“Every step toward greater consciousness creates a kind of Promethean guilt. Through self-knowledge, the gods are, as it were, robbed of their fire; that is, something that was the property of unconscious powers is torn out of its natural context and subordinated to the whims of the conscious mind. The one who has “stolen” the new knowledge becomes alienated from others.” — Daryl SharpFriends and acquaintances are often the first to urge us to heed the “call to adventure.” That call represents an opportunity. It may be a college degree, a summer abroad, a spiritual retreat, or a new job. If we listen, the new world we experience is likely to be mind-expanding and to change us.
Our friends and acquaintances might be the first casualties, not because we wish to cast them out, but because they don’t want to change and we do. While our new knowledge may result in an inflated ego turning us into the kind of person nobody wants to be around, it’s more likely that the new knowledge is beyond the comfort level and interest of old friends.
In his book Digesting Jung: Food for the Journey, Daryl Sharp writes that “anyone who has found his or her individual path is bound to feel estranged from those who have not.”
I’ve heard published authors say they lost their writer’s club friends the minute they became published. At the outset, everyone struggles together. They have similar problems and concerns. But when success comes, the successful one becomes different because his or her focus and needs have changed.
I’ve noticed that it many groups, there’s a lot of camaraderie in being part of “the resistance” to the status quo. Friends often urge each other to step forward and take charge. Once somebody does step forward, the camaraderie is likely to fade after the initial round of congratulations and celebrating runs its course. The new “boss” is no longer “once of us.”
In Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, Don Genero tells Carlos that once a man commits to a journey of self-knowledge, he must also commit to leaving the world he knew behind. Those who are not on the figurative “journey to Ixtlan” will appear as phantoms along the road.
There’s more than petty jealousy behind the loss of friends when one takes on new responsibilities, chases his dreams and expands his personal horizons. Simply put, one is no longer compatible with many of his old friends, old pastimes, and old haunts.
In the mythic sense, alienation is the punishment of the gods visited upon a hero or seeker for listening to the call of adventure and sailing out across the wine-dark sea into the unknown. Staying home–refusing that call to adventure–appears to be the comfortable thing to do.
One must ask, I think, do I really want to go where I want to go? At this moment, of course, the conflict begins: deep regrets for staying put and alienation for leaving. This dilemma is the paradox of growth.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hero’s journey novel Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey.
Garden of Heaven is the story of a man’s spiritual journey through the mountains of Pakistan, the swamps of North Florida, the beaches of Hawaii, the waters of the South China Sea and the ivy-covered halls of an Illinois college as he attempts to sort out the shattered puzzle of his life.