Thoughts on Duty (part 5 of 5)
The duty humans have for everything else in the world besides themselves.
Your duty to all other beings and things
Apply the law of Thelema to all problems of fitness, use, and development
Having laid out the duties that we have to ourselves, to other individuals, and to mankind as a whole, this last section of the essay goes into the duty we have to everything else. Because why not? The Law of Thelema can be applied to assess the fitness of how the things in our world are used and to make choices about how the progress of civilization develops over time.
The premise is that animals, plants, and inanimate objects have natural qualities that relate to their function. This is akin if not identical to True Will in humans, and their function must be acknowledged and respected in similar fashion. To abuse living creatures or misuse inanimate objects is a violation of their nature, and presumably it carries the same universal penalties that any violation of Will would. The Law of Thelema must be applied to every question of conduct or use. The inherent fitness of a thing for a certain purpose and its proper use to that end is the sole deciding factor.
We must ask: How does this animal/plant/object fit into the larger environment or ecosystem? Is it fulfilling its true purpose?
In practice, this can lead to many disagreements as to the true purpose, the goal, the fitness, and the outcome. Crowley gives some guidance as to how to resolve the inevitable conflicts between opposing interests that will happen. He refers to a scale of nature for determining which one of the many opposing interests that may be in play should be preferred, and this scale puts humans on top:
Humans > Animals > Plants > Rocks
This model is simplistic and doesn’t hold up well when applied to many different real-life situations. The example Crowley gives is that a tree has a right to live, but a man may cut down a tree to make a home or to make a fire for warmth or cooking because he is “more than a tree” and has the greater need. Crowley does acknowledge that the cutting down of trees can be taken to extremes, such as deforestation. He also calls out the introduction of invasive species of animals into a previously stable environment. Yet he fails to suggest how such extremes might be kept in check or how balance could be restored using the scale.
The “king of the hill” pyramid-like view is problematic because it draws upon the assumption held by most of western civilization since at least the Industrial Revolution that humans should dictate the proper use of everything in their environment, manage it as they see fit, and use it to their own exclusive benefit and material profit. This line of thought has created imbalance in our world, and we can easily see how this is not a sustainable position.
There are of course Eastern traditions and native cultures that place all beings on equal footing, with the animals and objects of the world co-existing with humans in a cycle of natural order and balance. The holistic view that sees humans working within a larger order of being is not only a more accurate reflection of our world, but it is one in which we can more accurately apply the Law of Thelema to these issues and truly fulfill our duty to all other beings and things.
When we consider the extreme problems that exist in society today: shrinking natural resources, war, economic disparities, climate change, pollution and what to do about them, there must be a way to bring Thelema into the conversation, and that is by leveraging the idea of the fitness of a system or technology, or the proper functioning of an ecosystem. We could measure the inputs and outputs of each operation and the needs of each party against another in a similar but more robust scale of nature to determine its worthiness. When it comes to maintaining a sustainable environment versus the global consumption of resources, what responsibility does each party have for the health of the system? When worker wages fall stagnant while corporate profits soar, is there a duty that the government has to the individual that is not being followed?
Presumably, a balance would need to be struck somewhere in all cases, and while the brief text of Crowley’s essay doesn’t describe how any of that might work, one can imagine an enhanced scale of nature that isn’t founded on the idea that humans rule over everything. Rather, such a scale might take a larger view and incorporate the Thelemic principles of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty into its calculation on a global scale, placing the onus of society on guaranteeing individual liberty and basic survival needs at a higher relative value than the ease, leisure, luxury, profit, success, and wealth of the few.
Another consideration here involves the concept of evolution. The assumption is that humans and everything else in the world are evolving in some direction, either towards perfection or extinction. We can assess the fitness of a thing’s purpose or its use in terms of how meaningful that function is to the evolution of its kind in one direction or the other. The application of the Law of Thelema to these things must always work in conscious harmony with that concept of evolution. We accept that mutations will occur, and that change in terms of advancements and declines are part of life. Variations are valid and acceptable, but for such change to be considered harmonious with evolution, it must demonstrate that it carries evolution forward to its natural state of perfection, or true will. Change that degrades the fitness of a thing or prevents the expression of its natural state is unacceptable.
Observation and experience with the Law of Thelema is absolutely required to be able to interpret these things correctly and justly and with wisdom. Crowley’s essay doesn’t give any indication for who in the world would be making these decisions at a practical level. In a global society that has truly accepted the Law of Thelema as the sole basis of conduct, it may not be as difficult to make such choices as it might seem otherwise. When everyone is conscious of their own will and the will of others, and they are committed to non-interference in the will of others, and they are aware of the fitness of function that everything else plays into the larger scheme of things, then one can perhaps see how it might work.
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