The Spirit of the Method

The old and familiar maxim: “Knowledge is Power” shapes the way we look at education, marketing, politics, religion and many other areas of human activity. The idea that knowledge begets power is based on the limited view that humanity is meant to dominate his environment, rather than have dominion over it.

Domination is established through strength and power. It is the product of forced compliance and it is unsustainable because of its disconnection from the larger creative context of which it is a part. Dominion, on the other hand, manifests through agility and suppleness. It inspires a willing submission and compels agreement because of its synchronicity with the unifying pattern of truth.

Whereas domination divides, dominion divides but also connects. Domination coerces control by introducing an arbitrary and inflexible restraint on true creative expression, while dominion extends control in lockstep with the wheels within wheels of creation. A horse, for example, can be held artificially in a desirable frame or he can be brought progressively into a state of fitness and understanding which allows him to hold that frame willingly and even proudly, if that can be said.

Likewise, a child can be educated in one of two ways. The first, and most prevalent is based on the notion that knowledge is power. To that aim, facts and figures are pasted on from the outside, typically with complete disregard to the inner wisdom of the child. The second, yet more desirable sees knowledge as the means of unlocking the true creative expression already resident in the child. Knowledge in the former is an end and in the latter is a means to an end.

Knowledge is not power, but the agility and suppleness that attend a well-organized system of knowledge do allow for a safe and contained increase in the expression of power. Loosely arranged or poorly organized knowledge is dangerous in that it does not provide a safe container for power. Power inevitably leaks through holes in understanding.

I have found this distinction to be an important one in every field of human activity I’ve explored. While there are many examples that could be given in support of it, I am privileged to share an example that comes from the field of classical equitation. General Decarpentry, a distinguished scholar of artistic equitation who served in the venerable Cadre Noir from 1904 to 1913 and again from 1925 to 1931 as the school’s second-in-command, provided a useful explanation of how dominion can be established in the field of equitation in his book Academic Equitation, A training system based on the methods of D’Aure, Baucher and L’Hotte:

The methods employed in Academic Equitation are in no way different from the ones used ever since the beginning of training, and they are in fact the only means man disposes of to train any kind of animal.

They consist of progressively developing applications of the principle of submission, by substituting for the means primitively employed to obtain it, other more convenient means that give scope for wider and more subtle applications.

The conventional language which has been thus gradually established between rider and mount becomes enriched with new signs. The understanding of the horse develops. The combined use of the signs, the isolated meaning of which has been established separately, allows the rider to enlarge the scope of his teaching, which always proceeds from the known to the unknown.

This is the spirit of the method. It uses conventional language to apply to the body of the horse the gymnastic progression of a series of movements intended to develop his agility rather than his strength, and his suppleness rather than his power.

Living in an Air Castle VII

The air-castle typifies any delusion or folly that makes man forsake real living for an idle, vague existence. Living in air-castles means that a man sees life in a wrong perspective. He permits his lower self to dominate his higher self; he who should tower as a mighty conqueror over the human weakness, sin and folly that threaten to destroy his better nature, binds upon his won wrists the manacles of habit that hold him a slave. He loses the crown of his kingship because he sells his royal birthright for temporary ease and comfort and the showy things of the world, sacrificing so much that is best in him for mere wealth success, position, or the plaudits of the world. He forsakes the throne of individuality for the air-castle of delusion.” ~ William George Jordan

Whether you see your royal birthright as the result of millions of years of evolution or divine decree, the fact of the matter is that you have an opportunity to have dominion over the world you center. Dominion is the by-product of the expression of your natural authority into the earth. Domination, on the other hand is a cheap imitation based in the notion that might makes right and sustained by the idea that forced compliance is superior to inspired agreement.

My company, The Spa on Green Street, sponsored a “Petpalooza” yesterday afternoon. The Humane Society brought a number of puppies for adoption and a local dog trainer set up an agility course to demonstrate their agility and manners programs. It is always fascinating to watch people interacting with puppies, as I’ve noticed that the way people work with puppies reveals very quickly what method they prefer to bring order out of chaos in their worlds: dominion or domination.

Those who elect to dominate their worlds typically emphasize visible force. Corrections are harsh, sharp and unforgiving and such people rule with an iron fist, as a dictator would in a repressive political regime. They govern the world around them from the throne of their lower self, preferring “push” techniques to “pull” strategies. Their subjection to their lower selves makes them mistrustful of their higher selves, and they fear if they let go of their white-knuckled grip they have on that which they control they will lose control. And they’re probably right based on the way they’ve built their kingdom.

Those who rise to the occasion and discover how to extend dominion take the opposite approach. They rule from the throne of their higher selves, and their control extends from within outward, and is usually invisible to the eye. They understand that forced compliance may appear to work in the short-term, but that it unravels the instant the aggressor turns his back on those who have submitted to his rule. Their empathy allows them to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of agreement and cooperation and their perfect patience affords them the perspective to know when to act and when to wait.

Dominion springs from love, while domination grows in the shadows wherever love has been withdrawn. Some dominate out of fear, others out of greed, but most dominate out of a laziness, a simple but devastating unwillingness to do the work required to refine their character and disposition to the point that nothing but the higher self is allowed expression.

The higher can and will permeate the lower if your let it. In many cases, simply letting go of the lower, more base elements in your expression is sufficient to turn the tide in your living. Stopping to do what you know you shouldn’t makes room in your heart and mind for the noble expression to come through. The kingdom governed by your higher self is at hand, immediately available to you should you choose to incline your heart to it.

Real living only happens when your higher self rules. The trouble with most people is that they know this, but they’re afraid to let go of the petty control struggles they’ve won over the years in an effort to claw their way out of the darkness and chaos that overshadow so much of the world around them. Just as a hot air balloon operator understands that he must throw out ballast to ascend, you too must be willing to let go of the baggage – with no strings attached – to rise up in your living.

So where is it best to start? Much of this release is done using forgiveness, of others and of yourself, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be dogged about obeying the compulsions which emanate from your higher self. Further, complaint, blame and martyrdom are utterly foreign to your higher self, so any shade of any one of those must be avoided like the plague.

If you’ve been subject to the petty tyrant who rules your lower self, have no fear. He has no real power and no natural authority. The only power he possesses has been stolen from your higher self. Stop bowing to his wishes, mindlessly following out his commands and believing his nonsense and you will be well on your way in the demolition of any air-castles you may have built for yourself over the years. There is no shame in this, in fact, this is the best way to take the legs out from under the patterns of shame that are keeping you from putting your royal birthright to use.

Dominion versus Domination

Whether you believe that man was created to have dominion over the earth or that he evolved to dominate the food chain through a process of natural selection, it is in man’s best interest to exercise control in a way that promotes balance, sustainability and prosperity. Being at the top of the food chain has its privileges, but with it comes an enormous responsibility to steward the earth’s resources in a way that prevents their exhaustion from unrestrained consumption.

You influence the world around you through your thoughts, words and deeds. When you are radiant, you govern through inspiring and uplifting self-dominion. When you are reactive, you are controlled by external influences and your govern as a dictator, and you rule by usurping the power and authority of others around you.

I imagine that the earth could sustain the loss of human beings, though I hope with all my heart that it doesn’t come to that. Human beings, functioning wisely, are fountains of endless blessing and an axis of wise governance. Their capacity for the extension of dominion is unparalleled in nature, as is their capacity for destruction and desecration. Free will opens the door to one or the other.

How do you rule the world you center? Would you say that it is better characterized as a noble and true dominion or a cruel and domineering dictatorship? Dictators rule out of fear, desperately seeking to control the world around them. True leaders, on the other hand, rule through love and extend control in ways that draw forth the highest and finest in every one they serve. The former employ force, violence and coercion to achieve their ends, while the latter compel agreement through righteous example, unflinching courage and irrepressible respect.

The world needs more people who know how to encompass the world around them through the spirit of dominion. Such leadership demands nothing yet expects greatness, employs humility where others resort to pride and eschews expediency in favor of integrity, no matter how high the stakes, how intense the pressure or how complete the discomfort. Such leadership is possible, not just through others in an ideal world, but through you, here and now.

The choice is yours.