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January, 1999

"Identity and the Intimate Medal of Honor PART TWO"



We ended the December column with a discussion of the emotional dynamics of the Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) digitally remastered episode, Charlie X. This teen boy raised by energy-beings demonstrates that he has too much Power (ESP close to Magick!) and no impulse-control, no censor between urge and action, so that it's impossible for him to live among humans. When his non-material mentors are about to take him away from human company for the last time, he makes absurd, abject, frantic promises to change his behavior, and begs to avoid being taken away.

His promises say essentially, "I will resist temptation from now on, and you know that's true because I'm giving my word of Honor." The assumption is that by a mere effort of will, Charlie would be strong enough to resist - that all it takes is strength, and that he's now had enough exercise of that ability to succeed.

Yes, resisting temptation is an exercise. David Bersoff, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania has been studying the matter and publishing on this topic, along with Researchers studying temptation at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland headed by social psychologist Roy Baumeister.

There is some internal part of you that is stressed, strained and eventually exhausted by resisting temptation. Following a bout of resisting-temptation, scores on tests of cognitive skills appear to be measurably lower than if no temptation was presented, or if the temptation was not resisted. (they used chocolate chip cookies - a sure winner)

But the more often you exercise your ability to resist temptation, the stronger that part of you gets. The bigger the temptations you resist, the stronger you get.

Modern academics are now studying and learning what Occultists have known since Biblical times.

Having a strong ability to resist impulses, to hesitate and think through consequences before acting, is one thing that allows us to act Honorably, and thus retain our sense of Honor, our sense that we can attain this ineffable pleasure-hit again at will. Honor connects us to the Divine - which is why fasting precedes Ritual (other than the physical protection it confers).

But even if we have developed discipline -- why would we use it to keep a promise? Why would we care about keeping a vow? Why should we struggle and suffer to keep an Oath? How much effort is Honor worth? Why?

Look again at what you do when you promise "not to do it again" (as Charlie X promised so forlornly). Under those circumstances, you are making that promise in order to avoid paying the consequences of your dishonorable act. You are promising not to do it again so that you won't be punished this time -- the immature child inside is begging in panic not to be spanked, not to be grounded. Only the threat of immanent pain makes the deed not so alluring right now.

Notice what happens when you promise to do something -- when you make a solemn vow to keep the Secret Password of the Lodge.

In this case, you are promising to suffer anything rather than commit a particular act (telling the secret or whatever that act might be).

You are promising to resist temptation.

A solemn vow of this sort usually stipulates a consequence if you should break the vow. So when tempted, you weigh the consequence against the pleasure of giving in to temptation, and factor in the likelihood of getting caught. With a sacred vow, you always get caught.

A loss of Honor isn't just the loss of one pleasure hit of Honor -- it's the loss of the chance at future pleasure hits, because once your Honor is compromised, future hits on that pleasure-center won't have the same effect. People often mistake that effect for clinical depression.

Here's what I've learned from pondering all these novels, tv shows, and striving to live life:

Never make a vow or give a word of honor on something that's even difficult nevermind impossible to do.

That's the trick of maintaining your Honor -- the whole of the trick. How do you do this?

Answer: "Who Are You?" By knowing who you are, you can assess what is and is-not within your power to promise-and-deliver. If you don't know who you are, then you can't keep any promises except by accident.

Any vow is like mortgaging your house. It's a loan with your Identity as the security. If you fail to repay a bank loan secured by your house, the bank takes your house. If you fail to make good on a vow secured by your Identity -- you lose your Identity.

Like poor Charlie X, you would have no Identity and thus no ability to control your Power - you would become, like Charlie X, a victim of your own power.

If your Identity is precious to you, you will fight to the death to pay off on any vow you make. Even the smallest, most trivial promise can -- if broken -- impair your ability to achieve that wondrous Honor-pleasure-hit again.

A word of honor mortgages your Identity. The value of a person's word of Honor on a matter is calculated from the size of the matter compared to the size of the person's Identity. For example, if someone with an income of $50,000/year asked to borrow a quarter for a phone call, and promised to repay it tomorrow, you'd have no problem loaning them a quarter on the assumption that they could afford to repay, and probably would.

But if a homeless person with no income at all asked for that same quarter with the same promise -- you'd have to kiss that quarter goodbye and chalk it up to charity.

On the other hand, if a multi-millionaire borrows a quarter and promises to repay, chances are it won't get repaid because to the multimillionaire a quarter is just too small a thing to remember -- it's too trivial. He can't imagine how important that quarter is to you.

Do the same math on any other promise anyone makes -- check the size of what's promised against the person's spiritual assets&liabilities -- the sum-total of his Identity.

And ask yourself how much "equity" does that person have in his Identity -- what would happen to his Identity if he failed this promise? How much does he stand to lose if he fails to deliver on that promise? Percentage wise, that is.

A person who has 'a good name' risks it on every promise -- and so is very careful about making promises.

This always presupposes that the person has the cognitive ability and emotional maturity to assess the risk/reward ratio before acting. Most people do not cultivate this habit as assiduously as Captain Kirk does (and we all know how much work his ability to assess risk needed!). Most people, like Charlie X, assess the risk only in the moment of utter defeat.

A person who does not have 'a good name' has nothing to lose, and risks nothing on promises and is careless with them -- as was Charlie X in his moment of defeat.

Remember how the Amerind tribes name a child only after the adulthood rituals. Only after Identity is discovered, matured, revealed, propounded, promulgated into reality can a Name be selected. It seems that your Good Name, is the result of your Identity promulgating into Reality.

Remember, it takes two people to create a promise -- someone to offer the promise, and someone to receive it.

See the May 1995 column on the Qabalistic Principle of Giving and Receiving. This is such a vitally important column for those who are studying Tarot that I'm putting it into the volume on the Suit of Cups that I'm finalizing right now. Receiving is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.

If you Receive a promise, you have just as much at stake as the one who gave the promise. That's why Charlie X was not believed. It was too dangerous to Receive his promise - because he couldn't control his power.

Promises mortgage your Identity -- and Vows mortgage the soul. How much is your soul worth to you?

How much temptation would you resist, how much effort would you go to, how much trouble would you accept to make good on a vow?

Promises and vows are debts with an APR that varies randomly. What's your credit limit?

To retain your ability to experience that peculiar pleasure hit called Honor, you have to know what you are worth, and thus what you can afford to promise, what you can afford to do, and what you can not afford.

So that's my current bottom line on Honor -- Honor is an emotional experience of personal Intimacy with yourself. It is rooted in your Identity, and leveraged by your promises, vows, and Oaths.

Keeping your promises, vows and oaths isn't so much a matter of honesty as it is a matter of wealth of the Identity -- of self-worth. Of self-esteem. Of the ability to achieve Intimacy with your Self. To Know Thyself.

Consider that as you make your New Years' Resolutions.


Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952





Until I get the direct links installed here, you can find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to.   To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below. logo

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