The Hermetic tradition is all about Thoth and so words are really important. However collections of words called stories have a life of their own and and important too. In my novel “When a Tree Falls,” I wrote this about stories, mostly as a joke. However, like many things in that book, it was all true.
“It is a secret known only to journalists, novelists, and storytellers that there are only fourteen unique stories in the world. These archetypal stories come from one source. The names, places and material facts of the story might change throughout history, but always the essence is the same. Even stories that twist and turn until you are not sure what the outcome will be will eventually end up as one of these fourteen archetypal patterns. It is an important secret, because without it history and the life pattern of each human life, becomes meaningless.
For it is written in the book of Jeff:
“In the beginning there was but one story and Jeff did keep it unto himself, for it was too powerful to tell humans, or Angels and Demons. For Jeff knew that once anyone knew the primal Story they could understand the power of the universe and shape their own destiny.
“Then, one day, when Jeff was having a pint and packet of crisps with the Hermit, he told the primal story unto him. For the Hermit was wise and not likely to misuse the story.
The Hermit was deeply shocked and then, with his wisdom, used the story to decide what was interesting in the universe and what was not. Such is the way of humans that he gave a name unto the primal story and the name he gave it was ’man bites dog’.
“Why doth you call the primal story ‘man bites dog’? asketh Jeff unto the Hermit one day.
“Because it is not a story if a dog biteth a man, for dogs biteth men all the time,” replied the Hermit. “But if a man biteth a dog, then it is interesting and therefore a tale worth telling.”
Jeff had to admit that this was so and that the primal story was indeed all about dividing the world into things that were interesting and things that were not and symbolically this was all about men biting dogs.
“But,” spaketh the Hermit, “the man biteth dog story doth divide itself into fourteen primal stories, each is different, but all linketh to the man biting dog.”
“Truly, when I was giving out brains, thou must have got a double portion,” speaketh Jeff unto the Hermit. “How didst thou work that out?”
“There are many stories that operate in this universe,” said the Hermit. “All of them are variations of Man biting Dog. If thou taketh one element away from a story, it either becomes another story, or it ceases to be man biting dog and dies.”
And Jeff sayeth unto the Hermit. “Giveth me an example of one of the fourteen stories, for I am sodding curious.”
And the Hermit said unto Jeff, “OK, since it is you, but we should not reveal what these fourteen stories are, for they are tremendously powerful and could change life in the Universe as we know it.
“One of the stories shall always be. There shall be a powerful prince who shall have the respect and admiration of the world. He shall be loved and truly good, yet he shall be possessed of a fatal flaw. This fatal flaw shall be his undoing and totally destroy him.”
And Jeff did admit that this was a fairly bog-standard storyline.
“But,” sayeth the Hermit, “the story requireth that the more perfect the prince, the greater shall be his flaw and the more dramatic shall be his undoing. A slimy prince, who robs from the poor, who falls from grace is not man bites dog, and neither is a great prince who falleth not.”
“And thus it shall be known,” said the Hermit, “that these fourteen primal stories have the power to warp existence until it conforms to their will. Thus if a Great Prince hath no flaw, he shall slowly develop one and the slimy prince shall perform an act of kindness that shall lead to his downfall. Thus, these stories shall be the tools of destiny. If a person should bind themselves to a story, then it shall rule them. Wise is the man to tries not to become part of a story, for it shall make them and break them.”
A news editor on a busy newspaper knows if a reporter has not done their job if a key component of one of the fourteen stories is missing, or the journalist has tried to hammer the information they have been given into the wrong one. Usually the editor will shout at the unfortunate reporter the name of the story that the reporter has written, with the name of the story that he or she should have penned. Thus: “Is this a famous person caught doing something wrong, or a local boy made good, but fallen from grace story?”
There are those who try to ride the story and change their story half-way. It is then that the storytellers and the journalists throughout history have the terrible task of forcing them back into the original story. The more you rely on the storytellers, the more you will be forced to live out your role until you die.
The peasant who would be famous and rides the “rags to riches” story will eventually be cast down by the same story tellers that made them.