Principle 9 Liberty 3

Principle 9, third week
This week’s principle is  #9, The Principle of Liberty” it says: “When You Harm Others You Remain Enchained, But If You Do Not Harm Anyone You May Freely Do Whatever You Want”.

First time here? Then you should know…
Every month we focus one of the 12 Principles of Valid Action. These acan be found in Chapter 13 of the book, The Inner Look. Each week we look at a different aspect of that principle. 

We take the time to think and talk about each principle, not just in order to understand it in itself, but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our behaviour. These principles, or guidelines, or however you think of them are elements that we can form into a discipline which can be practiced at every moment and in every circumstance. They are a kind of dynamic meditation. With time and application these efforts will give all my activities a particular tone, mood, and mental direction.  Our goal is to weave these general ideas that you can weave together into a coherent style of life.

Coming up:
Last week we reflected on how we applied it or could have applied this principle in the past, and what the consequences were, or might have been. This week we’ll focus on how we are applying, (or could apply) this principle in the present moment. The fourth week we’ll explore how we have might apply it in the future. 

Some Personal Reflections:
I find my attempts to meditate on the application of the principle interrupted by the usual mental noise, random associations, daydreams, reveries, etc. But also by partially articulated thoughts. These are currently dominated by the phrase “If you do not harm others”. As we have discussed in the past, taking the principles seriously leaves us with many difficulties, with unanswered questions of all kinds. Some of us don’t consider that a short coming but precisely the key to transforming the principles from platitudes, or dead words on the page, to the tool par excellence for creating a discipline that we can carry on at every moment of our lives. That is, a form of meditation that does not require us to close our eyes, or with draw from the chaos of daily life — on the contrary.

As mentioned in my last email in this series, the principles do not attempt to remove the need for personal judgment (unlike some “moral” codes, “ethical” rules, or legal statutes, etc). In fact, I’d say that is exactly what they demand of each one of us, a focusing back on my own judgements, my own registers. It seems to me that there is a certain kind of question that arises, or maybe, must arise, if I’m trying to turn these words from platitudes into real principles of valid action. For example: When does my effort become “forcing”? How do I know if a particular tendency is just a transient occurrence or really “the evolution of things”? How can I know if a force is “great” or if I’m being weak or indecisive? How do I find the right way to “retreat” before the great force? How will I know when it weakens sufficiently? How will I determine how to advance against it or what is sufficient “resolution”?

Another aspect of this principle that demands some exploration is the idea of “harm”. What exactly does that mean? When am I harming someone and when am I simply doing something that they don’t like or of which they don’t approve. I don’t want to harm anyone but I also don’t want to be manipulated by some kind of emotional black mail. Meditating on that takes me to the more general idea of violence. To harm someone is to do them violence but what are the limits of violence? We know that violence isn’t simply something physical. There is an emotional violence, a psychological violence, racial, religious and sexual violence, etc. These can be as real, and as harmful as physical violence. It seems to me that all forms of violence (or harm) comes from treating people as things or objects. In that sense the principle could read “…do not do violence and you can freely do whatever you want”. Does that resolve everything? Far from it but what is important is that I begin to increasingly give a clear direction to my actions. A direction where the (perhaps elusive) marker of nonviolence is of central importance.

In any case these are some of my thoughts on this principle. I look forward to seeing you at our meeting on Wednesday and hearing about your reflections.

And in Conclusion:
These notes have been sent to the email list of The Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex, and posted on Facebook, as well as on my blog at

We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.