|Lesson 4: The 9 Virtues of Balance
SCHOLA AETII·MONDAY, 11 JUNE 2018
(Comment: Initially I wanted to start solely with the First Part - Cosmology and leave the Second Part - Ethics - for later. But I kinda made this preview now, though it is merely an excerpt of the entire work on Ethics.)
More than 20 years ago, when I was still on a very different path, I became for the first time aware that I was no more content with just reading philosophy and following ideas set out by others, but, unsatisfied with parts of each system and set of ideas, I wanted to craft my own system. By then I had read Nietzsche and Confucius, Lao Tsu, Mencius and Tsuang Tse, Schopenhauer and Crowley, Hobbes and Locke, Plato and Aristotle and a good number of others. And while each seemed to have good and convincing ideas, the thing that struck me was, that each of these thinkers, while great himself, had a tendency to fall in love with one certain perspective and the result was, as I felt, imbalance. Here Lao Tsu condemned forms and norms, while Confucius praised them; there Hobbes chastised human nature as dangerous, while Rousseau blamed evils on society instead. It was there that I began to see a pattern, that all can be focused on two opposing principalities, which in the following I named Chaos and Order.
Now both terms feel loaded and vague, and partially that was the reason I took them. They are general enough to be applied to many situations, and yet everyone does get a general idea. You can break these down to both the individual as well as the social level. In the essence, it is a perspective, a way to look at reality, were all powers, ideas and phenomenons are in part either Chaos or Order, enforce either one or the other principality, and the ethical imperative of my Philosophy, hence the name, is that we should strife to achieve Balance between those two.
Within ourselves Order is reason, logic, the impassive deduction of reality, a sense of being strict and demanding with yourself, and the element in the spiritual sense is blue ice. Chaos on the other hand is emotion, feeling, passion, to strife and expand, to reflect with instincts, and the element of it is the red fire.
It can also be extended to Social Systems, wherein Order are Science and Discipline, Order is the idea of the Collective, where Equality and Control manage society to keep all the parts together by an abstract system, the impartiality of law, the system of education and scientific research, the discipline needed for all the parts of society to form a whole, the preservation of traditions and heritage, where the unchanging values of a society are kept and taught. Chaos is the principle of Individuality, of Diversity, of Change and Reform, the Arts which the individual talented and genius creates, new ideas, personal liberty to pursue your own path. As we can see in our present day more than ever, as I think, this balance is in danger to be lost. Time and again political powers and social movements appeared when one side was too strong, or when things who were supposed to be free and individual fell under too much control, or when, on the other hand, wantonness and self indulgence tore all reason and commonality apart.
It is not only a matter that Chaos and Order itself are in balance, but each of it has its own place. When you are in love, it is a blessing of Chaos, and who would apply cold calculating logic, where you should devote yourself instead? And who would on a scientific research, were dispassionate reason are asked for, put in emotional preference and prejudice? So each of them have their right place in itself, and some imbalance results from applying the wrong principles to the wrong systems. But even then, Balance is Wisdom. For if you fall in love, truly devoting yourself is wise, but you will need to check yourself with reason from time to time, and also what scientist, while following strict logic, would be devoid of any enthusiasm in his work.
BALANCE IS LIGHT
But Balance is more than just the equilibrium of two extremes, it has a quality of itself, harmony, progress, spirituality and Light. Balance is Understanding in contrast to the darkness of ignorance, so at the core of Balance is the Principle of Light, which in all cultures of the world represents understanding and wisdom, the progress to know yourself and know the world around you.
Implied in the idea of balance lies the understanding that each positive idea can become a bad idea, if it is led to an extreme, as well as when it is neglected, so any Virtues can only exist as a coherent system, not a mere gathering of “good ideas”, so each of the three Principles, Chaos, Order and Balance has three virtues, though the three of Balance are different.
Chaos and Order each have a balance in itself. One virtue that has a devoting, concentrating idea, similar to the Chinese “Yin”, an expanding and active virtue, like the Chinese principle of “Yang”, and a balance or combination of the two. Each virtue becomes a vice either in unbalanced overabundance or in too less of it.
The three Virtues of Order are Discipline, Honesty and Strength.
Discipline is the Yin Virtue of Order, its color is black and its symbol is a Staff, which represents both supporting yourself, it symbolizing the border, sorting out what belongs inside and what doesn't. The staff that draws the line in the sand, like Romulus drew the first border around Rome, thus creating a system of order. Discipline is first what you put on yourself, like all Virtues only retain their character as a virtue, if you understand their nature and apply them to your life by your own free will. If one enforces it upon you, it loses the character of being a virtue, for virtue implies choice. You chose one over the other. And that is also the essence of Discipline: making choices. Like what do you spent your time on? Do you train and improve your abilities, or just waste your time? A disciplined society teaches people to sort out their life, both in the small and mundane, but also in your thinking and finally bring some systematic order to society itself, through laws and judiciary systems against those who break the law, with the idea to correct people who went astray. The excess of Discipline is Oppression, when you needlessly chastise yourselves or others, and do not apply Discipline to grow, but a ruthless force suffocates everything; whereas the absence of Discipline is Anarchy, the lack of any form.
Honesty is the Yang Virtue of Order, its color is yellow like the rays of light, and its symbol is the Spear. Honesty is more than truth of facts. It is a mindset. You look at yourself not deceiving you. Like the Spear of Light penetrates the dark, so does your desire to know the truth and your will to be honest pierce through lie and falsehood. Only if you seek truth and speak truthfully, can we progress, both as individuals and together as a society. Honesty is a constant strife, a move forward, not a repetition of learned tenets, but a never ending process. We learn to know ourselves by being honest to ourselves. Lying about ourselves is the most common lie, and lying to others only follows from this, for those who deceive others, usually live in deceit about themselves first. Only on truth can anything lasting be build. The excess of Honesty is Self-righteousness, where under the tyranny of a ruthless fact seeking all creative liberty is destroyed; the absence of Honesty is Deceit.
The combined Virtue of Order that stems from Discipline and Honesty is Strength; its symbol is the Crystal, which symbolizes both the gain from hard work as well as clarity. Strength is a very Pagan virtue, if I may say so. It means to challenge yourself, to seek to excel and not be complacent with the easy status quo; your desire to go out and face trials, to become more and better. It is only by facing trials, by overcoming in the Nietzschean sense, that we can progress and grow. Just sorting yourself out through discipline and walking to understand honestly is not enough. Strength is the zeal to make the best version of you that is possible, to be an example to others, to give hope; train your creativity and add things to the world, do not just take and consume. The excess of Strength is cruelty, wherein combat and competition become a value in itself and we become deaf to nuances and empathy; the absence of Strength is Sloth.
The three Virtues of Chaos are Devotion, Courage and Honor.
Devotion is the Yin Virtue of Chaos, its color is Silver like the Moon, and its symbol is the chalice, symbolizing an offering we give and something we allow to let in. Devotion can mean many things; your devote yourself to a person in love, to an idea as follower, to your family, your country and the set of values of your culture. You devote yourself to a piece of art you create or your work. Devotion means love and loving others, the will to share and the insight that all true goods become richer by sharing. It means to give things away, the will to let things go instead of cling to them, because live is a flow, it needs to move, it isn't something to be hoarded. To devote means to be open, you open your heart and your mind, to ideas, to change, to bind yourself but also to let go. Devotion is the way of the heart following the principles of love and empathy. The excess of Devotion is Groundlessness, were you overflow with feeling, but you have no ground, no limits and no reason to balance yourself out. Achieving good demands control, and losing all limits in an unrestrained river of emotion only undermines achieving true good. The absence of Devotion is Greed.
Courage is the Yang Virtue of Chaos, its color is green like the color of life and hope. Courage is a core virtue of Chaos, for we need courage to embrace change, to strife forward and not be content with simple or old answers. Courage is the core of freedom, for without courage we can never be free. All to quickly we lie to ourselves or appease the majority against our conscience. Courage means to speak up, to step forward, and not chose the easy answer just because you fear the unknown. It is the core of liberating yourself, of daring to be yourself, by thinking for yourselves, the courage of the mind, and acting out of your own insights and according to your own believes. Without courage, we may have the best intentions, but none of these come to fruition because fear keeps us in apathy. The overabundance of Courage is Recklessness, when we lose all reason and rebel just for the sake of destroying and rebelling, when your courage no longer serves a higher good, but you just revel in unrestrained hostility. The lack of Courage is Cowardice.
The combined Virtue of Chaos comes from Devotion and Courage, and that is Honorability or Honor. Its color is purple, the color of royalty, and its symbol is the shield, which both symbolizes guarding something, as well as standing up for something as a distinct person, as in old times each knight had a symbol of himself on his shield. Honor has many meanings and dimensions. First, it means to deal with affairs of life with dignity and piety. Holding your values in esteem, but in reverse also to respect the values and traditions of the other, so that even in confrontation and enmity, you respect the other. It is very different than the modern “tolerance”; honor does not mean you tolerate something you cannot tolerate by any good means, but even when you fight, you fight with honor and do not mock or degrade the other. Honor demands to be of attentive mind, to be dutiful and act as a person that others will respect and value, to preserve your good name, but also do not smear the name of another. It means to take responsibility for your actions and your life, and not be whiny and always blame others. The excess of honor is Arrogance, when you look down on others, mock and smear them, thinking you elevate yourself by putting others down; the absence of Honor is Malice, when you have no values, no dignity and live a life of degeneracy.
Finally the three Virtues of Balance; they are structured differently, not as a Trinity which forms a balance, for each of the three is a variant of Balance already. You may regard them as three levels of Balance.
Confidence is Balance of Instinct, it stands on the tree symbol the lowest, for it is the first requirement on the path of Virtue. If you have no trust, no faith, no confidence, you cannot approach any path whatsoever. You need to trust in yourself, your abilities of both reason and emotion to grasp truth, to progress. A person who is full of self-doubt will not proceed on any path and ever remain in the darkness of doubt. This is essentially a leap of faith, though it does not necessarily mean into religion. You need at least believe in yourself, your own abilities to deal with life. Then, realizing you are not alone in the world, trust and confidence are the basic requirement of any society, any civilization. If this erodes, it means the end of society, for if we no longer trust the other, we are at the end of the road. In the excess Confidence becomes Hubris, when you are too full of yourself, whereas the absence of Confidence is Mistrust, were you always assume the worst of others and look at the world full of misanthropy and nihilism.
Justice is the second Virtue of Balance, and it belongs to the level of the Mind. Its symbol are the Scales and its color is white, representing total unbiased judgment. Justice is the lower or middle form of Balance, we look at all aspects of a matter and make a fair and balanced judgment. Justice is probably the most difficult to grasp virtue, and the most easy to abuse. Quickly we are on some crusade for a good cause or against some oppression and we lose the path of Balance in self-righteous zeal. Justice demands to look at the world through the eyes of the other, not through emotional empathy, but to truly understand the other, via the intellect. It is the virtue a judge needs to convicts a criminal, but takes the background of the criminal into account and the circumstances of the case. Applying justice means to work for a good outcome, not being stuck on blind principality, to understand Laws and Virtues serve the people not that we are meant to serve principles. Justice on the social level is similar to the idea of the Res Publica, the Common Good that is established in a society where each member is given the best opportunity to be free and live in fairness. The excess of Justice is Pedantry, when rules are enforced for the sake of rules, and rules no longer serve the betterment of people, when we use the letter of laws against their meaning. The absence of Justice is Wantonness, where we disobey all rules and all balanced and harmonious ways.
Finally, the third Virtue of Balance and the Core of the Virtues is Spirituality, belonging to the level of the Spirit. Its symbol is the Ankh, the Egyptian Symbol of Divinity, and its color is Gold, symbolizing perfection. Spirituality is what makes this system one of Virtues and not merely one of “good suggestions”, for only in becoming a true Seeker do we open ourselves to Wisdom, which is more than knowledge. Spirituality means to understand there is a True Self, an authentic you inside of you, call it the Divine spark or however you want, and that this true divine or true self is within each and everyone, wherein we are all individuals and also connected, free but also bound together. It is this duality of the spirit that is the apex of balance itself, where we understand we have our unique path, where we are like no other, but in the Great Network of Light, we are all connected also. In the light of Spirituality, we take the path of the virtues by our own free will, not as something we are persuaded into or forced to do. We fill the meaning of the Virtues ourselves every day, in our mind – as we think and reflect, in our actions and establishing it in the society we all share, each according to his or her own True Self, but still connected for the Common Good. It is the path where we meditate and look inside and find guidance in meditation inside of us, where we go beyond emotion and logic and seek that inside of us, which transcends these. The Excess of Spirituality is Detachment, where we lose connection to the earth to the human point of view and see things only through unrealistic fantasy views, where we become disconnected to what makes us human. The absence of Spirituality is Nihilism, where we regard the world only as meaningless matter, wherein we drift without aim and hope to progress.
Keep in mind I had originally explained this system in much greater detail, so this sketch can only explain so much, but I hope I have given you a basic insight into the Virtues of Balance and the system of Ethics which I have outlined.