David Adams Leeming wrote Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero (1998), a study of legendary heroes, in which he found this pattern:
- Birth of the Hero: "the conception or the birth or the events immediately following the birth (or all three) are miraculous or unusual in the extreme. This is not surprising. For all humans birth is the first experience of trauma and the first miracle of life. For the hero who will burst through the limitations of the local and historical, this first event must be special".
- Childhood Trial : "the child is suddenly aware of forces infinitely larger than himself which he cannot fully comprehend. In myth this is expressed by struggles with wild animals or with giants. To get through this stage the child often requires outside assistance. [The intervention of a powerful being] often becomes [a] divine sign [that the hero is special]".
- Withdrawal and Initiation (Rite of Passage): "the hero withdraws for meditation and preparation. Anyone in search of personal destiny must use intellect and spirit to find the god within the self. This is a major step in the losing of the self to find the self. Often the hero, like any individual in this stage, is tempted by "the world," which is represented mythically by a devil figure who attempts to disrupt the lonely vigil".
- Trial and Quest: "the agony and rewards of adult life. For the hero this might be a quest for a Golden Fleece or a Holy Grail, or it might be the labors of Hercules or Christ. The source of these myths is people's need to cope with the externals of life, as they have coped with the internals in their stage of meditation".
- Death and the Scapegoat: "For the hero, death, like birth, is miraculous or unusual. . . . Often he is dismembered. In death the hero acts, psychologically, for all of us; he becomes a scapegoat for our fear and guilt. Of course, he also serves as a reminder that we all must follow".
- The Descent to the Underworld: the hero "is now the representative of the wish that death might somehow be known and understood. So he descends ot the underworld to confront the forces of death".
- Resurrection and Rebirth: "the dismemberment and the descent into the earth hold promise of a new life. Fertility and death are inseparable in the cycle of nature, whether that cycle be expressed by the seasons, the moon, or the sun. And logically enough the hero, usually with the help of a woman -- woman representing both fertility and the hope of the eventual union of all things -- ascends from the underworld and arises from the dead. He thus acts out people's most elementary desire -- he overcomes death physically and is united with the natural cycle of birth, death, and rebirth".
- Ascension, Apotheosis, and Atonement: here "the hero represents [the desire for] . . . eternal life, for immortality. Thus the hero in Part 8 ascends to heaven, achieves atonement, or is made a god himself if he was not one already. In a purely psychological sense this is the individual's final step. Having dealt with his childhood, his inner self, his adult life, and the problem of death, he is prepared to discover God once and for all. The wonderful song of the soul's high adventure is complete".
Some of it parallels Lord Raglan's hero profile, and Jesus Christ fits both this profile and Lord Raglan's one rather well.
1. Rather obvious.
2. Baptism by John the Baptist?
3. Going into the desert.
4. The Devil tempting him.
5. Trial and crucifixion.
6. Not in the New Testament, but the Apostles' Creed states that he visited Hell.
8. Ascension into Heaven.
This article was originally at the Beacon Library (now defunct).