Education: The Storyteller and the Child
There are four gender-neutral Archetypes. They are: the Fool (Self), the Storyteller (Mind), the Tradesman (Body), and the Master (Spirit). “Gender-neutral,” however, is an inaccurate term in at least one way: Each of these four Archetypes has a masculine aspect and a feminine aspect, so gender-complete or di-gendered are more accurate terms. In any case, it is inappropriate to refer to these Archetypes as “he” or “she” the way I have the previous Archetypes whose gender associations have thus far been polarized. The inappropriateness of associating gendered pronouns with these Archetypes compounds further if we keep in mind that human beings incline toward Archetypal expressions associated with their genetic sex. Our endocrine glands create a bodily tendency toward the Archetype set associated with our genetic sex, producing “emotional” women and “rational” men, if we adhere to the oversimplified stereotypes. Although human beings are to some degree limited by their endocrine system, our sex hormones provide each of us with closer access to one set of Archetypes than we would otherwise have achieved: Every weakness is also a strength.
The four di-gendered Archetypes, despite their gender completeness, are not the exception to the rule of sex-hormone association. As human beings, we have all Archetypes within us. As sexed beings, we have a closer affinity to the gender Archetypes associated with out sex. Because the di-gendered Archetypes reflect the masculine/feminine (or conscious/unconscious) split, the Archetypal biases our sex hormones produce in us lead us to associate more closely with the gendered aspect of the di-gendered Archetypes that is associated with out genetic sex. Being male or female neither improves nor detracts from your ability to be a Storyteller. What it does is change the method of Storytelling you are likely to be drawn to. Imagination and fantasy are feminine elements of Storytelling, while structure is a masculine element. An excellent Storyteller is capable of using these elements in precise balance, but most of us tend to rely more heavily on one than the other. Naturally, birth sex should strongly correlate with this tendency toward imbalance.
In any case, I have chosen to use gender-neutral pronouns: “zhe” (nominative), “zhim” (accusative), “zher” (possessive), and “zherself” (reflexive). While these pronouns may prove disorienting to readers who are unfamiliar with them, I refused to resort to the dehumanizing “it” because I am consciously presenting these Archetypes as personalities. One of the incidental benefits of this method is that I can further distinguish examples of persons instantiating Archetypes from the Archetypes themselves by resorting to my usual alternating use of feminine and masculine pronouns for instances. So while I may speak of a child as “she,” I will still speak of the Child as “zhe.” Note, of course, that I have left the term “child” that refers to an instance in lowercase, while I have capitalized the term “Child” that refers to the Archetype.
Archetype #5: The Storyteller
The Storyteller’s great virtue is an inventive mind. Zhe harmoniously blends layered emotions and images with logical structure to form the totality of character and event, feeling and idea that we call a Story. The Story is the Storyteller’s pride and joy, zher precious creation. The Story itself is not necessarily a physical or manifest entity; for many Storytellers, it is enough that the Story exists in mind without actually telling the Story to anyone else.
The Storyteller is ineluctably part of the Story. Any literature professor knows that it is impossible to write a Story without writing oneself into the Story, if not as a character, then at least as a philosophical and cultural point of reference. Some schools of literary criticism prefer to take the Story as a unit without any outside reference whatsoever, but even this approach still cannot cut the Storyteller out; rather, it embraces the version of the Storyteller that zhe wrote into the Story, but rejects the version of the Storyteller who has become the subject of a different Story that we prefer to call “history.”
The Storyteller’s self-inclusion is the philosophical position from which the Storyteller’s Story always originates: a subject experiencing a world of objects among which the subject herself numbers. In every Story we tell ourselves we exist at the subjective center of the Story, unable to step onto an objective, Archimedean point to leverage the Story all the way into “Truth” (as the term is colloquially understood). This absolute subjectivity grounds our narratives, preventing us from grasping hold of something any truer than a stable, comforting, pragmatic picture of reality that can never get closer to objectivity than inter-subjective agreement of all other tellers of Stories. Not all authors and tellers of Stories can accept this subjective position, which indicates a neurosis that leads to imbalanced instantiation of the Storyteller Archetype.
The Story is the mind of the Creature, while the physical manifestations of the Story are the body of the Creature, and the independent life of the Story is the spirit of the Creature. In Storytelling, we are engaged in birthing a new creation into the world, but we do so through fashioning its mind. The Storyteller does not directly affect the body and spirit of the Creature, though zhe is almost always concerned with them.
The Storyteller must move through all the creative phases in order to form the Story: Suitor, Débutante, Mother, and Father (these are what I call the generative Archetypes). Zhe must Propose questions (Suitor) into the deep void of the mysterious unconscious (Débutante), waiting while the seed of the Story gestates. Then, in a flurry of inspiration, the Storyteller gushes, emotes, and bursts with a nebulous cache of Story substance (Mother) which zhe must later organize and prune into a coherent whole (Father). Finally, the answer to the original question prompts further questions which begin the cycle anew. These four Archetypes are uniquely significant to the Storyteller because they name the seasons of Story Telling, seasons which repeat holographically in wheel-within-the-wheel or epicyclical fashion. The generative Archetypes each have a unique persona unto themselves, but when they are lined up end-to-end in circular fashion, they take on an entirely new persona, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. This persona is the Storyteller.
The Storyteller’s Story is rooted in Archetype. Zhe is interested in all levels of Archetype, from undifferentiated Masculine and Feminine all the way down to the myriad cultural tropes we see every day in the world around us. The interplay of the universal and the particular fascinates the Storyteller, spawning countless variations (particulars) on any theme (universal) you can name. The Storyteller wants always to bridge the gap between Archetype and individual.
Archetype #22: The Child
I generally refer to Archetype #22 as the Fool. It is a unique Archetype. The Fool characterizes the human condition as a whole. It corresponds to the Jungian Archetype of the Self, the complete psyche. Although each Archetype is important, this one is foundational, so where the other 21 Archetypes merely depict elements of the Self, the Fool depicts the whole.
The Fool is also unique in that it has foundational relationships with three other Archetypes; whereas, every other Archetype has a foundational relationship with only one. The previous four Archetypes bore the foundational relationships of Attraction and Co-creation. Because the Fool relates in three foundational ways, it has three different faces. In relation to the Storyteller, the Fool is the (first-person) Child, a Relationship I have called Education. The other two foundational Relationships that involve the Fool are Training (the Tradesman and the Fool as Apprentice), and Circle (the Master and the Fool as Acolyte).
The Child is ignorant and uncertain, and the Child’s self-awareness of this ignorance is zher great virtue. In the space of self-aware ignorance, the Child desperately longs to believe. Zhe is open to any Story as long as it is captivating. For the Child, every moment is an opportunity to dream and fantasize about the many possibilities of this unknown reality.
The Child is a keeper of values. Every Child has within zherself a seemingly unshakable set of core values. Although the Child’s values are subject to change as zhe becomes more experienced through exploring what was previously only a fantasy, the Child knows no existence without values. The Child’s presence to zher own ignorance does not extend to zher values. Only slowly does the Child begin to grasp that despite being born into a state of ignorance, zhe has preferences.
A Child’s will and desires are almost implacable, though zhe readily obeys commands. Curiosity is the Child’s overriding concern which is why the Child could also be named the Adventurer. Zhe flits about from fantasy to fantasy, combining them without concern for whether the rules or universes match. The Child is intensely imaginative and has no qualms with narrative elements that we find contradictory or distasteful: zhe has zher own set of values and those values are the only ones that matter. Hence, each Child is drawn to and entranced by a slightly different set of tales. Literally speaking, some children prefer scary stories, while others prefer funny ones.
Although each Child has a different set of values from every other, there are also shared values. The Child is characterized by an open mind and willingness to believe, but zhe is sensitive to anomalies. Completeness of Story, then, is a shared value.
Because morality is ultimately a matter of value, the Child Archetype is the moral center of the entire human experience. We cannot choose a moral alignment (whether Good or Evil) unless we can instantiate the Child Archetype purely enough to discover where our values lie, how they conflict, and what the resolution must be. We cannot be Good unless we genuinely desire the good of others without calculating the benefit to Self, impossible without consistent values. Although the Child is often unaware of it, the Stories zhe chooses to believe reinforce the values she already upholds, which is why nearly everyone perceives themselves as Good regardless of how closely they align with positive coherent morality. Belief follows value, so the Child has a form of primacy in its relation to the Storyteller.
The Interpersonal Storyteller
Interpersonal participation in the Storyteller Archetype is so common that it is difficult to describe the experience without resorting to the apparently mundane and obvious. The Storyteller appears wherever there is a genuine connection between at least two people because in any relationship, there is necessarily a Story that we tell about that relationship.
Imagine a romance between a man and a woman (though any sex pair will do). If these persons follow common stereotype gender-roles, then we will observe them telling each other very different Stories about the nature of the relationship and how each of them fits into that relationship. The man may tell his partner that she is his prize, that without her he’d feel less accomplished. He may consistently tell her how beautiful she is while reinforcing her commitment to him to the point of extreme jealousy if she should give her affection to anyone else. If she attempts to expand beyond the role of the beautiful, supportive wife by publicly asserting an opinion or mingling with other men, he may lash out at her for violating the character role that he has assigned her in his story.
Conversely, the woman may tell her partner that he is her one true love and that the two of them were eternally destined to meet in a blissful and magical union. She may reinforce sweetness and affection toward her but build up resentment when he spends long hours working or when his responses to her are somehow less than blissful. If he cannot balance the necessity of working in order to support her with her frequent demands of attention, then she will attack him for failing to live up to the character role she has assigned to him.
The above example is, of course, a classic stereotype that depends on the couple’s mutual constellation of a limited set of Archetypes upon each other and subsequent enforcement of this constellating act—but it is a case with which we’re all familiar. We all tell Stories to ourselves and each other about the roles we are playing. I can remember countless occasions when I dreamed up Stories about myself and another woman in which we had some kind of adventurous love affair. In some of these Stories, the affair would last a long time and in others it was a brief but passionate experience. In most cases, however, the Story I told (and sometimes shared with the woman involved) did not play out the way I’d imagined it. I’ve also told many Stories about myself and another in a friendship, only to meet with equal surprise that the Stories I was telling about the two of us were disconnected from reality.
The Storyteller must keep the Story grounded in reality or else the Story is just a fantasy. Nowhere has this been more true than in my own interpersonal experiences. Like cartoon economists who notice a spike in stock markets and predict infinite growth, we tend to imagine simplistic and one-dimensional Stories whose structural and imaginative elements are not robust enough to accommodate the actual events that play out. In those moments when an intense connection with another human being came over me (whether romantic or not), I frequently fell into the trap of imagining that it will always be like this between us. When my fiancée is temporarily sick or stressed out, I begin to imagine to myself that something is wrong with our relationship because it feels like we’re in a downward spiral. The Stories I tell about these relationships necessarily step well beyond the present, reaching into both past and future, but their predictive and retrodictive powers are often faltering when compared to lived experience. The perceived downward spiral between my fiancée and myself ceases to feel so real when she recovers from the winter illness and I remember that it was just a passing phase.
The Social Storyteller
The trend-casting economist is one example of a social Storyteller. Other examples are more revealing. Immediately following the 9-11 attacks, the media machinery began turning its wheels in response to the information it was being provided by government sources. It wasn’t long before President Bush identified Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of the attacks. The media quickly latched onto this enemy role-assignment and bin Laden became the target of a powerful nation’s public rage.
News media is one of the most prominent examples of the Social Storyteller. Although they often see themselves as merely describing the events as they are (“objectivity” is what we call this attitude), anyone familiar with the process of reporting knows that reporting is equal parts describing and creating. The reporter is always on the hunt for a Story, but it is the reporter’s duty to discover and bring out the Story embedded in the many mundane details that no one will find very interesting.
Every Story is told in context. Ultimately, this means that there is always a grander Story that encompasses the smaller one (this is probably the reason that atheists often reject the idea of a Creator: because the Creator would need its own Creator, and so on ad infinitum). In the case of President Bush’s assignment of the enemy role to Osama bin Laden (who happily accepted the role when he took credit for the attacks), the Story of the United States’ War on Terror was well under way, but many of the structural elements were left completely unspoken, despite their importance to the Story. Some of these elements: justice demands vengeance; war begets peace; terrorism can be fought with guns and bombs; the United States foreign policy in no way invited the attacks (i.e. the victim was innocent). The Story of the War on Terror was entirely dependent upon all of these philosophical elements, but they were all implicit in the cultural context out of which the Story emerged. Culture itself is a Story and we, the preservers of culture, are its Storytellers. If our culture tells us that war begets peace and that justice demands vengeance, then perhaps we should not be surprised that the US is always at war.
The cultural context of the Story, or the setting, as fiction writers call it, is only an implied Story. It is the story that someone else told, but that we are assuming in our own specific act of Story Telling. Consider, for example, a Story about an African teen who is ostracized by her tribe, fights through nature to get to a nearby western civilization, and slowly learns how to incorporate into a society that makes little sense to her. In this Story, there are two lesser cultural contexts (the African tribe and the western society), plus a greater cultural context (present day Planet Earth). These contexts, however, only name the time and place where the Story about the ostracized African girl is told. The details of this girl’s Story must be made explicit because they are not merely cultural context.
The US news media’s Telling of the War on Terror followed these same principles. Bin Laden needed a motive (hating western culture) and a means (Al-Qaeda and lax airport security) in order for the Story the American people were told about the 9-11 attacks to be compelling and believable. Within this Story, we were assigned the role of outraged victim. Even those of us who did not know anyone who died in the attacks (like myself) were assigned this role in the Story of the War on Terror. When the US public happily accepted this role, as well as the assignment of our own military to the role of champion, the standard victimizer-victim-champion triad played out as usual, to the apparent mutual benefit of all—except, of course, the collateral.
The Inner Storyteller
The Inner Storyteller is the mental avatar: the self that is both actor and acted upon in the mind’s central activity: belief-system building. In other words, the Inner Storyteller and the Mind are one and the same. Although the Mind is the subject of all mental experience, it is still only part of the Self. If the Self is the perspective and the essence, the Mind is the vehicle in which the Self may have a mental experience.
You will notice that in order to grasp the nature of the Storyteller Archetype, it is crucial to imagine a realm or domain wherein mental activity takes place—a metaphysical realm that exists parallel to the physical realm we all agree upon. Standard physicalist descriptions of human experience reduce this metaphysical realm to brain-states or some similar physical process, but such reduction can in no way negate the necessity of imagining this realm when we describe mental events. We normally side-step the disjunction between the Archetypal pattern of our experience and the physicalist Story that we use to describe that experience by referring to the mental arena as “the head” or “the brain,” without attending to the distinctly non-physical experience to which we are each privy, whether that experience is “in the head” or not.
The easiest way to think of the subjectivity of the Storyteller is in video game terms. Imagine you are playing a video game, but it is a special kind of video game. In this game, you forget about the world outside the game and you take on the experience and perspective of the character you are playing in the video game. That character is, of course, your in-game avatar. But because your perspective is wrapped up in the video game character, the avatar becomes your only vehicle for experience. The Storyteller is the avatar, and the Self (the Fool or the Child) is the one who began playing in the first place. Without the awareness and identity of the Self there would be no one to experience the game, but without the game, there would be nothing to experience. The distinction between Self and avatar is the foundation of the subject-object distinction within the self-aware individual. The Self is the self as subject, while the avatar is the subjective self as object.
Because the Storyteller always begins from a position of subjectivity, the mere fact of having a human mind demands a Story to be told. As already discussed, the nature of Stories is that they are nested, seemingly infinitely so. Within each Story is a smaller Story and encapsulating each Story is a greater Story. We cannot actually know this infinity since we are limited in our ability to conceive both smallness and largeness, but the principle of infinite nesting is implicit in the nature of Story Telling. As subjective entities, none of us has absolute certainty about either context or detail. We regularly miss both the trees and the forest, seeing instead only the branches that threaten to knock us off our horses.
The principle of infinite nesting of Stories implies that the world of experience is holographic, i.e. the microcosm/macrocosm principle. That is, the world may not be objectively holographic (because we can’t say anything objective about the world at all), but we perceive it as holographic. On every level of experience, we look for the same elements of a Story: protagonists and antagonists, setting-problem-resolution, Archetypal support characters, catharsis, etc. We look for these elements because we expect to find them, and because we expect to find them we do find them.
The three levels on which the Archetypes manifest are themselves three holographic levels, each with an internal set of holographic sub-levels. On the interpersonal level, there are multiple different sub-levels, each representing a different layer of the holographic whole: the romantic sub-level is the one I address most frequently, but there is also a friendship sub-level, a confidante sub-level, a family sub-level, an acquaintance sub-level, and probably some other sub-levels I haven’t thought of. Similarly, on the social level, there is a family sub-level, a community sub-level, a national sub-level, a global sub-level, etc. Predictably, the holography of the Architecture also manifests on the inner level when we discover the many elements of Self that compete for the same Archetypal role (e.g. “What kind of brother shall I be?” “Sometimes I’m cowardly but other times I’m brave,” and “I believe in God, but I also believe in science”).
The Inner Storyteller, or the Mind, then, is a complex experience. We do not simply fashion a belief system for ourselves and then go on our merry way. There are distinct sub-levels to the experience of building belief systems, especially insofar as we build these systems unconsciously. The first and foundational level is the mythic level. We are each born into a culture with an overriding mythos whose values, principles, aesthetic, and rules are tacitly assumed by all members of society. This overriding mythos shifts, of course, depending on the specific culture you find yourself it. In Japan, for example, it is commonplace to fat-shame anyone who is not slender. The cultural climate among American university students is so radically different from the Japanese cultural climate that a typical left-leaning student would find these Japanese norms shocking. Even the mythic level, however, has sub-levels. Hitler’s dream of a super race was founded on Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch, but it also relied heavily on the German father-god Wotan (or Odin as we call him). The mythic Story that gave context to Nazi elitism had at least three nested layers.
In America today, the mythic level of the Storyteller’s belief system is almost completely dependent on Christianity as it developed in western Europe. Even those who reject Christianity often rely on the Christian concepts of Good and Evil, which are based on divine command assertions about what is right and wrong. The American melting-pot has thankfully intermixed many other mythic elements (such as African culture, east Asian culture, and middle-eastern culture), but the American cultural foundation is still ultimately Christian. The Storyteller depends on an assumed context, so we cannot avoid a mythic foundation for our Stories, but we can decide which myth to found our Stories upon once we discover that our myths do not give us access to Absolute Truth (which, unfortunately, is a central element of most mainstream myths, especially the religious myths).
The next level of the Mind’s belief system is the historic level. In this part of the Inner Storyteller’s narrative, we build a picture of the relevant movements in the world: where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what ought to be done to change our direction if we want to go somewhere else. The historic level of the Story is wholly and completely dependent upon the mythic level. The mythic level tells us what the possible avenues of motion are and how we can get from here to there. Conversely, history tells us what has actually happened and how events played out differently from what was expected. Myth gives us an impression of the possible, while history gives us an impression of the realistic. The historic level has many sub-levels, each corresponding to smaller and smaller sub-sections of the universe as a whole. We have, for example, a scientific history of Planet Earth in relation to the Universe. We also have a history of the peoples of the world in relation to the whole. And so on. These sub-levels continue to nest until we get a complete picture of the Self in relation to the universe.
The final level of the Mind’s belief system is built upon the history of the individual. In addition to a history of ourselves, we also have an identity-claim. All of the forgoing histories contribute to our identity insofar as we fit ourselves into categories. In my case: Earthling, North American, Louisianian, middle-class, white, male, millennial, whose parents remained married. My own personal history, my identity, begins with my own unique story, such as “I completed a post-graduate program, then became a writer, coach and teacher.” The various levels of external history I can fit myself into are not the center of the identity-claim I make about myself. The center of my identity-claim is the Story I tell of myself as protagonist, as actor. Because I am only telling a subjective narrative based on endless interpretation, my identity-claim is in no way connected to my identity. In fact, my actual identity (at least in mental terms) is the Mind itself, and not the protagonist that the Mind describes.
Despite the distinction between identity and identity-claim, we all imagine ourselves as protagonists in our own Stories. Our identity-claim can hope to approximate our actual identity insofar as we manage to represent ourselves honestly within our own narratives. Perfect self-honestly, though, is very rare. We invent limitations or handicaps for ourselves, such as “I’m just not good at public speaking,” or “I am afraid of intimacy,” or “I need constant entertainment,” regardless of whether these limitations are embedded into our actual identity (the Mind itself). We also take pride in feathers in our cap, such as “I completed college,” or “I have a hot girlfriend,” or “My ride’s got sweet rims,” regardless of whether these bragging points are at all relevant to anyone else’s Story but our own.
There is no part of our experience that is not touched on and affected by our belief systems. Wherever we go, there our beliefs confront us. We carry these Stories with us as a narrative bubble through which no information can pass unless it has a recognizable place within the Story. Only on extraordinary occasions (described by later Archetypes) are we impacted by an anomaly so forceful that we must abandon our current belief system to build a new one. All possible physical (or “manifest” as I sometimes call it) experience is processed first through the belief system to be filtered out if it doesn’t match. When I was younger, I took the Christian injunction against fornication so seriously that casual sex was not a genuine possibility, even though my body was capable of it. All possible mystical experience is also filtered. The spiritual Self cannot be accessed unless the belief system permits access. Hence, those who adopt a rigidly physicalist perspective of reality (typically rationalists or scientists) have screened out the majority of mystical experiences, leaving themselves with with only the emotion of wonder as an outlet for spiritual expression.
The Interpersonal Child
The Interpersonal Child is equal parts sidekick and wayfarer. Often, when we meet another human being we are impressed with our own ignorance about that person. On a first date, if the two persons are reasonably balanced, they will be concerned primarily with exploring the personality before them, open, receptive and attentive to everything their date has to say. When a date goes well, the magic and exuberance that we contribute to the date emerges squarely from the interpersonal Child. The date may be little more than a conversation and a walk together, but it feels like an adventure with a partner-in-crime. In the mutual openness and receptivity of this unique (and all too seldom recaptured) experience, we approach each other in a state of ignorant and excitable curiosity.
The rapport or chemistry we experience with another individual usually resolves to a question of subtle value compatibility. Before that first date (assuming we don’t otherwise know the person), chemistry is impossible to measure. Only over the course of that date does it become evident how connected and suited we are to each other. Although we may each have a laundry list of requirements for our significant other, the Child’s sense of value priority is far more subtle than this Ego-driven list. The Child’s values are a network of interlocking, motivating concepts whose effects upon each other is sensitive to both the structure of the other’s Story and the aesthetic. The Child’s sense of value priority is the essence of Self. It is the inner poem that sings the resonant harmonic unique to each individual. The values interlace into a complex pattern, like a coat of arms. We hold this coat of arms up to the Story of every other person we meet, and our degree of rapport and connection with this individual depends upon how closely their value-pattern (or coat of arms) resembles our own.
In the non-romantic arena of the interpersonal level, the Child is abundantly common in the meeting of strangers. I once worked in the wellness department of a healthfood store where I was approached on a daily basis with people who wanted to tell me a Story. Sometimes I’d find myself captivated and completely unconcerned with the passage of time, while other times I’d be looking for a way out of the conversation. In each case, I was the Child to the other’s Storyteller, but my value-pattern did not always match theirs.
The interpersonal Child is concerned with both the believability of another’s Story and with zher ability to enter into and live the fantasy that the other tells. The Child wants to dream and every Story gives zher the opportunity to do so. Sometimes the Child stops to listen to the interesting stranger; while other times the Child seeks out a tried and true Storyteller who always has something fascinating to say.
The Social Child
The Social Child is the Audience. In any event where there is an audience, the Child Archetype is activated. Audience participation and response, however, varies. The Audience demands a good Story and will either cheer or boo depending on the result. Each Audience is different and therefore has a slightly different value-pattern. A comedian who does not account for the demographics of her Audience may be doomed to a poor showing. While this is not a great concern among established comedians who attract an Audience that matches them, fledgling comedians are at the mercy of the venue. If the Audience is primarily rural blue-collars, then jokes bashing conservative values will probably flop. If the Audience is primarily college students, then references to 1970’s culture will yield crickets.
An Audience is profoundly receptive and excitable. The Child Archetype is responsible for the stirring of so-called mob-mentality in response to a compelling public speaker. Police arm themselves in riot gear for protests not because there might be violent individuals (this is always the case), but because there will be public speakers and some of them may be so effective that the receptive Audience begins to take on an excited emotional state which the individual members may not be able to rationally control. When a protest mob forms, the group mind has located and aligned with the overriding Story of the protest (whether spoken or not), and it exerts its influence upon each constituent member. All mob-mentality begins with the Child Archetype and its acceptance of the Story spoken or adopted by the group.
Immanuel Kant, in his famous essay, “What Is Enlightenment?” identified the Child Archetype when he referred to “self-incurred tutelage.” By this term, he meant persons who do not seize their own autonomy, who do not tell their own Stories. Yet only a fool would attempt a Story without a point of reference. We are all ignorant and we will never stop being ignorant. We will, therefore, never fully retire our “self-incurred tutelage,” though we can at least increase our awareness of when we enter into tutelage (i.e. when we instantiate the Child) and whether the Story we are adopting sufficiently aligns with our value-pattern. The power of group-think can often override the values of an individual, sweeping that individual into the normative Story of the group by activating a limited range of values in the individual. We call this phenomenon “peer pressure.”
The Inner Child
The Child is your heart and open eye. The Jungians call this Archetype the Self. It is the absolute subject (the only thing in the world we can say is absolute) into which all experience flows. The Self is the center of everything that makes us who we are; it is both origin and destination. Despite the centrality of this Archetype, the Self is changeable because it holds your values, which are the source of all your experience, the wellspring from which the Ego’s will (i.e. the Suitor) emerges. What do we will but that which we value? As our experience grows, our values change and so our will changes in response.
Every human being experiences subjectivity the same way, but every subjective experience is uniquely different. This sounds like a contradiction but it is not. Each subject is unique, but the rules enforced upon us that make us subjects in the first place are consistent. Human subjectivity is a unique state of ignorance combined with a sense of deep and immovable identity. Although the values that move this unique identity can shift in response to the experience it has, that identity never stops being what it is.
The Self is the part of us that Chooses in the most profound sense possible. In this regard, it possesses what the philosophers sometimes call free will (those who call free will something else define it out of existence). By deciding whether to ratify or reject a Story, the Self chooses how its values will be expressed by the belief system (the Story) that shapes its experience. Only the Self, the Inner Child, knows that it is all just a Story, just a myth, just a fantasy, which is why only the Child can laugh. The delight of the Self is a pure expression of the innocence of the Inner Child. When a Story delights our Inner Child, we experience what New Agers call “resonance,” the synergy formed by a match in value-patterns between the Story in question and the Self. When people say “that resonates with me,” they are ratifying a belief or system of beliefs as synergistic with their current value-patterns.
The Story is the vessel in which the conscious mind comes to know the unconscious mind. The Self, who gets the last word on whether or not a belief system is sea-worthy, typically chooses based on the question, “Does this sound like a fun adventure?” Every Story is an adventure when you get to live in it the way the Self, through its subjectivity, does.
The Virtuous Storyteller and Child
If you have read Chapter 3, “The Crisis of Direction,” then you are already familiar with my usage of the terms “virtue,” “vice,” “good,” “evil,” “right,” and “wrong.” If you have not read this, then I’ll very briefly recap: Right and wrong depend entirely on subjective desire (or will or inclination, whichever word you prefer). Good and Evil are the two internally coherent moral directions, characterized by how you treat both yourself and others. If you view yourself and others as having value, autonomy, and beauty just by virtue of existing, then you align with moral Good. If you view yourself and others as objects to be subjected to your ideas, ideals and attitudes, then you align with moral Evil. Neither direction is inherently “right,” because we must each choose which of these morally coherent directions matches the inner inclination. Virtue and vice name the functionality or dysfunctionality of the Self in response to the presence or absence of moral coherence. Hence, to be virtuous is to choose either Good or Evil to the exclusion of the other; whereas, to be vicious is to fail to choose. Virtue and vice are not an on-off switch because the purity of our choice of moral direction is a sliding scale. Although we do tend to choose in an absolute sense (we unequivocally prefer one to the other), we have difficulty committing to this choice to the exclusion of the other. I assume that everyone reading this article has chosen Good (because those are the sort I attract), but there are still parts of us that incline towards Evil. Those of us who love and respect others but sometimes try to control them are morally Good, but lack some purity. The Virtuous Archetypes show us what it looks like to choose a moral alignment purely, without inclusion of the elements of the opposite moral alignment.
The Good Storyteller
The distinction between Good and Evil is always a matter of intention. Since the Storyteller’s job is to invent and relate a complete account of events based on the Storyteller’s unique interpretation, the intention behind the Story is the locus of moral distinction. Why, then, does a Storyteller tell a Story? Pure Good is defined as an orientation toward serving others to the benefit of all. It is an act of connecting, sharing, and harmonizing that preserves the expressive freedom and uniqueness of each individual involved.
I call the Good Storyteller the Parabler (after Jesus of Nazareth). The Parabler, aligned with this greater purpose, invents and tells Stories for the sole purpose of fostering a world that richly celebrates the individual, encourages human beings to trust in each other, and carefully preserves the freedom of each individual to choose her own Stories. The Parabler has a vision of the world as it might be, courtesy of zher access to the Inner Parabler. In this vision, human beings collaborate to construct a better world, and they do so through mutual support and acceptance, through discovering and fostering the individual strengths of each. The Parabler’s Stories, then, serve others by helping them work toward this vision.
Jesus of Nazareth is a famous example of the Parabler. His teachings were always oriented toward the moral Good, but he never judged others, nor did he enforce his Stories upon them. In honor of his consistent focus on preserving the freedom of others to choose their own Stories, he spoke in parables which were designed to be interpreted by each listener. If a listener was not ready to hear something Jesus wanted to say, then the listener’s Inner Storyteller would prevent the message from getting through by encouraging an alternate interpretation or else by stripping the Story of its meaning: “It’s just a Story.”
For the Parabler, the purpose of a Story is not to establish itself as the absolute Story for all time. This feat is impossible for any Story to achieve, though many Stories attempt it nevertheless. The Parabler has developed a way of living in the world which conforms to zher values, and the Parabler’s Story is an expression of that way of living. To share this Story with others, then, means that the Story must be presented so that it is least likely to suppress the values of the individual and most likely to encourage them. Unfortunately, Jesus of Nazareth’s Story somehow became an opportunity to suppress the Stories of others, despite the purity of the original man’s intentions. Intention, after all, is the defining difference between Good and Evil, not consequence.
In composing The Architecture, I myself aim at the Parabler as an Archetypal model. Through this project, I tell the Story of the Architecture of the Human Experience. My purpose, however, is not to claim that the Story as I tell it is the absolute truth. Rather, I am attempting to take hold of the experiences that we all share by virtue of being human and to translate these into a systematic framework for approaching our experience. You’ll notice that I do not endorse any specific myth. Rather, I make use of them all (to the extent of my knowledge, anyway). That does not mean that I do not have a preferred myth—I most certainly do. I just don’t speak much about it because I am not here to preach a specific myth; I am here to tell a Story. You’ll notice that I also emphasize the importance of a non-dogmatic approach (possibly to the point of over-emphasis). I do this to discourage readers from taking a dogmatic approach to my own writing, and also to empower them to fashion their own Stories as lavishly and as vividly as possible, without indiscriminately adopting the rules handed to them by a previous generation.
Even my presentations of the Archetypes cannot hope to be anything more than parables. The Archetypes themselves cannot be spoken. They must be felt, experienced, entered into. What I do here is a painting of the Archetypes as I see them, but if you find the spot where I was standing when I set up my easel and moistened my brush, you will discover that the experience is incomparably different from the painting.
Interpersonally, the Parabler is the confidante or advisor who will tell you what you need to hear but not what you need to do. The Interpersonal Parabler does not believe that zhe has the right answers for you, but zhe is confident that zhe can help you discover them for yourself. Anyone who knows an Interpersonal Parabler has witnessed zher impressive ability to simultaneously tell a Story that resonates with you on an individual level and speak honestly from zher own unique perspective. On any level, the Parabler’s purpose is to lift you up, to help you along your way. There is no ruse and no scam, just a genuine desire to help you with by giving information in the shape of a Story.
Any organization for whom transparency is a key value is to some degree a Social Parabler. When an organization presents its Story, warts and all, nothing to hide, that organization thereby prevents itself from attempting to seize control of the Stories of others. Transparency undercuts the high-horse and face-saving tendencies that so many organizations employ in their Stories. Without these mechanisms, the organization cannot dictate to others what they ought to believe because others will perceive themselves as equal to the organization and not of lesser value. Transparency (honesty combined with authenticity) is key to any kind of Parabler, but it is especially important to the Social Parabler.
The Inner Parabler is the mind freed from dogmatic attachment. The Parabler is a creator at heart, and zher left and right hands are the Mother and Father, aesthetic and structure. Your mind, then, is essentially a creator always engaged in its creative enterprise. When you adopt a dogma that you do not allow yourself to honestly revisit, a dogma you are not allowed to doubt and possibly overturn, you chain your mind’s left and right hands, limiting your mind’s ability to create freely. The Inner Parabler knows that every Story is just a story. Even the most compelling and believable Stories are still only inventions forged from the conceptual ore dug from the depths of a subjective mind. At heart, what makes the Parabler’s Story so compelling is that it makes contact with your experience at every important point, satisfying your demands for simplicity, accuracy, coherence, and balance all in one. The Child may know that the Parabler’s Story is not necessarily the Absolute Truth, but zhe has no desire to believe anything else.
These most compelling Stories do, however, have something more than the mental contributed to them. The great virtue of the Parabler is that zhe has a clear and focused mind. Zhe has eliminated mental debris that emerges from conflicting moral attitudes and the neuroses these conflicting attitudes inculcate. Zhe has a clear sense of zher emotional states and a functional set of rules by which zhe can fluidly process these emotional states. The Parabler is a clear channel for the expression of something higher. Zhe can contact the inner Muse, the Spirit whose Stories are subtler and more moving than a merely mental Story can ever be.
The Evil Storyteller
The Evil Storyteller is a Propagandist who has no interest in what benefits others unless it also happens to benefit zherself. Like the Parabler, the Propagandist has a vision, but in the Propagandist’s vision, the Self becomes the center of all organization, all authority, all culture. The Propagandist feels within zherself that zhe has both the power and the desire to shape the world according to zher own plan. The Propagandist sees a Story in which zhe is a potential god and all others are potential servants to zher godhead. Zhe does not speak this Story to others, of course, because it would not serve the purpose of raising the Propagandist up as a god.
In order to achieve zher ends, the Propagandist must cultivate a Story that encourages others toward the conclusion that the Propagandist zherself is the savior that will solve all their problems. The method and execution of the Propagandist’s Story is diametrically opposed to that of the Parabler. The Propagandist has no interest in encouraging the unique strengths of others or in perceiving others as equal collaborators in a group Story. Rather, the Propagandist perceives zher own ends as paramount and the Stories and strengths of others as lacking virtue. The Propagandist’s inner Story is dramatically different from zher outer Story because the outer Story serves to convince others to submit themselves to the Propagandist’s authority of their own free will.
The Propagandist walks through the world wrapped in a carefully chosen cultural bubble. In the Revelations, the Propagandist is identified as the “Beast of the Land,” whose snake tongue and charm woo a whole population into following zher, despite the dubious destination. In folk lore, the Propagandist is known as the Pied Piper, whose beautiful and enchanting song leads all the children to their demise. As transparency is crucial to the Parabler’s ability to win the trust of others, an attractive and compelling Story is crucial to the Propagandist’s ability to manipulate others to zher own ends.
The Interpersonal Propagandist is a Con-man (or woman). Once, when I was living in a well-to-do neighborhood, I saw a van with pictures of beef all over it drive up to my house. One of the two men in the car knocked on my door and the first words out of his mouth when I greeted him were, “I’m not a salesman, I just need to get rid of some free meat.” Curious about what he might have been if he were not a salesman, I let him do his thing. He had five or six different packages of meat displayed on my porch and was quoting me numbers before I decided that he definitely was a salesman. When I told him, “I’m not going to buy anything from you,” he responded “Why didn’t you tell me that sooner?” Apparently, I had hijacked the narrative in which he claims to be hooking you up, rather than selling to you. This narrative must have allowed him to get his foot in the door, talk his meat up, show it off, and then rely on the investment of his time and energy to pressure people into buying from him. I had the distinct feeling that I was breaking the rules by telling him I was not going to buy anything.
The Con-man shows up frequently in romantic relationships any time we want to “convince” our partners to do something that they did not necessarily want to do. The Con-man brings out the Propagandist’s tendency to pressure zher audience into going along with the Story (“Everyone else is doing it,” “If you love me you’ll do it,” “You may not know it yet, but I think it will be good for you”). Without that pressure, the Story would just smell fishy and the Propagandist would appear as a liar.
The classic example of the Social Propagandist is Adolf Hitler. His mastery of the propaganda machine allowed him to get himself declared dictator of a purported republic, to energize the racial biases of an entire people toward genocide, and to mount a program of world-conquest. Living in Germany during the 1930’s impressed upon the whole world the importance and power of this figure who led an army on Stories, brilliance and public charisma alone. The extremity of the Story did not matter, nor were moralistic concerns relevant except insofar as Hitler wanted to play on the specific moral character of the Germans whose favor he hoped to curry.
The Inner Propagandist is the Self that decides consciously and intentionally to repress anything in the Self that is deemed weak or unworthy. The Inner Propagandist persistently brainwashes the Self in order to eliminate any qualities, feelings, or associations that do not serve the Self’s broader efforts to enforce its control on the world around it. The Inner Propagandist has a Story for the Self and wherever the Self does not live up to this Story, the Propagandist starts up the machinery of self-manipulation.
The above description of the Inner Propagandist makes this Evil Archetype sound foreign. But we all engage the Propagandist’s energy frequently. When we break the rules we’ve made for ourselves (diet, drug-avoidance, time-wasting, relationship dependency, etc.), we enlist the Tyrant to punish us for our failures. When we do not live up to our own expectations, we enlist the Manipulative to withhold support until we force ourselves to become more than we were. These two are serving the Inner Propagandist’s Story whose purpose is to command control of the Self (the Inner Child). The Tyrant and the Manipulative are the right and left hands of the Propagandist, because they enforce upon us the Story of Self invented by the Propagandist, instead of encouraging the Self to choose its own Story. Whereas the Parabler’s Story of Self is gently adapted to the authentic Self that is beyond all Story, the Propagandist’s Story of Self is ruthlessly enforced upon the authentic Self, giving it no choice but to accept the Propagandist’s mold.
The Good Child
It can be hard for us to imagine the Self as being entirely Good or entirely Evil, but all of our myths point to the possibility. Most of these myths require some kind of divine intervention in order to become morally pure (or virtuous, or coherent, or balanced, as I’ve variously called it). Since most of my readers are familiar with Christianity, it makes a good example: when the Savior forgives your sins, you attain to Grace and become morally pure thereby. As I’ve said elsewhere (in the chapter on morality), this Story is consistent enough with the Architecture that it produces results (i.e. people actually experience a change through the Grace of the Savior).
In any case, the mechanism of the inner change from moral incoherence to moral coherence is traceable to the Child Archetype. Each Child is born possessing unique set of values. Any parent can confirm this. As the Child matures, zhe acquires Stories or beliefs that make contact with this nebulous and unconscious set of values. The Child will accept any belief that resonates with zher value-pattern (which includes, “My mother doesn’t love me as much as she would if I had red hair”—a belief I had when I was a child until my mother corrected me) unless it is challenged by an alternate belief that resonates even more closely with the value-pattern. If the Child is not exposed to a coherent Story, zhe will experience negative emotions that zhe will eventually want release from. The Savior Story grants release and allows the Child to change zher beliefs to ones that are more coherent.
The morally Good Child, then, is what other Jungians refer to as the Innocent. The Innocent exists primarily in a state of upliftment, curiosity, and optimism. The Innocent achieves this experience not by accident or by fortune, but by moving through the saga of the human Architecture only to end at the beginning. The Innocent is the Child that has lost and regained zher innocence, learning what kinds of experiences are possible in the human condition and deciding for zherself how zhe wants to live zher life. The Innocent has been both cynical and naive once upon a time, and has returned to innocence informed and secure in a state of boundless faith in the world, in the human race, in the Creator, and in the entire experience. The Innocent trusts that no matter what happens, everything is as it ought to be and nothing is lost or doomed. Unlike a child who has not yet lost innocence, the Innocent has a unshakable faith in this optimistic perspective.
By virtue of zher coherent Story and the perilous path zhe has traveled to get from incoherence to coherence, the Innocent can see through the pretenses of others. Zhe listens and understands. Zhe loves and does not judge. The Innocent encourages everyone, hoping to inspire others to take zher own invincible faith as an example to aspire to because zhe knows how happy everyone would be if they could find invincible faith for themselves.
The Innocent looks for and finds virtue and innocence in others. Because zhe has been at rock bottom before, has known despair, guilt, shame, outrage, disdain, and all the rest, zhe understands how these emotions and the beliefs that produce them cause us to violate our own values or to allow experience to shift our values into conflict with each other. No one can be Innocent who has not first been guilty.
The above description of the Innocent is the same on all levels of experience because we cannot be Innocent on one level and not on the rest. It is an all or nothing kind of experience. Hence, to be Innocent means to love, to accept, to forgive, and to tread faithfully and optimistically in relation to the Self, to individuals, and to groups. The Innocent is a unicorn: zhe blesses everything and everyone zhe touches through inspiring and encouraging, healing and playing. Persons who approximate the Innocent Archetype are not uncommon, but a group that approximates this Archetype is rare indeed.
The Evil Child
Is there such a thing as an evil soul? Whatever we might mean with the word “soul,” we surely at least mean the Self. I am not especially well researched on documentation of literal bad seeds (evil children), but James Hillman is:
We think that people go wrong and then ask what happened. We answer that it must have been drugs or else his father beat him. [In The Soul’s Code,] I give eight different theories about evil, including the old Catholic idea that you could actually be possessed by a devil. Orthodox Christianity, whatever the denomination, always had a place for the devil. I don’t want to say that’s the reason for evil, but that is one of the theories. I do think you’re right when you say our usual thinking doesn’t have a place for the demon, the serial killer, the person devoted to torture and cruelty, the great murderer, or Adolph Heliochrome I analyzed in the chapter. This is a great mystery in human life. What about these people; can one be called to evil? We have a lot of evidence of people who are. For example, that little girl, Mary Belle, who at age nine strangled two little boys, ages three and four. She showed no signs of remorse or even awareness that she had murdered. How could a little girl of nine do such a thing? Yet we read in the papers again and again of young children killing smaller ones. Where does that come from? Some say it is caused by watching TV. I find that a preposterously easy answer. There’s something very unusual about that.
There is a call. It is a call to transgress, to go beyond human boundaries, literally a call to transcendence. The curious thing is that religions, including Hinduism, Judaism and satanist cults, have the same idea that you can go beyond the normal by going into the abnormal. We don’t have to interpret that people should do this, but it does emphasize that the bad seed is looking for a mode of transcendence, a mode of going beyond the ordinary human so that it becomes inhuman. We need to find modes of ritual, through the arts and ceremonies, which allow that excessive, extravagant, demonic force to find a way of expression without doing it concretely and literally.
-James Hillman, Interview with Personal Transformation
The demonic or Evil Self sees in others only tools, objects to exert the will of Self upon without concern for the other’s will. The Bad Seed does not necessarily hate or despise others, though these emotions are always accessible to the Bad Seed; rather, zhe is simply unconcerned about their wellbeing independent of the effect these others’ wellbeing has upon the Self. The Bad Seed lacks more than merely conscience; zhe lacks recognition of value in others. Immanuel Kant expressed this opposition as the difference between seeing others as either a means to some other end or as an end in themselves. The Bad Seed sees no particular virtue in the benefit of the other.
The Bad Seed’s Evil values are not necessarily all inborn. The process of moving through human experience both reveals and changes the values with which we approach our experience. Interrogators are aware that when exposed to torture, everyone has a breaking point. At this breaking point the psyche cracks open and can be programmed at the interrogator’s whim. When the Child is exposed to a Story so powerful and so forceful that it shatters the Child’s values, the experience will take root in the Child and a new set of values forms around it. It is impossible to predict exactly what the new value set is, but if it does not lead to suicidal tendencies it is sure to polarize either Good or Evil. That is, extreme torture generally leads either to insanity, or to a resolute alignment of values with Good or with Evil. Some Bad Seeds are born with Evil values, while others choose them over the course of their lives.
The Vicious Storyteller and Child
An Archetype can become viciously distorted in two ways: over-expression or under-expression. Because virtue lies in the balance between these two polar opposite vices, I call over-expression “positive unbalance” and under-expression “negative unbalance.”
We become vicious when our moral attitudes are confused. Confusion most often takes the form of perceiving ourselves as Good but employing Evil methodology. Our moral attitudes become confused (a) in response to the confused environment into which we are born, and (b) as an expression of our inborn personality dynamics (which I have elsewhere called the “Daemon”). In short, we are confused beings entering a confused world, so we all end up vicious. This is a natural state of affairs, which is why the Zen Buddhists constantly remind us that nothing is wrong.
The Positive Unbalanced Storyteller
News media outlets are one of the most obvious instances of the Storyteller in action. Despite the obvious relationship, there are ever so few of these outlets that we can clearly associate with the Parabler. These outlets tend to attempt “objectivity,” which results in Associated Press style coverage: rich in description, but scant in interpretation. As such, the AP is not a strong candidate for a Parabler. The Parabler does not shy from interpretation, but also does not enforce zher interpretation upon others. American news media outlets are also unlikely candidates for pure instances of the Propagandist because most reporters are regular people who are doing their best to deliver honest stories—though circumstances often force them into incendiary propaganda tactics in order to keep the news station relevant. No, news media are more often than not a Tall Tale Teller, or a Tall Taler (which is less tongue-twisting and eye-crossing).
The Tall Taler is not bent on conquest, but on acceptance, often in response to an unbalanced Inner Mother or Father (withholding self-acceptance or withholding self-approval). The Tall Taler feels that an honest Story is not juicy enough, so zhe exaggerates or outright invents elements in order to make the Story more interesting to others.
We might be tempted to think that the Tall Taler is just a fiction writer, but this is emphatically false. The moment a fiction writer puts the words “A Novel” on the cover of her book, her only duty to being honest is in telling her parable faithfully and without pretense. The Tall Taler is dishonest because zhe presents an embellished and mostly fictitious tale as if it actually happened. We read extreme events in fiction, such as the Story of Oedipus who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother, then blinded himself when he discovered his error, and we know that these kinds of things do not actually happen that way. The purpose of the fiction is not to give a literally plausible scenario (though it may also do that); rather, the purpose is to tell a Story that matches human experience. If the match is not literal then it must be metaphorical. The staying power of the Story of Oedipus is the unconscious psychic tendencies that it identifies in human beings. That is, it points to Archetypes.
The Tall Taler is not looking to uplift others and does not really expect to control them in any overt way. Rather, the Tale serves to buffer the Teller’s fragile Ego from the judgments of others. For the Tall Taler, the truth is never enough because people yawn at the truth. In the perspective of the Tall Taler, the world of experience lacks the fantastic. Real life is boring and no good Story bores. The tragic irony of the Tall Taler is that zhe incurs the judgment of others through zher deceit, not through an uneventful Story.
Interpersonally, we (the cohorts of my youth and I) called Tall Talers “bullshitters.” You could call them out on the nonsense they claimed to have seen or done, but it didn’t matter because they always had some new Story to make the old and unworkable Story work. Additionally, the bullshitter is usually also a one-upper, so zher unconscious insecurities demand that the exaggerated Story must be better than anyone else’s Story. We rolled our eyes, of course, but what else could you do? The bullshitter is ill at ease with zher own experience, but also dazzled by the Stories others tell that are actually true. In the face of these dazzling Stories, the bullshitter does not think zher own Stories can measure up, so embellishment is the only solution. What the bullshitter does not know and must one day learn is that what makes a Story dazzle is not fantastic events, but a fantastic perspective of the seemingly mundane.
The woefully polarized news media in the US (Fox News and MSNBC are TV examples, while Drudge and Al Jazeera are Internet examples) indicates a Social Tall Taler approach. A Story that depends upon the conscious exclusion of the opposing perspectives in order to be convincing is an unconscious form of propaganda. What saves these news outlets from being propaganda outright is that they typically see themselves as honest. The hallmark of a morally incoherent attitude is the conscious use of Evil methodology (the Necessary Evil) for Good ends. This kind of incoherence can only exist in a psyche that hides its own Evil ends deep in its unconscious so that employing the Necessary Evil does not induce a moral crisis. We can only employ Evil methodology for Good ends when we have hidden our secretly Evil ends from ourselves. In any case, these news media outlets typically downplay the polar opposite perspective (regardless of whether that opposite is liberal or conservative) so that their audience can do more fist pumping.
The Inner Tall Taler is the Self that carefully buries a painful truth in the unconscious mind by consciously wrapping it in illusions. When I was a teen, I arrogantly bludgeoned others with my intelligence, leading them into logical circles and unwinnable arguments. At the time I just saw myself as being “right,” but I later discovered that I was hiding from my own ignorance, of which I was secretly ashamed. I told a Tall Tale about myself as boundlessly knowing and intelligent because I wasn’t prepared to face the limitations of my own mind.
The Negative Unbalanced Storyteller
The Storyteller who refuses to tell a Story is a Mute. The Mute often appears as a Child because zhe never commits to a Story, but zher silence is of a different nature from the Child’s. Instead of the receptivity and exuberance of the Child, the Mute experiences frustration and resistance. The Mute is aware that zhe is not telling the Story zhe wants to tell, but because zhe is afraid of telling the wrong Story zhe holds back. The Mute does not want to tell a Story that leaves everyone mystified or questioning zher sanity. Zhe does not want to tell a Story that no one will believe or that everyone thinks is ridiculous. In short, the Mute is terrified of going out on a limb. Like the Tall Taler, the Mute is buffering zher fragile Ego from the judgment of others, but zher method is the opposite of the Tall Taler’s.
Often a Tall Taler becomes a Mute when zhe discovers that everyone has been laughing at zher the whole time. The crisis the Tall Taler has been attempting to avoid the entire time manifested, so zhe becomes impressed with the necessity of changing zher strategy. The most obvious strategy is to simply avoid telling a Story. The Mute, then, refuses to have an opinion, but simply admits that all sides make a good point. People may like the Mute because zhe prefers not to express moral judgments about others (something the Tall Taler is usually happy to do), but they can only like zher so much because zhe is ever so bland. Hence, if the polarized media is often a Tall Taler, then the AP is usually a Mute.
Because the Mute is terrified of turning people off by telling a Story that not everyone resonates with, zhe is incapable of attracting attention, of being seen. In blogging circles, it is well known that any writer who wants avid readers must also develop enemies. Telling a Story—whether a fictional Story, a philosophical Story (like mine), a mythic Story (like a religion), a personal Story, or any other kind of Story—is an assertive act. It is a projection of the Storyteller’s identity out into the world. In response, the world will polarize: those who resonate with the Story will be attracted to it while those who do not will be repelled by it. The Mute refuses to polarize zher audience and so loses it to a more vivacious and daring Storyteller.
Interpersonally, the Mute is a Copy Cat. Zhe is the date who wants to play it safe by only agreeing with you. The Interpersonal Mute is the friend who converts to your religion, reads your books, copies your idioms, and wears the same kind of clothes as you. The Copy Cat is impressed by your Story and wants to tell the exact same Story because zhe knows it works. While the Copy Cat may occasionally be a Child to you, zhe does not enter into and participate in the Story the way a Child would. Of course, the Copy Cat may not be copying you. The Interpersonal Mute often desperately attempts to regurgitate the popular Story and so appears to copy everyone and anything that is trendy.
As I have already suggested, the Social Mute is well represented in the blogosphere. The Internet is loaded with crappy content that you can find fairly easily through Google searches. I’ve seen countless gimmicky websites pieced together from turnkey Internet marketing models with just enough bland and unexciting articles to get the website recognized through search engine optimization. There is nothing new in the formula, just a regurgitation of the same old crap, even down to the content of the articles. In these cases, the whole website tells a Story I’ve seen told elsewhere, and the elsewhere had higher quality content and wasn’t trying to sell me something. Like all other Mutes (and Tall Talers, too), the Social Mute needs to learn that the most compelling Story you can possibly tell is your own.
The Inner Mute is the Mind that feels it isn’t good enough. Its ideas are not brilliant enough, its art is not creative enough, and its experience is not deep enough. Your Inner Mute feels you need to study more, listen more, read more books, or get more degrees before you can tell your own Story. When you defer to popular opinion because you refuse to trust that your Story still has value even if you don’t know every detail, you can be sure your Inner Mute has you.
For those of you who have not seen the Lego Movie, the following clip is one of the very best in recent cinema. I’m not joking.
The Positive Unbalanced Child
Most of us fall somewhere in the gap between the Innocent and the Bad Seed. At the extreme positive end of incoherence or vice is the Dupe. The Child’s great talent is value, but zher great virtue is a simultaneously open and critical mind.
The normal growth of a child moves predictably between the two unbalanced phases of the Child Archetype: The Dupe and the Orphan. We are all born as Dupes, with minds so open and receptive that we are happy to believe any Story told to us. The openness and vulnerability of a child is why the role of a parent is so crucially important: into their hands this fragile mind is commended. When the child discovers that the Story is somehow dysfunctional or that an element of it is false (such as when she discovers Santa Claus is a fiction), the feeling that she has been Duped pushes her across the moral gyroscope into her Shadow, the Orphan.
As the Dupe, the Child is willing to believe any Story zher parents told zher, as long as it captivates zher imagination. Once the Child adopts a Story, it can become so important to zher that she will accept anomalies in order to maintain the Story, especially if zher Inner Father is underdeveloped. My (almost) step-son believed until very recently that if you go to New York, you’ll be able to find Tony Stark there in his Iron Man suit and shake his hand. Even when my fiancée and I told him that superheroes were not real in the way he thought they were, he still maintained his conviction that Tony Stark is a human being like we are.
One of the primary differences between a Dupe and a Rigid Father is that the Rigid Father’s moral uprightness depends upon his dogma, whereas the Dupe is not concerned with moral uprightness but with the beauty and significance of zher Story. The Dupe is susceptible to dogma just as the Rigid Father is, but the Dupe’s susceptibility comes from zher willingness and desire to believe. When presented with evidence that discredits or contradicts the Dupe’s Story, zhe will be resistant to the change just like my step-son was resistant to seeing superheroes as fictional. The resistance comes not from an Inner Rigid Father, but from an Inner Absent Father. The Dupe has not given enough weight to zher rational tools, preferring instead to rely upon zher intuitive sense of resonance with zher values.
Religions and cults are chock-full of Dupes. That is not to say that only Dupes would choose religious Stories: a religious Story can be as effective as any other. Rather, religions and cults attract Dupes who are only concerned with the feeling of resonance which is an intuitive and therefore feminine feeling. What the Dupe lacks is the masculine counterbalance, which is a clear picture of zher values and a rational judgment of precisely how a Story does or does not meet the Child’s value requirements.
A classic example of a Social Dupe is Nassim Haramein’s New Age cult following. For those who are not familiar with him, Haramein claims to have developed a unified field theory but he has no substance to back the claim. His New Age following is characterized by a highly open mind and a keen sense of resonance. This openness has heretofore guided these New Agers toward a world-view which is by far preferable to them than what they had been imparted as children (usually a religion). However, because they do not realize that growth must swing back and forth between unbalanced poles, they often find themselves mired in dysfunctional Stories that are captivating and have the sound of truth, but lack internal consistency or demonstrable effect. Even though no professional physicists endorse Haramein’s theories, his popularity among New Agers has consistently risen over the past ten years. The extreme suspicion this group has of existing authoritative structures, including both the government and the scientific community (obviously an Inner Absent Father situation), allows them to maintain the illusion of Haramein as an illustrious scientist without meeting cognitive dissonance.
The Inner Dupe is the Self that entertains and gives itself over to an attractive illusion. This could be an illusion about the Self, about the world (as in the case of Haramein’s followers), an illusion about a relationship, etc. The Dupe is naïve and inexperienced, so zher assumptions about the world are bound to produce these illusions. For example, when I was an undergraduate I maintained a Story about myself becoming a professor of philosophy at a top school. Despite the many signals in my undergraduate career that could have indicated to me that my values were not exactly harmonious with the profession (values such as my penchant for breaking norms), I carefully guarded my personal bubble until in 2008 the financial crash forced me to admit that I didn’t care enough about the profession to enter what had become a very competitive job market for precious few positions.
The Negative Unbalanced Child
It hurts to feel Duped. When the Child discovers that zhe has been gullible and foolish zher gut reaction is to look for someone to blame. A Dupe has always been duped by someone, and it certainly wasn’t the Child who did the Duping. No, it was the Storyteller. Because our parents are our primary Storytellers and because the Storyteller interfaces with the Child by using the Mother and Father as zher left and right hands, we call this outraged Child the Orphan.
The Dupe’s narrative is typically characterized by the belief that while there may be victims out there in the world, the Dupe zherself is not one of them. When the Child discovers zhe was completely wrong and that some Storyteller out there pulled one over on zher (as when children discover about Santa), the Story instantly changes into one where the Child is a victim. In an effort to avoid further victimization, the Orphan switches to zher masculine side, using it as a safeguard against the open and receptive feminine side. The Self has, of course, both a conscious and unconscious element. Throughout the Architecture, the feminine is associated with the unconscious and the masculine the conscious. The Orphan stage, then, is a necessary step in the growth of the Child: first we discover that relying exclusively upon unconscious resonance is not enough to maneuver through the world without inviting disillusionment, disappointment, and at the worst victimization; then our conscious Self activates and the Child loses faith in the parents zhe was born to.
The conscious side of the Child is a critical thinker, a tendency that becomes skepticism in the Orphan. The Orphan can readily access the rational resources of the Father, but unlike the Father zhe does not adopt a specific set of rules. Instead, zhe rejects rules just as zhe rejects zher childish attachment to outlandish Stories. Where the Child was once naïve as a Dupe, zhe is now cynical as an Orphan. As a safety measure, the Orphan constructs a series of standards that any Story must meet in order to be acceptable. These standards typically cut out all elements of the fantastic as an obvious potential illusion. It is common for the Orphan to become an atheist or an agnostic, maintaining a strict suspicion of any possible fantasy. The Orphan adopts a stance of Cartesian doubt, trusting only what is indubitable—which ends up being nearly nothing.
The Orphan’s skeptical stance appears to zher to be coherent and rational, of course, but it fails to appreciate that reason is fruitless without intuition. No argument ever existed that did not rely upon premises whose truth must be assumed.
The Inner Orphan is the Self that has decided it will have to live without parents. Instead of trusting the Expressive Unconscious, the Super-Ego, and the Story that the two tell through the Storyteller, the Orphan shaves off the apparent excess by establishing hard and fast rules. If loving leads to heartbreak then harden your heart. If trusting other people results in betrayal than stop trusting other people. These are the contents of the Orphan’s pale and desolate Story.
Relationship #3: Education
I could have named the Relationship between the Storyteller and the Child “Teaching,” because that’s what it is. I chose not to give it this name, though, because the Relationship refers to a specific kind of teaching: the kind of teaching that happens in schools and universities. There are two other kinds of teaching, though: Training or Apprenticeship (Relationship #7), and Spiritual Teaching (Relationship #11). Because the word can mean any or all of these Relationships depending on context, I chose “Education” to indicate cultivation of the mind rather than the body or the spirit.
There is a synergy between the Storyteller and the Child. Any writer knows that while writing for yourself brings its own form of pleasure and fulfillment (“therapy,” some call it), having readers transforms the entire experience, giving a new kind of significance. Telling a Story to an Audience is a responsibility. When a person finds a Child who constellates the Storyteller upon her, the Story she tells is in danger of being believed. In response to a Story, we enter a Child-like receptivity that captivates our entire attention. We read books or go see movies in order to be swept up into the fictional world, to enter into the Story and believe, even if only for two hours, that it is real. Nothing kills the experience of going out to see a movie more than bad acting or bad writing because these intrusions force us to remember that the actors are just actors and that the Story was scripted. A good Story is believable. The Child, then, will always believe a good Story. Because the Child will believe, the Storyteller must be careful (a) to make sure the Story is high quality in order to permit the Child’s continued suspension of disbelief, and (b) to make sure the Story targets the right value-pattern in order to impart to the Child a useful Story. Hence, the Storyteller demands higher standard of zherself when zhe has an Audience.
As suggested above, the Child enters a trance-like state while in the midst of education. Whereas the Child is always playful and curious, zhe becomes suddenly engrossed in the presence of a Storyteller. A literal child’s fixation upon the TV screen and near imperviousness to distraction is a sign that the Child Archetype is fully active and in the midst of Education (for better or worse).
The Child, however, will only remain engaged in Education if the Story is compelling. What does it mean for a Story to be “high quality”? There are two primary modes of engaging a Child with a Story: the masculine mode and the feminine mode. Story structure is the masculine mode. Among the values that every Child has in common (i.e. “universal values”) there are at least two that are most pertinent to Story structure. The first universal structural value is coherence. The Story must make sense to the Child. In order for a Story to make sense, it must not contradict itself internally. In the Star Wars saga, R2D2 has jet engines in the prequel trilogy but no jet engines in the original trilogy, and there is no mechanism in the Story that explains what happened to R2D2’s jet engines. While the introduction of the jet engines made the droid more powerful, it also made the Story less coherent. An incoherent Story is instantly less believable because the Child values coherence.
The second universal structural value is accuracy. The Story must make contact with the real world that the Child experiences. Writers and critics often refer to this value as “relatability”. Because Stories are holographic or nested, every Story begins midway through another Story. The Child is already alive and has already had some experiences, so zher life experience is the absolute context into which all Stories must fit. A Story that is not relatable cannot fit into the Child’s already existing foundational Story. What the Child seeks, however, is not just a Story that fits into zher existing life experience, but one that explains it: one into which zher life experience fits. Storytelling, then, is a paradoxical experience for the Child. On one hand, no Story can eclipse the Child’s lived experience, but on the other hand a good Story always envelops it. A Story therefore does not need to be scientifically demonstrable in order to be accurate; rather, it merely needs to be able to explain how the Child’s lived experience differs from it. Continuing the Star Wars example, the Story begins with the phrase “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” This introduction gives the Story instant relatability by explaining the wild departure from lived experience through enormous spans of both time and space. It is easy for us to imagine that there could really be a galactic Empire headed up by villains with magical powers—as long as it is very, very far from here.
In addition to masculine values that Storytellers must target if they intend to Educate Children, there are also feminine values. The first universal feminine (i.e. aesthetic) value is simplicity. Mathematicians use a unique word to describe mathematical simplicity: “beautiful.” There is no logical process to indicate that the simpler Story is better. We just prefer simple Stories as a matter of shared aesthetic value. In philosophy, the principle of simplicity (along with its enforcement mechanism, “Occam’s Razor”) is treated with great reverence, while in detective work is the only plausible approach. Even in physics the principle of simplicity is a fundamental assumption about all mathematical relationships between bodies and fields of energy. The only rational motivation I know of for simplicity in a Story is that it is a more efficient explanation, but then saying that we value efficiency is tantamount to saying that we value simplicity.
So what does simplicity look like? My fiancée always lets me know where she is, especially if her plan changes and she is out of the house for a long time. Suppose that I return home from work one evening to find that she is unexpectedly not at home. Then, five hours later, she is still not home. What is the most likely scenario? Her phone is almost certainly dead, but that’s not a sufficient explanation because she is not usually out so long. I would then conclude that she must have ended up in a social engagement she couldn’t escape or gotten stuck in dead-lock traffic. These are likely scenarios because they are simple. Her job demands lots of travel and involvement with communities and organizations, so surprise traffic and/or social engagement are common experiences for her.
An unlikely scenario: she was stopped by police at random. The policeman didn’t like the way she talked, so she was detained in a secret compound where she was not allowed to make a call. This scenario is possible because it meets the coherence and accuracy values, but it is not plausible because it is complex. This explanation depends upon an extremely suspicious policeman who is targeting her specifically and without any identifiable cause. It’s sad to say that this Story would be far more plausible if my fiancée fell into a stereotyped suspect profile (i.e. male, poor, and brown-skinned).
The second universal aesthetic value is variety. The more variety a Story contains, the more appealing it will be. In fiction, there must be many different kinds of characters who contribute to the Story. While we would demand variety of a Story due to our universal structural value of accuracy (the human experience is quite varied, after all), we value variety in its own right. The more internal variety a character displays, the more interested we are in her. Writers call this internal variety “depth.” A Story does not need hundreds of different characters in order to believable. Two can be enough if they are polar opposites in some regards. However, when a Story does have hundreds of characters, the sheer variety alone becomes attractive and believability is no longer at stake. Game of Thrones is a testament to the aesthetic power of variety. Another name for variety, especially in math and the hard sciences, is comprehensiveness.
These four values, coherence, accuracy, simplicity and variety, are some of the central values of the Child around which all others cluster. There are others I have not mentioned and undoubtedly still others that I have not thought of. In any case, the Storyteller knows that the Child gives priority to these central values above all others in a Story, so we can think of them as the great virtues of Education. Thus, if an Education has at least these four virtues, it is bound to bear the marks of a good Education.
The Dynamics of Education
A teacher may be authoritative or well loved by her students, but this only makes her a strong parental figure. If a teacher wants to be truly effective, she must first learn to be a Storyteller, for there is nothing a Child will hold on to more firmly than a good Story. The Storyteller, of course, must already be a master of her own Story, just as a teacher must have a deep understanding of her subject. When she steps before the class, she must know precisely where to begin in the Story, whether it is math, language, art, or physics. Each subject is itself a Story, with a specific nesting location within some greater Story. For most Children, all subjects learned in school are nested within the cultural environment in which they were raised. Their parents were naturally their first Storytellers.
Children will interpret Stories to have different nesting patterns. In my case, mathematics was nested within physics because I knew of no other use for it. Physics was nested within philosophy because my interest in physics turned out to revolve around its relationship to a grander, more inclusive Story. Philosophy, in turn, was nested within the Catholic Story because I was raised to assume that the Catholic Story was the Absolute Truth beyond which there was nothing else to say.
I now have a much different nesting pattern as I have developed these Stories and no longer assume such a simple pattern. Because Stories exist in multidimensional conceptual space, they nest within each other in complicated and apparently contradictory patterns from the perspective of a discursive logical structure. Mathematics and physics are both nested within philosophy, but I see them as branches unified by a collected set of Storytelling values that I refer to as “philosophy.” Logic is the logical foundation of mathematics and language is a union of logic with aesthetic. Art is an aesthetic expression of uniqueness tempered and honed by a logical structure. A belief system (the Story of Self) incorporates all of these elements into it, and philosophy is only a single member of a belief system, despite the fact that it makes demands upon what a belief system can do and what it may contain. Naturally, there are more elements to my current Story, but the point has been made.
An excellent Storyteller must accept that zhe is teaching a Child how to be zher own Storyteller. We do not teach children only to have them continue in their Kantian “tutelage”; we want them to grow and become self-sufficient. In order to do so, however, we must allow them space to invent and construct their own Stories, especially in the classroom. Even the Evil Storyteller, whose Story is designed to control, does not want a helpless servant. Reek, a character in Game of Thrones, is a very limited servant. Although the Evil Storyteller will end up with many Reeks in zher army, zhe would prefer the Child to freely adopt the power-seeking (Evil) Story—as long as the Storyteller remains the more powerful of the two. Contrast Reek, then, with Darth Vader who adopts the Emperor’s Story.
In the classroom, this means that the teacher balances her monologues with her encouragement of dialogue. The benefit of a classroom with more than one Child is that the Children can take turns participating in the Story, playing off each other the way characters in a film or actors in an improv show do. Moreover, the excellent teacher must be wary of having all the answers in the same way that a fiction writer must be wary of knowing the plot. When we read or watch a plot-driven Story, the most obvious draw-back is that the characters are either left relatively undeveloped or else their words and actions are forced and they lose credibility to the Audience. The current trend in both literature and television is a character-driven Story in which the unique patterns of the individual characters govern the direction the plot takes. This kind of Storytelling is much more synchronous with lived experience and is therefore more relatable. The consequence for an author is that if the author has a specific structure that she meant to stick to, the characters might very well overthrow her intentions and completely redirect the plot by their actions.
The excellent teacher runs a student-driven classroom. She becomes like a Dungeon Master in Dungeons & Dragons, who invents the world and the fixed characters, but has no control over the players. In a plot-driven Story, all characters are fixed except the protagonist, who takes on the Storyteller’s persona. Fixed characters each reflect a specific aspect of the protagonist’s mind back to the protagonist. That is, fixed characters instantiate Archetypes or Tropes, which are specific cultural renditions of Archetypes. Unless the teacher wants either to produce little replicas of herself or to tell a Story about Archetypes and not people, then she must abandon a structure-driven teaching model. Each student comes into her classroom with a unique value-pattern that is not yet known to the teacher, so her job is to present her Story to them and discover how they operate within that Story, each student freely coming to his own conclusions about the details of the Story and what his involvement in the Story will be. Unfortunately, most of our classrooms are structure-driven, just as most of our movies are plot-driven. The Child does not always want to identify directly with the Storyteller, but a plot-driven Story does not give the Child much choice.
When we teach children, do we teach them to be just like us? Or do we instead paint a picture of the world that outlines the rules of the game, describes the options, and awakens the child’s imagination, while simultaneously giving the child freedom to roam? Even in mathematics, a Story in which we see answers as being clear-cut right or wrong, there are always alternative methods to problem-solving, and there are also many different fields of mathematics that the Child may want to pursue. The math teacher must allow her class to be character-driven just as much as the art teacher must. But the task is likely more difficult for the math teacher because we perceive math as a fixed and rigid system. Mathematics is, in fact, a Story invented by Storytellers just like anything. How else did we come by it? Like every other Story we know, mathematics merely reflects back to us what was already latent within our minds. If the Story of mathematics can accurately describe our reality, then that only makes it a very, very good Story. It does not make it the Mind of God or the Absolute Truth, or whatever else we might call it.
An excellent teacher must switch roles with the student. The reason for this is obvious: Education teaches a Child to become a Storyteller. Unless the teacher can step aside and allow her students to practice being Storytellers for themselves, they will never develop the confidence for it or the skill of doing so. In academic circles, this practice is crudely referred to as cultivating “critical thinking skills.” A student who thinks critically is, of course, one who approaches the material with a Story. The only way to get a student to construct his own Story is to give him the freedom to teach the teacher (and the class). If the teacher maintains her position as the Storyteller throughout the entire class, the students will maintain their positions as the Children. Because there is no role-reversal, the Children will either adopt or reject the Story wholesale. I had a history professor who used to walk into the classroom and monologue until time ran out. He didn’t even call role. We all took frantic notes and regurgitated the information back on tests. He encouraged no “critical thinking” whatsoever, which means that he never gave any student the opportunity to teach him something. As a result, I remember almost nothing from the course.
Self and Mind
The Relationship between Storyteller and Child expresses itself on the inner level as the Relationship between Mind and Self (respectively). These two inner Archetypes have a crucial commonality: both are split into conscious and unconscious halves with a barrier or threshold between the two halves that limits movement of awareness from one side to another.
The Self is unshakably aware of itself in the Cartesian cogito (“I think”) sense of awareness. This subjective “I” is a fundamental particle of awareness without which we could not conceive anything at all, much less string together a sense of identity that we typically refer to as “myself.” If there is anything at all in the whole universe of our experience that we can say for certain, it is the assertion that each of us makes about our own unique awareness. All else may shift beneath my feat, but my awareness will never stop being my own.
The fundamental particle of awareness is the conscious side of Self, whereas the Self’s values—precious few of them though we carry with us into this world—are the unconscious side. To be a unique awareness entails that we value some things over others. Uniqueness cannot be unique unless there are infinitely variable qualities that are different for each. Our physical bodies are unique because the combinations of traits and physical expressions of those traits are virtually infinite. Even twins end up with variation between their bodies. The Self’s most central quality is its unique perspective and this perspective is expressed unconsciously in the deep drives we have that motivate our selection of beliefs and belief systems. We all have some conscious sense of what our values are, but we do not see them clearly unless we search ourselves. The need to search is always indicative of something unconscious.
The Storyteller on the inner level is the Archetype that signifies the Mind as a whole. Like the total Self, the Mind is split between conscious and unconscious, but the split appears differently. The Mind is conscious of desires, interests, rules and emotions. The Mind’s emotions are the contact point between the conscious and unconscious halves of the Mind, as they are they rope-end which the conscious Mind may take hold of in order to delve into the unconscious Mind. The unconscious Mind, on the other hand, contains complex associations between belief and emotion. It stores the conclusions we have drawn from our experience about who we are, what the world is, and what relation we have to it. All of our biases and dogmas are rooted in the belief-emotion complexes in the unconscious Mind. However, all the creative substance of our Stories are also contained in the unconscious Mind. The Mind’s act of Storytelling, then, is a cyclic process that begins with conscious desire to know (Suitor) whose intent and focus are seeded in the receptive unconscious (Débutante), cultivated and birthed by the expressive unconscious (Mother), and analyzed by the Super-Ego (Father). Every Storyteller can only tell a Story by enacting this repeating cycle of Mind. The Mind’s act of coming to know, then, is a dynamic union of its conscious and unconscious halves. We say that we “know” or “learn,” but what we are really doing is constructing a Story by which we make simultaneously sense of and enrich our experience.
The interaction between Self and Mind is the Self’s conscious adoption of the Mind’s Story. The Mind does not construct its Story in a vacuum: it has an audience. The Self approaches its Mind asking it to enrich and make sense of its experience. “I have no idea who I am in this crazy world,” the Self says, “what do you think?” The Mind, which loves to tell Stories, entertains the Self’s request and begins. Of course, this static picture is a far cry from how we actually forge our own Stories. The relationship between Mind and Self begins long before we are even self-aware. As children, we form beliefs based on the emotional complexes we develop in response to our experience and our values. An abused child will always respond to the abuse, but the unique value-set that each child has determines the type of response the child takes. Where one child adopts the abusive pattern of its own, another adopts a pattern of protecting others from abuse. These responses are a direct result of the interplay between Self and Mind in response to the experience.
When the Self approaches the Mind requesting a Story, the Self demands that the Story meet its requirements, even if some of the Self’s values are in conflict with each other. The Mind attempts to meet this requirement, but just as the Self’s value-patterns are often in conflict, so the Mind’s unconscious belief-emotion complexes are often in conflict. Like the Storyteller it is, the Mind sometimes overrides the Self’s value-patterns in order to make a Story work or to hide from a set of emotions that it does not like. Because the Educational Relationship between Self and Mind begins so early in our lives, there is no avoiding disharmony between the two. The Self calls for a Story that will allow it to explore and enjoy life. The Mind gives a Story that attempts to do so, but because it has unconsciously adopted belief-emotion associations, it cannot deliver the way the Self wants.
Belief-emotion associations usually resolve to attraction/repulsion associations. Say a two year old child witnesses her mother and father in a violent fight. A child so young is not yet capable of ascribing agency to anyone but herself, so she will assume that she is the cause of the fight. The Self has asked the Mind, “What is happening?” and the Mind responds, “You made them fight.” The Self, if it values harmony (and most of us do), will then say, “But I don’t like that. I want it to stop.” The Mind, given its limited resources, then invents a plot in which the child is capable of either preventing her parents from fighting (acting out) or not witnessing the fight (withdrawing). This new belief-emotion complex is embedded in the unconscious Mind and will continue to activate in any similar scenario until the Self and Mind decide to revisit that part of the Story. When the conscious Mind and conscious Self are strong enough and experienced enough to decide that the unconscious response pattern is no longer useful, the Mind will search itself for the pattern by following its emotions back to the belief-emotion complex and then rewrite the pattern to fit the Self’s current (hopefully updated) value-pattern.
When the conscious Mind locates a belief-emotion complex, it typically remembers the location. We often observe behavior patterns and emotion patterns in ourselves that we’d like to end (“Why do I get so jealous?” “God, I wish I could be more motivated,”) but because we have not located the belief-emotion complex from which the pattern emerged, we cannot change the experience. If we discover precisely what causes the emotional and behavioral responses within us (i.e. “My mother always gave attention to my sister rather than me, so I acted out in order to get her attention”), we can easily hearken back to this original belief-emotion complex each time we notice the emotional pattern emerging. When we carefully smooth out the emotions through the Co-creation Relationship (the Father listens and relates the Mother’s feelings back to her but in terms that are clear and reveal the belief that needs to change), we will have the emotional openness to change this part of the Story to one that more closely matches the Self’s values. The process will not complete, of course, unless the Self recognizes that the belief-emotion complex is not synchronous with its values. That is, the Self must first want to change. When the Self is ready to love unconditionally by allowing others to receive attention from the persons the Self loves, the Self will happily revisit the source of the belief-emotion complex, invent a new Story, and then remind itself of the new belief each time the associated emotions activate.
The Significance of the Story
If the Child is the totality of the human experience, then the Storyteller is the center. The Mind connects the manifest reality (Body) to the Beyond (Spirit) by being the conduit through which information and experience flow. The sensations and manifestations of the Body only gain significance by filtering first through the Mind’s categories. Whereas the categories themselves (such as the concepts of friend, enemy, value, action, consequence, reward, purity, intention, importance, trustworthiness, etc., etc.) give the structure and shape of the Story, the experience which moves through and refines these categories is the living content, the characters and events of the Story. We human beings, by virtue of the Story, reach out beyond this small, ignorant Self to grasp reality as something more than interacting bodies.
Even among those who view the reality as physical and nothing more, the prevalence of a Story cannot be understated. Adherents of scientism (defined as those who reject any Story not given by the institution we call “science”) still move forward and backward in time, imagining that beyond which we directly perceive. Science (if we can name an institution by a method) tells a Story about stars and planets slowly spilling out from a central singularity whose apparently infinite mass could no longer contain itself, beginning an unimaginably long saga we call “the universe.” Scientists measure and test motion to get inklings of where all these bodies will be moving and what the equally distant future will look like. They connect all the living creatures into complex family trees, tracing back the origin and projecting the future. They propose rules by which this saga plays itself out and then test them, applying these rules to the planets, stars, and even ourselves. At the heart of this Story is an explanation for how human beings came about and who we are.
The physical Story, however, is impoverished. It accounts for the Mind as an accident because the Story is only about the Body. The Story uses the tools of Mind (such as value, category, beauty, and pattern) but seeks to explain these tools through a Story of Body. The consequence is that this Story reduces Mind to Body, and imagines awareness (a yet inexplicable experience in the Story of Body) as a happy accident. The adherents of Scientism (not to be confused with scientists who use the scientific method) who embrace only the Story of Body have in fact, adopted a myth. Call it the Myth of Scientism.
The Myth of Scientism is a Story that accounts for human experience, especially human mental experience, using only a physical understanding of the universe. The Myth of Scientism has become a lifelong undertaking for many popular thinkers (like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins) ever since Darwin first imagined a grand Story different from that which traditional religions had handed us. According to this Myth, there is only matter and energy and everything we experience, from physical sensation to emotion, from bodily movement to ideals such as Truth and Goodness, can be explained by this Myth.
Some readers may perhaps gawk at my assertion that the physicalist Story is a myth rather than a fact. A myth, quite simply, is an incomplete Story whose purpose is to account for your experience. As such, it does not yet fully account for your experience, but you have faith that it can, given a fuller understanding of the implications of the Story. The primary difference between the adherents of Scientism and the adherents of other myths (such as traditional religions) is that the adherents of Scientism have faith in the method itself, whereas the adherents of other myths often have faith in the Story, or a being within the Story, or, if they have become full-fledged Storytellers, in themselves as Storytellers and in the universe accounted for. Apart from placement of faith, the adherents of Scientism have given themselves over to a mythic Story in just the same way as the adherents of any other Story.
The impoverishment of the Myth of Science emerges not from ignorance or closed-mindedness, but from the Story’s silence concerning that which is closest to our hearts. “This crude matter” is famously insignificant in the face of love, sorrow, fulfillment, curiosity, wonder, joy, and defeat. In the Myth of Science, momentous occasions are stripped of their significance because meaning is only a curious afterthought in the Myth of Science. Any adherent to this Myth must necessarily seek significance within a bodily experience itself (preservation and/or spread of the species, technological advancement, bodily improvement, etc.) or else adopt a secondary Story which accounts for non-bodily significance (such as heroism, love, tranquility, easing the suffering of others, and power). While the Myth of Scientism has a place for non-bodily significance, that place is within a bizarre and accidental box where the drama of human experience has no meaning part from the accidental meaning we give it due to our inability to face the absolute meaninglessness of existence.
Human beings need meaning and significance. No Story is complete without it. Inasmuch as the Myth of Science is inadequate for explaining anything but bodies, so religious myths have been historically inadequate for their bodily explanations. Keen minds quickly observe that religion and science appear to be concerned with different arenas of the human experience. They are complimentary to each other, but incomplete without each other. They generally are not, however, unified. The Child within each of us values simplicity, coherence and comprehensiveness and cannot abandon these preferences: that theory is better which is simpler, more coherent and more comprehensive. Our experiences of meaning and significant demand a Story, a myth, but the Myth of Science is inadequate. Our experiences of bodily movement demand an account, but the myths of religions are inadequate. Religions have accepted that science is not going anywhere and they have learned to incorporate the yields of science more and more into their fold.
What religious traditions have not done, however, is incorporate scientific method into their myths. Heretofore the options have been: (1) embrace a myth that can be understood and expanded but cannot account for anything except the body or (2) embrace a myth that cannot be fully understood or expanded but can account for experience beyond the body. Those who choose option 1 side with “reason” while those who choose option 2 side with “faith”. This false dichotomy is nigh upon its death.
The Storyteller within all of us (the Mind) is not satisfied with a Story that cannot be expanded, nor is it satisfied with a Story that cannot account for experiences of significance without stripping the significance from those experiences. When the inner Child, the Self, places its faith in a Story given to it by some outside source, it simultaneously declares that it does not trust the Mind to conjure a Story that meets the Self’s unique value demands. We do not believe in ourselves, not in our creativity, in our intelligence, or in our ability. Yet we cannot avoid myth. Each of us, regardless of whether we can accept it or not, has an incomplete Story that accounts for our experience, a Story in which we must have faith. In our distrust of our own capacity for Storytelling, we become adherents of dysfunctional Stories, choosing to augment the details of an existing myth, but not to question its assumptions and determine whether the Story really matches our values.
We as Storytellers must trust that the values that gave birth to the scientific method can be preserved in other fields of inquiry if only we are careful to transpose those values into a non-physical experience. We will never detect Truth or Justice on a device that reads electric fields because Truth and Justice are not constituted of electricity. The Myth of Science imagines that these concepts are but an electrical pattern in the brain when the pattern is merely a physical expression of the concept, a footprint. A true science of the Mind (or the Spirit) cannot use physical tools because physical tools can only read physical data. Rather, it must rely on the Mind itself as a tool, training it to become a reliable sensor of conceptual information.
The bottomless subjectivity of the Self demands we accept that we probably cannot occupy an absolute perspective upon anything, and we couldn’t know it even if we did occupy that perspective. All of our Stories, then, are only Stories—some better than others (according to our values). The more we accept this, the more willing we become to rely on ourselves as Storytellers because we will see that there is no one else who can tell a Story more beautiful or better suited to ourselves than we. What could be more exciting and more adventurous than to create your own mythos—denizens, laws, gods and all?
Reflections on the Storyteller and Child
The Moment of Choice
We all have within us the potential to become both the Innocent and the Bad Seed. If you are certain that you are moving toward one rather than the other, then you probably experienced a moment in your life when you explicitly and consciously chose. I did.
When I was maybe 11 or 12, my brother and I shared a room and slept in bunk beds. They were unique bunk beds in that the bottom was a full sized bed and the top a twin. I slept on top and he on bottom. One day, I was playing with the remote control to the CD player I’d just bought with allowance money I had saved, when I looked down and noticed he was reading right below me. A curiosity emerged within me, apparently out of nowhere: what would happen if I dropped this remote on his head? This I did.
I’ve heard stories of children who pluck the wings out of insects or who torment cats. Children find unique and morbid ways to torment creatures smaller than themselves usually not out of anger or malice but out of sheer detached curiosity. The Child Archetype is ever curious. That these children do not immediately recoil from the response the creature gives perhaps signifies either their choice or their indecision. The Bad Seed sees in others only a tool to manipulate, but part of seeing others as objects and not subjects in their own right is resistance to the other’s cries of pain and anguish. A Child who is not immediately impacted by the other’s recoil is a Child who either has not chosen or if zhe has chosen has become the Bad Seed.
I don’t know how I didn’t expect my brother to respond instantly in pain. He didn’t get angry or even blame me. To this day I think he thought it was an accident (though in the unlikely event that he reads this he will discover the truth). He just held his head and cried. On that day, I decided I would never intentionally hurt another person again. On that day, the Innocent stirred within me for the first time, though it would take many more years for that Innocent to be given the central position zhe deserved.
If a Child’s act of choosing is to lead to becoming the Bad Seed, the Child will need a world-view that supports the Bad Seed’s values. When a Child adheres to the Story that all human beings were “created equal” (however the Child interprets the phrase), zhe is conceptually discouraged from valuing Self before other. If the Child already leans toward the values of the Bad Seed (usually visible in the Child’s attitudes toward small animals), a Story suited to an Innocent is likely to cultivate unbalanced attitudes.
Jeffery Dahmer, the famous necrophiliac, was likely a Bad Seed from an early age, as his youthful fascination with bones (taken in tandem with his later remorselessness about murder) suggests. Dahmer, however, was not exposed to a coherent Story that prioritizes Self above all (such as the Luciferian Story, or Ayn Rand’s Story). Rather, his environment was ostensibly Christian, just like virtually all Americans. Consequently, the Bad Seed within him became through this environment not an Innocent, but an Orphan. He spiraled into alcoholism, and his fascination became less about building the power of Self and more about feeding the insatiable demon within.
I can’t say that I’ve known anyone I was certain had become the Bad Seed through and through, but I have met some who seemed close. In those moments when another reveals his brazen and conscience-free attitude of self-service at the expense of anyone who gets in the way, those moments when I cannot help but widen my eyes or raise my eyebrows, inching a little further away at the realization that this person in front of me might have the very same attitude toward me, only then do I begin to pick up on the Bad Seed. Yet evil is not so unusual; we sometimes see it in ourselves when we feel the inclination to step on someone else to get what is good for us or our own. Despite my liberal education, I still must be mindful that I do not slip into elitist attitudes, presuming that somehow I have more value as a human being than anyone else on Planet Earth. The Bad Seed in each of us sees itself as the Chosen One, a megalomaniacal perspective that, without purity and wisdom, teeters on the edge of sanity. So rare is the balanced Bad Seed that Hanlon’s Razor is legitimately a safe assumption: “Do not assume malice where ignorance will suffice.” Even so, elitism is a persistent temptation to those who aspire to becoming the Innocent.
I have been training as a life coach for the past few months, and one of my discoveries during this process is that the coach-client relationship embodies more or less the Storyteller-Child Relationship. This relationship, however, is unique: in the coaching relationship, the coach spends more time as the Child than as the Storyteller. The goal of the relationship is for the client to learn to tell her own Story clearly, confidently, and effectively enough that she feels inspired to take action. The coach cannot tell a client’s Story for her; rather, his job is to listen, to inquire, and only occasionally to contribute. An excellent coach is invisible, facilitating the client’s self-discovery through her own Storytelling.
In most relationships where service moves primarily in one direction, the Archetypal positions that we occupy have different levels of balance. That is, when I coach a client, it is assumed that I will be more balanced as a Child than my client is as a Storyteller. If we did not occupy these roles, the service either wouldn’t be needed, or wouldn’t serve. Thus, if my client has begun to approximate the Parabler, she is already firmly capable of identifying herself in her own Story, making sense of the events around her, and recognizing which action steps are appropriate. She is her own coach. A client, then, must in some way be either a Mute or a Tall Taler. Since a client has to know she needs help, she is more likely a Mute than a Tall Taler. Similarly, if I am not an Innocent with my client, then my ego (“ego” in the pop-spirituality sense, not the psychoanalytic sense) will get in the way of the process either by insulting my client’s Story (the Orphan), or by failing to strike the root of my client’s frustrations due to poor questioning (the Dupe). The coach-client relationship, then, is typically an Innocent-Mute relationship that occasionally switches to a Parabler-Innocent relationship. The role reversal in the coaching relationship is necessary in order to give the client an example of the kind of Storytelling she needs to approximate.
When I discovered that reincarnation had greater explanatory power than the YOLO model (assuming that we have purpose or telos, as Aristotle called it), I became so enthusiastic about the concept that I evangelically shared it with anyone who would listen. I had not yet discovered that it didn’t matter how much it made sense of the extreme brevity of human life when what is at stake for most people who reject reincarnation is not a functional belief, but a cherished one. I only learned this lesson by touting the benefits of reincarnation to the fundamentalist Christian owner of the wing-joint where I waited tables. The conversation ended civilly with him telling me, “That’s not what I believe,” though my over-enthusiasm for New Age Stuff was probably what got me fired later on.
Unbalanced Archetypes always appear in pairs. The restaurant owner had consciously become a Dupe to the fundamentalist Christian Story, which prevented him from taking command of his own Storyteller. His Shadow, however, was an Orphan. He ruthlessly targeted the weaknesses of any myth that challenged his own cherished Story: a skeptic with an exception. I, on the other hand, had been a Mute for so long concerning my own Story, that when I discovered an element that seemed to belong (reincarnation), I became the Tall Taler: my words went well beyond my understanding, and I lacked the tact to determine who was actually interested in my Story. The Tall Taler always talks too much because zhe is afraid that zher Story will not be told otherwise. My Shadow was the Mute, which quickly took over when I realized that it was my Tall Taler that probably cost me the favor of employers who would otherwise have liked me.
Evangelism can take many forms, but it is always guaranteed to be unbalanced. The evangelist has an agenda that he engages in a genuine attempt to help others. His intentions are in the right place, but his methods are in complete contradiction to those intentions. Some evangelists never discover that truly helping others means allowing them to choose who they will be, what they will believe, and how they will live their lives, without your conscious attempt to sway them in a particular direction. It doesn’t matter how well a Story works for us; the subjective Self within us knows that there is no way to know whether that Story will work for another. If we truly want to help, we can only share our Story without making any effort to convince anyone.
Orphaning Our Kids
We love our children. My step-son isn’t even my own progeny and I still strive every day to be the very best step-father I can be for him. I am still invested in his future, in helping him dream and pursue that dream, in helping him grow and spur his own growth, in helping him remember always the centrality of love and connection. I hope for his sake that he becomes a paragon of human fulfillment, whatever that looks like for him.
If you are a parent, then I am confident you feel the same about your children. But we cannot hope to be perfect parents. We’ll make mistakes (hopefully we’ll also admit them to our children). It is often easier to scold myself for being inconsistent or unfair or some other parental faux pas, but it is far more difficult to remember and accept that making parenting mistakes is not only unavoidable, it is an important experience for the child to have. In order for the child to begin to trust himself, he must eventually discover the fallibility of his parents. In those moments when he discovers their fallibility (and there will be many), he becomes an Orphan who swears to never be Duped again.
Although we cannot avoid Orphaning our children, thus losing their faith, we can avoid losing their trust. In the Child’s experience there will be a dramatic difference between discovering that zher Storytellers (parents) were Duped by a Story themselves and discovering that zher Storytellers consciously Duped their children. An Orphan who abandons zher parents’ sincere religion is likely to remain silently respectful at best or become a devil’s advocate at worst. An Orphan, however, who learns zhe was Duped by fairy tales about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny becomes much more likely to be angry at the Storytellers for lying.
Although we see ourselves as giving our children a few years of magic by letting encouraging them to believe in a set of physically incarnate demi-gods, this magic comes at the price of their trust not only in us but in fairy tales in general. When we intermix implausible fairy tales (Santa and the Easter Bunny) and plausible fairy tales (angels and ghosts), we ultimately encourage our children to abandon all fairy tales in response to their discovery that we told them lies. The great pragmatic benefit of a fairy tale is that the optimistic and enthusiastic attitude it engenders will serve to attract to the Child more opportunities for further enthusiasm than the Orphan’s pessimistic attitude. A Child who believes in fairy tales is always more lively than a Child who doesn’t.
Fairy tales are, of course, crude and simplistic version of the myths we will later come to adopt as our overarching and transcendent Story accounting for all of reality. If we want our children to continue seeing magic in the world, then we must direct their attention to mythic Stories that are not designed to betray them.
The Storyteller’s form of mindfulness is careful attention to the purpose of the Stories we tell. The adage, “Honesty is the best policy,” is meant to act as a guideline for mindful Storytelling—though it is a crude one. As the mindful Storyteller (assuming we are all targeting the Parabler and not the Propagandist), we must be aware at all times of our intentions. Do we hope to fool ourselves or others, to hide from the truth, or to present an image of ourselves as better (more elite) than we really are? If the answer is “Yes,” then the solution is simple mindfulness. The Storyteller cannot suffer contradiction, so if we are mindful and attentive to our Stories, ruthlessly honest about why we belief and preach what we do, we will face our illusions head-on and dispel them thereby.
The Child’s form of mindfulness is the slow search for and discovery of the Self’s unique value-pattern. It certainly matters which Story we choose for ourselves, but it doesn’t matter in the sense that one of the many Stories out there represents the Absolute Truth. It matters because rare indeed is the Story that can truly and deeply resonate with the Self’s unique value-pattern. As we heed the feeling of resonance, we learn to distinguish the strength and direction of resonance, which specific aspects of the Stories we meet with resonate with us and which do not. Only a relatively unmindful Child perceives resonance as an on/off switch. Although some Stories offer nothing in the way of resonance, many will offer a tidbit, and some will inundate us with the feeling. Although the concept of resonance is much maligned in rationalist circles, these rationalists are reacting to unmindful reliance upon intuitive resonance (“sounds right”) without the use of rational resonance (“is logically valid”).