Traditionally, heroes take the first step on their quest and seekers take the first step on their spiritual path after receiving the call. Though the timing of the call may be surprising and seemingly random, both the hero and the seeker experience the call when they are consciously or subconsciously ready to proceed on their adventure.
In classic mythology, the call was frequently associated with an unexpected supernatural or unusual event. Joseph Campbell (1) writes of a fairytale in which the beautiful young daughter of a king drops her favorite toy, a golden ball, into a deep spring in a dark forest. When the ball sinks to the bottom of the spring, she is understandably distraught. A frog hears her crying and says he will retrieve her ball if she will promise to befriend and care for him. She consents and the frog plunges into the water, soon to return with her toy.
This disappearing ball, the appearance of the talking frog, and the daughter's promise are all a part of the call in this particular story. While a quest typically involves a physical mission into a dangerous land where great feats of bravery are expected, the call always signifies a spiritual passage--the death of an old way and the birth of a new.
It is not unusual for the person hearing the call to hold back at first, fearful to take the first step, for both the quest and the spiritual path represent a separation from the safe, everyday world that is known. While we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready to proceed, we may well experience a separation anxiety (similar to that of an 8-month-old infant when his or her mother leaves the room) as we contemplate leaving our familiar world and heading out into the unknown.
Yet the call does not come before we are ready to find important answers to important questions. As Denise Linn (2) reminds us, the quest "is an ancient rite of passage; it's a journey to the center of your soul...a powerful way to reclaim a sense of wonder and connection to the earth."
(1) In a technology-oriented, fact-based society where we do not expect talking frogs and the other supernatural beings of classic mythology to appear has heralds with invitation to begin an exciting quest, how might we experience the call?
(2) In The Sun Singer, how does protagonist Robert Adams experience the call to begin his quest into a hidden world within the western mountains?
(1) Campbell, Joseph, "The Hero With a Thousand Faces," Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1968. (This classic reference is also available in more recent editions.)
(2) Linn, Denise, "Quest - A Guide for Creating Your Own Visiton Quest," New York, Ballatine Books, 1997.