Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence


...for the passage of time seems to have bleached out men's stains.

This therefore is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place, and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore to the world a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundation on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events.

Arabs believed in persons, not in institutions. They saw in me a free agent of the British Goverment, and demanded from me an endorsement of our written promises. So I had to join the conspiracy, and for what my word was worth, assured my men of their reward. In our two years’ partnership under fire they grew accustomed to believing me, and to think my Goverment, like myself, well-meaning towards them. In this hope they performed some fine things; but of course instead of being proud of what we did together, I was continually and bitterly ashamed. 

It was replaced in Mesopotamia by the dangerous Ahad, a very secret brotherhood, limited almost entirely to Arab officers in the Turkish army, who swore to acquire the military knowledge of their masters and to hold it against them, at the disposal of the Arab people, when the moment of rebellion came.

Your good and my good, perhaps they are different, and either forced good or forced evil will make a people cry with pain. Does the ore admire the flame which transforms it? There is no rational ground for offense, but men too weak will be claimant about their little own. Our race will have a cripple’s temper, till it has found its feet. 

Most wars were wars of contact both forces striving into touch to avoid tactical surprise. Ours should be a war of detachment. We were to contain the enemy by the silent threat of a vast unknown desert not disclosing ourselves till the moment of attack. This attack might be nominal, directed not against him but against his stuff: so it would not seek either his strength or his weakness, but his most accessible material. IN railway-cutting it would usually be an empty stretch of rail: and the emptier, the greater the tactical success. We might turn our average into a rule, though not a law, for war was antinomian, and develop a habit of never to afford a target. Many Turks on our front had no chance all the war to fire at us, and correspondingly we were never on the defensive except accidentally, and in error. The corollary of such a rule must be perfect ‘intelligence’, so that we could plan in complete certainty. The chief agent must be the general’s head, and his knowledge must be faultless, leaving no room for chance. Morale seemed to be built on knowledge and to be broken by ignorance. If we knew all about the enemy we would be comfortable. We should take more pains in the service of news than any regular staff ever took. 

I asked him how many casualties we might incur ourselves, and he guessed five or six and then I decided do to nothing; to let them pass unheeding. We had one objective only, the capture of Akaba, and had come up here solely to make it easier by persuading the Turks that we were at Azrak. To lose five or six men in a demonstration however profitable financially would be fatuous or worse since we might want one last rifle to take Akaba, and Akab was vital to us. After it we might waste men but not before. 

… though my sight was sharpe I never saw mean’s features: always I peered for their living truth imagining for myself the spirit-reality of this or that: and today each man owned his desire and was fulfilled in it, and became meaningless. 

At the end he put up his chin and said quite directly, ‘Well, I will do for you what I can’, and that ended it. I was not sure how far I had caught him, but in the future we learned that he always meant exactly what he said, and that what Allenby could do was enough for the very greediest of his subjects. 

He who commands the sea is at great liberty, and may take as much or as little of the was as he will.

It was not the first or last time that service to two masters irked me. I was one of Allenby’s officers, in his confidence; and in return he expected us to do the best we could for him. I was Feisal’s adviser and knew that he relied so far on my advice being competent and honest as to take it often without question or argument. Yet I could not explain to Allenby the whole Arab situation, and was not empowered to disclose the full British plan to Feisal. It was strange and often difficult to choose between the two voices that were trusting me. 

European women were either volunteers or conscientious objectors in this war to govern men’s bodies; whereas in the East it was ended long ago, by an understanding in which women were accorded all the physical; and this world they possessed in simplicity, unchallenged like the faith of the poor in spirit. They knew the necessity of their physical sphere, and had not to struggle for it, since there was no other open or imaginable for them. Yet by this same agreement all the things men valued - love, companionship, friendliness became impossible heterosexually; for where there was no equality there could by no mutual affection. Woman became a machine for muscular exercise, satisfying the physical appetites of man: but his psychic side could be slaked only among his peers, and therefore carnal marriage was complemented by spiritual union, a fierce homosexual partnership which satisfied all that yearning of human nature for more than the attraction of flesh to flesh. Whence arose these bonds between man and man, at once so intense, so obvious, and so simple.