Because this Commandment is the First Commandment, and therefore the principle Commandment, it must be the bedrock of all others. It seems backward then that the principle request of the transcendent is for you to value nothing higher than itself. If any person made this claim of others it would be fair to consider them downright abusive. When the First Commandment is a manifestation of this entity’s vanity it is completely understandable as to why critics write off the whole set of Commandments. However, if we want to interpret this properly, we need to abandon preconceptions of the divine and assume this comes from an entity that has our best interest at heart. For the sake of argument, let us reimagine that the first commandment is written by an entity that everybody can feel the influence of, that voice in your head guiding you off the wrong paths, the [conscience]. ( Given the close spelling of conscious and [conscience], [conscience] will be bracketed for clarity. )
The chain of questions worth asking when considering this Commandment would logically be, what are my other options for a first god? If one can respect other gods before this God then there must be other options. Therefore shouldn’t the God with the most legitimate claim to be the highest god take that title? And as all religions have similar limited evidence for their divine isn’t it just a matter of preference? To take it a step further, there is also the joke online that Jesus tried to rid the world of sin; and Thor tried to rid the world of Ice Giants, and it’s a struggle to find any Ice Giants! This critique does make sense, when interpreting the first Commandment as a claim of submission to another entity it lacks both the historic legitimacy and the executive ability to enforce itself.
This is the most logical response given significant numbers of people that claim God or gods are entities that exist with manifest interaction with reality. However, this view essentially considers gods no different from kings. With this model, the believer is simply committing to a mercenary bet of allegiance with the belief that the strongest God is going to be most able to protect them and have the most resources to bestow. So why respect this Commandment of an entity which has no evidence for a worldly ability to protect me?
The effect of this line of questioning is to expect the realm of the transcendent to take actions on your behalf, the same way a parent may negotiate the complexity of cooking while the child is learning to eat. If A = B, B = A and so this then results in the expectation that tangible entities must embody the transcendent, an example of this is in the conflation of the parents with sexlessness despite being the evidence of that untruth. It is in the expectation that any God must act like a king and visa-versa that is the basis of an argument that the integration of church and state is complete in the modern mind. This is not a trivial issue in today’s anglosphere societies. The failure to untangle the church and state on the level of the individual is having a deeply pathological effect on all groups of higher complexity and, given enough time, will result in large scale collapse at all levels of the culture.
Despite the fact this issue is closely linked to the topic of the writing, for the sake of brevity, I have decided to go into the specifics of the ‘integration of church’ and state in later writings. However, it is worthwhile noting some case-classes that are symptoms of this issue, so you can understand how I view this to be manifesting.
It is a peculiar thing that so many artists only become famous after the individual dies. It is as if the respect for the art comes as a function of time rather than technical quality. From this I am going to claim that the act of one individual speaking to another about art is the fundamental metric that underpins the respect for art, given age itself adds very little, nor can the quality improve, due to the mortal condition of the only person with the right to change it. Through this discussion, the artist is turned into a set of ideas, and the art the manifestation of the speech of those ideas. Then by iterating through a tremendous number of people, the artist is no longer a person but is entirely that set of ideas. In effect, we deify the individual and use terms like ‘complex’, ‘genius,’ or even ‘mysterious’ to give a name to the source of the emotions caused while viewing the art. This is why it feels like “the artist holds a mirror up to society” because the collective act of observation produces the ideas associated with the art from society. That might be the reason so many artists refuse to speak to their work, for their scope was significantly less than what comes of the cultural discussion around their work.
A major concern is with living individuals who sometimes take on these deified roles. Living individuals have their careers taken from them, reputations destroyed, and work tarnished when they are unable to align themselves with the set of ideas that people have developed for them, from their art. In effect, the individual must pretend to be what the society needs of them, or else be wholly rejected from the culture. Therefore for an artist has two options to succeed while alive; they must have no defined personality, like an aloof sprite, or allow themselves to be defined strictly by their audience, like a tool without independent thoughts.
While this may not matter much if the representation of the culture doesn’t interest you, a similar thing has occurred in the political space, which affects all of us. The embodiment of sets of ideas has become the expectation of individuals for many of the highest offices in our democracies. This manifests in two ways, good people who could improve the lives of others by working in the political space choose not to enter it for fear that they do not completely fulfill the idea set. Alternatively, individuals who feel they embody the idea set succeed if they can convince others that they embody it, then they will maintain their position separate from competence, experience, or even previous actions, by simply sustaining the lie. The current effect of the integration of church and state has resulted in a society with major issues; there are no policy discussions anywhere but the dustiest corners of the campuses, we are hypocrites importing goods from slave nations that pay cents per hour while bickering over who feels the most oppressed, and our democracies have become competitions of who can best imitate a god.
This state of the anglosphere is due in major part to the mass rejection by individuals of the First Commandment.
To get back on point here’s two individuals who have become distinct cultural idea sets. It is interesting to know that up until 1893 with the work of Sigmund Freud on the subconscious very few people considered the possibility that there were actions of thought taken by the mind that are not accessible to the conscious mind. It is also interesting to consider that these ideas occurred only moments after Nietzsche declared the death of god in 1882. While it is not novel to consider the parallels between religious concepts like confession and the secular concept of psychotherapy, it remains interesting to me that there has been no significant work done to integrate them. There seems to be a base truth that both groups are drawing from which may suggest that there is value in reanalyzing old texts.
To overcome the internalized integration of church and state, it is important to consider this Commandment, not as coming from an authority, but from the best part of yourself. Reconsider it as a statement to your conscious self, from your [conscience]. The commandment, therefore, becomes; You shall never place the judgement of anyone as more important than the judgement of your own [conscience]. Short of them being a mind reader, it is technically impossible for anyone else to tell you what your [conscience] thinks. Therefore to choose between the judgement of your own [conscience] and another person’s word is to put that external judgement before the preferred one. It is important to note that this does not mean, don’t do what people tell you to do, but more importantly, only do what people tell you to do if you know it to be the right thing to do.
It is easy to see why this Commandment would not be followed. To use an external judgement instead of what you know to be right defers blame, it defers the risk of failure and that associated shame, and it removes the work required to properly assess a situation. How can the resulting actions of the decision be my fault if it was not my judgement? This is true, the decision would not be yours, nor in effect the actions. To defer the responsibility of judgement is to make yourself an extension of another. This is comparable to a limb or a machine left to run, you become wholly defined by another.
This is the fundamental reason that this is the first Commandment. Without sourcing judgement from the transcendent self in the [conscience] then you cannot be a true individual person, instead simply the extension of another individual. Effectively, failing to follow the first Commandment technically ends the ability to follow any of the others. It is impossible to truly know the motivations of another, therefore, to follow without internal judgement is to be willfully blind to the evil and cruelty you create. In a real sense, the claim of “just following orders” is not a defence, but an admission of a transcendent crime of neglect of one’s individuality. This even extends to those individuals who have become deified in the culture who we feel the judgement of despite them sitting behind the TV screen or as a voice on the radio. To begin following this Commandment would be to accept that the significant proportion of the cruelty around you is due to your blindness and therefore becomes your responsibility. Facing this lifetime manifesting cruelty would understandably break most people so they instead choose to stay blind, an automaton of unknown judgement.