First, a disclaimer: if you’re the author of a $97 book, the title of this post is not meant to imply that you practice voodoo or are the next incarnation of Voldemort. No, not at all. It’s merely a catchy phrase to illustrate that when an archetype is active in our lives, we meet up with both its gifts and its challenges.
Plus, the $97 book is instantly recognizable to many in the blogosphere. And okay, I admit it, I do think it’s funny. In fact, my husband and I have a running joke around here about the avalanche of $97 books.
It’s amusing because, well, because books simply don’t cost that much. And you probably already know that.
You might drop $10, $20, even $30 on a book. But unless it’s particularly rare or precious or beautiful (or a text book), it’s highly unlikely you’ll open your wallet to the tune of $97. Unless, of course, you have no choice, like George in “The Bookstore” episode of Seinfeld. In it he surreptitiously carted a gorgeous art book into the bathroom at Brentano’s, got caught, and was forced to pay for it. $100, I think. Sort of like, you break it, you buy it.
Anyway, we all know what books cost, right? Which makes the phenomenon of the $97 book even more curious, because clearly people are selling and people are buying. Makes you wonder what’s going on, right?
Well, I think it’s the flip side of the magician archetype I wrote about on Monday. You may recall the magician, at its brightest, is about transformation, healing, and the power of naming. On the shady side, however, it’s about manipulation, guruism, and misnaming to make people feel inferior.
But as far as shady magicians go, $97 books are fairly small potatoes. It gets a little scarier, though, when it shows up in the form of a cult leader, or someone who uses power to harm others, like Bernard Madoff. However, as devastating as that was for Madoff’s victims, it’s likely at some level they unconsciously participated in his dark magic. Indeed, a few have admitted they looked the other way; they wanted to believe in the magic of easy money.
Which reminds me of the anguished words of Blanche DuBois:
I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.
Not unlike Blanche, we can get derailed by what we believe ought to be truth about life: that it’s easy and effortless, and gratification is immediate. In fact, those of us who align with the bright qualities of the magician archetype may be particularly susceptible to shady magicians who promise the quick fix, the bewitching panacea for unending joy and riches. Just last week Tess over at The Bold Life wrote a splendid post about this topic: “The In Crowd vs The Within Crowd.”
I myself have certainly not been immune. I’ve been caught in the woo, my eyes have gone trance-like over some new thing, I’ve danced toward the edge of the cliff.
But I haven’t yet been pushed over.
Most recently I actually asked a $97 book purveyor if I could just buy the book, sans all the EXTRAS that were promised with it (because they seemed pretty puny to me and not particularly valuable). The response: NO. The implication: If you can’t understand the value of this, then there must be something wrong with you.
Now that’s classic dark magician archetype at work. Here are some other ways it shows up:
- The magician professes to have wisdom, knowledge, or information that no one else knows or has (and often fails to credit original sources).
- There’s an underlying message that you are not enough, and will not be so until you have what the magician is offering.
- There’s a big discrepancy between the magician’s experience/credentials and the amount of money they charge.
- If you question the value of the offering or the tactics used to promote it, the magician’s response will often be disproportionately swift, defensive, and angry.
- The magician will likely misname those who question or don’t believe in their woo woo. I’ve observed that this can be quite ugly and personal, as in, “If you don’t get me, then you must have a really crappy life.”
- Your intuition will set off alarms and red flags that scream: DON’T.
- It will sound too good to be true.
For the most part, I practice empathy for the shady side of the magician archetype (Madoff notwithstanding). I also work at not getting sucked in. Because every archetype is a palette of light, dark, and shades of gray. And on the face of it, that’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is. But the danger arises when we go unconscious about it.
Personally, I know what it’s like to be in an archetypal trance, to feel possessed by the shady side of an archetype (that happens with my creator and jester archetypes).
Thus I’m willing to believe that many shady magicians don’t deliberately set out to manipulate, but rather are caught in the grips of an archetypal story that’s bigger than they are.
So what do you think? I’d love to hear your take on this. Or your personal experience. Any thoughts you’d like to share are much appreciated!
WHY NOT START NOW?