Principle 1 Adaptation

The Principle we will consider this month is principle #1 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look). It is also called “The Principle of Adaptation” it says: “To go against the evolution of things is to go against yourself.”

Here are some of the considerations about this principle. I’m drawing them largely from conversations with many people. Also from materials we created over the years to illustrate various aspects of the principles. I’m sorry that in most cases I can’t credit specific individuals for their contributions but if I can I will.

Illustration by Rafael Edwards

This principle, which is the first in the twelve presented in The Inner Look, makes evident something that we will find to be true of all the rest as well; they can’t simply be applied mechanically. Wisdom is required to put them into practice – wisdom and the effort to see each principle in light of the other ones.

This principle explains that when we know the outcome of a situation we should to accept the inevitable as completely as possible, foreseeing how we might take advantage of even its negative aspects. The meaning of this principle becomes clear if we meditate on occasions when we acted contrary to it. It is also worthwhile to look at the situations we currently face and consider how ignoring this principle could generate suffering in ourselves, and in others.

This principle is applicable in situations where the outcome is in someway inevitable. Misapplying it by going along with something that does not really represent the “evolution of things” can be (at best) counterproductive. For example, people had accepted pain and illness as inevitable medical science would not have evolved. It may not be an exaggeration to say that every major human advance has arisen as a rebellion against inevitability. And there’s where the wisdom comes into play.

Consider the illustration (below) of a chick cracking out of its egg. For the bird to try and return to its previous stage is to go against the inevitable evolution of things and very clearly to go against itself. A different aspect of the principle is revealed if we consider the case of parents who refuse to accept their children’s growth and changing needs and find it difficult to let go. They end up doing their children no service, hurting themselves and sometimes seriously imperiling the relations between them.

Or consider the following tale where the poor turtle (aptly named, Turtleneck) tries to avoid the changes around him and instead take extreme measures to escape from that situation into another. As the old saying has it he ends up going from the frying pan and to the fire (sort of literally).

Turtleneck, the turtle, lived in a beautiful and lush pond where he spent his days burrowed into the muddy bottom or floating about chatting with his good friends the geese who always summered there. Unfortunately for the visiting water birds a great drought had come, as it did every few years, and the pond was drying up. One day they said to their amphibious friend: “the water is disappearing so we must depart. We will return next year if the drought is over to pass the summer with you. If not we will certainly land to have a little chat before we fly on.”

Turtleneck responded: “I understand why you must go. I can easily live here, even if I have to burrow down into the muck of the small pond that will remain, but our needs our very different and it will not be enough water for all of you. However, life here will be very boring without you. I’m coming with.”

The geese answered: “But little wingless friend how can that be? We will be flying far and fast.” “I have a plan,” said the turtle, “let two of you pick up that stick over there and hold it fast in your beaks. I in turn will bite it and hold it in mine.” They replied: “There are two problems with your plan, hard shelled one. First, leaving here is for us a matter of life and death, while for you it is more a matter of whimsy. Secondly, while we, your friends, find your habit of always needing to comment on everything endearing, in this case, if you forget yourself and start to talk it could precipitate a catastrophe and end your life. Perhaps it is better that you remain until we return since you can easily adapt to the coming changes.”

But Turtleneck insisted and his plan was put into effect and, with great effort, the two geese carried their friend aloft. As they flew low over the nearby village the people ran out to gaze at this miraculous sight. In their astonishment they turned to each other and asked: “what could this be”? “Can you make it out”? “Is that a chariot pulled by birds”? The turtle, remembering the stones that the village children had thrown at her as she lay in her pond wanted to impress the people with her ability to fly. Suddenly, she cried out loudly: “It is I, Turtleneck”! Only, the geese heard her words as she plummeted to her death. And some of the villagers, who were very fond of turtle soup carried her home for dinner.

General Considerations about the Principles
It is very interesting, and useful to compare and discuss our experiences of, and considerations about, this Principle and it’s applications. Perhaps that will lead to an interchange of points of view, or an enriching of our own perspectives. Either way, remember, the Principles are not “morals” or “laws”. They are not meant as external guidelines but as aids to configuring a way of approaching life based on registers of unity (agreement with myself) and contradiction. Internal unity is registered when my thinking, feeling and actions go in the same direction and aren’t warring with each other. That’s why the Principles are sometimes called Principles of Valid Action. A valid action, is unitive, ends in others, and is something we want to repeat.

In his commentaries on his Message Silo had this to say about The Principles:
Chapter XIII sets forth the “Principles of Valid Action.” It deals with the formulation of a behavior in life that is presented for those who wish to develop a coherent life built on two basic internal registers: that of unity and that of contradiction. In this way, the justification for this “morality” is found in the registers that it produces, and not in particular ideas or beliefs tied to one place, time, or cultural model. The register of internal unity that is being sought is accompanied by certain indicators that should be taken into consideration. These are: 1.The sensation of internal growth; 2. Continuity in time; and 3. Affirming that one would want to repeat it in the future. The sensation of internal growth appears as a true and positive indicator that always accompanies the experience of personal improvement. Regarding continuity in time, it means that through comparison with later, or imagined, or remembered situations, one is able to confirm that the validity of the experience does not change, even with changing circumstances. Lastly, if after the act one wishes to repeat it, we can say that the sensation of internal unity affirms the validity of this action. On the contrary, contradictory actions might have some of the characteristics of unitive actions, or none of them, but they never have all three.

There exists, nevertheless, another kind of action that we cannot strictly call “valid,” but neither can we call them “contradictory.” While such an action does not prevent our development, it does not produce great improvement either. These actions can be more or less disagreeable or more or less pleasurable, but from the point of view of validity they do not add anything or take anything away. These types of actions are the everyday actions, the mechanically habitual actions. They are perhaps necessary for our subsistence and coexistence. But according to the model of unitive and contradictory actions that we have been examining, such an action does not in itself constitute a moral act. The Principles, referred to as “Principles of Valid Action,” are classified as: 1. The Principle of Adaptation; 2. The Principle of Action and Reaction; 3. The Principle of Opportune Action; 4. The Principle of Proportion; 5. The Principle of Acceptance; 6. The Principle of Pleasure; 7. The Principle of Immediate Action; 8. The Principle of Comprehended Action; 9. The Principle of Liberty; 10. The Principle of Solidarity; 11. The Principle of Negation of Opposites, and 12. The Principle of Accumulating Actions.

For More Information
Remember you can find The Inner Look and Silo’s Commentaries on the Message, along with the rest of Silo’s writings (in many languages) on SILO.NET
And along with other activities, materials etc of Silo’s Message at SILO’s MESSAGE
Some of the English version of his works have been published and hard copies are available. See for example: Latitude Press.

There are (so far) 2 Parks of Study and Reflection in North America. These are Red Bluff in California and Hudson Valley in New York. The Parks of Study and Reflection are projects built and paid for by individuals inspired by Silo’s teachings. More information is available on their websites.