This month we are looking at Principle #11, “The Principle of the Negation of Opposites”, from chapter 13 of The Inner Look. It says: “It does not matter in what faction events have placed you what matters is for you to understand that you have not chosen any faction.”
Take a look at the principle and this week try to discover at least one situation where it was or would be applicable. During the week we will try to apply it and compare results when we get together.
Since this is our first go at the principle this month I’m sending around a kind of overview on the principle. We can discuss it at this week’s meeting. In the next weeks we’ll consider how we’ve seen this in action in our pasts. We’ll look at how the principle could be applied to our present circumstance and what it might mean for us in future situations.
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.
However this principle says that these points of view, approaches, religions, political perspectives etc are given to us by events. They have little do with our choices and are more about educational, environmental, and economic factors etc. Even if I believe that I choose my beliefs still I understand that being born in a particular time and place, in particular conditions and that means that I choose within the possibilities that I’m presented with – even when I choose in reaction against particular values or beliefs.
The principle seems to be asking us to (without abandoning anything) to shift our point of view, at least for a moment, and consider that what might be important is not my position, opinion or faction but my understanding that I haven’t chosen any of it. Simply trying to apply this principle encourages an attitude that is like an antidote to fanaticism and self-righteousness (not that any of us have those tendencies, these are things that other people suffer from). At the same time it makes it easier to understand other people’s underlying beliefs and positions. Clearly all this contributes to mental and emotional flexibility as well as a bridge of mutual understanding between people – even where their ideas and beliefs are apparently in conflict.
This principle asks us to recognize a lack of freedom in situations that we did not or do not have real choice. However, it also makes us recognize a different dimension of freedom; a freedom to deny any real conflict with others in the same situation that they also did not choose – even when their positions apparently oppose mine.
At first and perhaps even second glance it’s a strange position. Trying to apply it will confirm that it’s a powerfully liberating one as well. Here’s an old tale that you will likely have heard but which puts us in mind of this unusual principle.
The enemies of Jesus tried to trap him by getting him to choose between positions where either choice would get him in serious trouble. They approached him and said: “Master, we know you are a truthful man and one whom with truth teaches the path of God. You who have no preference for this man or that and bow before none, tell us therefore what you think. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or should it be for the Temple of the Lord?”
And Jesus replied: “Why do you try me you hypocrites? Show me the coin of tribute.” So they handed him a dinar and he held it up and asked: “Whose profile is upon this coin?” They told him: “It is the figure of Caesar.” And he replied: “Then I say to you render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” Hearing this they were ashamed and went their way.
If you are not too familiar with the principles of valid action and their application here’s some background:
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.
I hope you find these comments of interest. This brief note has also been posted to the Facebook page, and mailing list for The Community of Silo’s Message, Toronto Annex.
We’d all love to hear your comments on, and thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.