Skip to content

The Knight and The Gardener is free for download here!

February 14, 2010

The Knight and The Gardener

by Cassidy S. Dale is here

If you like this, you may share it with anyone who can use it or should see it.

Want to share something from the book? Click on that section’s “Blog This” link within the book, or just scroll down — the book’s entire contents are below, too!



December 27, 2009

Tell me your image of God and I will tell you your theology. – Carl Jung

Have you ever considered how you see the world? Why people disagree over what is moral, heroic, loving, or holy? Why you team well with some people and conflict with others? Why two people sitting next to each other in the same church can read very different things in the same Bible? Why people disagree about politics and war?

The answer is worldviews. Everyone holds a worldview of his or her own. Worldviews are like the glasses one wears to see the world—every “lens” shows you the world in its own way. And these lenses, since they shape how you see the world, influence how you react to situations around you and how you make decisions. For example, some worldviews or lenses present events around you as aspects of a great conflict in which you are a hero who can help win a great victory. Other worldviews or lenses show you a world in which you are an inventor, explorer or pioneer who can solve a critical world problem to make the world a better place.

Here’s an example. Not long ago I asked a large group of pastors what they would title a history book—if they wrote one—on the moral, religious, societal, and political story of the past two decades. Half of the pastors answered that they would give the history book titles like “Decline,” “Collapse,” or “Faith Under Attack.” The other half of the pastors provided titles like “Slow Progress.”

Their responses showed me that—beyond mere optimism or pessimism—there were two worldviews at work in the room. These two worldviews served as these pastors’ lenses for interpreting all recent events, understanding the world around them, and providing their approaches to change the world. I call these two worldviews The Knight and The Gardener.

I have seen these two worldviews at work during my years as a futurist and consultant. And as we moved into the Bush years, the War on Terror, and war in Iraq, I found that the Knight-Gardener distinction explained more—and enabled me to forecast more—of the behavior of Bush Administration officials, fundamentalists and liberals on the religious and political scene, the actions and rhetoric of al-Qaeda senior leadership, and some of our military successes and failures against the insurgency in Iraq.

This book “maps” the basic framework for how Knights and Gardeners address problems and conflict situations. Here I seek to explain those two worldviews and how they have shaped or affected our public and private lives today in religion, relationships, politics, and war and peace.

This book also seeks to explain how Knights and Gardeners differ—and how they’re similar across spiritual, political or theological orientations or contexts. Originally written as a list of maxims for my students and consulting clients, you may find these Knight-Gardener distinctions useful as well. You may even recognize the influence of these two worldviews in your work, family, faith, and politics—or even in yourself.


December 27, 2009

Knights see themselves—and all people and things—as part of a great, cosmos-spanning war between the forces of divine good and demonic evil or instead, say, between enlightened reason and destructive ignorance. Knights believe the primary calling of good people is to undertake crusades—moral, spiritual, and political—to protect the innocent and defeat the forces of evil. Knights categorize people as allies or enemies, and see most situations as zero sum games. Any combative or competitive endeavor is a Knight’s endeavor.

For religious Knights, regardless of faith perspective, God is the supreme divine authority whose order requires courageous, determined, moral champions. Christian Knights, for example, spread the Gospel to save people from the consequences of their sinful behavior, and seek out ways to eradicate immorality from the world.

A Knight looking down on the world from a space capsule would see good, noble paladins fighting great, menacing dragons for control of the world. For Knights, the world—and the terrain of the individual human soul—is a battlefield, always at war.


December 27, 2009

Gardeners see themselves—and all people and things—as part of the growth of a great, cosmos-spanning Garden, one that can flourish further if aided by well-meaning and inspired people. Gardeners believe the primary calling of good people is to cultivate the Garden through planting, good planning, the pursuit of transformative discovery, invention and innovation, and artistic revelation. Any constructive endeavor is a Gardener’s endeavor.

For religious Gardeners, God is the creative force whose greatest attributes are imagination and creativity. Gardeners view themselves as imbued by the Creator with the divine creative spark and charged with growing the Garden beyond its current borders. Christian Gardeners, for example, spread the Gospel to restore broken people so they can rejoin the ongoing creation process, and to awaken others to their meaningful role in tending the Garden.

A Gardener looking down on the world from a space capsule would see a great Garden of lush jungles, farms, the construction or rejuvenation of beautiful cities, and new opportunities in the now-barren places. And over the blue parts of the globe, the Gardener would see a shining silver rain fall silently into a swirling silver sea. For Gardeners, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 8, all of Creation is involved in one great act of giving birth.


December 27, 2009

Other thinkers have seen the Knight and Gardener worldviews at play in world history, world religions, game theory, and politics, but refer to them by other terms.

  • Winners and Losers and Challenge and Response are the terms used by historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume examination of the life cycles of 23 major world civilizations A Study of History, published between 1934 and 1961. Toynbee’s thesis is that civilizations fail when they remain too long in Winners and Losers mode, and fail to operate primarily from a Challenge and Response orientation. Futurist Peter Schwartz borrows from Toynbee in his book on scenario methodology The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World (1996).
  • Zerosum games and Nonzerosum games are the terms used by journalist and historian Robert Wright in his study of the intersection of human evolutionary biology, civilization, and moral development Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (2000).
  • Finite games and Infinite games are the terms used by New York University religion professor James Carse in his study of religion, culture, and history Finite and Infinite Games (1987). (Many thanks to Dr. Carse—the unconventional structure of this book is based on his.)
  • Strict father and Nurturant parent are the terms used by cognitive linguistics and political rhetoric professor George Lakoff in Moral Politics (1996) and Don’t Think of an Elephant (2004).

Other thinkers have made similar points, but have not coined counterpart terms. Historian Jared Diamond outlines how zerosum (Knight) orientations have caused civilizations to fail in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail (2005). Comparative religions expert Joseph Campbell often said that a major theme across the major world religions was a quest to reunite two warring factions or separated halves in the world into one-ness. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), The Masks of God: Creative Mythology (1968), The Power of Myth (1991) and Reflections on the Art of Living: The Joseph Campbell Companion (1995) contain this theme in Campbell’s works. Even national security and global affairs thinker Thomas Barnett refers to a Knight military as a “Leviathan” military, and Gardener military as a “System Administration” military—and outlines the need for both—in The Pentagon’s New Map (2004) and Blueprint for Action (2005).

Don’t mistake me as saying “There are two kinds of people in the world”—that’s absurd. While there are many other worldviews and worldview-narratives at work in the world today, I focus on the Knight and the Gardener because they are the most relevant to our current political, cultural and religious situation.


December 27, 2009

Where do these worldviews come from? No one knows for sure. Some argue that religions create worldviews; others argue that worldviews create religious orientations—a real “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?” conundrum.

Separating worldviews from their religious roots (or vice versa) is impossible. For the purposes of this book I argue that worldviews create religious orientations. Why? It’s simpler. Since this book is written to be helpful for as many people as possible, and since many of you may not be religious, I begin the book with the areas of life most people find most familiar, and end with spiritual matters.

Even if you have no interest in religion, but still find religion in society important to understand, you may find that the last section of this book—Soul—explains why and how religious groups such as the Religious Right pursue their political agendas.

Regardless, one need not be religious to hold one of these worldviews.


December 27, 2009

Everyone has both the Knight and the Gardener within him or herself, but tends to emphasize one worldview over the other out of choice, habit, upbringing, religious background, or education. Everyone is primarily one and secondarily the other. You may also function in different modes in different parts of your life, say, as a Knight at work and a Gardener at home.

Worldviews aren’t destiny. Even the most strident Knights function as Gardeners from time to time; and most Gardeners must function as Knights occasionally. And Knights and Gardeners encounter “conversion experiences” to the other orientation for any number of life reasons.

In this book, I seek to outline only the patterns and tendencies of Knights and Gardeners’ worldviews and behavior. These two worldviews are described as opposites—and sometimes presented in extremes—for illustrative purposes and clarity only. In reality, they are not opposites or mutually exclusive, but the two ends of a continuum.

Like all paradigms, this book seeks to explain most of a phenomenon, most of the time.


December 27, 2009

Which are you primarily—a Knight or a Gardener? Which have you been? Which do you aspire to be?


December 27, 2009

What you perceive as heroic or virtuous behavior influences how you form and maintain your love relationships, which in turn affects how you behave during conflict situations. All of these influence how you approach matters of the soul.


December 27, 2009

Holding the Knight’s or the Gardener’s worldview shapes how you believe heroes are supposed to behave, and what virtue is.


December 27, 2009

In Western culture, our heroic ideals are drawn primarily from three sources—the Bible, stories about the quest for the Holy Grail, and pop culture.


December 27, 2009

Knights find warriors—literal or spiritual—heroic. In the Bible, Knights find their greatest heroic inspirations in the God-as-“Yahweh” stories in the early Old Testament, and the apocalyptic stories in Daniel and Revelation. These stories depict the people of God succeeding or failing in great spiritual showdowns with the forces of evil. Knights aspire to serve in God’s army against the Devil.

Knights’ imaginations are often sparked by Revelation’s depictions of a sword-wielding Christ leading God’s army against Satan and his forces. For Knights, there are only two camps in Creation—good and evil—that struggle for victory in the world. Knights idolize the champions of good, and want to become one. Knights believe that siding with the right pleases God, and refusal to do so displeases God.

Knights use Revelation to interpret the rest of the Bible as an epic story of conflict in which great champions are required. Seen in this light, Jesus serves as the Great Commander or Great Redeemer who returns souls home from the outland of sin—Satan’s realm—to God’s arms and God’s service. And Jesus’ miracles are proof of his authority and strength.

Knights’ primarily ask Who should be combated? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Am I worthy to serve in God’s army—or how can I become so? What degree of force does God say is warranted to overcome this foe?



December 27, 2009

Gardeners find healers—literal or spiritual—heroic. Gardeners find their inspiring hero role models in the biblical stories about wholeness and spiritual growth or progress. Gardeners admire, and seek to emulate Adam tending the Garden of Eden, Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land (a new Garden), the prophets working to renew the nation to its creative purposes, Jesus healing wounds and reconciling people with God and each other, and Paul establishing churches.

Gardeners idolize healers and view atonement not as a process of penance, but as “at-one-ment”—the process of reconciliation, of merging split parts back together. For Gardeners, the seven sacraments of the church are acts of at-one-ment with God or each other—baptism (a ritual of dispensing of a past life, and giving birth to a new spiritual life within the Spirit of God), the Eucharist (a ritual of infusing one’s physical body with the Spirit of the divine), confirmation (affirmation of one’s belief in God), ordination (commission of clergy), confession of sins, anointing (healing) the sick, and matrimony (uniting two separate people into the one-ness of marriage).



December 27, 2009

Knights believe the world consists of two camps—and that those camps should remain separate.

Gardeners believe there should be only one.


December 27, 2009

Gardeners also idolize pioneers, innovators and midwives of the future. Gardeners believe the overall story of the Bible is one of birthing, of moving from womb to wilderness to wow! In the Bible, the pattern is of someone or a group leaving the familiar (a womb), going out across an unknown desert or wilderness and creating something new for God on the other side—or God creating something new for them (the wow!). One translation states that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, but the original Hebrew verb is also the one used for being born. In the original, Adam and Eve are born—expelled—from the womb of the Garden. (Genesis 3:23-24, RSV).

For Gardeners, the biblical pattern is of God’s people leaving the womb, crossing a wilderness, and creating a “wow”—an awe-inspiring future with God. Adam and Eve left the Garden and created humanity. Cain went east of Eden and created the first civilization. Noah went out across unknown waters and created a new beginning. Moses took his people out of Egypt across a desert to the Promised Land. Jesus left his home, went out into the wilderness and came back with the vision of the Kingdom of God. Paul went into the wilderness of his own blindness and came back with the vision of the Christian church. For Gardeners, refusal to leave the womb, to cross the wilderness and birth a “wow” results in spiritual death or frozenness—just like Lot’s wife, who became a pillar of salt when she would not leave her past behind.

Gardeners use these stories to interpret the rest of the Bible as the epic story of God’s Ongoing Creation in which all creatures participate. Seen in this light, Jesus is the Great Redeemer, Great Healer, and Great Visionary who came to save souls so they can rejoin God’s creating process, both in this life and the next. For Gardeners, Jesus’ miracles were not evidence of power, but of God’s intention to restore people to their ability to participate in his Creation. Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection show God’s supreme desire to remove all the obstacles to Creation and show that life never ends. And that God’s infinite vitality would not allow Jesus to stay dead.

Many Gardeners believe the future is not fixed. For them, God has broad intentions for the future—that it be filled with kindness, that all of Creation should grow and overflow with life—but has no fixed plan for how that will be realized. We have free will to choose whether or not to cultivate the garden.

Gardeners’ primarily ask What womb am I called to leave? What wilderness am I called to cross? What “wow” am I called to give birth to?


December 27, 2009

There are two different tales of the quest for the Holy Grail—the Galahad version, which was written by a Knight, and the Parzival (Percival) version, which was written by a Gardener. Both hero-stories influence us today though few Knights or Gardeners are aware of the original tales.

Both accounts of the Grail quest were written to diagnose and solve the greatest spiritual problems of 12th and 13th century Europe—the corruption of the Church, and the Church’s requirement that people order their lives along the dictates of the orthodoxy rather than the divinely-inspired callings of their own hearts. As both Grail stories begin, the world has fallen into literal ruin—a wasteland—as a reflection of its spiritual ruin.



December 27, 2009

Knights seek to emulate Galahad—the honorable, steadfast, incorruptible knight whose heart was pure enough to retrieve the Holy Grail. The Galahad tale was written by Catholic monks of the Order of Cistercian. As a result, Galahad lives as purely and chastely as a monk, and resists the sins and temptations of the world. The most popular representations of Galahad’s quest for the Grail show him in full armor, resisting the beckoning of beautiful forest nymphs. For Galahad’s priestly creators, the corruption of the Church can be corrected—and the world repaired—by a return to strict adherence to principle.

For Knights, the best, truest hero acts like a knight in shining armor, the one who saves the world by doing the purest, most correct thing despite impossible odds.



December 27, 2009

Gardeners seek to emulate Parzival—the knight who followed the guidance of his divinely-inspired heart to the hiding place of the Grail.

In the epic poem Parzival, written by medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, the world has fallen into ruin because of an ongoing war between the forces of good and evil. As the war rages in heaven between God and Satan, a band of neutral angels bring the Grail down from heaven and hide it on Earth to prevent it from being destroyed in the crossfire. (In this tale, the Grail is not the cup of Christ from the Last Supper, but a rock that embodies the divine quality of unconditional love and compassion.)

These neutral angels charged an earthly knight with protecting the Grail, but the newly-minted Grail King quickly fails to represent that spirit of unconditional love and compassion when he draws his sword against another knight in the name of a virtue. During the ensuing duel, both opponents are maimed. As a result—just as conflict has wreaked havoc in heaven—combat between the guardian of the Grail on Earth and his opponent renders the world into a total wasteland.

A replacement Grail King is needed who can reconcile this world split by strife, and pioneer the establishment of a new order. Into this world Wolfram introduces the hero Parzival, whose name in French perce a val means “pierce through the middle” or “one who finds the way between opposites.” Parzival’s spiritual missions in this tale are to achieve at-one-ment between warring parties, and to pioneer a new spiritual order based on the heart rather than the rules of the day about virtue and evil. These missions are those of a Gardener even though Parzival—and Wolfram, his author-creator—were both actual medieval knights.

Immediately after Parzival begins his quest for the Grail, he meets the maimed Grail King in agony on his throne in the Grail Castle. Rather than compassionately asking the Grail King why he suffers, Parzival—attempting to behave as a “proper,” quiet, obedient, respectful knight should—merely stands at attention, awaiting an order. As a result, the next morning the Grail King’s castle magically expels him, and disappears. Parzival wanders for years before realizing that he had failed spiritually with the Grail King—that holy, virtuous service means responding compassionately and without regard for one’s station in life, or the station of those who need you, rather than engaging in crusades in the name of virtue.

During his time in the wilderness, Parzival learns to follow his heart rather than the rules of his day. All other knights questing for the Grail fail because they (1) roar off the path to vanquish evil, or (2) follow orders from political and spiritual authorities to deviate. Parzival, however, follows the compass of his own divinely-inspired heart.

Along the way he falls madly in love with and marries the beautiful young queen Condwiramurs rather than agreeing to an arranged marriage. He has many other adventures until finally he faces a “heathen soldier”—a Muslim knight from the court of the Caliph of Baghdad. Parzival is duty-bound to fight, but refuses, later learning that the Muslim knight is his own half-brother.

Only after passing these three spiritual tests—that he should pursue the ways of compassion (as with the Grail King), the ways of true love (as with his wife), and the ways of at-one-ment (that he and his enemy are one) does he rediscover the location of the Grail Castle. Inside, he approaches the maimed Grail King again and asks “Why are you hurt? How can I help you?” And this signal of compassion is all that is necessary to heal the Grail King, reveal the Grail in its radiant glory, and restore the entire world to vitality.

In Galahad’s story, the world falls into ruin because it abandoned principle. In Parzival’s story, it falls because it refused to be guided by the heart.

For Gardeners, the best, truest hero is the one who pursues with single-minded devotion one’s calling from God despite impossible odds.



December 27, 2009

While many Knights today do not know the story of Galahad, they idolize his example in modern TV and movies. Modern-day Knights still aspire to do battle with the forces of evil, live by a code of honor or principle, and do what’s right even if it means becoming the last good, brave man in the world.

Modern-day Knights dreams of being…

  • The steely-eyed lawman, the only law in a lawless land, squinting in the prairie sun, squaring off against outlaws at the OK Corral (Tombstone, The Lone Ranger, High Noon, Deadwood)
  • The Allied soldier in World War II fighting the Nazis to save the world (Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, the Indiana Jones series)
  • The hero facing off against hopeless odds to protect the innocent (The Magnificent Seven, The Lord of the Rings movies, Die Hard, Mad Max)
  • The underdog winning the game against all odds (Rocky, The Natural, Bang the Drum Slowly)
  • The sentinel living according to principle even at the risk of total ruin (The Untouchables, Chariots of Fire)
  • The vigilante ignoring the rules to make sure justice is done (Dirty Harry, Fistful of Dollars, Batman Begins)
  • The hard-boiled detective following the trail of a mystery no matter where it leads (The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The X-Files)
  • The antihero given an opportunity to redeem a selfish life (The Dirty Dozen, Michael Clayton)
  • The superhero swooping in to save the day (Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man)
  • The cool-under-fire, quick-witted rebel against oppression (the Star Wars movies, The Matrix trilogy, The Great Escape, Braveheart, The Patriot, the James Bond series)
  • The Jedi Knight igniting his lightsaber and turning to duel a menacing Dark Lord of the Sith (the Star Wars movies)


December 27, 2009

While many Gardeners today do not know the story of Parzival, they idolize his example in modern TV and movies. Modern-day Gardeners still aspire to change the world, break new ground, and bring warring parties together.

Modern-day Gardeners dream of…

  • Overcoming barriers between people (Cry Freedom, In the Heat of the Night, Mississippi Burning)
  • Exploring new frontiers (The Right Stuff, Dances with Wolves, the Star Trek series)
  • Pursuing a crazy dream (Field of Dreams, Stand and Deliver, Ray, Walk the Line)
  • Pursuing a hidden truth that will transform a world (A Beautiful Mind, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The X-Files)
  • Delivering something precious out of a land of darkness that transforms a world (Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda, Children of Men)


December 27, 2009

For Knights, standing against evil makes one virtuous.

For Gardeners, bringing worlds together or working to fulfill a dream makes one virtuous.


December 27, 2009

Knights yearn for the Great Showdown.

Gardeners yearn for the Great Breakthrough.


December 27, 2009

The Star Wars saga and The Matrix trilogy are both Knight and Gardener epics that conclude when the main characters—who have been pursuing a Great Showdown—realize that their wars cannot end without a Great Breakthrough of insight, wisdom or compassion.

Both series’ plots were drawn from the lessons and stories of the great religious traditions. George Lucas (Star Wars) and the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix) are serious students of world religions.

The Star Wars saga is the story of the corrupting of a Republic, and the rise of an Empire engineered by a power-hungry politician (Senator-turned-Emperor Palpatine) and his chief military enforcer (the corrupted Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker—Darth Vader).

The collapse of the Republic and subsequent “star wars” were caused by the repeated spiritual and human failings of the major characters. Palpatine’s and Vader’s pursuit of unlimited spiritual and political power was not countered for two reasons. First, Palpatine’s opponents in the Republic’s Senate failed to show political courage and check his power. And second, the Order of Jedi Knights, which had gained worldly power and become a political institution—a kind of state Church—had become arrogant and forgotten its intended role in the cosmos as nonpartisan peacemakers. (The Jedi are a combination of Parzival and Galahad. They follow the Parzival model, but wear monk’s robes and live in a monastic order, spiritually separated from the world.) The result was a galaxy-spanning war between the Empire and Rebellion that lasted a generation.

During the Great Showdown with the Emperor and Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker realizes the nature of his father’s spiritual failings. He realizes that Vader’s originally well-intentioned pursuit of power in the name of establishing order, justice and peace in the name of a “good” over an “evil” led him down the path of the Dark Side of the Force. At the trilogy’s climax, Luke defeats his father in single combat and stands over him, ready to administer the coup de gras with his lightsaber. In that moment he realizes he is about to repeat his father’s spiritual failing and continue the war forever. Luke stands tall, throws away his lightsaber and tells the Emperor that he will not fight; that he is a Jedi—a nonpartisan peacemaker; a spiritual sage—like his father before him. Luke shows mercy to his father—the dark Knight—and then places himself at the mercy of the Emperor—the  dark king—the most powerful, deadliest man in the galaxy. As the Emperor begins killing Luke slowly, Vader experiences the Great Spiritual Breakthrough he’d missed his entire life—that compassion rather than the pursuit of virtue is what transforms worlds, including the world of his own heart—and saves his son’s life. Only then do the “star wars” truly end.

Similarly, at the end of The Matrix trilogy, Neo experiences a Great Spiritual Breakthrough and saves both the world of the Matrix and the real world—a Gardener resolution—rather than eradicating the Matrix, to the disappointment of fans and critics who expected a Knight resolution.



December 27, 2009

Some movies present impossible dilemmas for Knights and Gardeners. (Warning: plot spoilers ahead.)  Gone Baby Gone and Watchmen end with the world saved by the commission of secret, unconscionable acts. These movies beg questions for Knights and Gardeners—should the secrets be brought to light at the risk of destroying the world, or should the world remain saved even if it means keeping a dirty secret? Were these secret, unconscionable acts truly unethical? Does the end justify the means?



December 27, 2009

Knights can also become frustrated when watching movies in which the pursuit of the most virtuous path cannot win the fight, eradicate the threat, or resolve the problem. (Warning: Plot spoilers ahead) No Country for Old Men ends without victory for the righteous and punishment for the wicked. L. A. Confidential ends with all the honest characters corrupt and all the corrupt characters redeemed. The Wire outlines how pursuit of the War on Drugs—a Knight endeavor—makes the problem worse, not better.