The Intoxication Of Power (2 mins)

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After this week’s UK and European political developments, I thought about Machiavelli, Shakespeare and Sun Tzu. The latter wrote in his “Art of War” that all warfare is based on deception (how true!). He went to describe this in more detail (as did Charlie Sheen in the 1980s classic “Wall Street”):

“Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;

When using our forces, we must seem inactive;

 When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;

 When far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Another more controversial Chinese classic was written around the same time in 500BC, it was called “The Master of Demon Valley”. It was associated with an obscure school of thought known as Tsung-heng hseuh, which could be read as “the learning of freedom of thought and action”. It was believed to be used by the rulers of the day. The extract below summarises the philosophy at the end of the section entitled “Secrets On the Exercise Of Power” :

“As for ensuring justice, one needs to be kind and benevolent [keep with humanity and justice], and search what lies within hearts, in order to mesh with them. 

Searching hearts means finding out what rules them; by way of the external you control the internal. If matters have complicated twists and turns, you go along with them accordingly.

[The dark side of this is] that petty people who imitate others will use this in a perverse and sinister way, even getting to the point where they can destroy families and usurp countries.  

Without wisdom and knowledge, you cannot preserve justice in your home and cannot preserve your country with the Way*. The reason sages value the subtlety of the Way is because it can change peril into safety, rescue the ruined and enable them to survive”

 I guess human nature hasn’t changed over thousands of years.

*The follow-up text is called The Master of the Hidden Storehouse, which elaborates what the Way is.

An part of this was first published in this blog

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