The Artist’s Journey, #19

Last week I introduced Tim Grahl, the founder of, who reached out to Shawn (whom he had never met) and asked for Shawn’s help as an editor, to mentor Tim in writing his first novel. If we look at this moment through the prism of the past eighteen weeks’ posts, we would say that Tim had reached the end of his Hero’s Journey. The act of reaching out to Shawn was the start of his Artist’s Journey. Tim was declaring, whether he thought of it in these terms or not, “I am a writer. I don’t care if I’ve never written a novel or a screenplay or published anything at all. I am launching myself now, officially, on this new journey. I will seek and find my voice, my subject, my medium of expression. I have wasted enough time in my life. I am ready to be the artist I was born to be.”

I take my hat off to Tim, and to every man and woman who makes this commitment. I’ll tell you more about Tim’s journey in the next couple of weeks, but now … we’re closing in on the climax of The Artist’s Journey. Let’s keep going. To access any missed chapters, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.Part 11Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16.Part 17. Part 18.


B  O  O  K    S  E  V   E   N

T H E   D I V I N E   G R O U N D



In The War of Art, I related a story about a seminar I attended once, taught by Tom Laughlin (“Billy Jack”), who in his non-cinematic life was a well-known, and quite controversial, Jungian teacher and counselor. Tom Laughlin drew a schematic of the human psyche. It was a circle shaped a little like an egg. The full interior of the circle he labeled


In one corner of this circle he tucked a tiny black dot, called


Outside the circle, with three arrows pointing in and penetrating the interior, he wrote


I had no idea what Tom meant by “the Divine Ground” but the phrase struck me like a two-by-four to the forehead, particularly the notion that our own limited minds lay psychologically adjacent to it and in fact touching it.

I believed it at once.

Why not?

Mystics of all cultures have subscribed to this notion. They’ve in fact based their whole lives and philosophies upon it. To them, consciousness is not only not limited to the individual’s physical body, it’s not limited to the individual’s lifetime.

Hey, I’m with them!

I can’t prove it (who can?) but I swear there’s a part of our psyche that butts up against Something that’s infinitely greater, wiser, and more powerful, and that that Something is conscious, universal, intelligent, active, collective, possibly infinite.

I’ll go further. I believe that that Something transcends time and space. It knows past and future, up and down, in and out, backhand and forehand.



Two more ideas that can’t be proven:

  1. This greater mind can be accessed by our lesser minds.

(Of course this is true; artists do it every day. So do you and I in our dreams.)

The artist’s stock-in-trade, as we said, is the ability to shuttle back and forth between the conscious mind and the Divine Ground.

  1. This greater mind wants to be accessed. It is actively reaching out to us, seeking our attention and participation.

… the mystics, the gnostics, adherents of the grail and alchemists [writes John P. Dourley in “Jung and his Mystics”] All these traditions share the sense that mind is natively imbued with the latent awareness of its universal connectedness. The development of this awareness intensifies the sense of the divine. This reconnection of the mind with its divine ground happens pre-eminently through the work of the dream and its symbols, expressing the energy of the divine.

All art arises from this divine ground, whether the artist is aware of it or not (or even actively denies it).

But why, you ask.

Even if there is such a thing as the Divine Ground, why would it care about the fate or affairs of humankind? Are we suggesting that it actively participates in human affairs?


Toward what end?



All art—dance, drama, architecture, literature, music, etc.—is about the recognition of beauty and the articulation of empathy and compassion for the Other.

The artist is a force for unity. Her role is to bring together, upon the common ground of the imagination, the disparate (and often warring) factions of the human psyche and the human race.

The artist does this not in mass but one-on-one, individual by individual. She performs this alchemy within the human heart, which she enters by the medium of the imagination.

A documentary about sable hunters in Siberia or a film about a family in Tehran dealing with Alzheimer’s transports the foreign viewer, like you and me, into a universe whose existence we had never known and makes that world and those who inhabit it immediate and vivid and human. No longer can we say or think, “These people are not like me.”

We see that they are.

The gulf of separation has been bridged, at least for the moment, by one tiny increment. What has replaced it is the power of empathy, of compassion, of identification with another.

The artist does that.

A work of art is a unifying force. Great art transcends divisions of culture, race, nationality, history. It vanquishes time itself. The cave paintings at Lascaux are as powerful today as they were seventeen thousand years ago, just as the grace and symmetry of the Golden Gate Bridge could be appreciated by the most “primitive” hunter-gatherer.


If the individual has a hero’s journey, does the race collectively possess one as well?

If it does, what is our “call?”

What “threshold” do we seek to cross?

What “home” will we return to?

What “gift” shall we bring?

Here’s what I think:

I think the race’s journey began in the Garden of Eden (which is of course a myth, but a myth common in one form or another to all humanity.)

Our inciting incident was a crime, the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Act One ended with the Almighty casting us out of the garden.

We entered the Inverted World then, humankind’s collective Act Two, and we’ve been there ever since, suffering trials, undergoing initiations, encountering creatures of wonder, while our hearts, as Homer wrote of Odysseus


through all the seafaring, ached with an agony to redeem [ourselves] and bring [our] company safe home.


Safe home to the Garden, that’s the return we seek. That alone will complete the circle and make mankind whole.

The artist is the herald and the medium of this passage.






Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Mary Doyle on June 20, 2018 at 5:40 am

    This is empowering, comforting and grounding all at once. Thank you Steve!

  2. Pietro on June 20, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Sure, it’s free, it’s full of great advice. But catching up with all the separate parts feels clunky. I’d much much rather have a paperback on my lap, turn off all the screens and focus on absorbing your wisdom that way. Please consider doing so asap. Thanks!

    • Renita on June 20, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Yes. I think that’s the idea! This blog to book strategy is very effective!
      A blog can be used to give free advance notices for the book.
      The book is going to be more convenient. People will buy it.
      The book can add more.
      I think it is both smart and generous.

  3. B Graft on June 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I’ll thankfully take “clunky”—Steve’s philosophy in bits and pieces now. Later, we’ll all enjoy the end product—in paperback—for a second read.

  4. bob therriault on June 20, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I think that human beings have done a pretty good job of defining guidelines for their own actions, even if we have varying success in following those guidelines. Most of the guidelines come down to the rule of acting with empathy towards others in ways that you would want them to act towards you. Many religions have this as a central expression of their faith and defining the role of artist as a bridge based on empathy feels appropriate.

    The challenge is that we don’t have similar guidelines for the groups that humans form when they work together. Instead we rely on individuals within the group to pay attention to the moral compass without making the same demand of the group as a whole. Imagine how the world would look if corporations, nations or even the entire human race acted primarily on the basis of empathy – treating others as we would be treated ourselves as their primary directive. Corporations would necessarily have to take into account the effects of their products and nations would have to support other nations in ways that were appropriate for the supported. The human race would need to establish a relationship with the rest of the planet that would require us to act in ways that showed empathy towards our fellow travellers.

    This may be the start of the third act for our humanity and it may come down to understanding that our actions as groups need to reflect the same guidelines that we have as individuals. Our collective actions and guidelines may shape whether the story ends in redemption or tragedy.

  5. Joe Jansen on June 20, 2018 at 10:02 am


  6. Joanne on June 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Love the idea of Hero’s Journey for humanity as a whole. Spot on!

  7. Rhonda Lauritzen on June 20, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for publishing these pieces sooner rather than later. I need them NOW and want you to know I read every word more than once, just as I have done with “The War of Art” and “Do the Work.” I love your ideas and unapologetic conversations about the Divine and how mystical forces are manifest through human hands. These forces are clearly working through yours.

  8. Peter Brockwell on June 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Wow, another thought-provoking piece. Steve, this section seems to imply to me that Hero’s Journeys can be nested within one another. We’re all on a grand Hero’s Journey (a kind of ‘infinite game’ – have you come across that concept?), but with side escursions into other finite Hero’s Journeys (these would be ‘finite games’). Is this right? Seems obviously true to me, with you as one of the Heroes bringing these insights to us from the other side, the hidden land of your own Hero’s Journey.

  9. Tree on June 20, 2018 at 11:59 am

    This has sparked me in many ways.
    I believe we see the protagonist in all his glory and have heard many speeches in praise of the villain this past year.

  10. Renita on June 20, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Your writings show me that the empty box is never empty.

  11. Bane on June 20, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Act II of my life kicked my ass! Now I’m only looking for one thing…

  12. Gwen Abitz on June 20, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t know this is where my mind went. I am wondering if that little black dot labeled “ego” may have more power than originally thought it would have. “Something” sure has caused the deviation for the Divine Ground with what has been going on within today’s media, Hollywood and political fields of “unconsciousness.” Well anyway I needed to Post this on my Facebook Timeline Page this morning. “I need to be in SILENCE as it is beyond my comprehension what is going on. All I can think of is: It must be the Global Affect of “THEIR” pain body ego [learned behavior] that has been passed down by “the adult” generation after generation after generation and always, always, always using “the innocence of the child.” Passed down from further back then I was thinking and feeling this morning. From the Garden Of Eden – The Tree of Knowledge.

  13. Jeff Korhan on June 20, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    A work of art is a unifying force. Great art transcends divisions of culture, race, nationality, history. It vanquishes time itself.


  14. Jule Kucera on June 20, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Today’s Whoa idea: “consciousness is not only not limited to the individual’s physical body, it’s not limited to the individual’s lifetime.”

    Today’s Ahhh comment: “mystical forces are manifest through human hands.”

    So if you put those together, mystical forces are manifest through humans and not limited to the individual’s hands or lifetime.


  15. Brian S Nelson on June 20, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Love it, love it, love it. I would add shared/collective suffering to great art which transcends divisions of culture, race, nationality, history, gender, red/blue. The tagline for our race is ‘Grit City Effort + Shared Struggle = Kindred Connection. It is why teams win championships, and the ‘Band of Brothers’ phenomena exists in the military. This is how us Neanderthals understand what the artist sees.

    I believe that great art and shared suffering momentarily put a thumb over the ego-dot, and allow us for a moment to see each other authentically. Dangerous to be out ‘in the wild’ without our ego, we can only take it for so long.

    Hopefully Act III is when we’ve had enough exposure and familiarity without the ego, we can drop them from our default operating system to an emergency operating system. Maybe, maybe we can extend and engineer these moments.

  16. Julie Murphy on June 21, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Good stuff–thanks, Steve.

    I watched City of Angels for the first time this week, and I feel like I understand your perspective more. I’m glad you mentioned it; it’s a nice segway to Divine Ground.

  17. sandra on June 21, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Your words continue to motivate me. Thank you, Mr. Pressfield.

  18. Anonymous on June 22, 2018 at 3:29 am

    You certainly are a most articulate and powerful bridge between the Self and The Divine Ground. I stand at one side and while reading your words find I am at the other, beside you and all of us who dare it.
    Thanks always

  19. Slava on June 25, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing!! This reminds me so much of this documentary:

  20. Walters on April 29, 2024 at 10:40 am

    The artist’s journey such as Brad Pitt is a tumultuous one, marked by highs and lows, successes and failures. Yet, amidst the challenges and setbacks, they refuse to lose hope. Instead, they persist, driven by their passion and vision. With each obstacle they encounter, they find new ways to innovate and grow. Failure becomes a stepping stone, not a stumbling block, propelling them forward on their creative path. Through perseverance and resilience, they continue to pursue their dreams, knowing that every setback brings them closer to their ultimate success.

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