Principle 12, First Week
This week we begin our reflections on principle #12, “The Principle of Accumulating Actions” which says: “If you repeat your acts of internal unity then nothing can detain you.”
Since this is our first go at the principle this note will centre on a kind of overview of the principle. Among other things, our weekly meetings give us an opportunity to compare notes, discoveries, questions, etc. about the principles.
Everyone has their own way of approaching these principles. I like to take a look at the principle we are considering, and over the first week I try to discover at least one situation where I allowed small failures to accumulate and demoralize me. Then I look for at least one situation where I can recognize that small efforts added up, or could add up, resulting in my being able to do something larger.
Some Reflections (that might be useful raw material for your reflections)
We sometimes refer to the senses, memory and imagination as the three pathways of consciousness. These three pathways modify one another. For example, our actions are not just recorded passively in memory. The contents of your memory colour your perception and imagination just as they in turn supply the memory and shape your imagination.
Repeating your actions forms habits of behaviour that in turn reinforce your future actions. This is true whether these are acts that produce internal unity (i.e. agreement with yourself) or contradiction (internal conflict). In either case repetition produces a mental direction and forms habitual ways of facing life.
This 12th principle reminds us that what is being suggested is not a matter of acting according to one principle, or a few principles in isolation. To repeat acts of internal unity is to act according to all the principles. It’s about repeating a whole structure of actions that give internal unity.
The sustained attempt to apply the principles in this way turns them from catch phrases into an integral discipline capable of transforming our life into one of growing internal unity and therefore of growing happiness.
Sometimes an individual or group builds their entire life out of contradictory acts. This can apparently result in ‘success’ at least in the short term. A more careful observer will note that sooner or later the results will be catastrophic because the foundations of that life (individual or collective) lacks integrity. Many people, seeing only a moment in that process think that it is “successful”. Seeing it in process, observing how it evolves (devolves?) over time, reveals a very different situation.
The following legend is perhaps a less familiar variation of a well-known story. It illustrates the results of accumulating unifying or contradictory actions.
In his vanity a prideful prince decided to build a tower whose heights would reach into the heavens. So he gathered fully one third of the able-bodied men, women and even children of his kingdom and set them to work.
The people of the kingdom, with the exception of a few who could be called the wise or the compassionate, were corrupted in the same way as their ruler. In their greed they preyed upon neighbouring kingdoms and were vain about their wealth.
Over the years the immense undertaking grew. The building of the tower required more and more workers, and resources of all kinds. From the remaining population, that were not labouring day and night on this extraordinary construction, the prince raised a mighty army and sent it out to conquer more lands so that those people might be enslaved to work on the tower and so that their riches should refill his coffers.
And so it went; stone was piled on stone, and effort was accumulated on effort. The tower rose to astounding heights; taking with it all the wealth, effort and suffering. It was like those times that the waters rise to heavens but do not return as rain. Those times when only drought descends on to the sad earth.
So the wise people gathered and they asked their spirits: “What unites these people?” And their spirits answered: “Their pride unites them.” Then they asked their spirits: “What divides these people?” And their spirits answered: “Their pride divides them.”
Then the wise ones, carefully calculating the consequences of their actions went among the builders labouring on the tower. And they said to them: “This tower which will be gazed on in awe and submission by all the nations requires its builders be seen in the same way. It is only fitting that the leaders be raised to the heights so all may see the merit they have earned and the lesser ones should struggle below so that they may earn merit and so ascend.
Immediately the people started to push and shove and fight for prominence. With the architects, engineers and other leaders far above the others could not hear their instructions. Soon they were all shouting and since no one could hear above the din all guidance was lost and chaos ensued. Contradictory and misunderstood orders brought rope to where mortar was needed and mortar to where scaffold was required. Ropes frayed against projecting walls that were meant to be smooth. Baskets, tipped over. Ladders slipped, bricks and mortar were misplaced and soon the tower itself, no longer rising straight as a pillar, began to teeter. The building however continued without rest, until finally with a foundation that no longer anchored it the swaying tower crashed to the ground dragging with it all who had guided the work from the heights.
Then the wise gathered once more. They said: “Let us find some way to make use of all this so at least some benefit should return to our people.” And so the bricks and tools that now lay scattered were gathered and the people worked on new projects: homes were built, aqueducts were extended, and granaries repaired. The people laboured at peace with themselves and in friendship with their neighbours.
This week we’re trying to get a general sense of this principle and our thoughts about it. Over the following weeks we’ll consider how we’ve seen this in action in our past. We’ll look at how the principle could be applied to our present circumstance, and what it might mean for us in future situations.
First time here? Then you should know:
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.
Every month we focus one of the 12 Principles. These can be found in Chapter 13 of the book, The Inner Look. Each week we look at a different aspect of that month’s principle. 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.
In his commentaries on his Message Silo had this to say about The Principles:
Chapter XIII (of the Inner Look) 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.
Want to know more:
Remember, you can always just ask. Either send something to me or post it to our Facebook page.
You can also find The Inner Look and Silo’s Commentaries on the Message, along with the rest of Silo’s writings (in many languages) here And along with other activities, materials etc of Silo’s Message here.
Some of the English version of his works have been published and hard copies are available. See for example.
Parks of Study and Reflection:
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.
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 here on my blog.
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.