Written by: Dark Starr
Images by: Their respective owners
“What is the 97th Aphorism in the Codes?” inquired Labienus.
“My scrolls may not be those of Ar,” I said. To be sure, the scrolls should be, at least among the high cities, in virtue of conventions held at the Sardar Fairs, particularly the Fair of En’Kara, much in agreement.
“Will you speak?” asked Labienus.
“Remove the female,” I said.
“He is a Warrior,” said one of the men.
One of the men lifted the bound Ina in his arms, one hand behind the back of her knees, and the other behind her back, and carried her from where we were gathered. In a few moments he returned.
“The female is now out of earshot?” inquired Labienus, staring ahead.
“Yes,” said the fellow, “and she will stay where I left her, on her back, as I tied her hair about the base of a stout shrub.”
“The 97th Aphorism in the Codes I was taught,” I said, “is in the form of a riddle: “What is invisible but more beautiful than diamonds?”
“And the answer?” inquired Labienus.
“That which is silent but deafens thunder.”
The men regarded one another.
“And what is that?” asked Labienus.
“The same,” said I, “as that which depresses no scale but is weightier than gold.”
“And what is that?” asked Labienus.
“Honor,” I said.
Vagabonds of Gor , 305-306
The 97th Aphorism of the Warriors Code is often thought of as the most important of what it is to be a Warrior – that which defines Honor as a Warrior.
“What are the codes? They are nothing, and everything. They are a bit of noise, and the steel of the heart. They are meaningless and all significant. They are the difference. Without the codes men would be Kurii.” (Beasts of Gor, p.340)
Before I even begin on Honor it bears definition of the word Aphorism, these being the Codes.
aphorism (from the Greek: ?????????, aphorismós ap–horizein “from/to bound”) denotes an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.
So the Aphorisms are the Code to which the Warriors ‘are bound to’. A Warrior is bound to Honor.
What however is honor? Honor is something different throughout time and cultures, though a prevailing attitude has transcended place and time, drawing from elements of others and weaving them into a whole that fits the time. What was honorable in Feudal Japan and Medieval Europe would not be seen as honorable as a whole in modern society and too restrictive to the Gorean Warrior.
Honor’s meaning changes over time, the exact meaning depends on the writer and the person holding it, a comprehensive definition of the term is vague yet at heart the concept seems to be understood. So why is it that in Second Life, we have a vast number of outlaws without Honor and Code?
Why is the presence, the very concept of Honor so elusive?
Honor is the foundational and guiding principle of the Warrior. Thus, for the warrior, honor would be the guide of his action.
Gorean Honor and the Codes of the Warriors have been described as a rudimentary form of Chivalry but Medieval Knightly virtues and Chivalry would be almost incomprehensible to a Gorean. A better form to follow and look to would be that of the Japanese Bushido Code of the samurai or the Arabic Chivalry from which European Chivalry was formed. The codes are often alluded to but never fully described in the books leading many to create their own codes and proscribe them as the true Code.
Given that Gor is an amalgamation of several cultures, to this writer it seems that the Code of Bushido is the closest of Codes to use in order to understand that which is the Gorean Warrior. There could be no honor without the whole Code and so is it with the Warriors of Gor, indeed honor comes from following the codes.
“What is it to be a warrior? It is to keep the codes. Nothing else matters.” (Beasts of Gor, p.340)
Bushido means “Way of the Warrior” and describes the code of conduct adhered to by the Samurai. It emphasizes concepts of Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Loyalty and Honor. These can be seen in the Codes of the Warrior as written in various aspects.
Rectitude is the rightness of principle or practice, conformity to truth and moral conduct
Courage is a quality of character, to not act from fear or be intimidated.
“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” -Mark Twain
Benevolence is the disposition to do good and act in charity and kindness.
Respect is to be kept in high regard, good opinion of others and to be admired for his virtues. To be feared is not to be respected, especially when it is fear from those you would protect. To demand respect without having earned it is arrogance and earns results in the reverse of respect. A lesson we have all learned or at least heard at some point in our lives is that respect must be given before it can be received.
Honesty is the condition of being truthful. Honesty is not only to those around you but to yourself. Self delusions and rationalization are forms of dishonesty. This is not to say however to be insulting or not know the ways of diplomatic speech.
Loyalty is the unswerving allegiance to ones lawful ruler be it Ubar or Administrator, to your Home Stone, to private person whom loyalty is due, to a cause.
Honor encompasses all of these concepts, it is integrity in ones belief and actions, adherence to the codes, to family, to be the objectification of praise for having honor and leading an exemplary life.
THE LITERATE WARRIOR
The Samurai Warrior at its highest ideal was a warrior-poet, not only a master of the sword but of the arts and honor. It is confusing to consider that on Gor it is stated that all the High Castes, of which the Warriors are one, receive the Second Knowledge and that of reading and writing, mathematics and a true understanding of the world – yet that some Warriors are illiterate. For sake of Honor it is my opinion that any competent and aspiring Warrior would know how to read.
“There is no incompatibility between letters and arms. The greatest soldiers are often gifted men.” (Mercenaries of Gor, p.48)
In such a way, by studies and reading, the learned Warrior can better live and understand his codes, while knowing deeper of Honor, though Honor can be acted, mimicked and be deceptively portrayed. To have true Honor though, it must come from within.
The Warrior in his natural element is at War showing such virtues. However, he also has a pride of family and is selfless in his devotion to duty under the Ubar or Commander. But a lone Warrior has a much tougher choice; to make his way and follow the codes on his own or to have honor and reject the base nature of man.
A Warrior of Honor and Codes looks to his every day, and every action in that day, as one to enhance his honor. A Warrior will not seek a quiet death in his bed, to die in battle is to die with Honor but he should not throw away his own life needlessly.
In 480 BC, in Thermopylae, 300 Spartans held a pass against the Persians knowing they would die but such was not senseless, it was the highest of honors that they gave their lives to slow the enemy, giving their allies the opportunity to escape to regroup and defeat the Persians another day.
They fought for Honor and the freedom of the soon to be formed united Greek nation (as opposed to the fragmented tribes there had been to date). Spartans had been drilled since birth to know the way of the Warrior and uphold the ideal in all they did. That is Honor.
In a handbook addressed to “all samurai, regardless of rank,” Kato states:
“If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushido daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus, it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one’s mind well.”
Kato was a ferocious warrior who stated:
“One should put forth great effort in matters of learning. One should read books concerning military matters, and direct his attention exclusively to the virtues of loyalty and filial piety….Having been born into the house of a warrior, one’s intentions should be to grasp the long and the short swords and to die.”
The relationship between learning and the way of the warrior is clearly articulated, one being a natural partner to the other.
THE GOOD DEATH
To die a good death with one’s honor intact is the ultimate aim in a life lived according to Bushido. Indeed, a “good death” is its own reward and by no means assurance of “future rewards” in the Cities of Dust. The only death fit for a warrior is in battle.
Under the Bushido ideal, if a Samurai failed to uphold his honor he could only regain it by performing ritual suicide. This however runs counter to Gorean thinking in which Warriors do not kill themselves or aid others in doing so. Instead, for one who loses his honor, to continue to live is to have the chance to regain ones Honor.
Honor as we see is not an easy path. How many Warriors do we know of in Second Life that are known for Honor? I had to think long and hard for an example. We know many for their skill in battle which in SL can be attributed to who has the best computer and connection, the better scripted weapon and who has less lag. Skill at arms is a hallmark of the Warrior but it is Honor for which he should be known.
Think and learn, strive to live your life for something greater than yourself. To be remembered for your Honor. Honor your Family, Ubar, your Home Stone. Above all, Honor yourself.
Reproduced with permission from Home Stone Magazine.
Past issues are not currently available to view online as
they were printed as the publication has been defunct since 2010.