Alan Watts used to speak about the “Trickster Guru”

  “The attraction of being a trickster guru are many. There is power and there is wealth, and still more the satisfactions of being an actor without need for a stage, who turns ‘real life’ into a drama. It is not, furthermore, an illegal undertaking such as selling shares in non-existent corporations, impersonating a doctor, or falsifying checks.

  The first step is to frequent those circles where gurus are especially sought…

  Be quiet and solitary. Never ask questions, but occasionally add a point- quite briefly- to what some speaker has said. Volunteer no information about your personal life, but occasionally indulge in a little absent minded name-dropping to suggest that you have traveled widely and spent time in Turkestan.

  Such behavior will soon provoke people into asking your advice. Don’t come right out with it, but suggest that the question is rather deep and ought to be discussed at length in some quiet place. Make an appointment.

  Conclude the interview with a slightly veiled command to perform some rather odd exercise, such as humming a sound and then suddenly stopping.

  Make a further appointment for a report on progress.

  When some student asks, ‘Where did you get all this?’ Well, you just picked up a thing or two in Turkestan, or ‘I’m quite a bit older than I look.’ Or say that ‘Reincarnation is entirely unlike what people suppose it to be.’ Later, let on that you are in some way connected with an extremely select in-group. Don’t brashly claim anything. Your students will soon do that for you, and, when one hits on the fantasy that pleases you most, say, ‘I see you are touching stage eighteen.’

  As time goes on, allow it more and more to be understood that you are in constant touch with other centers of work. Disappear from time to time by taking trips abroad, and come back looking more mysterious than ever.”

  Watts words are humorous, but notice his empathy as well for the trickster…

  “a trickster guru is certainly an illusionist, but one might ask ‘What else is art?’ If the universe is nothing but a vast Rorshach blot upon which we project our collective measures and interpretations, and if past and future has no real existence, an illusionist is simply a creative artist who changes the collective interpretation of life, and even imposes on it.”

  For Watts, none of us can help but in a sense, be a fake. In my own life, when it comes to my own individuality, it took quite a few lessons to figure out that if I wanted to stick out in this world, I would first have to stick in. If I wanted to “make a difference in the world,” I couldn’t stand outside of it, a critic looking in, but had to engage in it. That meant playing along with “the way things were” in a sincere way. Only when I did this did I come upon a strong sense of uniqueness and purpose, and could make a difference with it.

  When we get stuck in the part, it plays us instead and we lose our sincerity. I’m sure we can all recall times when we were so right about something and now looking back we see how we had it so wrong. To me, the issue does not come in being incorrect, it is in not being willing to address our mistakes and change our minds. We may have been right based upon the part we were playing at the time, but re-established in ourselves, we see clearly again.

  For Watts, the trickster to a degree is entertaining and not necessarily dangerous. The danger is in how quick some can be to give their own wisdom and power away. Yes, others can illuminate us, inspire us, and challenge us, but only we can rob ourselves of sincere experience.

  In a world where we wear masks and play in the theater of life, we still have a choice about the parts we play and how we will play them, as well as who we will see in life for the parts they play vs. who they really are. Part of the joy of life is getting to be seen as great roles by others… “parent,” “teacher,” “friend,” but that doesn’t mean we should need to be these roles for our own self-acceptance. The trick is to play your part well, but never hold so tightly to it that you lose your ability to be true.

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