This material was first presented as a series of lectures in Estel Sidhevair beginning on Nov. 5, 2008. These lectures weregeared to online community members of the “Fantasy Archipelago” in the Old Virtual grid and in particular to the Elf Circle Guardians who include the ethics of the Nine Virtues in their training to act as mentors and first responders to online trouble for the approximately 1500 members of Elf Circle (EC). Please note that the material is also presented with a distinct mythopoeic approach, basically written by and for creatures of fantasy. The original lecture transcript has been modified for a more general audience.
While the Nine Noble Virtues are drawn from Norse religious perspectives, this introduction and the nine lectures which follow also draw from other ethical and religious constructs from around the world including Celtic, Hellenic, and East Indian perspectives.
The original lectures were presented online on Wednesday nights at 8 PM with some breaks for various holidays. They were facilitated by the direct avatar interactions made possible via digital worlds. The lectures were all presented in the main conference area of the community center (Enedh Gwaith) on the virtual island of Estel Sidhevair.In some cases there were guest speakers, where appropriate their remarks are included with the main lectures. Each lecture was followed by a discussion section. These talks at times lasted far into the night, sometimes growing rather heated.
Elf Circle defines Discipline as follows:
“Discipline is the self motivation by an individual used to accomplish goals.”
There are, of course, a number of other sorts of disciplines including academic discipline, for example.
An academic discipline denotes that corpus of knowledge that is being offered to (or obtained by) a disciple.
In this example, discipline refers to a 'sphere of knowledge' or a specialty.
It involves a defined area of knowledge that has been carefully studied.
The original Latin noun is “disciplina” which literally translates as “instruction”.
This word, in turn emerges from the root verb “discere” which means “to learn”.
The word disciple, in Latin “discipulus” (which also means “pupil”) comes from this same root.
Discipline then, can be seen as a systematic instruction that is passed to a pupil from a teacher.
Because of the careful and specific and systematic characterizations of discipline, the word has also come to denote various methods of modeling of character, self control, and socially condoned practices.
To discipline often means to instruct a person (or an animal, or even a machine) to adhere to a specified code of conduct or follow a certain sanctioned “order”.
At times the phrase “discipline” can carry a negative charge due to the strong association of learning and disciplining with punishment.
This punishment can extend to forms of physical and psychosocial coercion and force.
To be disciplined then can be seen as either a virtue (for example, the ability to follow instructions, or constrain inappropriate behaviors) or it can have negative connotations.
Discipline can be a euphemism for punishment, coercive control and even at times can refer to the instruments of punishment which are used.
Examples of this would be tools for flagellation (“give him 40 lashes”).
This would also include the use of tools for self-flagellation and mortification of the flesh, when one applies such an instrument in penitence for inappropriate action or a failure of self-discipline or control.
The determination of the virtue of discipline is derived then, from context.
There is a strong correlation between discipline and control whether external or internal.
Elf Circle’s definition emphasizes self-discipline or willpower.
Willpower can be seen as an internal ability to exert control over our impulses and actions.
When we demonstrate willpower we reveal our inner strength, our internal fidelity to what we believe to be, or have learned, is the right action.
A self-disciplined person, exercising control over his or her choices is often seen to be determined, resolute, persistent and decisive.
The virtue of discipline therefore relates to the virtue of fidelity we have previously examined, and the virtue of perseverance which we will talk about on another night.
Discipline, and self-discipline through the exercise of one’s personal will can be seen to support and preserve one’s honor also.
Again we see the interweaving of the 9 virtues into one ethical and behavioral construct.
Impulse is filtered and either controlled or translated into honorable action.
The practice of self control allows an individual to exert their will over impulse and also to choose physical, social, or spiritual inhibition.
Self-discipline can be seen as training oneself to accomplish a difficult task or succeed at a particular skill even when one really would prefer doing something else.
Discipline often involves denying oneself a desire or pleasure in order to accomplish an act of service or an altruistic endeavor.
So, self-control and discipline assert willpower over desire and can be seen to support and profit from motivation, where reason trumps desire.
The Virtue of Discipline results from conscious choice and an awareness of what is within the sphere of one’s influence and control.
Humans, as well as we creatures of Elven and Fae heritage, often perceive discipline in different cultural ways.
At times, this can result in misunderstandings and conflicts.
Among Western humans for example, there is a tendency to view self-discipline and control as related to resistance to temptation.
They see successful self-control as goal oriented, as related to personal and social productivity, and to dynamic activities.
Interestingly, among Eastern humans self-control is often seen in an almost opposite manner, rather than directive control, it involves acceptance, yielding, release and non-attachment.
Where the Westerners might choose measures of individual success in achieving personal goals to indicate their active pursuit of self-discipline, Easterners are often characterized as having successfully demonstrating self-control when they set aside their personal interests in favor of external social goals.
Similarly, I cannot help but think of the differences I have noticed between Elves and Faeries here in the Fantasy Continent.
As a Faelf, moving by Nature between Faerie and Elf identities, these differences have become very significant.
I do want to make it clear that these differences are truly generalized and may not fit individuals, but rather are an impression I have gleaned from the collective aspect of the two sorts of creature.
These distinctions can really be seen as related to “alignment” to invoke a term and descriptions from role playing and gaming.
“Alignment” in role playing involves a classification of the ethical viewpoints of not only the various personalities and creatures (whether player or non-player characters) but also of the larger societies in various games.
One could say that Elves, as they have evolved in the Fantasy Continent, tend towards a lawful good alignment in which civilization and order is emphasized.
Lawful good creatures as envisioned in early RP games are often seen as saintly; they may be viewed as acting compassionately, but always emphasizing honor and a sense of duty.
Lawful good nations then, would be characterized by an organized government working for the benefit of the whole.
Examples of lawful good creatures include golden dragons, righteous knights and paladins.
The challenge that often faces creatures of a lawful good nature is that they may encounter the dilemma of whether to choose law or good when the two conflict.
One example of this would be when to uphold an oath when it could lead to harm for those one is charged to protect.
Another example might be when their ethical and moral structure might conflict with the law of a local ruler.
Interestingly, Elves are not traditionally associated with the Lawful Good alignment.
Elves have more usually been described as creatures of a Chaotic Good alignment.
This ethical structure tends to be more rebellious.
Chaotic Good creatures tend to support change for the greater good, they place a very high value on personal freedom, and they chafe under organizations they view as bureaucratic or obstructing what they see as in the best interests of the collective well being.
A primary example of the Chaotic Good alignment can be found in Robin Hood.
In the worlds of the Faerie in the Fantasy Continent, one can see a strong tendency towards the chaotic good alignment.
While traditionally some Fae are viewed as falling into this alignment, many traditional Faeries are more naturally described as neutral creatures.
They can be seen as viewing good, evil, law and chaos as equally valid paths, or alternatively, as behaviors to avoid as simple narrow-mindedness or perilous extremes.
The discussion of alignment, and the determination of one’s personal tendencies in this direction can be seen as related to internal self-awareness and discipline.
Self-control can be seen in several ways including that of moral and philosophical discipline in which one exerts one’s will after careful self-perception.
Discipline involves clarity then, and boundaries.
We can view boundaries as edges, as invisible and symbolic barriers that serve several purposes.
They demarcate and indicate personal, physical, psychological and social distance and “space”.
They keep people from entering what we perceive as our space and causing any kind of harm.
They indicate to us where other creatures’ space begins so we do not violate or abuse them.
They allow us to determine and clearly embody who we see ourselves to be.
External boundaries allow us to choose our distance from others and define the “line” at which we give or refuse others entry into our personal area.
Internal boundaries allow us to define and protect our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions.
Both internal and external boundaries help us to define functional and appropriate action.
Once we have a clear idea of where and what boundaries are in place, then we can choose to respect them and act accordingly.
This is the essence of discipline.
Most of us have come to assume that self control and discipline is preferable to impulsiveness.
Again, the shadow side of a virtue can be revealed as there are times where impulse may be the more adaptive or appropriate response.
There is a time and a place for spontaneity, for creativity, and for impulse and these cannot always reside firmly on the side of discipline.
It would seem best for a person to have the capacity to be both impulsive and controlled depending upon which response is the most appropriate at the time.
All things in moderation, including moderation.
Related to the exploration of the boundaries that demarcate discipline is, in fact, moderation.
This is a virtue that blossoms in the presence of the restraint of either will or desire.
Self-control and discipline are often served by moderation and allow one to realize what constitutes “enough”—it allows one to avoid excess in all aspects of life.
An Irish proverb addresses this point clearly:
“Eat well, drink in moderation and sleep sound, in these three good health abound.”
Celtic wisdom also observes that:
“The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom.”
When we practice moderation, we train ourselves to be sensitive to our desires and passions, and to be able to determine the appropriate boundaries.
In a very real sense, it is moderation which allows us to encourage the growth of the spirit and of our own personal self respect.
Moderation to the Irish is seen as a basis for wisdom as in the Triad (Trecheng Breth Fene):
“Cetheora aipgitre gaise: ainme, somnathe, sobraidh, sothnges; ar is gaeth cach ainmnetach sai cach somnath, fairsing cach sobraid, sochoisc cach sothengtha.”
“Four elements of wisdom: patience, docility, sobriety, eloquence; for every patient person is wise, and every docile person is a sage, every sober person is charitable, every well-spoken person is well-behaved.”
When we do not practice self-discipline and moderation, when we thoughtlessly indulge ourselves with excess, whether it is with alcohol, food, sex, or acquisition, we risk becoming gluttons and slaves to our desires.
A good example of this behavior can be found in the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), a Faerie tale in the group of stories known as the Ulster Cycle.
The main tale tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht Queen Maeve (Medb) and her husband Ailill, who are opposed by the Ulster hero Cúchulainn.
Queen Maeve is self-indulgent, excessive and intoxicating and her behavior demonstrates the danger of unmoderated impulse—she can be seen as symbolically representing the perils of alcohol abuse and the ultimate results of a failure of self-discipline:
Dishonor, catastrophe, and hardship.
Throughout my discussions of the 9 virtues I have turned to what is known in the Outworld as “fantasy” and particularly to the tales Lord Tolkien translated from the books of the Perianath (Hobbits).
I will continue this tonight by examining some of the ways that Self-Discipline is depicted in the saga of the One Ring.
Self-discipline in these tales often relates to perseverance as it involves the ways in which the heroes of the story make themselves go on.
An example of personal restraint would include Aragorn’s many years of ascetic life in the Wilderness, and self-discipline is very clearly seen in Frodo and Sam’s example as they literally force themselves to continue in the face of extreme hardship.
We see the failure of self-control in Boromir, as well as the outcome of that failure for himself and for those he is sworn to protect.
There is also the clear example of will-power demonstrated by Galadriel when she refuses the Ring:
“You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night. . . . All shall love me and despair!”
She pauses, and in that pause is the exertion of self control. She quiets and then says:
“I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”
In these cases we see that self-discipline can be extremely difficult.
Doing what is right in Galadriel’s case involves more than refusing the Ring and the possibility it would confer of becoming yet another terrible Dark Power in Middle Earth.
Galadriel knows that the One Ring’s destruction will impact the power contained in Nenya, the Elven Ring she bears.
She knows that in the destruction of the One Ring Lothlorien’s beauty will fade and yet, she chooses that path rather than supreme power and preservation of the Land she protects.
We see that at times doing what is right and disciplining ourselves involves not just choice but sacrifice.
Similarly, we see self-discipline revealed in Harry Potter’s tales.
While Harry is struggling with events beyond his control, he chooses and is governed by rules of his own making.
He knows the difference between good and evil, he continues in the service of what he knows is the greater good, through self-control and discipline he chooses to learn what is needed to oppose Voldemort.
Harry and his allies may value life, and play, and their belongings, but they know that they are faced with choices that involve something much more significant.
This virtue and the related choices one encounters is clearly addressed in the first book when Professor Dumbledore clarifies Voldemort's recklessness in his hunt for the philosopher's stone:
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things which are worst for them.”
The same themes are seen in the challenges faced by the Pevensie children in the tales of Narnia.
We see the results of self-indulgence in Edmund’s choices.
And we see all four children learn to discipline themselves to the point where they are able to rise to the needs of Narnia to oppose the White Queen.
Fantasy tales often reveal a rather stoic example of how self-discipline in service to a larger good reveals the path to remaining true to oneself and to securing ultimate success.
It is an honor to present our Guest Speaker for tonight, our deeply beloved Ambassador from the Faery Crossing, Lord Julius Forwzy.
The Ambassador is noted for surpassing even most ancient elves in years.
He is known for his great fondness for real Celtic music, his abhorrence of squirrel plagues and Enya, and his knowledge about much more than many could shake a stick at.
Ambassador Julius is also beloved for his humor, his creativity, his generosity of time, and his service to Nature both Inworld and Out.
Lord Julius, thank you and welcome.
Thank you Maerian dear
I will be brief as I may...
I believe all here know me....
But for those that don't....
My name is Julius Forwzy
I am a member of the Faery Crossing Kin....
And have also been a member of Elf Circle since being drawn in by a certain dark skinned chap...
In my very early days of SL
What some of you may not know....
Is that I am also a member of the RL druid order....
The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
In that order I am a bard....
A teller of tales, a singer of songs, a keeper of the tribal histories
And in that there is a whole topic itself on the matter of discipline...
Tonight I wll use some of my order's forms in my talk.....
And start with what we would call a seed thought....
This is a quotation, verse, some such....
Which we will state at the start of a lesson, or gwers...
Plant it in your mind, water it if you want, see what it grows into....
It is yours to do with as you wish
So my seed thought...
Comes from the pen of that well-known philosopher....
Robert A. Heinlein
"Do not confuse 'duty' with what other people expect of you.....
"...they are utterly different.
"Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily.
"Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die.
"Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. "
I will present to you a story
[20:39] Julius Forwzy: I will present to you a story
When approaching this virtue, I took the EC definition as my starting point...
"Discipline is the self motivaton by an individual used to accomplish goals."
And yet once I reread this story, something occured to me.....
It seemed a tad innappropriate....
But then took on aspects which I will discuss later
And which Maerian has already alluded to
Here is the story....
Of the Japanese goddess Ukemochi
Ukemochi was the Japanese goddess of sustenance.
Ukemochi was known as a gentle, kind, and loving goddess whose generosity always made certain that her people would never go hungry.
Her kindness and tender loving care were rewarded with legions of followers who adored her above all others.
This unbridled devotion, however, made many of the other gods and goddesses angry......
....and many set about devising a plan to destroy her.
The god, Tsuki-yom was tasked with paying a visit to Ukemochi in order to find a way to discredit her among her peers.
But Ukemochi, who simply couldn't conceive of duplicity in anyone, was honored by the god's visit.
So she decided to prepare a great feast in his honor.
First, she nodded her head to the land, which quickly yielded crops of rice.
Then she waved her hands over the sea and fish, crabs, and lobster jumped from the water into her waiting basket.
Next she blinked her eyes at the forests and animals ran forth in herds to provide meat.
Finally, with a smile and a bow from the goddess, each item appeared fully prepared upon the banquet table.
But Tsuki-yom was anything but pleased with Ukemochi's offering of mere food.
He was used to receiving gifts of gold, precious gems, and fragrant oils.
He considered the offering of food an affront to his position in the hierarchy of gods.
In uncontrollable anger, he drew his sword and thrust it into Ukemochi's stomach.
The goddess dropped to the ground in agonizing pain.
However, she refused to quickly die.
All she could think of was that her people might starve without her around to provide for them.
Her love was so strong that even as she lie dying she willed her body to become one with the land....
.....to assure that it would continue to propagate food for her beloved people.
And that is the tale of Ukemochi
I looked at this tale.....
Here is someone disciplined...
Self-motivated enough to not be deterred from doing what she thinks is right
But then I looked again, and thought.....
Here also is hospitality....
Here also is courage......
And I thought.....
How discipline underpins each of the other virtues
Maerian alluded to this earlier....
Can we have the self-discipline to overcome our emnity for others.....
And treat them with enough courtesy that they may become our friend?
When we are afraid, do we run scared....
Or will we have the courage and the discipline to do what is required, despite that fear?
When our friends let us down.....
Can we overcome that sense of hurt, and let our loyalty accept them as fallible creatures after all?
Do we have the will power to honour our promises, no matter what the cost to ourselves?
Can we avoid the distraction of drink, drugs, sheer having fun....
And get on with the hard work needed to accomplish our goals?
And remember Ukemochi....
Do we give up when the going gets tough?
Or can we discipline ourselves, right what is wong and persevere and move forward?
And so we see....
The virtues are all interwoven, and underpinned by self-discipline
It is easy to give in to self-pity.....
To wear the victim t-shirt...
To think life is not fair
These are seductive emotions
More powerful and destructive than any drug
Do we have the self-discipline to overcome the temptation of such feelings?
In summary, then.....
A final thought...
A seed thought to leave you with....
One must overcome oneself....
Before one can overcome what is outside of oneself
Now I'll let the cat in
The 9 Virtues lecture series was presented originally by the Faelf who comprise the members and avatars of Westernesste and the Sidhevairs. The Sidhevairs are a non-profit arts and educational association which share a group tax exemption under 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code as a chartered coordinating subordinate organization of Westernesste. Donations to us are tax deductible. You can learn learn more about our parent organization by visiting the Westernesste site. You can learn more about the organization of The Sidhevairs, see our EIN letter, our DUNS information, our charter, and our articles of association by clicking here.
The 9 Virtues
The fifth virtue
Please read the about the virtue of Discipline below and then follow the links in this section to read about the other virtues that comprise the Nine Noble Virtues.
The Nine Noble Virtues are Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance.
About the Original Lecture Series