Killing the Tiger – Laughing Man Magazine


Originally published in Laughing Man Magazine – Vol 7 No 2, 1987 adapted by Beezone

“Something in us wishes to remain a child, to be unconscious or, at most, conscious only of the ego; to reject everything strange, or else subject it to our will; to do nothing, or else indulge our own craving for pleasure or power.”

Carl Jung, The Structures & Dynamics of the Psyche

Killing the Tiger

“Thus, even though people have been suggesting to me for years that they are motivated to practice the Great Way, I have observed that their motivation is caused mainly by the distresses of their failure to fulfill the calling of the third stage of life. The third stage, not the great process of Spiritual life, is basically what all of you have been gradually, and not altogether successfully, working out in my Company. Whereas the process that I consider with you, which finishes up that business rather directly, is really about moving into the context of the fourth stage of life and beyond.”


The trial of human maturity begins at puberty when the physical signs of adulthood begin, to appear. Traditional cultures, and especially primitive tribes, have always marked this moment by rites of passage designed to test the moral and emotional mettle of the adolescent, prior to admitting him or her into full adult status and responsibility within the community.

In this talk, Heart Master Da remarks on the absence of any such tests in contemporary, Western society and emphasizes the need for those who aspire to spiritual practice to “kill the tiger”, or, in other words, to first show the signs of. true “manliness'” (male or female] that were traditionally taken for granted in the ordinary mature adult.


HEART-MASTER DA: To enter so-called adulthood, or to come of legal age in the West, you need not have passed through tests of manhood, male or female. In fact, in general, individuals have not done so. The Western circumstance is unique in that adults typically live as children and adolescents, having become an adult merely by having achieved a certain age.

A profound element is missing from Western culture relative to development in the first three stages of life. Particularly in the egalitarian age of the last two hundred years or so, we have abandoned something basic, allowing everyone to remain children and adolescents forever. Bizarre philosophies and political and cultural movements, the new scientism and technology, have all been created in an age in which everyone is “equal”, and everyone is also a child or an adolescent.

In traditional societies, even in the Western world to a degree, manhood training was required of both males and females. A period of transformation, obligatory in the transition to adulthood, granted a certain integrity to past cultures. There is something strange in the West, part of the “gift” of the white man, if you like. A certain aspect of human transition has been abandoned. The various human events that are swallowing us, threatening everyone, are the products of that abandonment, a cultural product of our own immaturity. I am here to consider the Great Matter with you, but you have not accomplished, nor did you ever confront, the requirements of your own humanity.


“Because of the nature of humanity at this time, I have had to introduce the mechanism of consideration1 and practice, which replaces or provides an equivalent form for the trial that should have been introduced, at least in basic terms, in every household of ordinary humanity on Earth”.


Early life tends to be full of confrontation with one’s parents. All the aspects of your own human character and potential are present, and you develop a survival strategy in relation to the principal individuals in your early life, usually your mother and your father. Inevitably, then, “people develop oedipal strategies. Traditionally, this development was tacitly understood, and puberty became a time for testing, a trial of humanization and adaptation to wisdom. Today, instead of undergoing a trial at puberty, young people commonly enter adolescence as a kind of free-floating adulthood, wherein they are given access to adulthood without trial, without understanding, without responsibility. Individuals then continue to enact the oedipal strategies they developed in the first two stages of life.

Thus, the great trial of humanization and adaptation to wisdom that was associated with puberty has been abandoned in the common world in recent times, producing many devastating signs in popular culture. Never having passed through that humanizing trial, people still live as children and adolescents regardless of age, still dramatizing their ordinariness, their sexual and emotional possibilities, like small children with mother and father. Because all their strategies are intact, worked out in reaction to the parental situation, people dramatize their early-life oedipal strategies in the ordinary social or political circumstance of daily life even into old age.

Perhaps the passage to manhood was not understood in Freudian terms in the past, but it was understood in a very basic sense. It was acknowledged that to achieve puberty in the physical sense was not to enter adulthood but to begin a trial leading to adulthood. A variety of social and cultural impositions required individuals to adapt differently and to break out of the early-life oedipal pattern. It was understood that only that trial would truly prepare them for adulthood.

This is not understood in the common world today. Some people, by virtue of their circumstance and their suffering, go through an equivalent trial and at least become adult in their humanity, but this is not common, certainly not in the teenage years when it should occur. Look at the adult world to which you adapted. It is a teenage world, a world that has not undergone the trial of adulthood. People dramatize ambiguity, dependence independence, struggling, exaggeration, self-indulgence, mediocre self-discipline, and games of social conformity. The truly human world is developed through the trial of the third stage of life, producing real adulthood and the possibility of further growth in the advancing stages, but very few people have entered the doorway of the advanced stages. Most people spend their lives struggling with the possible accomplishment of the third stage of life, still suffering the limitations of the oedipal adaptation of their early life.

This is true of you all, is it not? This is why we have so much to talk about, why we must address your continued involvement in oedipal strategies, as if you are still living with mommy and daddy. Whereas you should already have gone through that trial.

Traditionally, young men were given a spear, and they went out to kill a tiger or be killed. They passed through the training of manhood, overcoming whatever circumstance had to be overcome to become a man. They could not depend on their parents. They exhibited the manly signs or suffered a great deal in the process. In the traditional tribal setting, one who did not pass the test was ostracized or perhaps even died. He was always an outsider, not permitted access to the adult world. The woman’s trial was not to go out and kill a tiger, but it was a matter of being tested by the adult women and measuring up to them, abandoning the dependency do mommy and daddy and showing integrity as an adult female, perhaps ready to be married and to assume adult responsibilities.

Nowadays as soon as the individual begins to show sexual signs, he begins dramatizing adolescence, starts living a secret life of exaggeration or self-indulgence or mere conformity. Individuals are not called upon to pass the trial whereby they break the bond of childhood. Thus, even though people have been suggesting to me for years that they are motivated to practice the Great Way, I have observed that their motivation is caused mainly by the distresses of their failure to fulfill the calling of the third stage of life. The third stage, not the great process of Spiritual life, is basically what all of you have been gradually, and not altogether successfully, working out in my Company. Whereas the process that I consider with you, which finishes up that business rather directly, is really about moving into the context of the fourth stage of life and beyond.

I consider the Spiritual Process with you, but you are not ready for it, because you nave unfinished business relative to your ordinary humanity, and that has been the substance of our discussion as it relates to you personally. The rest has been about Wisdom that is appropriate for you to consider but which you are not up to. Only when you pass the trial of manhood, male or female, are you ready for the Wisdom trial. Kill the tiger, and then go on your vision quest. You men have not killed tigers yet. You are still trying to overcome your reaction to your father. And you women have not secured the center of the hive, the center of the village, exhibited the signs of true balance and true femininity. You are still abusing your mothers and duplicating the life-failures of the previous generation.

Thus, we must introduce a trial, which need not take a traditional form, into the third stage of life of those who grow up in our community. A variety of approaches are worth studying, but our effect on those who become teenagers should be humanizing and should serve their adaptation to true Wisdom, true adulthood, true human responsibility. They need not suffer adolescence as we have. Rather, they should enjoy and participate in the real ordeal of the third stage of life, which is not becoming a pseudo-adult or a self-indulgent character bereft of Wisdom and obligation and dramatizing the ambiguity of dependence and independence. Rather, the trial of the third stage should allow the individual to break out of ambiguity and assume true balance, integrity, and responsibility as a human -being, aligned to the great possibility of further growth in the advancing stages.

You did not experience that ordeal in your teenage years, and you all are good evidence for why that ordeal should have occurred, and therefore, why we should give the gift of that ordeal to our children. The business of a teenager is to break out of the oedipal bond, not to dramatize and suffer that bond. When you reach adult age in your late teens or early twenties, you should be a fully prepared adult, responsible and balanced, no longer an infantile character dramatizing childish and adolescent motives relative to parental figures. You should be a free human adult, male or female, able to exercise yourself relative to the greater possibility. Having grown to that degree, you must then submit yourself to the ordeal of practice through self-discipline and self-transcendence. Achieve,’ true humanity, and then move on to the fourth stage of life and beyond.

Because of the nature of humanity at this time, I have had to introduce the mechanism of consideration1 and practice, which replaces or provides an equivalent form for the trial that should have been introduced, at least in basic terms, in every household of ordinary humanity on Earth. Such a trial was common when mankind presumed to live in community, but now that we are all “equal”, we are allowed to be adolescents forever. The motive toward equality is a secondary motive. The great motive is the one of self-transcendence, Realization, right association with others. Eternal adolescence, which is an exploitation of the species, is destructive. The entire world at the present time is completely mad, indulging in meaningless ceremonies, and everyone is threatened.

If you had killed a tiger or made a hair shirt, if you had had to pass through a trial by fire and grow up, you would make a different society with one another. You would understand the difficulties of life, the possibilities of suffering, the destructive nature of the universe. Then you would exemplify a superior disposition, a truly human capability.

The tiger is the ego, and the tiger is death. You must confront them both. You must confront yourself and the imposition of the universe, and you must overcome both to be a man, male or female. Then you will be good company, and then you will also continue to grow.

1. In the Way of the Heart, “consideration” is the exhaustive reflection upon a particular object, condition, person, process, or function until its essential nature is obvious. Consideration in this sense is not merely an intellectual activity, but a process of engaging and submitting one’s whole being freely in relationship to the object of consideration.



Carl Jung’s “Stages Of Life”

According to Carl Jung, what prevents people from becoming autonomous, fulfilled and ultimately happy is their refusal to open themselves to experiences that are new and unfamiliar, and thus potentially threatening to their sense of self. When we have passed from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, nature abandons us to the world of consciousness, which is to say, to culture. We are thus forced to say “goodbye to childlike unconsciousness and trust in nature.” The question then arises, “What kind of person shall I then become in this strange new world?” Each of us must confront it.

As Jung sees it, people desire a life that is safe, uncomplicated, familiar and in many respects unchanging. But such a life is ultimately constricting: it forecloses the possibility of learning and evolving, and thus, of developing a “wider and higher consciousness.”

more: Philosophical



Joseph Campbell’s

The Hero’s Journey : Summary of the Steps


This page summarizes the brief explanations from every step of the Hero’s Journey.


The Call to Adventure

The call to adventure is the point in a person’s life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.

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.

Supernatural Aid

Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.

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.

The Belly of the Whale

The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person’s lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.


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.

The Meeting with the Goddess

The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure 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. It is also known as the “hieros gamos”, or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. 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. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.

Woman as the Temptress

At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. 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.

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. This is the center point of the journey. 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. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be “killed” so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.


To apotheosize is to deify. 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. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.

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.


Refusal of the Return

So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?

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.

Rescue from Without

Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times 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. Or perhaps the person doesn’t realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.

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.

Master of the Two Worlds

In myth, 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.

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, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.


See more: The Hero’s Journey – Mythic Structure of Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth