The Fool

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


THE FOOL


Foole Upon Foole, or Six Sortes of Sottes: A flatt foole and a fall foole, A leans foole and a cleans foole, A merry foole and a verry foole: Shewing their lives, humours and behaviours, with their want of witte in their shew of wisdome. Not so strange as true.

The Nest of Ninnies

 On his Olympian heights Zeus yawned with boredom, for there was not a fool among the gods with wit enough to keep the divine assembly diverted. Complaining in the midst of such celestial ennui, the king of gods frowned with displeasure and sent a ripple of anxiety through the heavenly halls. Hermes, ever quick to mediate in times of need, directed his attention to a large field on earth below. "Great god," he said, "look at that broad tract of land near Aliakmon. It is all alive with mortals in their holiday dress. See how they are eating sweet melons, singing till they are hoarse and dancing until they drop. Can we not find in their revelry the entertainment we lack here?" Observing them for a moment, Zeus chuckled. "I do believe that with a few improvements this rustic festivity will indeed provide us with a laugh. By my decree, let that priest, who is fast asleep by his deserted shrine below, announce that a shower is about to descend but that it shall wet none but fools."

 With a muffled sound of thunder, the aroused servant of the gods stood up and made the requisite announcement to the people. Upon hearing it, a philosopher standing nearby hastily covered his head and retreated into his modest habitation. None of the others who were gathered around prepared to avoid the tempest, and each, waiting to see the drenching of the fools, was, in two minutes, wet to the skin. When the sun reappeared, the philosopher walked out into the field. The thoroughly soaked idiots, observing his comfortable condition, hailed him with the epithet of 'fool' and pelted him with stones. Bruised and staggering, the philosopher nevertheless contrived to keep his wits. "O sagacious asses!" said he to the roaring crowd, which at once sank into silence at the compliment paid to their wisdom, "have patience for a moment and I will prove to you that I am not such a fool as I look." Bending back his head and turning the palms of his hands upwards to the sky, he cried, "O wise father of the witty and the witless, vouchsafe to send down a deluge for my individual benefit. Wet me to the skin even as these fools are wetted. Constitute me, thereby, as great a fool as my neighbours; and enable me, in consequence, a fool, to live in peace among fools."

 At these words the idiots below and the Olympians above shook with laughter. Down came the shower of rain prayed for, with the peculiar effect that the philosopher rose drippingly from his knees ten times wittier than he was before. Hera, leaning close to the ear of Zeus, whispered, "We have spoilt that good fellow's robe but also made his fortune for I have put in the mind of the local ruler the wish to take the philosopher home with him as instructor for diversion." That night all Olympus looked down into the court of the prince where the wise fool lay, pouring forth witty truths as fast as his lips could utter them. "That fellow", cried Zeus, "shall be the founder of a race. Henceforth, every court shall have its fool and fools shall be, for many a day, preachers and admonishers of kings. Let us drink to the health of the first fool!"

 Had the gods communed in Latin, they may have looked down upon the revellers and remarked along with Seneca, "Tanta stultitia mortalium est. . ." What fools these mortals be! But in isolating the wise fool and making him the admonisher of kings, they established a relationship on earth which broke all the rules of order they themselves held dear. For the fool is the symbol of chaos; he inverts the order of things and his penetrating criticisms would have found a less than welcome reception from the gods. Perhaps the institution of his race was merely an unkind joke played upon mortals who were held, it often seemed, in low esteem by the Olympians. Or perhaps the introduction of an agent of chaos into the pathos of world order was considered by them to be a just and fitting antidote to the conceits of strutting empire-builders and self-created lawmakers. Whatever the reasons may have been, the court fool would find himself in a position at the bottom of a scale of temporal power at whose top a ruler of castle and kingdom could be found. Sometimes less than wise, the fool was often at the total mercy of those above him and may not even have known from whence he came or where he was going, His only freedom lay in his lack of place, his powerlessness within the social scheme of things. Being always an outsider, an oddity, a force unfettered by reason or cultural grace, he represented the unexpected and irrational, the upsetting and absurd. Being a fool, he could say what he pleased and caustically unleash a drenching dam of truth upon the free play of sophistry and manners.

 Well might one ask, if such caustic critics they could be, why would anyone wish for the company of a fool? Why would anyone seek out his company and even come to love and cherish such a one? The court fool was often mentally or physically abnormal. Many were dwarfs, some monstrous in form, others quite definitely insane. Deprived of both human rights and responsibilities, they could become either pathetic recipients of abuse or impossibly lazy barnacles cluttering up the halls of royalty. Why would people of wealth and power wish to surround themselves with abnormal outcasts who sometimes possessed neither wit nor will?

 The earliest trace of such beings is revealed in the accounts of the mysterious little pygmies called Dangas, who held positions of some privilege at the court of Dadkeri-Assi, a Pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty. Some of these were apparently his confidants and one, Knumhotpu, was even made superintendent of the Royal Linen until his death, when his dwarfed form was immortalized in a statue at Giza. The Egyptians were awed by the Dangas because they were from the mysterious South, the country "ten leagues beyond man's life", the region of ghosts and talking serpents. The pygmies, big-headed and clothed in leopard skins, could dance like the god Bisu from Puanit, thus diverting the court and rejoicing the heart of the king. But there was more to it than auspicious diversion. Forty years after the time of Assi a magical invocation was carved into the pyramid of Papi I. Addressed to the pilot of the boat bearing the king's soul to the Blessed Isle of Osiris, it reminded the gods that Osiris eagerly awaited Papi "because he is the Danga who dances the god". What this meant was that the Pharaoh hoped, rather touchingly, to come as a 'fool' and thus be welcomed in the celestial court of Osiris. The several things suggested here include the notion that the Dangas could cross over the boundary between mortals and gods and that, as fools, they possessed a magical power related to this ability that could somehow be transferred to men, Pharaohs included. The fool, even the insane fool, or perhaps especially the insane fool, was believed to be in touch with the world of spirits and gods. To keep such people close and in one's care was deemed an act of wisdom rather than charity.

 The magical power associated with the fool derived also from his role as scapegoat. Though it is true that sometimes this role thrust the fool right onto the sacrificial altar, in most cases it manifested in his acting as a decoy capable of drawing away evil from his master. Whilst certain Romans became notorious because of keeping morons or deformed slaves for entertainment, most of their wealthy countrymen, like Persians and Egyptians before them, kept such people only because they genuinely believed that their immunity to the evil eye would protect them from the arrows of envy and malice. This is based on the notion that the malign power of the evil eye is not only concentrated in some people but suffused in a vague and undefined way throughout the universe. Therefore, the self-mockery and verbal abuse so characteristic of the fool could act as a deflecting screen against evil capable of surrounding the person of a rich and enviable man. The king who is mocked before witnesses not only supports the only role given to one who is himself immune to envy, but he also deflects the potential grudge which his unassailed superiority might inspire. As a slight variation on this theme, the fool was often treated as a sort of spiritual whipping-boy, for when bad luck threatened it was thought wise to transfer it by provoking someone and getting his or her abuse. In our own time some people do this with only a partially conscious purpose, having a sort of instinctive tendency to stir up someone else's antagonism and thereby shift the burden of attachment through dislike onto the other's shoulders for a while. Using a fool for this sort of arcane manipulation could easily have been made permanent by employing a perpetual scapegoat who abused his owner as an official duty. On the other hand, the tie between king and fool might have become so complex and strong that the latter would willingly substitute for his master in ritual or even actual performances of regicide. Or he might do it out of love. The Irish fool Dodera was so loyal that he changed clothes willingly with his master, Prince Maccon, and died in his place in battle. Maccon used to say, "Since Dodera is departed, no laughter is produced; for after Dairine's merry jester there is desolation."

 In a letter written early in the sixteenth century, Desiderius Erasmus expressed the opinion that "the sorts of fools which princes of former times introduced into their courts were there for the express purpose of exposing and thereby correcting certain minor faults through their frank speech". This identification of the fool as truth-teller is brilliantly illustrated in Shakespeare's King Lear, whose tragic protagonist reiterates the theme by enigmatically crying out at the discovery of his daughter Cordelia's death, "And my poor fool is hang'd", thus recognizing in her the truth-teller. Being but a truthful innocent, Cordelia could not speak the truth during her lifetime with impunity. Only the fool could do that and, with his absurd rhymes and ridiculous antics, get away with it. From outside the ordered world of self-serious reason, he could dash in and out with his parries, make his caustic point and leap away into undignified self-mockery. A magical decoy, a scapegoat and a teller of truth in the face of powerful authority, the fool added to his role the sometimes unconscious, sometimes conscious, element of comedy. Clever fools played the fool with a marvellous sense of timing and circumstance. Others were simply laughably foolish by nature despite their sudden ability to penetrate to the heart of some matter or other.

  The ability for which the fool was forgiven all his defects was that which enabled him to render everyday life comic at the moment, on the spot. Man's appetite for comic relief has flourished for a very long time. One wonders if it acts upon the spirit as a sort of vitamin, or could it be more aptly described as a narcotic? Does the enjoyment of it engender a deeper insight into human nature, a keener critical faculty, or does it merely encourage an evasion of reality? Perhaps one can answer such questions only in terms of many subtle combinations of elements, but the fact remains that societies of fools which carefully recorded jests have existed since ancient times. Philip of Macedonia paid a talent in gold for the mere loan of the jest-book kept by the club of wits in Athens known as "The Sixty". Culled from the quaint lunacies of fools, both natural and assumed, these laugh-provoking sketches quickly became stereotyped so that their appearance in the borrowed jesting of a would-be fool could easily elicit the dampening observation, "Ah, that comes from the Sixty." Much adapted foolery did, however, find a ready patronage, if for no other reason than the persistent belief that having a joker at the table was good for the digestion.

 In later centuries the Romans and their descendants encouraged a host of buffoons whose antics astounded and amused and were partially recorded for posterity by Boccaccio, Sacchetti and Bandello. With the development of such characters as Punch, the entertainment provided by fools too often reflected a sensual and heartless appetite for low comedy, sustained by certain patrons as well as the public at large. A note of pathos, however, was introduced into the picture through the foolish character of Pierrot, whose pantomimed sketches threaded their way between the tragic and the hilarious. The wistfully absurd figure of a Deburau or a Chaplin has memorably exemplified this more touching aspect of the fool. Their comic appeal engages the sympathy of the audience even while they reveal absurd truths about the human condition. They are foolish but so clever as to cause one to laugh with them at oneself. Being the outsider or the underdog, they do not threaten directly the worldly personality, the puffed up sense of dignity men struggle to protect. Rather, they seem to have popped in from the moon, with their wildly unconventional point of view.

Nobody can describe a fool to the life without much patient self-inspection.

F. Moore Colby

 Outsider though he was, the fool was the inversion of the king and therefore, in a sort of negative way, integral to the structure which was believed to reflect a divinely ordained society. Close to the king as spiritual adviser was the priest or cardinal who hoped to sway the temporal ruler in the direction of the ecclesiastical concept of God's plan for humankind. But the burden of rulership has often been tedious to kings and many of them frequently turned for relief to their fools. If this resulted in merely a passing hour or two of frivolous gaiety, naught would have come of it, but the fool had a knack for bluntly speaking the truth about matters dear to the church as well as to the king and a good deal of enmity was stirred up. It was well known that Will Sommers, fool to Henry VII, was a much despised enemy of Cardinal Wolsey, and there was a continual feud between Louis XIIIs favourite fool, Marais, and Cardinal Richelieu. The very nature of their roles ensured that this sort of enmity was typical, despite the fact that a good many of the fools favoured by monarchs were extremely simple-minded. In his role as inverter, the fool would naturally be at odds with the pious establishment of the church, for he was the king, not of the socially accepted rule, but of misrule. His license to turn the grim realities of life into a farce flew in the face of sober-minded and penitent sinners as well as those who merely used the respectability and influence of the church for their own worldly ends. Thus, though all fools did not inspire universal affection or sympathy in the courts, their real enemies were usually the priests. Historically, this seems odd if one considers the Vatican patronage which exalted certain fools to heights of enormous privilege. Pope Leo X's valet de chambre had the authority to admit them at any time to his apartments to the exclusion of anyone else. Descriptions of Fra Mariano Felt, capo di mati ('chief of fools'), jumping up on the supper table and running from one end to the other, slapping cardinals and bishops all the way, do not prepare one for the more cool and critical differences of interest to be found later between fool and priest.

 Suddenly, it was as if the world began to take itself more seriously. Divine madness receded more into a past regarded with suspicion and distrust. Inversions began to be seen as perversions and not dialectical broadsides capable of clearing the air and opening up a more critical perspective. Organized religion began to lose its ability to laugh at itself and a broader wedge was driven between the sacred and secular realms. It is difficult to overestimate the effect this had on human society. One wonders if people remotely realized that they were losing a critical check which worked to forestall the tendency to concretize the spiritual and shrink it down to ego size. As difficult as it may seem to understand at first glance, ancient wisdom had hitherto prevailed when the 'Lord of Misrule' and the 'Abbot of Unreason' played their mocking role even in connection with such arcane mysteries as those which took place at Eleusis. It still pervades such celebrations as that of the rural Indian Holi Festival, where the King of Holi rides backwards on a donkey amidst a joyful chaos of social reversals and inversions of every sort. He is the chief fool among fools, kept busy with the task of turning the caste system upside down and reversing roles of age and sex which otherwise tend to become so inflexibly set and grimly adhered to. Whether in a communal situation like this or on his own, the fool strips away the facades and exposes human weaknesses for what they are. Quite naturally he would have had a role to play in preparing a candidate for initiation or in tearing aside the veil of worldly identity so that villagers might see beyond appearances and greet Lord Krishna in their midst.

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.

Proverbs 26:12

  If the fool can perform such valuable functions for humanity, his extremely marginal position in society can only be understood in terms of humanity's ignorance about the whys and wherefores of its own traditions. It is as if the role of fool really did come by way of a whim of Zeus and mankind never possessed an intelligent understanding of his true nature. At any rate, the fortune of the fool has always been chancy, with very little assurance that he would be able to avoid living and dying as an underfed beggar or worse. In ancient Greece certain types of Παρασιτος (Parasitos) or Parasites used to take part in banquets by special invitation in association with priests and magistrates. Gradually these became degraded and began to show up at symposia without invitation, brazening their way in with impudent repartee in order to garner a free meal. The Parasites were usually free-lance and lived by their wits, having names like Lark, Pod or Mackerel. They seem to have been more wily than mad, and they abounded in the rich courts of Philip of Macedonia and his son, Alexander. To pursue consciously the life of a fool entailed a willing and open acknowledgement of one's failure to attain the normal standard of human dignity either in bodily or mental tendencies. Such a one would then set about exploiting his own weaknesses to the advantage of his security and comfort. In order to have succeeded in such a tricky profession, these fools must have possessed a great ability to adapt themselves to whichever way the wind happened to be blowing from moment to moment. Placed in an inferior position at table, Aristippus, fool to the tyrant Dionysius, managed to maintain his audacity in the face of ridicule. When asked if he liked his new seat, he boldly replied, "Ay truly, for the place I held yesterday, I despise today, since I hold it no longer." Trickier still was the test of Nasr-ed-Din, who would have lost his head when he first presented himself to the conqueror Timur-leng (Tamerlane) had he not wittily been able to answer the questions put to him by the Mongol. That he succeeded in pleasing his new master was borne out in a story describing how Timur-leng once wept to see lines of ageing in his face when he looked into a mirror. His entire court wept in sympathy along with him for two hours, but the fool continued to sob even longer. Finally, asked by the conqueror why he still wept, he replied: "If you saw yourself in the glass for a short moment and wept for two hours, is it surprising that I weep longer since I see you the whole day?" How nervously relieved the onlookers must have been to see Timur-leng collapse in uncontrollable laughter!

 Other fools evidently pushed it too far, risking life and limb for their antics. Charles Chester, fool to Elizabeth I, irked Sir Walter Raleigh and other noblemen until they bricked him up to his neck in a corner and he shrieked repeatedly for mercy. Some of the natural fools had trainers or prompters and reached remarkable levels of inspired madness. Around the turn of the fifteenth century, one Haincelin Coq wore out an inordinate quantity of shoes and on one occasion tore his clothes into shreds while wildly leaping and dancing before Charles VI. More poignantly, an order form written up for the seat of the Duke of Burgundy in 1494 requested a fool's dress patterned with the arms of the city of Lille for a lad described as "mad and out of his senses". It is doubtful that such fools were wise, but they were sometimes visited with the remarkable insights and even prophetic visions associated with the fey or the insane. Fools less natural and more shrewd were often capable of a good deal of wisdom in handling awkward situations. Some of these were actually entrusted with the business of arbitration, as in the case of a quarrel that broke out between a street porter and the keeper of a cook-shop in Paris. The porter had sat down near the shop door in order that his fare of plain bread might be made more savoury by the smell of roasted meat. The avaricious shopkeeper wished to charge him for this privilege and a fight between the two ensued. Seigni Johan (court fool to King John), who was called in to conciliate the brawlers, effortlessly pronounced that the porter should pay for the smell of the roast with the sound of his money. Such cleverness would have, no doubt, been beyond the dancing fool to Charles VI, but in many other cases it was not always so easy to discriminate between the wise fool and the cunning fool, let alone the mad, the mystical or the merely malapert.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

William Shakespeare

 The fool's relationship to the philosopher seems to have been closer than to the priest, with a good deal of overlap on both sides. Xenophon described how the fool Philip presented himself uninvited at the famous supper party of Callias, where he provided welcome diversion from the serious moral discussions led by Socrates. He parodied and badinaged, indulging in impertinent comparisons and personal remarks directed at the guests. Socrates rebuked him for his impudence but was unable to subdue the fool's self-satisfaction. This is on its own somewhat misleading, as Socrates himself was given to childish play and extravagant dancing when the mood seized him. Indeed, Zeno called him the "Athenian buffoon" and Alcibiades claimed that he resembled the image of Silenus, chief of the satyrs, who rides as a fat, drunken man upon the back of an ass. Doubtless there were times when such a superior mind, flooded with the unworldly elation of noetic perception, would break the bounds of its earthly vessel and release the nymph, the Puck and the inspired fool in the body of a very plain, ageing man. How wonderful to imagine, for surely only a natural fool or a truly wise man could give himself so effortlessly to an unself-conscious divine madness. But while a philosopher may act the fool, are fools potential philosophers? Does their 'gyring' and 'gimbling' disguise a sort of special access to disinterested truth? Certainly, many a dim-witted fool would seem to be further from this than even a puffed-up doctrinaire. But history has shown a peculiar propensity to confuse the two and a recurrent tendency to bring them together. It pleased patrons in Germany to watch professors from the universities augmenting their incomes by playing the fool at court in the eighteenth century, and much earlier a favourite sport at Roman banquets was to pitch rival philosophers against one another, egged on by a fool. No doubt some found it gratifying to their own feeble intellects to witness learned men being made fools of by a fool or making fools out of themselves. But one suspects, at least in the former cases, that the learned men needed little assistance. Their egos did the job for them nicely, proving once again how hypocrisy and pedantry could be punctured by that prime dissolver of formalization, foolishness.

Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.

Publilius Syrus

  Acting as an aggressive agent of dissolution, the fool breaks down the distinctions between folly and wisdom, life and art. When he is really successful, he breaks this barrier for us, his observers, as well, so that we too can inhabit for a moment a no man's land between the worlds of what is and what might be. He draws out our latent folly and, by our recognition of it, we are freed to follow the fool into a chaos of possible new beginnings. The genius of the fool, his ability to make us believe that he can divert the evil eye, draw us away from pain and outwit the intolerable tyranny of worldly circumstances is contingent upon his continual tendency to invert, dissolve and ever play the wild card. Like the final enigma of the tarot, he plays the part of the zero that can become any number at all. He is unnumbered and unplaced, his many-coloured costume symbolizing the multiple and incoherent influences to which he is subject. But he walks in the mountainous heights where one may not know what is going on in the world below yet receive glimpses of visions glittering beyond ordinary men's dreams.

 The fool as a prophet or seer is a soothsayer without a temple, a lunatic or, perhaps, an oracle. In the ancient Semitic and Celtic traditions they were often considered possessed men who used verbal arrows to do war against established and complacent forms. The Sha 'ir of Islam, the kahin 'ar arraf, all were believed inspired by jinns in ways similar to the Irish fill or the Teutonic thul. They were fauns who spoke as mouthpieces of the spirits and often appeared bumbling in their varying conditions, as did Parsifal, who was called the Pure Fool. During the Christian era mystics continued to speak and behave in ways often outside the understanding of society. As 'fools of god' they pursued their own peculiar path after the fashion of St. Paul before them. Inspired by the intense abandonment of worldly reason demonstrated by Francis of Assisi, Franciscans liked to call themselves Fools of the World (Mundi Moriones) and deliberately wore the pointed cap of the fool. Russian holy fools walked with heavy chains about their naked bodies from village to village, railing against every injustice. They sometimes froze and starved and often ridiculed the church but no one doubted that they were on fire with a love of God. In fact, the God-intoxicated individual has often been thought a fool by ordinary people because he does nothing to protect himself or further his own interests. Thus Prince Myshkin, Dostoievski's Idiot, was taken to be a fool by those around him simply because he was incapable of understanding their mixed motives. With the mystic fool, the higher mind can take possession precisely because the lower mind is inactive. With the psychic fool, glimpses of truth may often be revealed as he reacts to the changing forces whirling around him. But he is an erratic seer, a pawn capable of being possessed by any sort of entity as he revolves in his desperately madcap dance through life.

  The aura of mysticism adhered to even the psychic fool, however, and it is significant that only when belief in the divinity associated with kings began to break down did the fool cease to have a deeper raison d'être in society. As men increasingly sought dignity and respectability in worldly contexts instead of a place in cosmic law, the fool became lost in the comedian, the harlequin of the stage and the clown of folk fairs and circuses. This was a great loss to the world, for together the king and the fool had represented solar and lunar dynasties or races among men. However imperfectly, the king had ruled as the sun rules the solar system and the fool had acted as his fluctuating check against over-concretization. Like the tarot Fool whose tunic bears the crescent moon, the king's idiot ever moved towards the edge of chaos, dragging with him a court otherwise too complacent, too prone to blind and self-serving rationalizations. The solar king symbolizing Manas in the world had, from the time of Rama, fallen from the heights of manasic righteousness into increasingly lower manasic blindness, but the true and natural fool never possessed such worldly reason. Informed either by mystical visions, madness or possessing spirits, he looked on the machinations of the lower mind as though through a window from the outside. He leavened the lump of man-made order, which always threatened to get too hard, and acted as a living link between men and gods.

 In Shakespeare's King Lear the fool's role seems to exist to emphasize one strange and tragic instance where the positions of the fool and the king are reversed. The king, in his foolishness, acts to dissolve the order of things by turning over his kingdom to his daughters and placing himself in the position of their childlike dependant. This act of folly unleashes powerful forces of good and evil which pour forth in exaggerated form through the important characters in the play. Lear's fool, being a man devoid of worldly wisdom, has the wisdom to see how the worldly are fools. In response to his master's ill-conceived action, he jokes and sings his silly songs and tries, in his grief, to expose the nature of the folly. The great evil expressed through two of the king's daughters results from the inversion whereby they both embrace the adage "Evil be thou my Good." Embracing this, reason cannot reach them. It cannot prove them wrong in itself. This perverse assertion that love and fellow-feeling are foolish can only be reinverted by the fool, who says, "Folly (love) be thou my wisdom." The breaking of blood ties and the denial of love are so abnormal as to suggest a great convulsion of the natural order of things, and when Lear finally becomes aware of the inhumanness of Goneril's heart, his wits begin to lose their bearings. As his madness sets in, his sympathy and vision expand, inspiring his fool to comment, "Thou woulds't make a good fool." And, indeed, having hit the bottom, having lost his place in society as well as everything else, he has become the fool. He comes to see clearly that "When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools."

 The fool is the unbinder of man's slavery to the lower mind and the creator of freedom, but it is unwise to try prematurely to play his part. Lear seems to have indulged a whimsical but also egotistical fancy in thinking that he understood the consequences he was about to reap from his grandiose gesture. Far from understanding the true character of those around him, he had equally little understanding of himself or his responsibility in the world. By playing the fool, he was catapulted into madness rather than into a state of visionary wisdom. In dissolving his kingship, he cut away the raft of manasic control which could have seen him safely to the other side of chaos and onto the shore of true spiritual perception. He had plunged himself into the state of the most pathetic and witlessly dependent of fools. In a similar manner, the disciple who struggles along the path towards spiritual enlightenment encounters the same dangerous possible miscalculation. Though in essence a king possessing the germ of divinely endowed intelligence, such a seeker may fail to realize the importance of engendering within himself the rule of the true philosopher. He may free himself from the limitations of worldly identity and position only to cast himself into a turbulent psychic sea. The old myth of Zeus and the philosopher can, if properly interpreted, assist an aspirant to avoid such a pitfall. For the philosopher who had wished to be made a fool among fools was a truly wise man and had the wits to realize that he could shed his wisdom upon his fellow mortals best disguised as a fool.

 Who knows how many wise men there are amongst us who pass thus disguised! How many souls have chosen in this or in past lives to forfeit respectability and position in order to work out some line of deeper truth while appearing the simpleton to others? Can we distinguish them from the witless fools whose appearance they share? Along the sidewalks and country lanes of the world walk legions of fools lacking in divine madness. Dull, with confusion swamping their minds, they are prey to cunning spirits or the grief of uncomprehended loss. Perhaps lives ago, perhaps even more recently, they abdicated their crown of manasic responsibility and tried to play the child, the freebooter, the unwise fool. These are not the truth-tellers nor do they have the ability to deflect or neutralize the evil eye. The only dissolution they accomplish is wreaked upon the feeble order of their own minds, which skitter and threaten to break away entirely from their souls. The mystic Fool of God sees them upon the stage of life and knows them for what they are. He sees too the other fools, the buffoon playing at playing the fool, the priest playing at truth, the king playing at God. He sees, and yet he too is a fool, self-chosen in some life. For he knows his foolishness and is willing to abandon all concern for the opinions of men in order to become a better vehicle of his higher vision, his divine madness. He is a fool but also a philosopher-king. He is in control and yet pierces and dissolves the facades of control imprisoning the lower mind. He is chaos threatening the lower orders and sweeping like a peal of compassionate laughter through the hearts of weary humanity. Oh welcome him, the seer, the unexpected visionary with matted locks or fool's cap! Welcome him when he comes!

The dullness of the sun
Is eclipsed by the moon
on a foggy day.
But the moon truly shines
Only by the blessings
of the sun.
Therefore, wed thou the moon
To the solar orb;
And let them in tandem
rule the way.