ARCHETYPE OF THE FOOL: dancing through experiences

Apr 1, 2021

A green statue shows the archetype of the fool.

The archetype of the fool in various guises has appeared since ancient times. The court jester seduces through comedy, song and story. The dummling son of fairy tales wins the treasure with well-meaning ineptitude. Shakespeare featured fools in many of his plays, the Tarot deck begins (or ends) with the fool, and comedians have built careers on playing the fool.

The fool punctures the posturings of others’ personas and egos, bests his “betters,” and transgresses social boundaries and conventional morality. The fool flaunts and taunts us with shadow, making truths about cultural norms and human complexity both pointed and palatable. We might well claim that dreams come from the inner fool, and they can shock an ego made lowly by bawdy images of shadow in bathroom dreams and sexual acts. The fool is the unconscious itself, and we recognize, if dimly, his close and paradoxical relationship with the Self, light and dark.

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I’m not even sure what I was studying. I was wandering around a large parking structure looking for my car and I couldn’t find it. I kept using my key to lock it and then listened for the chirp, but it seemed very distant. Then I went into an elevator that seemed to move sideways before it finally started going up. I got out of the elevator and wandered into an empty classroom and sat at a table and wrote in a notebook, but it was just odd musings, like random lines of poetry. A young woman sat next to me. She put her hand on my hand and asked me what I was studying. I told her I did not know. I told her I did not know where my car was or what dorm I lived in. She said she would help me and we started to wander through the structure together. It was like an Escher painting. The woman was flirtatious and I told her she was barking up the wrong tree (I am gay) but she did not seem deterred. We went to the lobby of the building, where there were tables with computers on them and packages in a corner. There were several packages for me, wrapped Christmas gifts from my family from earlier years that I had never picked up. No one seemed to know where my room was, but I went alone back into the structure and continued to wander. Finally I met two young men who led me to my room. Then I gradually realized I was dreaming and woke up.”


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  1. Todd

    I am drunk and you are insane
    tell me, who will lead us home?

    How many times have I asked you not to drink so much
    for I see no sober soul in town?

    Come to the tavern my dearest and taste the wine of love
    for the soul is joyous only in the company of lovers.

    The tavern of love is your livelihood
    your income and expenses, the wine.

    Be careful, not to trust a sober soul
    with even one drop of this wine.

    Go on playing your lute, my drunken gypsy but tell me,
    between the two of us, who is more drunk?

    As I left my house a Sufi approached me,
    in his glance I saw a hundred gardens.

    He swayed from side to side like a ship without an anchor,
    while a hundred reasonable men watched on enviously.

    Where are you from? I asked him.

    He replied, “Half from Turkistan and half from Farghaneh,
    half from water and clay and half from soul and heart,
    half from the edge of the sea
    and half from the depths of the ocean.”

    –Rumi, Ghazal (Ode) 2398

    • Margarita Neri

      Love it ????

      • Jordan Floyd

        This tempts questioning of loose lips and the ability to stand up for myself.
        The Sufi is inspiring

  2. Mamie Krupczak Allegretti

    Ok, this one really got me thinking. First in terms of the etymology of the word FOOL and then what a fool is. What is a fool? Usually it’s a person who is “full of himself, ” i.e. “puffed up” with his ego and ego thoughts (thoughts often correlate with AIR) and doesn’t recognize that fact. Ego naturally expands like a balloon or bubble. So, with this image, we have a lot of AIRY metaphors and vocabulary. Often that person is always talkative and opinionated – a real “windbag” and “full of hot air.” What often happens when a person is acting foolish? The Trickster comes along to “burst his bubble (ego)” or “take the wind out of his sails” and “bring him down to earth “(deflate the ego). The Fool of the Tarot is about to walk off a precipice because he is looking upwards into the AIR, not thinking what he is doing or thinking too much about what he’s doing. In any case, he’s not in the present moment. His head is “in the clouds.” I get the feeling from looking at this card that it is inevitable that he walks off that cliff. That’s to say, when we begin our individuation journey, we are much like the fool with all our beliefs, attachments to ego and too much thinking. Inevitably we will fall (ego deflation) because it it necessary on the path of individuation.
    We love to expose the fool for what he is – an ego inflated person. That’s why playing jokes on them is so much fun. On the other hand, if I am the fool, I feel stupid because I didn’t see my own ego at work. I think Lisa’s comment about having beginner’s mind at the start of the journey is a good one. And the more one comes to know and experience, the MORE one should have the attitude of beginner’s mind. And Joseph, I think your attitude in ring-making class is more that of the Child archetype than the fool. I thought of you more as just bringing the child attitude of play and not caring about aesthetics or social duties and the desire of the teacher to “civilize” and “correct” you. And even thinking about your episode on the Milkmaid Stamps, I noticed how your voices kind of expanded and there was a silly word salad of hot air and bombastic tone. It was so different from your normal way of conversing. It really showed the inflation and silliness of being foolish. Thank you for another thought provoking episode!

  3. Mamie Krupczak Allegretti

    Hello again,
    Just a quick follow up thought to my previous post. One could also “take a fall” because of one’s projections instead of what we could consider ego inflation. For example, I think of a guy saying, “Gee I really FELL for that girl.” Or, “I played the fool for her.” So basically, the man had projected an image on to this girl and that projection “fell” when she turned out to be different from his projection. So, again, one’s foolishness comes from not recognizing one’s ego, projections, shadow.

  4. Hiddenasparanoid

    I heard the fool is also related to Uranus, he was the 1st Greek god. So maybe he was naive also he let Cronus castrate him which was rather foolish.

  5. Simon Calder

    The Fool is similar to the trickster, jester and the seeker. The fool can play all parts as well as the wise fool. The trickster is more like Loki in Norse mythology or the coyote in the Central American myths. The jester is more like the tribes comedian/jester, it goes beyond the European jester image we so often see.
    The seeker seeks new adventure and is filled with anticipation for the next thrill.

    I see the fool more like epimetheus, shortsightedness but has an important role. The fool is needed to counter over-analysis and take the leap of faith.
    “fortune favours the bold” is perfect for the fool. Good or misfortune may be around the next bend, but the fool seeks to be bold in everything he does and puts himself out there.


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