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On Withholding Knowledge
On the virtues and vices of omission
The withholding of knowledge is not always indicative of vice. In the works of Gillette and Moore, when discussing the two shadow sides of the Magician archetype, you have the “Detached Manipulator” on the active pole and the “Denying Innocent One” on the passive pole1.
“Behind the propaganda ministries, the controlled press briefings, the censored news, and the artificially orchestrated political rallies lies the face of the Magician as Manipulator.
The active pole of the Shadow Magician is, in a special sense, a “power Shadow.” A man under this Shadow doesn’t guide others, as a Magician does; he directs them in ways they cannot see. His interest is not in initiating others by graduated degrees—degrees that they can integrate and handle—into better, happier, and more fulfilled lives. Rather, the Manipulator maneuvers people by withholding from them information they may need for their own well-being. He charges heavily for the little information he does give, which is usually just enough to demonstrate his superiority and his great learning. The Shadow Magician is not only detached, he is also cruel.”2
When someone embodying the Magician archetype is purposely/actively withholding information for purposes like the ones described above, then we tend to easily recognize this as wicked.
However, it is often less recognized that someone who denies the responsibility that comes with knowing something and disseminates it without discernment, can also cause harm and should also be recognized as a possible expression of the passive shadow side of the Magician archetype. When we omit extra information that would have caused harm without any benefit if it had been communicated, we are exhibiting virtue, not vice. We are, however, ultimately liable for our judgment, just like we are for declining to arrive at one, and it’s not always clear which course of action produces the best consequences.
This is actually why Plato disliked written works, even though he wrote some, because the written material cannot dynamically adjust to the reader, and may either communicate too much or too little.
The mature expression of the Magician archetype is the one that calibrates the dissemination of knowledge according to the people and situations at hand for the benefit of all.
In their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, (HarperCollins Publishers, 1991) Moore and Gillette write about the active and passive poles of an archetype: “There are two ways to look at the difference between the “active” and “passive” poles in the bipolar shadow system of the archetypes. As we have seen, one way is to view the archetypal structures as triangular or triune. The other way is to talk about the Ego’s identification with or disidentification from the archetype in its fullness. In the case of identification, the result is Ego inflation, accompanied by fixation at infantile levels of development. In the case of extreme disidentification, the Ego experiences itself as deprived of access to the archetype. It is, in actuality, caught in the passive pole of the […] dysfunctional Shadow. The Ego feels starved for [archetypal] energy. This sense of deprivation and lack of “ownership” of the sources of and motives for power are always features of the passive poles of the archetypes.” The modifications/omissions signified by the square brackets are mine.