Principle 9 Principle of Liberty 3 – 2020

“When You Harm Others You Remain Enchained, But If You Do Not Harm Anyone You May Freely Do Whatever You Want.”

Principle 9. Principle of Liberty – Week 3.
Last time: Unchain Yourself
This time: A Prisoner of Violence

This Week:
This week we’ll be continuing with our investigations of principle 9. Over the last two weeks we tried to understand its general structure and scope of the principle as well as how it might have applied in the past. This week we’ll look at how we might apply the same principle in the present moment.

Personal Reflections:
What follows are my reflections. I make no greater claim for them but offer them in the spirit of exchange and dialogue. 

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 shortcoming 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 withdraw from the chaos of daily life — on the contrary it demands we plunge fully into that often messy reality.

As has been pointed out many times 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 our own judgments, on our 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 question 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 can be emotional violence, 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.


The principles of valid action are key to creating a kind of dynamic meditation. The efforts we make to understand them, discuss them and apply them, will give all my activities a particular tone, mood, and mental direction.  In other words our goal is to weave all this together into a permanent and general way of facing life.

Worth Repeating:
“The basis of valid action is not given by ideologies, or by religious mandates or beliefs, or by laws or social regulations. Even though all of these things have great importance, none of them provides a basis for valid action. Instead, the basis of valid action is given by the inner register that an individual has of that action”.
Valid Action: talk with a study group in Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island 1978. 
Silo, Collected Works Vol.1
Coming up:

Next week we will continue with principle 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”. We will focus on understanding this principle in terms of how we imagine the future.

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There are currently 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 respective websites.