Holy Madness

Holy Madness: The Upside Down World of Tricksters and Clowns

{From the book Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein}

Holy Madness, or crazy wisdom, is a radical style of teaching or

demonstrating spiritual values. I use this term somewhat elastically in

this book in order to highlight a range of similar approaches within the

great spiritual traditions of the world. What these approaches have in

common is an adept-a master, saint, or holy person - who typically

instructs others in ways that are designed to startle or shock the

conventional mind. The benificiaries of such instruction may be the

adept's own disciples or they may simply be the general public. From the

conventional point of view, the crazy-wise teachers are eccentrics who

use their eccentricity to communicate an alternative vision to that

which governs ordinary life. They are masters of inversion, proficient

breakers of taboo, and lovers of suprise, contradiction, and ambiguity.

They share these skills and penchants of the traditional figures of the

trickster and clown.

The trickster, who is usually male, belongs to the tribal religion of

religion and mythology. He is either a god or superhuman hero. He is a

being who is very clever but unprincipled, delighting in the irrational.

There is an element of malice in many trickster figures, though they are

never entirely demonic. They are out to best their advesaries and spare

no cunning to acheive their goal. As part of their duplicity, they often

pretend to be stupid. They are generally depicted as merciless, cruel

victors. at times the trickster himself is killed in a fight, but it is

always understood that he can come back to life.

The trickster is, moreover, depicted as having a voracioussexual

appetite, which is often indicated by a huge penis. His character is a

juxtaposition of carnality and spirituality. More than any other

mythological figure, the trickster celbrates bodily existence, which

include all the many functions that civilization seeks to suppress or


Trickster stories are thought to be told in order to amuse the audience.

But they have a deeper significance. They are intebded to communicate

something about the chaotic, unpredictable, death-dealing aspect of

nature itself- an aspect that the encultured consciousness seeks to deny

or avoid. The trickster is an embodiment of the anticultural forces that

surround human society, which are kept at bay by the countless

institutions that compose the skeleton of culture:

rites,myths,dogmas,scientific theories, personal beliefs, and so on.

End of Passage