Tag Archives: archetypes

Foolishness and The Kingdom of the Bad


The archetype of the fool or the clown shows up in most every well-known story with a beginning, a middle and an end. This character appears in dramatic work in various forms from the “Wise Fool” of the Greek Tragedies to Shakespeare’s spritely Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Dori in Finding Nemo.

These “foolish” characters provide comic relief and a sense of conscience to the protagonist (as they do not follow society’s ways, are usually not the most fashionable, and always speak the truth). They invite us to wear masks — or to take off our masks and live a life free of labels and ideals. And they are usually a “lowly” character, and sometimes a blank slate, that will reveal the character of others based on how they themselves are treated. Sometimes an antagonist we thought was our friend will show their true colors by betraying or mistreating the fool, usually in the final act.

In Shakespeare and the Human Mystery, J. Phillip Newell writes, “The fool is calling us to be truly ourselves and points out the falseness of what we have become. He is not, however, over and against his hearers. Rather, he invites them to discover the fool within themselves. In All’s Well That Ends Well, when Paroles says that he has found the fool, the clown replies, “Did you find me in yourself, sir?”

In ancient Egypt (as early as 2400 BC), clowns served a socio-religious and psychological function in the court, with the role of priest and clown traditionally held by the same person.

In Native American traditions, the Trickster God is represented as Coyote, a sacred clown. During certain ceremonial performances, masks were made of clay and worn for each direction of the medicine wheel and a Heyoka (a mystic, a medicine man, an outsider) plays the role of the backwards clown, doing everything in reverse.

There is within Christian circles those known as “Holy Fools” or “Fools for Christ.” These are the ascetics, mystics, saints, outcasts. The Hindu equivalent would be Avadhuta (The Sanskrit word for people who “do not identify with their mind or body, names or forms, a person held to be pure consciousness.”). In Islam there are the Qalandariyya (whirling dervishes) and Malamatiyya (Sufi mystics with a staunch belief in self-blame).

The first card of the Major Arcana Tarot deck is that of The Fool. It shows him in all his youthful innocence stepping off a cliff and into the unknown without judgement, but also without wisdom. He is the embodiment of a new beginning. He is actively sacrificing his past. And he is represented by the number Zero. As George Leonard writes, zero is “the fertile void from which all creation springs, the state of emptiness that allows new things to come into being.” The fool represents what is known in Zen Buddhism as shoshin or “beginner’s mind,” the attitude that makes real learning possible. Continue reading

Finding the Father, Our Journey Home

This talk was originally presented by Max Warren at our June 16 Father’s Day service at Straub Park in St. Petersburg.


Whenever he hurts himself, my seven year old son comes running to my wife and I with a death grip on his injury. He won’t let her touch it and he won’t let me see it.

Sometimes, in life, we act the same way with our emotions. We know we are wounded, but we are afraid to let anyone see.

My sense is that we are all, to some degree, comfortable holding the wound but are unwilling or unable to release our grip on apathy. I believe that we can find a way to see ourselves (and our fathers) with a new perspective — a perspective that is provided by an integral framework.

The last post touched on the need to move on, and to embrace Religion 2.0, moving past the familiar, antiquated concepts of “that old time religion.” Integral theory holds a unique position that is unlike classic modernity or post-modernism. Without going into too much detail on the evolution of maps from modern to integral, here is a brief thumbnail sketch.

Modernism is sometimes defined as “a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology.” Modernist philosophy concerns itself with absolutes, meta-narratives and holding a monolithic view of spirituality, life, work, and relationships. Post-modernism was by and large a knee-jerk reaction to the ideology of modernism, which it essentially saw as a box. Post-modernist thinkers have questioned the certainties of absolutism, have declared that we’ve lost the meaning in the very words we speak, and that we must deconstruct this box. For the most part, post-modernists have blown up, torn down and ridiculed all that modernism brought to us as a global culture. In short, they view it as worthless. An integral lens appreciates the validity of all the perspectives along the way (including previous pre-conventional and mythic stages) and sees them as a holarchy that transcends and includes each previous level.

I want to share a quote from Richard Rohr’s book Adam’s Return that I think succinctly expresses what authentic, transcendent, integral spirituality looks like. Rohr states that “healthy religion always finds God in the present much more than in the past. The past is only to create a runway for us so we have some communal assurance that ours is a valid experience.”

This rich and ever-present approach to spirituality demonstrates the most validity by moving us past pet doctrines, divisive arguments and entrenched ignorance. If we look through this integral lens, we will find within all the the great wisdom traditions the “esoteric” core beneath the “exoteric” trappings. And by looking beyond the “letter of the law” that can, at times, serve only to isolate and kill, we may find the wellspring of a living Spirit — alive in every experience.

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