By my interpretation, which could be flawed, I didn’t think Campbell was implying that every story includes a “magic flight” and a “rescue from without” followed by a crossing of the return threshold. I think he was suggesting that stories, in general, follow a path of descent and return, and that along that circular path, which [when complete] includes a return, the phenomena we see recurring from culture to culture include heroes being chased, being whisked away, etc. I assume he described those phenomena before describing the return threshold in depth because the return threshold is the more fundamental concept. As if to say, “be it by magic flight, which we see in these examples, or rescue from without, which we see in these examples, one way or another, the hero tends to return, so let’s discuss the examples and significance of returning.” I’m sure I was only trying to make the same point in my tutorials and if I confused you at all I’m sorry.
Campbell talked often about the futility of what he characterized as opacity in mythology. To brutally paraphrase him, a functioning religion (or story) is a window to something invisible, something all around us that we fail to “see” before a crafted frame says “look here.” It’s one thing to stain a window’s glass, to help us experience light, but when we paint the glass solid, by standing too much on ceremony, or by interpreting myth too literally, our story or religion will separate us from the unknown and each other rather than connecting us.
The ironic thing, or I guess the least ironic thing ever, is that Campbell’s wisdom makes a pretty great window, and his step-by-step analysis of mythology has come to be used as a “how to write” handbook or a “what all stories have to be” doctrine. But he never intended that, and he certainly wouldn’t have wanted some fat drunk college dropout boiling his monomyth down to a paint by numbers kit on the internet. The people that created and passed down our timeless stories didn’t do that. They followed their instincts, their fears and desires. They opened their flawed souls and let their gods shine through them. In the modern world, where writing is a recourse to revenue, we are pressured to short-cut the shamanism, like an aspirin company synthesizing tree bark. We attempt to bottle and sell simulated stories and religions, myths that may or may not be connections to the unknown but first and foremost make their deadlines and get our readers or viewers through the day. This is not a bad thing, I’d rather live in a world where a story can make me a provider for my family than a world where I’m just the slowest dishwasher.
But in these moments when we’re blocked, or in the moments we are staring at a board full of diagrams, moving characters and motivations around like chess pieces, trying to “solve” a story as if it were math homework, paralyzed by the academia, it helps to remember that any act of creation, whether folding a paper airplane, baking a cake or writing an episode of SVU, is, by definition, a religious act and a subversive one. We reach out with ape-like hands and filthy minds and we mock and challenge all that came before us by making something be there that was not there. We change the history of the world, we change who we are and we change everything that touches what we make, so we may as well also always change the rules by which we make them.
by now you’ve probably realized I’m not really just answering your question but am using it to deal with insomnia. But to try to bring this around to you, now that you’ve studied Campbell, you’ve got what’s important about it. Heroes go Somewhere Else and Heroes Come Back Different. Everything else is yours to interpret.