Posted by: smstrouse | August 5, 2017

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel: A Lesson for Donald Trump

0fa3263f31a6c0492032bf5a1e46637f.jpgThe story of Jacob wrestling with the angel happens to be one of my favorite Bible stories. So it was a no-brainer which text I’d pick to preach on this week. I’ve always thought of Jacob’s struggle and his ensuing limp as an archetypal story of transformation. So I began searching for commentaries from a Jungian point of view. I came across an article from the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies entitledJacob Wrestles the Angel: A Study in Psychoanalytic Midrashby Michael Abramsky. 

As I read the description of pre-transformation Jacob’s behavior as that of the “trickster,” I began to recognize this person. “When the shadow component dominates, these powers are used to manipulate, place obstacles in the paths of others, and are destructive to self and others. The trickster dominates Jacob. He is cerebral, clever, and goal directed. He is aware of the frailties of others. Whether he will use his power in a positive or negative way is still an open question.” 

Donald Trump is our Jacob! 

Looking further, I found “Decoding Donald Trump: The Triumph of Trickster Politics” by  Rosario Forlenza and Bjørn Thomassen. Consider these qualities:

  • The trickster is a figure of excess, especially of eating and drinking, and of sexual exploits.
  • The trickster is a breaker of taboos, a joker and prankster, the best of companions, but also a thief, a liar and an impostor.
  • In many storylines, the trickster is a vagrant who happens to stumble into a village, appearing as if out of the blue, just as a crisis has erupted. He tries to gain the confidence of villagers by telling tales and cracking jokes. He is an outsider without existential commitments.
  • He is also a mime, telling people whatever they would like to hear — all according to the occasion.
  • The trickster holds no real knowledge but practices a cunning intelligence.
  • The trickster manages to impose himself, not because of his real qualities, nor by enabling the people around him, but by blurring distinctions. Rather than making clear the difference between truth and lie, the trickster thrives in ambivalence.
  • While presenting himself as a solution to the crisis, he actually perpetuates insecurity by blurring boundaries and undermining the very sense of distinction and judgment.
  • The trickster is a demonic clown.

Sounds very familiar, right? But here’s the chilling prognosis:  “The sense of empowerment that tricksters manage to produce feels real enough for a while, but it evaporates as suddenly as the trickster entered the stage, and dissolves in nothingness. Before that happens, however, entire societies can drive themselves to destruction.”

The Jacob story is a classic example of transformation from trickster to magician – the archetype of awareness and insight, the ability to make positive and constructive life decisions. And – as Jacob discovered – it’s not an easy process. He limped away from his encounter. This is a threshold time, a rite of passage. It involves struggle, wrestling with who we are and what we are to become. Identity dissolves. Ambiguity reigns. But in the midst of this crisis is a new openness to a new identity. Jacob emerged a true leader with integrity and authenticity.

Could Donald Trump achieve the same result? Only if he either willingly enters into the struggle before he dissolves into nothingness or he is forced into it and is open to the gift that his downfall could be. As one who believes that no person is beyond redemption, this is my prayer for our current trickster – that he be confronted with himself at his own River Jabbok, that he enter into a wrestling match with his shadow self, and that he emerges, as Jacob did, a true leader. 

Will that ever happen? Who can say? Jacob (Cheater) became Israel (one who wrestled with God). No one could have predicted that change. But until such time as it does, the Resistance continues. We cannot allow the trickster to drive us to destruction. 

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