Story Work

Back in the early nineties, before I was in business, I was teaching ninth graders. I imagined that I was in a particular story: a B character in the B movie about life in ancient Greece.

I was on a wooden ship. A striped sail bellowed in the wind. I had my very own oar. The man in front had a drum: boom, boom, boom: stroke, stroke, stroke. Day after day, so it went as I made my way across the ocean of calendar days, heading toward the evitable end, the edge of the flat world. I was not sure whether I was a free man or a slave. The masthead was a beautifully carved logo which expressed the ideals of our empire, our land of hope and glory.

One day, while toiling in the hot Mediterranean sun, a wing footed god swept down from the sky. A moment later, the big screen showed my seat empty! I found myself walking in a rarified atmosphere. I was certain this is a mystical experience because this was millenniums before Star Trek’s transporters.

Clouds floated peacefully under my feet, and there was music—yes, it was harp music. A beautiful woman approached with a cornucopia of grapes, pomegranates and apples. Was I a butterfly dreaming he is a caterpillar or a caterpillar dreaming he is a butterfly? An exceedingly handsome young lad came forward. I pinched my own flesh hard. The lad bowed reverentially before me, offering a golden bowl of wine

Suddenly, I looked up. The universe itself trembled. There, on a marble throne, at the end of columns, he appeared in radiant light surrounded by his entourage. I heard my name called out. The sound echoed through the heavens. For a moment, I glanced up, catching a glimpse of the thunderbolt in his hand before I fell to the ground in humility, putting my arm in front of my face to shield my eyes from such splendor.

I had been summoned to my bosses’ office in the Olympian heights.

An Excursion Into Story Work Via Ganymedes

In the old stories, if you can name something, which is the same as locating it in your own psyche, it gives you a certain change in perspective. In my case, I was somewhat like Ganymedes. Zeus swept down in the form of an eagle and brought this young man to Olympus. Zeus made him immortal and today he is represented in the starts as Aquarius.

As a cupbearer, Ganymedes offered wine. Even if you are selected by Zeus for some, you are still going to be metaphorically his cupbearer. It is not about you; it is about his projection on you form his mind because you objectify something he wants to possess.

At one point, Ganymedes is described as playing a game of dice with Eros, the god of love. Eros is cheating every time, but Ganymedes does not know it. If some part of your psyche is cheating you in the game of love, what chance to you have for authentic relationships? I read this as Ganymedes cut off from any innate ability to connect on an equal footing with people around him.

It is also an illustration of how relationships change when one is taken from the bottom to the top quickly by some power player, without earning it. If you cannot meet your lover equally on a power basis, love is going to be like the roll of the dice. Eros’ cheating with Ganymedes, to me, is a metaphor for the distortion that takes place when one tries to have a love relationship with someone who has power over you.

Everyone serves Zeus at his pleasure and relationships that spring from Zeus are constellated on his power. In the classic myth, Zeus obtained his by poisoning his father, Cronus. He also fought in a war with the titans that lasted ten years. He was willing to do anything he could to get on top and stay on top.

Another characteristic of Zeus was that he always procreating. He had five wives who were goddesses and additional affairs with humans and animals. Metaphorically, this means he is by nature expensive. His loyalty is to his own creativity rather than any of his intimates. Zeus’ actions give rise to many initiatives often rape, coercion and seduction.

If you want to get a raw picture of the qualities that make up the modern day Zeus, pick up copy of Fortune Magazine, the People Magazine of Zeus. Some of the April 3rd, 2006 headlines read: “The Toughest Guy on Wall Street;” “CEO to Whip Them In Shape.” “We Could Do No Wrong.” “The World’s Most Important Banker..” “The Gutsy Plan for Growth.” All of them are current day business Zeuses, or heroes out to conquer the world for their company.

Of course, there are many ways of understanding this myth. It may take years just to place a myth into the context of one’s experience; later, another event may bring some entirely new insight. Ganymedes was one of the most handsome, virile, passionate young in Troy. He was also Zeus’ lover and cupbearer.

Though this myth was extremely popular in ancient times, few people have heard about the myth it today. One reason might be because it sanctioned intimate relationships between young and older men. In the context of Greek culture, this intimacy between a young man and an old man was a commonly accepted cultural means through which the young were mentored.

Even so, beware of inter-office romances, and even mentoring, with your boss who welds a thunderbolt in his hand! may start to feel some emotional attachment and forget that Eros is playing a game of dice with you, and you do not know he is cheating at every throw.

There’s an obvious shadow side of this myth. Ganymedes is Zeus’ boy-toy. Wine is a sacramental drink, but in this case may be used to get the old man drunk. Eros does not exist in a form worth having. Ganymedes gets screwed in the process.

AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS….

The stories that are at the basis of our Western culture come from the Bible and from Greek mythology. Other sources include Roman stories, but many of these were adapted by from Greece. Greek and Biblical stories are fundamentally different, though equally important. [1]

Many stories from old testament in the Bible are based on monotheism’s struggle with polytheism. Though early monotheism is traced back, at least historically, to the Egyptian pharaoh Aknaton, we consider the Hebrews as the people who brought forth our modern concept of God. Historically, the early Hebrews were a nomadic tribe and they needed a transcendent God that was everywhere, versus a gold that was tied to a specific location. Much of the Old Testament goes into early battles with “idolatry.” Biblical stories also put forth the notion that everything is ruled by and part of God’s plan. Yet God is separate from the earth, over which man has dominion.

The word, “Universe,” connotes that we are all part of one system. Greek stories are based on the sacredness the cosmos, that is, the value of a specific location. Place itself was held sacred. Myriads of gods were located at a spring that offered sacred waters, or a mountain. Fundamentally, this is not that different from what our local pueblo tribes which have shrines in a landscape they view as sacred. To them, the very earth itself is alive and infused with divine energy and guardians that needed to be respected though offerings.

The conflict between the perspectives that the earth is alive, verses the earth is under man’s domination and therefore can be treated merely as a commodity, has occurred for thousands of years. It plays out even today in sovereignty issues between Native people and governments and those who are ecologically minded and view land through the lenses of sustainability verses those who do not. The one event that was particularly damaging to Western thought was the witch burnings, a holocaust that eradicated thousands of years of tribal wisdom that was indigenous to the Western European psyche and land.

There are threads in Christianity, such as St.Frances, that oppose the conventional view and consider earth to be sacred; but for the most part, man has “dominion” over the earth and its creatures. Those who held sacred knowledge of the earth were driven underground. But their stories do not really disappear; rather, the forces that they depict remain as characters in our unconscious.

The attraction toward Celtic imagery and Native Americans (from the sons and daughters of the Great White Fathers who tried their best to eradicate them) I believe in part, results from the longing to resuscitate a connection to our tribal past which was rooted in earth based wisdom. The deep connection to the earth is a repressed part of our Western heritage that is awakening today. Plato, in the Timeaus, which was his story of how the universe was created, stated that it is a likely story that everything in the universe is alive.

The moral of Ganymedes is there is no moral. Right and wrong, good and bad, all are not relevant here. They are too much in the monotheistic, fundamentalist, historical, linear, patriarchic universe. Our sense of self, our conscience, has morals, but the rest of our psyche acts on its own, determining what we are attracted to regardless of right and wrong.

What does this have to do with business? Everything.

We are always in a story following some pattern and our monotheistic self is not entirely in control. The structure of the story we are in determines how we move within this world. It becomes critical to know the patterns behind these stories so that we can at least make some choices. The world is how we dream it and stories are motifs from this dream which can orient our lives.

——————————————————————————————–

Now, let us step by and spend some time contemplating how I am working with story here and in the introduction. Most people think they have a monotheistic ego. This idea is amplified by the monotheistic view of the world. One God. One Ego. But are you really your thoughts, your feelings, your body? Is there any of that constant and one entity? In fact, when the thin veneer of our realty cracks, we see we are not in such control. We all act in ways that are incongruous to who we think we are, and behave secretly more like the Italian system of government. We also have dream images which are startling in their reality. In fact, the concept of who you are is merely the surface view. It is easy to get so focused and caught in some goal that the personality plays just a few notes of the piano while deluding itself into believing it is as skilled as Rachmaninov.

In the Greek tradition, you have the concept of the hero going out and conquering some monster which may combination of what is inside and what is outside of you. The critical issue here is that the hero in Greek and Western patriarchic tradition needs something to conquer. From a macro point of view of the hero based ego, you have a sense of who you are and that is how you make your decisions, the result of which means you must go out and battle in the world to achieve your goal.

Yet we all have at least hints of our own depths. This is where the numinous image exists. These images have power and work in patterns that are revealed through stories. The Mother, Father, Trickster, Lover, Wicked Witch, Magician, all appear. The gods of the Olympus pantheon are swimming down there as well. You can be in the gravity of Apollo or Dionysus. We swim through a sea archetypes, those forces which act in patterns which are chaotic and mysterious to the heroic ego, which in often attempting to keep these things at down there. Yet they pop up in our workplace and in our lives all the time.

One way to explore these landscapes in the context of a journey in business and life is to look at your life like a story. In order to get to that place, ironically, you cannot leave any stray god in your psyche behind. You need to loosen up the monotheistic ego for a while. This is a form of play and fantasy which goes against how we have been unquestioned religious indoctrination, which in its worst form locks people into a relative notion based on black and white perspectives. If you use a polytheistic approach, you explore the gray areas. You can view what is taking place around you not as some literal, concrete event but rather as a story being played out in larger patterns.

Bringing imagination and fantasy to business has several benefits. Instead of feeling stuck and in polar opposition to something or someone, you can begin to see how people are just actors in some larger story that they are not even aware of. The naming of the situation may not change the outer events, but it can change how they impact you. Further, you can know how Zeus is going to act so when he does one of his power grabs, you will not be surprised. He is trapped in his story because he does not know any other. Can a zebra change his stripes? A leopard, his spots? Can Zeus be anything but Zeus if his identity is wrapped in that lofty image?

If not, isn’t it helpful to know that Zeus’ holds a thunderbolt instead of a feather duster next time you are invited by him to have a little chat? I have experienced trying to innocently work with a company on a “win-win” basis when all they are interested in is playing to win because I did not know what story I was in—or rather, I was too attached to my story to navigate in the other company’s story. Being taken advantage of, making mistakes that are costly, is however, part of the story of the fool, walking innocently with his dog, approaching a cliff.

Just knowing that you are a mortal in front of Zeus is like seeing the emperor without clothes. Instead of being in opposition to what you are encountering, you can begin to be in relationship to it. If you are not hooked emotionally, he loses his power over you. It becomes just a character inside your own psyche, part of a circle you can work with more fluidly, if you have to. Even if you are stuck in the situation, you can be strategic about him and begin to decide how you are going to make an alliance with the situation.

Once you realize that you are not out to conquer, you are out of the heroic and into a different story. In the words of Castaneda’s Don Juan, life can become a kind of “controlled folly” where you get to test yourself. You may be as fluid as a trickster coyote. Perhaps you will be given a magic wand. You may discover a sword study with jewels that you never knew you had, given to you by your ancestors. All this time it has been sitting in the basement under some old newspapers. Your father, who you thought was a monster, had even offered it to you in your youth, but at that time you just through he was an old fool. Why do you even need a sword these days when you have a sixty gig ipod?

Listen to a story, your story, and find the image. See what really bothers you or what you are attracted to during the day. What sticks out. Then, consider it as part of a broader pattern, part of a story you have seen before. Your soul depends upon it. Stick with the image that you are attracted or repulsed by! The soul’s work is to turn experiences, this image, into meaningful events. It is not a mind game. Often it takes a while to understand. Sometimes it can take years before something clarifies. Do not try to intellectualize it. Bring it before your minds eye and live with it for a while. The image will teach you something about who you are and where you need to go.

The images are your lifeline to the bottom of the swamp. There, in the mucky muck, is the Calabaneque creature covered in hair, snot dripping down his nose, who is one of your secret kings. In the early Christian story, Beowulf, such a creature was killed by the mighty hero for the king. Except, killing him did not really kill him. All it did was drive him deep into the unconscious, leaving you out of touch with some important part of your psyche for the past nearly two thousand years. Now there is the king who rules up on top and thinks he is in control while all these other forces lurk underneath, causing havoc to the king. Call back Grendel, the monster, and his Mother. Make friends with them. They will give you passion, creativity, lust, and many more of the good things and some of the bad things too that bring earthy energy to your life.

What I’m suggesting in may be merely a fantasy, a mind game. But I would argue that your perception of what is taking place in the most difficult aspect of your life is just as much a fantasy. Let me take an extreme example that is also an illustration of what I define earlier as ultimate power

How do I get from despair to the kingdom of heaven? I have to bring depth and meaning to the events, the images, that happen in my life. I have to take a journey to the Grail. This is the soul’s work.

Suppose there is a meeting that lasts an hour in a workplace. One person may find that it was the most revelatory experience of his life. Another may leave the room angry. Another may be completely neutral. A third may pass the time by visualizing everyone as wearing no clothes just as entertainment. Who is right?

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? To the English to Boston tea party was one thing; to the colonialist it was something entirely different. One fantasy is often just about as valid as the next, unless one really believes that they have, “God on their side,” an line of reasoning that governments have used for thousands of years. I am skeptical that anybody is wise enough to make that claim with absolute authority, but my humble opinion will not change anything. I just know it is easy enough to end up, individually or collectively, with bloody sockets like Oedipus.

Each person brings the sum of his or her experiences to that event and makes an assessment. The event itself has no inherent or absolute reality. It is basically an empty vessel through which everyone interacts with and forms an opinion. These opinions may be voiced by the heroic ego, but those experiences which inform the ego, which have clothed it with lead, ice, bitterness, love, rainbows, what ever it is—all those thing have been formed by the soul’s interaction with the world, the soul bringing meaning and context to the images which bombard the senses every single moment.

[1] Other stories which are also an important part of our Western tradition are from the Celts, a tribal culture that occupied much of Europe before the Romans. Some Celtic stories have roots in early goddess cultures that view the earth as the mother that pre-date the patriarchal world view. Fairy tales also have interesting fragments that remain true to the goddess, even after thousands of years.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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Back in the early nineties, before I was in business, I was teaching ninth graders. I imagined that I was in a particular story: a B character in the B movie about life in ancient Greece.

I was on a wooden ship. A striped sail bellowed in the wind. I had my very own oar. The man in front had a drum: boom, boom, boom: stroke, stroke, stroke. Day after day, so it went as I made my way across the ocean of calendar days, heading toward the evitable end, the edge of the flat world. I was not sure whether I was a free man or a slave. The masthead was a beautifully carved logo which expressed the ideals of our empire, our land of hope and glory.

One day, while toiling in the hot Mediterranean sun, a wing footed god swept down from the sky. A moment later, the big screen showed my seat empty! I found myself walking in a rarified atmosphere. I was certain this is a mystical experience because this was millenniums before Star Trek’s transporters.

Clouds floated peacefully under my feet, and there was music—yes, it was harp music. A beautiful woman approached with a cornucopia of grapes, pomegranates and apples. Was I a butterfly dreaming he is a caterpillar or a caterpillar dreaming he is a butterfly? An exceedingly handsome young lad came forward. I pinched my own flesh hard. The lad bowed reverentially before me, offering a golden bowl of wine

Suddenly, I looked up. The universe itself trembled. There, on a marble throne, at the end of columns, he appeared in radiant light surrounded by his entourage. I heard my name called out. The sound echoed through the heavens. For a moment, I glanced up, catching a glimpse of the thunderbolt in his hand before I fell to the ground in humility, putting my arm in front of my face to shield my eyes from such splendor.

I had been summoned to my bosses’ office in the Olympian heights.

An Excursion Into Story Work Via Ganymedes

In the old stories, if you can name something, which is the same as locating it in your own psyche, it gives you a certain change in perspective. In my case, I was somewhat like Ganymedes. Zeus swept down in the form of an eagle and brought this young man to Olympus. Zeus made him immortal and today he is represented in the starts as Aquarius.

As a cupbearer, Ganymedes offered wine. Even if you are selected by Zeus for some, you are still going to be metaphorically his cupbearer. It is not about you; it is about his projection on you form his mind because you objectify something he wants to possess.

At one point, Ganymedes is described as playing a game of dice with Eros, the god of love. Eros is cheating every time, but Ganymedes does not know it. If some part of your psyche is cheating you in the game of love, what chance to you have for authentic relationships? I read this as Ganymedes cut off from any innate ability to connect on an equal footing with people around him.

It is also an illustration of how relationships change when one is taken from the bottom to the top quickly by some power player, without earning it. If you cannot meet your lover equally on a power basis, love is going to be like the roll of the dice. Eros’ cheating with Ganymedes, to me, is a metaphor for the distortion that takes place when one tries to have a love relationship with someone who has power over you.

Everyone serves Zeus at his pleasure and relationships that spring from Zeus are constellated on his power. In the classic myth, Zeus obtained his by poisoning his father, Cronus. He also fought in a war with the titans that lasted ten years. He was willing to do anything he could to get on top and stay on top.

Another characteristic of Zeus was that he always procreating. He had five wives who were goddesses and additional affairs with humans and animals. Metaphorically, this means he is by nature expensive. His loyalty is to his own creativity rather than any of his intimates. Zeus’ actions give rise to many initiatives often rape, coercion and seduction.

If you want to get a raw picture of the qualities that make up the modern day Zeus, pick up copy of Fortune Magazine, the People Magazine of Zeus. Some of the April 3rd, 2006 headlines read: “The Toughest Guy on Wall Street;” “CEO to Whip Them In Shape.” “We Could Do No Wrong.” “The World’s Most Important Banker..” “The Gutsy Plan for Growth.” All of them are current day business Zeuses, or heroes out to conquer the world for their company.

Of course, there are many ways of understanding this myth. It may take years just to place a myth into the context of one’s experience; later, another event may bring some entirely new insight. Ganymedes was one of the most handsome, virile, passionate young in Troy. He was also Zeus’ lover and cupbearer.

Though this myth was extremely popular in ancient times, few people have heard about the myth it today. One reason might be because it sanctioned intimate relationships between young and older men. In the context of Greek culture, this intimacy between a young man and an old man was a commonly accepted cultural means through which the young were mentored.

Even so, beware of inter-office romances, and even mentoring, with your boss who welds a thunderbolt in his hand! may start to feel some emotional attachment and forget that Eros is playing a game of dice with you, and you do not know he is cheating at every throw.

There’s an obvious shadow side of this myth. Ganymedes is Zeus’ boy-toy. Wine is a sacramental drink, but in this case may be used to get the old man drunk. Eros does not exist in a form worth having. Ganymedes gets screwed in the process.

AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS….

The stories that are at the basis of our Western culture come from the Bible and from Greek mythology. Other sources include Roman stories, but many of these were adapted by from Greece. Greek and Biblical stories are fundamentally different, though equally important. [1]

Many stories from old testament in the Bible are based on monotheism’s struggle with polytheism. Though early monotheism is traced back, at least historically, to the Egyptian pharaoh Aknaton, we consider the Hebrews as the people who brought forth our modern concept of God. Historically, the early Hebrews were a nomadic tribe and they needed a transcendent God that was everywhere, versus a gold that was tied to a specific location. Much of the Old Testament goes into early battles with “idolatry.” Biblical stories also put forth the notion that everything is ruled by and part of God’s plan. Yet God is separate from the earth, over which man has dominion.

The word, “Universe,” connotes that we are all part of one system. Greek stories are based on the sacredness the cosmos, that is, the value of a specific location. Place itself was held sacred. Myriads of gods were located at a spring that offered sacred waters, or a mountain. Fundamentally, this is not that different from what our local pueblo tribes which have shrines in a landscape they view as sacred. To them, the very earth itself is alive and infused with divine energy and guardians that needed to be respected though offerings.

The conflict between the perspectives that the earth is alive, verses the earth is under man’s domination and therefore can be treated merely as a commodity, has occurred for thousands of years. It plays out even today in sovereignty issues between Native people and governments and those who are ecologically minded and view land through the lenses of sustainability verses those who do not. The one event that was particularly damaging to Western thought was the witch burnings, a holocaust that eradicated thousands of years of tribal wisdom that was indigenous to the Western European psyche and land.

There are threads in Christianity, such as St.Frances, that oppose the conventional view and consider earth to be sacred; but for the most part, man has “dominion” over the earth and its creatures. Those who held sacred knowledge of the earth were driven underground. But their stories do not really disappear; rather, the forces that they depict remain as characters in our unconscious.

The attraction toward Celtic imagery and Native Americans (from the sons and daughters of the Great White Fathers who tried their best to eradicate them) I believe in part, results from the longing to resuscitate a connection to our tribal past which was rooted in earth based wisdom. The deep connection to the earth is a repressed part of our Western heritage that is awakening today. Plato, in the Timeaus, which was his story of how the universe was created, stated that it is a likely story that everything in the universe is alive.

The moral of Ganymedes is there is no moral. Right and wrong, good and bad, all are not relevant here. They are too much in the monotheistic, fundamentalist, historical, linear, patriarchic universe. Our sense of self, our conscience, has morals, but the rest of our psyche acts on its own, determining what we are attracted to regardless of right and wrong.

What does this have to do with business? Everything.

We are always in a story following some pattern and our monotheistic self is not entirely in control. The structure of the story we are in determines how we move within this world. It becomes critical to know the patterns behind these stories so that we can at least make some choices. The world is how we dream it and stories are motifs from this dream which can orient our lives.

——————————————————————————————–

Now, let us step by and spend some time contemplating how I am working with story here and in the introduction. Most people think they have a monotheistic ego. This idea is amplified by the monotheistic view of the world. One God. One Ego. But are you really your thoughts, your feelings, your body? Is there any of that constant and one entity? In fact, when the thin veneer of our realty cracks, we see we are not in such control. We all act in ways that are incongruous to who we think we are, and behave secretly more like the Italian system of government. We also have dream images which are startling in their reality. In fact, the concept of who you are is merely the surface view. It is easy to get so focused and caught in some goal that the personality plays just a few notes of the piano while deluding itself into believing it is as skilled as Rachmaninov.

In the Greek tradition, you have the concept of the hero going out and conquering some monster which may combination of what is inside and what is outside of you. The critical issue here is that the hero in Greek and Western patriarchic tradition needs something to conquer. From a macro point of view of the hero based ego, you have a sense of who you are and that is how you make your decisions, the result of which means you must go out and battle in the world to achieve your goal.

Yet we all have at least hints of our own depths. This is where the numinous image exists. These images have power and work in patterns that are revealed through stories. The Mother, Father, Trickster, Lover, Wicked Witch, Magician, all appear. The gods of the Olympus pantheon are swimming down there as well. You can be in the gravity of Apollo or Dionysus. We swim through a sea archetypes, those forces which act in patterns which are chaotic and mysterious to the heroic ego, which in often attempting to keep these things at down there. Yet they pop up in our workplace and in our lives all the time.

One way to explore these landscapes in the context of a journey in business and life is to look at your life like a story. In order to get to that place, ironically, you cannot leave any stray god in your psyche behind. You need to loosen up the monotheistic ego for a while. This is a form of play and fantasy which goes against how we have been unquestioned religious indoctrination, which in its worst form locks people into a relative notion based on black and white perspectives. If you use a polytheistic approach, you explore the gray areas. You can view what is taking place around you not as some literal, concrete event but rather as a story being played out in larger patterns.

Bringing imagination and fantasy to business has several benefits. Instead of feeling stuck and in polar opposition to something or someone, you can begin to see how people are just actors in some larger story that they are not even aware of. The naming of the situation may not change the outer events, but it can change how they impact you. Further, you can know how Zeus is going to act so when he does one of his power grabs, you will not be surprised. He is trapped in his story because he does not know any other. Can a zebra change his stripes? A leopard, his spots? Can Zeus be anything but Zeus if his identity is wrapped in that lofty image?

If not, isn’t it helpful to know that Zeus’ holds a thunderbolt instead of a feather duster next time you are invited by him to have a little chat? I have experienced trying to innocently work with a company on a “win-win” basis when all they are interested in is playing to win because I did not know what story I was in—or rather, I was too attached to my story to navigate in the other company’s story. Being taken advantage of, making mistakes that are costly, is however, part of the story of the fool, walking innocently with his dog, approaching a cliff.

Just knowing that you are a mortal in front of Zeus is like seeing the emperor without clothes. Instead of being in opposition to what you are encountering, you can begin to be in relationship to it. If you are not hooked emotionally, he loses his power over you. It becomes just a character inside your own psyche, part of a circle you can work with more fluidly, if you have to. Even if you are stuck in the situation, you can be strategic about him and begin to decide how you are going to make an alliance with the situation.

Once you realize that you are not out to conquer, you are out of the heroic and into a different story. In the words of Castaneda’s Don Juan, life can become a kind of “controlled folly” where you get to test yourself. You may be as fluid as a trickster coyote. Perhaps you will be given a magic wand. You may discover a sword study with jewels that you never knew you had, given to you by your ancestors. All this time it has been sitting in the basement under some old newspapers. Your father, who you thought was a monster, had even offered it to you in your youth, but at that time you just through he was an old fool. Why do you even need a sword these days when you have a sixty gig ipod?

Listen to a story, your story, and find the image. See what really bothers you or what you are attracted to during the day. What sticks out. Then, consider it as part of a broader pattern, part of a story you have seen before. Your soul depends upon it. Stick with the image that you are attracted or repulsed by! The soul’s work is to turn experiences, this image, into meaningful events. It is not a mind game. Often it takes a while to understand. Sometimes it can take years before something clarifies. Do not try to intellectualize it. Bring it before your minds eye and live with it for a while. The image will teach you something about who you are and where you need to go.

The images are your lifeline to the bottom of the swamp. There, in the mucky muck, is the Calabaneque creature covered in hair, snot dripping down his nose, who is one of your secret kings. In the early Christian story, Beowulf, such a creature was killed by the mighty hero for the king. Except, killing him did not really kill him. All it did was drive him deep into the unconscious, leaving you out of touch with some important part of your psyche for the past nearly two thousand years. Now there is the king who rules up on top and thinks he is in control while all these other forces lurk underneath, causing havoc to the king. Call back Grendel, the monster, and his Mother. Make friends with them. They will give you passion, creativity, lust, and many more of the good things and some of the bad things too that bring earthy energy to your life.

What I’m suggesting in may be merely a fantasy, a mind game. But I would argue that your perception of what is taking place in the most difficult aspect of your life is just as much a fantasy. Let me take an extreme example that is also an illustration of what I define earlier as ultimate power

How do I get from despair to the kingdom of heaven? I have to bring depth and meaning to the events, the images, that happen in my life. I have to take a journey to the Grail. This is the soul’s work.

Suppose there is a meeting that lasts an hour in a workplace. One person may find that it was the most revelatory experience of his life. Another may leave the room angry. Another may be completely neutral. A third may pass the time by visualizing everyone as wearing no clothes just as entertainment. Who is right?

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? To the English to Boston tea party was one thing; to the colonialist it was something entirely different. One fantasy is often just about as valid as the next, unless one really believes that they have, “God on their side,” an line of reasoning that governments have used for thousands of years. I am skeptical that anybody is wise enough to make that claim with absolute authority, but my humble opinion will not change anything. I just know it is easy enough to end up, individually or collectively, with bloody sockets like Oedipus.

Each person brings the sum of his or her experiences to that event and makes an assessment. The event itself has no inherent or absolute reality. It is basically an empty vessel through which everyone interacts with and forms an opinion. These opinions may be voiced by the heroic ego, but those experiences which inform the ego, which have clothed it with lead, ice, bitterness, love, rainbows, what ever it is—all those thing have been formed by the soul’s interaction with the world, the soul bringing meaning and context to the images which bombard the senses every single moment.

[1] Other stories which are also an important part of our Western tradition are from the Celts, a tribal culture that occupied much of Europe before the Romans. Some Celtic stories have roots in early goddess cultures that view the earth as the mother that pre-date the patriarchal world view. Fairy tales also have interesting fragments that remain true to the goddess, even after thousands of years.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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Back in the early nineties, before I was in business, I was teaching ninth graders. I imagined that I was in a particular story: a B character in the B movie about life in ancient Greece.

I was on a wooden ship. A striped sail bellowed in the wind. I had my very own oar. The man in front had a drum: boom, boom, boom: stroke, stroke, stroke. Day after day, so it went as I made my way across the ocean of calendar days, heading toward the evitable end, the edge of the flat world. I was not sure whether I was a free man or a slave. The masthead was a beautifully carved logo which expressed the ideals of our empire, our land of hope and glory.

One day, while toiling in the hot Mediterranean sun, a wing footed god swept down from the sky. A moment later, the big screen showed my seat empty! I found myself walking in a rarified atmosphere. I was certain this is a mystical experience because this was millenniums before Star Trek’s transporters.

Clouds floated peacefully under my feet, and there was music—yes, it was harp music. A beautiful woman approached with a cornucopia of grapes, pomegranates and apples. Was I a butterfly dreaming he is a caterpillar or a caterpillar dreaming he is a butterfly? An exceedingly handsome young lad came forward. I pinched my own flesh hard. The lad bowed reverentially before me, offering a golden bowl of wine

Suddenly, I looked up. The universe itself trembled. There, on a marble throne, at the end of columns, he appeared in radiant light surrounded by his entourage. I heard my name called out. The sound echoed through the heavens. For a moment, I glanced up, catching a glimpse of the thunderbolt in his hand before I fell to the ground in humility, putting my arm in front of my face to shield my eyes from such splendor.

I had been summoned to my bosses’ office in the Olympian heights.

An Excursion Into Story Work Via Ganymedes

In the old stories, if you can name something, which is the same as locating it in your own psyche, it gives you a certain change in perspective. In my case, I was somewhat like Ganymedes. Zeus swept down in the form of an eagle and brought this young man to Olympus. Zeus made him immortal and today he is represented in the starts as Aquarius.

As a cupbearer, Ganymedes offered wine. Even if you are selected by Zeus for some, you are still going to be metaphorically his cupbearer. It is not about you; it is about his projection on you form his mind because you objectify something he wants to possess.

At one point, Ganymedes is described as playing a game of dice with Eros, the god of love. Eros is cheating every time, but Ganymedes does not know it. If some part of your psyche is cheating you in the game of love, what chance to you have for authentic relationships? I read this as Ganymedes cut off from any innate ability to connect on an equal footing with people around him.

It is also an illustration of how relationships change when one is taken from the bottom to the top quickly by some power player, without earning it. If you cannot meet your lover equally on a power basis, love is going to be like the roll of the dice. Eros’ cheating with Ganymedes, to me, is a metaphor for the distortion that takes place when one tries to have a love relationship with someone who has power over you.

Everyone serves Zeus at his pleasure and relationships that spring from Zeus are constellated on his power. In the classic myth, Zeus obtained his by poisoning his father, Cronus. He also fought in a war with the titans that lasted ten years. He was willing to do anything he could to get on top and stay on top.

Another characteristic of Zeus was that he always procreating. He had five wives who were goddesses and additional affairs with humans and animals. Metaphorically, this means he is by nature expensive. His loyalty is to his own creativity rather than any of his intimates. Zeus’ actions give rise to many initiatives often rape, coercion and seduction.

If you want to get a raw picture of the qualities that make up the modern day Zeus, pick up copy of Fortune Magazine, the People Magazine of Zeus. Some of the April 3rd, 2006 headlines read: “The Toughest Guy on Wall Street;” “CEO to Whip Them In Shape.” “We Could Do No Wrong.” “The World’s Most Important Banker..” “The Gutsy Plan for Growth.” All of them are current day business Zeuses, or heroes out to conquer the world for their company.

Of course, there are many ways of understanding this myth. It may take years just to place a myth into the context of one’s experience; later, another event may bring some entirely new insight. Ganymedes was one of the most handsome, virile, passionate young in Troy. He was also Zeus’ lover and cupbearer.

Though this myth was extremely popular in ancient times, few people have heard about the myth it today. One reason might be because it sanctioned intimate relationships between young and older men. In the context of Greek culture, this intimacy between a young man and an old man was a commonly accepted cultural means through which the young were mentored.

Even so, beware of inter-office romances, and even mentoring, with your boss who welds a thunderbolt in his hand! may start to feel some emotional attachment and forget that Eros is playing a game of dice with you, and you do not know he is cheating at every throw.

There’s an obvious shadow side of this myth. Ganymedes is Zeus’ boy-toy. Wine is a sacramental drink, but in this case may be used to get the old man drunk. Eros does not exist in a form worth having. Ganymedes gets screwed in the process.

AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS….

The stories that are at the basis of our Western culture come from the Bible and from Greek mythology. Other sources include Roman stories, but many of these were adapted by from Greece. Greek and Biblical stories are fundamentally different, though equally important. [1]

Many stories from old testament in the Bible are based on monotheism’s struggle with polytheism. Though early monotheism is traced back, at least historically, to the Egyptian pharaoh Aknaton, we consider the Hebrews as the people who brought forth our modern concept of God. Historically, the early Hebrews were a nomadic tribe and they needed a transcendent God that was everywhere, versus a gold that was tied to a specific location. Much of the Old Testament goes into early battles with “idolatry.” Biblical stories also put forth the notion that everything is ruled by and part of God’s plan. Yet God is separate from the earth, over which man has dominion.

The word, “Universe,” connotes that we are all part of one system. Greek stories are based on the sacredness the cosmos, that is, the value of a specific location. Place itself was held sacred. Myriads of gods were located at a spring that offered sacred waters, or a mountain. Fundamentally, this is not that different from what our local pueblo tribes which have shrines in a landscape they view as sacred. To them, the very earth itself is alive and infused with divine energy and guardians that needed to be respected though offerings.

The conflict between the perspectives that the earth is alive, verses the earth is under man’s domination and therefore can be treated merely as a commodity, has occurred for thousands of years. It plays out even today in sovereignty issues between Native people and governments and those who are ecologically minded and view land through the lenses of sustainability verses those who do not. The one event that was particularly damaging to Western thought was the witch burnings, a holocaust that eradicated thousands of years of tribal wisdom that was indigenous to the Western European psyche and land.

There are threads in Christianity, such as St.Frances, that oppose the conventional view and consider earth to be sacred; but for the most part, man has “dominion” over the earth and its creatures. Those who held sacred knowledge of the earth were driven underground. But their stories do not really disappear; rather, the forces that they depict remain as characters in our unconscious.

The attraction toward Celtic imagery and Native Americans (from the sons and daughters of the Great White Fathers who tried their best to eradicate them) I believe in part, results from the longing to resuscitate a connection to our tribal past which was rooted in earth based wisdom. The deep connection to the earth is a repressed part of our Western heritage that is awakening today. Plato, in the Timeaus, which was his story of how the universe was created, stated that it is a likely story that everything in the universe is alive.

The moral of Ganymedes is there is no moral. Right and wrong, good and bad, all are not relevant here. They are too much in the monotheistic, fundamentalist, historical, linear, patriarchic universe. Our sense of self, our conscience, has morals, but the rest of our psyche acts on its own, determining what we are attracted to regardless of right and wrong.

What does this have to do with business? Everything.

We are always in a story following some pattern and our monotheistic self is not entirely in control. The structure of the story we are in determines how we move within this world. It becomes critical to know the patterns behind these stories so that we can at least make some choices. The world is how we dream it and stories are motifs from this dream which can orient our lives.

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Now, let us step by and spend some time contemplating how I am working with story here and in the introduction. Most people think they have a monotheistic ego. This idea is amplified by the monotheistic view of the world. One God. One Ego. But are you really your thoughts, your feelings, your body? Is there any of that constant and one entity? In fact, when the thin veneer of our realty cracks, we see we are not in such control. We all act in ways that are incongruous to who we think we are, and behave secretly more like the Italian system of government. We also have dream images which are startling in their reality. In fact, the concept of who you are is merely the surface view. It is easy to get so focused and caught in some goal that the personality plays just a few notes of the piano while deluding itself into believing it is as skilled as Rachmaninov.

In the Greek tradition, you have the concept of the hero going out and conquering some monster which may combination of what is inside and what is outside of you. The critical issue here is that the hero in Greek and Western patriarchic tradition needs something to conquer. From a macro point of view of the hero based ego, you have a sense of who you are and that is how you make your decisions, the result of which means you must go out and battle in the world to achieve your goal.

Yet we all have at least hints of our own depths. This is where the numinous image exists. These images have power and work in patterns that are revealed through stories. The Mother, Father, Trickster, Lover, Wicked Witch, Magician, all appear. The gods of the Olympus pantheon are swimming down there as well. You can be in the gravity of Apollo or Dionysus. We swim through a sea archetypes, those forces which act in patterns which are chaotic and mysterious to the heroic ego, which in often attempting to keep these things at down there. Yet they pop up in our workplace and in our lives all the time.

One way to explore these landscapes in the context of a journey in business and life is to look at your life like a story. In order to get to that place, ironically, you cannot leave any stray god in your psyche behind. You need to loosen up the monotheistic ego for a while. This is a form of play and fantasy which goes against how we have been unquestioned religious indoctrination, which in its worst form locks people into a relative notion based on black and white perspectives. If you use a polytheistic approach, you explore the gray areas. You can view what is taking place around you not as some literal, concrete event but rather as a story being played out in larger patterns.

Bringing imagination and fantasy to business has several benefits. Instead of feeling stuck and in polar opposition to something or someone, you can begin to see how people are just actors in some larger story that they are not even aware of. The naming of the situation may not change the outer events, but it can change how they impact you. Further, you can know how Zeus is going to act so when he does one of his power grabs, you will not be surprised. He is trapped in his story because he does not know any other. Can a zebra change his stripes? A leopard, his spots? Can Zeus be anything but Zeus if his identity is wrapped in that lofty image?

If not, isn’t it helpful to know that Zeus’ holds a thunderbolt instead of a feather duster next time you are invited by him to have a little chat? I have experienced trying to innocently work with a company on a “win-win” basis when all they are interested in is playing to win because I did not know what story I was in—or rather, I was too attached to my story to navigate in the other company’s story. Being taken advantage of, making mistakes that are costly, is however, part of the story of the fool, walking innocently with his dog, approaching a cliff.

Just knowing that you are a mortal in front of Zeus is like seeing the emperor without clothes. Instead of being in opposition to what you are encountering, you can begin to be in relationship to it. If you are not hooked emotionally, he loses his power over you. It becomes just a character inside your own psyche, part of a circle you can work with more fluidly, if you have to. Even if you are stuck in the situation, you can be strategic about him and begin to decide how you are going to make an alliance with the situation.

Once you realize that you are not out to conquer, you are out of the heroic and into a different story. In the words of Castaneda’s Don Juan, life can become a kind of “controlled folly” where you get to test yourself. You may be as fluid as a trickster coyote. Perhaps you will be given a magic wand. You may discover a sword study with jewels that you never knew you had, given to you by your ancestors. All this time it has been sitting in the basement under some old newspapers. Your father, who you thought was a monster, had even offered it to you in your youth, but at that time you just through he was an old fool. Why do you even need a sword these days when you have a sixty gig ipod?

Listen to a story, your story, and find the image. See what really bothers you or what you are attracted to during the day. What sticks out. Then, consider it as part of a broader pattern, part of a story you have seen before. Your soul depends upon it. Stick with the image that you are attracted or repulsed by! The soul’s work is to turn experiences, this image, into meaningful events. It is not a mind game. Often it takes a while to understand. Sometimes it can take years before something clarifies. Do not try to intellectualize it. Bring it before your minds eye and live with it for a while. The image will teach you something about who you are and where you need to go.

The images are your lifeline to the bottom of the swamp. There, in the mucky muck, is the Calabaneque creature covered in hair, snot dripping down his nose, who is one of your secret kings. In the early Christian story, Beowulf, such a creature was killed by the mighty hero for the king. Except, killing him did not really kill him. All it did was drive him deep into the unconscious, leaving you out of touch with some important part of your psyche for the past nearly two thousand years. Now there is the king who rules up on top and thinks he is in control while all these other forces lurk underneath, causing havoc to the king. Call back Grendel, the monster, and his Mother. Make friends with them. They will give you passion, creativity, lust, and many more of the good things and some of the bad things too that bring earthy energy to your life.

What I’m suggesting in may be merely a fantasy, a mind game. But I would argue that your perception of what is taking place in the most difficult aspect of your life is just as much a fantasy. Let me take an extreme example that is also an illustration of what I define earlier as ultimate power

How do I get from despair to the kingdom of heaven? I have to bring depth and meaning to the events, the images, that happen in my life. I have to take a journey to the Grail. This is the soul’s work.

Suppose there is a meeting that lasts an hour in a workplace. One person may find that it was the most revelatory experience of his life. Another may leave the room angry. Another may be completely neutral. A third may pass the time by visualizing everyone as wearing no clothes just as entertainment. Who is right?

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? To the English to Boston tea party was one thing; to the colonialist it was something entirely different. One fantasy is often just about as valid as the next, unless one really believes that they have, “God on their side,” an line of reasoning that governments have used for thousands of years. I am skeptical that anybody is wise enough to make that claim with absolute authority, but my humble opinion will not change anything. I just know it is easy enough to end up, individually or collectively, with bloody sockets like Oedipus.

Each person brings the sum of his or her experiences to that event and makes an assessment. The event itself has no inherent or absolute reality. It is basically an empty vessel through which everyone interacts with and forms an opinion. These opinions may be voiced by the heroic ego, but those experiences which inform the ego, which have clothed it with lead, ice, bitterness, love, rainbows, what ever it is—all those thing have been formed by the soul’s interaction with the world, the soul bringing meaning and context to the images which bombard the senses every single moment.

[1] Other stories which are also an important part of our Western tradition are from the Celts, a tribal culture that occupied much of Europe before the Romans. Some Celtic stories have roots in early goddess cultures that view the earth as the mother that pre-date the patriarchal world view. Fairy tales also have interesting fragments that remain true to the goddess, even after thousands of years.

Excerpted from The Circle Manifesto™, © 2007 - a work in progress. Sign up here if you would like to get advanced notice of its publication and receive a signed copy of the book.

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