Photo Credit: Michael Knoll
In the Hero/Heroine’s Journey, the Road of Trials continues after the fledgling leaves the nest of the Nigredo. Like a butterfly, the soul needs time to dry new wings and learn to fly. The Nigredo and Road of Trials don’t bring the Hero/Heroine Home. One just doesn’t walk out transformed.
The purpose of a Gate is to separate two distinct environments. It’s not a solid door; it allows the journey maker to peek through to the other side. The two environments have different landscapes and purposes.
Sacred Gates of Asia
Ceremonial gateway structures can be found all across Asia. These are often connected to religious practices but most importantly they signify the crossing from the mundane world to a spiritually purer more elevated sacred area. ….
When you walk through these gates you are required to pay respect, should have the appropriate mindset and be aware of the fact that you are entering a sacred space. To emphasize the importance of this special location the gates are sometimes built in a repeated or sequential arrangement. The earliest surviving gateways of this type are the toranas of the Bharhut and Sanchi stupas in India ca. second and first century BC.
—Katalin Puskas Khetani, The Sacred Asian Gate Tradition in Europe (Symbolic Crossings from the Mundane to the Sacred), Academia Letters, 2021
Rushing to the Gate Out, to leave the sacred space for the mundane world, can create the need to go through this journey again. Conversely, drifting in the Nigredo waiting for something to happen or someone to come for you can go on for years. You are your own Hero/Heroine.
When the journey maker is ready, the Gate Out begins to take shape. It may begin with a dream, an attraction, a longing, a recognition, a sense of readiness, a resume sent out, a new opportunity taken. Something shifts and a threshold appears. When it’s time to leave the underworld the Gate Out solidifies, steps taken forming the ground beneath the Journey Maker’s feet.
Steps Leading to the Gate Out
Trail Guide: Here’s where we are in the story. What remains for EverySoul is to assimilate what’s been learned, constellate person or Self, and then figure out how to live in the pragmatic world. That’s all. And it’s tricky.
—Gates In and Out, Scene 6: The Gate Out. —Lola Wilcox
There are skills to gain, goals to set, focus to find, plans to make, possible allies to align. This is the work of the Road of Trials leading to the Gate Out. It’s the integration phase of the transformation. It’s preparation for the new environment and enables the transformed soul to be there with confidence.
Guardians at the Gate Out
The Guardians at the Gate Out have names like Distraction… Exhaustion … Despondency. It takes at least as much courage to go through the Gate Out as it did to come through the Gate In.
—Gates In and Out, Scene 6. —Lola Wilcox
What gets the Hero/Heroine past the Guardians?
EverySoul/Self: I seem to have forgotten what is it I am doing.
Why am I here?
Companion: Why did you come here?
EverySoul/Self: I wanted to change my life.
Companion: And what happened?
EverySoul/Self: I changed myself. I transformed.
Companion: And now what do you want?
—Gates In and Out, Lola Wilcox
- Despondency: I can’t find the Gate Out. I’m never going to get out of here.
Revisit the Call: what was happening that called you away from your old Home? What change did you want to happen? There is a relationship between the Gate In and the Gate Out and it is the reason – the why – for the Journey. Remember why you started on this journey.
- What I see on the other side of the Gate Out is terrifying.
What have you learned that is useful, to whom, and where? That’s where the Gate Out will take you. It only forms when you are ready. Hold to your transformed self. You are the gift you are taking Home. You are a key to unlock more gates than this one.
- I keep trying to leave, but new tasks appear, and now I’m exhausted.
There are other gateways than exhaustion, but it is one. At summer special training for my martial arts, Kendo, we would start on Friday night with a four-hour practice, then kata at dawn, then every two hours a practice followed by an hour rest. By Sunday afternoon you were nothing but your aching body, reduced to exactly who you were. Then there was a celebration, and you went home.
In the foundational Psyche and Eros story, Psyche has won through and is on her way out, carrying the gift that will reunite her with Eros. Almost at the Gate Out, she falls asleep. Eros enters that Gate and carries her out. And sometimes our friends and family gather round at those points of exhaustion and carry us across the finish line.
Photo Credit: Christian Paul Stobbe
The Importance of Knowing the Map of the Journey
We were invited to present the Hero/Heroine’s Journey in Kansas City and follow it by a workshop the next morning. These are my notes from that adventure.
It was a small venue – 40 people. The new actors memorized, practiced, learned to say final consonants and trust the other actors, but they came to performance terrified. Chuck relaxed them and they did brilliantly. … Afterwards a number of people came up to us to say “I can not tell you how important it is for me to be at this play at this moment in my life. I’m in the Nigredo, transforming, and I didn’t know there was a Gate Out.”
Saturday we used the Hero/ine’s Wheel as map for the Beauty and Beast workshop. People who attended were willing to embrace the content and run with it towards their own lives. We’ve heard from several of them since, and how they are forming their paths to the Gate Out.
We also visited two other nephews and family. These men have come through their own Nigredos and integrations, passing through formal Gates Out as we visit. What celebrations we shared!
May you come through the Gate Out at the appropriate moment in your Journey, and may there be a celebration as you enter the outer reality, the practical world.
How about you, Journey Maker?
- Can you tell a story of a Gate Out you have gone through?
- What were the Guardians of the Gate Out?
- Did you celebrate? (It’s not too late.)