From Sheldon Kopp's third chapter entitled "Disclosing the
Self" in his book If You Meet The Buddha On The Road
Kill Him (©1972 Science and Behavior Books, Inc.):
The guru instructs by metaphor and parable, but the pilgrim learns
through the telling of his own tale. Each man's identity is an
emergent of the myths, rituals, and corporate legends of his culture,
compounded with the epic of his own personal history. In either
case, it is the compelling power of the storytelling that distinguishes
men from beasts. The paradoxical interstice of power and vulnerability,
which makes a man most human, rests on his knowing who he is right
now, because he can remember who he has been, and because he knows
who he hopes to become. All this comes of the wonder of his being
able to tell his tale.
When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening
the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest
to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer,
and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.
Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezricth, had
occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would
go to the same place in the forest and say: "Master of the
Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am
still able to say the prayer." And again, the miracle would
Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Lieb of Sasov, in order to save his people
once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know
how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the
place and this must be sufficient."
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune.
Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God:
"I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer;
I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to
tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was
God made man because He loves stories.*
When God lived, and man belonged, psychology was no more than
"a minor branch of the art of storytelling and mythmaking."
Today each man must work at telling his own story if he is to
be able to reclaim his personal identity.
Should he start out on a psychotherapeutic pilgrimage, he sets
out on an adventure in narration. Everything depends on the telling.
The "principle of explanation consists of getting the story
told - somehow, anyhow - in order to discover how it begins."
The basic presumption is that the telling of the tale will itself
yield good counsel. This second look at his personal history can
transform a man from a creature trapped in his past to one who
is freed by it. But the telling is not all.
Along the way, on his pilgrimage, each man must have the chance
to tell his tale. And, as each man tells his tale, there must
be another there to listen. But the other need not be a guru.
He need only rise to the needs of the moment. There is an old
saying that when ever two Jews meet, if one has a problem, the
other automatically becomes a rabbi.
* as originally told by Elie Wiesel, The Gates to the Forest, 1966 Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, the unnumbered pages preceding the text.