The Call to Adventure
The hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.
[Joseph] Campbell: This first stage of the mythological journey - which we have designated the "call to adventure" - signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual centre of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent. The adventure may begin as a mere blunder ... or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man.
Chuck: His initial call is of the being carried or sent type at the hands of a mostly benign agent [Bryce]. He does not ask for the information; rather it is gifted to him. Cursed with Awesome – in two senses!
Refusal of the Call
Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
Campbell: Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.
Chuck: Certainly shows insecurity and fear. He is very much the fish out of water in the spy world.
Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artefacts that will aid them later in their quest.
Campbell: For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure who provides the adventurer with amulets against the forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. Protective power is always and ever present within or just behind, the unfamiliar features of the world. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side. And in so far as the hero's act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process.
Chuck: Not so much supernatural as gifted; in the form of Sarah Walker and John Casey.
The Crossing of the First Threshold
This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
Campbell: With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the "threshold guardian" at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in four directions - also up and down - standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon. The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.
Chuck: Gradually learning espionage and other skills. Chuck vs the Helicopter, using his gaming knowledge to land the craft safely. Sarah and Casey mostly also act as threshold guardians, as does Roan Montgomery later.
Belly of The Whale
The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.
Campbell: The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died. Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again. The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are one and the same. That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles. The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis.
Chuck: Starting to enjoy missions more than his 'normal' life. Chuck vs the Tango.
Initiation : The Road of Trials
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
Campbell: Once having traversed the threshold, the hero must survive a succession of trials. This is a favourite phase of the myth-adventure. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents whom he met before his entrance into this region. The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passes - again, again, and again.
Chuck: Facing real danger, with guns, bullets and organisations like Fulcrum and the so far shadowy Ring. Chuck vs Imported Hard Salami. Practically every episode!
The Meeting With the Goddess
This is the point when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely.
Campbell: The ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart. The meeting with the goddess is the final test of the talent of the hero to win the boon of love.
Chuck: Sarah [Lou]
Woman as Temptress
This step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
Campbell: The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond, surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond.
Chuck: Possible career advancement at the 'Buy More'. Wanting a 'real life'. The Black Widow, Alex Forrest, Jill.
Atonement with the Father
In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power.
Campbell: One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy. It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father's ego-shattering initiation. The hero transcends life and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands - and the two are atoned.
Chuck: Absolutely with his Stephen, own father.
When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfilment before the hero begins the return.
Campbell: Those who know, not only that the Everlasting lies in them, but that what they, and all things, really are is the Everlasting, dwell in the groves of the wish fulfilling trees, drink the brew of immortality, and listen everywhere to the unheard music of eternal concord.
Chuck: Snatched moments of normality at work, with his sister and Sarah in particular.
The Ultimate Boon
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
Campbell: What the hero seeks through his relationship with god/goddess is not themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance. This miraculous energy-substance is the Imperishable; the names and forms of the deities who everywhere embody, dispense, and represent it come and go.
Chuck: Re-uploading the Intersect by choice.
Return : Refusal of the Return
Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.
Campbell: When the hero-quest has been accomplished, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy. The full round requires that the hero shall now begin the labour of bringing his gifts back into the kingdom of humanity. But the responsibility has been frequently refused.
Chuck: He has journeyed down this road a little, but season 3 may bring this theme out more fully.
The Magic Flight
Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
Campbell: If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron.
Chuck: Again, we've yet to see the full unfolding of this. Chuck vs the Colonel.
Rescue from Without
Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience.
Campbell: The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him.
Chuck: His father, his sister. Maybe Sarah and Casey in season 3.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
Campbell: The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept the world as real.
Master of Two Worlds
This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
Campbell: Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division is the talent of the master. The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. The hero's personal ambitions being dissolved, he willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him.
Chuck: He is moving into this. “Guys, I know kung fu!!” Chuck vs Tom Sawyer.
Freedom to Live
Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment.
Campbell: The hero is the champion of things becoming, because he is. 'Before Abraham was, I AM.' He does not mistake apparent changelessness in time for the permanence of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment. Be sure there's nothing perishes in the whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form
Chuck: The World of Warcraft battle plan used to defeat the bad guys, season 2 [Chuck vs the First Date].