The Choice of Reason in Human Action.
In Book 1, Chapter 7 of his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle’s wrote of mankind’s “special function” among creation, asserting that the “active exercise” of man’s “faculties in accordance with rational principle” is the foundation of their virtue - both intellectual and moral. Virtue (arête), Aristotle asserted, helps mankind achieve a life worth living, or, a "good life."
Cicero, the Ancient Roman philosopher and politician titled this “foundation” as the “True Law,” defining this fundamental edict as “right reason in agreement with nature.” He declared its omnipotence and “universal application” as “unchanging and everlasting.”
The seventeenth century political philosopher John Locke echoed the ancients’ thoughts. In his essay “Is There a Rule of Morals, or Law of nature Given to Us? Yes,” Locke acknowledged mankind’s “title of right reason” to which all men “give claim.” He explained this inalienable “title” in terms of nature—the sun; that, although “the sun shows a man the way to go, unless he opens his eyes and is well prepared for the journey,” the sun’s sublime service is of little use.
In other words, creation’s inherent endowment of reason upon the human spirit defines mankind’s purpose but not its destiny, for the ultimate choice to harmonize with the order of nature, to responsibly employ such reason, has been left entirely up to the human soul.
This is Timshel Permaculture.
Timshel is the celebration of responsible human reason – the foundation of the free and creative human soul.
It is a Hebrew word, meaning either “Thou Mayest” or “Thou Shalt Rule.” In either case, it’s God’s seemingly antipodal directive to mankind, wherein He orders dominion but grants freedom—wherein man’s covenantal reign over the natural world meets the creativity of his free soul.
God may furnish man with eyes to see, a mind to design, and hands to build, but leaves the decision to see, design, and build purely up to him. It is in this seemingly paradoxical yet harmonic edict that the life-abundant, purposeful, and regenerative chorus of Permaculture takes form.
As one of the founders of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, wrote, "The philosophy of permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action."
Timshel’s edict proves in man that he is not alone, that he has been given both the ability of protracted and thoughtful observation and the choice of action. In its most elemental form, Timshel is this choice—the choice of the human soul; a choice to see; a choice to act; a choice to reason; a choice for dominion.