“If the political truths stated or approximated by Machiavelli were widely known by men, the success of tyranny and all the other bad forms of oppressive political rule would become much less likely. A deeper freedom would be possible in society than Machiavelli himself believed attainable. If men generally understood as much of the mechanism of rule and privilege as Machiavelli understood, they would no longer be deceived into accepting their rule and privilege, and they would know what steps to take to overcome them.” James Turnham, The Machiavellians – Defenders of Freedom
In the vast panorama of human history it is difficult to find any voice that has been as influential and effective at advocating dishonesty and violence as that of the 16th century Florentine political advisor, Niccolo Machiavelli. His strategic and realistic presentation of the motivations of men is objective and psychological, providing evil with a patina of rational respectability. In The Prince, his classic treatise on the acquisition and maintenance of power by leaders, Machiavelli states, “A Prince must stabilize his newfound power and build a structure that will endure. This task requires the Prince to be publicly above reproach but privately may require him to do things of an evil nature in order to achieve the greater good.” What is amazing are the number of influential political figures that admit to being influenced by his amoral, if not outright immoral, advocacy for power as an end in itself. Through his influence on heads of state, such as Fredrick the Great, Bismark, Stalin, de Gaulle, and Richard Nixon and on powerful advisors within government, such as Sun Tzu, Talleyrand, Metternich, Clausewitz, Morgenthau, George F. Kennan, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft, Machiavelli has influenced the lives and contributed to the deaths of countless millions of human beings. You may have never heard of Machiavelli, but all the same, you swim in a culture that has been largely shaped by his ideas. Not understanding how this is so allows you to be manipulated and victimized by those who play the game of life by different rules than you do, by those who will make you believe they respect and obey the law when in fact they believe they are the rare but genuine exception to it. When you understand how powerful people use Machiavelli to justify their lawlessness and exceptionalism you wake up within a coercive cultural context. This is a first step to freeing yourself and your brothers and sisters from it.
Machiavelli not only exists as a historical political voice of great influence; he also raises multiple possibilities for decision making and action for each of us, because his influence for evil exists in each of us. As such, Machiavelli personifies emerging potentials which, if left unrecognized and unaddressed, can and will exert their influence on the way you express your power in your thinking, relationships, and night time dreams. Some of these ways are very destructive and generally underestimated. However, it is a naive mistake to assume that you can classify Machiavelli as evil and then be done with him. What has created his massive influence throughout modernity are two basic realities. First, his approach is based on three very important and genuine strengths that we all need: breathtaking confidence, reason, and objectivity. Secondly, even if you dismiss his premises and the rationality of his arguments, his ideas work. By “work” I means that they are effective enough to defeat enemies and subjugate entire populations. You can argue that they do not “really” work because they contain within them the seeds of their own destruction, they are good enough to achieve the primary ends of most leaders: domination both opponents and subjects and the expansion of power. Machiavelli’s ideas, called “political realism” work in the same way that cancer “works;” it overpowers its host at the cost of killing itself.
Take Barak Obama for example. I have no idea if Obama was consciously influenced by Machiavelli; he certainly must have read him at some point. He chose to dive into a political culture that was permeated by principles of leadership and power that are advocated by Machiavelli. A bright man who worked his way into the best American colleges, he became a Constitutional scholar, only as President to oversee the broadest violation of the Constitutional rights of Americans in the history of the United States. Obama can claim neither ignorance nor a lack of personal responsibility for his subsequent embrace of lying and death. A reasonable hypothesis is that Obama began his career genuinely believing in his rhetoric about human rights. One compromise to get ahead led to another. As is true for the upwardly mobile everywhere, to gain the trust of the establishment Obama had to demonstrate that he was one of them. As a black, he had to be more white than caucasians. As a progressive, he had to be more conservative than the neocons he surrounded himself with, particularly regarding foreign policy. Consequently, he became a political “realist,” targeting “terrorists,” people who had not killed Americans and were no threat to the United States itself, and in the process killing hundreds of women and children in contravention of both US and international law. While proclaiming transparency and accountability he did more to prosecute whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. While convincing millions of his commitment to human rights, even to the point of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was personally responsible for protecting Israeli apartheid and genocide before the world community in the UN and in allowing fascists to overthrow a democratically elected government in Ukraine and wage war against their own people. These are actions not only of which Machiavelli would approve, but would have ordered if he were Head of State. Obama may blame “deep government” or the intransigence of Republicans, but those who are familiar with Machiavelli will understand that these are strategies of leadership that are the mother’s milk of political realists. Obama chose to maintain the neoconservative culture inherited from Bush in positions of leadership instead of either firing them or having them arrested for war crimes. He was the one who chose to surround himself with people who were quite comfortable with Machiavelli. Obama chose to award, rather than punish, Wall Street by increasing its financial rewards. He chose not to prosecute a single perpetrator of the ’08 crash. If Obama was ever uncomfortable with such people or had difficulty ordering actions that reflected Machiavellian political “realism,” his knowledge of law and his own moral convictions were never sufficient to go against the grain of the predominant governmental culture. After the fact there is always hand wringing over the dead and the injustice that “had” to be committed. But as any reader of The Prince knows, that is behavior also prescribed by Machiavelli. That Obama is a good family man and no doubt would express sincere regret in the docket, does not change the fact that the dead remain dead.
If an Ivy League “liberal” political activist for social welfare can become someone with whom Machiavelli would be proud to be associated, how about you and me? What makes us think that we are any less vulnerable to a similar Icarian fall? Is this not the same toxic “exceptionalism” that Obama uses to justify his crimes?
Familiarity with Machiavelli is an excellent education in who and what to be if winning is your priority, and who and what not to be if you are serious about the spread of human rights. This is the basic watershed. If a person is a political realist and disciple of Machiavelli, they will put personal gain before human rights, all the while justifying it in terms of human rights. Common code words to look for are “exceptionalism,” “democracy,” “freedom,” and “national security.” On a personal level, these people put career advancement before family and employees, profit before people, and exploitation before empathy. If, on the other hand, a person is serious about choosing some other path, they will choose assertiveness over either passivity or aggression, in both the political and personal realms. If aggression is putting your needs before those of others, then passivity is putting the needs of others before your own. Assertiveness involves taking both into account, being open and clear about your own needs and motivations, and then acting in a way that you believe balances both without regard to what others think. This is important, because people will call you passive, like Chamberlain, or aggressive, like Hitler, if they believe by doing so they can manipulate you to do what they want. Clearly, Obama never considered it possible that he could or eventually would, out-Machiavelli Machiavelli. Some would claim that this is too harsh, both to Obama and Machiavelli. Apologists attempt to separate Machiavelli the person from the actions he advocates. But what relevance is there if Hitler was a vegetarian and nice to dogs or “Uncle Joe” Stalin was kind to his family? The dead remain dead.
Most people want to grow by embracing the good within others, the world, and themselves. This is important and necessary, but insufficient for growth and leadership. This is the lesson of Obama. Do parents want their children to imitate his example? Why not? Clearly, intelligence, charisma, an Ivy League education, and hard work will get you far, but is going far a good judge of success? The life arc of Barak Obama would argue that no, it is not.
These qualities are necessary but not sufficient for success. It is equally important that you recognize, defuse, and outgrow those world views, largely unconscious, that make real, lasting growth impossible. Machiavelli represents not one, but several of such world views that have a life and magnetism of their own, not only because they represent the voices of fear and self-interest, but of security and survival itself. For example, most people join the military for noble or financial reasons, but if you join the military you will be trained and expected to kill; if you do not do so when you are ordered you will be punished. If you join the “team” of a corporation whose function is to maximize profits and minimize expenses, you must put cutting costs before people to get ahead. To underestimate the influence of Machiavellian voices of self-interest and power is to make a serious mistake. Is is both wise and necessary to listen to, respect, learn from, and support such voices so that they may take their appropriate place within the broader family of consciousness.
Similarly, it is important not to overestimate your own ability to fend off the influence of Machiavelli in your world. This is the myth of personal exceptionalism. Others fall prey to evil, but you are strong, you are wise, you are good, you think happy thoughts that bring you good luck and ward off bad luck. There is a type of realism that is to be distinguished from the Orwellian doublespeak of “political realism” which is not realism at all. Realism factors in the good, bad, and the ugly and then makes an assertive decision. Political realism factors in the good, bad, and the ugly and then does what it thinks it can get away with.
The purpose of interviewing your inner Machiavelli then, is to more fully recognize your capacity for evil so you can make realistic decisions instead of justifying exploitation out of the myth of your own exceptionalism. The following example of such an interview may or may not apply to you. While we have Machiavelli’s writings and the testimonies of others to help us form our assumptions about who he was and what he believed, you and I will never know who Machiavelli really was. Consequently, an interview only reflects the perspective of the Machiavelli within the individual being interviewed, not the actual ideas of Machiavelli. We all have only partial and inaccurate assumptions and beliefs, regardless of what authorities we cite. This is all that you can ever have, after all your learning is done. Arguments about the “real” Machiavelli, Jesus, Jefferson, Buddha, Lincoln, Mohammed, or Gandhi, boil down to attempts to justify our own assumptions and beliefs. Those who believe they have the “true” or “accurate” view of themselves, others, a loved one, a political situation, or a historical figure like Machiavelli, is delusional. You may or may not consider this interview to provide an accurate portrayal of Machiavelli. That’s not the point. In what follows, there is no desire or attempt to disclose the true or real nature of the historical Machiavelli. The purpose here is different. It is to access the assumptions, belief system, world view, and perspectives on reality that Machiavelli represents and personifies for any individual in order to turn unknown or destructive expressions of personal power into known and constructive ones. It is is to access your own perception of Machiavelli as an emerging potential for evil and good that exists for you, so that you get to know it, laying aside questions of the accuracy of your perception of Machiavelli himself, or his ideas. Think about it: It didn’t matter whether any of the world leaders mentioned above had an accurate reading of Machiavelli or not. What mattered was what they did with the one that they had. They chose to capitulate to their inner Machiavelli rather than to uncover the face of their own evil and debate it, to the detriment of humanity.
You will find many concepts in this interview that have only come into being since Machiavelli. Concepts like human rights, the Drama Triangle, or others being aspects of ourselves would be completely foreign to Machiavelli. Such things are the interpretations of much later minds. While projecting them onto him is inevitable, and even useful with IDL interviewing, it is important that we not forget that is what we are doing.
Although this interview involves the perspectives of one person, experience is both unique and personal, on the one hand, and universal on the other. To the extent that I represent an aspect of you, this is your interview. As you read it, look for perspectives that apply to you while remembering that it is no replacement for interviewing your own version of Machiavelli.
You have a political voice, in the sense that every action you take, every thought you think, every feeling you feel, is an expression of your personal power. Machiavelli advocates a very powerful and effective perspective that influences your life both directly and indirectly, through the socio-cultural groupthink that is part of world civilization. Because it is so powerful it needs to be honored and respected so that it can be channeled for greater good. Your actions and words, the expressions of your power, have the impact of raindrops eroding mountains, like your habitual decisions to go to work or school day after day, losing your temper, or meditating. They may also have the impact of an atomic bomb, as when someone picks up a semi-automatic rifle and kills young children and their teachers. You badly underestimate how powerful you are, the consequences of your daily actions, and how important the right use of your power is to yourself and to the world. It all becomes routine; you lose the ability to see yourself as others see you; you lose the ability to think outside the constraints of the groupthink in which you are embedded. Acting within that dream, some child that you influence, unknown to you, may grow up to be the next Gandhi or Machiavelli. You need to wake up so that your influence is not a product of the culture in which you are embedded, as Machiavelli’s was, as Obama’s was. You can regain your political power and use it to speed up your personal development and that of the social systems in which you are embedded. Interviewing Machiavelli is a way to get started.
Machiavelli and his influence is an example of a cultural “dream,” delusion, or “groupthink,” the collective concomitant to what we each do at night when we go to sleep. We lose our objectivity, immersed in contexts that we think are real when they are not. My “dream” about Machiavelli is that he not only represents the justification of lying, deceit, abuse, and persecution, but provides concrete, effective, and powerful ways to more effectively abuse and persecute others. He provides justification for life lived within the Drama Triangle and the presentation of means to profit from immersion in drama. The “Drama Triangle” refers to three interlocking roles of persecutor, victim, and rescuer. If you play one, you play them all. Machiavelli teaches princes and heads of state how to persecute while appearing to be rescuers in order to avoid becoming victims. Since everyone is continuously immersed in drama, whether they recognize and admit it or not, Machiavelli personifies important influences on your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The function of such an interview is to use power more effectively in pursuit of your chosen ends and to wake up out of your need to defend yourself, through recognizing and understanding how you keep myself stuck in the Drama Triangle.
Your interviewed Machiavelli, just like the one interviewed below, is a projection of your own thoughts and feelings expressed from a perspective that is not your own.
Doing an interview is deceptively simple. You simply lay your own thoughts, opinions, and preferences aside and answer questions from the perspective of “Machiavelli.”
Here is what Machiavelli had to say: “I live on in the minds of men, as a template for political and personal action. Most men do not recognize my influence even though it has spread so broadly, so pervasively, throughout the world, and because it so validates innate impulses for personal survival and growth. I recognize power. I know I have power and I want to use it to influence powerful people, to change the world. I do not pretend I am not powerful, like many. I do not avoid the responsibility, challenges, and risks of being a powerful person. I am not scared of my power, like most people. Instead, I want to strengthen my power by helping powerful people increase their own power over others. I do so by being practical and honest about the ugliness of life, of human beings, and the expression of power in the affairs of men.”
“As the historical Machiavelli, embedded in the culture of 16th Century Florence, Italy, I do not recognize much of what my teachings say about me and what they create within me. While I believe they show me to be a clever schemer and insightful into the motivations of men, there is much about me that they reveal that I do not recognize. For example, I do not see that how I treat others is how I am treating those aspects of myself that they represent. However, even if I did, I would not care. I do not see that by thinking humans are bad, foolish, and ignorant that I am thinking the same about myself. However, if I did, I would freely admit to these qualities within myself. I do not see that by advocating deceit and abuse I am not only encouraging others to deceive and abuse me but am both lying to myself about who I am and abusing myself. By teaching that power can win through dishonesty and abuse I do not recognize how I am cutting myself off from the power that comes from inner peace, acceptance, and compassion. But even if I did, these qualities are not important to me.” I do not see how I mistake cleverness, intelligence, reasoning, and objectivity for wisdom, but even if I did, I would not want wisdom if it meant giving up power.”
“Those comments relate to me as a historical figure. However, I cannot be separated from the mind and assumptions of whomever is imagining they are me. Therefore I, the interviewed Machiavelli, am very different from the historical Machiavelli. However, I am still like the historical Machiavelli, in that I represent perspectives that know all this but still lie to others and oneself, still abuse others and oneself, that remain stuck in the Drama Triangle and that still misuse one’s own power in the name of expediency. I represent the human ability to own one’s power, yet to delude oneself into thinking that they can misuse it to their advantage.”
“I find it important to not change to a more evolved political and ethical philosophy because I need to stay myself, as a cautionary reminder to humans of the very real and present probability of self-deception, immersion in the Drama Triangle, and acting out of narrow self-interests, like personal survival and personal advancement. On a scale of zero to ten I score ten in confidence. My confidence is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, because my confidence comes from my ability to not only be smarter than others, but to win over my own weaknesses while lying to myself by believing that such a gamble will in the end bring me out ahead. It won’t. It doesn’t. It can’t, because I can only lie to myself for so long. I am a ten in acceptance because I accept that I may lose all, but it is a risk that I accept as part of the price of acquiring power. I am only a two in wisdom, although I am very intelligent and rational. I would have wisdom if I not only recognized that I hurt myself when I hurt others but used that knowledge to not do so. As Machiavelli himself, I am an observer of human nature and I am very smart, but my intelligence is not to be confused with wisdom. However, as a perspective existing within another human being, I am eight in wisdom because I have the benefit of owning his experience in addition to my own 16th Century European perspective. 21st century humans are on the whole wiser than I am, but I am more confident about the use and expression of power than most of them are. Most humans are rightly afraid that they will hurt others and themselves if they becomes powerful; I do not care if I hurt others. I take a fatalistic attitude toward that. Because I am not religious and do not believe in hell, I do not worry about being hurt myself. Even humans who do not believe in hell still think they have a self that can get hurt. That is a delusion humans are yet to outgrow. I am a zero in compassion because I cannot afford the luxury of any genuine, real caring for either others or myself. If I did, I couldn’t lie and I couldn’t justify persecution. My experience of inner peace is strange. On one level I am at peace, because I know who and what I am – a creature of the Drama Triangle. I have made peace with my own corruption. But I know I am not trustworthy and cannot make a good friend, so in that way I have no inner peace. How can anyone who neither trusts nor is trustworthy have inner peace? My ability to witness is also a split score. As an honest judge of human nature and a practical adaptor of that nature to the acquisition and maintenance of power, I am an excellent witness. I see the Drama Triangle clearly. However, as Machiavelli, I do not witness in the sense of extracting myself from it.
As the Machiavellian perspective of humanity, I do indeed witness the Drama Triangle because I have the benefit of a 21st century perspective in addition to my own. So I would have to conclude that the more evolved consciousness of a 21st century human is a superior director and guide of my power and strategies than I am. While I have strengths and capabilities, mostly based on my confidence and intelligence, that humans respects, I require more evolved perspectives if I am to be put to practical and powerful use in order to serve humanity.”
“If I scored tens in all these qualities I would have the consciousness of 21st century humans who are aware that they contain Machiavelli, with all the responsibility that entails, as a potential for the expression of abusive power. If humans scored like I do in all six of these qualities it would amplify the strength of my confidence while remaining conscious and wary about my persuasiveness, my ability to justify, manipulate, and generally advance one’s own interests at the expense of others. If I were in charge of humanity in the 21st century I would risk more. Be a lot more rational. This is one way humanity doesn’t seem to have advanced. Humans still mostly make decisions based on their emotions. I would do a better job of calculating risk, yet not be afraid of failure. I would be honest about my weakness and limitations and say, “so what?” I wouldn’t let them stop me.”
“In my life I was a disciplined, clear writer who could express a timeless relevance. Humans could do worse than be me when they compose their thoughts. 21st century humans have more balance in exercise, meditation, work, and relationships than I ever had, by far. But I have confidence and determination. I support contemporary humanity in its attempts at balance and I can add my strengths to that practice. I am smart and pragmatic. I can help humans in their desire to expand their consciousness in small, practical ways every day if humans will remember who and what I am.”
“An intent to listen to me in order to integrate motives with the exterior, social expressions of power is good, useful, and important. I support that end and want to help. It would be beneficial to become me whenever there is a desire to be powerful, confident, and take risks, but yet remember there is no escape from cultural and self-created drama. Both can be minimized but never completely eliminated. Those who think they can are fools. Those who try to convince you that they have done so are dangerous fools. While I have come into the life of 21st century humans to help them integrate and use personal power and to help others to do the same, I want to emphasize that I am not to be trusted. But there is a certain honesty about that admission which itself evokes trust and respect.
Why should any one listen to me? Imaginary historical figures change lives. It matters who you think I, Jesus, or Buddha was. It matters who you think Obama is or who your partner, children, or boss are. While your assumptions generally have only a passing correspondence with reality, they are your reality, and they determine how you act and react. Therefore, how you hold me, how you consider me, how you choose to use me, matters. And as a team we are both powerful and effective. Humans can easily underestimate my significance, usefulness, and power and therefore forget about me, while I am still at work within them. Connecting me to set situations or circumstances creates vigilance regarding my presence. For instance, if humans invoke my presence when they compose their thoughts they will think more rationally and objectively.”
What conclusions can we draw from these words from “Machiavelli?” As a result I have a deeper appreciation for him and his influence on me. It becomes clearer how leaders have used his words as a rationale and justification for giving in to their own narrow agendas and fears, justifying it as necessary for national survival, when it was all about their own personal survival and status. They have used Machiavelli to justify national survival and disguise personal interests at the expense of human rights. I also understand that Machiavelli needs the more evolved minds of 21st century humans to serve as his political leader, because by himself he creates abuse, persecution, and evil. Machiavelli is smart, capable, and brave, but immature, being an example of sophisticated late pre-personal narcissism. This stage generally applies to four year olds, but the thinking and motives of a four year old, when carried into adulthood and combined with reason, objectivity, and experience, can be extremely powerful. Consequently, Machiavelli requires adult supervision. If he is to have it, you must be the one to give it to him; your common sense must be the leader that he serves. However, if you provide that adult supervision and leadership, he is a potent aid in growth, politics, and life.
If the experience of this interview were a wake-up call from the inner compass of humanity, it would be saying that the fear of being overwhelmed by cruelty and greed only grows when you ignore it, deny it, or pretend it is irrelevant. That darker nature is not only highly relevant, but important and useful. It has strengths you need and must access if you are to accomplish your goals.
If political realists were to interview their own Machiavelli, what would be the likely outcome?
Would their personal version of Machiavelli be more or less likely to act out in self-destructive ways? Would the fact that their own capacity for evil is being listened to and respected result in diminished or improved decision making? Would they be more or less likely to draw attention to themselves by creating external, political, real world psychodramas? Would political realists be more or less likely to accept Machiavelli’s agenda and let it govern their decisions? Would waking up to the nature, intention, and power of their own inner Machiavelli cause them to be more evil or do more good? Will intention become more conscious? If so does that mean political action would come from a healthier or more destructive place? Would political realists be more or less likely to make decisions within the context of the Drama Triangle? Would they produce more less misery in the lives of those around them? Would they be more or less likely to put national interests before universal human rights? Would they be less or more likely to make decisions out of trust or fear?
Those who feel they have too much to lose by waking up won’t want to do such interviews, because doing so amplifies voices, motives, thoughts, and perspectives that challenge the status quo. There is a price to be paid for waking up. When you challenge the assumptions of your culture it will push back in an attempt to maintain homeostasis, even if it is entirely dysfunctional. If politicians see advantages to acting like Machiavelli while ignoring the clear and obvious limitations in doing so, they will have no interest in coming to grips with the awful consequences of using Machiavelli as a guide to the application of power. For example, Obama is unlikely to give up his belief in his and American exceptionalism, because it justifies, just as it does for Machiavelli’s prince, the repression and persecution of individuals who stand in the way of the state and his interests. That is why it is important that people become aware of both the historical and their own version of Machiavelli when they are young, before they are put into positions of power, before such an interview is likely to create conflict between your current life assumptions and your potential for evil.
Once you have done some interviews, the need for conflictual, turmoil-producing awarenesses fade, because you have deeply listened to your fears. You are then freed to listen to and internalize the emerging potentials within highly problematic figures like Machiavelli and Hitler. They no longer threaten you. The interviews are much more likely to be what Ken Wilber would call “translative,” or contributing to stabilization and balance at your present level of development, creating a broad and solid foundation for future transformation.
By doing such an interview yourself, with Machiavelli, will you re-own your power? Will you grow in your ability to support the evolution of humanity? Amazingly, Machiavelli himself seems to recommend something similar: “When evening comes, I return home and go to my study. On the threshold I strip naked, taking off my muddy, sweaty workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death; I pass indeed into their world.”
You can find the format for interviewing Machiavelli here.
You are invited to share your own findings with us.
Here is the transcript of the interview upon which the above remarks by Machiavelli were based.
What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life.
Getting my various manuscripts published.
Balance in exercise, meditation, work, relationships.
Expansion of my consciousness in small, practical ways every day.
Tell me a dream you remember. It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand.
This is about my waking dream of who Machiavelli was and continues to be as a living part of myself. Just like during a night time dream, I have waking thoughts, feelings, and images about the things and people I see with with both my physical and mental vision, in this case regarding the historical personality Machiavelli. From my reading about him and what I have been told about him I draw conclusions and make assumptions, mostly out of my awareness, that determine how I feel, think, and act toward others.
My “dream” about Machiavelli is that he not only represents the justification of lying, deceit, abuse, and persecution but provides concrete, effective, and powerful ways to more effectively be such a person. He represents for me justification for life lived within the Drama Triangle and the presentation of means to profit from immersion in drama. Since I am continuously immersed in drama, whether I recognize it and admit it or not, Machiavelli personifies important influences on my thoughts, feelings, and actions, whether I recognize it or not.
Why do you think that you had this dream?
On one level, to defend myself better; to use my power more effectively in pursuit of my own ends. On another level, to wake myself out of my need to defend myself, through recognizing and understanding how I keep myself stuck in the Drama Triangle.
What questions would you like to have answered about this dream?
I recognize Machiavelli to be a very powerful and effective part of myself. I want to honor and respect it so that it can be channeled for greater good. I am hoping this interview will give me a clearer sense of how to do so.
These are the characters in the dream, beside yourself…
Machiavelli, those countless others in the world he has influenced or affected, including those who have adopted chunks of his belief system and those who have been victimized by those who have done so.
If one character had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?
Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor? It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are this or that character in your dream and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind. If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!
Machiavelli are you a character in Joseph’s life dream, yes?
Machiavelli, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?
I live on in the minds of men, as a template for political and personal action. Most men do not recognize my influence because it has spread so broadly, so pervasively, throughout the world, and because it so validates innate impulses for personal survival and growth. Regarding Joseph, I live within him as an emerging potential that he is currently contemplating consciously out of a desire to come to terms with my ability to keep him stuck in the Drama Triangle and his interest in allying with me in his desire to distance himself from it. Concretely, I look like the picture above, and I am standing in front of Joseph’s mind’s eye.
What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
I recognize power. I know I have power and I want to use it to influence powerful people, to change the world. I do not pretend I am not powerful, like many. I do not avoid the responsibility, challenges, and risks of being a powerful person. I am not scared of my power, like most people. Instead, I want to strengthen my power by helping powerful people increase their own power over others. I do so by being practical and honest about the ugliness of life, of human beings, of power, and the expression of power in the affairs of men.
What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
As a historical personage, I am blind to what my beliefs say about me and create within me. I do not see that how I treat others I am treating those aspects of myself that they represent. I do not see that by thinking humans are bad, foolish, and ignorant that I am thinking the same about myself. I do not see that by advocating deceit and abuse I am not only encouraging others to deceive and abuse me but am both lying to myself about who I am and abusing myself. By teaching that power can win through dishonesty and abuse I am cutting myself off from the power that comes from inner peace, trust, and compassion.
But that is as a historical figure. As an aspect of Joseph I know all of this, so I am very different from the historical Machiavelli. However, I am still like the historical Machiavelli, in that I personify parts of Joseph that know all this but still lie to others and himself, still abuse others and himself, that remain stuck in the Drama Triangle and that still misuse his power in the name of expediency.
Machiavelli, you are in Joseph’s life experience, correct? He created you, right? What aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?
As above. In summary, the ability to own his power, yet to delude himself into thinking that he can misuse it to his advantage.
Machiavelli, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
I find it important to stay myself, both as a cautionary reminder of the very real and present probability of self-deception, immersion in the Drama Triangle, and acting out of narrow self-interests, like personal survival and personal advancement.
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Machiavelli, how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence: 10 My confidence is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, because my confidence is in my ability to not only be smarter than others, but to win over my own weaknesses while lying to myself by believing that such a gamble will in the end bring me out ahead. It won’t. It doesn’t. It can’t, because I can only lie to myself for so long.
Compassion: 0 I cannot afford the luxury of any genuine, real caring for either others or myself. If I did, I couldn’t lie and I couldn’t justify persecution.
Wisdom: 2 As Machiavelli; I am an observer of human nature and I am very smart, but my intelligence is not to be confused with wisdom. As a part of Joseph, I am 8 in wisdom, because I have the benefit of owning his perspective in addition to my own. He is wiser than I am but I am more confident about the use and expression of power than he is. He is afraid that he will hurt others and himself if he becomes powerful; I do not care if I hurt others; I take a fatalistic attitude toward that. And because I am not religious and do not believe in hell, I do not worry about being hurt myself. Joseph does not believe in hell but he definitely thinks he has a self that can get hurt. That is a delusion he is yet to outgrow.
Acceptance: 10 I accept that I may lose all, but it is a risk that I accept as part of the price of being fully alive.
Inner Peace: 0 It is strange. On one level I am at peace, because I know who and what I am – a creature of the Drama Triangle. I have made peace with my own corruption. But I know I am not trustworthy and cannot make a good friend, so in that way I have no inner peace. How can anyone who neither trusts nor is trustworthy have inner peace?
Witnessing: 0 This also is a split score. As an honest judge of human nature and a practical adaptor of that nature to the acquisition and maintenance of power, I am an excellent witness. I see the Drama Triangle clearly. However, as Machiavelli, I do not witness in the sense of extracting myself from it.
As the Machiavellian parts of Joseph, I do indeed witness the Drama Triangle because I have the benefit of his perspective in addition to my own. So I would have to conclude that he is my director and guide, not the other way around. While I have strengths and capabilities, mostly based on my confidence and intelligence, that he respects, I require his perspectives if I am to be put to practical and powerful use in his life.
Machiavelli, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?
Yes. I would be Joseph, but also consciously aware that he is Machiavelli, with all the power and responsibility that entails.
How would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
He would integrate my strengths while remaining conscious and wary about my persuasiveness, my ability to justify, manipulate, and generally advance his own interests at the expense of others.
If you could live Joseph’s life for him, how would you live it differently?
I would risk more. I would not be afraid of failure. I would be honest about my weakness and limitations and say, “so what?” I wouldn’t let them stop me.
If you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle his three life issues differently? If so, how?
Getting my various manuscripts published: I was a disciplined, clear writer who could express a timeless relevance. He could do worse than be me when he sits down to write.
Balance in exercise, meditation, work, relationships: He has more of this than I ever had, by far. But I have confidence and determination. I support him in his attempts at balance and can add my strengths to his practice.
Expansion of my consciousness in small, practical ways every day: I am smart and practical. I can help him here if he will remember to become me.
What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of his life?
His whole enterprise in listening to me in order to integrate the interior with the exterior, social expressions of power is good, useful, and important. I support that end and want to help.
In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Joseph to imagine that he is you and act as you would?
Whenever he wants to be powerful, confident, and take risks, but yet remember he cannot escape cultural and self-created drama that can be minimized but never completely eliminated.
Why do you think that you are in Joseph’s life?
To help him integrate and use personal power and to help others to do the same.
What are your answers to the questions the dreamer had about the dream?
I want to emphasize that I am not to be trusted. But there is a certain honesty about that admission which itself evokes trust and respect.
Machiavelli, you are imaginary. Why should Joseph pay attention to anything you say?
Imaginary historical figures change lives. Who you think I was, or Jesus was, or Buddha was, Obama is, or your partner, kids, or boss are, matters. While your assumptions generally have only a passing correspondence with reality, they are your reality, and they matter. Therefore, how you hold me, how you consider me, how you choose to use me, matters. And as a team we are both powerful and effective.
How is Joseph most likely to ignore what you are saying to him?
He can easily underestimate my significance, usefulness, and power and therefore forget about me.
What would you recommend that he do about that?
Connecting me to set moments in his day will help. For instance, when he sits down to write, if he invokes my presence, as he has in this interview, it will make a difference.
Thank you, character! Now a couple of questions for Joseph:
What have you heard yourself say?
I understand Machiavelli and his influence better. Leaders have used his words as a rationale and justification for giving in to their own narrow agendas and fears, justifying it as necessary for national survival when it was all about their own personal survival and status. I also understand that Machiavelli needs me as his political leader, that by himself he leads into the Drama Triangle. Machiavelli is smart, capable, and brave, but immature. He requires adult supervision. If he is to have it, I must be the one to give it to him. However, if I provide that adult supervision, he is a potent aid in growth, politics, and life.
If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?
Fear of being overwhelmed by your darker nature only grows when you ignore it, deny it, or pretend it is irrelevant. That darker nature is not only highly relevant, but important and useful. It has strengths you need and must access if you are to accomplish your goals.
Make a list of the recommendations in the interview. Read them over before you go to sleep. If they are action items, check them off if you’ve done them. If they are variable qualities, score yourself 0 – 10. Play a game: see what you can do to raise your score half a point.
Become Machiavelli when I sit down to write. There is a lot in this interview. I need to remember to revisit it every now and then and think it over.
If political realists interview their own Machiavelli, what will be the likely outcome?
Their personal version of Machiavelli is less likely to act out in self-destructive ways through their decisions. It is being listened to. It is being respected. It does not have to jump up and down by creating external, political, real world psychodramas in order to draw attention to itself. By waking up to the nature and intent of their Machiavelli, political realists are less likely to unconsciously buy into his agenda or let him run the show. If they do, it will be a conscious choice for consciously chosen reasons, which means the intent for political action will come from a different, healthier place.
The result will be that political realists are less likely to make decisions within the context of the Drama Triangle, meaning they are less likely to produce misery in the lives of those around them. They are more likely to feel good about their decisions because they are made out of trust rather than out of fear.
Those who feel they have too much to lose by waking up won’t want to do such interviews, because doing so amplifies voices that challenge the status quo. Such interviews invite developmental antithesis, if that’s what is wanting to come up and out into the daylight of your waking awareness. But once you have done some interviews, the need for conflictual, turmoil-producing awarenesses fade. The interviews are much more likely to be what Wilber would call “translative,” or contributing to stabilization and balance on your present level of development, creating a broad and solid foundation for future transformation. Such is the sense of this interview for me. I feel stronger and more capable in who I am for meeting, becoming, and integrating Machiavelli. My hope is that by doing such an interview yourself, with Machiavelli or with some other influential historical personality, that you will re-own your power in ways that will support the evolution of humanity.