Belly of the Whale

Joseph Campbell has described 12 steps of a hero’s journey to self-enlightenment and success. The 7th one is called Supreme Ordeal or the Belly of the Whale. It is generally described as the darkest period of a man’s life, his lowest point. 

I am not so sure about this meaning of the Belly of the Whale. What does one mean by darkest period of a man’s life? What kind of darkness is there? If it means failures in practical life, hardships of living and social and relationship failures, i do not entirely believe this. For me, a person can go through these hardships as long as he knows what he wants within himself, or at the very least he has an idea of the path he has to take in his life. It is a dark period, yes, but not the darkest.

The more i think about it, the more i feel that Belly of the Whale represents the ultimate moral crisis of a human, the deepest, the darkest nook of the caves of his psyche. The questions, the doubts, the dilemmas, he finds before him. The darkness which surrounds him, when his principles seem to be of no value to him, the end of the life pathless and shapeless, with no possible meaning to existence or a sense of futility of existence. When he finds no path ahead of himself, and older paths erased by prejudices and mistakes. One man, standing alone, surrounded by mist of doubt, questions, hopelessness, and darkness.

For me, that is what is meant by the Belly of the Whale.


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