Once in a while, you run across something that's so magnificently and bluntly honest that you just have to stop and look at it again, as if to say "what?"
Reading Ivan Throne's The Nine Laws is like that. It's not something you can skim in an afternoon while delicately sipping on a latte. It's both eloquently written, and brutally realistic. But at the core, is it something worth reading, or is it just poetic drivel and fluff?
Each section begins with a story directly from Throne's life, and embodies some facet of the Nine Laws. They are powerfully moving stories in their own right, but as examples of the way the Dark World works, they're more than that. The Laws are defined, and then the last section explains each one. The reader is given thought exercises to get them to understand where they are in relation to the Dark World, and then take action based on that realization.
I decided, in light of wanting to be honest, to dig into the philosophy of the book itself and see if it held water when juxtaposed with a Christian's worldview. I will warn you: this wasn't easy, or simple. It is a complex philosophy, and even a single misstep could transform the entire thing into a conflagration of failure. If all the Nine Laws rely on each other, and even one of them is false, then the whole tower comes toppling down. I am still working through it, but needless to say, there's a lot of truth there.
I can't even begin to delve into the meaning of the whole book in a mere thousand words, so there's a good possibility this will take more than one post. But I would rather do the book justice than stamp a gold seal on it and lead someone astray. My readers deserve it, and I'm sure Mr. Throne wouldn't have it any other way.
So, without further ado, here are the Nine Laws:
- No Laws
Upon reading these, my curiosity was immediately piqued. Each Law is expounded upon through the filter of the Dark Triad traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy.
If these words sound scary to you, there's a good reason: they've long been considered negative traits, to be shunned. But what if I told you that everyone uses these traits to some extent? How many utterly selfless people do you know? None? That means everyone you know practices Narcissism, at least a little bit, most of the time. If out of check, the Dark Triad traits become problems- we know what happens when pure psychopaths go on rampages- but in proper balance, they are simply an explanation of the natural human functions of Thought, Word, and Deed. The Nine Laws says, used as tools, the Dark Triad can not only make you more successful (which I doubt people would argue with) but can also bring balance to your life.
I'm not interested in shoehorning The Nine Laws into a Biblical frame, nor will I compromise the Word to write a glowing review. Either we, as believers, can follow this, or we can't. So let's explore.
The introduction, written by Joseph Katzman (editor of Defense Industry Daily), lays it all out:
Imagine that you understood [The Nine Laws] at a deep level. Imagine that you embodied this knowledge, created a living framework for your personal "talent stack" of skills and techniques. What could you become?
Just how much do you want to find out? [...] His exercises are honest and difficult. That's why they will change you. If- and only if- you dare to do the work.
I'm here to say I'm doing the work, and I can honestly say so far, everything is right on the money. I intend to eventually delve deeper into the Nine Laws individually, as they each deserve scrutiny.
Simply put: the Nine Laws are rules for success in the "Dark World." By success I mean "understanding how things work, and adjusting your actions accordingly to get things done." The Dark World is what Throne calls the world as it is. It is inherently dark and impartial, and therefore understanding this will allow you to accomplish the things you want.
Is the Dark World True?
As a Christian, I was taught early on that "God is Love" and that God is Lord over everything. Which, technically speaking, He is. But one of the hardest lessons for a Believer to learn is that the world we live in isn't run by God, but by the Prince Of The Air, the Dark One himself. God has handed Earth over to Satan as a consequence of sin. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan, who promised him all worldly power. Who could have offered Jesus that? Only a being that had control of it. There are numerous Biblical references to Satan as the ruler/master of the Earth:
And he [Satan] led Him [Jesus] up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." - Luke 4:5-7
The world we live in is not normally a bright, happy place. It's full of pain, suffering, injustice, sin, and heartache. (The Natural world is full of God-created beauty in certain ways, but by "world" we mean the sin-filled fallen World of Man.) Just look to your own life for examples, and then multiply it by a thousand: that's what's out there. Jesus came to give us a way to defeat it, but that doesn't mean the rest of the World was transformed as we are. It's still broken. Dark. Putrid, rancid, and impersonal. The Dark World doesn't care if you die. The Earth, long cursed by sin, groans under the weight of it. And yet here we are, stuck in the middle of it. In the World, but not of it. Beings of light in a world of darkness. We are God's soldiers, battling in enemy territory.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8
Can we, as Children of God, use the Nine Laws to understand how the sinful and broken Dark World works?
One does not have to become part of the darkness to understand it. We can look into our souls, our own past depravity that God saved us from, and see the truth there. The darkness within our pasts recognizes itself mirrored in the darkness of the world. The better we understand the Dark World, the better we will understand our old selves, and the sin that we once bore as millstones around our necks.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. - Ephesians 2:1-2
Can using this knowledge be harmful? As with any knowledge, it can be taken out of context or used for personal gain. That doesn't make it any less true. The question we should ask ourselves isn't "is it true" but "what should I do with this?"
For me, the answer was this: use the Nine Laws to make myself more resilient to the Darkness, be more aware of sin's natural state, and hone myself into the best form I can possibly be, so I can carry out God's purpose for my life.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." - Matthew 10:16
My journey has begun. I will be brutally honest with myself, and with you: If you want to take a long hard look at yourself, and the Dark World we live in, then The Nine Laws will give you much to think about.
Stay tuned for future posts on each law. I'm looking forward to digging into this more.