Kon-Tiki: A Modern Hero’s Journey in Real One ~ A Film Night Essay by Shunyamurti

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

Life is staged. The ego chooses at an early age what its life is about. Thor Heyerdahl, as a young boy in Norway, already chose to be a hero, to face the challenge of deep water with the handicap of not knowing how to swim. It is like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. This was his signature.

Thor became a world-famous explorer in 1947, for successfully riding a self-designed raft made of balsa wood from Peru a full 5,000 miles across the Pacific to Polynesia, depending entirely on ocean and wind currents.


This film tells the story of Heyerdahl’s life, and the backstory behind this accomplishment. If we watch this film at the level of Real One, it may be boring and somewhat insane and clearly absurd in an existential sense. But it cannot not also be inspiring, for his willingness to dare to dream as great and unique a life as he can and then to live it out to the full and drink down to the dregs its bitterness along with its ecstasies.


In honor of the ecologically-devoted Norwegians who are visiting us tomorrow, and the appreciation of Thor Heyerdahl’s charitra that was in fact one of the inspiring stories read by Shunyamurti in his youth, and which probably inspired many in that time period in which he enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame, let's agree to travel aboard this raft of fools and share the foolishness that dares to bring new truths into being.


Heyerdahl is leading this mission to prove that his theory of how the Polynesian people got to their islands is true, or at least feasible. He claimed they were Incans, or pre-Incans, who were led by their Sun God, Tiki, and taught to build rafts that would take them safely to their new destination. Mainstream anthropology insisted the Polynesians came over from Asia, not South America. For awhile, Heyerdahl’s achievement tipped the scales of academic thought, but the old guard soon brought theory back into line. Thus, he is largely forgotten.

Heyerdahl's quest, if taken on a Real Two level, provides a valuable new mythological specification and punctuation of the archetypal Hero’s Journey that offers significant information.


Thor will simply not give up. He overcomes all obstacles. He goes to Polynesia, gathers his biological evidence, writes his thesis, meets his wife, and develops his vision with her. One of the semi-tragic elements of the film is that he begets two sons with her, but then leaves them to go on his journey alone. She wanted to be the one to accompany him. But this rite of passage was for men only.


And it is this rite that we witness in very graphic and mettle-testing form, if we allow ourselves the luxury of suspending our position as detached observer and enter into the raft world’s coming-apart party as just another shipmate.

If we then shift the challenges from the horizontal to the vertical plane, to understand the deep meaning of this ordeal for those who are on another kind of Hero’s Journey, the one that leads from the labyrinth of ego across the ocean of soul-consciousness to Real Three, the Supreme Being, then we shall be aided in our understanding of the obstacles that we really fear.


For us, unlike for them, it is not that kind of storm, or that kind of shark, or that kind of reef, that we fear. And the luminous ethereal beings we encounter are not bioluminescent jellyfish or phytoplankton or alien beings from the deep—except at certain vibrational frequencies. All the signifiers must be re-coded to apply to our own inner journey through the vast expanses of consciousness, the realms of projection, the bardo states, and which require the painstaking learning of the language of the Ordaining Intelligence and the constant morphing of our form of psychic structure and self-presentation.


Heyerdahl gathers his small crew who are willing to go with him on his mad quest to achieve the impossible. Clearly only a very particular kind of person would be remotely interested in signing on to this somewhat horrifying confinement on a small raft in the middle of the ocean for months with five other men who you hardly know.


It would require men who had nothing left to live for, and who needed to get away from their own self-attacking shadow so badly they were willing to risk their lives to keep above the psychic waterline of sanity. They needed to be reborn on a death-defying adventure because the old ego was no longer inhabitable. It had to die, which required them to pass the most extreme tests they could imagine. And they did it. They won.


But if we translate this rite of passage into purely psychological terms, we must ask in an authentic sense if we are ready to face the unknown, to let go of our frame of reference and egoic character, our fixes of jouissance, our predictable habits of thought, and our ego defenses. Can we surrender to the winds of change, the tides of feeling, leave behind the dry land territories of claimed self-assertiveness and patiently wait in the hot sun that burns the ego while we catch the current that may or may not bring us to our goal, our once and future home of true nobility, power, wisdom, and joy.


We are on this journey already, of course—and there is no turning back. We must have faith. The power of Tiki is with us.


Namaste,

Shunyamurti

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