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What Shall We Allow The Fool To Play Philosopher With Us?

"What shall we allow a fool to play philosopher with us?"

Lucius Apulius, The Golden Ass, circa 160AD


I have noticed a trend amongst the freelance trainers, consultants and healers of various persuasions that I meet that is best exemplified by a certain gentleman.  He lived in Eastbourne but had a mail box at a Harley Street address and a studio he could rent on a daily basis as a hypnotherapy practise. He came to see me in a lovely smart suit, great haircut, smooth firm handshake. He carried glossy leaflets with pictures on them of him smiling.

This man had put on a mask that was completely professional and I hated it. I hated the distance it created, the slightly desperate aspiration it betrayed. Most of all I hated that there was nothing in this empty image that told me who he was, what kind of a man I was dealing with. Except of course the mask can only ever hide the face, the Ego. We always see much more- even when we do not recognise what we see.

It made me realise I was attracted to people who were prepared to be fallible, to make mistakes and admit to them and say sorry; to be happy with who they were faults and all. We like people for their strengths and I think sometimes we love them because of their weaknesses, not just in spite of them.

I have always accepted the primary injunction of any path of personal development, growth and change is "Know thyself, to thine own self be true". Enjoy being alive, watch how you behave, what attracts you and what you attract.

There are various archetypes for a teacher of personal development to aspire to and I have always been attracted to the archetype of the Fool: the naked fool revealing that which other people are afraid to show; the wandering fool, letting the road lead him from experience to experience, always searching, travelling with just the tools of his trade, his songs stories and memories; the wise fool, piercing through the veil of politeness and pretence to the essential nature of things.

From the plays of Shakespeare to the latest High School Prom drama of American initiation the Fool has license to misbehave. He or she is the wild card. Quite literally, the joker in the pack. Card 0 or 1 in the Tarot.

Rider Waite Tarot Deck

As David Ovason writes in his book "The Zelator" :

"The way of the Fool is the path of the independent traveller on the path of Initiation. Such a traveller may study under a variety of masters, yet will strive always to preserve his or her identity and rarely undertakes vows of silence which will bind his or her being to a particular school or teaching. The fact the the travelling fool is on a Path is meant to reflect that he or she is following the way of experience which in ancient Greek was termed Pathein"

In the western esoteric traditions the path of the Fool is the path of ego development. The Fool gazes upward toward the light yet he is drawn down to the material, using his body as a tool for gaining knowledge and experience: always this back and forth between the light and the dark, between the spiritual and the material.

Over his shoulder the Fool carries his shadow: his accumulation of bad karma, what some call the double or the body of pain. This unredeemed part of his humanity is the debt his journey will unburden.

The Fool dreams, his mind soars into the spiritual realms.  He is in love with love, in love with life, always searching for more and because he takes his eye from the path in front of him, his astral animal companion yapping at his feet, sometimes he falls. Perhaps just a trip- or sometimes as in the Rider Waite picture above, a more serious fall awaits!

To bind himself closer to the world the Fool becomes the servant of the abyss between the spiritual and material world. He takes the grit of our ordinary base human existence and like a sea clam he makes a pearl. He turns the dark, ugly and painful into something poetic, magical, beautiful, priceless- and ultimately- dispensable. Something worth of being a gift. Little by little, one gift at a time, he pays his debts..

Crowley Tarot- Book of Thoth

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