The Artist’s Journey, #20

Only three more posts (including today’s) and this serialization of The Artist’s Journey will be complete. Thanks, everybody, for hanging in. I promise to get back to “regular” posts right away.

One last peep re Tim Grahl of, whom I’ve been telling you about for the past couple of weeks. Tim, remember, reached out to Shawn out of the blue, saying, “If you’ll help me organize and shape my novel (that I haven’t written yet), I’ll help you with your marketing.” What happened to that novel? It’s proceeding furiously apace under Shawn’s guidance. In the meantime Tim wrote a different book, a super-personal account of his own agonizing hand-to-hand combat, not only with the blank page, but with being a responsible, loving husband and father. Does any of this sound familiar? As ethereal and airy-fairy as The Artist’s Journey can get, that’s how real-world, down-and-dirty Tim’s excruciatingly honest tale can be. The book is called Running Down a Dream. I can’t recommend it highly enough for all of us who live in the real world of trying to make the dream of becoming a writer come true. We’ll have Tim’s book available here and at in the next couple of weeks.

Now back to the ethereal world—the final three installments of The Artist’s Journey. To catch up on 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. Part 19.



The artist’s skill, we have said, is to shuttle between the conscious mind and the higher mind, the Divine Ground.

That’s her job.

It’s what she does every day.

For “conscious mind” read the alienation and exile of the human condition.

For “divine ground” read lost paradise, the Garden of Eden.

It is not an overstatement to declare that the artist’s role is to lead the human race back to Eden.

True, artists don’t know this. They don’t get up each morning with this enterprise in mind. In fact if you articulated this to them, they’d probably laugh in your face.

But they are the heralds and mentors of mankind’s hero’s journey nonetheless. Their charge is, as James Joyce phrased it in Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man

… to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of the race.

How do artists perform this service? By producing works whose fruit, for the reader or viewer, is empathy and compassion for the Other and, ultimately, identification with the Other.

The track that artists shuttle upon each day between the conventional world and the world of the higher mind is the same trolley line that the human race as a whole is seeking to board—the track from the narrow, fearful, divisive ego to the open, loving, inclusive Self.


The terminal thesis of this book is that the artist discovers who she is (and reveals this to the world) by the works she produces.

Our true “you” reveals itself over time by the fruits of our passages back and forth between World #1 and World #2.

The real “you” was always there, behind that door.

It was just waiting for you to knock and enter.


The artist’s role is to complete the circle that started with Adam and Eve. Her charge is to lead us back to Eden, not in the state of unconsciousness and dependence in which we stood before the Fall, but in full awareness of ourselves and our station, our mortality, and of the greater world around and within us.

The artist’s role is to make the unconscious conscious.

She may not realize this. She may be blind to it. She may perform this task by instinct, not design. But she performs it just the same.

She is compelled by her nature.

She may work her entire life and never even realize she is doing this. But she is.

The Fall created the “multiplicity of forms” and dissevered the race from unity with the Divine Ground. The artist’s role is to shatter the illusion of separation and isolation and to blaze the trail back to the condition of Oneness, which state has always been mankind’s true condition but which we as individuals have been blinded to, immured as we are within the prison of our separate egos.


Christians believe in Original Sin. Jews cite in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21, the appearance within the human heart of the yetzer hara, “a turning toward evil” The ancient Greeks as well believed in a primal crime, which prompted the hero’s journey, as Homer declares of Odysseus …

… who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stray grievously about the coasts of men …

When we speak of “the Call” that initiates the hero’s journey, it’s often an opportunity that suddenly appears, an imposed expulsion, an emergency that demands action. But not infrequently it’s a crime—a wrong committed, usually in ignorance or unconsciousness, by the hero. In the case above, Odysseus violates the sacred precinct of the goddess. In the Garden, Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

A crime causes both protagonists to be “cast out.”

The human race’s crime is identifying with the ego. It’s Adam and Eve’s original sin and Odysseus’s and yours and mine.

But give our forebears some credit. Their crime was a great and noble one, a step toward divinity, a reaching for the stars.


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. Robin on June 27, 2018 at 6:12 am

    Steven, More thought-provoking, excellent work. Looking forward to adding this book to my Steven Pressfield library.

  2. Tesia Blackburn on June 27, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Just when I think you can’t possibly come up with any more “juicy goodness” – BAM – you give me my morning lecture to my painting students. Every year I bring a handful of my students to a location to paint. We are in Santa Fe this year, again, and I am often overcome – literally made speechless – by the beauty of this location. Your words help me express this life I lead as an artist and the beauty of this particular Eden. Thank you over and over again.

  3. Sherri Richards on June 27, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Your words take my breath away. On so many levels. I am working on writing my first book. It has been a deep call in my soul, one that I fight every day, and also one that has taken me on many new and creative adventures. Like reading your work! Today, right now after reading your words, I can’t wait to get to my writing, but first I must share this post with my “Artist Way” group. Thank you from my deepest Self.

  4. Jean on June 27, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I guess the artist shuffles between worlds creating crimes to find their way back to consciousness?

  5. Carol Holland March on June 27, 2018 at 8:33 am

    The last couple of posts have been lovely and oh, so true. I have been fortunate to know that my task in life and in writing, was to hold open the passage between conscious and unconscious (Inanna has been my muse), which in my own fumbling way, I have tried to write about. Not easy, but eminently worthwhile. Writing gives back so much more than money (although that would be nice too) for those who take it seriously. I am grateful to you, Steve, for putting forth these ideas so openly. It was clear from the Art of War that you Knew, but here the clarity you bring to the idea of artist as alchemist is pure pleasure. Thank you.

  6. Mary Doyle on June 27, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Another excellent post – thank you! Now I have two books to look forward to next month!

  7. Jay Cadmus on June 27, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Have come back to the well. Reading from the “master thought” given you by your muse. This reading provided synchronized – and needed – personal thought. Slowing my trajectory for reentry. Rereading this post – saved input from your mind. My splashdown will be eased. Then I will start a new project. Your words today need expressed gratitude. For which my sincere “Thank you” seems insufficient. I appreciate your work.

  8. Kim Roberts on June 27, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    The human race’s crime is identifying with the ego. It’s Adam and Eve’s original sin and Odysseus’s and yours and mine.

  9. Bane on June 27, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    I have to assume you’ve read The Inner Reaches of Outer Space by Joseph Campbell. I just finished it for third time. It is a masterpiece and both works yours and his highlight the middle path between the field of time and space and the energy that lights up the universe. Bravo

    • Bane on June 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      I meant to say “the middle path and The Way of Art”

  10. Elise V Allan on June 28, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Steven, this is the book I wish I was capable of writing! And I’m so glad that someone was able to write it. Brilliant. Thanks so much.

  11. Julie Murphy on June 28, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Excited for the final-final book, and especially to see the flow of how it’s arranged.

    What a treat to follow the process. Thanks for both showing and telling, Steve!

  12. Lee McGlothlin on June 28, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Divine ground and the original crime — a crime labeled by you as A GREAT AND NOBLE ONE .

    Steven, your post has forced me around a bend in the circular journey back home. For the fun of it (or because I am too old to label myself a legitimate student), I am auditing a seminary course on Genesis. I wondered what was the importance of Eden. Was it just a way of getting the story started? Or. . . ? First the professor had me rethinking some long accepted dogma, then you came along. Now I am looking for some firm ground to stand on, or at least a way of accepting this vertigo as a way of life. His lecture stopped just short of saying that the original sin was God’s idea. God didn’t make it happen, but He set up the circumstances so it would happen. It was more like a forced error that moves the runners around the bases — an unexpected pitch that caught both teams off guard. A way of getting the first couple out into the world.

    Although it comes more from my interpretation than from the professor’s words, the argument runs something like this:
    (1) The first divine instruction was NOT “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” as in verse 2:17, but was “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion . . .” (verse1:28)
    (2)This command was never going to be accomplished with Adam and Eve living unconsciously in the Garden of Eden with all their needs met. Maybe, if Adam and Eve were wise and conscious enough to realize all that they had, they could have spread Eden throughout the world without the Fall. Instead the Garden of Eden only gave them a taste of the ideal before they were forced out and on to their journey.
    (3)The serpent wasn’t labeled as “evil” but as “crafty.” In fact, when the serpent was created (with the other beasts) the fifth day ends with “And God saw that it was good.” (verse 1:25) and creation ends with “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (verse 1:31) Genesis 3:1 says “The serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord had made.” The Hebrew term “erum” or “arum” translated “crafty” does not carry the negative moral connotations of the English words “crafty” and “cunning.” The Hebrew could have just as easily been translated “clever,” or “subtle,” or “wise.” In a different context, and in a different language, Jesus says: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
    (4)The first conflict in the world was a battle of words and the deception of half-truths, vanity, and innuendos — showing how important words, meanings, and stories are. The serpent does not use the personal name for God (Yahweh), but rather a new name that is devoid of a sense of Lordship and ruler. Once Eve accepted the words of the serpent and used them as her own, she was doomed. She added to God’s instructions not to eat from the tree the prohibition not to touch it.
    (5) Human-made dogma comes from our tendency, once we are further down the road and we see how the story turns out, to go back to the beginning and re-interpret or attach new meanings to what we didn’t understand before. Examples: Genesis doesn’t identify the serpent as Satan, but the long course of history makes us think so. God’s instructions weren’t meant to completely separate us from a knowledge of good and evil (”Don’t touch it.”) but rather our lives are not to be sustained by this knowledge (”Don’t eat of the tree”). So what are we to be sustained by? The “Tree of Life” was not off limits before the Fall.

    But “dogma” isn’t “understanding.” When do we comprehend the story? While we are walking through it, by carefully holding on to the exact words of the author? Later down the road when we see how things turn out? At the ending climax when there is no hope of change? If so, then each life needs an afterlife to make sense of it. If the innocence of Eden is being “naked and unashamed” then is the skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve the Ego? Is “yetzer hara” necessary to wake us up from the unconscious? Is the courage of the hero facing the tendency toward evil and then turning away? Life was so much easier when the Garden of Eden was just a way of introducing the story!

  13. Terri MacMillan on June 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Steven, I am such a fan of your work about writing!
    I just listened to ‘The War of Art’ again, helped immensely.
    btw, there’s a Facebook live about the book by the Medium magazine, The Mission:

    Anyway, I just want to say thank you.

  14. Jerry Ellis on June 28, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Oh, MY GOODNESS, Steve, you really out did yourself today! Brilliant, beautifully written Mature and Wise insights into the human condition and the HERO’S CHALLENGING JOURNEY to create FIRE in prose to LIGHT THE WAY back to that mythological Eden inside the human soul, replenishing TREES with FRUIT, where the masses devour rotting leftovers on civilizations’ frozen ground. Today, especially after reading your piece, I feel the power of The Great Medicine Ghost, female, that my Native American “hero” learned in the The Way of the Cave since childhood. I just signed yesterday with the amazing, talented, brilliant, bold, and gracious agent, Laura Yorke at the Carol Mann Agency, to represent my memoir. I think my inner hero’s journey–though I didn’t fully realize it at the time–started when I was 17. I ran away from my Cherokee mountain town in NE Alabama to hitchhike 1,000 miles to New York, the trek that transformed me, blew on my tiny flame, to start living a life of adventure to travel the world and become a writer, ultimately walking the 900 mile route of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The resulting book was nominated by Delacorte Press for a Pulitzer Prize. It’s now required reading in some schools across the USA, Japan, and Germany. This past Thanksgiving Day I was the keynote speaker at Gutenberg University in Germany, where the book is required reading in the American Studies Program there. Keep the FIRE flaming, Steve–as I know you WILL. Our footprints are nearby as your shine your Light in the modern world’s Night.

  15. Jean on November 16, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Thank you. I most certainly did not come here expecting to reach a new understanding of the story of the Garden of Eden, finally “get” Original Sin, and better understand the human condition! This is one of the richest things I have ever read and has enhanced my understanding of life immeasurably. Kudos and thank you to you. This post is a gift.

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