There was once a likeable Prince whose wicked step-father stole his crown and banished him to the Furthest-Corner-of-the-Kingdom without any of his stuff. Every year the Prince had to travel to the Evil Castle and pay the step-King tribute, confirming him as the rightful ruler of the land.
One year, in the midst of festivities honouring His Greatness, the Prince slipped like a shadow into the King’s private apartments without really knowing why and took a medium sized Glittery from the royal jewellery case. Without specifically noticing what he was about, he put it in his pocket, sidetracked as he was by the reasoning that it was the least owed to him. Without thinking too much more about it, he rejoined the party. From the shadows, the wicked King looked on and smiled.
On the way home to the Furthest-Corner-of-the-Kingdom, the Prince began to feel ill. He got bad-tempered and compained about everything. The road was too bumpy. The days were too hot. The nights, too cold. Nothing and nobody could get it right.
and, I’ve got a headache.
Things deteriorated further once he returned. His archery was off. Riding in the country gave no pleasure. He had a run of bad luck at cards. Pizza had become more appealing than healthy greens. Something was amiss.
oh, and a tail.
Eventually, once his tail simply couldn’t be hid, he called for all the Wisest Healers in those lands over which he still held sway..
er, down to the next village…
Aaall the Healers in the land I say, but no-one could help him, not even Granny Troth’s goose fat rubbing linament and the People began to mutter that maybe he hadn’t been overthrown enough.
Early one morning, an old lady who smelled of the Forest came and knocked at his door. On her shoulder sat a magpie with a beady yellow eye. As soon as the door was ajar it flew in and began a strange dance on the kitchen table.
‘George indicates the presence of some dark magic,’ said the Crone and straightway the Prince fetched the Glittery out of the table drawer where he had hidden it. She prodded it with her stick whilst he told her what happened.
‘Waaal’, she said, after an eon of princely tail-shuffling silence, ‘you can’t oppose him by becoming like him. That will certainly make you ill. But more importantly, this thing has juju on it. Magic. It has the meaning of you accepting that your crown is lost. It causes you to lose your strength of purpose, to forget who you are, to be satisfied with consumption. The Glittery must go back and you must address the loss of your crown in a more direct way.’
”But I was only trying to teach him a lesson,” squirmed the Prince.
‘More’s the problem,’ quoth the Crone, plumping herself down into the comfiest chair she could find. ‘If only you had been motivated by greed or vengeance. But no, you want to teach him something. Its an act of charity, a hair shirt hope, not for your crown or your destiny, but for his redemption. As if you had such power… whilst at one and the same time slowly becoming the wretch he takes you for. How faithful you have been….’
”But the value of the Glittery is so small compared to the Crown…”
Conscience doesn’t discriminate, Prince. Nor does it care what we sell ourselves out for. You tried to ease the tension of the King’s betrayal by betraying yourself. You joined his game, this person you hate, and found a way to be less than you are. So your true Self will ever snap at your heels and sabotage your efforts, creep up on you as symptom, ailment and adverse event.’
”Are you saying I’ll get my legs and my crown back if I return the Glittery?”
‘No, but your head might clear sufficiently to be your own man..’
The Prince nodded and cried a bit..
George swooped off with the Glittery in the direction of the Evil Castle. When he arrived there he paused on the ramparts and waited. A puff of glinting black. He waited and waited and waited.
When all was dark and silent, George flew down into the wicked King’s bedchamber where he slept and tossed and snored. He landed in dreadful silence upon the pillow. Another moment and George popped the Glittery into the King’s open mouth so that he choked horribly, wretching and clawing for air before dying in spectacular writhing agony on the expensive, imported, Byzantine floor.
George did a different kind of dance on the kitchen table when he returned. The old lady nodded to herself, kissed the Prince on the forehead and trundled off, back into the Forest.
This is not a moral tale.
Its about how we manage loss and growth.
The Prince tries to draw a veil over his suffering by justifying an act that places him above Natural Law wherein the legitimate grief of his dethronement lies. He retreates from himself into an identification with his aggressor. He concretises his wish to be excused from life’s knotty problems in the Glittery which will some how magically make his situation better. As if the loss of his crown could be compensated.
Individuation doesn’t want to be either inflated or let off the hook like this. If we do not tread the razors edge between them it will inflict us with poetic symptoms instead, like the Prince’s snake tail.
”Psychologically the serpent is the principle of gnosis, knowledge or emerging consciousness. The serpent represents the urge to self-realization in man & symbolizes the principle of individuation.” Edward Edinger
The Prince numbs himself to his loss with the mesmerising Glittery which has the symbolic value of affording him immunity from life. But its revenge is to turn him into a cold-blooded consumer.
This wish to be above the law is endemic in our culture. Its what gives us the driven quality so obvious to Indigenous People. It is the end towards which we place so much effort in social climbing and amassing of trinkets which testify just how far above the law we have risen.
We have plenty of schooling in this. It even has biblical approval. Cain got to be above the Laws of inheritance. David’s abduction of Bathsheba placed him above the Laws of marrriage. Nebuchadnezzer is driven insane by Yahweh and made to eat grass for seven years on account of his wanting to be above the Laws of governance, yet all these men are pretty much let off the hook because of their faithfullness to the lord.
The earthly dimension of this is that the closer you are to centralised power, with the suits and gizmos to prove it, the more immune you are from constraint. We’ve even begun to equate it with freedom itself. There are many levels of such immunity, all the way from being able to shrug off a ticket because you are a local and know the policeman’s family, through being able to afford legal representation, to bribing Congress..
er, I mean, making hefty charitable donations.
This power to shrug off constraints that would bind and bring down Others is what motivates much Western striving. The irony is that the developmental stage typified by much throwing of oneself about and being excused the rules that govern other family members is early childhood. We aspire to be regressed. We still want the Glittery that will make the feeling of being cheated go away. We still yearn for ‘the lap of luxury’ which is not as much about goodies as it is about not having to answer the phone and having everything taken care of.
But for as long as we pursue the Glittery or aspire to it, nothing can change in our lives. Soon we are thrown into crisis, the unconscious guilt, the toothsome failure to live, manifesting in the external world as divisiveness and bad luck.
I was walking in the woods on a lovely warm February morning. It was a wonderful sunny day. I met someone walking the other way and commented on our good fortune.
‘May as well make the most of it.” said he, managing, not only to fail entirely in gratitude, but to be defensive, petulant and slightly short changed about this marvellous day into the bargain. No day could be bright enough for him to feel that he had not still some how been cheated.
And he probably had…
..of some birthright,..