What Is a Spiritual Hero’s Journey?

The personality enneagram is a great tool for understanding yourself and others. To me it’s not so much about identifying with certain labels or numbers as it is about the process of diversification in human form. That process is also reflected in our spiritual journey, where each of us is the hero in our own play. What is a spiritual hero’s journey?

What is a spiritual hero’s journey?

Recently, I came across the work of Trent Thornley, who has taken the personality enneagram to another level. As a long-time student of the enneagram, I found his short videos about the Process Enneagram and Hero’s Journey Enneagram both educational and inspiring. Why?

What do you get when you cross the Enneagram (below, left) with the Hero’s Journey (middle)?

You get the Hero’s Journey Enneagram (above, right), which describes the process the hero goes through on the journey that represents a cycle through the nine enneatypes (below).

Now you might say that seems pretty arbitrary. Is it that simple? Does it really work? Yes, as described by Thornton and others using the so-called “process enneagram” with 9 steps:

  1. Beginning of the call to adventure. At first, the hero may refuse the call because of fears, duties or resistance to reality. But if the hero refuses, he will suffer, so he strives to do right thing with intentions, aspirations, and inspiration for the journey ahead.
  2. Resources (magical gift, object, wisdom) or mentoring by a master of the outer world will encourage the hero, who may get help from some friends or sidekicks as well.
  3. Crossing the threshold is where the hero emerges to face a series of outer shocks in a maze of tests, challenges, and temptations that lead to finding some friends and enemies, while he adapts, harmonizes or has some setbacks (e.g. identity crisis) along the way.
  4. Deepening inner journey, where the hero (alone) confronts his disowned shadows, and discovers subtle energies, while preparing for the leap into the unknown (abyss).
    • Transition (Nadir), where the hero enters the abyss that may represent a dangerous physical test (e.g. illness, accident) or a spiritual crisis point (e.g. dark night of the soul). The hero goes through a death and rebirth process and is forever transformed.
  5. Understanding, insight, revelation or new knowledge gives the hero a reward (e.g. secret, special power, treasure, romantic partner), so he refuses to go back home even though he may be isolated, cut off from others, and detached from his body and heart at this point.
  6. Suffering or friction on the road back, where the hero may be chased, but gets rescued by an external figure (e.g. lost friend, authority figure). The challenge is to develop courage and surrender to a higher power, to let go of his treasure, and move on to awakening.
  7. Maturity, where the hero is learning to stop self-indulgence, distractions, and escapism, to develop more discernment and less resistance, and become transfigured or purified to start a fresh, new life with joy, spontaneity, and readiness to give to others.
  8. Return home, where the self-actualized hero has mastery of the known and unknown worlds. He embodies the boon/treasure, impacts others, and has wisdom to share with a new generation of heroes that he mentors and empowers with a tender heart, not by force.
  9. Assimilation (integration) of all the experiences the hero has gained, who then settles into ordinary everyday life (stasis). He may remain oblivious or asleep to his deepest calling until he gets shocked and initiated to enter a new adventure or cycle.

Thus, the enneagram becomes the Path with 9 specific points that we ALL have to go through.

Our primary enneatype may represent our expertise (“soul gift”) in one stage of the journey that we came to share with others OR a stage where we became stuck in other lives, so we’re here to become “unstuck” and resolve it now.

Does this relate to our Life’s Work or Soul Purpose?

Oh, yes! My research into the nine enneatypes and the I Ching Gates (“soul blueprints“) most commonly used by each enneatype for their Life’s Work (LW or what we are here to DO) and Soul Purpose (SP or what we are here to BE) are briefly summarized below:

Note: These findings are based on statistical analysis of 1341 subjects (their birth charts to do contingency analysis of their enneatypes vs. LW or SP using JMP SAS program). Below is the key to the 64 Gates and their path of growth that moves up the frequencies from the shadow level to the gift and divine gift (siddhi) levels, as described by Richard Rudd (“Gene Keys”).

What does this mean?

This work validates not only the enneagram, but the hero’s journey and the modern I Ching system, since all three systems correlate with each other in a very meaningful way.

  • The good news is we’re no longer “blind” to our Life’s Work or Soul Purpose as incarnate human beings. We can find out what we came here to do or to develop, and what state of being we carry to everything we do.
  • We can work on ourselves using the Process Enneagram or the Hero’s Journey Enneagram as a guide, as we move from ego to soul activation and continue to “purify” ourselves.

For example, it’s probably no accident that Gate 51 called “Shock” (Arousing, Awakening) is commonly seen as enneatype Nine’s Life’s Work. It is meant to shock the Nine into “right action” or to arouse them out of ordinary life and initiate them into Awakening. Here are some other highlights:

  • Enneatype Nines often carry Gate 7 (Direction, Guidance) and its programming partner Gate 13 (Discernment, The Listener, Empathy) as their Life’s Work and Soul Purpose, which makes sense for Type Nines, who can be empathic listeners, guides, or leaders.
  • Type Ones have a specific set of gates for their Life’s Work, including Gate 57 (Intuition), Gate 34 (Strength, Empowerment), Gate 41 (Imagination, Evaluating Potentials), Gate 53 (New Beginnings), Gate 18 (Judgment-Integrity-Perfection), and Gate 8 (Agent, Support, Contribution). They also have Gate 61 (Inspiration, Inner Truth, Universal Principles) as their Life’s Work and Soul Purpose as a commonly used inspirational gate.
  • Type Two has Gate 52 (Stress, Being Stuck or Restless evolving to Restraint and Keeping Still) as a common Life’s Work. Twos have Gate 8 (Agent, Support, Contribution) for Soul Purpose that fits their helper role. Twos and Threes seem to choose a wide variety of gates, so fewer gates stand out.
  • Type Three most commonly has Gate 12 (Vanity-Discrimination-Purity) and Gate 18 (Judgment-Integrity-Perfection) as their Life’s Work. Their most common Soul Purpose gate is Gate 58 (Dissatisfaction-Vitality-Joy or Bliss).
  • Type Four has Gate 1 (Creative self-expression) and Gate 2 (Inner guidance, Self-direction), which align with the artist or individualist archetype as their Life’s Work, as does Gate 28 (Transitoriness of Power and Influence, Struggle, Purposelessness).
  • Type Five has Gate 13 (The Listener, Hearing Other’s Secrets) and Gate 38 (Struggle, Opposition, Fighting for Personal Freedom) as their most common Life’s Work.
  • Type Six has Gate 38 (Struggle-Perseverance-Honor) and Gate 9 (Inertia-Determination-Invincibility) as their Life’s Work with Gate 21 (Control-Authority-Valor) as one of their Soul Purpose gates. It’s no wonder the Six is the stubborn warrior or fighter archetype.
  • Type Seven has Gate 60 (Limitation, Self-restraint, Self-indulgence) and Gate 3 (Order or Chaos, Innovation, Implementing the New) as their Life’s Work, which are about mutation into new forms. Gate 56 (Distraction, Over-stimulated Storyteller or Wanderer, Seeker) is a common Soul Purpose for type Sevens, which also makes sense.
  • Type Eight has Gate 47 (Oppression-Transmutation-Transfiguration) as their most common Life’s Work gate, which suggests that the transfiguration step may occur at this point. Their Soul Purpose includes Gate 34 (Force, Power, Strength, Majesty of Physicality) and Gate 26 (Pride, Egoist, Fortitude, Taming Power of the Great).

There are a lot more insights built-in to the above figure, because of enneatype wings and points of disintegration (stress) and integration (growth), but I’ll spare you the details! 😉

Final Thoughts

This work extends my earlier observations in other posts (see How To Know Thyself? – Big Picture Questions.com & Do Enneatypes Reflect Soul Blueprints? – Big Picture Questions.com). The point of it all is to help you understand why and how our souls choose different ways to learn about Love, Wisdom and Power, the three spiritual forces we are here to master.

It also explains why we usually go through more than one “dark night of the soul” phase in life. It’s part of the spiritual path, part of every cycle that we go through. We can only hope that the process will get easier and faster, as we learn from our life experiences.

Finally, it is very gratifying to me as a spiritual scientist to see that there is Divine Order here. The gates chosen for a lifetime are not random at all. They help us create the specific setting we need to develop a certain part of ourselves, that goes along with the qualities of our parents, siblings, and the environment we are born into. That makes sense.

We know that the I Ching (Book of Changes) has been around for thousands of years. More recently, the Hero’s journey – Wikipedia was popularized by Joseph Campbell and other scholars, who described the narratives of Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and many cultural myths in terms of the “monomyth.” As Phil Cousineau wrote:

“The monomyth is in effect a metamyth, a philosophical reading of the unity of mankind’s spiritual history, the Story behind the story.”

My research gets us a bit closer to that understanding, as we realize that certain enneatypes correlate with certain points in the hero’s journey. Of course, souls may pick whatever traits or conditions they want, but I’m pretty sure their guides and helpers make suggestions based on their experience from thousands of comparable incarnations that were deemed more or less “efficient” from an evolutionary point of view. That explains the patterns we see.

What does this mean for you? Well, your soul blueprint is unique to your soul, place and time, but suggests what you came here to do, share, develop or express in the vast spectrum of consciousness that we experience in human form within the physical universe. That is just part of our existence as much bigger sentient entities in the multiverse.

Everybody around you is part of the puzzle, each playing their own hero’s role with you as an “extra” in their play. We’re all in this together to help each other grow through this transient diversification, as illustrated by the I Ching mandala that represents our true nature as a circle of Oneness (below).

“Each moment in life was co-created for us by the lot of us to allow all of us to express an aspect of Divinity. Whatever it is that is now presenting itself as part of your creation, own it, claim it, bless it, be thankful for it.” – Neale Donald Walsch

For more information, please see:

Trent J. Thornley: Hero’s Journey Enneagram & Process Enneagram & Living Enneagram – Trent J Thornley – Workshops Using Ancient Wisdom For Better Living Today (see http://living-enneagram.thinkific.com)

Dada Maheshvarananda: The Hero’s Journey and the Spiritual Path | The Myrobalan Seed

Hero’s journey – Wikipedia

Richard Rudd: Gene Keys, 2009 (ebook available), Free Resources – Gene Keys Teachings & About – Gene Keys Teachings

Chetan Parkyn: The Book of Lines, 2012

Karen Curry: Understanding Human Design, 2013

Kathy Hurley & Theodorre Donson: Discover Your Soul Potential: Using the Enneagram to Awaken Spiritual Vitality, 2000

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How To Know Thyself? – Big Picture Questions.com

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