Introduction: The Functions of Myth

In the previous chapter we focused on reflection, intuition, and integration in developing vision. Here we wish to consider the journey (process) of transformation, including the role of myth and heroism.

It has always been a central function of mythology to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other images that constantly hold us back. As Joseph Campbell says in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “We remain fixated to the unexercized images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of adulthood.” This disinclination can apply just as much to organizations as to individuals (Campbell, 1949: 43).

It is with these individual and organizational passages that this chapter is concerned. The new-paradigm manager, in effect, is an agent of transformation, as opposed to development, a revolutionary as opposed to an evolutionary. As such he or she is engaged in a journey of truly heroic proportion, equal in dramatic impact to the mythological journey of antiquity.

The late Joseph Campbell describes the four primary functions of the myth – accompanying such heroic journeys – as follows:

  • to awaken consciousness to the fascinating mystery of the existing universe
  • to interpret that mystery in order to give meaning to life
  • to sustain the moral order
  • to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual

The role of the hero

The leading characters in the great myths, throughout the centuries ...

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