The Seventh Law, stated:
“Reason is your useful servant. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Here, the Laws shift gears a bit. While they all deal with perspective, the first six are concerned with how you are viewing yourself and those that follow are trying to bring focus to how you view the world and your interaction with it. This Law deals with our proper relationship to reason, which we are called to use on this path. From our cultural training, we often make two mistakes – we think reason trumps emotions, and we confuse knowledge with thinking and reading. Often, in the iconography of the path reason is depicted as a majestic, powerful, beast of some sort. What the images are trying to communicate is the proper perspective on reason: If you don’t tap its power, you’re a fool; if you don’t tame it, you’re a sitting duck.
Experiential versus Implied Knowledge
Okay, so let’s paint a picture here to communicate a point. Lets take two guys, one has sat around at a University, reading books on mechanical engineering, and knows every Chevy car like the back of his hand. The other guy is also an engineer, but didn’t read a book, he worked on cars in a garage with other engineers, learning how the equations behind combustion, wind-resistance, etc worked first-hand in the field. For our purposes, lets say their level of knowledge is the exact same, they simply differ in how they obtained it. We sit them down, and challenge each to design a new Chevy. Who, I ask you, is going to build the better car? The garage guy, right? He will apply the same theories and principles as the University guy, but he will incorporate all his gained knowledge about how things actually work in the real world.
The lesson is that they both have knowledge, but the University guy has implied knowledge while the garage guy has experiential knowledge, and like rock-paper-scissors, experiential knowledge always trumps implied knowledge.
In short, it brings far more power because of the real-world edge. While Darkworking values all knowledge, it places a premium on the experiential variety. It yields the most leverage, and therefore, the most growth, the most power, and the most self-knowledge.
This sounds straightforward, but we tend to fuck this up. Its because in our culture we still have this illusion that thinking is the same as doing, and nothing can be farther from the truth. I studied under a brilliant mathematician who said, “Mathematics will never mirror reality, it will only approximate reality,”. The reason is because of something we have been trained not to accept – the mind is a playground. All the math is just symbols and games, the real world is out there and is much more sloppy. Knowledge is power, but just like shopping, you get what you pay for. Buy premium grade through sweat, action, experience, and reap the rewards.
This is why it can be frustrating at times when people read the articles here, discuss the subject matter at hand, and don’t actually follow through and do the exercises. It’s a gigantic waste in the end. At that level, your thoughting Darkworking, but aren’t actually taking a single step on the Path. You can’t read your way to the Throne. By all means read, but then do. Westerners have the same issue in Buddhism – they study and read about it all day long, and don’t realize you can’t thought your way to Enlightenment. You have to actually, sit down, and meditate. Same issue.
In this manner, the Path calls us to remember that reason is useful, but in the end it is a servant. It can only take us so far. If we want something done, can we trust the servant beyond the menial and trite? The simple answer, is no, we have to roll up our sleeves and get out there. In fact, most times it is better to do something than to sit around and think, even if it’s a deliberate action to do nothing. For example, its better to stop thinking about what you really want to do with your life, and just pick something and run with it – if you choose wrong, the momentum will carry you in the right direction, but the thinking and pondering actually never will.
Emotions versus Reason
The second weakness our culture is that we think reason trumps emotions in making decisions and often do what is logically better, over honoring our feelings. There is no hard and fast rule I can lay down as to when you should do what your brain says over what your heart says, but its better to let emotions make big choices.
Reason is useful and should be used, but as a councilor, not a commander. Its great for planning (again, the more experiential knowledge over implied knowledge you have, the better your plans will be), making lists, calculating, etc. But when it comes to choosing action, thinking can only choose best for its isolated little playground, not the real world you have to live in. Get used to checking for reason’s counsel, but then checking your gut before you make a move. If reason is screaming and your gut is a whisper, go with reason, but if it’s a tie, go with your gut.
Don’t diminish reason below the status of a useful servant. A servant that is useful is used often, trusted, and cherished. But, in the end, its just a servant, remember. Nothing more, and also, nothing less.
Good Will Hunting
This concept can be difficult to get across to a western audience, so I wanted to use a movie clip to help get the Law across. When I was an Apprentice, I had a conversation like this with one of my teachers, who is greatly missed. And, just like Will, I was making the classic mistakes in my relationship to reason. In fact, I was violating the Law so badly, I might as well, on a Darkworking level, been like Sarah Palin and just looked at my hand during speeches. I would have looked less idiotic.
Will (a great example of a talented Apprentice) has read a lot of books, he has a shit-ton of implied knowledge, and uses it in an attempt to get leverage over his psychologist. He has confused the thinking world with the real world. And, he is also making decisions with his head, calculating the odds in his playground world, and not his heart. Both of these mistakes are costly, when his psychologist, who has put reason in its proper place, and amassed a great deal of experiential knowledge, lets him have it. Notice how this superior relationship to reason is ultimately what gets the cocky noob apprentice owned. Thankfully for Will, this is a teacher dynamic and not a nemesis situation, otherwise, his ass would have probably been in deep shit.