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Odysseus And Siddhartha: One Hero With Two Faces?

            Joseph Campell implores his students to study mythology with the enticing argument that myths are keys to unlock the spiritual truths of humanity. Latent in his statement is the idea that truth is universal; the unique interpretations of different cultures are no more than adaptations to support functional societies based on individual customs. "Essentially," he states, "it might even be said that there is but one archetypal mythic hero whose life has been replicated in many lands by many, many people." One cannot help but be intrigued by this notion, largely because of the inherent possibility of a worldwide understanding. Such an accord could be accomplished by recognizing the similarities of mythological systems and comprehending the cultural predispositions that necessitate their deviations. .
             Homer's Odysseus and Siddhartha, as portrayed by Hermann Hesse, are two heroes from two very different cultures. Siddhartha engages in a pursuit of truth, while Odysseus's goal is to return to his homeland. Is it possible to find a common thread that would unite these heroes? Can we dismiss their differences as cultural?.
             Campbell summarizes the beginning of the heroic journey: .
             "The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there's something lacking in the normal experiences available or permitted to the members of his society. This person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir." The Power of Myth, p. 123.
             Siddhartha's journey begins with him living as a prince, his father a Brahmin. He is admired and loved by his family, friends, and society. In spite of this, he feels discontent. He leaves the security of his home in a search for something greater, declaring, "One must find the source within one's own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking-- a detour, error.

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