When I think back to the surprise move by Thomas Jordan the Governor of the Swiss National Bank on the 15th January, where he unpegged the 3yr old peg of the Swiss Franc and the Euro, I am reminded of the mythological symbol of the “Trickster”.
Before I describe the Trickster in more detail, let us first look at the reason for drawing this comparison. Over the last decade or so Central Bankers have become masters at telegraphing their next move. The idea being that markets today are so finely tuned with 24hr connectivity 6 days a week that unexpected moves often result in large shocks to capital markets. In order to avoid these “shocks” policy makers hold multiple press conferences where they drop subtle hints as to what is likely to be the policy in the future.
Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan had assured us just the week before that the Swiss would continue to “hold the peg” whereby the SNB kept the value of the Swiss franc from rising higher than €1.22. “The cap is absolutely central,” he said. And SNB Vice Chairman Jean-Pierre Danthine said publicly only last Monday that the peg would remain a cornerstone of Swiss banking policy. Do you see how these G-d like characters were able to take the faith bestowed upon them and trick the world in order to achieve their objective.
Just so you know that the move was not impulsive but rather carefully thought out, this is what Jordan says. “It was not a panic reaction, it was a well-considered decision….. You can only end a policy like this surprisingly. It is not something you can debate for weeks … We wanted to win back some flexibility.“ In these few words one can start to see the trickster at work.
Ok it is time to learn a little bit more about the mythology of the trickster as studied in folklore, religion and importantly from our perspective psychology. Lets look at how Wikipedia describes it, “a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour”. This definition will not explain enough if you have not spent time delving into mythology, therefore to see what I am seeing with the trickster connection to the Swiss Central Banker, I need to share some of C.G. Jungs insights.
Jung writes about our subject in “On the Psychology of the Trickster–Figure,” in Collective Works 9i, par. 472 from which I hope to tease out some interesting ideas to bring this analogy home.
There is something of the trickster in the character of the shaman and medicine-man, for he, too, often plays malicious jokes on people, only to fall victim in his turn to the vengeance of those whom he has injured…………His “approximation to the saviour” is an obvious consequence of this, in confirmation of the mythological truth that the wounded wounder is the agent of healing, and that the sufferer takes away suffering.
We see that the trickster figure is often seen to have great healing powers. If you give this just a moment of thought, and think about how we confer so much healing powers on the Central Banker almost like the old Alchemist who were able to turn lead into gold. However just like the trickster in mythology is seen as part deity we through our collective unconscious see the Central Banker with Omnipotent powers. Like the medicine man, Central Bankers are often forced to dispense unpleasant medicine, such as raising interest rates when it seems like the party is getting too wild. However, sometimes the medicine can be too severe and it can cause the patient (economy) to become sick and recessionary or deflationary.
Now if the myth were nothing but an historical remnant, one would have to ask why it has not long since vanished into the great rubbish-heap of the past, and why it continues to make its influence felt on the highest levels of civilization, even where, on account of his stupidity and grotesque scurrility, the trickster no longer plays the role of a “delight-maker.” In many cultures his figure seems like an old river-bed in which the water still flows. One can see this best of all from the fact that the trickster motif does not crop up only in its mythical form but appears just as naively and authentically in the unsuspecting modern man—whenever, in fact, he feels himself at the mercy of annoying “accidents” which thwart his will and his actions with apparently malicious intent. He then speaks of “hoodoos” and “jinxes” or of the “mischievousness of the object.” Here the trickster is represented by counter-tendencies in the unconscious, and in certain cases by a sort of second personality, of a puerile and inferior character….I have, I think, found a suitable designation for this character-component when I called it the shadow. On the civilized level, it is regarded as a personal “gaffe,” “slip,” “faux pas,” etc., which are then chalked up as defects of the conscious personality. We are no longer aware that in carnival customs and the like there are remnants of a collective shadow figure which prove that the personal shadow is in part descended from a numinous collective figure. This collective figure gradually breaks up under the impact of civilization, leaving traces in folklore which are difficult to recognize. But the main part of him gets personalized and is made an object of personal responsibility…………
Anyone who belongs to a sphere of culture that seeks the perfect state somewhere in the past must feel very queerly indeed when confronted by the figure of the trickster. He is a forerunner of the saviour, and, like him, God, man, and animal at once. He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose chief and most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness. Because of it he is deserted by his (evidently human) companions, which seems to indicate that he has fallen below their level of consciousness. He is so unconscious of himself that his body is not a unity, and his two hands fight each other.
I realize now as I suspected before starting this letter, I will need to deal with this subject and similar ones in more detail in the book I am currently writing, “The Market Complex“, as it is very difficult to condense these ancient concepts without working through examples through different civilizations to bring them to life. For those of you not versed in reading Jung in the original you might find it extremely confusing to say the least to comprehend these quotes. What I love about Jung’s writings is his intrepid way of confronting the metaphysical while remaining grounded as a positivist, always treating his work as a scientist despite the spiritual content.
As we have seen in countless articles in the media since the SNB unpegged; businesses and investors who have lost a fortune are blaming this on “the impossible”, as if they were chosen by the G-d’s to be victim to this inhumane behaviour. These people are behaving as Jung is suggesting in an unconscious manner. The fact that these “victims” cannot see that they have built a structure without a foundation is lost on their consciousness. It is so hard to comprehend that it is us, our current cultural environment that has created the tricksters we so despise. But the positive that can be taken from experiencing the trickery is that it is usually the precursor to the Saviour Archetype.
I would suggest that we as a society have projected a Saviour Archetype onto the worlds Central Bankers but what we are encountering is the Saviours Shadow in the form of the Trickster.