Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

The reading for this next series of posts is the Grimm Fairy Tale called, “The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids”

“Dear children, I have to go into the forest, be on your guard against the wolf; if he comes in, he will devour you all – skin, hair, and everything. The wretch often disguises himself, but you will know him at once by his rough voice and his black feet.”

In the Buddhist teaching of Seung Sahn, he described these important points of his style of practice:

“Don’t make anything,” he would say. “When you make something, then you have something.”

“Don’t check thinking, don’t check yourself, don’t check anything,” he would say. When you experience emotions, you might tend to attach a meaning to them, but he teaches to avoid the attachment of meaning to these emotions, which he describes (partly) by an experience of color. When you have emotional experiences, let them be what they are, “When red comes, red. When white comes, white. When anger comes, angry! When sad comes, sad!” These were some of his teachings. These teachings were meant to point a person toward zen mind. The activities and teachings are not zen mind, but they point you toward zen mind.

What does that have to do with wolves and children? Nothing, specifically, but this is meant to point the reader toward something about this story.

How familiar it is, the wolf pretending to be the mother, the repetition of phrases. Do any other stories come to mind?

The story activates other stories and images within your available stock of imagery in your head. When you read this story, it draws upon your symbolic lexicon, you involuntarily begin using the image dictionary in your mind. Stories like these light up the pictures that your mind uses to communicate meaning to you. You can add to this lexicon any time, expanding and energizing it by added symbols through stories, media, movies, etc.

When we are young, the ideas of the world and how we experience it are installed in us by the stories told to us by our parents and by our society. At a certain point in this human life, we become able to self select some of the imagery and story we used to expand our experience of life.  But the earlier images remain.

Additionally, there are certain stories and images that seem to arise from nowhere and yet are experienced trans-culturally. It seems as though some of our symbols (like those of dreams) emerge from some as yet unidentified store of images that have similar meanings in every culture.

When Jung, Adolf Bastian, and others viewed these images across cultures, they found that these images had what appeared to be both universal and local properties. Meaning that some images only appeared to be different because of their local translations or depictions, when in reality, they held the same functions.

Don’t check anything.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

John 10:1-6

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