinary man of Buddhism will be explored using Enlightenment

Guaranteed. This film tells the story of two German brothers who, by inadvertently following the hero’s journey, gain special knowledge.

Finally, after investigating the hero’s journey in chapters two through four, Chapter 5 will be concerned with film as creative mythology. In Masks of God: Creative Mythology, Campbell discusses the history of modern culture since the Dark Ages and says that there are no longer universal myths. Campbell gives four examples of authors who have created new mythologies.

Exactly what this means to Campbell and who are the creators of this new mythology will be

10 discussed more in Chapter 5. There, it will also be argued that artists use the media of film are among the creators of modern mythology. This claim will be defended through an examination of the 2016 Martin Scorsese film Silence, in which the hero successfully lives a life that unifies

Eastern and Western religious mythologies.




Campbell’s hero’s journey can be understood by looking at the historical nature of hero myths. As these stories are written by people, we can see that there are different viewpoints about the nature of the hero itself. Campbell himself admits that there are a multitude of hero types. He says that there are legendary who are “the founder of something—the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life” (Campbell, Power 166-7). Additionally, there are ordinary heroes who go on a heroic journeys. These heroes usually end up changing themselves, rather than changing the world. As

Campbell states, “So even if we happen not to be heroes in the grand sense of redeeming society, we still have to take that journey inside ourselves, spiritually and psychologically” (152).

If we look at the mythological figures of Jesus and Buddha, we can see that their heroic nature is divided into two main ontological categories.6 These two categories are the human/mundane aspect of the hero and the divine/transcendent aspect. While there may have been actual people who inspired the heroic stories of both Jesus and the Buddha, it is possible to view these figures as purely divine, purely human, or a combination of the two.

Divinity is defined as a being or thing which transcends human power and is universal, based in ultimate truth. Material things (i.e., human) are the opposite as they are ephemeral.

Being divine is permanent and unchanging and can, often, with perfect knowledge, while being human is temporary, constantly changing, with limited, and imperfect knowledge. It follows that

6 There can also be transitional ontologies between the two extremes.

12 the divine version of the hero would possess these characteristics, while the human or mortal hero would not.

The status quo or the ordinary world tells us a lot about Jesus and his ontological status.

Jesus’ hero journey is typically a version of the following: he is portrayed either as a regular human child, or as a divine being. Was he born of woman as is the condition of all human beings, or born of divinity as the son of God? The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as human, while the Gospel of John has Jesus as fully divine.7

Jesus’ life follows the Campbellian hero’s journey. The initial refusal of the call would be his prayer on the Mount of Olives and his desire to be relieved of his duty. There, he separates himself from his followers and asks God to “take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (New International Version Luke 22:42). Then the actual call to adventure occurs at Jesus’ baptism, where God speaks directly to Jesus, the heavens open up, and he launches his ministry.

This is followed by assistance whereby Jesus gathers his disciples around him. Assistance could, of course, come in the form of divinely powerful entities such as angels, or ordinary friends and acquaintances. This type of assistance, supernatural or mortal, depends on the nature of Jesus, whether divine or not.

On commencing his public ministry, he departs the ordinary world. He is no longer an ordinary human. He resides on a spiritual plane of existence. This sets him apart from the mundane and awakens enemies against him, either divine (such as the temptation by Satan in the

7 The four gospels were written in the following order: Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. The Gospel of Mark, being the least divine, and the Gospel of John being the most divine, show the changing nature of the heroic story of Jesus over the decades as he goes from being mortal to being purely divine.

13 wilderness) or mortal (for example, human enemies who do not understand his teachings, or who reject him).

While Jesus faces trials of various types such as temptation and mortal enemies, he fears his destiny, his coming ordeal. Is he to be the savior of mankind? If so, then how is he to save it?

There are two answers, the sword and the cross. The resolution of this conflict represents his atonement with the father.8 He knows that someone will betray him and that he will suffer. Of course, depending upon the nature of the hero, he will receive either divine or mortal assistance and finally fulfill his destiny.

The ultimate boon, or treasure, is Jesus’ resurrection and return from the dead. Here he achieves the knowledge over life and death as he is the master of both worlds: divine and mortal.

Rather than being saved by following the 613 commandments of the Torah, humanity can find salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice; from this moment on, all one has to do to achieve salvation is believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. Whether Jesus is portrayed as divine or mortal in the particular story or film, it is clear that Jesus’ journey follows the Campbellian hero’s journey.

The myths of the Buddha (née Siddhartha Gautama) also exemplify the hero’s journey.

His first twenty-nine years of life represent the ordinary world. Depending upon the version of his life, there were either divine portents about his destiny or not. Either way, he enjoys a life of luxury in his father’s palace, deliberately separated from the real world.

Somehow Siddhartha escapes the palace and encounters three different people: a sick man, an old man, and a corpse. These encounters signify his call to adventure; before these encounters he did not realize that there was such suffering in the world. But now he knows

8 “Atonement with the father” is the confrontation with whoever holds ultimate power over the hero.

14 everyone will experience sickness and death. Upon confronting his father, he says, “I must find an answer to suffering” (Little 48:30). He can, of course, feel doubt about his course of action as he has had a happy life with a wife and newborn son. But these doubts, while a momentary refusal of the call to adventure, are not enough to alter his destiny.

Upon journeying into the outside world (crossing the first threshold), the Buddha encounters a Brahman priest who offers to teach the Buddha how to lead an ascetic life. This is the mentor he needs to start his journey to enlightenment. During this journey, he must undergo various tests such as learning to meditate, becoming austere, and looking for ultimate knowledge or salvation.

Ultimately, he learns that practicing asceticism is not the path to enlightenment, and instead he decides to leave the other Brahmans around him and seek his own path. This decision represents his approach to ultimate knowledge. He must do this alone rather than with people to support him.

While sitting beneath a tree meditating, Siddhartha (the young Buddha) undergoes various temptations (ordeals) such as the temptations of pleasure and fear and, finally, the temptation of the self or ego. He thereby comes to understand his place in the universe and achieves enlightenment (apotheosis). This enlightenment can, of course, be either divine or mundane. The divine version would be filled with omens, miracles and divine entities such as demons or gods, while the mundane version would portray the Buddha as a man with a man’s problems such as fear, doubt and desire.

After achieving enlightenment and becoming the master of two worlds, the Buddha returns to the world of ordinary people (the road back) and shares his knowledge with everyone in the world. This knowledge is the elixir that will save mankind. The question of whether the


Buddha was a mortal is unsettled,9 but for our purposes here, it is clear that there is a divine mythological aspect (i.e., the hero’s journey) to the story of the Buddha.

This chapter will show in two films, King of Kings and Little Buddha, the divine nature of the hero’s journey for both Jesus and the Buddha.

Our first film dealing with the hero as divine is Cecil B. DeMille’s 1927 silent epic The

King of Kings, starring H. B. Warner as Jesus and Dorothy Cummings as Mary, the mother of

Jesus. Ostensibly in black and white, the film actually has two two-colored (green and red)

Technicolor scenes for dramatic effect: the introductory scene where the audience meets Mary

Magdalene and, most notably, the resurrection of Jesus scene near the end of the film.

Silent films have no spoken dialogue, but they are not actually silent, for they typically have a score which aids in telling the story presented. This film has a powerful excellent score, swaying the audience with strong emotions of joy and sadness, as well as inspirational passages, which befits the film’s epic nature. As is typical of silent films, there are intertitles that contain important dialogue as well as setting the stage for what is happening. Many of the film’s intertitles are quoted or paraphrased from scripture, for example John 20:15.

The film tells the story of the last few weeks of Jesus’ life, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his appearing before his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and his apostles. The film opens with a title-card telling us that this is the world of first-century Jerusalem. The audience is immediately thrust into the realm of debauchery as we see Mary Magdalene portrayed as a courtesan with many rich, vane men around her partaking of luxurious foods all

9 The two main Buddhist religions are divided on this issue. Theravada Buddhism maintains that the Buddha was “just a human” (Harvey, Introduction 28), while Buddhism maintains that the Buddha was divine (28).

16 the while the audience is supposed to be scandalized. The scene has rich red and green highlights

(drapes, etc.) showing the debauchery present. Magdalene is distraught because her implied lover

Judas has been missing for three days. Being told that he is with a carpenter, she rides her chariot pulled by zebras, a gift from a Nubian prince, out to retrieve Judas.

We first encounter Jesus healing a young blind girl and performing various miracles as he heads towards his destiny of savior of mankind. When Jesus cures the blind girl, we first see him through her eyes and he is a solemn man with a halo. This is the divine Jesus, regularly performing miracles (curing the blind, healing the lame, exorcising demons, and raising the dead). Jesus also removes the seven deadly sins from Mary Magdalene using a multiple exposure sequence.

Since this film only shows the last few weeks of Jesus’ life, the audience is not shown his call to adventure. Most commonly, for Jesus, the call occurs when he is baptized by John the

Baptist, but it can be argued that this divine Jesus’ call to adventure is his whole life. If Jesus was born of a virgin as told in Matthew 1:18-25 or Luke 1:26-38, then his entire life is his call to adventure.

As is typical of the monomyth, Jesus questions his destiny (a refusal of the call) by praying to God on the Mount of Olives. Yet, in this version his divinity is apparent since he shows a stately presence, and little if any doubt about his destiny. It is as if he is the lead actor in a grand passion play. One thing the audience will notice is that Jesus doesn’t actually show much, if any, emotion. He almost always looks solemn and dignified. Even when he is flogged, made to sit on a chair as a throne, and wear a crown of thorns by the Roman centurions, he doesn’t show any emotion and simply sits with a serene look on his face (King 1:50:20).


There is no obvious mentor in this version of Jesus’ tale, but there is some foreshadowing of Jesus’ destiny. As he helps a poor family whose son is a lunatic, it is revealed that the father is a carpenter who makes crosses for the Romans who pay him very well.

The hero must commonly overcome tests and enemies, yet, he has allies to help him with these obstacles. Jesus’ enemies are the people who maintain the power structure of the city of

Jerusalem, in particular the Jewish priests, including the high priest Caiaphas.10

As enemies, the Jewish priests are jealous and plan to have him put in jail. They say that he is working on the Sabbath and that he claims God is his father. “Before our own eyes He broke the Sabbath! And He said, also, that God was his Father—making Himself equal with

God” (John 5:10; King 28:35)! In response to this obvious threat to their power, they plan to see if Jesus has paid the tax to Caesar. Jesus confounds the priests by having Peter go catch a fish which, miraculously, has a coin in its mouth.

Another sign of his divine power is his knowledge of the sins of the people around him.

Some Jewish priests have caught a woman in adultery causing Jesus to write the crowd’s sins in some spilled sugar. The crowd disperses leaving only the accusing priest who says he has no sin.

In response, Jesus writes that he is an adulterer, an accusation that causes the priest to flee.11

Jesus enters Jerusalem where he will embrace his destiny. First, he shows his divine nature of forgiveness by convincing the crowd to not stone the adulterous woman to death, and then he confronts the money changers. His divine power is shown by his driving the money

10 Interestingly, in this version of the story of Jesus, the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate is quite merciful as he merely has Jesus whipped. It is Caiaphas and his fellow priests who call for Jesus’ death by crucifixion. 11 Compare this version of Jesus knowing the sins of the people around him with the version of The Last Temptation of Christ. There, he knows the sins because he is human like them and has lived among them. Here, he knows their sins because of his divine nature.

18 changers from the temple along with all the hundreds of animals (oxen, sheep, doves) escaping

(King 1:03:15).

The priest Caiaphas and his followers confront Jesus in order to arrest him, but in response to Jesus’ efforts a throng of people fill the square saying that he is their king. Caiaphas and his followers realize that it is too risky to arrest Jesus and they flee. Judas fashions a makeshift crown, but Jesus says that he is not an earthly king, and that his kingdom is in heaven; it is his destiny to be the savior of mankind. Satan takes the opportunity to tempt Jesus with earthly power by using a vision of his potential might, but Jesus easily casts Satan out, all the while looking divine.

In response to this show of popularity, Caiaphas threatens Judas, Jesus and all the followers. “Hearken, thou King Maker! Thou shalt pay with thy life for this—and thy Master, and thy fellow knaves likewise” (King 1:11:26)! Judas betrays Jesus in a truly masterfully illuminated scene where Caiaphas counts out thirty pieces of silver (King 1:14:00). The dinging of the coins as they drop on the table, achieved by sharp notes on a piano, is enough to send shivers down one’s spine.

After the Passover meal, Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and brought before Pontius Pilate. Pilate is portrayed as an honest man and only orders Jesus flogged and then released, but the Roman centurions ridicule Jesus before bringing him forth along with the murderer Barabbas.12 Caiaphas insists that Pilate have Jesus crucified, even going so far as to bribe the people present to ask for Barabbas to be released. This influences Pilate to sentence

Jesus to be crucified.

12 Barabbas probably didn’t exist and is merely a dramatic license to show the evilness of Caiaphas and his fellow Jews. See “Barabbas” on Wikipedia for details.


The heroic ordeal that Jesus must face is his arrest, torture, ridicule and insults about being the king of the Jews. He is made to wear a crown of thorns and a drape as a robe. Finally, he will carry his own cross through the city while being insulted and jeered. Even though he carries the cross, Jesus still soothes his mother with a look and cures a crippled man who happens to be nearby. Such is the dignity Jesus projects that a bystander helps Jesus carry his cross when he falls. It seems that healing the cripple has drained Jesus of his divine energy. Even though Jesus appears somewhat tired, the bystander needs a blessing from Jesus to be able to bear the weight of the cross.

Next, he is to be crucified, and he is lifted onto the cross. While there Caiaphas and his other fellow priests come and mock him, telling Jesus to come down and prove he is the king of

Israel. Jesus shows his divine nature, even now, by forgiving them. “Father, forgive them—for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34; King 2:11:57)!

Finally, right before Jesus dies, he says, “It is finished! Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46; King 2:17:00)! Then, in a very dramatic sequence, God makes his displeasure known with clouds covering the night sky followed by wind, rain and lightning.

Then there is an earthquake with dozens, if not hundreds, of people shown falling to their presumed deaths, along with large rocks and torrential gales scattering people left and right. The

Jewish temple is struck by lightning. “Behold, the Veil of the Temple was rent from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51; King 2:20:58). Even though Caiaphas begs God for forgiveness, the chaos and destruction only stop when Jesus’ mother Mary asks for God to stop. “O God— give us back the Light” (King 2:21:35)!

In a dramatic scene, also done in two-color Technicolor, Jesus is resurrected. Roman soldiers guard his tomb, until it begins to glow with heavenly light. The soldiers are terrified and

20 run away right before the stone rolls away causing the ropes to break. Jesus emerges whole and healed looking as divine as he was before his death. Jesus has now returned to the ordinary world where both Marys appear and he consoles them.

He then appears to his followers who greet him with disbelief. Campbell quotes Matthew:

“And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And then they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only . . . . Jesus charged them, saying Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:1-9 qtd. in Hero

230). Jesus’ death and resurrection make him the master of two worlds. This is the whole point of the hero story. Campbell says, “Here is the whole myth in a moment: Jesus the guide, the way, the vision, and the companion of the return. The disciples are his initiates, not themselves masters of the mystery, yet introduced to the paradox of the two worlds in one” (230). By being the master of two worlds, Jesus gives that special knowledge to his followers and the world. The intertitle card and scene of the film brings home the message of Jesus and the divine here. The card says, “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations—and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:16; King 2:35:58)! Jesus then steps back with his arms outstretched as if watching over the disciples who are kneeling before him, and then the scene changes to Jesus’ standing superimposed over a modern city. The film ends with “Lo I am with you always” (King 2:36:47).

Our second film, Little Buddha (1994), directed by and starring

Chris Isaak, Bridget Fonda and , is a story within a story. The film itself has a wonderful aesthetic feel; the scenes shot in Seattle have a melancholy blue-gray composition, while the scenes in Bhutan burst with energy with a red-range composition. This depiction contrasts modern Seattle and the Western world with Bhutan and the ancient ways of the Eastern

21 world. Although it seems that the two different “worlds” are separated by distance and time, a main theme is that the two worlds, as well as the past, are always linked to the present through the universal idea of suffering and enlightenment. Even though Siddhartha Gautama lived over

2,500 years ago, his answer to the problem of suffering is still with us to this day even in the modern western world. This idea is shown throughout the film by the subtle parallels between the stories of the two main characters.

The film tells of the story of Jesse Konrad (Alex Wiesendanger), a typical 10-year-old boy born and living in Seattle, and the story of Siddhartha, who will grow up to become the

Buddha. Jesse lives in the modern world of science and technology, but the Buddhist monks and

Lama Norbu who come to see him live in Bhutan, a country full of deep spirituality. This version of Buddhism (Tibetan)13 is deeply mystical because it sees dreams as prophecies, miracles as common and, of course, reincarnation as real, with the souls of people reborn into new bodies.

Jesse is a possible candidate for the reincarnation of Dorje, who had died ten years earlier. The film explores whether Jesse is the reincarnation of Lama Dorje, but it also acts as a

Buddhism 101 course about the story of Siddhartha Gautama and how he became the Buddha.

As the film progresses, Jesse is taught about the life of Prince Siddhartha at first from a book given to Jesse by the Monks and then, later, by Lama Norbu. This story is full of miracles and spectacular happenings, for this version shows the divine nature of Buddha rather than his human nature. The audience learns the story of Siddhartha along with Jesse. Siddhartha’s mother, Queen

Maya, is returning to her parents’ house to give birth. While stopping on the long journey she enters into a waking where she remembers a dream she had in which a baby elephant

13 Tibetan Buddhism is a type of Mahayana Buddhism.

22 appeared at her side and blessed her with its trunk (Little 18:15). As she remembers the dream, she realizes it is time to have the child. As is typical of these divine stories, two miracles happen.

First, a tree, sensing the moment, bends itself to offer its support and secondly, the child immediately walks and talks proclaiming that “I have been born to reach enlightenment . . . and free all creatures from suffering” (Little 21:15).

Due to Prince Siddhartha’s unusual birth, a case can be made that his entire life is the hero’s adventure. According to the book within the film, wise men and other knowledgeable people recognize the greatness within him, and they come to see him. The King, Siddhartha’s father, is surprised by an unexpected guest, , the holy man, during a celebration to present his son to the community. Asita proclaims that Siddhartha will either “be the master of the world.

Or its redeemer” (Little 24:44). The king wants his son Siddhartha to be a king first and later he can be a teacher like Asita. Consequently, the King will not allow his son to leave the palace.

Instead, he tries to make the palace a paradise on earth, which it is, for a time.

Siddhartha lives a perfect life, a life of luxury. He is constantly entertained with sports

(archery, horsemanship, and playing the game Kadaddi), and vast wealth with three palaces, one each for the different seasons (winter, rainy season, and summer) (Little 29:51). Surrounded by young beautiful people, he obtains a beautiful wife, princess Yasodhara. It would seem his life is perfect, yet he longs for more. In this version he hears a song that is eerily piercing (Little 30:00).

The singer laments the loss of her home. She lives here in a luxurious palace, but longs for there, where lakes and mountains are beautiful. He is intrigued, but his wife, who is pregnant with their son, tries to convince him that there is only suffering out there. She is the voice of the refusal of the call. She represents the perfect life of happiness and pleasure in the palace, where there is no suffering. But he still wants to see the outside world with his own eyes (Little 31:35).


His father decides to trick him by letting him go outside but making sure everyone Siddhartha sees is young and happy. As he leaves the palace, the throng of people gathered by his father bestow praise and flower petals upon Siddhartha. Then an old man approaches before he can be turned away and Siddhartha sees him. The younger man doesn’t know what to think and he takes his servant Channa, who acts as his mentor, with him to explore. While away from the palace,

Channa explains that all people will get old and sick and die, even Siddhartha himself, and that life is full of suffering (Little 37:46).

Siddhartha, upon returning to the palace, confronts his father and in response, his father has the guard doubled and the gates locked so that Siddhartha cannot leave. But Siddhartha is destined to find the answer to suffering, and during the night a divine mist covers the palace and land itself causing everyone, including the animals except the elephants, who represent wisdom, to fall asleep (Little 53:30). Siddhartha wakes Channa who helps him escape on Siddhartha’s horse Kanthka. They have crossed the threshold of the hero’s journey and must now overcome obstacles. This hero has undertaken a divine journey. Instead of merely riding his horse outside or using some other mundane method of escaping, there is a divine sleep-inducing mist. In some divine versions of the story, the gods muffle Kanthka’s hooves.

Upon escaping into the outside world, Siddhartha happens upon some Brahman ascetics who live in the forest. Once again, we see his divine nature upon joining them: a short intense rain shower happens, but a giant cobra approaches Siddhartha and shields him with its outstretched hood. The ascetics are eager to have him join them and, for six years, he lives the life of an ascetic who drinks only rain, or eats only “a grain of rice, a broth of mud, or the dropping of a passing bird” (Little 1:45:55). By starving their bodies, they hope to achieve strength of mind, but this denial doesn’t work. Instead, he recognizes a profound fact. Having

24 experienced both the of his early life and the pain of his life as an ascetic, he realizes that there must be a middle path. Even here we see his divinity: as he talks out loud to himself the water buffalos nearby in the river listen to him speak, and the food bowl given to him by a passing peasant girl floats upstream, thereby showing him that he was correct in his thought.

Both events show the divine nature of this hero’s journey.

Siddhartha’s ordeal continues when he attempts to achieve enlightenment under the Bo, or Bodhi, tree. In this version, his enlightenment is shown with a juxtaposition of the present day with the past. Here in the present day, the three children (Raju, Gita, and Jesse), who contain the divided spirit of Lama Dorje, watch Siddhartha undergo his enlightenment. This juxtaposition shows that the past and the present are intertwined; Siddhartha’s gift of enlightenment literally is followed to this day. King of Kings similarly portrayed the timelessness of Jesus’ message in the final scene.

However, in order to achieve enlightenment and know ultimate reality, Siddhartha must resist the temptations sent by the demon . These temptations will be supernatural in origin as befits the divine nature of this Buddha. His first temptation is the five daughters of Mara.

Although they look like innocent village girls, “they were the spirits of Pride, Greed, Fear,

Ignorance and Desire” (Little 2:03:50). Siddhartha’s second temptation is Mara himself. Enraged by Siddhartha’s refusal of the temptations, Mara creates a vision of thunder, lightning and ultimately thousands of warriors who march towards the Bo tree. Hundreds of flaming arrows are launched towards the Buddha, but they turn into flower petals and fall harmlessly to the earth. Instead of fear, there is beauty. The final temptation is the temptation of the self (ego). A duplicate of Siddhartha appears before him and he must fight his own ego. As befits his divine nature, all of these temptations, including the ego, are easily defeated. “You do not exist” (Little


2:11:43). This phrase, of course, shows a central concept of Buddhism, that the self is to be minimized, or discarded entirely, because the self is an illusion.

In overcoming these three temptations, he achieves apotheosis as a divine being, able to see the ultimate reality. The character Llama Norbu speaks,

Siddhartha won the battle against an army of demons, just through the force of his

love and the great compassion he had found. And he achieved the great calm that

precedes detachment from illusions. He had reached beyond himself. He was

beyond joy or pain, separate from judgment. Able to remember that he had been a

girl, a dolphin, a tree, a monkey. He remembered his first birth and the millions

after that. He could see beyond the universe. Siddhartha had seen the ultimate

reality of all things. He had understood that every movement in the universe is an

effect provoked by a cause. He knew there was no salvation without compassion

for every other being. From that moment on Siddhartha was called the Buddha,

the Awakened one. (Little 2:12:44)

He has achieved enlightenment (the ultimate boon), and will now pass that knowledge on to the other people of the world. As he is now the master of both worlds, he will be able to travel freely between worlds and thereby show others how to achieve enlightenment themselves. The film ends with the death of Llama Nordu and each of the three candidates spreading his ashes in different ways. Jesse is last seen back in Seattle and his fate is left unsaid.

It should be noted how these two films relate to creative mythology. Divine stories such as the two above are established myths. Although, at one time, they were new and could, therefore, be considered creative, they are now just a faithful retelling of an archetypal myth that underpins the particular culture. As such, they would not be in line with some of Campbell’s

26 ideas of creative mythology. They do, however, exemplify twentieth-century film-makers attempting to revitalize traditional myths to make them relevant for modern people.

In conclusion, it has been shown that the hero’s journey can be told from a divine perspective. In both King of Kings and Little Buddha, Jesus and Buddha respectively exemplify the divine. Each has a divine connection right from their birth. This divine connection allows them to achieve their desired goal of bringing their ultimate truth to the people of the world.

Jesus’ truth of spiritual salvation through the Father is in line with Campbell’s idea of

“patriarchy” in Western culture. Jesus’ story is centered on the self. The story of Buddha shows how the hero achieves his truth (enlightenment) by learning to control his human impulses, an example of matriarchy’s “reduction of the self.” Each truth seems different, but each makes the claim of ultimate reality and spiritual salvation or enlightenment.




The hero’s destiny is to gain that special knowledge which allows him to change himself and his community. Some heroes are legendary, such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or Achilles, but others partake of the hero’s journey on a more limited scale. Some heroes are mortal rather than divine. Mortal heroes typically have limited abilities compared to divine heroes although they may show divine characteristics once they achieve apotheosis. The mortal hero will be explored cinematically in this chapter in the Western/Christian and Eastern/Buddhist traditions.

The first film under consideration is The Last Temptation of Christ. Released in 1988 and directed by Martin Scorsese, this film is based upon the 1955 novel The Last Temptation by

Nikos Kazantzakis. Kazantzakis’ novel is quoted at the beginning of the film. “The substance of Christ—the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man to attain God . . . has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. My principle anguish and source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh” (The Last Temptation of Christ 30).

Both the film and novel are controversial because they show a human Jesus who wrestles with various temptations including fear, doubt, and lust. At the beginning of the film, we are immediately drawn into the shocking nature of it through Scorsese’s choice of title sequence along with the music. The sequence begins with a slow close shot of black thorns that are difficult to make out but come into focus and then fade to another set of thorns. Finally, a mass of thorns covers the screen while the background is scarlet. The title The Last Temptation of


Christ in white letters is then presented over the thorns and scarlet background. Overall, it is quite startling, with the music having a primal tribal sound.

The ordinary world Jesus inhabits is first century Palestine during the Roman occupation.

There are four Jewish sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. The

Zealots promoted armed rebellion against the Romans and were frequently crucified.

The first scene after the title sequence is a shot of desert shrubbery which quickly zooms to the left, almost frantically, where we see Jesus (Willem Dafoe) lying in the dirt like any earthly human. Most viewers are shocked because Jesus is presented as explicitly ordinary rather than divine. Moreover, Jesus’ inner monologue deals with how he is overcome with emotion, in contrast to the placid and detached Jesus of King of Kings:

The feeling begins. Very tender, very loving. Then the pain starts. Claws slip

underneath the skin and tear their way up. Just before they reach my eyes, they

dig in. And I remember. First, I fasted for three months. I even whipped myself

before I went to sleep. At first it worked. Then the pain came back. And the

voices. They call me by name. Jesus. (Temptation 3:16)

Jesus seems to be experiencing an auditory hallucination. This is not the divine Jesus who is free from temptation and performs miracles. Scorsese presents a demythologized Jesus (Walsh

8) who is human and is just as bewildered by his emotional and physical suffering as anyone would be.

In terms of the hero’s journey, Jesus has undergone a call to adventure through experiencing extraordinary feelings and visions, but he doesn’t want any part of it. His collaboration with the Romans represents a refusal of the call. Jesus is a conflicted hero at this point in the film. He is filled with self-loathing and in response to these torments, Jesus seeks to

29 ease his pain by making crosses for the Romans’ crucifixions. While helping the Romans nail prisoners to the crosses, Jesus’ face is splattered with blood. Spectators spit on him and throw garbage at him. He is filthy and reviled, all of these reactions underlining his human nature as well as the conflict within himself.

In response to these emotions and hallucinations, Jesus travels to the desert in order to be spiritually cleansed. During this journey, he will receive both supernatural and possibly earthly aid. First, though, Jesus seeks to talk to his mentor, Mary Magdalene, for her blessing. He comes across her after following a foreigner dressed in yellow. Jesus mistakes this person for an Angel, thereby advancing the idea that Jesus is mentally ill. After waiting all day for Mary to service her customers, she and Jesus talk and argue, and it is revealed that they knew each other as children and had a romantic connection, although not a physical one.

This scene is important for three reasons. First, it is implied that Jesus had a romantic connection with Mary, which is shocking as Jesus is typically presented as pure of spirit and above temptation as we saw in the King of Kings. Instead, here is a human Jesus who exhibits more traditional heroic qualities as opposed to divine ones. Second, Jesus waits and watches

Mary with the men, one after another. We can surmise that the human Jesus feels sexual temptation. Finally, this scene foreshadows what takes place later in the film with Mary

Magdalene as Jesus changes from conflicted hero to actual hero.

After leaving Mary Magdalene, Jesus continues his travels into the desert where he finds supernatural aid in the form of a blessing from God. Jesus has decided to speak with a wise old man, the master of a group of monks. Approaching their mud huts, the old man bids him to sleep.

In the morning, this cryptic comment is revealed to be either a hallucination or a blessing, because the old man had died before Jesus’ arrival.


Another monk named Jeroboam says that Jesus was greeted by the master’s spirit who treated

Jesus as a royal visitor. Jesus has his doubts about being special saying that he himself is a liar, a hypocrite and afraid of everything (Temptation 26:18). But during the night while Jesus sleeps, he is visited by two black cobras who come out of a hole in the ground. Mary Magdalene’s voice says that she forgives him. Jesus is found with his eyes wide open in a seeming trance, and

Jeroboam tells Jesus that he has been purified and God has blessed him. “Now you have to leave too. You have to go back speak to people and share your heart . . . Just open your mouth”

(Temptation 29:02). Even now the audience is still not sure how to interpret what they are being shown. Is Jesus mad or is he receiving divine visions?

Jesus has, possibly, been blessed, and human aid now appears in the form of the zealot

Judas Iscariot, who has come to kill Jesus for helping the Romans. Instead of being afraid of

Judas as would be normal for anyone sane or not blessed, Jesus bares his throat and says to kill him now for he is at peace. Instead Judas offers to follow Jesus as Judas thinks that the fainting and visions might mean Jesus is the messiah (Temptation 29:50).

Now that Jesus has been purified and gained a follower in Judas Iscariot, he starts to show some of his blessed nature by gathering some followers (disciples). As Jesus and Judas walk back to town, they chance upon a mob about to stone Mary Magdalene for prostitution and working on the Sabbath (Temptation 33:20). Instead of responding with violence to achieve his end of dispersing the mob, Jesus diffuses the mob by asking who has never sinned? When

Zebedee comes forward saying he has nothing to hide, Jesus responds with personal knowledge about Zebedee’s sins. This scene shows the still human nature of Jesus as he has lived among them and knows them, but he does begin his journey here by gathering them around him and telling them one of his famous parables. “Come closer. Come Closer! We’re all a family. Come

31 closer so you can hear. I have something to tell you” (Temptation 36:47). As a result of his preaching his ideas of love instead of rebellion, he gathers a few followers.

The crossing of the threshold begins when Jesus visits John the Baptist. The scene, like other scenes, is quite startling because John the Baptist is portrayed as a wild, ecstatic, longhaired, shirtless man baptizing people in the river while clothed and naked men and women dance to the chanting and drumming of his followers. When John baptizes Jesus, as a point of emphasis, all the sound except the dialogue between Jesus and John fades. Both Jesus and John notice this; they are having a private meeting of powerful beings. The sounds (music, beating of drums, and chanting) come back with a vengeance once Jesus is baptized (Temptation 50:40).

Afterward they talk into the night where they discuss whether the spirit (path of love) or the body

(path of violence) is more important. Finally, John tells Jesus to go into the desert where he will experience God.

The archetypal moment of death and rebirth occurs when the hero separates from his known self and is prepared to undergo a metamorphosis. This happens when Jesus goes into the desert and, once there, scribes a circle in the sand and sits, waiting for God to talk to him. During the night and over the next ten days Jesus experiences several temptations. The first temptation is that of life with a family presented by a talking . Next is the temptation of power presented by a talking lion. The third temptation is a talking pillar of flame which tempts Jesus with rule over the living and the dead. Next, a tree appears, and Jesus eats an apple, which spurts blood into his mouth and down his chest when bitten. Finally, an axe materializes out of the sand next to him; John the Baptist then appears next to Jesus telling him that he is the one and John’s time is done. Jesus cuts down the apple tree, thereby choosing the path of the warrior. The world

32 has changed for Jesus, for he has started to gain the special knowledge of the hero’s journey. The former Jesus has metaphorically died and been reborn as a divine warrior.

As Jesus leaves the desert, he is taken in by the two sisters, Mary and Martha of Bethany, who restore his health by offering him hospitality, but they also tempt him with an ordinary life.

This scene is the “woman as temptress” part of the hero’s journey. According to Mary and

Martha, the way to please God is to have a home, marriage and family. A normal life versus a heroic life with all its glories and powers is a major point of contention, and it will appear later when Jesus has his last temptation.

Jesus has accepted the path of violence, shown by his learning that the Baptist is dead, decapitated by King Herod. Jesus then returns to his waiting disciples and asks if they were baptized. They reply yes, and he says “John baptized with water and they killed him. Now I baptize with fire . . . I’m inviting you to a war” (Temptation 1:06:49). He then pulls out his heart from his chest. The axe from the desert appears in his hand. First Judas, then all the disciples join

Jesus. He has gained special knowledge of his destiny by entering the desert and facing the three temptations.

Jesus now journeys down the road of trials where he undergoes tests, gains allies and makes enemies. Using the special knowledge of who he is, he performs various miracles. He now lays hands on John the Baptist’s nude, mud-covered followers and casts out their demons.

The followers emerge from holes in the ground and stumble and writhe in ecstasy as wild tribal music plays. Additionally, Jesus cures a blind man (Temptation 1:10:07) and goes to a wedding, making more wine from water (Temptation 1:13:10). Jesus no longer doubts the journey set out for him by God. Finally, he receives the ultimate boon: the power over life and death, and performs the resurrection of Lazarus (Temptation 1:19:00).


The road of trials is filled with both allies and enemies. By performing the miracles, Jesus gains many followers and becomes more secure in his knowledge of himself, but he also makes some enemies. Some people react with threats of violence when he preaches, because he is talking about changing the social order (Temptation 1:14:33). This is shown by his having the crippled and the infirm as followers. These outcasts will be Jesus’ and Judas’ army, upsetting to many people, for the sick and infirm are shunned by a society that believes illness, disease and physical deformity are signs of God’s displeasure.

Ultimately, Jesus attains divine apotheosis. This moment occurs when he resurrects

Lazarus. In addition, Jesus having attained apotheosis is illustrated when Jesus’ mother asks him to come back with her. He no longer recognizes her because he has become one with God. “I don’t have a mother. I don’t have any family. I have a Father, in Heaven” (Temptation 1:17:45).

As he now exists mainly in the divine realm with his ability to perform miracles, he is reluctant to return to the mortal realm (refusal of the return). His refusal is shown by his cleansing of the temple. This scene is quite dramatic, for it shows his lack of understanding of the realities of life. People need money to live and also to make sacrifices to God. Stuck in the spiritual realm Jesus doesn’t see the practical side of life. He goes to the temple and creates a riot by turning over the money changers’ tables (Temptation 1:23:10) and insisting the people need “a place of worship” (Temptation 1:25:41). In response, a priest picks up a gold coin and then shouts “Nazarene, what are you doing? What are you doing?” (Temptation 1:25:47). Jesus responds, “God doesn’t need a palace. He doesn’t need cypress trees or dead animals! He doesn’t need shekels” (Temptation 1:25:55). Ultimately Jesus and his followers leave only to return to the temple later, in glory, with followers and people cheering. Jesus rides a donkey and has laurel leaves in his hair, but as he walks up the steps to the temple of Jerusalem he hesitates and asks


God out loud for a sign. Which is the fate for Jesus: an axe or a cross? Jesus wants the axe and not the cross. In response to this question, stigmata appear on his hands. Jesus must fulfill his destiny by being crucified.

After receiving this sign from God, both Jesus and Judas quickly leave the temple area and find a safe place where Jesus informs Judas that he must arrange for Jesus to die. Obviously,

Judas refuses but is convinced when Jesus reminds him of his oath that if Jesus strayed from the path of revolution then Judas would kill him. Judas agrees to help and this action is the rescue from without, because Jesus needs someone to help him do what he cannot do himself. Jesus tells

Judas that he will turn him over to the Romans in the Garden of Gethsemane. Later they have a meal (the last supper) of bread and wine and Jesus tells them that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood. Finally, Jesus goes to the garden and Judas brings the Romans to arrest him.

After Jesus' arrest, the film has most of the typical qualities of a passion play. Jesus is questioned by Pontius Pilate, flogged by the centurions, made to wear a crown of thorns and forced to carry his cross to his place of crucifixion. What is different is that once crucified, time stops as a young girl appears who claims to be Jesus’ guardian angel (Temptation 2:06:35). She helps him down from the cross and leads him away to be married to Mary Magdalene. Jesus lives to an old age with many children, but on his death bed an elderly Judas Iscariot reveals that everything from that moment is a temptation by Satan (the young girl), the temptation of a home, a wife, and a family, which had been shown earlier. Jesus crawls back to the cross where he begs

God to accept him as his son (Temptation 2:36:55). He finds himself back on the cross where he dies ecstatically as he shouts, “It is accomplished” (Temptation 2:38:40)! The screen goes white and there are triumphant bells ringing.


This final sequence shows Jesus crossing the return threshold where he retains the wisdom he acquired on his quest and shares it with the entire world. Jesus has accepted being

God’s son, thereby allowing himself to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for those accepting Jesus as savior. Jesus, of course, will be resurrected and become the master of two worlds—the spiritual and the physical. Jesus is now able to live at his father’s side where he has freedom from the fear of death as he has faced that fear and conquered it by accepting his fate to die for all of mankind. Jesus has fulfilled the hero’s quest, beginning as a mortal man but ultimately becoming divine at the moment of God’s accepting him as his son. Jesus has mastery of both worlds and the freedom to live.

Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas) is a 1925 film based upon the book The Light of Asia (1897) by Edwin Arnold. In black and white with English intertitle cards, the film tells the story of

Prince Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha. The film has Indian actors and was made with the cooperation of the Maharajah of Jaipur who “placed the whole of the resources of his

State for the making of this picture” (Light of Asia 0:42). The film had been thought lost, but a print was found, and it was restored in 2001.

The film is divided into acts and begins with a travelogue of exotic India showing “the

Jamma Masjid in Deli, Benares, Calcutta, Bombay, snake charmers, and scenes with firangi

[foreigner, especially a British or white person] tourists (flapper dresses and cloches! topis!

[stylish hats]) shopping and watching a poor bear dance for them” (Memsaab). The film shows the bias of Western Orientalism as there are plenty of palm trees, elephants and young Hindi girls. Yet, in a short segment, the film has an old wise man tell the very human story of how

Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (Light 7:22).


The wise old man tells the typical story of how King Suddodhana and Queen Maya are the parents of Siddhartha. In this version, however, the queen has not been able to bear an heir and the royal couple’s subjects are concerned. They approach the king and queen, and, in response, the King decides to send out a sacred elephant to select a worthy child from the populace. The elephant returns without a child, although it does grasp a child in its trunk before returning it to his mother. It is soon revealed that Queen Maya is with child. This version of the story emphasizes its human aspect. In Little Buddha, the emphasis was on the prophetic nature of dreams and how a white elephant pierced Queen Maya’s side with its tusk in a dream she had.

The elephant here, while sacred, is neither magical nor divine.

Siddhartha grows up in the palace and has a life of luxury as is usual for this story, until one day he begins to change. This version emphasizes his ideas of compassion by having him go hunting with his “cousin and rival” Devadutta (Memsaab). While hunting with a cheetah to bring down game, Siddhartha realizes the cruelty of hunting other animals when he cradles a dead antelope in his arms. He further must fight for compassion when Devadutta shoots a swan flying overhead causing it to have an injured wing. Siddhartha refuses to allow Devadutta to take the spoils and ultimately makes an appeal to his father, King Suddodhana, who agrees with


Another way in which this version of the Buddha is human is that dreams can give people meaning but they are not prophecies as shown in Little Buddha. In this adaption, the king has a dream about an empty throne beneath a canopy and calls the soothsayers. They analyze the king’s dream and tell him that he should distract Siddhartha from the ugliness of life.

Consequently, the King finds Siddhartha a lovely wife, and keeps him distracted with life in the

37 palace. These actions by the King are the traditional reasons why Siddhartha refuses the call to adventure.

Siddhartha, of course, becomes bored with palace life, pleasurable though it is, and ventures forth with his manservant Channa, who is Siddhartha’s mentor. Once outside he encounters an old man, a sick man, and then a shrouded corpse being brought forth from a house.

Channa informs the prince that death is the fate of “All who live” (Light 1:01:32). Of course, he agonizes over his decision to leave his wife and child. This is shown by him imagining Gopa being old and of people begging. Finally, he wonders if he should choose the way of greatness by being a king, or the way of compassion by wandering the earth alone. The scene is quite agonizing as it is easy to imagine that we all could be in this situation. However, there is no divine portent or sign; he must make the decision alone. His compassion drives him to leave the palace with his servant Channa, thereby crossing the first threshold and additionally, achieving atonement with the father.

Now that he has left the ordinary life behind and entered the archetypal belly of the whale, he must undergo a metamorphosis. He begins by wandering the countryside while his father sends soldiers to find him. Siddhartha gives away his jewelry and wears rags, thus divesting himself of the final reminder of his previous life (Light 1:16:45). There are no miracles as in Little Buddha; he must simply survive on the road of trials. He must evade soldiers on horseback who ride right by him as he is dressed in rags, and search for food, which he finds through the charity of others.

Siddhartha’s father has the power of life and death over Siddhartha. If he wished to he could make Siddhartha return to the palace. His father is, of course, concerned about

Siddhartha’s welfare, but when the soldiers return with the man wearing his son’s jewelry, he

38 says that he will not look for him anymore. “He [the jewelry-wearing man] tells his tale, and the

King now knows that what is to be will be” (Light 1:22:42). When Siddhartha leaves his father’s palace, striking out on his own, he confronts the thing that has ultimate power in his life: his father, the King. 14

Siddhartha lives the life of a beggar, but it is implied that he has been meditating for a long time, sitting under palm trees, until finally, he sits beneath a Bodhi tree to meditate. There are temptations as the life of a beggar is hard, but these are merely desires in his mind. After overcoming these temptations, he understands that life is suffering and that reduction of the self is the path to enlightenment. This epiphanic moment allows him to achieve apotheosis through gaining the special knowledge of the balance between the material and the spiritual.

But, of course, he has to make the choice whether to stay in the spiritual realm or return to the material. In this version, the Buddha easily returns to teach other people about the path to enlightenment through selflessness. He teaches yogis that torturing themselves with “thorns and spits [barbs]” will not bring enlightenment (Light 1:28:13). They are merely adding ills to their lives (Light 1:28:44). There is also a version of the goat story where the Buddha shows great compassion for all living things. In this version the Buddha saves a goat from slaughter by explaining to the butcher that just like he wants mercy (compassion), so does the goat (Light


The Buddha has now returned to the physical world where he will go on to teach all of mankind. He is able to do this because he has become selfless. Having attained the freedom-to- live stage of the journey, he has achieved a balance between material and spiritual. The film

14 Interestingly, the King’s realization that his son’s journey is out of his hands represents his own atonement.

39 shows the Buddha preaching to a large crowd of people, similar to the Sermon on the Mount found in the New Testament. At the end of this particular film, the more human Buddha and his wife are reunited and live happily ever after, in contrast to the divine hero of Little Buddha (and all traditional accounts of Siddhartha’s life). The Buddha was given a “Hollywood ending.”

Regarding creative mythology, the above stories are different than those shown in

Chapter 2. Here, the film-makers have made the divine myths more human and thereby more creative than the divine established myths analyzed in Chapter 2. This creativeness can be mostly seen in the public’s response to Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ. Established myths don’t challenge peoples’ conception of their place in the world and life (especially if they grow up with the myths as true). However, by depicting Jesus as human, Scorsese challenges peoples’ conception of the divine, thereby creating something new.

In conclusion, this chapter has shown that while mortal heroes can bring special knowledge to themselves and the world, the religious tradition determines the cultural-religious mythological underpinnings of the hero’s journey. In the Christian tradition, Jesus, as a mortal hero, shows the path of salvation, while for the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha, here shown as a monk (holy man), shows the path to overcoming suffering. In line with Campbell, Jesus’ journey illustrates the patriarchal aspects of the Western religious tradition—his individuality as a savior is more important than his membership in the community of Man. On the other hand, Buddha achieves enlightenment by following the Eastern matriarchal path that leads to the reduction of the self.




The goal of the hero, as mentioned, is to gain special knowledge and bring that knowledge back to the community. Great heroes gain great knowledge that can change society in dramatic ways. These are the heroes like Jesus or Buddha. As shown in Chapter 2, each had an impact upon their society still seen to this day. “A legendary hero is usually the founder of something—the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life” (Campbell, Power 166-7). Yet, there are ordinary people who follow the heroic path laid before them and learn from the ideas presented by the great heroes of a particular tradition. These are the ordinary people who still go on a heroic journey, and they end up changing themselves even if they don’t change the world. Campbell says, “So even if we happen not to be heroes in the grand sense of redeeming society, we still have to take that journey inside ourselves, spiritually and psychologically” (Power 152). This chapter analyzes two films that show how ordinary people can undergo their own heroic journey and gain that special knowledge that changes their lives for the better. The first film to be analyzed according to the hero’s journey is Leap of Faith, which uses the Christian tradition, while the second is

Enlightenment Guaranteed, which has the Buddhist tradition as its focus.

Leap of Faith is a comedy-drama which tells the story of Jonas Nightengale, a faith healer without any faith. Directed by Richard Pearce, this 1992 film stars Steve Martin as Jonas

Nightengale and Debra Winger as his partner in crime, Jane. “Jonas,” a play on the name Jonah

(in Hebrew, “dove”) from the Bible, means blessed by God, while “Nightengale” is a variation of


“Nightingale,” a bird known for its melodious song, as well as being the symbol of yearning, love and death. Interestingly, there is no discussion of his assumed name during the film. It is as if he doesn’t realize the meaning of his name even, but it does foreshadow the ending of the film.

Jonas says he puts on a really big show, with a lot of cynicism. “Look, I run a show here.

It's a lot of smoke and noise and it's strictly for the suckers” (Leap 1:34:00). It is revealed later that he was abandoned as a child by his mother, and as a result he has been pulling cons since he was 15 years old. He believes that the world is divided into suckers and people like him who take advantage of them. On the outside, he is a cynic and thinks he will never be abandoned or taken advantage of again. But, as with many cynics, he secretly wants to believe in something more than himself and money.

We meet our reluctant hero in the real world or, as Campbell would call it, the “World of

Common Day.” He is just going about his life as he knows it, traveling from somewhere to

Topeka, Kansas. The film is shot in a realistic style15 and is meant to be a slice of life, as it could be taking place anywhere or any time. The audience is not supposed to notice the style of the shots or the lighting as this is not a formalistic film, but rather a realistic one. This is demonstrated in the first shot of the film. It opens with the shot of a convoy of buses and trucks approaching from over a small rise, looking typical with dust, and haze shown in the shot. There is no majesty or flash to this shot. This is just another day.

15 Realism and formalism are two competing styles. Although there is debate as to the specific nature of each, realism attempts to show the world as it really is. In effect, the camera is invisible. It is a mere recording device. This is opposed to formalism where style and artistry are more important than reality. The artistry shows a subjective or inner truth as opposed to how the world actually is on the surface. See Louis Giannetti, Understanding Movies 13th Ed., 2-8, and 344-9 for additional information.


The lead bus is speeding and is signaled to pull over by a patrolman. The bus driver shouldn’t be driving because he has a drunken driving citation which he never resolved. Jonas takes the bus driver’s place by pretending that he was driving the bus. We find out who Jonas

Nightengale thinks he really is and we, the audience, see his ability to con and manipulate people.

At first, he just attempts to bribe the patrolman by having money hang out of his wallet.

The patrolman is not having any of Jonas’ shenanigans; he is all business and Jonas ends up in the patrol car under arrest with handcuffs attached while the patrolman reads him his rights from a card.

Next Jonas’ does a cold call.16 He takes a chance by noticing that there is an indent on the patrolman’s chin and that he must play the violin. Additionally, there is an old photo of the patrolman’s daughter on the dashboard, and Jonas reads correctly that the daughter is estranged from her father. Jonas lays it all on by telling the patrolman that he drove his daughter away instead of accepting her. The patrolman buys what Jonas is selling and in a remarkable change of events, not only is Jonas uncuffed, but he is not given a ticket and gets a donation to boot. The patrolman also leaves the convoy feeling satisfied because he has used the phone on the bus to contact his daughter and will be meeting her this weekend. All of this happened because Jonas has been able to “read” and manipulate people.

As we have seen in our previous films, we are introduced to the world of the characters in the opening scenes. We find that we can relate to Jonas, or at least are intrigued by him. Here is a

16 A cold call occurs when a con man uses his ability to manipulate someone for the con man’s benefit. Typically, the con man benefits, but it is possible for the mark to benefit also as shown in the first encounter with the sheriff.

43 man who masquerades as a preacher and cons people out of money. Additionally, these characters and their world are the real world. There is nothing fantastic here. Instead, they are typical, average people making a living by putting on a show where they sell religion.

In the previous chapters, the films analyzed have shown the divine and the heroic man’s version of the heroic journey. Here we have a group of average people just doing their jobs.

Perhaps their jobs are somewhat manipulative, but Jonas and his followers are human beings who are simply living their lives. It is still possible, however, that there will be a call to adventure and special knowledge will be gained in this version of the real world.

The call to adventure begins soon after the patrolman leaves, and they continue down the interstate. Smoke starts pouring out of one of the truck’s smoke stacks. They leave the freeway at the first exit. The next scene shows them standing outside a repair shop. A part is needed, and it will take a week to get the truck fixed. They were on their way to Topeka, but now they won’t make it. Instead, adventure beckons if they are willing to embrace it. His compatriots are reluctant to stay here, but Jonas eagerly embraces the adventure because he thinks he is in charge. There is no challenge he is not willing to meet.

Although this breakdown is clearly a call to adventure as they are in an unfamiliar place with things they cannot control, Jonas doesn’t see it that way. He is the master of his fate, or so he thinks. Since Jonas has made the decision that they will “play here,” there is a well shot sequence where the hard work of setting up the tent is shown. This is symbolic of crossing the threshold as they commit to the “adventure.”

Now that the hero has crossed the threshold into the “special” world, he must learn the rules of this world. The hero must make friends and allies and deal with enemies (Road of


Trials). His allies are obvious; they are his companions, Jane, and the other members of his troupe. They will help him deal with the enemies of this place.

In the context of this special world, enemies are there to teach the hero lessons. The first is the sheriff of the town named Will Braverman, played by Liam Neeson. The sheriff knows what Jonas is about, and he aims to drive Jonas away by using the law. Braverman tells Jonas about the high unemployment rate and later sends out inspectors to the circus tent where Jonas and his troupe will perform their act. Braverman hopes the harassment will cause Jonas to leave.

Jonas, of course, as a seasoned con man, knows how to play the game since he thinks he has all the holes covered and this town is just another show, another con.

The second enemy is the waitress Marva at the local diner. Jonas meets her when he and his troupe arrive in town and go to the diner to have lunch. She is immediately hostile, but even so, Jonas sees her as another mark to be wooed. He gives her his standard act by showing her his jacket which says “Jonas Nightengale—Wonders and Miracles.” She is not impressed, and we are told why. Her younger brother Boyd has been in a wheelchair since a drunk driver killed their parents and has not walked since without crutches or a wheelchair. There is no known medical reason, but he cannot walk. Marva had a preacher (i.e., faith healer) parade him on stage in front of the congregation. When he failed to make Boyd walk, the preacher told them both that it was

Boyd’s fault because his faith was not strong enough. Marva has been soured ever since then about preachers and their slick ways.

As a con man, Jonas is obviously concerned with the money. The goal of his show is to make people think that they have experienced a miracle and are thus willing to part with their money. He is shown using a variety of cons such as giving back more money than collected when questioned about his being a huckster. Another con occurs when he paints the eyes of the


Jesus statue to be open. He then proclaims a miracle, a statement which makes more and more people come to the show. These are desperate people who are down on their luck and are about to literally lose their farms or their houses. Then the true miracle happens. During a show with other staged miracles and advice, Boyd comes rolling up to the stage in his wheelchair. He asks for a miracle. The crowd is chanting “One more, one more . . .” and Jonas declares that if there are any doubters in the audience, all the while looking at the sheriff who is a known skeptic, then the miracle won’t happen (1:24:14). But, lo and behold, the miracle does happen; the boy walks.

In this climactic moment in the tent Jonas thinks he has been conned. He is furious with

God and yells at the statue of Jesus asking why did God give him the gift of smooth talking and also create all the suckers in the world. This scene echoes the situation of the biblical Jonah.

“Jonas” is one who is blessed by God, in this case, with a sweet song (e.g., Nightengale), but how is he supposed to use that sweet song? This “debate” continues until Nightengale notices

Boyd sitting alone in the chairs in front of the stage.

Boyd asks to leave with Jonas to pay off his debt, thereby proving that there are good people in the world who show appreciation. Jonas leaves the tent and sees the world in a different way. He sees thousands of people as far as the eye can see camped out around the big top tent. Throughout the movie Jonas has been one to think he is the master of his fate. As he says frequently, “I know people” (Leap 5:10). He knows people are suckers and he is not a sucker. But now, he realizes that there is more to life than money and not being a sucker. Instead, he realizes that what he has been doing is wrong. The audience next see him leaving the motel room with his sparkling showman’s jacket and an envelope left on the bed. The empty jacket laid on out the motel bed is reminiscent of the moment when Jesus’ empty burial shroud is found inside the tomb after he has died and been reborn. There is even the ring left for Jane in the

46 envelope which Jonas had said she could have when he was dead. Jonas Nightengale has died and is symbolically reborn since he has left his old life behind.

Jonas is next seen hitching a ride with a trucker. As he gets in the cab, the trucker asks if

Jonas is in trouble. Jonas replies that no he is not, not for the first time in his life (Leap 1:40:45).

As the truck pulls away, it starts to rain. The townspeople are rescued as they needed rain to save their crops.

The rain confirms the transformation Jonas has undergone. He has experienced a change of heart and embraced Christianity. The last we see of Jonas is his leaning out of the window, yelling “Come on Baby! Come on, baby, rain! Rain! Thank ya, Jesus!” (Leap 1:43:50). The film ends here and we are left to assume that since Jonas is a seemingly changed man, his change of heart will lead to a change of life. He has gained the special elixir of self-knowledge, and he has already abandoned his scheming manipulative life and started the literal journey of leaving his old life behind. It would therefore be reasonable to conclude that once he leaves his old life behind, he will become a better person who uses his powers of persuasion for good instead of his own benefit. We could say that Jonas’ journey ends with his being the master of two worlds.

First shown in 2000, Erleuchtung Garantiert (Enlightenment Guaranteed) is a German language film directed by Doris Dorrie, a well-known German director who has directed films since the 1980s. Her most famous is film is Männer . . . (Men . . . ) [ellipses are part of the title], a comedy about a love triangle between two men who love one woman. Enlightenment

Guaranteed is her second most famous film and is sometimes viewed as a sequel to Men . . . .

Enlightenment Guaranteed is a comedy-drama which tells the story two brothers, Uwe and Gustav, who go to Japan to seek enlightenment at a Zen monastery. Along the way they

47 inadvertently follow the hero’s journey. The film is told in a realistic intimate style, although it has some formalistic aspects by using a handheld personal camera.

We meet the Uwe and Gustav in the opening scenes of the film. Each brother is firmly set in the real world of typical normal concerns (World of Common Day). Uwe is a real estate agent who rents properties to people, while Gustav is a Zen Buddhist enthusiast who makes his living helping people live their lives harmoniously according to Feng Shui.

We meet Uwe as he is being inconsiderate to his wife Petra. Together they have three young children along with an infant who has kept Petra up most of the night. Uwe is busy goading the children to play instead of helping his wife feed them all, while he films his family with his handheld video camera. The camera is symbolic of his non-participation in their joint endeavor of raising the children. As she is cleaning up a mess on the floor and Uwe films it, the audience can see the look of frustration on her face. She has had enough. So, while he is at work,

Petra packs up the kids and leaves Uwe so that he comes home to an empty house. He is distraught, but blames her and doesn’t accept any responsibility.

We meet Gustav in his apartment as he tries to meditate. He is sitting on his cushion, and he has a water fountain to help him meditate. Unfortunately, the fountain is overflowing and his wife is forced to clean up the water while Gustav just sits there. Her facial expression shows that she is a little disgruntled. Soon, Gustav is off to his job of helping people find harmony in their surroundings by using Feng Shui, which is a quasi-mystical way of thinking that invisible forces need to be taken into account. Gustav’s first client is a middle aged homosexual male who wants to make his apartment accommodating to the boyfriend who has recently left him. Gustav is shaken up a little by the mention of the apartment renter’s boyfriend, but he does his best. This scene will play an important role later in the film.


When Uwe comes home from attempting to sell a condo to a couple, he finds a note that tells him his wife has left him and that he should not look for them. He ends up sitting on the couch of Gustav’s apartment drinking and smoking, bemoaning his horrible fate. He feels very sorry for himself. “We had good times . . . I don’t know what to do . . . I am going to kill myself”

(Enlightenment 16:25) [ellipses are in the English language captions]. Gustav’s wife convinces him to take his brother Uwe to Japan in order to have him not bother her when Gustav is away.

The deal is set. Both brothers will travel to Japan together. The adventure begins.

Both brothers are firmly grounded in the real world (a realistic narrative) with each having his own life to live and his own problems. The real-world nature of the film is highlighted by the cinematography. Using a high-end handheld camcorder (Sony DCR-TRV900) as the main camera provides an intimate real world coloring to the film. Alternately, the brothers separately use Uwe’s handheld camera to show their point of view as well as record themselves. For example, Uwe uses the camera to take video of both himself and others. This technique causes the point of view to change from third person, when the director is filming them, to first person when they are filming each other. The camera also acts as a framing device to highlight the personal nature of the film and invite the audience to relate to the characters.

The call to adventure is their decision to journey to Japan. Gustav finds his brother annoying and at first does not want to take him, while Uwe feels so distraught that he does not want to go. This hesitation also shows us a type of refusal of the call. Fortunately, they decide to travel to Japan with each acting as mentor to the other. This mentoring role plays an important part in their own special knowledge later in the film. The plane flight to Japan represents crossing the threshold. The brothers don’t realize that the trip will profoundly change them.


After getting to Tokyo, a place which will come to represent their death and rebirth, the brothers do what any good tourist would do. They leave their hotel and engage in some night life. As is typical of the monomyth, they essentially enter the road of trials where they must overcome tests, make friends, and defeat enemies. The tests include: drinking in an expensive hotel bar, getting lost due to their landmark being turned off,17 betrayal by Gustav’s wife during a phone call, a cab ride to a strange part of town, and spending all of their money. In undergoing these tests, there are three things of importance. The first is that Gustav’s wife is having an affair; this will be important later on. Second, the brothers are reduced to stealing to get by.

Finally, and most importantly, after losing everything but each other, they lose one another in a crowd and are separated (Enlightenment 44:45).

All of these tests conclude with each brother finding out important information in the

Buddhist tradition. After they become desperate, they both enter a department store and steal a large tent. Then while walking across the street they are separated. At this point, they have lost everything, resulting in an annihilation of the self. They have experienced the death stage in the hero’s journey. While separated, each brother learns something about himself. Uwe realizes that he needs his brother Gustav. He says, “I feel as if I am on a strange planet. This is how I feel.

Everything’s spinning. Wrapped in cotton” (Enlightenment 45:28). He ends up in an empty lot alone, with his last cigarette, wishing to go home.

Gustav, after losing his brother, is desperate and steals food. After doing so, he reads from the basic book of Buddhist teachings they have referred to ever since they arrived in Japan.

17 Their landmark is an electronic sign which is turned off late at night. They, therefore, cannot find their hotel, which has all their tickets and travel information in their room.


The book says one should not steal. One should take care of oneself so as not to be put in the position of stealing. “Desperation is bad. It robs you of your dignity” (Enlightenment 46:49).

Gustav finally resorts to begging by singing on a railway platform. While singing in

German he is approached by a German woman, Anica, who lives in Japan with her Japanese boyfriend. She is a mentor and tells him her dream of meeting a famous opera singer who lives in Japan. He tells her his story as they ride the elevated train. As they travel, he sees their tent lit up in the empty lot. He is reunited with his brother and Anica gives them help by letting them sleep in her apartment. Since they have lost all their money, she gets them jobs at the German restaurant where she works. She has become a mentor to them so the brothers follow the path she has set before them. With her assistance, they are able to earn enough money to allow them to continue their journey to the monastery.

In order to travel to Monzen they need to take five transfers on both railways and buses, which itself is another trial. During this journey, they read and discuss more sayings from the book of basic Buddhism.18 They attain the knowledge that will allow them to overcome additional obstacles later. Finally, the brothers reach the monastery where they will attempt to attain enlightenment.

The two brothers are shown approaching the monastery. Here, as is typical of this type of quest, the two brothers are sucked into the “cave” where they must overcome more trials. In this dramatic scene, they learn how to bow to the shrine at the entrance and finally are led to their

18 They include: “We must see through the illusion that there is a separate self. We practice to remove this divide. Not until we and the object become one do we truly see our lives” (Enlightenment 57:55). “You don’t reach enlightenment. It is the absence of something. You’re after something your entire life, some goal. Enlightenment is giving it up” (59:00).

51 rooms, all while the monk helping them is communicating without speaking. When they reach their rooms, they must sleep on the floor with no cushions.

The ordeal continues with the brothers being woken up at 4:30 a.m. They must adapt to the of the monastery, including silence. They partake of the drumming, meditation, and eating all the while not knowing what is happening. It is clearly both wonderful and difficult as each brother adapts in his own way. Uwe overcomes the physical challenges easily, as he has always done since he was a child. Gustav, on the other hand, has a very difficult time doing the physical activities. The old behaviors and way of interacting with each other rise to the surface.

Uwe’s video camera makes another appearance. He says, “He [Gustav] was always like that.

Everything always had to be just so. Don’t do anything wrong. Scared to death of that”

(Enlightenment 1:20:50). This framing device allows the audience to relate to Gustav’s frustration on a personal level.

Finally, after engaging in days of ritual cleaning and sweeping, along with meditation, the brothers each get an audience with the head abbot. There, each gets to talk about his individual problems. Uwe tells the abbot that his wife has left him and that he hates her for that. The abbot tells Uwe what to do, which Uwe later explains to the audience by using his video camera as a framing device. He says to the camera, “If you want to hate, then really hate. Don’t eat. Don’t sleep. Hate, hate, hate. The hate will go away by itself. I’d see that hate won’t get me anywhere”

(Enlightenment 1:27:50).

Gustav tells of his fear of mistakes, and the abbot replies that mistakes are a fact of life.

This insight causes Gustav to realize that the abbot would care for him no matter what. The inner self is what matters, not this outer shell. These discussions with the abbot each give the brothers special knowledge, and they each undergo a change of self. They have attained their apotheosis.


The crossing of threshold and the return for the two brothers is shown when they walk away from the monastery into the town of Edo. They look back but continue into the outside world. There, they go to a sauna where they have a hot soak (ritual cleansing) as opposed to the cold water baths at the monastery. They also get some food at a counter in town. They confirm their knowledge by employing the eating style of the monastery. As they travel on the train away from Edo, Gustav reveals to Uwe his special knowledge that he is gay (Enlightenment 1:40:07).

Uwe is taken aback. This is a surprise since Gustav is married, but Uwe accepts his brother. This knowledge had been foreshadowed earlier in the film by Gustav’s reaction to his Feng Shui client and his meditation when he was thinking about the client. This sexual also explains his wife’s affair; his being gay deprives her of the emotional intimacy she obviously desires.

The last scene of the film shows them in their lighted tent, which is erected in the corner of an empty lot, reading the introductory Buddhist text and comparing what they are doing with what the monks would be doing in the monastery. This scene shows a blending of spiritual and material. They have acquired enough knowledge that they can be considered masters of two worlds; the internal world of their thoughts and feelings, as well as the external world things and objects. They will use this knowledge when they return home. Gustav will divorce his wife so that she can get the intimacy she deserves, while Uwe will accept what happens with his wife, whether they divorce or not.

Both Leap of Faith and Enlightenment Guaranteed show that the hero’s journey is applicable to the traditions of Christianity and Buddhism. Both films showcase the hero’s journey from each perspective, and each shows that the knowledge gained depends upon the tradition the hero is in, whether he is a common man, a hero, or a deity. As a final point, the


Christian tradition relies upon the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus and miracles, while the Buddhist tradition relies upon the idea of suffering and knowledge of the self.

Regarding creative mythology, with the hero an ordinary man, this level of storytelling has the potential for extreme creativity. By the film-makers applying the divine myth to ordinary people, the person watching the film can experience the adventure together with the protagonist of the film. This displacement allows the viewer to undergo a possible transformation because of story becomes a “living myth” (Masks: Creative 4) to the viewer.

A final question needs to be considered: is it possible to reconcile these two disparate traditions? This question will be considered in Chapter 5, to which we now turn.




The hero’s journey of Christianity and Buddhism has been shown to encompass three different types journeys: the deity, the heroic man, and the ordinary man. As shown, Christianity emphasizes salvation with an individual having a personal relationship with God, while

Buddhism emphasizes the minimization or elimination of the self. It seems that these are two incompatible mythologies. But two questions remain. First, are the mythologies of Christianity and Buddhism relevant in this day and age? Second, if they are relevant, is it possible to combine the two mythologies? 19

In response to the first question, Joseph Campbell proposed an end to these traditional mythologies in the final chapter of The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. He writes,

For even in the sphere of Waking Consciousness, the fixed and the set fast, there is

nothing now that endures. The known myths cannot endure. The known God cannot

endure. Whereas formerly, for generations, life held to established norms that the lifetime

of a deity could be in millenniums, today all norms are in flux . . . And to this end the

guiding myths can no longer be of any ethnic norms. No sooner learned, these are

outdated, out of place, washed away. Or rather, the mythogenetic zone is the individual

heart. Individualism and spontaneous pluralism . . . are in the modern world the only

honest possibilities: each the creative center of authority for himself . . . The norms of

myth, understood . . . though an intelligent “making use” not of one mythology only but

19 A religious studies analysis of uniting Buddhism and Christianity can be found in Amos Yong, On Doing Theology and Buddhology: A Spectrum of Christian Proposals.


of all of the dead and set-fast symbologies of the past, will enable the individual to

anticipate and activate in himself the centers of his own creative imagination. (Masks:

Creative 677)

Campbell claims that the traditional myths of society have been killed by modern life. But there is hope. Some people can develop new mythologies:

In what I am calling “creative” mythology, on the other hand, this order is reversed: the

individual has had an experience of his own—of order, horror, beauty, or even mere

exhilaration—which he seeks to communicate through signs; and if his realization has

been of a certain depth and import, his communication will have the value and force of

living myth—for those, that is to say, who receive and respond to it of themselves with

recognition, uncoerced. (Mask: Creative 4)

The sheer vastness of information available to everyone alive means traditional mythologies are dead because they are static and limited as all norms are in flux. Instead, the individual himself must use a spontaneous pluralism to create new mythologies and convey that discovery through the arts. This brings us to the final consideration of this thesis as to whether it is possible to reconcile two such disparate mythologies.

Campbell argues that there are four modern artists, as he calls them, who are the modern heroes: from the late Middle Ages, Gottfried von Strassburg and Wolfram von Eschenbach, and from the twentieth century, and . But Campbell is most concerned with two recent authors. “Perhaps the artist is the best prototypes of the modern hero. James

Joyce, or Thomas Mann, for instance, have created a new mythology” (Keen 77). Campbell waxes poetic in his discussion of Mann’s and Joyce’s books.


[In their later books] Both novelists dropped completely into the well and seas of myth,

so that, whereas in earlier great novels the mythological themes had resounded as

memories and echoes, here mythology itself became the text, rendering visions of the

mystery of life as different from each other . . . yet, for all that, of essentially the same

stuff. (Masks: Creative 39)

This, is, of course, the main point. It is possible that every person could create his or her own mythology; however, most people still follow the old traditions. “The traditional myths—

Christian and otherwise—still offer support for large numbers of people in our society” (Keen

78). These artists, therefore, are capable of creating new myths, and while Campbell lists only four writers as artists, it does seem possible that other types of artists can be creators of new myths too.

It can be argued that the master director Martin Scorsese, whom we studied in Chapter 3 with The Last Temptation of Christ, is one such artist, an auteur as defined in film studies.

Scorsese attempts to reconcile the two disparate mythologies with his film Silence (2016). The film tells of the story of two seventeenth-century Jesuit priests, Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew

Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) who travel from Portugal to Japan to find their missing teacher and mentor Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

Silence has a call to adventure when Rodrigues and Garupe learn via letter from a Dutch

Trader that their mentor Ferreira apostatized a few years earlier. Rodrigues and Garupe are adamant that they venture to Japan to find out the truth. They achieve help traveling to Japan via the assistance of an alcoholic fisherman named Kichijiro, who plays a reoccurring role of gadfly whose external alcoholism shows the inner conflict of balancing his Christian beliefs with the

Buddhist beliefs of Japan.


All three people literally cross the threshold to adventure as they must cross the sea where they finally arrive in Japan and wait in a cave (another version of the belly of the whale) all the while not knowing if Kichijiro will betray them. But Japanese Christians greet them, and

Rodrigues and Garupe spend several weeks ministering to the Christians.

The road of trials is filled with horrible tests such as: finding whole villages with no people, being forced to step on a fumi-e (Christian icon) and spit on a cross, and finally seeing the torture of the Japanese faithful while the priests watch, all the while wondering if they are doing the right thing by being in Japan. Sprinkled between these horrible trials, Rodrigues questions his faith and learns about the nature of Buddhism, something he didn’t really understand. This education foreshadows his eventual combining of the two religions. (This is his ultimate knowledge.) The character named the Interpreter says, “To help others is the way of the

Buddha and your way, too. The two religions are the same in this. It is not necessary to win one over to one side or another when there is so much to share” (Silence 2:04:40). Eventually,

Rodrigues is captured and imprisoned with Japanese Christians. Before being reunited with

Ferreira, Rodrigues is forced to watch Japanese Christians and his fellow Jesuit Garupe be drowned rather than renounce their faith.

Atonement with the father happens when Rodrigues is taken to meet with an older

Ferreira who has apostatized after being tortured and converted to become a Buddhist priest. He has adopted a Japanese name and married a widow. Ferreira explains to Rodrigues that

Christianity cannot take root in Japan because the Japanese do not understand the concept of a god external to themselves and nature. They don’t understand the basic idea of a spiritual being such as Jesus. The sun in the sky is the son of god to them. Any Christianity they practice would

58 not be a true Christianity but a syncretism. Japan is a swamp where the roots of Christianity won’t take hold (Silence 2:07:05).

Later that evening while he hears Japanese Christians being tortured around him so that he will apostatize, Rodrigues attains apotheosis. He hears an inner voice of Christ giving him permission to step on a fumi-e which he does. “Come ahead, now. It is all right. Step on me”

(Silence 2:17:25). This act represents his understanding that external actions don’t necessarily represent internal thought. Rodrigues’ mentor Kichijiro taught him this idea earlier when he stepped on a fumi-e, yet stilled claimed he was a Christian. While other Christians make external shows of faith, their internal faith is weak. It is later revealed through Ferreira’s speech that he too has an inner faith and thereby has merged the physical nature of Buddhism with the spiritual nature of Christianity, but outwardly he observes the mythology of Buddhism.20

The ultimate boon for Rodrigues is revealed by showing that, even in the passing years with no outer sign of being a Christian, an inner voice reveals that Christ’s voice has not been silent inside him. Rodrigues thinks, “Lord, I fought against your silence.” And Christ replies “I suffered beside you. I was never silent” (Silence 2:27:15). Rodrigues also says that even when

God was silent, he heard God’s voice in the silence. “It was in the silence that I hear Your voice”

(Silence 2:28:10). This drives home the special knowledge which Rodrigues attains. He understands both religions, an awareness that allows him to live with both mythologies. He has attained internal knowledge of Christianity, and also attained external knowledge of Buddhism.

20 Caesar A. Montevecchio in his film review of Silence argues that Ferreira and Rodrigues are only pretending to be Buddhists. Campbell would disagree and argue for the unification of the two mythologies.


Rodrigues is a Jesuit Catholic priest and while the Catholic church claims to be a spiritual body, it is obvious that Rodrigues and Garupe both follow the teachings of the church as a physical entity. We see this by their external shows of faith. Earlier in the film, Garupe dies by drowning rather than give up his physical manifestation of his faith. He cannot separate the external from the internal. Rodrigues, however, realizes that the physical manifestation of his faith is not as important as the internal manifestation of faith that allows him to publicly renounce his faith, but still retain an inner faith. This renunciation also allows him to unify the two different mythologies. He has merged both the natural aspects of Buddhism21 and the spiritual aspects of Christianity.22

The movie ends with Rodrigues being cremated as per Buddhist tradition but holding in his hand the crudely made crucifix given to him years before (Silence 2:33:45). This scene shows that while he has managed to be both a Buddhist and a Christian, he has in effect managed to be a pluralist regarding those two mythologies. He has retained the inner spiritual aspects of

Christianity while leaving the physical trappings of the Church behind. In their place he has adopted the outward manifestations of Buddhism. By practicing the reduction of the self,

Rodrigues has been able to combine both the Christian and Buddhist traditions within himself.

Along with the other great modern filmmakers of this study, Scorsese practices

Campbell’s creative mythology. In Silence, he puts forth a new hero whose journey takes him to a new place, following a new path invented by himself, creating a new mythology that gives his life meaning.

21 Buddhism unifies spirituality in nature. See page 9 for more details. 22 This unification could be considered a displaced master of two worlds. The original concept means the spiritual and the physical. Here, Rodrigues has two different mythologies which he has mastered; hence it is displaced rather than typical.




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