The Emperor Has No Clothes

A wonderful story written by Hans Christian Andersen 170 years ago describes the power of the dream of the planet to influence the opinion of others. It tells the story of an emperor who lived many years ago. He was an average fairy-tale ruler, except for the fact that he was very much identified with his fine clothes.

One day a couple of smart hustlers came to town. They spread the word that they could make a cloth and garments that were so fine that they could not be seen by anyone who was stupid or incompetent. The emperor was quite taken by this idea, because not only would he have some very fine clothes to wear, but he could also learn who was stupid and incompetent in his court and kingdom.

As you probably remember, the hustlers pretended to weave and sew, and the word went out into the kingdom about the emperor's magical clothes. The ruler was a little unsure that he would be able to see the clothes himself, so he sent his trusted aides first. Of course, there was nothing there, but they would not admit they were stupid or incompetent, so they agreed that everything was so very beautiful. When they reported to the emperor, he agreed to dress in his new finery and join a procession through the town to show off his clothes.

Everyone in town was anxious to learn who among their neighbors was stupid and incompetent, so they lined the streets in anticipation. Seeing the emperor in his underwear, regally posing in his carriage, they all forced themselves to exclaim, “How lovely are the emperor's new clothes.” Nobody wanted to be thought of as stupid by his neighbors.

The Young Boy Tells the Truth

Finally, a young boy looked up at the emperor, saw the truth, and shouted out, “The emperor has no clothes!”

In the original story, the boy's father grabs him, says “Don't talk nonsense,” and takes him away. Then everyone who heard the boy begins to admit the emperor is naked and a murmur rises from the crowd: “The boy is right! The emperor has no clothes! It's true.”

Write another inventory. This time, write about times you told your truth when you were young, and what happened to you. Perhaps you did not like a relative, or said a teacher was weird. Was your reality accepted, or were you told not to criticize people? Write it down.

The emperor realized the crowd was right, but he could not admit it, and finished the parade standing proudly in his carriage and in the illusion that he was not stupid or incompetent. Of course, the hustlers who started the whole thing ran off with the emperor's money before he came back.

How the Story Really Ends

Unfortunately, in modern cultures, people are not often so willing to admit that they were hustled. They may wake up to the fact that they have been tricked into their prejudices or their war, but have invested so much of their identity in being right about what they believed that they cannot tell themselves or others the truth. As long as the dream of the planet is not challenged, people will continue to support it. Nobody wants to be the first to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”

In the story, although the boy is taken away, everyone who hears him begins to spread the truth, until everyone agrees. If only it was that simple. Have you noticed how most dreamed universes are more intent on preserving their reality than encouraging and listening to challenges?

Earlier you learned how childhood domestication uses punishment and reward to enforce the prevailing dream. In real life, when a child says “The emperor has no clothes” and contradicts the dream of the adults, he is more often punished and silenced than heard. The dream of a group provides identity to the individuals, and to challenge the dream is to challenge that identity. Throughout history, there have been voices that proclaimed the truth about emperors of all kinds, and most have been ignored, punished, or worse.

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