The Master and His Emissary

I keep on thinking about the below.

There was once a wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and who was known for his selfless devotion to his people. As his people flourished and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and with it the need to trust implicitly the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of its ever more distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from, and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and influence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not wisdom, and on his missions on the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his own – the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins.

This version is quoted from Iain McGilchrist. While he uses the story to highlight some relationships in the brain, I’m trying to work out whether the story holds true if the master is liberalism.

  • Well, what would the emissary be in your analogy?

  • I suppose if liberalism is government that elevates people over government, then those types of government that don’t. Or on a smaller scale in organisations, perhaps a weighting of process over people?