Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Poem: In Conclusion

The spirit hungers for the real and true,
And nothing else will satisfy it.
But the manifest real and true
depends on the unmanifest
alone for its existence.

The hunger for experience
consumes the world in fire and light
until it comes at last
to the ontological void of the infinite,
then it consumes itself .

In a conflagration of the actual,
Like a moth bursting into flame
As it plunges into a candle,
Or like a man who loses his self
As he thrusts deep into his lover’s body –

This is the edge of the real itself,
the point at which dissolution and creation,
being and nonbeing,
actual and potential,
merge and are one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tree of Life Powers and Chant

A Simple Tree of Life Chant

The Kabbalist's tree of life can be spoken as well as drawn. Every sphere of the tree of life has 5 levels of consciousness, and a name for each level. The 5 levels for each of the 10 spheres are to 50 doors of knowledge.

The first 10 names are the names of God, showing a side of his face different for each plane of existance. The second are the sephirot, the soul of the univers, or the planes of existance themselves. The third are the names of the Archangels, rulers of the cosmos and the worlds of spirit. The fourth are the types of angelic aids available, and the fifth are the names of the physical/ethereal manifesation, or the intelligent planet spirits.

1- Eheieh
2- Iah
3- Yod He Vau He
4- El
5- Elohim Gibor
6- Eloha ve Da-ath
7- Yehovoh Tzebaot
8- Elohim Tzebaot
9- Shadaï El-Haï
10-Adonaï Melek

1- Kether
2- Hokmah
3- Binah
4- Hesed
5- Geburah
6- Tipheret
7- Netzah
8- Hod
9- Yesod

1- Metatron
2- Raziel
3- Tzaphkiel
4- Tzadkiel
5- Kamael
6- Michael
7- Haniel
8- Raphael
9- Gabriel

1- Hayot Ha-Kodesh
2- Ophanim
3- Aralim
4- Hachmalim
5- Seraphim
6- Malahim
7- Elohim
8- Beni-Elohim
9- Kerubim

1- Reschit Ha-Galgalim
2- Mazaloth
3- Chabtaï
4- Tzedek
5- Maadim
6- Chemesch
7- Noga
8- Kohav
9- Lenava
10-Olam Yesodoth

Virtues on the Tree of Life

Eight Circuit Tree of Life

The Ecstacy of Influence

A plagiarism by Jonathan Lethem

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .

—John Donne

Consider this tale: a cultivated man of middle age looks back on the story of an amour fou, one beginning when, traveling abroad, he takes a room as a lodger. The moment he sees the daughter of the house, he is lost. She is a preteen, whose charms instantly enslave him. Heedless of her age, he becomes intimate with her. In the end she dies, and the narrator—marked by her forever—remains alone. The name of the girl supplies the title of the story: Lolita.

The author of the story I've described, Heinz von Lichberg, published his tale of Lolita in 1916, forty years before Vladimir Nabokov's novel. Lichberg later became a prominent journalist in the Nazi era, and his youthful works faded from view. Did Nabokov, who remained in Berlin until 1937, adopt Lichberg's tale consciously? Or did the earlier tale exist for Nabokov as a hidden, unacknowledged memory? The history of literature is not without examples of this phenomenon, called cryptomnesia. Another hypothesis is that Nabokov, knowing Lichberg's tale perfectly well, had set himself to that art of quotation that Thomas Mann, himself a master of it, called “higher cribbing.” Literature has always been a crucible in which familiar themes are continually recast. Little of what we admire in Nabokov's Lolita is to be found in its predecessor; the former is in no way deducible from the latter. Still: did Nabokov consciously borrow and quote?

“When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty.” The line comes from Don Siegel's 1958 film noir, The Lineup, written by Stirling Silliphant. The film still haunts revival houses, likely thanks to Eli Wallach's blazing portrayal of a sociopathic hit man and to Siegel's long, sturdy auteurist career. Yet what were those words worth—to Siegel, or Silliphant, or their audience—in 1958? And again: what was the line worth when Bob Dylan heard it (presumably in some Greenwich Village repertory cinema), cleaned it up a little, and inserted it into “Absolutely Sweet Marie”? What are they worth now, to the culture at large?

Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan's music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott's study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan's songs. Lott's title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested references to Dylan's own appropriating, minstrel-boy self. Dylan's art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan's newest record, Modern Times. Dylan's originality and his appropriations are as one.

The same might be said of all art. I realized this forcefully when one day I went looking for the John Donne passage quoted above. I know the lines, I confess, not from a college course but from the movie version of 84, Charing Cross Road with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. I checked out 84, Charing Cross Road from the library in the hope of finding the Donne passage, but it wasn't in the book. It's alluded to in the play that was adapted from the book, but it isn't reprinted. So I rented the movie again, and there was the passage, read in voice-over by Anthony Hopkins but without attribution. Unfortunately, the line was also abridged so that, when I finally turned to the Web, I found myself searching for the line “all mankind is of one volume” instead of “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume.”

My Internet search was initially no more successful than my library search. I had thought that summoning books from the vasty deep was a matter of a few keystrokes, but when I visited the website of the Yale library, I found that most of its books don't yet exist as computer text. As a last-ditch effort I searched the seemingly more obscure phrase “every chapter must be so translated.” The passage I wanted finally came to me, as it turns out, not as part of a scholarly library collection but simply because someone who loves Donne had posted it on his homepage. The lines I sought were from Meditation 17 in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which happens to be the most famous thing Donne ever wrote, containing as it does the line “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” My search had led me from a movie to a book to a play to a website and back to a book. Then again, those words may be as famous as they are only because Hemingway lifted them for his book title.

Literature has been in a plundered, fragmentary state for a long time. When I was thirteen I purchased an anthology of Beat writing. Immediately, and to my very great excitement, I discovered one William S. Burroughs, author of something called Naked Lunch, excerpted there in all its coruscating brilliance. Burroughs was then as radical a literary man as the world had to offer. Nothing, in all my experience of literature since, has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of the sheer possibilities of writing. Later, attempting to understand this impact, I discovered that Burroughs had incorporated snippets of other writers' texts into his work, an action I knew my teachers would have called plagiarism. Some of these borrowings had been lifted from American science fiction of the Forties and Fifties, adding a secondary shock of recognition for me. By then I knew that this “cut-up method,” as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic. When he wrote about his process, the hairs on my neck stood up, so palpable was the excitement. Burroughs was interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all.

In 1941, on his front porch, Muddy Waters recorded a song for the folklorist Alan Lomax. After singing the song, which he told Lomax was entitled “Country Blues,” Waters described how he came to write it. “I made it on about the eighth of October '38,” Waters said. “I was fixin' a puncture on a car. I had been mistreated by a girl. I just felt blue, and the song fell into my mind and it come to me just like that and I started singing.” Then Lomax, who knew of the Robert Johnson recording called “Walkin' Blues,” asked Waters if there were any other songs that used the same tune. “There's been some blues played like that,” Waters replied. “This song comes from the cotton field and a boy once put a record out—Robert Johnson. He put it out as named ‘Walkin' Blues.' I heard the tune before I heard it on the record. I learned it from Son House.” In nearly one breath, Waters offers five accounts: his own active authorship: he “made it” on a specific date. Then the “passive” explanation: “it come to me just like that.” After Lomax raises the question of influence, Waters, without shame, misgivings, or trepidation, says that he heard a version by Johnson, but that his mentor, Son House, taught it to him. In the middle of that complex genealogy, Waters declares that “this song comes from the cotton field.”

Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked. Technology has only multiplied the possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion. In Seventies Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive pre-digital hardware, creating what they called “versions.” The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London. Today an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.

Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the common denominator in that list, might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies, schools, or even centuries. As examples accumulate—Igor Stravinsky's music and Daniel Johnston's, Francis Bacon's paintings and Henry Darger's, the novels of the Oulipo group and of Hannah Crafts (the author who pillaged Dickens's Bleak House to write The Bondwoman's Narrative), as well as cherished texts that become troubling to their admirers after the discovery of their “plagiarized” elements, like Richard Condon's novels or Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermons—it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production.

In a courtroom scene from The Simpsons that has since entered into the television canon, an argument over the ownership of the animated characters Itchy and Scratchy rapidly escalates into an existential debate on the very nature of cartoons. “Animation is built on plagiarism!” declares the show's hot-tempered cartoon-producer-within-a-cartoon, Roger Meyers Jr. “You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they going to come from?” If nostalgic cartoonists had never borrowed from Fritz the Cat, there would be no Ren & Stimpy Show; without the Rankin/Bass and Charlie Brown Christmas specials, there would be no South Park; and without The Flintstones—more or less The Honeymooners in cartoon loincloths—The Simpsons would cease to exist. If those don't strike you as essential losses, then consider the remarkable series of “plagiarisms” that links Ovid's “Pyramus and Thisbe” with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, or Shakespeare's description of Cleopatra, copied nearly verbatim from Plutarch's life of Mark Antony and also later nicked by T. S. Eliot for The Waste Land. If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.

Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.

What happens when an allusion goes unrecognized? A closer look at The Waste Land may help make this point. The body of Eliot's poem is a vertiginous mélange of quotation, allusion, and “original” writing. When Eliot alludes to Edmund Spenser's “Prothalamion” with the line “Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song,” what of readers to whom the poem, never one of Spenser's most popular, is unfamiliar? (Indeed, the Spenser is now known largely because of Eliot's use of it.) Two responses are possible: grant the line to Eliot, or later discover the source and understand the line as plagiarism. Eliot evidenced no small anxiety about these matters; the notes he so carefully added to The Waste Land can be read as a symptom of modernism's contamination anxiety. Taken from this angle, what exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?

The surrealists believed that objects in the world possess a certain but unspecifiable intensity that had been dulled by everyday use and utility. They meant to reanimate this dormant intensity, to bring their minds once again into close contact with the matter that made up their world. André Breton's maxim “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table” is an expression of the belief that simply placing objects in an unexpected context reinvigorates their mysterious qualities.

This “crisis” the surrealists identified was being simultaneously diagnosed by others. Martin Heidegger held that the essence of modernity was found in a certain technological orientation he called “enframing.” This tendency encourages us to see the objects in our world only in terms of how they can serve us or be used by us. The task he identified was to find ways to resituate ourselves vis-à-vis these “objects,” so that we may see them as “things” pulled into relief against the ground of their functionality. Heidegger believed that art had the great potential to reveal the “thingness” of objects.

The surrealists understood that photography and cinema could carry out this reanimating process automatically; the process of framing objects in a lens was often enough to create the charge they sought. Describing the effect, Walter Benjamin drew a comparison between the photographic apparatus and Freud's psychoanalytic methods. Just as Freud's theories “isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception,” the photographic apparatus focuses on “hidden details of familiar objects,” revealing “entirely new structural formations of the subject.”

It's worth noting, then, that early in the history of photography a series of judicial decisions could well have changed the course of that art: courts were asked whether the photographer, amateur or professional, required permission before he could capture and print an image. Was the photographer stealing from the person or building whose photograph he shot, pirating something of private and certifiable value? Those early decisions went in favor of the pirates. Just as Walt Disney could take inspiration from Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr., the Brothers Grimm, or the existence of real mice, the photographer should be free to capture an image without compensating the source. The world that meets our eye through the lens of a camera was judged to be, with minor exceptions, a sort of public commons, where a cat may look at a king.

Novelists may glance at the stuff of the world too, but we sometimes get called to task for it. For those whose ganglia were formed pre-TV, the mimetic deployment of pop-culture icons seems at best an annoying tic and at worst a dangerous vapidity that compromises fiction's seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always, where it ought to reside. In a graduate workshop I briefly passed through, a certain gray eminence tried to convince us that a literary story should always eschew “any feature which serves to date it” because “serious fiction must be Timeless.” When we protested that, in his own well-known work, characters moved about electrically lit rooms, drove cars, and spoke not Anglo-Saxon but postwar English—and further, that fiction he'd himself ratified as great, such as Dickens, was liberally strewn with innately topical, commercial, and timebound references—he impatiently amended his proscription to those explicit references that would date a story in the “frivolous Now.” When pressed, he said of course he meant the “trendy mass-popular-media” reference. Here, transgenerational discourse broke down.

I was born in 1964; I grew up watching Captain Kangaroo, moon landings, zillions of TV ads, the Banana Splits, M*A*S*H, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was born with words in my mouth—“Band-Aid,” “Q-tip,” “Xerox”—object-names as fixed and eternal in my logosphere as “taxicab” and “toothbrush.” The world is a home littered with pop-culture products and their emblems. I also came of age swamped by parodies that stood for originals yet mysterious to me—I knew Monkees before Beatles, Belmondo before Bogart, and “remember” the movie Summer of '42 from a Mad magazine satire, though I've still never seen the film itself. I'm not alone in having been born backward into an incoherent realm of texts, products, and images, the commercial and cultural environment with which we've both supplemented and blotted out our natural world. I can no more claim it as “mine” than the sidewalks and forests of the world, yet I do dwell in it, and for me to stand a chance as either artist or citizen, I'd probably better be permitted to name it.

Consider Walker Percy's The Moviegoer:

Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.

Today, when we can eat Tex-Mex with chopsticks while listening to reggae and watching a YouTube rebroadcast of the Berlin Wall's fall—i.e., when damn near everything presents itself as familiar—it's not a surprise that some of today's most ambitious art is going about trying to make the familiar strange. In so doing, in reimagining what human life might truly be like over there across the chasms of illusion, mediation, demographics, marketing, imago, and appearance, artists are paradoxically trying to restore what's taken for “real” to three whole dimensions, to reconstruct a univocally round world out of disparate streams of flat sights.

Whatever charge of tastelessness or trademark violation may be attached to the artistic appropriation of the media environment in which we swim, the alternative—to flinch, or tiptoe away into some ivory tower of irrelevance—is far worse. We're surrounded by signs; our imperative is to ignore none of them.

The idea that culture can be property—intellectual property—is used to justify everything from attempts to force the Girl Scouts to pay royalties for singing songs around campfires to the infringement suit brought by the estate of Margaret Mitchell against the publishers of Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone. Corporations like Celera Genomics have filed for patents for human genes, while the Recording Industry Association of America has sued music downloaders for copyright infringement, reaching out-of-court settlements for thousands of dollars with defendants as young as twelve. ASCAP bleeds fees from shop owners who play background music in their stores; students and scholars are shamed from placing texts facedown on photocopy machines. At the same time, copyright is revered by most established writers and artists as a birthright and bulwark, the source of nurture for their infinitely fragile practices in a rapacious world. Plagiarism and piracy, after all, are the monsters we working artists are taught to dread, as they roam the woods surrounding our tiny preserves of regard and remuneration.

A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. In this regard, few of us question the contemporary construction of copyright. It is taken as a law, both in the sense of a universally recognizable moral absolute, like the law against murder, and as naturally inherent in our world, like the law of gravity. In fact, it is neither. Rather, copyright is an ongoing social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly revised, and imperfect in its every incarnation.

Thomas Jefferson, for one, considered copyright a necessary evil: he favored providing just enough incentive to create, nothing more, and thereafter allowing ideas to flow freely, as nature intended. His conception of copyright was enshrined in the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” This was a balancing act between creators and society as a whole; second comers might do a much better job than the originator with the original idea.

But Jefferson's vision has not fared well, has in fact been steadily eroded by those who view the culture as a market in which everything of value should be owned by someone or other. The distinctive feature of modern American copyright law is its almost limitless bloating—its expansion in both scope and duration. With no registration requirement, every creative act in a tangible medium is now subject to copyright protection: your email to your child or your child's finger painting, both are automatically protected. The first Congress to grant copyright gave authors an initial term of fourteen years, which could be renewed for another fourteen if the author still lived. The current term is the life of the author plus seventy years. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that each time Mickey Mouse is about to fall into the public domain, the mouse's copyright term is extended.

Even as the law becomes more restrictive, technology is exposing those restrictions as bizarre and arbitrary. When old laws fixed on reproduction as the compensable (or actionable) unit, it wasn't because there was anything fundamentally invasive of an author's rights in the making of a copy. Rather it was because copies were once easy to find and count, so they made a useful benchmark for deciding when an owner's rights had been invaded. In the contemporary world, though, the act of “copying” is in no meaningful sense equivalent to an infringement—we make a copy every time we accept an emailed text, or send or forward one—and is impossible anymore to regulate or even describe.

At the movies, my entertainment is sometimes lately preceded by a dire trailer, produced by the lobbying group called the Motion Picture Association of America, in which the purchasing of a bootleg copy of a Hollywood film is compared to the theft of a car or a handbag—and, as the bullying supertitles remind us, “You wouldn't steal a handbag!” This conflation forms an incitement to quit thinking. If I were to tell you that pirating DVDs or downloading music is in no way different from loaning a friend a book, my own arguments would be as ethically bankrupt as the MPAA's. The truth lies somewhere in the vast gray area between these two overstated positions. For a car or a handbag, once stolen, no longer is available to its owner, while the appropriation of an article of “intellectual property” leaves the original untouched. As Jefferson wrote, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Yet industries of cultural capital, who profit not from creating but from distributing, see the sale of culture as a zero-sum game. The piano-roll publishers fear the record companies, who fear the cassette-tape manufacturers, who fear the online vendors, who fear whoever else is next in line to profit most quickly from the intangible and infinitely reproducible fruits of an artist's labor. It has been the same in every industry and with every technological innovation. Jack Valenti, speaking for the MPAA: “I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.”

Thinking clearly sometimes requires unbraiding our language. The word “copyright” may eventually seem as dubious in its embedded purposes as “family values,” “globalization,” and, sure, “intellectual property.” Copyright is a “right” in no absolute sense; it is a government-granted monopoly on the use of creative results. So let's try calling it that—not a right but a monopoly on use, a “usemonopoly”—and then consider how the rapacious expansion of monopoly rights has always been counter to the public interest, no matter if it is Andrew Carnegie controlling the price of steel or Walt Disney managing the fate of his mouse. Whether the monopolizing beneficiary is a living artist or some artist's heirs or some corporation's shareholders, the loser is the community, including living artists who might make splendid use of a healthy public domain.

A few years ago someone brought me a strange gift, purchased at MoMA's downtown design store: a copy of my own first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, expertly cut into the contours of a pistol. The object was the work of Robert The, an artist whose specialty is the reincarnation of everyday materials. I regard my first book as an old friend, one who never fails to remind me of the spirit with which I entered into this game of art and commerce—that to be allowed to insert the materials of my imagination onto the shelves of bookstores and into the minds of readers (if only a handful) was a wild privilege. I was paid $6,000 for three years of writing, but at the time I'd have happily published the results for nothing. Now my old friend had come home in a new form, one I was unlikely to have imagined for it myself. The gun-book wasn't readable, exactly, but I couldn't take offense at that. The fertile spirit of stray connection this appropriated object conveyed back to me—the strange beauty of its second use—was a reward for being a published writer I could never have fathomed in advance. And the world makes room for both my novel and Robert The's gun-book. There's no need to choose between the two.

In the first life of creative property, if the creator is lucky, the content is sold. After the commercial life has ended, our tradition supports a second life as well. A newspaper is delivered to a doorstep, and the next day wraps fish or builds an archive. Most books fall out of print after one year, yet even within that period they can be sold in used bookstores and stored in libraries, quoted in reviews, parodied in magazines, described in conversations, and plundered for costumes for kids to wear on Halloween. The demarcation between various possible uses is beautifully graded and hard to define, the more so as artifacts distill into and repercuss through the realm of culture into which they've been entered, the more so as they engage the receptive minds for whom they were presumably intended.

Active reading is an impertinent raid on the literary preserve. Readers are like nomads, poaching their way across fields they do not own—artists are no more able to control the imaginations of their audiences than the culture industry is able to control second uses of its artifacts. In the children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit, the old Skin Horse offers the Rabbit a lecture on the practice of textual poaching. The value of a new toy lies not it its material qualities (not “having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle”), the Skin Horse explains, but rather in how the toy is used. “Real isn't how you are made. . . . It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” The Rabbit is fearful, recognizing that consumer goods don't become “real” without being actively reworked: “Does it hurt?” Reassuring him, the Skin Horse says: “It doesn't happen all at once. . . . You become. It takes a long time. . . . Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” Seen from the perspective of the toymaker, the Velveteen Rabbit's loose joints and missing eyes represent vandalism, signs of misuse and rough treatment; for others, these are marks of its loving use.

Artists and their surrogates who fall into the trap of seeking recompense for every possible second use end up attacking their own best audience members for the crime of exalting and enshrining their work. The Recording Industry Association of America prosecuting their own record-buying public makes as little sense as the novelists who bristle at autographing used copies of their books for collectors. And artists, or their heirs, who fall into the trap of attacking the collagists and satirists and digital samplers of their work are attacking the next generation of creators for the crime of being influenced, for the crime of responding with the same mixture of intoxication, resentment, lust, and glee that characterizes all artistic successors. By doing so they make the world smaller, betraying what seems to me the primary motivation for participating in the world of culture in the first place: to make the world larger.

The Walt Disney Company has drawn an astonishing catalogue from the work of others: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and, alas, Treasure Planet, a legacy of cultural sampling that Shakespeare, or De La Soul, could get behind. Yet Disney's protectorate of lobbyists has policed the resulting cache of cultural materials as vigilantly as if it were Fort Knox—threatening legal action, for instance, against the artist Dennis Oppenheim for the use of Disney characters in a sculpture, and prohibiting the scholar Holly Crawford from using any Disney-related images—including artwork by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Oldenburg, and others—in her monograph Attached to the Mouse: Disney and Contemporary Art.

This peculiar and specific act—the enclosure of commonwealth culture for the benefit of a sole or corporate owner—is close kin to what could be called imperial plagiarism, the free use of Third World or “primitive” artworks and styles by more privileged (and better-paid) artists. Think of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, or some of the albums of Paul Simon or David Byrne: even without violating copyright, those creators have sometimes come in for a certain skepticism when the extent of their outsourcing became evident. And, as when Led Zeppelin found themselves sued for back royalties by the bluesman Willie Dixon, the act can occasionally be an expensive one. To live outside the law, you must be honest: perhaps it was this, in part, that spurred David Byrne and Brian Eno to recently launch a “remix” website, where anyone can download easily disassembled versions of two songs from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an album reliant on vernacular speech sampled from a host of sources. Perhaps it also explains why Bob Dylan has never refused a request for a sample.

Kenneth Koch once said, “I'm a writer who likes to be influenced.” It was a charming confession, and a rare one. For so many artists, the act of creativity is intended as a Napoleonic imposition of one's uniqueness upon the universe—après moi le déluge of copycats! And for every James Joyce or Woody Guthrie or Martin Luther King Jr., or Walt Disney, who gathered a constellation of voices in his work, there may seem to be some corporation or literary estate eager to stopper the bottle: cultural debts flow in, but they don't flow out. We might call this tendency “source hypocrisy.” Or we could name it after the most pernicious source hypocrites of all time: Disnial.

My reader may, understandably, be on the verge of crying, “Communist!” A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without some form of intellectual property. But it takes little reflection to grasp that there is ample value that the term “property” doesn't capture. And works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy.

The cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange is that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, whereas the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. I go into a hardware store, pay the man for a hacksaw blade, and walk out. I may never see him again. The disconnectedness is, in fact, a virtue of the commodity mode. We don't want to be bothered, and if the clerk always wants to chat about the family, I'll shop elsewhere. I just want a hacksaw blade. But a gift makes a connection. There are many examples, the candy or cigarette offered to a stranger who shares a seat on the plane, the few words that indicate goodwill between passengers on the late-night bus. These tokens establish the simplest bonds of social life, but the model they offer may be extended to the most complicated of unions—marriage, parenthood, mentorship. If a value is placed on these (often essentially unequal) exchanges, they degenerate into something else.

Yet one of the more difficult things to comprehend is that the gift economies—like those that sustain open-source software—coexist so naturally with the market. It is precisely this doubleness in art practices that we must identify, ratify, and enshrine in our lives as participants in culture, either as “producers” or “consumers.” Art that matters to us—which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience—is received as a gift is received. Even if we've paid a fee at the door of the museum or concert hall, when we are touched by a work of art something comes to us that has nothing to do with the price. The daily commerce of our lives proceeds at its own constant level, but a gift conveys an uncommodifiable surplus of inspiration.

The way we treat a thing can change its nature, though. Religions often prohibit the sale of sacred objects, the implication being that their sanctity is lost if they are bought and sold. We consider it unacceptable to sell sex, babies, body organs, legal rights, and votes. The idea that something should never be commodified is generally known as inalienability or unalienability—a concept most famously expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the phrase “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . .” A work of art seems to be a hardier breed; it can be sold in the market and still emerge a work of art. But if it is true that in the essential commerce of art a gift is carried by the work from the artist to his audience, if I am right to say that where there is no gift there is no art, then it may be possible to destroy a work of art by converting it into a pure commodity. I don't maintain that art can't be bought and sold, but that the gift portion of the work places a constraint upon our merchandising. This is the reason why even a really beautiful, ingenious, powerful ad (of which there are a lot) can never be any kind of real art: an ad has no status as gift; i.e., it's never really for the person it's directed at.

The power of a gift economy remains difficult for the empiricists of our market culture to understand. In our times, the rhetoric of the market presumes that everything should be and can be appropriately bought, sold, and owned—a tide of alienation lapping daily at the dwindling redoubt of the unalienable. In free-market theory, an intervention to halt propertization is considered “paternalistic,” because it inhibits the free action of the citizen, now reposited as a “potential entrepreneur.” Of course, in the real world, we know that child-rearing, family life, education, socialization, sexuality, political life, and many other basic human activities require insulation from market forces. In fact, paying for many of these things can ruin them. We may be willing to peek at Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire or an eBay auction of the ova of fashion models, but only to reassure ourselves that some things are still beneath our standards of dignity.

What's remarkable about gift economies is that they can flourish in the most unlikely places—in run-down neighborhoods, on the Internet, in scientific communities, and among members of Alcoholics Anonymous. A classic example is commercial blood systems, which generally produce blood supplies of lower safety, purity, and potency than volunteer systems. A gift economy may be superior when it comes to maintaining a group's commitment to certain extra-market values.

Another way of understanding the presence of gift economies—which dwell like ghosts in the commercial machine—is in the sense of a public commons. A commons, of course, is anything like the streets over which we drive, the skies through which we pilot airplanes, or the public parks or beaches on which we dally. A commons belongs to everyone and no one, and its use is controlled only by common consent. A commons describes resources like the body of ancient music drawn on by composers and folk musicians alike, rather than the commodities, like “Happy Birthday to You,” for which ASCAP, 114 years after it was written, continues to collect a fee. Einstein's theory of relativity is a commons. Writings in the public domain are a commons. Gossip about celebrities is a commons. The silence in a movie theater is a transitory commons, impossibly fragile, treasured by those who crave it, and constructed as a mutual gift by those who compose it.

The world of art and culture is a vast commons, one that is salted through with zones of utter commerce yet remains gloriously immune to any overall commodification. The closest resemblance is to the commons of a language: altered by every contributor, expanded by even the most passive user. That a language is a commons doesn't mean that the community owns it; rather it belongs between people, possessed by no one, not even by society as a whole.

Nearly any commons, though, can be encroached upon, partitioned, enclosed. The American commons include tangible assets such as public forests and minerals, intangible wealth such as copyrights and patents, critical infrastructures such as the Internet and government research, and cultural resources such as the broadcast airwaves and public spaces. They include resources we've paid for as taxpayers and inherited from previous generations. They're not just an inventory of marketable assets; they're social institutions and cultural traditions that define us as Americans and enliven us as human beings. Some invasions of the commons are sanctioned because we can no longer muster a spirited commitment to the public sector. The abuse goes unnoticed because the theft of the commons is seen in glimpses, not in panorama. We may occasionally see a former wetland paved; we may hear about the breakthrough cancer drug that tax dollars helped develop, the rights to which pharmaceutical companies acquired for a song. The larger movement goes too much unremarked. The notion of a commons of cultural materials goes more or less unnamed.

Honoring the commons is not a matter of moral exhortation. It is a practical necessity. We in Western society are going through a period of intensifying belief in private ownership, to the detriment of the public good. We have to remain constantly vigilant to prevent raids by those who would selfishly exploit our common heritage for their private gain. Such raids on our natural resources are not examples of enterprise and initiative. They are attempts to take from all the people just for the benefit of a few.

Artists and intellectuals despondent over the prospects for originality can take heart from a phenomenon identified about twenty years ago by Don Swanson, a library scientist at the University of Chicago. He called it “undiscovered public knowledge.” Swanson showed that standing problems in medical research may be significantly addressed, perhaps even solved, simply by systematically surveying the scientific literature. Left to its own devices, research tends to become more specialized and abstracted from the real-world problems that motivated it and to which it remains relevant. This suggests that such a problem may be tackled effectively not by commissioning more research but by assuming that most or all of the solution can already be found in various scientific journals, waiting to be assembled by someone willing to read across specialties. Swanson himself did this in the case of Raynaud's syndrome, a disease that causes the fingers of young women to become numb. His finding is especially striking—perhaps even scandalous—because it happened in the ever-expanding biomedical sciences.

Undiscovered public knowledge emboldens us to question the extreme claims to originality made in press releases and publishers' notices: Is an intellectual or creative offering truly novel, or have we just forgotten a worthy precursor? Does solving certain scientific problems really require massive additional funding, or could a computerized search engine, creatively deployed, do the same job more quickly and cheaply? Lastly, does our appetite for creative vitality require the violence and exasperation of another avant-garde, with its wearisome killing-the-father imperatives, or might we be better off ratifying the ecstasy of influence—and deepening our willingness to understand the commonality and timelessness of the methods and motifs available to artists?

A few years ago, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced a retrospective of the works of Dariush Mehrjui, then a fresh enthusiasm of mine. Mehrjui is one of Iran's finest filmmakers, and the only one whose subject was personal relationships among the upper-middle-class intelligentsia. Needless to say, opportunities to view his films were—and remain—rare indeed. I headed uptown for one, an adaptation of J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, titled Pari, only to discover at the door of the Walter Reade Theater that the screening had been canceled: its announcement had brought threat of a lawsuit down on the Film Society. True, these were Salinger's rights under the law. Yet why would he care that some obscure Iranian filmmaker had paid him homage with a meditation on his heroine? Would it have damaged his book or robbed him of some crucial remuneration had the screening been permitted? The fertile spirit of stray connection—one stretching across what is presently seen as the direst of international breaches—had in this case been snuffed out. The cold, undead hand of one of my childhood literary heroes had reached out from its New Hampshire redoubt to arrest my present-day curiosity.

A few assertions, then:

Any text that has infiltrated the common mind to the extent of Gone With the Wind or Lolita or Ulysses inexorably joins the language of culture. A map-turned-to-landscape, it has moved to a place beyond enclosure or control. The authors and their heirs should consider the subsequent parodies, refractions, quotations, and revisions an honor, or at least the price of a rare success.

A corporation that has imposed an inescapable notion—Mickey Mouse, Band-Aid—on the cultural language should pay a similar price.

The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors but “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate.

Contemporary copyright, trademark, and patent law is presently corrupted. The case for perpetual copyright is a denial of the essential gift-aspect of the creative act. Arguments in its favor are as un-American as those for the repeal of the estate tax.

Art is sourced. Apprentices graze in the field of culture.

Digital sampling is an art method like any other, neutral in itself.

Despite hand-wringing at each technological turn—radio, the Internet—the future will be much like the past. Artists will sell some things but also give some things away. Change may be troubling for those who crave less ambiguity, but the life of an artist has never been filled with certainty.

The dream of a perfect systematic remuneration is nonsense. I pay rent with the price my words bring when published in glossy magazines and at the same moment offer them for almost nothing to impoverished literary quarterlies, or speak them for free into the air in a radio interview. So what are they worth? What would they be worth if some future Dylan worked them into a song? Should I care to make such a thing impossible?

Any text is woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages, which cut across it through and through in a vast stereophony. The citations that go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read; they are quotations without inverted commas. The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. Neurological study has lately shown that memory, imagination, and consciousness itself is stitched, quilted, pastiched. If we cut-and-paste our selves, might we not forgive it of our artworks?

Artists and writers—and our advocates, our guilds and agents—too often subscribe to implicit claims of originality that do injury to these truths. And we too often, as hucksters and bean counters in the tiny enterprises of our selves, act to spite the gift portion of our privileged roles. People live differently who treat a portion of their wealth as a gift. If we devalue and obscure the gift-economy function of our art practices, we turn our works into nothing more than advertisements for themselves. We may console ourselves that our lust for subsidiary rights in virtual perpetuity is some heroic counter to rapacious corporate interests. But the truth is that with artists pulling on one side and corporations pulling on the other, the loser is the collective public imagination from which we were nourished in the first place, and whose existence as the ultimate repository of our offerings makes the work worth doing in the first place.

As a novelist, I'm a cork on the ocean of story, a leaf on a windy day. Pretty soon I'll be blown away. For the moment I'm grateful to be making a living, and so must ask that for a limited time (in the Thomas Jefferson sense) you please respect my small, treasured usemonopolies. Don't pirate my editions; do plunder my visions. The name of the game is Give All. You, reader, are welcome to my stories. They were never mine in the first place, but I gave them to you. If you have the inclination to pick them up, take them with my blessing.
* * *

This key to the preceding essay names the source of every line I stole, warped, and cobbled together as I “wrote” (except, alas, those sources I forgot along the way). First uses of a given author or speaker are highlighted in red. Nearly every sentence I culled I also revised, at least slightly—for necessities of space, in order to produce a more consistent tone, or simply because I felt like it.

The phrase “the ecstasy of influence,” which embeds a rebuking play on Harold Bloom's “anxiety of influence,” is lifted from spoken remarks by Professor Richard Dienst of Rutgers.

“. . . a cultivated man of middle age . . .” to “. . . hidden, unacknowledged memory?” These lines, with some adjustments for tone, belong to the anonymous editor or assistant who wrote the dust-flap copy of Michael Maar's The Two Lolitas. Of course, in my own experience, dust-flap copy is often a collaboration between author and editor. Perhaps this was also true for Maar.

“The history of literature . . .” to

“. . . borrow and quote?” comes from Maar's book itself.

“Appropriation has always . . .” to “. . . Ishmael and Queequeg . . .” This paragraph makes a hash of remarks from an interview with Eric Lott conducted by David McNair and Jayson Whitehead, and incorporates both interviewers' and interviewee's observations. (The text-interview form can be seen as a commonly accepted form of multivocal writing. Most interviewers prime their subjects with remarks of their own—leading the witness, so to speak—and gently refine their subjects' statements in the final printed transcript.)

“I realized this . . .” to “. . . for a long time.” The anecdote is cribbed, with an elision to avoid appropriating a dead grandmother, from Jonathan Rosen's The Talmud and the Internet. I've never seen 84, Charing Cross Road, nor searched the Web for a Donne quote. For me it was through Rosen to Donne, Hemingway, website, et al.

“When I was thirteen . . .” to “. . . no plagiarist at all.” This is from William Gibson's “God's Little Toys,” in Wired magazine. My own first encounter with William Burroughs, also at age thirteen, was less epiphanic. Having grown up with a painter father who, during family visits to galleries or museums, approvingly noted collage and appropriation techniques in the visual arts (Picasso, Claes Oldenburg, Stuart Davis), I was gratified, but not surprised, to learn that literature could encompass the same methods.

“In 1941, on his front porch . . .” to “. . . ‘this song comes from the cotton field.'” Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs.

“. . . enabled by a kind . . . freely reworked.” Kembrew McLeod, Freedom of Expression. In Owning Culture, McLeod notes that, as he was writing, he

happened to be listening to a lot of old country music, and in my casual listening I noticed that six country songs shared exactly the same vocal melody, including Hank Thompson's “Wild Side of Life,” the Carter Family's “I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” Roy Acuff's “Great Speckled Bird,” Kitty Wells's “It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” Reno & Smiley's “I'm Using My Bible for a Roadmap,” and Townes Van Zandt's “Heavenly Houseboat Blues.” . . . In his extensively researched book, Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll, Nick Tosches documents that the melody these songs share is both “ancient and British.” There were no recorded lawsuits stemming from these appropriations. . . .

“. . . musicians have gained . . . through allusion.” Joanna Demers, Steal This Music.

“In Seventies Jamaica . . .” to “. . . hours of music.” Gibson.

“Visual, sound, and text collage . . .” to “. . . realm of cultural production.” This plunders, rewrites, and amplifies paragraphs from McLeod's Owning Culture, except for the line about collage being the art form of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which I heard filmmaker Craig Baldwin say, in defense of sampling, in the trailer for a forthcoming documentary, Copyright Criminals.

“In a courtroom scene . . .” to “. . . would cease to exist.” Dave Itzkoff, New York Times.

“. . . the remarkable series of ‘plagiarisms' . . .” to “. . . we want more plagiarism.” Richard Posner, combined from The Becker-Posner Blog and The Atlantic Monthly.

“Most artists are brought . . .” to “. . . by art itself.” These words, and many more to follow, come from Lewis Hyde's The Gift. Above any other book I've here plagiarized, I commend The Gift to your attention.

“Finding one's voice . . . filiations, communities, and discourses.” Semanticist George L. Dillon, quoted in Rebecca Moore Howard's “The New Abolitionism Comes to Plagiarism.”

“Inspiration could be . . . act never experienced.” Ned Rorem, found on several “great quotations” sites on the Internet.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted . . . out of chaos.” Mary Shelley, from her introduction to Frankenstein.

“What happens . . .” to “. . . contamination anxiety.” Kevin J.H. Dettmar, from “The Illusion of Modernist Allusion and the Politics of Postmodern Plagiarism.”

“The surrealists believed . . .” to the Walter Benjamin quote. Christian Keathley's Cinephilia and History, or the Wind in the Trees, a book that treats fannish fetishism as the secret at the heart of film scholarship. Keathley notes, for instance, Joseph Cornell's surrealist-influenced 1936 film Rose Hobart, which simply records “the way in which Cornell himself watched the 1931 Hollywood potboiler East of Borneo, fascinated and distracted as he was by its B-grade star”—the star, of course, being Rose Hobart herself. This, I suppose, makes Cornell a sort of father to computer-enabled fan-creator reworkings of Hollywood product, like the version of George Lucas's The Phantom Menace from which the noxious Jar Jar Binks character was purged; both incorporate a viewer's subjective preferences into a revision of a filmmaker's work.

“. . . early in the history of photography” to “. . . without compensating the source.” From Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig, the greatest of public advocates for copyright reform, and the best source if you want to get radicalized in a hurry.

“For those whose ganglia . . .” to

“. . . discourse broke down.” From David Foster Wallace's essay “E Unibus Pluram,” reprinted in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. I have no idea who Wallace's “gray eminence” is or was. I inserted the example of Dickens into the paragraph; he strikes me as overlooked in the lineage of authors of “brand-name” fiction.

“I was born . . . Mary Tyler Moore Show.” These are the reminiscences of Mark Hosler from Negativland, a collaging musical collective that was sued by U2's record label for their appropriation of “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.” Although I had to adjust the birth date, Hosler's cultural menu fits me like a glove.

“The world is a home . . . pop-culture products . . .” McLeod.

“Today, when we can eat . . .” to “. . . flat sights.” Wallace.

“We're surrounded by signs, ignore none of them.” This phrase, which I unfortunately rendered somewhat leaden with the word “imperative,” comes from Steve Erickson's novel Our Ecstatic Days.

“. . . everything from attempts . . .” to “defendants as young as twelve.” Robert Boynton, The New York Times Magazine, “The Tyranny of Copyright?”

“A time is marked . . .” to “. . . what needs no defense.” Lessig, this time from The Future of Ideas.

“Thomas Jefferson, for one . . .” to “‘. . . respective Writings and Discoveries.'” Boynton.

“. . . second comers might do a much better job than the originator

. . .” I found this phrase in Lessig, who is quoting Vaidhyanathan, who himself is characterizing a judgment written by Learned Hand.

“But Jefferson's vision . . . owned by someone or other.” Boynton.

“The distinctive feature . . .” to “. . . term is extended.” Lessig, again from The Future of Ideas.

“When old laws . . .” to “. . . had been invaded.” Jessica Litman, Digital Copyright.

“‘I say to you . . . woman home alone.'” I found the Valenti quote in McLeod. Now fill in the blank: Jack Valenti is to the public domain as ______ is to ________.

“In the first . . .” to “. . . builds an archive.” Lessig.

“Most books . . . one year . . .” Lessig.

“Active reading is . . .” to “. . . do not own . . .” This is a mashup of Henry Jenkins, from his Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, and Michel de Certeau, whom Jenkins quotes.

“In the children's classic . . .” to

“. . . its loving use.” Jenkins. (Incidentally, have the holders of the copyright to The Velveteen Rabbit had a close look at Toy Story? There could be a lawsuit there.)

“The Walt Disney Company . . . alas, Treasure Planet . . .” Lessig.

“Imperial Plagiarism” is the title of an essay by Marilyn Randall.

“. . . spurred David Byrne . . . My Life in the Bush of Ghosts . . .” Chris Dahlen, Pitchfork—though in truth by the time I'd finished, his words were so utterly dissolved within my own that had I been an ordinary cutting-and-pasting journalist it never would have occurred to me to give Dahlen a citation. The effort of preserving another's distinctive phrases as I worked on this essay was sometimes beyond my capacities; this form of plagiarism was oddly hard work.

“Kenneth Koch . . .” to “. . . déluge of copycats!” Emily Nussbaum, The New York Times Book Review.

“You can't steal a gift.” Dizzy Gillespie, defending another player who'd been accused of poaching Charlie Parker's style: “You can't steal a gift. Bird gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.''

“A large, diverse society . . . intellectual property.” Lessig.

“And works of art . . . ” to “. . .

marriage, parenthood, mentorship.” Hyde.

“Yet one . . . so naturally with the market.” David Bollier, Silent Theft.

“Art that matters . . .” to “. . . bought and sold.” Hyde.

“We consider it unacceptable . . .” to “‘. . . certain unalienable Rights . . .'” Bollier, paraphrasing Margaret Jane Radin's Contested Commodities.

“A work of art . . .” to “. . . constraint upon our merchandising.” Hyde.

“This is the reason . . . person it's directed at.” Wallace.

“The power of a gift . . .” to “. . . certain extra-market values.” Bollier, and also the sociologist Warren O. Hagstrom, whom Bollier is paraphrasing.

“Einstein's theory . . .” to “. . . public domain are a commons.” Lessig.

“That a language is a commons . . . society as a whole.” Michael Newton, in the London Review of Books, reviewing a book called Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language by Daniel Heller-Roazen. The paraphrases of book reviewers are another covert form of collaborative culture; as an avid reader of reviews, I know much about books I've never read. To quote Yann Martel on how he came to be accused of imperial plagiarism in his Booker-winning novel Life of Pi,

Ten or so years ago, I read a review by John Updike in the New York Times Review of Books [sic]. It was of a novel by a Brazilian writer, Moacyr Scliar. I forget the title, and John Updike did worse: he clearly thought the book as a whole was forgettable. His review—one of those that makes you suspicious by being mostly descriptive . . . oozed indifference. But one thing about it struck me: the premise. . . . Oh, the wondrous things I could do with this premise.

Unfortunately, no one was ever able to locate the Updike review in question.

“The American commons . . .” to

“. . . for a song.” Bollier.

“Honoring the commons . . .” to

“. . . practical necessity.” Bollier.

“We in Western . . . public good.” John Sulston, Nobel Prize‒winner and co-mapper of the human genome.

“We have to remain . . .” to “. . . benefit of a few.” Harry S Truman, at the opening of the Everglades National Park. Although it may seem the height of presumption to rip off a president—I found claiming Truman's stolid advocacy as my own embarrassing in the extreme—I didn't rewrite him at all. As the poet Marianne Moore said, “If a thing had been said in the best way, how can you say it better?” Moore confessed her penchant for incorporating lines from others' work, explaining, “I have not yet been able to outgrow this hybrid method of composition.”

“. . . intellectuals despondent . . .” to “. . . quickly and cheaply?” Steve Fuller, The Intellectual. There's something of Borges in Fuller's insight here; the notion of a storehouse of knowledge waiting passively to be assembled by future users is suggestive of both “The Library of Babel” and “Kafka and his Precursors.”

“. . . one of Iran's finest . . .” to “. . . meditation on his heroine?” Amy Taubin, Village Voice, although it was me who was disappointed at the door of the Walter Reade Theater.

“The primary objective . . .” to “. . . unfair nor unfortunate.” Sandra Day O'Connor, 1991.

“. . . the future will be much like the past” to “. . . give some things away.” Open-source film archivist Rick Prelinger, quoted in McLeod.

“Change may be troubling . . . with certainty.” McLeod.

“. . . woven entirely . . .” to “. . . without inverted commas.” Roland Barthes.

“The kernel, the soul . . .” to “. . . characteristics of phrasing.” Mark Twain, from a consoling letter to Helen Keller, who had suffered distressing accusations of plagiarism (!). In fact, her work included unconsciously memorized phrases; under Keller's particular circumstances, her writing could be understood as a kind of allegory of the “constructed” nature of artistic perception. I found the Twain quote in the aforementioned Copyrights and Copywrongs, by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

“Old and new . . .” to “. . . we all quote.” Ralph Waldo Emerson. These guys all sound alike!

“People live differently . . . wealth as a gift.” Hyde.

“. . . I'm a cork . . .” to “. . . blown away.” This is adapted from The Beach Boys song “'Til I Die,” written by Brian Wilson. My own first adventure with song-lyric permissions came when I tried to have a character in my second novel quote the lyrics “There's a world where I can go and/Tell my secrets to/In my room/In my room.” After learning the likely expense, at my editor's suggestion I replaced those with “You take the high road/I'll take the low road/I'll be in Scotland before you,” a lyric in the public domain. This capitulation always bugged me, and in the subsequent British publication of the same book I restored the Brian Wilson lyric, without permission. Ocean of Story is the title of a collection of Christina Stead's short fiction.

Saul Bellow, writing to a friend who'd taken offense at Bellow's fictional use of certain personal facts, said: “The name of the game is Give All. You are welcome to all my facts. You know them, I give them to you. If you have the strength to pick them up, take them with my blessing.” I couldn't bring myself to retain Bellow's “strength,” which seemed presumptuous in my new context, though it is surely the more elegant phrase. On the other hand, I was pleased to invite the suggestion that the gifts in question may actually be light and easily lifted.

The notion of a collage text is, of course, not original to me. Walter Benjamin's incomplete Arcades Project seemingly would have featured extensive interlaced quotations. Other precedents include Graham Rawle's novel Diary of an Amateur Photographer, its text harvested from photography magazines, and Eduardo Paolozzi's collage-novel Kex, cobbled from crime novels and newspaper clippings. Closer to home, my efforts owe a great deal to the recent essays of David Shields, in which diverse quotes are made to closely intertwine and reverberate, and to conversations with editor Sean Howe and archivist Pamela Jackson. Last year David Edelstein, in New York magazine, satirized the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism case by creating an almost completely plagiarized column denouncing her actions. Edelstein intended to demonstrate, through ironic example, how bricolage such as his own was ipso facto facile and unworthy. Although Viswanathan's version of “creative copying” was a pitiable one, I differ with Edelstein's conclusions.

The phrase Je est un autre, with its deliberately awkward syntax, belongs to Arthur Rimbaud. It has been translated both as “I is another” and “I is someone else,” as in this excerpt from Rimbaud's letters:

For I is someone else. If brass wakes up a trumpet, it is not its fault. To me this is obvious: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I listen to it: I make a stroke of the bow: the symphony begins to stir in the depths, or springs on to the stage.

If the old fools had not discovered only the false significance of the Ego, we should not now be having to sweep away those millions of skeletons which, since time immemorial, have been piling up the fruits of their one-eyed intellects, and claiming to be, themselves, the authors!

On Restitution to 'God', aka Tikkunim

(Meditations on the Raising of the Sparks)
by the Baal Shem Tov

"All that a man has - his employees, his animals, his tools - all conceal sparks that belong to the roots of his soul and wish to be raised by him to their Origin."
The Baal Shem Tov

Tikkunim For Your Employees
1. Speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them when you also
speak to their muscles and minds.

2. When you speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them,
envision it rising up to its Source.

Tikkunim For Your Animals
1. Speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them when you speak to their animal hearts.

2. When you speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them,
envision it rising up to its Source.

Tikkunim For Your Tools
1. Speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them when you speak to their steel and stone.

2. When you speak to the Holy Spark that languishes inside them, envision it rising up to its Source.

A Note on The Lurianic Theory of Creation and Redemption

The Lurianic and Sabbatian Kabbalah teach about a very dynamic process of self explication and self construction of the Absolute which as the process of tikkun (Restoration, or Universal Correction). The process of Tikkun is called "the repairing of the God's Face" because it corrects the existential break, or gap in the Absolute Being as such which is also a moment in His unfolding.

Adapted from

A Basic Meditation Technique of the Kabbalah: Chanting the Name JHVH

The meditative techniques created by Abraham Abulafia and his followers are unusual in several respects. First, they are some of the clearest meditative techniques in all of the Kabbalah, and come with directions that even a beginner may understand. Second, unlike most classical writers on meditation, Abulafia generally explains precisely why the techniques work, based on his particular synthesis of Kabbalah and Maimonidean philosophy. Third, and unlike most of the Kabbalah, Abulafia's practices are clearly intended to bring about a particular mystical experience; they are not speculations on the cosmos, or elaborations on the commandments. Rather, they are recipes for experience.

Abulafian meditation may be unusual for Kabbalah, but in some ways it more closely resembles the mystical literature of other religions. Christian mysticism, for example, is often recorded in first-person narratives: I did this practice, contemplated in this way, and then had this experience. Likewise with Sufi mysticism, though the practices are often communal rather than individual. Kabbalah, however, is primarily composed not of similar first-person accounts, but of abstruse literature which may or may not be about direct experience. Today, there are excellent anthologies of Jewish "mystical testimonies" -- but these testimonies are not the primary form of Kabbalistic literature.

The truth is, they are not even primary in Abulafia's writings. What has happened, in the last forty years, is that Abulafia's meditation practices have been extracted from his books and presented as stand-alone exercises. In fact, when one actually opens Abulafia's books -- none of which has yet been translated into English -- one quickly sees that this extraction is a bit misleading, because Abulafia's prophetic techniques are tied to the type of prophecy one receives. In general, the techniques involve manipulation and permutation of the Hebrew language. What they bring about, in Abulafia's accounts and my own experience, is often a kind of stream of free association which plays within the concepts and words being permuted. Notice, though, that if you don't have the tools to interpret the "prophesies" you are receiving, they will be meaningless.

Suppose, for example, you are associating using gematria, the numerical equivalents of letters. Abulafia makes much of the equivalence of "Israel" with the term "Sechel Ha-Poal," which means Active Intellect. But if you don't know that 541 is the numerical value of each, or can't calculate gematria that quickly, then you may reach the end of the line very quickly. Or suppose you have a vision of certain letters, as you are rotating through the 72-letter name of God (really, the 216 letter name, comprised of 72 triads). This can be a beautiful experience, but without the tools to make sense of what you are seeing, an experience is all it is. It's ecstasy, but not prophecy.

For those dabbling in spiritual matters, or using meditation as a substitute for "getting high," experience is quite enough. This is why, I think, the term "ecstatic Kabbalah," which was used by certain scholars, is often used instead of "prophetic Kabbalah," which was used by Abulafia himself. Ecstasy is a diffuse experience; prophecy is particular. Ecstasy is focused on the escape from the world; prophecy on how the escape relates to the rest of life.

In the wake of the 1960s, whose mass spiritual phenomena were often focused entirely on escape and experience, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan publicized the teachings of Abulafia, demonstrating that the mystical practices that were attracting many Jews to Buddhism, Hinduism, and other "Eastern" religions were present right within Judaism itself. Kaplan had his own reasons for doing so. For our purposes, I simply want to make clear that the attainment of a mystical state is really only half of the "point" of Abulafia. We will focus on those techniques which work with very limited knowledge of Hebrew or Kabbalah, as did Kaplan. But for the other half of the project, which integrates the knowledge received in mystical states with the rest of the world, there is no way around actually learning the language, the symbols, and the terms of Judaism and Kabbalah.

One of Abulafia's simplest practices, popularized by Aryeh Kaplan, involves a series of head movements and breath, combined with pronouncing the Divine name.

The shortest version works by sounding out different Hebrew vowels together with the tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H). When you do the practice, you'll want to sit comfortably in a place where you will not be disturbed, and allow the eyes to close. One begins with the first letter of the Divine name, Yood, and pronounces with the yood the vowels Oh, Ah, Ay, Ee, and Oo. Each vowel has a corresponding head movement, which resembles the way the vowel mark is written in Hebrew: with Oh the head moves up and back to center, Ah to the left and back to center, Ay to the right and back to center, Ee down and back to center, and then Oo forward, backward, and back to center. Move your head with the breath: on each inhale you move away from center, then on the exhale, pronouncing the sound, you move back. So, it looks a bit like this:

Inhale - move head upward
Exhale - move head back to center, pronouncing Yoh
Inhale - move head to the left
Exhale - move head back to center, pronouncing Yah
Inhale - move head to the right
Exhale - move head back to center, pronouncing Yay
Inhale - move head downward
Exhale - move head back to center, pronouncing Yee
Inhale - move head backward
Exhale - move head foreward, backward, center, Yoo

You then repeat that process with the letters Hey, Vav, and then Hey again.

There are many layers to this practice. On the esoteric level, notice that since you're permuting each letter of the Divine Name with each vowel, somewhere in there you have pronounced the ineffable name of God. On the more practical level, the complexity of this practice really focuses the mind. You can be thinking about mortgages, tests, and kids when you start, but in order to keep it straight, those thoughts just have to leave. Moreover, this is just the simplest level of the practice. As you develop, there are more and more complicated versions. One is to visualize the letters and vowels as you pronounce them. Another is to combine Divine names, such as YHVH and ADNY ("adonai"), and rotate through the vowel-sequence with the two names. You can even do one name backward and the other name forward.

Now, if this is approached as a sort of parlor trick, it's not very interesting or uplifting. But look closely at what Abulafia is doing: focusing the mind, and training the mind and body to work together. And all in a system that expertly pushes distracting thoughts away.

The results can be amazing. For example, there's a version of the practice above in which you rotate through the vowels on the exhale. Instead of just inhaling, you pronounce a vowel and move the head on the inhalation. So it sounds like "Oh-Yo... Oh-Yah..." etc., then "Ah-Yo, Ah-yah," then "Ay-yo, Ay-yah," and so on. The practice takes about twenty minutes, if you don't rush. Usually, when I finish it, I've really got YHVH in my head -- I can imagine the letters of the name imprinted on whatever else I'm seeing: trees, people, traffic jams. And that is the truth, isn't it? That the trees and people and cars are just the skin of the Divine? Isn't that the simple truth we've been trying to wake up to?

Adapted from:

Wisdom Stories by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (Breslov)

The Turkey Prince
(The Man who Became a Turkey)

Once there was a prince who went mad and imagined that he was a turkey. He undressed, sat naked under the table, and abjured all food, allowing nothing to pass his lips but a few oats and scraps of bones. His father, the king, brought all the physicians to cure him, but they were of no use.

Finally, a wise man came to the king and said: I pledge to cure him.

The wise man promptly proceeded to undress and sat under the table next to the prince, pecking oats and heaving at scraps of bones, which he gobbled up.

The prince asked him:
'Who are you and what are you doing here?'

Said the wise man:
'Who are YOU and what are YOU doing here?'

The prince replied:
'I am a turkey.'

To which the wise man responded:
'I am a turkey too.'

So the two turkeys sat together until they became accustomed to one another. Seeing this, the wise man signaled to the king to fetch him a shirt. Putting on the shirt, he said to the prince:
'Do you really think that a turkey may not wear a shirt? Indeed he may, and that does not make him any less a turkey.'

The prince was much taken by these words and also agreed to wear a shirt.

At length, the wise man signaled to be brought a pair of trousers. Putting them on, he said to the prince:
'Do you really think that a turkey is forbidden trousers? Even with trousers on, he is perfectly capable of being a proper turkey.'

The prince acknowledged this as well, and he too put on a pair of trousers, and it was not long before he had put on the rest of his clothes at the wise man's directions.

Following this, the wise man asked to be served human food from the table. He took and ate, and said to the prince:
'Do you really think that a turkey is forbidden to eat good food? One may eat all manner of good things and still be a proper turkey "comme il faut".'
The prince listened to him on this too, and began eating like a human being.

Seeing this, the wise man addressed the prince:
'Do you really think that a turkey is condemned to sit under the table? That isn't necessarily so -- a turkey also walks around any place it wants and no one objects.'

And the prince thought this through and accepted the wise man's opinion. Once he got up and walked about like a human being, he also began behaving like a complete human being.

Translations and commentaries copyright © 2002, Lewis Glinert


I was on a journey, and I told a story that made everyone who heard it want to draw closer to God. And this is the story:

There was once a king who had six sons and one daughter. This daughter was especially dear to him. He loved her greatly and took the utmost delight in her.

One day when he was with her, he became angry with her. Suddenly the word s slipped out of his mouth: “Let the Evil One take you away!”

That night she went to her room, but in the morning no-one knew where she was. Her father was very distressed and he went searching for her everywhere.

Seeing how deeply troubled the king was, the Prime Minister rose and asked to be given an attendant, a horse and money for expenses, and he went off in search of her. He searched and searched for a very long time, until eventually he found her. This story is about how he searched for her until he found her.

For a long, long time he went from one place to another – through wildernesses, fields and forests, searching and searching.

While passing through a wilderness, he saw a path leading off to the side. He thought to himself: “I have been traveling in the wilderness for such a long time and I cannot find her. Let me try this path. Perhaps I will reach some habitation.”

He kept going for a long time. Finally, he saw a castle with many soldiers standing around it. The castle was very beautiful, and the troops were standing around it in fine order. He was afraid that the soldiers would not let him enter. But he thought to himself, “I'll go and try.” He left his horse and went to the castle.

They let him in without trying to stop him and allowed him to go from room to room. He came to a great hall and looked around. The king was sitting there with his crown. Before him were many soldiers and many singers with instruments. It was very, very beautiful there. Neither the king nor anybody else asked him anything.

He saw good food and delicacies. He ate and then went to lie down in a corner to see what would happen. He saw the king give an order to bring the queen. They went to bring her, and there was a great commotion and great happiness. The musicians played and sang as they brought the queen. They placed a chair for her and seated her by the king. It was the princess! The Prime Minister saw her and recognized her.

Afterwards the queen glanced and noticed someone lying in the corner. She recognized him. She rose from her throne and went over to him and touched him.

“Do you recognize me?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I recognize you. You are the king's daughter, who was lost. How did you get here?”

“Because my father the king let that word out of his mouth,” she replied. “ This is the place of evil.”

He told her that her father was in terrible pain and had been searching for her for many years.

“How can I take you out?” he asked.

“It will be impossible for you to take me out,” she replied, “unless you choose yourself a place and stay there for a whole year. Throughout the entire year you must yearn to take me out. Whenever you have time, you must only yearn, long and wait to free me. And you must also fast. On the very last day of the year you must fast and you must not sleep for the entire twenty-four hours.”

He did as she said. At the end of the year, on the very last day, he fasted and did not sleep. He rose to go there. On the way he saw a tree with exceptionally beautiful apples. The sight was very tempting, and he stopped to eat. As soon as he ate the apple, he fell into a deep sleep.

He slept for a very long time indeed. His attendant tried to rouse him, but he did not wake up. Eventually he awoke, and asked his attendant:

“Where in the world am I?”

The attendant told the Prime Minister what had happened. “You have been asleep for a very long time – for many years. I have been living off the fruits.”

The Prime Minister was very pained. He went and found the king ' s daughter , but she complained to him bitterly:

“If you had come on that day you could have taken me out from here. And because of one day, you lost! It is true that not to eat is very hard indeed, especially on the last day, because then the evil urge attacks very strongly.”

The princess told him that she would now make it easier for him. He would not be required not to eat, because that is very hard to endure.

“Go back and choose yourself a place and stay there for another year. On the last day you may eat. Only you must not sleep, and you must not drink wine so that you do not sleep, because the main thing is not to sleep!”

He did as she said. On the last day he was on his way to her when he saw a flowing spring. It was red in color and had the smell of wine.

“Have you seen this spring?” he asked the attendant. “It should be water but it's red in color and smells of wine!”

He tasted from the spring and fell immediately into a deep slumber. He slept for many years – seventy years! Many troops passed by followed by their baggage trains and equipment. The attendant hid himself from the soldiers. Afterwards came carriages and a chariot, and there sat the king's daughter.

She stopped next to him and stepped down. She sat at his side and recognized him. She tried very hard to arouse him, but he did not stir. She started lamenting over him.

“He made such great efforts and tried so hard for so many years to free me, and because of that one day when he could have freed me, he lost his chance.”

She cried and cried.

“It's a terrible pity for him and for me. I have been here for such a long time and I can't get out.”

Afterwards she took the scarf from off her head and wrote on it with her tears. She laid it by his side, rose, sat in her chariot and left.

Afterwards he woke up. He asked the attendant: “Where in the world am I?” The attendant told him all that had happened – how many soldiers had passed by, and then a chariot. A woman had wept over him, crying out what a pity it was, both for him and for her.

Meanwhile he noticed the scarf lying at his side.

“Where is this from?” he asked.

The attendant told him that she had written on it with her tears. He picked it up and raised it towards the sun. He began to see letters. Written there he could read all her complaints and laments.

“…And now I am no longer in that castle. Instead you must search for a mountain of gold and a castle of pearls – there you will find me!”

The Prime Minster left the attendant and went off alone to search for her. He traveled for many years searching for her. He thought to himself:

“Certainly no mountain of gold with a castle of pearls exists in any inhabited area!” (He was familiar with geography.) “Therefore I will go to search in wildernesses!”

He went searching for her in wildernesses for many years.

Then he saw a huge man. He was so immense that he could not be considered a human being. He was carrying an enormous tree, the like of which would never be found in any inhabited area.

“Who are you?” asked the giant.

“I'm a man,” he replied.

The giant was very surprised. “I have been in the wilderness for such a long time and I have never ever seen a man here!”

The Prime Minister told him the whole story and that he was searching for a mountain of gold with a castle of pearls.

“Such a thing definitely does not exist,” said the giant. He discouraged the Prime Minister and told him he had been tricked with complete nonsense.

The Prime Minister began to cry and cry. “It definitely must exist somewhere !”

However, the giant discouraged him, saying, “You have certainly been told complete nonsense.” But the Prime Minister insisted that it definitely did exist.

The strange giant said to the Prime Minister: “In my opinion this is nonsense. But since you are so stubborn… I am in charge of all the animals. For your sake, I will call all the animals, since they roam around the whole world. Perhaps one of them know s of this mountain and castle!”

He called them all, from the smallest to the largest – all kinds of animals – and he asked them. But they all answered that they had not seen it.

“You see!” he told the Prime Minister, “they told you complete nonsense. Listen to me and go back, because you will definitely not find it. There is no such thing in the world.” But the Prime Minister persisted, saying, “It certainly must exist!”

The giant said to the Prime Minister: “ Deeper in the wilderness is my brother. He is in charge of all the birds. Perhaps they know since they fly high in the air. Perhaps they have seen that mountain and castle. Go to him and tell him that I sent you.”

The Prime Minister searched for him for many years . Again he found an immense giant carrying an enormous tree. He asked him the same questions and the Prime Minster told him the whole story and that his brother had sent him to him. The second giant also discouraged him. “Such a thing definitely does not exist”. But the Prime Minister insisted.

The second giant said to the Prime Minister: “I am appointed over all the birds. I will call them – perhaps they know.” He called all the birds and asked all of them from the smallest to the largest. They answered that they knew nothing of such a mountain and such a castle.

The giant said to the Prime Minister, “Can't you see? It quite definitely does not exist anywhere in the world! Listen to me and go back, for it certainly does not exist.” But the Prime Minister pressed him and insisted that it definitely must exist somewhere in the world.

The second giant said to the Prime Minister: “ Deeper in the wilderness is my brother, who is in charge of all the winds. They blow over the entire world – perhaps they know.”

The Prime Minister searched for many years, and found a man who was also immense and also carrying an enormous tree. He asked him the same questions and the Prime Minister told him the whole story. He too discouraged him, but the Prime Minister persisted.

The third giant said to the Prime Minister that for his sake he would call all the winds to come and ask them. He summoned them, and all the winds came. He asked all of them, but none of them knew of any such mountain or castle.

“Can't you see?” said the giant to the Prime Minister. “They told you complete nonsense!” The Prime Minister began crying and crying. “I know that it definitely exists,” he repeated.

In the meantime, he saw that another wind had arrived. The captain of the winds was very angry with this wind.

“Why have you come so late? Didn't I decree that all the winds must come? Why did you not come with them?”

But the wind replied: “I was delayed because I had to carry a princess to a mountain of gold and a castle of pearls.”

The Prime Minister was overjoyed.

The captain asked the wind, “What is precious there? What is considered valuable and important?”

“There,” he replied, “everything is very precious.”

The captain of the winds said to the Prime Minister: “You have been searching for her for such a long time and you've made so many efforts. In case you encounter any obstacle because of money, I am giving you a purse that you just put your hand into and take out money.”

He commanded the wind to take him there. The storm wind came and carried him there and brought him to the gate. There were soldiers standing there who would not let him enter the city, but he put his hand into the vessel and took out money and bribed them and went into the city.

It was a very beautiful city. He went to one of the wealthy citizens and paid for board knowing that he would have to stay there, as it would require great wisdom and intelligence to take her out.

How he freed her is not told, but in the end he took her out.

Sipurey Maasiot


There was a certain king who had a wise man. The king said to the wise man:

“There is one king who signs himself as being ‘mighty, great and a man of truth and humility'. As for his being mighty, I know he is mighty because his kingdom is surrounded by the sea and in the sea stands a fleet of warships with cannons, which will not allow anyone to draw near. Inland from the sea is a deep moat that goes around the whole kingdom. To get in, there is only one tiny pathway wide enough for only one man, and there too stand cannons. If someone comes to make war, they fire with the cannons. It is impossible to get near.

“However, as for his signing himself ‘a man of truth and humility', I don't know. I therefore want you to bring me a portrait of that king.”

This was because this king had portraits of all the kings, but there was no portrait of that king in any king's collection. The reason was that he was hidden from everybody. He sat behind a veil, remote from the people of his country.

The wise man went to the country. He realized that he needed to find out the nature of the country. How do you find out the nature of a country? You find it out through the people's humor. When you want to know something, you should find out how people laugh and joke about it.

There are different kinds of jokes. Sometimes a person may really want to hurt another with words, but when the other takes exception to his words, he says, “I only meant it as a joke”. “Like one who exerts himself to cast firebrands and arrows… and then says, I am only joking” (Proverbs 26:18-19) . There are other times when a person may say something that is truly intended as a lighthearted joke, yet his friend is hurt by his words. Thus there are various different kinds of jokes and humor.

And among all the different kingdoms there is one kingdom that includes all kingdoms. In that kingdom is one city that includes all the cities of the entire kingdom that includes all kingdoms. In that city is one house which includes all the houses of the whole city that includes all the cities of the kingdom that includes all kingdoms. And there is one man who includes everything in that entire house. And there is also someone who produces all the mockery and joking of the kingdom.

The wise man took with him a large sum of money and went there and saw how they were mocking and joking in various ways. From the humor, he understood that the entire kingdom was full of lies from beginning to end. He saw the way they would joke about how people defrauded and deceived others in business, and how the injured party would sue in the lower courts where everything was lies and bribery. He would then go to a higher court, where everything was also lies. They used to put on comedies about all these kinds of things.

Through their humor the sage understood that the entire kingdom was filled with lies and deceptions and that there was no truth anywhere. He did some business in the kingdom, allowing himself to be defrauded in the transaction. He took the case to court, but the court was all lies and bribes. One day he would give them a bribe but the next day they would not recognize him. He went to a higher court, and there too it was all lies. Eventually he came before the Supreme Court, but they too were full of lies and bribery. Finally he came to the king himself.

When he came to the king, he said, “Who are you king over? The whole kingdom is full of lies from beginning to end and there's no truth in it.”

He began enumerating all the lies in the kingdom. When the king heard his words, he turned his ear to the veil to hear what he was saying. The king was surprised that there was anyone who knew about all the lies in the kingdom.

The ministers of state who heard what he was saying were very angry with him. Yet he went on telling about all the lies in the kingdom.

“It would be proper to say,” declared the wise man, “that the king too is like them – that he loves falsehood just as his kingdom does . But from this I see that you are a man of truth: you are far from them because you cannot stand the falsehood of the country.”

The wise man began to praise the king greatly. But the king was very humble, and “in the place of His greatness, there is His humility” ( Megilah 31a) . Such is the way of the humble person. The more he is praised and magnified , the smaller and humbler he becomes. Because of the sage's great praise, extolling and magnifying him, the king reached the utmost humility and smallness until he became literally nothing. He could not contain himself, and he threw aside the veil to see who this wise man was that knew and understood all this.

His face was revealed, and the sage saw it and brought his portrait back to the king.


There was once a rabbi who had no children. Eventually he had an only son, and he raised and married him off . The son would sit in a room upstairs studying Torah, as was the way with those who were better off.

He would constantly study and pray. But he felt a certain lack within himself, though he didn't know what it was. He felt no real taste in his studies and prayers. He told this to two of his young friends, who advised him to visit a particular Tzaddik.

Now this son had performed a certain mitzvah that brought him to the level of the Small Light.

The son told his father that he felt no taste in his prayers and studies and that something was missing, though he didn't know what it was. Because of this, he wanted to visit that Tzaddik.

“What reason could you have to travel to him ?” asked his father. “Surely you are more learned than he is and you come from a better family. It is not proper for you to go to him. Don't follow this path.”

He thus prevented him from going, and the son returned to his studies. Yet he still felt the same lack. Again he took counsel with the same friends, who advised him, as before, to go to the Tzaddik. Again he went to his father, but the father dissuaded him and prevented him from going. The same thing happened several times.

The son felt he was lacking something, and he greatly yearned to satisfy his need, even though he did not know what it was. He came again to his father and pressed him to the point that the father had no option but to travel with him since he did not want to let his only son go alone .

The father said to him: “You see! I will go with you. I will prove to you that there is nothing of any substance in him.” They prepared the carriage and set off on their journey.

“I am going to make a test,” said the father. “If everything goes smoothly, it means this journey has been ordained by Heaven. But if not, it means it is not ordained by Heaven and we shall go back.”

They journeyed until they came to a small bridge. One of the horses fell , the carriage overturned and they almost drowned.

“You see!” said the father to his son. “Things are not going smoothly, and this journey is not ordained by Heaven.”

They turned back. The son returned to his studies, but again he felt that something was missing without even knowing what it was. He went back to his father and pressed him, and he was forced to go with him a second time. As they set off, the father once again set a test like the first time: “If everything goes smoothly…”

During the journey, it happened that two of the axles of the wheels of the carriage broke.

“You see!” said the father to his son, “Things are not going right. We are not supposed to make this journey. Is it natural for both axles to break? How many times have we traveled in this carriage and nothing like this has ever happened.”

They turned back. The son went back to his studies and once again felt that something was missing . His friends advised him to travel to the Tzaddik, and he went back to his father and pressed him until he was forced to travel with him again.

The son told him that this time they should not set any tests unless there was a very clear, visible sign, as it was quite natural for a horse to fall sometimes or for the axles to break .

They journeyed until they came to an inn for the night. A merchant got into conversation with them , as merchants do. They did not reveal their destination, because the rabbi felt ashamed to say he was traveling to that Tzaddik.

They discussed a variety of mundane topics, until the conversation came around to the subject of Tzaddikim and where they are to be found. The merchant spoke about a certain Tzaddik in one place and others in various other places, until they started to talk about the Tzaddik to whom they were traveling.

“Him?” said the merchant. “He's a lightweight. I am now on my way back from him. I was there when he committed a sin!”

The rabbi said to his son: “Do you see what this merchant is saying quite spontaneously without our even asking? Is he not on his way from there?!?”

They turned back and went home.

The son died. Afterwards he came to his father, the rabbi, in a dream. The father saw him standing there in great anger.

“Why are you so angry?” asked the father.

The son answered that he should journey to the same Tzaddik that he had wanted to visit. “He will tell you why I am angry!”

The father awoke and said it was pure chance. Afterwards he had the same dream again but he said that this too was a meaningless dream. Until it happened a third time and he realized that this was no empty matter, and he journeyed there.

On his way he met the same merchant that he had met previously when traveling with his son. He recognized him.

“Aren't you the one I saw in that inn?” he asked.

“You certainly did see me,” replied the merchant. He opened his mouth wide and said to him, “If you wish, I will swallow you up!”

“What are you talking about?” asked the rabbi.

“Do you remember when you journeyed with your son?” replied the merchant. “First a horse fell on the bridge and you went back. Afterwards the axles broke. After that you encountered me, and I told you he is a lightweight.

“Now that I have eliminated your son, you are free to travel. For he was on the level of the Small Light, while that Tzaddik is the Great Light. If they had met together, the Mashiach would have come. Now that I have got rid of him, you may travel.”

As he was speaking he disappeared, and the rabbi had nobody to talk to. The rabbi journeyed to the Tzaddik crying, “Woe! Woe! Woe for what is lost and cannot be found!”

May God quickly bring back our lost ones! Amen!

This merchant was the Angel of Death himself. He took on the guise of a merchant and deceived them. Afterwards, when he encountered the rabbi a second time, he himself rebuked him for listening to his advice. For that, as we know, is his way. May God protect us!


Once there were two householders living in the same city. They were very wealthy and had large houses. Each had a son, and the two boys learned in the same school. One was very intelligent, while the other was simple. Not that he was foolish, but he had a straightforward, humble way of thinking.

These two boys loved each other greatly, despite the fact that one was sophisticated while the other was simple with a very humble mind.

As time passed, the two householders went into decline. They sank lower and lower until they lost everything and became poor. All they had left were their houses. The boys were growing, and their two fathers said to them: “We do not have the means to support you. Go and do whatever you choose.”

The Simpleton went and learned to be a shoe-maker. However the Sophisticate, who was highly intelligent, did not want to engage in such a simple craft. He decided to go out into the world and look around before deciding what to do.

He was wandering in the main street when he saw a large carriage drawn by four horses rushing through.

“Where are you from?” he cried to the merchants.

“From Warsaw ,” they replied.

“Where are you going?”

“To Warsaw !”

He asked them if they needed an attendant. They saw that he was intelligent and eager, and agreed to take him with them. He traveled with them and served them very well on the journey.

On arrival in Warsaw he thought to himself, since he was very intelligent: “Now that I'm already here in Warsaw , why should I remain tied to those merchants? Maybe there is somewhere better. Let me go and see what I can find.”

He went to the market and made enquiries about the men who had brought him and whether there might be some better opportunities. He was told that the merchants were decent and that it would be good to stay with them, but it would be hard, because their business took them to very distant places.

He went further and noticed the clothing-shop assistants going about with their stylish mannerisms, gait and clothing, their elegant hats and long pointed shoes. Being sharp and intelligent, he found this very appealing, particularly since one could stay in the same place without having to travel. He went to the men who had brought him and thanked them politely, telling them that he preferred not to remain with them. As for their having brought him, he had paid them with his service on the journey.

He took a position with a shopkeeper. New shop assistants had to accept low wages at first and do heavy work. Only later did they reach higher levels. The shopkeeper made him work very hard. He had to carry merchandise to wealthy customers the way shop assistants had to carry it, bending their hands under their elbows in order to hang the garment over their arm and shoulder. He found this work very onerous. Sometimes he had to carry heavy loads up steep flights of stairs, and the work was very hard for him.

With his intelligent, philosopher's mind, he thought to himself: “What do I need this work for? The ultimate goal is to get married and make a living. But I don't need to think about that yet. There will be time enough for that in years to come. The best thing for me now will be to travel the earth, visit different countries and feast my eyes on the world.”

He went to the market and saw merchants traveling in a big wagon.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To Lagorna!” they replied.

“Will you take me there?”


They took him with them, and from there he went to Italy and then on to Spain . Several years passed and he became even cleverer, having been in many countries. He thought to himself: “Now I should focus on the main goal.”

With his philosophical mind he began to think what to do. He decided it would be a good thing to learn to work with gold. This was a prestigious and attractive craft requiring skill and wisdom, and it was also one that could bring wealth. Being highly intelligent and a philosopher, he did not need many years to learn the craft. In no more than a quarter of a year he acquired the necessary skill and became an outstanding craftsman. He was even more expert than the craftsman who taught him.

Afterwards he thought to himself: “Even though I have such a skill in hand, it is still not enough for me. Today this craft is prestigious, but perhaps at some other time another craft will be prestigious.” He took a position with a gem-cutter, and because of his deep understanding he learned this craft too in very little time – a quarter of a year.

Then he began philosophizing: “Even though I have two crafts in my hands, who knows? Perhaps neither of them will be prestigious. It would be good for me to learn a skill that will always be important. Using his intelligence and philosophy to examine the matter, he decided to study medicine since this is always in demand and prestigious. To learn medicine, one first had to learn Latin and how to write it , as well as science and philosophy. With his quick mind he learned this too in very little time – a quarter of a year – and he became a great doctor and philosopher and an expert in all fields of knowledge.

Afterwards the whole world came to be as nothing in his eyes, for because of his great wisdom as a master craftsman, sage and doctor, everyone else in the world seemed to him like nothing. He decided to pursue the main goal – to get married – but he said to himself:

“If I marry a woman here, who will know what has become of me? Let me go back home so that they will see what has become of me. I was a small boy, and now I have achieved such greatness!”

He journeyed home, but suffered greatly on the way. Because of his great wisdom, he had nobody to talk to. He could not find satisfactory accommodation, and he suffered very greatly.

Let us now set aside the story of the Sophisticate for a while and tell the story of the Simpleton.

The Simpleton learned how to make shoes, but because he was simple, it took him a long time before he grasped it. Indeed, he was not completely proficient in his craft, but he married and made a living from his work. Being simple, however, and not too proficient in his work, his living was very scanty. He did not even have time to eat since, not being fully proficient, he had to work constantly . As he worked busily, driving the awl through the leather, inserting the thick thread and drawing it through in the way shoemakers do, he would take a bite of bread.

He was always happy: he was simply full of joy all the time. He possessed every kind of food, drink and clothing. He would say to his wife: “My wife! Give me to eat!” She would give him a piece of bread and he would eat it. Afterwards he would say: “Give me beans and gravy.” She would cut him another slice of bread and he would eat it, praising the food. “This gravy is so beautiful! It is so good!”

He would ask her to give him meat and other good foods. For every kind of food that he requested, she would give him a piece of bread. He would take the most exquisite delight in it, highly praising the food – “So tasty! So good!” – as if he was actually eating that very food. And the truth is that when he ate the bread, he actually did taste each kind of food that he wanted, all because of his great simplicity and joy.

Likewise he would say to his wife: “Give me liquor!” She would give him water, and he would praise it highly. “What beautiful liquor this is! Give me honey mead!” She would give him water, and he would praise the mead. “Give me wine!” She would give him water, and he would enjoy it and praise it as if he was actually drinking the drink he had requested.

As for their clothes, he and his wife possessed one single thick sheepskin coat which they had to share. When he needed to wear an overcoat to go to the market, he would say, “My wife, give me the overcoat!” and she would give it to him. When he needed to wear a fine fur coat to make a social visit, he would say, “My wife, give me the fur coat!” She would give him the sheepskin and he would take great delight in it, praising it lavishly: “What a beautiful fur coat this is!”

When he needed a caftan to go to the synagogue, he would say to his wife, “Give me the caftan!” She would give him the sheepskin and he would praise it saying, “What a fine, beautiful caftan this is!” Similarly, when he needed to wear a silk coat, she would give him the sheepskin. He would praise it and take the utmost delight in it: “What a lovely, beautiful silk coat!” He was simply filled with joy and delight at all times.

When he finished making a shoe, it would all too often turn out triangular as he was not fully proficient in his craft. But he would take the shoe in his hand and praise it greatly. He would take enormous delight in it, saying: “My wife, how beautiful and wonderful this shoe is. How sweet this shoe is. This shoe is pure honey and sugar!”

“If so,” she would ask, “why do the other shoemakers take three gold coins for a pair of shoes while you only receive one and a half?”

“What do I care?” he would answer. “That is their work and this is my work! Besides , why do we need to speak about others? Let us work out how much clear profit I make on this shoe. The leather costs such and such; the glue, the thread , the filling cost such and such… In the end I make a profit of ten groschen! Why should I mind when I make such a profit.” He was simply filled with joy and delight at all times.

Most people considered him ridiculous and found him the perfect target for their scorn and derision, because he seemed like a madman. People would approach him and start a conversation for the sole purpose of ridiculing him. The Simpleton would say, “As long as you don't mock!” If they spoke without mocking, he would listen to what they had to say and engage in conversation.

He never tried to probe people's intentions too deeply, for this itself is a form of mockery. He was a simple person. If he saw that their intention was to mock, he would say, “So what if you are cleverer than me? Surely you will then be nothing but a fool. Am I so important that it is a great thing to be cleverer than me? If you are cleverer than me, you are a fool!”

All these were the ways of the Simpleton. Now let us return to the main story.

One day there was a huge commotion, for the Sophisticate was on his way home with great pomp and deep wisdom. The Simpleton also ran to meet him with tremendous joy. “Quick!” he called to his wife. “Give me the silk coat – I must go to meet my dear friend!” She gave him the sheepskin and he ran to meet him.

The Sophisticate was traveling in a horse-drawn carriage in magnificent style, and the Simpleton came to meet him full of joy, lovingly asking him how he was.

“My dear brother! How are you? Praise be to God for bringing you and granting me the privilege of seeing you!”

In the eyes of the Sophisticate, the entire world was as nothing – all the more so a man like this, who seemed like a madman. Still, because of their great boyhood love, he was friendly to him and journeyed with him into the city.

Now the two householders, the fathers of these two sons, had died during the time the Sophisticate had been traveling from country to country, but their two houses remained. The Simpleton, who had stayed at home, entered his father's house and inherited it. However, because the Sophisticate had been away, there had been no-one to take care of his father's house, which was in complete ruins. Nothing was left of it and he had nowhere to go when he arrived. He went to an inn, but he suffered there because the inn was not to his taste.

Now the Simpleton found a new occupation. He would run from his house to the Sophisticate, filled with love and joy. He could see how much he was suffering at the inn. The Simpleton said to the Sophisticate: “My brother! Come to my house and stay with me! I will put everything I have into one corner and the whole house will be at your disposal.” The Sophisticate liked the idea, and moved into the Simpleton's house and stayed with him.

The Sophisticate was constantly full of pain and suffering. He had a reputation for being an outstanding sage, a master craftsman and a doctor. A certain nobleman came and ordered a gold ring. The Sophisticate made a very wonderful ring engraved with extraordinary designs including an amazing tree. But when the nobleman came, he did not like the ring at all. The Sophisticate suffered terribly, because he knew that in Spain such a ring with a tree like this would be considered quite outstanding.

Another time a great nobleman arrived bringing a very expensive jewel from a far-off land. He also had another precious stone engraved with a certain design, and instructed him to engrave the same design on the jewel he had brought. The Sophisticate engraved exactly the same design on the jewel except that he made one change that nobody besides himself could possibly notice. The nobleman came and took the stone and was delighted, but the Sophisticate suffered terrible pain because of his mistake. “I have attained such a level of wisdom – how could I accidentally make a mistake?”

He also suffered in his medical practice. When he visited a patient, he would prescribe a medicine which he knew for certain would definitely cure the patient if he had any chance of survival, because it was an exceptional remedy. But if the patient afterwards died, people would say it was because of the medicine, and he suffered greatly because of this. Conversely he would sometimes treat a patient and the patient would be cured, but people said it was mere chance. Thus the Sophisticate was constantly full of misery.

It was the same when he needed a garment. He would summon the tailor and go to great lengths to explain to him how to make the garment exactly as he wanted in accordance with his deeper understanding. The tailor did exactly as the Sophisticate instructed him, making the garment just as he wanted it, with the exception of one lapel, where he went slightly wrong and failed to follow the instructions exactly.

The Sophisticate suffered terrible pain as a result. He knew that even though the garment was considered beautiful here, this was only because the local people had no understanding of tailoring. “If I was in Spain with this lapel, I would be the laughing stock of all!” Thus it was that he was constantly full of suffering.

Each time the Simpleton would come running to the Sophisticate full of joy, only to find him miserable and wracked with pain.

“Why should someone as wise and wealthy as you are endure constant suffering?” asked the Simpleton. “Look at me – I am constantly full of joy!”

However in the eyes of the Sophisticate, the Simpleton was ridiculous and seemed like a madman.

“If most people ridicule me,” said the Simpleton, “surely they are the fools. For if they are wiser than me, on the contrary – they are fools. This applies all the more to a wise man like you. What will it make you if you are wiser than me? If only…” concluded the Simpleton, “…if only you could reach my level!”

“It is quite possible,” replied the Sophisticate, “that I could come to your level – if Heaven forbid my intelligence was taken from me or if I became ill, in which case I might go mad. For what are you if not a madman? But for you to come to my level would be quite impossible. There is no way that you could become wise like me.”

But the Simpleton replied: “For God, everything is possible. It might be that I could reach your level in the wink of an eye!”

The Sophisticate simply laughed at him.

In the wider world these two friends were known as the Sophisticate and the Simpleton. Although the world contains many sophisticated and many simple people, nevertheless the traits of sophistication and simplicity were particularly evident in the case of these two. They were both from the same place and had learned together. One had become exceptionally wise and sophisticated while the other was exceptionally simple and straightforward. In the Population Registry, where everyone is inscribed with his family name, the one was registered as “The Sophisticate” and the other as “The Simpleton”.

Once the king paid a visit to the Population Registry and found these two individuals registered respectively as “The Sophisticate” and “The Simpleton”. The king had a great desire to see them. He thought to himself:

“If I suddenly send for them to appear before me, they will be very frightened. The Sophisticate will be tongue-tied and unable to express any of his arguments, while the Simpleton might go out of his mind through fear.”

The king decided to send a sophisticated messenger to the Sophisticate and a simple messenger to the Simpleton. The problem was how to find a simple person in the capital city, where people are mostly very sophisticated. Only the officer over the treasuries is chosen specifically for his simplicity and honesty, since nobody wants a sophisticate in charge of the treasuries. His very sophistication and intelligence could lead him to waste all the resources. For this reason a simple, honest person is chosen as the officer in charge of the treasuries.

The king summoned a sophisticated individual together with the simpleton who was in charge of the treasuries and he sent them to the Sophisticate and the Simpleton. The king gave letters to each of the two messengers together with a letter to the governor of the local province under whose jurisdiction the two lived.

In his letter to the provincial governor, the king gave instructions to send the letters to the Sophisticate and the Simpleton under the governor's name, in order that they should not panic. He was to write to them that there was no urgency and the king was not specifically ordering them to come. It was up to them to do as they wished. If they so desired, they were to come – but the king wished to see them.

The two messengers, one sophisticated and the other simple, traveled to the local province and gave the letter to the governor . The governor enquired about the Sophisticate and the Simpleton. He was informed that the Sophisticate was exceptionally wise and very wealthy, while the Simpleton was extremely simple and straightforward, having only one sheepskin to serve for every kind of dress…

The governor realized that it would certainly not be proper to bring him before the king wearing the sheepskin, so he had proper clothes made for him which he placed in the carriage that was to collect the Simpleton. He gave the messengers the letters and they traveled there and handed them the letters. The sophisticated messenger delivered his letter to the Sophisticate, while the simple messenger gave the Simpleton his.

On receiving the letter, the Simpleton immediately said: “But I don't know what's written in it – read it to me!”

“I'll tell you what it says,” replied the messenger. “The king wants you to come to him.”

“As long as you're not joking,” said the Simpleton.

“Certainly not,” said the messenger. “It's true! No joking.”

The Simpleton was immediately filled with joy and ran to tell his wife.

“My wife, the king has sent for me!”

“Why?” she asked. “For what purpose?”

But the Simpleton had no time to answer her and rushed away happily to set off with the messenger. He climbed into the carriage and sat down. When he discovered the clothes, he was even happier.

In the meantime information about misdemeanors on the part of the governor reached the king, who removed him. The king came to the conclusion that it would be best to have a simple, honest person as governor since such a person would run the province truthfully, knowing nothing of sophistication and deceit.

The king decided to appoint the Simpleton as governor, and issued a decree to that effect. In any case the Simpleton had to travel via the provincial capital. They were to wait for him at the gates of the city. On his arrival they were to stop him immediately and inaugurate him as governor. They waited at the gates and as soon as the Simpleton arrived, they stopped him and told him that he had been appointed governor.

“You're not joking?” he asked.

“Certainly not – no joking!” they replied. The Simpleton immediately took up the position of governor with all force and strength.

And now that his fortune was on the rise – and good fortune makes a person wise – he attained greater understanding, even though he did not make use of his wisdom at all, conducting himself with his usual simple honesty . He governed the province sincerely and honestly, truthfully and fairly, without a trace of corruption.

To run a province, there is no need for great intelligence and sophistication but only fairness, simplicity and sincerity. When two people appear ed before him in a law case, he would declare, “You are guilty and you are innocent,” in simple honest truth without craftiness or deceit. He conducted himself truthfully and honestly in everything.

The people of the province adored him, and he had advisers who truly loved him. Out of love, one of them gave him some advice:

“You will quite definitely be called to come before the king. He has already summoned you, and in any case the governor is obliged to appear before the king. Although you are very honest and run the province without any trace of corruption, the way of the king is to steer the conversation to deep ideas and foreign languages. Out of propriety and politeness you ought to be able to answer him. It would be a good idea for me to teach you some philosophical ideas and foreign languages.”

The Simpleton saw that this was a good suggestion, and said, “Why should I mind if I learn some deep ideas and languages?” He immediately recalled that his friend the Sophisticate had told him it would be quite impossible for him ever to reach his level – yet now he had already attained his wisdom. Even so, despite his already having attained a grasp of sophisticated wisdom, he made no use of sophisticated ideas at all. He conducted himself in all things with his usual honest simplicity.

Afterwards the king summoned the Simpleton-Governor. He traveled to the king, who discussed with him the government of the province. The Simpleton made a very good impression on the king, who saw that he governed with great justice and truth and without any corruption or deceit. The king then began discussing deep ideas and foreign languages. The Simpleton gave the appropriate answers, which particularly impressed the king, who said, “I see that he is so very wise, yet even so he governs with such honest simplicity.”

This found very great favor in the eyes of the king, who appointed the Simpleton as Minister-in-Chief over all his other ministers. The king designated a special place for his residence, giving instructions to build him a fitting palace of great beauty and splendor. He gave him a written certificate attesting to his appointment as Minister-in-Chief over all the other ministers. And so it was: they built him a residence in the very place the king had designated, and he became very great and powerful.

As for the Sophisticate, when the king's letter arrived, he said to the sophisticated messenger who brought it: “Wait! Stay here tonight and we will give the matter careful consideration.” That evening he made him a great feast, during which the Sophisticate applied his wisdom and philosophy with the utmost sophistication.

“What is this?” he asked. “The king has sent for me ? For a lowly creature like me??? What am I that the king should send for me? The king is so great and powerful. I am lowly and despicable compared with such a great and awesome king. It makes no sense that such a king should send for a lowly creature like me. If I say it is because of my wisdom, what am I compared to the king? Does the king not have wise men? Moreover, the king himself must certainly be very wise. Why would the king send for me?”

The Sophisticate was very perplexed. He said to the king's sophisticated messenger: “Mark my words. In my opinion it is quite logical and obvious that there really is no king in the world at all. Everyone is mistaken about this nonsense, because they think there is a king. Consider: how is it possible that all the people in the world would subject themselves to one man to be their king? Without any doubt, there is no king over the world at all.”

“But did I not bring you a letter from the king?” replied the sophisticated messenger.

“Did you yourself actually receive the letter from the hand of the king himself?” asked the Sophisticate.

“No,” replied the messenger, “Someone else gave me the letter in the king's name.”

“You see!” cried the Sophisticate. “What I'm saying is right: there is no king at all.” He questioned him further: “You yourself come from the capital city – you grew up there and you've lived there all your life. Tell me: have you ever seen the king in your whole life?”

“No,” replied the messenger – because the truth is that not everyone gets to see the king, who appears only very rarely.

“You see!” cried the Sophisticate. “You see! What I am saying is perfectly correct. There is definitely no king at all. Even you have never seen the king.”

“If so,” asked the sophisticated messenger, “who runs the country?”

“I will explain that to you quite clearly,” replied the Sophisticate, “because I am the right person to ask as I have traveled in many countries. I was in Italy , where they have seventy advisory ministers, each of whom governs the country for a set period of time. This way everyone in the land has a turn at running the country, one after the other…”

His words began to penetrate the ears of the sophisticated messenger until they both agreed and declared that “There is certainly no king over the world at all!”

“Wait until morning,” cried the Sophisticate. “I will give you proof after proof that there is no king in the world at all.”

The Sophisticate rose early the next morning and woke up his friend the sophisticated messenger, saying: “Come outside with me. I will prove to you clearly that the entire world is in error. The truth is that there is no king at all and they are all greatly mistaken.”

They went to the market and saw a soldier. They grabbed him and asked him:

“Who m do you serve?”

“The king,” he replied.

“Have you ever seen the king in your life?”


“You see!” said the Sophisticate. “Is there any greater folly?”

Next they approached an army officer and entered into a conversation with him.

“Who m do you serve?” they asked.

“The king,” he replied.

“Have you ever seen the king?”


“You can see it with your own eyes,” cried the Sophisticate. “It is perfectly clear that they are all mistaken and there is no king in the world at all.”

They both agreed that there was no king at all.

“Come!” cried the Sophisticate. “Let us travel the world and I will give you further proof that the whole world is greatly mistaken.”

They went off and traveled the world. Wherever they went, they found everyone to be in error. They started using the idea of the king as an example. Wherever they found people to be mistaken about anything, they cited the idea of the king as an example. “This misconception is as true as the idea that there is a king!”

They continued traveling until they had used up everything they had. First they sold one horse and then another, until they had sold them all and were forced to go on foot. They were constantly questioning everyone and finding them to be in error. They went about on foot, impoverished, disrespectable beggars to whom no- one paid any attention.

They went around until they came to the city where the Minister – the Simpleton – lived. In the same town lived a true miracle worker, who was very highly respected as he performed extraordinary wonders. He was even known and respected by the leading ministers.

When these two sophisticates arrived in the town, they wandered around until they came to the house of the miracle worker. They saw numerous carriages waiting there, as many as forty or fifty, with sick people. The Sophisticate inferred that it must be the house of a doctor. He wanted to enter and make his acquaintance, as he himself was a great doctor.

“Who lives here?” he asked.

“The miracle worker,” they replied.

The Sophisticate burst out laughing and said to his friend, “This is a most exceptional falsehood and error. This is even more foolish than the mistake about the king. My friend, let me explain what a lie this is and how greatly mistaken the world is about such deceit.”

Meanwhile they became hungry. They found that they still had three or four coins, so they went to a cook shop where one could get food for as little as three or four coins. They ordered, and the food was brought to them.

As they ate, they chatted and joked about the lie and error about the miracle worker. The owner of the cook shop heard what they were saying and became very angry, because the miracle worker was highly respected there. “Finish your food,” he cried, “and get out of here.”

Afterwards the miracle worker's son arrived. They continued joking about the miracle worker in front of his son. The owner of the cook shop scolded them for joking about the miracle worker in front of his son. He gave them a good beating and threw them out of his house.

They were extremely angry and wanted to sue the man who beat them. They decided to go to the owner of their lodgings, where they had left their bundles of belongings, to ask him how to start legal proceedings. They told him that the owner of the cook shop had given them a severe beating. When he asked them why, they told him that they had spoken against the miracle worker.

“It is certainly not right to beat people,” replied the owner of the lodgings. “But you did not do the right thing at all in speaking against the miracle worker. He is very highly respected here.”

They saw that the owner of the lodgings was a nothing and that he too was in error. From there they went to the town clerk, who was a gentile. They told him the story of how they had been beaten. “Why?” he asked. They answered that they had spoken against the miracle worker. The town clerk also gave them a severe beating and threw them out of his house.

They went from one officer to the next, higher and higher, until they came to the Minister-in-Chief. Troops were standing guard in front of his house. The minister was informed that a man needed to see him and he gave orders for him to enter.

As soon as the Sophisticate entered, the Minister recognized him as his friend the Sophisticate. However, the Sophisticate did not recognize the Simpleton now that he had attained such greatness. The Minister immediately said to him:

“See where my simplicity has brought me – to such greatness. And where has your wisdom brought you?”

“As to your being my friend the Simpleton,” replied the Sophisticate, “let us talk about that later. But now I demand justice, because they beat me.”

“Why?” asked the Minister.

“Because I spoke out against the miracle worker,” replied the Sophisticate, “because it's a lie and a big deception”.

“So you still hold by your sophisticated ideas?” said the Simpleton-Minister. “You see! You said that you could easily attain my level but that I could not attain your level. Yet I have already reached your level of wisdom, whereas you have still not reached my level. I see that it is harder for you to attain my simple honesty!”

Even so, since he knew him from before when he was at the height of his greatness, the Minister gave orders to give him clothes and invited him to eat with him.

As they ate they started talking, and the Sophisticate began proving his opinion that there is no king at all. The Minister rebuked him.

“Haven't I myself seen the king?”

The Sophisticate answered him with a laugh. “Do you really know that it was the king? Did you recognize him? Did you know for sure that his father and grandfather were kings? How do you know that this was the king? People told you this was the king – they deceived you with a lie.”

The Simpleton was very angry over the Sophisticate's denial of the king's existence.

In the meantime someone came and said: “The Devil has sent for you.”

The Simpleton was extremely shaken. He ran in great trepidation to his wife to tell her who had sent for him. She advised him to send for the miracle worker. He did so, and the miracle worker came and gave him amulets and other protection, telling him that he now had no reason to fear. The Simpleton had great faith in this.

The Simpleton carried on sitting with Sophisticate, who asked him: “What made you so frightened?”

“It was because of the one that sent for us.”

The Sophisticate laughed at him. “Do you really believe there is such a thing as the Devil?”

“If not, then who sent for us?”

“It must be my brother!” replied the Sophisticate. “He wants to see me and he played this trick to send for me.”

“If so,” asked the Simpleton, “how did he get through all the guards?”

“He must have bribed them, and they are all lying, saying they never saw him at all.”

Meanwhile someone else came and said the same thing: “The Devil has sent for you.”

The Simpleton was now unshaken. He was not afraid at all because of the protection given by the miracle worker.

“Now what do you say?” he asked the Sophisticate.

“I must inform you,” replied the Sophisticate, “that I have a brother who is angry with me. He is playing this trick in order to frighten me.”

The Sophisticate stood up and said to the messenger who came for them: “What does he look like – the one who sent for us? What kind of face does he have? What kind of hair…?”

The messenger described him.

“See!” cried the Sophisticate. “That is exactly what my brother looks like.”

“Will you go with them,” asked the Simpleton.

“Yes!” replied the Sophisticate. “Just give me some soldiers to go with me so that they don't hurt me.”

The Minister provided him with an escort of soldiers, and the Sophisticate and his friend, the sophisticated messenger, went off with the man who had summoned them. Afterwards the soldiers returned.

“Where are those sophisticates?” asked the Minister.

The soldiers replied that they had disappeared – they had no idea how.

For the Devil had kidnapped these two sophisticates and brought them to the muddy bog. The Devil sat on a throne in the bog and threw the sophisticates into the mud. The mud was thick and sticky like clay.

As the two sophisticates were tortured, they screamed out:

“You wicked villains! Why are you torturing us? Does such a thing as the Devil really exist? You are wicked villains, torturing us for nothing!”

These sophisticates still did not believe that such a thing as the Devil really exists. They thought that evil men were torturing them for no reason. The two sophisticates lay there in the thick mud trying to understand what was happening.

“They are nothing but wild ruffians we quarreled with once, and now they are torturing us so much!”

They suffered terrible tortures for many years.

Once the Simpleton-Minister was passing by the miracle worker's house and he remembered his friend the Sophisticate. He came before the miracle worker and bowed, as noblemen do. He asked him if it would be possible for him to see the Sophisticate and if there was a way to release him.

“Do you remember the Sophisticate that the Devil summoned and took away?” he asked. “I have not seen him ever since.”

“Yes,” replied the miracle worker.

The Minister asked him to show him where he was and to release him. The miracle worker replied: “I can certainly show you where he is and take him out, but no- one must go except me and you.”

They went together and with the miracle worker' s help they came to the place.

There they were, lying in the thick mud and quicksand. When the Sophisticate saw the Minister, he screamed out: “My brother! See how these wicked villains are beating and torturing me so terribly over nothing!”

The Minister rebuked him. “You still cling to your sophisticated ideas and you don't believe in anything. According to you, these are human beings. Now see! Isn't this the miracle worker that you denied? Yet he, and only he, has the power to release you. He will show you the truth.”

The Minister asked the miracle worker to take them out and show them that this was the Devil and his cohorts, and not human beings.

The miracle worker released them , and they were left standing on dry land. There was no mud there at all. The destroying angels turned into mere dust.

The Sophisticate saw it all, and he was forced to admit to the truth, that there is a king.


This is a story about a certain king who had a maid in his palace who attend ed the queen. Obviously a mere cook would not have been allowed in to the king, but this maid was an attendant of low rank. The queen gave birth and this maid also gave birth at the same time. Then the midwife went and switched the babies around – just to see what would happen and how it would turn out. She took the king's son and put him beside the maid, and she placed the maid's son beside the queen.

As time went on these children began to grow. The “king's son” (the one who grew up with the king because they thought he was the king's son) was helped to rise from level to level, becoming ever greater until he was a most important personage. The “maid's son” (who was really the king's son, but he grew up with the maid) was raised in the servant's house.

Nevertheless, the two boys learned together in the same school. The king's true son, who was known as the “maid's son”, was naturally drawn to royal behavior even though he grew up in the servant's house. Conversely, the maid's true son, who was called “the king's son”, was naturally drawn to a different kind of behavior unlike that of royalty. But having grown up in the king's palace, he was forced to conduct himself royally because that was how he was raised.

Now the midwife – since women can be light-headed – told someone the secret of how she had switched the children. “Every friend has a friend,” and the secret passed in the usual way from one person to another until everyone was whispering about how the king's son had been exchanged.

It was impossible for anyone to talk about it openly in case the king found out. It was quite impossible to let the king find out. What would he be able to do? There was no solution. It was impossible to give credence to a mere rumor – it might be false. In any case, how could they switch the two sons back into their proper positions? They therefore could not reveal the matter to the king. Yet people continued talking about it among themselves.

One day somebody revealed the secret to the “king's son” (who was in reality the maid's son), telling him that people were saying he had been exchanged.

“But you cannot investigate this,” said the man who told him the secret. “It would be beneath your dignity. You therefore cannot go into the matter at all. I am only telling you this in case there is a conspiracy against you one day that might gain strength because of this rumor. People will say they want to take the king's son as king – the one they say is the king's true son. You will have to think about how to deal with him and see how to remove him.”

Wherever this story speaks about the “king's son”, it refers to the one who grew up with the king and was called the “king's son” though in fact he was the maid's true son. Conversely, the one that grew up as the “maid's son” was really the king's true son.

The “king's son” began making trouble for the servant who was regarded as the “father” of the other son although in fact he was his own true father. The “king's son” fired every kind of trouble in his direction, one after the other, in order to force him to flee together with his son.

As long as the king was alive, his “son” did not have much power yet was still able to cause him troubles. Eventually the king became old and died, and the “king's son”, who was the maid's true son, took over the kingdom. He then caused even more trouble for the servant who was regarded as the “father” of the other son. He sent trouble after trouble – but craftily, so that people would not understand that he was the one causing the trouble, since this would not look good in the eyes of the people. He therefore hid what he was doing but caused him constant troubles.

The servant realized that the king was causing him troubles because of the rumors about the exchange. The servant explained the whole story to his “son” (who was in reality the king's true son) . He told him that he g reatly pitied him.

“However you look at it, if you are my son, I certainly have pity on you. And if you are the king's true son, you deserve even greater pity, because he wants to remove you completely, heaven forbid. For this reason you have no option but to move from here.” He felt very bad about this.

However the king was constantly shooting his evil arrows one after the other, and the other son decided to move away. His “father” gave him a sum of money and he left. He felt very bad indeed about having been driven from his own country for nothing.

“Why do I deserve to be banished?” he asked himself. “If I am the king's son I certainly don't deserve it. And even if I am not the king's son, I also don't deserve to have to flee for no reason. What sin did I commit?”

He felt very bad about it. He started drinking and visiting the brothel. He wanted to spend all his days getting drunk and following his heart's desires after having been banished for nothing.

Meanwhile the king took up the reins of power with great force. Whenever he heard that people were whispering and talking about the exchange, he took vengeance and punished them very severely, ruling with power and strength.

One day the king went on a hunting expedition with his ministers. They came to a beautiful place with a flowing river. They stayed there to rest and stroll around. The king lay down to rest, and began thinking about how he had banished the other son for nothing. Whichever way you looked at it, if he was really the king's son, wasn't it enough that he had been exchanged? Why should he be banished too? And if he was not the king's true son, he did not deserve to have been banished – for what had he done wrong?

The king was thinking about this and regretting his sin and the great wrong he had committed. But he had no idea what he could do about it. It was a subject he could not discuss or seek advice about from anyone. He became very worried and anxious and told his ministers to turn back as he had some issues on his mind and saw no purpose in strolling around any more. They went home, and once the king was back in his palace much business awaited him. He became preoccupied with his affairs and forgot about the matter.

Meanwhile the banished son who was the king's true son continued as before and wasted his money. Once he went out alone for a stroll. He lay down to rest and began thinking about what had happened to him.

“What has God done to me?” he wondered. “If I really am the king's son, it is certainly not fair to me. And if I am not the king's son I also don't deserve to be a fugitive and an exile.”

Then he thought: “On the other hand, if it is true that God could really do such a thing and exchange the king's son and make him endure all this, is what I have done right? Was it proper for me to have behaved the way I have?”

He began to feel very sorry and regretted the bad things he had done. Afterwards he returned home and went back to his drinking. But having started to feel regret, he was constantly disturbed by thoughts of regret and repentance.

Once he lay down to rest. He dreamed that in a certain place there was to be a fair on a certain date. He was to go there and accept the very first paid work he was offered, even if it was beneath his dignity.

When he woke up, the dream was engraved in his mind. Sometimes dreams pass straight out of the mind, but this dream and its message were strongly fixed in his mind. Even so, it was very hard for him to carry it out, and he turned to drink even more. He had the same dream again several times, and it greatly disturbed him.

Once they were saying to him in the dream: “If you want to have pity on yourself: do it !” and he was forced to fulfill the dream. He went and gave his remaining money to his landlord, leaving his fine clothing behind in his lodgings. All he took for himself was a simple merchant's robe, and he made his way to the place of the fair.

Early next morning he went to the fair, where he met a merchant who said to him, “Do you want a job?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“I need someone to drive animals,” said the merchant. “Do you want me to hire you ?”

He needed no time to think about it because of the dream. He answered immediately: “Yes.”

The merchant hired him at once and immediately started giving him work to do, ordering him about the way a master orders his servants.

He began wondering what he had done. Menial work like this certainly did not befit him. He was a gentle person but now he would have to drive animals and be forced to go on foot side by side with the animals. But it was too late for regrets. The merchant was ordering him about like a master.

“How am I supposed to go on my own with the animals?” he asked the merchant.

“I also have other cattle drivers for my animals,” he replied. “Go with them.”

The merchant gave him some animals to drive, and he took them outside the city. Gathered there were the other cattle drivers who were going to take the animals, and they went together. He drove his animals while the merchant rode at the side on a horse.

The merchant rode his horse cruelly and showed extra cruelty to him. He was extremely afraid of the merchant, seeing the great cruelty he displayed towards him. He was afraid he would give him one blow with his stick and kill him instantly as he was so gentle and tender. He went along with the animals and the merchant at their side. They came to a certain place and took the sack containing the bread for the drivers. The merchant gave them to eat, and he was also given some of this bread.

Afterwards they passed a very thick forest where the trees were very close together. As they went, two of the animals entrusted to the king's true son, who had become the merchant's driver, strayed. The merchant shouted at him and he chased after them to try to catch them, but they ran away even further and he went chasing after them. The forest was so thick that as soon as he went in he could not see his companions and they could not see him.

He chased after the animals, which ran further away. He chased them until he came into the thick depths of the forest.

“Either way I will die,” he thought. “If I go back without the animals I will die at the hands of the merchant.” So great was his fear of the merchant that he was convinced he would kill him if he came back without the animals. “But if I stay here, I will also get killed by the wild animals in the forest. Why should I go back to the merchant? How can I go back to him without the animals?” He was very frightened of him.

He carried on chasing the animals, but they kept running further away. In the meantime night fell. Never before had it happened to him that he would have to spend the night alone deep in such a thick forest. He heard the cries and moans of the wild animals. He decided to climb up a tree and spend the night there. All he could hear were the cries and roars of the wild animals.

In the morning he looked down and saw his animals standing nearby. He climbed down from the tree and went to catch them but they ran off. The further he chased them, the further they fled, until they found some grass and stood grazing. He tried to catch them but they fled. Every time he went after them, they ran away until he came into the thickest depths of the forest. Here there were animals that have no fear of men at all, being so remote from human civilization.

Once again night fell. He heard the cries and roars of the animals and became very afraid. He noticed a very great tree standing there, and saw that a man was lying there. He was afraid, but it was some consolation that he had found a man there.

Each asked the other: “Who are you?”

“A man – who are you?”

“A man.”

The man lying by the tree asked him, “How did you come to be here?”

He did not want to tell him what had happened, so he simply said, “Because of the animals… I was driving animals, and two animals strayed in here, and that's why I came here.”

He asked the man he found by the tree, “How did you come to be here?”

“I came here because of my horse… I was riding on the horse and I stopped to rest and the horse went off and strayed into the forest. I was chasing after it trying to catch it, and the horse ran further away until I came here.”

They decided to join up and keep together, and agreed that even when they returned to civilization they would remain together. They spent the night there and heard the terrible howling, moaning and roaring of the animals.

Towards morning he heard loud laughter ringing through the whole forest. The sound of the laughter was spreading through the entire forest. The laughter was so loud that the tree was shaking and swaying with the sound. He was very shocked and frightened, but the man he had found by the tree said, “This no longer frightens me at all as I've already slept here the last few nights. This laughter is heard every night just before dawn, until all the trees tremble and shake.

Nevertheless, the king's true son was very shaken. He said to his friend: “Evidently this is the place of the demons, because no such laughter is ever heard in settled areas. Who has ever heard the sound of such laughter over the entire area?”

Day broke soon afterwards . They looked down and saw this one's animals and the other one's horse standing there. They climbed down from the tree and started chasing after their respective animals. The cattle ran further and further away, and he chased after them, while the other pursued his horse, which ran away until the two men were far apart and lost their way.

Meanwhile he found a sack of bread. This was priceless there in the wilds. He took the sack on his shoulder and went after his cattle.

Suddenly he encountered a man. At first he was worried, but at least it was some comfort that he had found a man there.

“How did you get here?” asked the man.

“And how did you get here?” he asked.

“Me? My fathers and fathers' fathers grew up here. But what about you ? How did you come to be here? For no human beings from civilized areas ever come here.”

He found this answer very disturbing because he understood that this was not a human being at all since he had told him that his fathers' fathers had grown up there and that nobody from inhabited areas ever came there. Nevertheless he did not harm him in any way but treated him in a friendly way.

The man of the forest said to the king's true son, “What are you doing here?”

He replied that he was chasing after the animals.

“Stop chasing after your sins,” he said, “These are not animals at all. It is only your sins that are leading you on this way. Enough! You have already had what you deserve – you have already received your punishment. Stop chasing after them. Come with me and you will attain what befits you.”

He accompanied him but was afraid to talk to him or ask any questions, because someone like this might open up his mouth and swallow him.

Meanwhile he found his friend who had gone chasing after his horse. The moment he saw him, he made signs as if to say, “Know that this is not a human being at all. Have nothing at all to do with him, because this is not a human being at all!” He then went over and whispered in his ear that this was not a human being.

The man with the horse looked and saw the sack of bread on his shoulder, and he started begging him.

“My brother, I haven't eaten for days – give me bread!”

“Here in the wilderness nothing will help you,” replied the king's true son, “My life comes first and I need the bread for myself.”

The man with the horse started begging and pleading with him. “I'll give you whatever I have…”

But in the wilderness bread is worth more than any gift or bribe.

“What will you give me?” replied the man with the cattle, who was the king's true son. “What can you give me in exchange for bread in the wilderness?”

“I will give you my very self!” said the man with the horse. “I will sell myself to you for bread.”

The man with the cattle considered the matter. “To buy a man, it's worth giving him some bread.” He bought him as his eternal slave. The man with the horse swore a solemn oath to him that he would be his servant for ever, even when they returned to civilization. In exchange he would give him bread. They would eat from the sack together until the bread was finished.

They went together after the man of the forest. Having been bought as his slave, the man with the horse followed the man with the cattle as they went after the man of the forest. As a result things became a little easier for the king's true son, because if he had to lift anything or needed something done for him he would order his slave to do it.

They went together after the man of the forest until they came to a place full of snakes and scorpions. He was very afraid. Out of fear he asked the man of the forest, “How will we get across here?”

“Do you think that is so hard?” asked the man of the forest. “How are you going to enter my house?”

He showed them his house, which was standing in the air. “How will you get inside my house?”

They went with the man of the forest, who carried them safely across and brought them inside his house. He gave them to eat and drink, and left.

The true son of the king – the one with the cattle – was now making use of his slave for all his needs. The slave was very unhappy over having sold himself as a slave because of the short time he was in need of bread. Now they had food. Because of one brief period , would he have to remain a slave forever?

He sighed and groaned. “How have I come so low as to be a slave?”

The true son of the king, who was now his master, asked him: “What was your earlier greatness that you now sigh over having come to such a level?”

The other man began to tell him that he had been a king, but people spread rumors that he had been exchanged… For this man with the horse was none other than the king of whom we spoke earlier, who was really the son of the maid. He told him how he had banished the other son, but later it entered his mind that he had not done right and he began to regret it. He was constantly beset by regrets over his evil crime against his friend.

Once he dreamed that his remedy would be to throw off the kingship and go wherever his eyes would take him. This was how his sin would be rectified. However he did not want to do such a thing. Yet he was constantly disturbed by these dreams telling him to do it. He threw off the kingship and went away, until eventually he came here. And now he would have to be a slave!”

The king's true son listened to all this in silence. “I'll think it over,” he said to himself. “I'll see how to deal with him.”

That night the man of the forest came and gave them to eat and drink and they spent the night there. Towards morning they heard the same sound of terribly loud laughter that made all the trees quake and tremble. The slave persuaded his master, the king's true son, to ask the man of the forest what this was.

“What is this sound of great laughter just before morning?”

“This laughter,” replied the man of the forest, “is when the day laughs at the night. Because the night asks the day, ‘Why do I not have a name when you arrive?' Then the day laughs very loudly , and day breaks – and that is the sound of this laughter.”

He found this very amazing – for it really is an amazing idea that the day laughs at the night.

In the morning the man of the forest left again, while they remained there eating and drinking. That night he came back, and they ate and drank and lay down to sleep. During the night they heard the cries of the animals, all roaring and moaning in strange voices. All the animals and birds were crying. The lion roared, the lioness growled in a different voice, the birds chirped and chattered… All of them sang and cried in different voices.

At first the two men were very shaken by all this. They were so afraid that they paid no attention to the actual sounds. Later they listened carefully, and heard that it was a most amazing, awesome song. Hearing this song was the ultimate delight, making all other delights in the world pale into insignificance . They agreed that they should stay here since they would have food and drink and could enjoy this most amazing delight.

The slave persuaded his master, the king's true son, to ask the man of the forest what it was, and he did so.

“This,” replied the man of the forest, “is because the sun made a garment for the moon. All the animals of the forest said that the moon greatly benefits them since their main time of dominion is at night. Sometimes they need to enter inhabited areas, but they are unable to do so during the day. Since their main time of dominion is at night, the moon does them a great favor by shining to them. They therefore agreed to create a new melody in honor of the moon, and this is the melody you hear.”

Now they listened to the melody even more carefully and they could hear that it was a most wonderful and profoundly pleasing melody.

“Do you consider this to be such a novelty?” asked the man of the forest. “I possess an instrument which I received from my fathers, which they inherited from their fathers' fathers. This instrument is made of special leaves and colors, and as soon as you place it on any animal, beast or bird, it immediately starts to sing this melody.”

Afterwards the same laughter rang through the forest, and day broke . The man of the forest left, and the king's true son went in search of this instrument. He searched the whole room but did not find it, and he was afraid to go any further.

The king's true son, the master, and his slave, the maid's true son, were afraid to ask the man of the forest to take them to civilization. But afterwards he told them he would take them back to civilization. He brought them to a human habitation and took the instrument and gave it to the king's true son.

“I am giving you this instrument as a gift,” said the man of the forest. “As for this one,” he continued, indicating his slave, the maid's true son who had become king because of the exchange: “…as for him, you will know how to deal with him.”

“Where should we go?” asked the king's true son.

He told them to look for a country called “The Foolish Country with the Wise King”. They asked him in which direction they should go to start asking how to find this country. The man of the forest pointed with his finger and said to the king's true son: “Go to that country. There you will attain your greatness.”

They left and went on their way. They had a strong desire to find some animal on which to test the instrument to see if it would make it sing. As yet they had not seen any kind of animal, but later they approached a settlement and found an animal. They placed the instrument on the animal, which began singing the same melody.

They continued their journey until they reached the Foolish Country with the Wise King. The country had a wall around it and the only way to enter was through one gate. They had to go around for many miles before they came to the gate to enter the country.

When they arrived, they were not allowed to enter. The king of the country had died and his son had become king. The old king had left a will saying, “Until now they called this ‘The Foolish Country with the Wise King'. But now they should call it the opposite: ‘The Wise Land with a Foolish King'. Whoever succeeds in changing the name back to the ‘ Foolish Land with the Wise King' should be the king.”

Only someone who would undertake to achieve this was allowed to enter the country. That was why they did not want to admit him. They said to him, “Are you able to undertake this task and restore the country to its original name?”

It seemed quite impossible for anyone to undertake such a task, and they could not enter. The slave tried to persuade his master to return home, but he was unwilling to go back as the man of the forest had told him he should go to this country and there he would achieve greatness.

In the meantime another man arrived on horseback, but he was refused entry for the same reason. The king's true son noticed the man's horse standing there, and took the instrument and placed it on the horse, which started singing the most amazing melody. The owner of the horse pleaded with him to sell him the instrument, but he was unwilling to do so.

“What could you give me in exchange for such an amazing instrument?” he asked.

“What will you be able to do with this instrument?” asked the owner of the horse. “The most you will be able to do will be to play it in some musical performance and earn a little money. I know something far superior to your instrument: I possess knowledge that I received from my fathers' fathers through which it is possible to understand one thing from another. For example, if someone makes a casual remark, this tradition enables one to deduce something else from his remark. Until now I have never revealed this knowledge to anyone in the world. But if you will give me this instrument, I will teach you this tradition.”

The king's true son realized that it would indeed be truly wonderful to be able to understand one thing from another. He gave the instrument to the owner of the horse, who taught him how to understand one thing from another.

Now that the king's true son knew how to understand one thing from another, he went to the gate into the country. He deduced that it must be possible to restore the country to its original name, because he already had the power to understand one thing from another. He understood that it was possible to do it even though he did not yet know how.

He decided to tell them to let him enter and he would undertake the task of restoring the country to its original name. What did he have to lose? He told the men who were barring entry to all except one who would undertake this task that they should let him in.

They admitted him and informed the ministers that there was a man who wanted to undertake to restore the country to its original name. They brought him to the ministers of state, who said:

“You must understand that we too are far from being foolish, heaven forbid. However, the old king was such an outstanding sage that compared to him, we are considered foolish. That is why the country used to be called the Foolish Country with the Wise King. Afterwards the king died and his son became king. He too is wise, but compared to us he is not wise at all. Therefore the country is now called the opposite: ‘The Wise Country with the Foolish King'.

“The old king left a will stating that if someone can be found who is so wise that he can restore the kingdom to its original name, he should be made king. The old king instructed his son to give up the kingship in favor of such a man. Whoever is so outstandingly wise that everyone else is foolish compared to him will be the king. For he will be able to restore the kingdom to its original name, ‘The Foolish Kingdom with the Wise King,' as they will all be foolish compared to him. You should therefore understand the mission on which you are embarking.” The ministers of state told the king's true son all this.

“The test to see if you are sufficiently wise,” they continued, “is as follows. The old king left an amazing garden. All kinds of instruments made of different metals grow there. Some are of silver and some of gold. The garden is most awesome and amazing, but it is impossible to enter it. As soon as anyone goes inside, he immediately starts being chased. They chase him and he screams, but he has no idea what is going on and does not see who is chasing him. This way they pursue him until they drive him out of the garden and force him to flee. Let us see if you are sufficiently wise to be able to enter this garden.”

“Do they beat the person who enters?” he asked.

“The main thing , ” they replied, “is that they chase him. He has no idea at all who or what is chasing him, and he flees in terrible panic.” This was what people who had entered the garden had told them.

The king's true son approached the garden and saw that it had a wall around it. However, the gate was open and there were no guards, since obviously such a garden did not need to be guarded. As he looked around he saw a statue of a man standing beside the garden. Above the statue was a tablet stating that this man had been king hundreds of years earlier and that peace had reigned in his time. Prior to this king there had been wars, as there were after him, but in the days of this king there was peace.

He pondered the matter. Having acquired the ability to understand one thing from another, he understood that everything depended on this man. On entering the garden, as soon as one began to be pursued, there was no need to flee at all. One had only to stand by the side of this man to be saved. Moreover, if they were to take this man and stand him inside this garden, everyone would then be able to enter peaceably into the garden. The king's true son could understand all this because of his ability to deduce one thing from another .

He entered the garden, and as soon as they began chasing him, he immediately went to stand by this man who stood outside next to the garden. This way he was able to leave in peace without being harmed at all. Other people who had entered the garden had fled in terrible panic as soon as they were chased. They were hurt and injured because of their very panic. But by going to stand by this man he left in peace and tranquility. The ministers watched, amazed that he had left safely .

The king's true son then gave instructions to take this man and place him inside the garden. They did so, and then all the ministers were able to enter the garden and leave safely without coming to any harm.

“Even so,” said the ministers, “despite the fact that we have seen you perform such a feat, it would not be proper to make you king because of only one feat. We will give you one more test.

“There is a throne that came from the old king. The throne is very high. By its side stand all kinds of animals and birds carved out of wood. In front of the throne stands a bed. By the bed stands a table, and on the table stands a lamp. Extending from the throne in all directions are well-trodden, walled pathways. But no-one has the least understanding of the connection between the throne and these pathways.

“After a certain distance along these pathways, by the side of one of them stands a golden lion. If any man approaches that lion, it opens its mouth and devours him. The path then continues beyond where this lion stands. After a certain distance along the second pathway that extends from the throne in a different direction, there stands another kind of beast – a leopard made of a different metal, which it is also impossible to approach. Afterwards the path extends further. The same applies to all the other paths. They spread through the entire country, but nobody understands the purpose of the throne or the objects standing by it or these paths. Your test will be if you can understand the purpose of this throne.”

They showed him the throne and he saw that it was very high indeed. He went up to the throne and examined it. He realized that this throne was made of the same wood as the instrument which the man of the forest had given him. He noticed that a certain rose was missing from the top of the throne. If the throne had this rose, it would have the same power as the instrument that had the power to play when placed on any animal, beast or bird.

He carried on looking, and saw that the rose missing from the top of the throne was lying on the ground . It would be necessary to lift it up and place it on top so that the throne would have the power of the instrument. For the previous king had devised everything with the utmost wisdom so that no-one would be able to understand it until the arrival of an outstanding sage who was able to change everything around and realign it properly.

He understood that it would be necessary to move the bed a little from its present position, and so too the table and the lamp. Likewise the birds and animals needed to be moved around. A bird would have to be taken from one place and moved to another, and the same applied to the other birds . For the king had made everything with the utmost wisdom and subtlety so that no-one would understand it, until a sage came who could deduce how to order everything properly. The lion standing by the pathway extending from the throne had to be moved elsewhere, as did all the other animals.

The king's true son gave instructions to arrange everything properly – to take the rose from below and fix it up above, and to arrange everything else in the proper order. Then they all began singing the most amazing song and all the different things performed their proper function.

The king's true son became king. Then he said to the maid's true son: “Now I understand that I am the king's true son and you are the maid's true son.”


Once there was a prayer leader who was constantly engaged in prayer, songs and praise to God. He lived far from any inhabited area, but he would regularly visit the towns and villages. He would enter the home of somebody – usually a poor person or someone of little status – and talk to him heart to heart about the purpose of this world. For the truth is that there is no other purpose in life than to devote ourselves to serving God every day and to spend our time in prayer, songs and praises to God.

The prayer leader would speak to the person very inspiringly for a long time, until his words enter ed his ears and the person agree d to join him. As soon as he was willing, the prayer leader would take him to his chosen place far away from the city. It had a flowing river and trees and fruits. They lived off the fruit. As for clothing, the prayer leader didn't mind what they wore.

He would regularly go into the city to persuade people to serve God and follow his path of prayer. He would take whoever was willing to follow him to his place outside the city, and there they engaged in nothing but prayer, songs and praises to God, confessions, fasting, self-discipline and repentance. He would give them books he had on these subjects.

They continued following these practices until some of the people he had brought there were also fit to draw others to serve God. Eventually he would give one or two permission to go into the city to bring people closer to God.

The prayer leader was constantly busy drawing people closer and taking them from the city. He began to make an impact and the matter became public knowledge. Suddenly people started noticing that someone or other had gone missing from the city and no-one knew where they were. Somebody's son or the like would go missing and no-one knew where they were. Until it became known that a prayer leader was going around persuading people to devote themselves to serving God.

However, it was impossible to recognize or catch him, because this prayer leader acted very cleverly. He used to change the way he looked, and he would appear to each person differently. To one he looked like a poor man, to another like a merchant, and to someone else he would appear in a different guise.

Sometimes, when speaking with people, he saw that he could not succeed in his purpose . He would intentionally mislead them so they would not understand his real goal. The truth was that his only intention was to bring people to God. But if he saw he was accomplishing nothing with someone, he would steer the conversation in a different direction, making it impossible for the person to understand his real intention.

The Prayer Leader was making an impact and people were on the lookout for him, but it was impossible to catch him. He and his men lived far away from any human habitation, engaged in nothing but prayer, songs and praises to God, confessions, self-discipline and repentance.

This Prayer Leader had the ability to provide each one with what he needed. If he saw that one of his men thought he needed to serve God wearing golden clothes, he would provide him with them. Conversely he would sometimes attract a wealthy person and take him away from civilization, and he understood that this rich man needed to go about in cheap, torn clothing. He would lead each one according to what he knew he needed.

In the eyes of the people he brought to God, a fast or a great penance was more precious than all the pleasures in the world. They had more pleasure from fasting and repentance than all the pleasures in the world…
The Country of Wealth

Now there was a certain very wealthy country where all the people were rich. However, they had the strangest customs. For them, everything depended on wealth. Each person's status depended on how much money he had. Someone who possessed a given sum of so many thousands or tens of thousands had a certain rank, while a person who possessed a different amount had a different rank. Their entire class system depended on how much money each person possessed. The one who possessed a specified sum of so many thousands and tens of thousands was king.

They all had flags corresponding to how much money they had. Someone who possessed a given sum had one flag and the corresponding social rank as indicated by that flag. A person with a different sum had a different flag and status, depending on the value of his property. They had laid down how much wealth a person had to possess in order to have a given flag and rank. Each person's rank depended on how much money he had in accordance with their rules.

They had instituted that a person having only a limited sum would be a mere human, whereas if he possessed less he was an animal or a bird. They had different kinds of beasts and birds. Someone possessing no more than a given sum would be labeled a human lion while others were considered as different species of animals or birds, because anyone who had very little property was considered a mere animal or bird. For them the main thing was how much money a person possessed, and his rank and status depended on that alone.

They also agreed that they wanted to have planets and stars. Whoever possessed a specified sum would be a planet, because, having so much money, he was thought to possess the same power as that planet. There is a planet that causes gold to grow: where gold-dust is found on earth, the reason is because that planet makes the earth produce gold. Therefore gold ultimately derives from the planets and stars. If a person had so much gold, they thought that he must have the power of that planet and must therefore be a planet.

They also decided to have constellations. Somebody who possessed a specified sum would be a constellation. They also appointed those possessing enormous wealth as angels, until eventually they all agreed that they should also have gods. Whoever possessed a specified sum of so many multi-millions was to be a god. Since God had blessed him with so much wealth, he himself must be a god.

They also came to the conclusion that , in order not to become defiled, they should not live in the air of this world or mix with other people . . Everyone else in the world was impure in their eyes. They therefore decided to seek out the highest mountains in the world and live there, so as to be above the air of this world. They sent out men in search of the highest mountains, and when they found some very high mountains, all the people of the country migrated there.

Different groups of them lived on each mountain. They built huge fortified walls around each mountain and dug deep moats in order to make it impossible for anyone to get there. Each mountain had only one secret path so that no stranger could ever reach them. They posted guards at a distance from each mountain so that no stranger could even get near. They lived there on these mountains practicing their customs, and they had numerous gods depending on how much money each possessed.

Since the main thing for them was money and great wealth made a person a god, they were very worried about murder and robbery, because people could kill and steal in order to become gods. Nevertheless, they said that since anyone who possessed very great wealth was a god, he would have a protective power against robbery and murder.

They instituted services and sacrifices. They used to make offerings and pray to their gods. They also sacrificed humans. People would sacrifice themselves to their god in order to become incorporated in him so as to then be reincarnated as a person of wealth. For their main religion was money. They held services and offered sacrifices and incense to their gods – the owners of great wealth.

Even so, the country was plagued with murder and robbery, because those who did not believe in the services resorted to killing and stealing in order to gain wealth. This was because the most important thing in life for them was money, since money buys every kind of food and clothing, and man needs money for his livelihood. This was why money was the foundation of their belief and religion.

They made every effort to ensure that they should never be lacking in money at all, since money was their god. They considered it essential to try to increase their wealth by import ing wealth from elsewhere. Traders went out from there to other countries in order to earn profits and bring more wealth back into their country.

They certainly strictly prohibited the giving of charity, since charity diminishes the wealth with which God blesses a person, whereas the main thing for them was to possess wealth. Since charity cuts into a person's wealth, they strictly prohibited giving charity.

They also had officers whose task was to check each person to see if he had as much money as he claimed. Everyone had constantly to display his wealth in order to maintain the rank he had been awarded on the basis of his wealth.

Sometimes an animal might become a man or a man an animal. If a person lost his money he turned from being a man into a penniless animal. Conversely, when a person made a profit, he turned from an animal into a man. The same applied to all the other ranks as determined by their wealth.

They had pictures and portraits of their gods – the owners of enormous wealth. They all surrounded themselves with these pictures and used to kiss and embrace them since this was their religion and belief...

Some of the Prayer Leader's virtuous followers had visited this country of wealth, and on their return they told the Prayer Leader how deeply enmeshed the people of that country were in the lust for wealth… The Prayer Leader had great pity on them and decided to go there in person to try to persuade them to give up this error…
The Hand

The Prayer Leader related:

The king I was with possessed a hand – a picture of a hand with five fingers and all the lines found on a hand. This hand was a map of all the worlds and everything that has ever or will ever exist, from the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth until the very end and afterwards – everything was pictured on this hand.

The lines of the hand formed pictures of how each of the different worlds exists in all its details, similar to the way they would be marked on a map. The lines of the hand formed letters, just as there are letters on a map by the side of each different thing to indicate what it is – a certain city or a river or the like. Similarly, the lines of the hand formed letters by each thing to explain what it is.

All the details of all the different countries, towns, rivers, bridges, mountains and so on were marked on the hand with these lines. By the side of each one were letters indicating what it was. All the people in each country and everything that happened to them were all marked there. Also written there were all the paths leading from country to country and from place to place….

Also marked on the hand was the path leading from world to world. There is a path by which one can go from earth up to heaven. The only reason why people cannot go up to heaven is that they do not know the way. But the hand showed the way to go up to heaven, and it marked all the paths from world to world. Elijah went up to heaven by one path, which was inscribed on the hand, while Moses our Teacher went up to heaven by a different path, which was also inscribed there. Enoch went up to heaven by yet another path, and that too was inscribed there. So it was from world to world: everything was marked in the lines of the hand.

Also marked on the hand was how each individual thing existed at the time of the creation of the world, how it is now and how it will be afterwards. Thus Sodom was marked there as it was when it was inhabited prior to its destruction. The destruction of Sodom was also pictured, and so was Sodom as it is after its destruction. The hand was marked with everything that ever was, is or will be….

Once there was a poor man who used to make his living by digging clay and selling it.

One day he was digging in the mud when suddenly he found a jewel. It must have been worth a fortune! The Clay-digger had no idea how much it was worth, so he went to a jeweler to have it valued.

The jeweler told him it was worth so much that there was no-one in their country with enough money to buy it! He would have to travel to London , the capital city. But being poor, the man did not have the money to make the journey. He went and sold everything he had and went from house to house asking for contributions, until he had sufficient money to journey to the port.

He wanted to board the ship but he did not have enough money for the fare. He went to the captain and showed him the precious stone. The captain immediately took him onto the ship with great flourish, saying, “You're a sure bet!” The captain gave him a special first class cabin with every luxury as if he was a person of very high rank.

The Clay-digger's cabin had a window overlooking the sea. He would sit there enjoying himself immensely rejoicing over the diamond, especially at mealtimes, because joy and good spirits are medically proven aids to easy digestion!

One day he sat down to eat and placed the diamond on the table in front of him so that he could enjoy it. After his meal, he took a nap. While he was asleep, the cabin-boy came in and took the tablecloth with all the crumbs, and without even noticing the diamond, shook everything into the sea!

When the Clay-digger awoke he realized what had happened. He almost went out of his mind with worry and anguish. What was he to do? The captain was a pirate who would murder him for the boat fare.

Still, the Clay-digger pretended to be happy – as if he was quite unaware that anything had happened.

Every day during the voyage the captain used to talk to him for several hours. He did the same today. The Clay-digger made such a show of being happy that the captain didn't notice anything unusual.

The captain said to him, “I know you are clever and honest. I want to buy a large quantity of grain to sell in London – I can make a big profit. My fear is that I will be accused of embezzling from the royal treasury. Let the purchase be made in your name and I will reward you handsomely.” The Clay-digger felt it was a good idea and he agreed.

As soon as they arrived in London , the captain died and everything was left in the hands of the Clay-digger! The cargo was in fact worth many times more than the diamond!

The truth is that the diamond did not belong to the Clay-digger – and the proof is that he lost it. The grain did belong to him – and the proof is that he kept it. And he only gained what was his because he forced himself to keep happy.


Once there was a Jew at the court of the Sultan of Turkey whom the Sultan loved and esteemed more highly than all his ministers of state. Every day he used to call him to his palace to spend time with him alone. The ministers of state were very jealous of the Jew, and tried to think up ways to discredit him in the eyes of the Sultan and ruin him completely.

Among the ministers was a certain Pasha known as Kaptzin Pasha. He hated the Jew much more than all the other ministers, but he tried to make him think he really loved him. Every day he tried to devise ways to achieve his true desire – to discredit him in the eyes of the Sultan.

One day Kaptzin Pasha approached the Jew and slyly began telling him how he had been with the Sultan…

“And I heard him say with his own mouth how much he loves you. But one thing bothers him. When you speak with him, he cannot stand the bad odor wafting out of your mouth. Of course he can't do without you, so this smell causes him great suffering.”

Kaptzin Pasha continued: “Therefore my advice is that every time you come before the Sultan, you should hold a scented handkerchief in front of your mouth. This way the Sultan will not smell the bad odor coming from your mouth , and you won't fall foul of the Sultan.”

In his innocence the Jew believed what the Pasha had said and decided to follow his advice.

Next the Pasha went to the Sultan and told him that he had heard the Jew talking about his terrible suffering. “…Because every time he speaks with the Sultan, he finds a bad smell emanating from the Sultan's mouth.”

“The Jew has therefore decided,” continued the Pasha, “that when he comes to speak with you, my lord the Sultan, he will hold a scented handkerchief in front of his mouth so as not to smell the bad odor from the Sultan's mouth. The sign that what I am saying is true will be that tomorrow, when he comes to speak with you, you will see with your own eyes that he will be holding a handkerchief over his mouth.”

On hearing this, the Sultan became extremely angry and said to the Pasha, “If I see that you are right, I will utterly destroy him.”

Sure enough, the following day the Jew came to the Sultan holding a handkerchief over his mouth, just as the Pasha had advised him, since he believed what he had been told . Seeing this, the Sultan took it as proof that the Pasha had told him the truth. The Sultan immediately wrote a letter to his Chief Executioner saying: “The person who brings you this letter must be thrown at once into the furnace where they cast those condemned to death by burning.”

The Sultan closed and sealed the letter and said to the Jew, “I would like you to deliver this letter personally to the Chief Executioner in such-and-such a place.”

The Jew took the letter and promised the Sultan he would carry out his instructions. He had no idea what was written in the letter and he went home.

Now this Jew meticulously observed the mitzvah of circumcising Jewish boys. Whenever he was invited to perform a circumcision he would not allow any obstacle to stand in his way, because this mitzvah was very precious in his eyes.

God wanted to save His faithful friend and so He arranged that on the very day that the Jew was supposed to deliver the Sultan ' s letter to the Chief Executioner, a man came from a certain village to invite the Jewish minister back to the village in order to circumcise his son. Since the Jew never under any circumstances missed an opportunity to perform this mitzvah, he started thinking: “How can I carry out the Sultan's instructions to deliver his letter?”

God arranged that at just that moment the Pasha came towards him. The Jew told the Pasha that he had come from the Sultan, who had given him a letter to deliver to the officer in question. However, today God had sent him the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of circumcision.

“And my custom is never under any circumstances to pass up this mitzvah,” said the Jew. “Therefore I would like to ask you to take the letter and deliver it.”

The Pasha was delighted, because now he would be able to make further accusations against the Jew for not having carried out the Sultan ' s wishes with respect to the letter. The Pasha took the letter from his hand and delivered it into the hands of the executioner, who immediately seized the Pasha and threw him into the fiery furnace. He was burned up just as he deserved in accordance with the divine law of “measure for measure”.

The Jew knew nothing at all about what had happened to the Pasha. The following day he went again to the Sultan, who was very surprised to see him.

“Have you not yet delivered the letter I gave you for that officer?” he asked.

“My lord the Sultan,” replied the Jew, “I entrusted the letter to Kaptzin Pasha to deliver to the officer, because God sent me an opportunity to perform the mitzvah of circumcision, and it is my custom never to pass up this mitzvah.”

The Sultan realized it was no mere chance that the Pasha, who had tried to discredit the Jew, had been burned to death. The Sultan immediately asked the Jew, “Why do you hold a scented handkerchief over your mouth when you speak to me?”

“The Pasha advised me to do this,” said the Jew, “because he told me that he heard you say you cannot stand the odor from my mouth.”

The Sultan then told the Jew how the Pasha had tried to discredit him. “He said that you cannot stand the odor coming from my mouth!”

The Sultan told the Jew what was written in the letter he had given him, and said to him:“Now I know that God rules on earth and saves His dear ones from all evil. What the Pasha plotted to do to you was done to him, and God repaid his evil to his face.”

From that time on the Jew was more esteemed than ever in the eyes of the Sultan – more than all his other ministers – and he gave him the greatest respect and honor.


Once a Jew and a German banded together to go around begging. The Jew taught the German how to pretend to be a Jew (since German and Yiddish are quite similar). This way the Jews, who are kind by nature, would help him.

Pesach was coming, so the Jew taught the German how to behave when invited to someone's home for the Pesach Seder. He explained to him that first they would make the Kiddush and then wash their hands… The one thing that the Jew forgot to mention was the eating of the bitter herbs.

When the German came to the Seder he was ravenous, not having eaten for the whole day. He was gleefully anticipating eating all the good things the Jew had told him about. But at first, all they gave him was a tiny piece of vegetable dipped in saltwater for Karpas, and they carried on reading the Haggadah.

The German was desperately longing for the meal. He was delighted when they started eating the Matzah. But all of a sudden they gave him the Maror, which was terribly bitter in his mouth.

The German thought this was the entire meal, and all they were going to eat was the Maror. He immediately ran out, bitter and hungry, thinking to himself that the Jews were truly cursed. “After all that ceremony, this is what they give to eat?!?” He returned to the synagogue and went to sleep.

Later on the Jew arrived, his face beaming, fully satisfied from eating and drinking. “How was your Seder?” he asked. The German angrily told him what happened.

“Oh you stupid German,” said the Jew. “If you had only waited just a little longer you would have enjoyed the best meal, exactly like me.”

So it is in serving God. After all a person's efforts and exertions to draw closer to God, he is subjected to a little bitterness – because the purification of the body comes through bitterness. The person thinks there will never be anything except bitterness, and immediately runs away.

If he would just be willing to wait a while and endure this little bitterness in order to purify the body, he would later experience every kind of vitality and delight. In serving God, first one experiences the bitterness of the purification of the body, but afterwards one enjoys the vitality.


A man from a certain town once dreamed that in Vienna , under a bridge, there lay buried treasure. He travel ed to Vienna and stood there by the bridge trying to think what to do. During the day it would be impossible to dig because of the people.

As he stood there, a soldier passed by and asked, “What are you standing thinking about?” The man thought it would be best to tell him the truth. Perhaps he would help him and they could share the proceeds. He told him the whole story.

“Jews only think about dreams!” cried the soldier. “I also had a dream, and in my dream I too saw a treasure. It was in a particular house belonging to a particular person.”

The soldier mentioned the very name of the man's city and the name of the man himself. “There in the cellar lies a great treasure, and I want to go there and take it.”

The man returned home, dug in his cellar and found the treasure.

“Now I know that the treasure is with me!” he said. “Except that to find out about it, I had to travel to Vienna .”

So it is in serving God. The treasure is inside each person. But to find out about the treasure, one must travel to the Tzaddik.


Once the king's son went mad. He thought he was a turkey. He felt compelled to sit under the table without any clothes on, pulling at bits of bread and bones like a turkey. None of the doctors could do anything to help him or cure him, and they gave up in despair. The king was very sad...

Until a Wise Man came and said “I can cure him.”

What did the Wise Man do? He took off all his clothes, and sat down naked under the table next to the king's son, and also pulled at crumbs and bones.

The Prince asked him, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“And what are you doing here?” replied the Wise Man.

“I am a turkey,” said the Prince.

“Well I'm also a turkey,” said the Wise Man.

The two of them sat there together like this for some time, until they were used to one another.

Then the Wise Man gave a sign, and they threw them shirts. The Wise Man-Turkey said to the king's son, “Do you think a turkey can't wear a shirt? You can wear a shirt and still be a turkey.” The two of them put on shirts.

After a while he gave another sign, and they threw them some trousers. Again the Wise Man said, “Do you think if you wear trousers you can't be a turkey?” They put on the trousers.

One by one they put on the rest of their clothes in the same way.

Afterwards, the Wise Man gave a sign and they put down human food from the table. The Wise Man said to the Prince, “Do you think that if you eat good food you can't be a turkey any more? You can eat this food and still be a turkey.” They ate.

Then he said to him, “Do you think a turkey has to sit under the table? You can be a turkey and sit up at the table.”

This was how the Wise Man dealt with the Prince, until in the end he cured him completely.


A king once told his prime minister, who was also his good friend: “I see in the stars that everyone who eats from this year's grain harvest is going to go mad. What do you think we should do?”

The prime minister suggested they should put aside a stock of good grain so they would not have to eat from the tainted grain.

“But it will be impossible to set aside enough good grain for everyone,” the king objected. “And if we put away a stock for just the two of us, we will be the only ones who will be sane. Everyone else will be mad, and they will look at us and think that we are the mad ones.

“No. We too will have to eat from this year's grain. But we will both put a sign on our heads. I will look at your forehead, and you will look at mine. And when we see the sign, at least we will remember that we are mad.”


There was once a boy who left his father to spend time in other lands. After a long time away, he eventually came home to his father. He boasted that while he had been away, he had learned a great art: how to make a chandelier.

He told his father to assemble all the expert chandelier-makers so that he could demonstrate his proficiency in this art. The father did so, gathering all the master chandelier-makers to witness his son's greatness and see what he had accomplished all this time that he had been away in other lands.

The son brought out a chandelier that he had made, but they all thought it very poor. His father approached them all asking them to tell him the truth, and they were forced to admit that it was very poor.

The son was still boasting: “Have you seen the wisdom of my art?” His father told him that not everyone saw it as being so beautiful.

“On the contrary!” replied the son. “This is precisely how I have demonstrated my greatness, because I have shown them all that they lack. This chandelier contains the deficiencies of each and every one of the master craftsmen assembled here. Don't you see? One of them considers this part of my chandelier to be very poor but he finds a different part very beautiful. Another craftsman finds the exact opposite. The very part that his friend considers poor, he sees as being exceptionally beautiful, while he considers a different part to be poor. So it is with all of them. What is bad in the eyes of one is beautiful in the eyes of another, and vice versa.

“I made this chandelier entirely out of their deficiencies – to show them all that they all lack perfection and that each one has some deficiency. For what is beautiful in the eyes of one is a deficiency in the eyes of his friend. But if I want, I can make a perfect lamp.”

If people knew all of a thing's shortcomings and deficiencies, they could understand the nature of that thing even if they had never even seen it.

“Great are God's works!” No one person is like any other. All forms were included in Adam: the very word Adam includes all the different human forms. Similarly, the word “light” includes all the different light-sources that exist. The same applies to all the different things in creation. Even among the highest of the high, not one is like any other…

This world contains wisdom that people could live off without even having to eat or drink…


There was once a man who did not believe in what people say about joker-demons from the side of evil who sometimes trick people, as is known to have happened on various occasions.

One night a joker-demon came to him and invited him to step outside. The man went outside and the joker showed him a fine horse that he wanted to sell. The man examined the horse and saw that it was indeed a very fine horse.

“How much do you want?” he asked.

“Four rubles,” replied the joker.

The man saw that it was easily worth eight rubles, because it was a particularly good horse. He purchased the horse from the joker for four rubles and was satisfied that he had found a great bargain.

The following day he took out the horse to sell. Some people were interested and offered him a certain sum of money. But he said to himself, “Presumably if they are offering me such a sum, it must be worth double” – and he did not accept.

The man led the horse on further and some people offered him twice the previous offer, just as he had wanted. But he said to himself: “Presumably it is worth at least double this price.”

He led the horse further along until its price reached thousands. But the man would not agree to sell it to anyone. No matter how much anyone offered, he said, “Presumably it is worth at least double.”

Eventually there was no-one who could afford the horse except the king. The man took it to the king, who was willing to pay an enormous sum for it. Everyone said it was an excellent offer, but the man refused to accept it , saying to himself: “Presumably it is worth more.” Thus the king too did not buy the horse.

The man left the king and went to water the horse. There was a pump that people could use to get water for their animals. All of a sudden the horse jumped into the pump and disappeared without a trace – or so it appeared, because the whole episode with the horse was a trick by joker demons.

The man' s screams and shouts drew a crowd around him.

“Why are you shouting ?” they asked.

He replied that his horse had jumped into the pump. They gave him a sound beating, because he seemed insane. The hole of the pump was very narrow. How could a horse jump into it?

He saw how they were beating him, thinking he was crazy. He wanted to run away, but as he tried to escape, the horse suddenly stuck its head out of the pump. Once again the man started screaming , “Aaaagh! Aaaagh!” – because he was convinced it was his horse.

Again a crowd gathered around him and started beating him a second time because he seemed crazy. Again he wanted to flee, but as soon as he tried to escape, there was the horse sticking its head out of the pump. He started screaming again and the people gathered around again and beat him…

Evil tricks people time and time again with absolutely nothing – complete falsehood that contains no real substance at all. The person is tempted to follow evil, each time thinking he will satisfy his desires and gain more. Time after time he chases after these lies.

Until suddenly they disappear and all his desires vanish , as happens at times. For a time the desires subside. But then, when the person wants to distance himself from them completely, they return and stick out their head, making him pursue them again. This keeps on happening: as soon as they stick out their head, he continues pursuing them… Understand this well.


A certain king built himself a palace and summoned two men to decorate it for him. The king divided the palace into two parts, putting one man in charge of one half and the second in charge of the other. The king set a time limit within which they had to complete their work.

The two men went off. One of them struggled hard to teach himself the art of painting and plastering as best as he possibly could, and he did so well that he was able to paint his part of the palace with very beautiful and highly unusual murals of animals and birds and the like. Everything was executed with wondrous beauty.

However, the second man paid no attention to the king's command and did nothing whatever about it. As the date for the completion of the work approached, the first man had already finished his side in all its beauty and wonder. The second man then began to look at himself and ask what he had done! He had wasted his time on futility and nothingness without giving a thought to the king's instructions.

He tried to think what to do. He realized that in the few days left before the time expired, it would be impossible even to teach himself to paint let alone actually paint his part of the palace. The closing date was almost upon them. But he had an idea. He plastered his entire portion with a kind of shiny pitch. He plastered this dark pitch over his entire section, and the pitch was like a mirror: it reflected everything, just like a mirror. He then hung a curtain in front of his section to act as a partition between it and that of the other man.

When the appointed time came, the king went to inspect the work the men had done in the allotted time. He examined the first side with its amazingly beautiful paintings executed with exceptional skill. However, the other side was covered with a curtain, behind which everything was dark: nothing whatsoever was visible.

Then the second man stood up and drew aside the curtain. The sun was shining, and because of the pitch, which reflected everything like a mirror, all those remarkable paintings were visible on his side too. All the painted birds and other wondrous forms painted in the first man's side could be seen in the second man's side as well.

Everything the king had seen in the first man's section he also saw in this man's section. Not only that, but even all the precious objects and furnishings which the king had brought into the palace were all visible in the second man's side as well. This found favor in the eyes of the king.


There was a certain king who thought to himself: “Who in the world has fewer worries than me? I have everything good: I am the king and the ruler…”

He decided to investigate if this was true. He went out at night and stood behind each house to hear what people were talking about. All he heard was each person's worries. One had problems in his shop. At a different house he heard someone talking about a problem that needed government assistance. Each and every one had his own worries.

One night the king saw a very low house. It was like a cellar built half underground with windows at ground level. The roof was broken and sagging. There the king saw a man sitting playing his fiddle. The king had to listen very carefully just to hear the music. The man was very happy. He had a jug of wine and various foods in front of him, and he was very happy. He was full of joy, with no worries whatever.

The king (who was in disguise) went into the house and asked the man how he was doing. The man invited the stranger to sit down, and the king saw the jug of wine and the various foods, and how the man was simply full of joy. He served his guest a drink and drank a toast to the king. Out of affection for this man, the king also drank. Afterwards he lay down to sleep, and he could see that the man was completely happy with no worries at all.

In the morning the king rose and so did the man. He accompanied the king out of the house.

“From where do you get all this?” asked the king.

“I know how to repair things,” replied the man. “I can repair anything that is broken. I am not able to make anything from scratch, but if something gets broken I can repair it. Each morning I go out and repair a few things. Then, when I've earned five or six shillings, I purchase all this food and drink for myself.

When the king heard this, he said to himself: “I'm going to spoil it for him.”

The king went back to the palace, took off his disguise and issued a decree forbidding anyone who had something in need of repair from giving it to somebody else to repair. Either he would have to repair it himself or buy a new one.

That morning the man went out looking for people with things in need of repair, but they told him the king had decreed that it was forbidden to give anything to someone else to repair. The man was very upset about this, but he had trust in God.

As he was walking, he noticed a householder chopping wood.

“Why do you have to chop the wood?” he asked. “Is that fitting for someone of your status?”

“I tried to find someone to chop wood for me,” replied the householder, “but I couldn't find anyone, so I was forced to chop it myself.”

“Give it to me,” said the man, “and I will chop it for you.”

He chopped the wood, and the householder paid him a shilling. The man saw that this was a good way to earn money and he went to chop more wood, until he had earned six shillings. He again bought his entire meal – and it really was a meal – and he was very happy.

That night the king again peered in through the window of the man's house and saw him sitting there with his food and drink before him in a very happy mood. The king went into the house and , as on the previous night, he slept there. In the morning the man arose and accompanied the king out.

“From where do you get this?” asked the king. “To buy this you need money!”

“I used to repair anything that was broken , ” replied the man. “But the king passed a decree prohibiting giving anything out to someone else for repair. So I chopped wood until I earned enough money for this.”

The king left him and issued a decree that nobody must give their wood to anyone else to chop.

When the man approached someone offering to chop his wood, the person told him that the king had issued a decree not to give anybody wood to chop. The man was very upset about this because he had no money. But he had trust in God. As he was walking, he noticed someone cleaning out a stable.

“Is it fitting for you to have to clean out this stable?” he asked.

“I looked for someone to clean it out but I couldn't find anyone, so I have to do it myself.”

“Let me,” said the man, “I will clean it!”

He set to work and cleaned out the whole stable, and the owner gave him two shillings. He went and cleaned more stables until he had earned six shillings. Again he bought a whole feast and went home. The meal was a meal , and he was very happy.

Again the king came to look, and once again saw that everything was as it had been before. The king went inside and stayed the night. In the morning the man accompanied the king out. The king asked him how he had managed, and he explained.

The king issued a decree making it forbidd en to employ anyone else to clean out one's stable. That morning the man went in search of stables to clean, but people told him that the king had passed a decree forbidding this.

The man went to the king's recruiting officer to sign up as a soldier in the army. Some soldiers are forcibly conscripted for army service, but others are hired soldiers who serve for pay.

The man went to the recruiting officer to sign up for pay. However, he made a condition with the recruiting officer that he was not signing up permanently but only for a while, and that he was to receive his pay each morning for that day's work. The officer immediately dressed him in army uniform, hung a sword at his side and sent him where he was needed.

Towards evening, after he had completed all his duties, he threw off his uniform and went to buy his whole meal – and the meal was a meal! He went home and he was very happy. Again the king went to look and saw that everything was ready in front of him and that he was very happy. The king went into the man's house and lay down. In the morning he asked him how he had managed, and the man told him what he had done.

The king summoned the recruiting officer. He instructed him not to dare pay wages to anyone that day. That morning, when the man went to the recruiting officer to collect his day's pay, the officer refused to give it to him.

“But I made it a condition with you to pay me every day,” the man protested.

“The king has decreed not to pay anyone today,” replied the recruiting officer. All the man's pleas were of no avail .

“I will be happy to pay you tomorrow for two days,” said the officer, “but today it is impossible to pay.”

What did the man do? He broke off the blade of his sword from its handle, replacing it with a piece of wood. When the sword was in its sheath this was not in the least visible from the outside. The man pawned the blade of the sword. With the money he received he bought the whole meal – and the meal was a meal!

The king arrived and saw that the man was completely happy, as before. Again the king entered his house and lay down. He asked him how he had managed, and the man told him the whole story – how he had been forced to break the blade of the sword from the handle, and how he had pawned it in order to buy what he needed for the meal.

“And afterwards, when I receive the pay for that day, I will redeem the blade and repair the sword. Nobody will be able to see a thing because I can repair anything that is broken, so there will be no loss to the king.

The king went to his palace and called the recruiting officer. He told him that a certain person had been condemned to death. He instructed the officer to call the particular soldier he had hired and to order him – and only him – to cut off the condemned man's head.

The officer summoned the man, who came before the king (now dressed in his royal clothes). The king gave instructions for all his ministers to assemble in order to witness this comic spectacle exposing a man who had stuck a piece of wood in his sword in place of the blade. The man came before the king and fell at his feet.

“My lord the king, why have I been summoned?” he asked.

“In order to cut off this condemned criminal's head,” replied the king.

The man pleaded that he had never in his life shed blood. He begged the king to call someone else for this.

The king answered that he and nobody else was obliged to kill the man.

“Is the verdict so clear-cut?” asked the man. “Perhaps it is not so clear that he deserves to die. I have never shed blood in my life. How could I shed blood when it is not clear that the prisoner deserves to die?”

The king replied that there was no shadow of a doubt that the prisoner deserved to die. “And you and nobody else must execute him.”

The man saw that he could not prevail over the king, so he turned to God and said:

“Eternal God: Never in my life have I shed blood. If this man is not guilty, let the blade of my sword turn into wood!”

He took hold of the sword and drew it from the sheath, and everybody saw that it was made of wood. Everybody laughed heartily, and the king saw that he was an excellent man and sent him off in peace.

Chayey Moharan (manuscript)


It is very bad to be sad all the time, and one should do everything possible to avoid it. Try to inject enthusiasm into your life. Encourage yourself by remembering that every single movement and gesture you make toward s serving God is very precious in His eyes, even if you advance no more than a hairsbreadth. In this world, the World of Action, man dwells in a body. This makes every single forward movement extremely difficult, and that is why each one is so precious in God's eyes.

It is told that a certain Tzaddik was overcome with a terrible sense of sadness and heaviness. It is very hard indeed when sadness and heaviness take hold of a Tzaddik, because they attack him ever more strongly.

Eventually this Tzaddik fell into such a mood of deep discouragement and heaviness that he found it literally impossible even to move . He wanted to encourage himself and pull himself up, but nothing could make him happy or inspired. No matter what he tried to be happy about, the Evil One found some reason to make him depressed about it. Eventually he could find nothing to be happy about, because whenever he tried to be happy about something , he found in it something to make him depressed.

Finally he started trying to make himself happy by dwelling on the fact that “He did not make me a heathen.” This is certainly a reason to feel immeasurable joy, because the vast gulf between the holiness of even the simplest Jew and the impurity of the heathens is beyond all measure.

When a person thinks of God's kindness to him because “He did not make me a heathen,” he should feel ever-increasing joy – a joy that is not mixed with any sadness.

When someone tries to make himself happy over a personal achievement of some kind, he can always find a reason to be unhappy. No matter what he may have achieved, he will always find shortcomings and deficiencies which stop him from pulling himself up and feeling perfectly happy.

However, not to have been created a heathen is a gift of God alone. God Himself did it – He had mercy on the person and did not make him a heathen. How could anything be lacking in this joy since it is exclusively the work of God? Regardless of what kind of Jew the person may be, there is certainly an immeasurable difference between himself and the heathens.

The sad Tzaddik started making himself feel happy about this. He started rejoicing and raising himself little by little. With each passing moment he felt ever greater joy… until he reached such a level of joy that he attained the joy Moses experienced when he ascended to receive the Torah.

As the Tzaddik raised himself and rejoiced, he flew thousands and thousands of miles through the upper worlds. Suddenly, he took a look at himself and saw that he was far, far away from the place where he had been at first. He felt great anguish over the thought that he might fall somewhere and the local people would be very surprised that he had suddenly disappeared.

A Tzaddik always wants to walk modestly, and his happiness began to subside, because happiness has its limits. It starts and then it comes to an end. When his happiness began to subside, it subsided little by little, and he descended little by little.

As he descended from the place where he had flown in his ecstasy, he did not return to his original place by the path he took when ascending . Rather, he dropped straight down from where he was. He was therefore very surprised to discover that he had returned to his original place.

Understand this well: When he looked at himself, he saw that he was actually in the very place in which he had been at first. He had not moved from there at all, except perhaps by a slight hairsbreadth – for no human can measure anything so exactly. God alone knows.

The Tzaddik found it amazing that he had flown so far through so many different worlds, yet here below he had not moved from his place at all. This was a lesson to him that even the tiniest movement one makes to edge forward and advance slightly in this world, even if less than a hairsbreadth, is so precious in God's eyes that even millions of miles and millions of worlds cannot compare with it.

This may be understood when we view this material world as the center point of the planetary spheres. All the more so in relation to the higher spiritual worlds, the entire earth is certainly considered as no more than a tiny point.

From this point you can draw as many lines as you wish in any direction. Where the lines start extending out of the point, they are all very close to one another. But the further they extend from the point, the further apart they become. When the lines are very far away from the point, the lines are also very far apart from one another despite the fact that, close to the point itself, they are very near to each other.

Imagine lines stretching from this lower world only so far as the planetary spheres. Even if a person moves no more than a single hairsbreadth from the place where he was in this world, on the level of the planetary spheres there is an enormous distance – millions of miles – between the place that was above his head at first and the place above his head now. The distance is in proportion to the size of the highest sphere as compared with this world down below. For the highest sphere contains stars without number, and every star is the size of this world or more.

How much more so when one imagines these lines extending even further, beyond the spheres of the planets and stars to the higher spiritual worlds, compared with which all the spheres of the planets and stars are considered nothing.

Even the tiniest movement of less than a hairsbreadth that a person makes here in this world thus causes an immeasurably greater movement in the higher spiritual worlds. Even though in this lowly world the person may feel he has hardly moved at all, because it is impossible to measure the distance he moved and only God knows, nevertheless in the higher spheres he has moved through thousands and thousands of worlds and miles. How much greater, then, is the distance one moves in the higher worlds when he advances a whole mile or more in the service of God in this world.
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