Principle 12, Second Week
This week we continue 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.” This weeks meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss what we’ve learned so far about how we applied, or could have applied this idea in the past. Can I notice how even small steps accumulate and form a direction in my life. For example, can I recognize how laying down the beginnings of a new habit could have changed a later outcome. 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 week I’ll try to discover at least one situation where I allowed old habits and small failures to accumulate and demoralize me. Then I will consider how, for at least one situation, I might have change this by doing some small things in a new way, with the intention of creating new habits and extending them to more situations and bigger things.
Some Reflections (that might be useful raw material for your reflections)
Last year I mentioned that while I was thinking about the principle of accumulating action I received an email. This email questioned the wisdom of countries allowing in a flood of refugees which might harbour some individuals bearing ill will, and even some willing to use violence against random strangers to advance their cause.
With these things going around in my head I found myself reflecting on the big problems in the world (and sometimes in my life) and how my small actions — even if they were positive or felt unitive— weren’t even close to being on the same scale as the these destructive events all around.
But I kept coming back to the idea that, while a drop of water has no impact on a block of granite, over time many such drops wear away at even the strongest rock. In this way the relentless drips of water produce what is at first the slightest of grooves but which eventually might become a great canyon.
As that famous verse has it:
Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people
is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves
to be king of the universe.
The truth often seems paradoxical.
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 78
Anyway if you haven’t seen it this is the conclusion of my response to the email I mentioned earlier:
The question remains than what’s to be done. On a political level I’ve got no clue. However personally, I think the first step in the war against terrorism is to end the violence and discrimination in myself, and to work for peace in my world, i.e the world of my friends, family, co-workers, etc. That includes speaking up against intolerance, and hate but mostly means dealing with my own fears and seeing how they distort my vision, ideas and behaviour. I believe it’s necessary to cultivate peace in ourselves and the world around us just as it is necessary to find the vital force to embrace life, and the joy that comes with an open future. From my perspective that is not an alternative or the result of not finding a political answer, rather it is the only real way forward.
This week we’re trying to see this principle in the context of our past situations. Over the following weeks we’ll look at how the principle could be applied to our present circumstance, and what it might mean for us in future situations.
Received these comments before? Then you probably don’t have to read the following:
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.