“Law” as a Jedi Mind Trick

About half the time it is used, possibly more, the word “law” is nothing more than a Jedi mind trick. There is nothing noble, righteous, or even ‘conservative’ about it. It’s a way for you to be abused via ignorance and inertia. We’ve all seen this trick in action, of course. It’s very common. And, sadly, more or less all of us have fallen (or rather, were pushed) into it at some point.

mindgamesAbout half the time it is used, possibly more, the word “law” is nothing more than a Jedi mind trick. There is nothing noble, righteous, or even ‘conservative’ about it. It’s a way for you to be abused via confusion and inertia.

And, sadly, more or less all of us have fallen (or rather, were pushed) into it at some point. That complicates things because people generally don’t like to admit their errors.

Nearly all of us have been taught, repetitively, to “respect the law,” and because of those teachings, nearly all of us have decided certain things must be right, simply because they were “the law.”

We decided this, not because we understood the benefits that would follow certain actions, but because of repetitive prodding.

It’s important to be clear on this: To uncritically, reflexively obey is not respect… it is to hold “the law” above reason… above reality.

Saying, “Everyone else did it too,” makes this no better.

It is also common for obedience to follow intimidation: Obey, or else… armed men will hurt you; teacher will shame you; the other kids will laugh at you; important people will criticize you in public. Please note all of these are primitive, degrading reasons. But they were thrust upon us as small, coerced children, and they very often stuck.

The really damaging part, however, comes after you obey reflexively or fearfully: when you leap to justify your past actions. Not many of us enjoy admitting our errors, but if we want to become honest, conscious adults, that is precisely what we need to do.

“But, but…”

Yes, yes, I know the same automated slogans:

Without the law, all would be chaos and death!

Outside of law is tyranny!

We are a nation of laws, not of men!

Only law separates us from savages!

Please take a couple of deep breaths and continue.

There’s Law, and Then There’s Law

In the modern West, there are two different kinds of law. Unfortunately they are usually rolled up together and placed under a single tag. That’s a major part of this problem.

If the early days of Western civilization, law was simply the process of determining what was just. Law was considered good if it were reasonable, fair, and had stood the test of time. And that’s all.

Historian Fritz Kern, in his Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages, explains it this way:

For us law needs only one attribute in order to give it validity; it must, directly or indirectly, be sanctioned by the State. But in the Middle Ages, different attributes altogether were essential; medieval law must be “old” law and must be “good” law…. If law were not old and good law, it was not law at all, even though it were formally enacted by the State.

Law, in the old days, was developed locally, and judges were simply trusted men who reasoned well. The form we in the English-speaking world know best was the common law of England, and it was precisely this type of law. In fact, the historical record shows early English kings having to adopt customary law:

  • The 1164 Clarendon Constitution cites a “record and recognition of a certain portion of the customs and liberties and rights of… ancestors.”
  • Article 39 of the Magna Carta (1215) reads, “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed… except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Now, before I explain how we got from law based on reason and experience to where we are now, there is one thing that is necessary to understand:

Until recent times, law was not legislation.

I know this is contrary to what you’ve understood, but it’s true all the same. Legislation is primarily a modern invention. Law in the old days was not made by politicians or even by princes. Law was, as we said above, the process of determining what was just. The common law was created and updated by judges, not by legislators.

To buttress this point, consider that when philosopher Jeremy Bentham died in 1832, he was revered as “the founder of modern legislation.”

I won’t belabor this point, but consider these two statements, please:

Legislation displaces law that is based upon reason and experience.

Legislation is the edict of politicians, and nothing more.

Under legislation, reason and experience are not required. Politicians – whom nearly all of us hold in low regard – create this new law and can change it on a whim.


Let me ask some pointed questions:

  • Is it sensible to worship the words of people we also condemn?
  • And if we hold words above critical thought, are we not holding them above reality? Is that not a kind of worship or idolatry?

Idolatry is precisely what we do when we hold politician-created “law” above reason. (Whatever you hold above reality is your god.)

Yes, I know, we did this because we were trained to do it and because we were intimidated into it. But we’re adults now; we should be ready to face our errors and correct them.

The law of reason and experience always stands, of course, simply because it is reasonable and useful.

An uncritical respect for legislation, on the other hand, is a mind trick and differs little from that of a Star Wars Jedi. It requires us to bypass our minds and sacrifice our will to inertia and fear.

Paul Rosenberg

5 thoughts on ““Law” as a Jedi Mind Trick”

  1. I started re-watching “Suits” on Netflix a few weeks ago. In the past 2 days I have watched the episodes wherein Mike Ross has been horrendously hounded by the State attorney, Anita Gibbs. Her relentless pursuit is cloaked under the aegis of “justice” and “law”, but it is quite apparent that those 2 elements are being abused by a powerful person to wreak havoc on a person of most admirable and noble nature. It was gut-wrenching to watch!
    There is quite a bit of this sort of nonsense in our normal workaday world. Moreover, it is quite apparent that there are 2 standards at play in our world. One class of people are routinely incarcerated or killed for the slimmest of reasons. Of course, the other class most often skate by with virtually no consequences. I could go on and on, but these are the main points. I submit the marijuana laws enacted in 1931 and 1937 were the onset of outlandish penalties freely imposed for naught.

  2. For example: Copyright is not law, it’s a rule made by rulers. Laws are discoverable through a process of logical deduction. Rules are arbitrary. Rulers mix principled laws with their arbitrary rules to disguise their rule’s fictitious premise.
    “The state’ makes rules, not laws. Laws are discoverable and innate. They only get stated for the sake of ease – e.g. common law findings.
    If I am ‘granted’ a right I will stand back and say: “who are you to tell me what I can do any more than what I can not”?
    Rights, freedoms, civil liberties are a fiction – rulings.
    I can harm you, but there will be consequences, that’s reasonable and fair. That’s LAW, not rules.

  3. This is something I’ve thought about a lot in the last few years. The only True Law is Natural Law, and this encompasses everything from the base consistency of our reality (physics, for instance, as it exists but not necessarily as we understand or model it) up to higher level and less easily-studied patterns governing the consequences of actions (karma is an example of an effort to describe these aspects of Law). I generally hold that Natural Law in its fullness, being woven into the fabric of our reality, is not something we can fully or comprehensively understand within ideas, words, or minds, which are all constructs within that reality. A box cannot contain itself.

    I remember when I was taught as a child about “Code of Law,” and that the first instance of this was the Code of Hammurabi, and how this was such a great and innovative leap forward in human history and civilization because codified law was scrutable and so we’re all so much better off for doing things that way!

    It wasn’t until much more recently that I realized that this was a baseless post-hoc justification (“Well, we’re here now, so let’s come up with reasons why it’s the better place to be!”). Artificial law can integrate with Natural Law, and it can become the linear mechanism through which Natural Law is expressed. In fact, the means by which this happens is even well-understood, as the foundation of Natural Law is, simply, consent.

    From there, we have an entire body of theory, namely Contract Theory, on how to construct practical codes which are, in fact, scrutable but do, in Truth, bear the legitimacy of Law. This idea is foreign to many of us who were inculcated into the “government law” paradigm, however. That system, while it may have, once upon a time, been based on “the consent of the governed,” has drifted far from those moorings and it has become quite a stretch of mental gymnastics to imagine that it still operates with any consent of the people.

    It is, however, the duty of the people to point out that this is true, to withdraw their consent, to formally acknowledge that they comply with this system not because it bears the force of Law, but merely because they are under duress, and to build new paradigms to which they will consent, which replace the old ones adequately that they will be happier with them. Actually doing this is a difficult and creative process where in it is best to avoid being distracted by the problems and harms of the current paradigm — they will not aid the Great Work of constructing a better one. One must focus the fullness of their attention on solutions and resolving the logistics and mechanics of a better world and refining and reducing these into practice. Starve the old way of your attentions wherever possible. It craves your attentions and will do anything to win them back. Deprive it. Weaken it. Remember that your mind was built for better things.

    It is in this way that we will implement and enact a paradigm which replaces the old, coercive one with one that wins our consent and operates with the full force of Law.

    Keep up the Great Work.

  4. Unfortunately for America the ideal of rational law failed almost immediately and has been replaced with the mindless belief that all must submit or face the consequences of chaos and death. I have found that an attempt to replace the desire to be obedient with a desire to be free sparks fear and the suspicion that I need to be removed or at least controlled by the state.
    On the rare occasion that I am able to make a point about a liberty I am told that until the ‘rulers’ can be enlightened to their mistake and the ‘law’ replaced I must submit or face the consequences.
    It may be true that those who desire to be free must learn to live unobserved and willing to move about in search of a place where they can be free.

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