Friday, April 3, 2009

Morality as Harmonic Chord

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" or the golden rule, can be found with
slight variations throughout philosophy and religion, here are a few:
Judaism: “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”, Leviticus 19:18
Islam: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.”
Native American Spirituality: “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” Black Elk
Shinto: “The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form
Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23
Why is this important? Why is morality essential to the fabric of our lives? It prescribes consistency and allows our actions to be in harmony with our desires. It provides an internal compass that we can use to navigate society. How we apply the golden rule, or how we are able to treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated, tests our moral coherence.
What do YOU think?


Gilles said...

I think this is generally a good thing to treat others the way you want to be treated, but only as long as you treat yourself the same way.

If you ask why it is important, I think that is so because it is an application of the deepest knowledge of the soul, being that there is only one soul. So if you do something for someone else, you do it to yourself.

However, not all people have the guts to find out who they really are, that's why this law needs to be formulated in words, so that those who do have those guts, protect others from hurting themselves.

Personally I expect the time is near where this law resonates over the whole earth, and does not need words anymore.

Derek said...

Coming from a Zen Buddhist point of view. We are all one. As we take another into our awareness, we are that person because the part is the same as the whole - there is no separation. So to attack another is to attack oneself. To judge it to judge oneself. This doesn't really "work" from words but from zazen (Zen meditation), this can be experienced directly in the awareness. It is quite an amazing experience too and if experience often enough, it melts illusion and takes us to reality.. :-)

Joanne said...

It's very easy to close the door and mind our own business these days, to not trust anyone anymore or give a good damn. Society is full of lies . . . yes, but there is goodness also. I don't believe that we have to turn the other cheek all the time, but to treat others the way we'd like to be treated really says something about our humanity. There are no guarantees that others will respond in like manner, but it keeps the focus on our own actions and stops the finger pointing. It makes of us more compassionate beings and fosters a thing called honor.
There's an old Dakota proverb that I try to keep in mind in these difficult times; "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave..."
I believe it's true.

Doug said...

I think mostly these ideas were conceived as a way to control a population's behavior, to act kindly toward each other as a way to avoid retribution, thus in a way, we act kindly out of FEAR. The other great contribution that civilizations owe to religion is GUILT.

Bob said...

I agree with Doug. Religion may have contributed to morals when life was simpler, and when people could be fed lies more easily than now, but personally I can't find anything useful in these suggestions above. So my neighbour happens to be a rapist..... 'Others' want different things from me (I bloody hope so) Sometimes we give people what they want, sometimes a piece of our mind, Elks probably have a more sophisticated grasp than I do - 'All is really one' One what I wonder.

Jason said...

Morality means, at least in part, acting in accord with who and what we really are as human beings. Given the unity of humanity, and therefore of human nature, it's not surprising to find certain parallels in the expression of morality in different cultures.

Also, again just as a matter of accuracy and not taking away from the underlying meaning here, but "love your neighbor as yourself" is, by classic Christian terms, "the Second Commandment of Love" (the first being to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength). The Golden Rule is "Do to others what you would have others do to you." This latter is a direct quote from Jesus, while the former was simply Jesus quoting from Leviticus. The main underlying thought is the same for both of course.

Jim said...

I do not believe these recommendations (they are not commands) come from religion. Religions have adapted these sayings from elsewhere. To love one another and do onto others etc. comes from an understanding that we are ONE, meaning we are all made of the same stuff, vibrate within the same field of consciousness, draw from the same source of life, and thus are all connected to one another. If that was understood so also would be such instructions. If you are connected to me then whatever I do to you I do to myself. Its that simple. And yes, what you do towards others does come back to you. Hate reaps hate, kindness reaps kindness. So it is not our fear - that's the result of religion - but our sense of responsibility towards that which is a part of me.

Humberto said...

Love thy neighbor as thysel and God above all things".....were the words of Jesus. And this words can be found in many religions and philosophies of the world, as you said. There is not doubt human beings need to follow this golden rule in order to create a world of love, peace, justice and harmony. So, we must do this to solve all the problems of our world. It´s very simple......I think this is the purpose of a lot of religions and ANH, through all the members and groups. Let´s go to change the world.....yes we can. Maybe I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one......Thanks for read....

Bess said...

I’m reading Conversations With God at the moment (Neale Donald Walsch), which reinforces the message (and has really brought it home to me) of all the other self help books I have read, to love yourself first, before you can love another.

Let me explain:
There is a voice in my head that chastises me when I get it ‘wrong’, that says “Oh, Silly Girl!”, yet I would never say that to another, to my neighbour, friend or brother.

So when I read the quotes above, I realise that by punishing myself, I am punishing the world, as we are all connected, all one. When I bless myself, I bless the world. So my commitment is to love myself, so that I can love my neighbour as myself.

Sioban said...


Michael said...

Your observation on the imposition of moralty gives rise to complexity . The imposition of morality invokes Newton's Third Law and has within itself the inevitability of the creation of its opposite. Such imposition is also immoral in itself.

Of course, not all morality is imposed. It is my observation that many belief systems arise from the inter-action of mystical visions and enviromental and socio-cultural conditions. These teachings tend have a strong relationship to the inner world of the people of such cultures and give rise to religion in which the living mystical truth becomes fossilised and is reduced to being a social tool.

This seems to be the fate of most religions. Two exceptions that spring to mind is the perenial shamanism of the world's peoples and certain elements of Buddhism, though even here I have my doubts.

I understand what you mean when you say that morality is an inside out process, very elegant, and I agree with you on this. When it is an outside in process it becomes ideology. This tells us that we have to learn to take absolute responsibility for ourselves and what we do. Though I have a problem with the whole concept of morality when applied in a social context as it is dualistic in nature and gives us the tools to judge others. The morality you describe is collective. True morality is intensly personal and is most frequently seen as immoral to religionists.

Though I do think that much of the original mystical writings from which religions grow can be excellent reminders of the truths we all already know but have forgotten. Inner morality is the revival of true memory and the begining of realising what we truly are.

As for finding a place of joy, if we search for joy we miss the rest and that too is part and parcel of what we are. Happiness and unhappiness is another judgement scale.

On our life circumstances, I believe we chose those, or our karma does, before we are born. Such a concept requires that we re-appraise our universal concept of 'morality'.

I don't see the Harmonic Chord as moralistic, in my experience it is a spiritual lifebelt, something to hang on to when the storm rises. It is not theoretical.

Actually, I suspect that it also relates to your concept of 'collective' souls which is referred to on your blog. I have a feeling that such soul collectives are formed before we are born, with groups of souls coming in over years, even centuries, to bring about conditions suitable for the growth of all.

Thomas said...

That's debatable because if not morality then at least ethical conduct is imposed on individuals by society all the time. The entire legal profession rests on the imposition of ethical rules. Resulting anarchy is the exception.

The imposition of ethical conduct is of course only a crutch for true morality, which comes -as you rightly say- from inside out. A reasonably developed human being surely recognises the truth of the golden rule.

I don't think it takes "a leap of faith" to understand that we ourselves are responsible for creating peace and joy, as you say. Any sensible person would understand that. A person who doesn't understand that cannot be called sensible.

What is more troubling is that people have difficulties to see how to do that. I don't mean outright criminals, but just the average John Doe who lacks understanding, in particular understanding of his own conditioning, to achieve peace and joy. I mean, how many people do you actually see experiencing peace and joy? Certainly a minority on this planet.

Molly Brogan said...

I think that we are multi dimensional, and it is in perfect order that we are experiencing everything we are. Joy does not eliminate fear or apprehension from our experience. Transcending rationality does not mean we eliminate it from our thinking, it means that we include higher levels of logic and awareness. Strictly joy might be a bore, but an overriding joy stemming from a heart of compassion or a non dual viewpoint might be wonderul. Most of the people I know live life as such. More and more all the time.

Carlo said...

Why wouldn't it be important? Why isn't a moral and ethical code, standard operating procedure in all our public schools. How do we mandate morality?

William said...

The declining standards of morality is ultimately the biggest challeng facing our nation, and really is the true cause of the collapse of our financial institutions. I see no sign this problem will be solved anytime soon. It is a problem for all affluent civilizations.

Molly Brogan said...

Can we mandate if for others? Or does it need to come from inside out?

Carlo said...

It does come from the inside out for the spiritually evolving individual that begins to understand the beauty and justice of the Law. The quotes you posted are a testimony to the benefit's of Harmonically balancing ourselves within the sub-structure of the Creation. The Law that guides and nurture's it's Creatures is Ethical and Moral. Responsible parents mandate moral behavior for their children. This should be fortified and expanded within the school systems to catch the few or many that fall threw the cracks. Creating an environment of altruism and hopefulness conducive to unfolding the characteristic's of all the developing children so that they can become harmonically in tune and add their unique counterpoint to the overall symphony.

Trevor said...

This gets me to thinking that the people who profess to believe in this are not following this rule. How many terrorists omit this in favour of something that is not in their religious writings? What are they saying when they blow themselves and others up with them?

Francis said...

In Dostoevsty’s novel, “Crime and Punishment”, Raskolnikov commits murder with the justification, “If God doesn’t exist, then anything is permissible.” Dostoevsky, who advocated a slavophile Christianity, uses the novel to argue that rationalist atheism leads to nihilism and chaos and that a belief in a redeeming God is the only solid basis for human life.

The theistic argument for an ultimate basis for morality is, of course, easy; morality is divinely deemed, proscribed, part of the template of existence. It gives answers to the question, “why be moral?” on different levels; because God has ordained it, because it is a God-created part of human nature, because God will punish you if you aren’t and reward you if you are.

Where can atheists find an answer to the question; why be moral? More practically, perhaps, if we accept secular models for organising society (and this is the basis of western societies), where do we find arguments in favour of behaving morally? In the wake of the financial collapse, many commentators have identified a lack of moral sensibility on the part of those managing and playing the markets as one of the underlying problems leading to the collapse. Is the basis of law and regulation merely deterrent; the fear of the consequences of being caught?

Ian said...

I have always viewed Raskolnikov's comment in quite the opposite way to what Dostoevsky intended it to be taken. If God doesn't exist, then it's time to move beyond moral agreements based upon baseless superstition: instead let's base our morality solely on shared human experience and evidence. Time to evolve. Humanists and Brights argue for this all the time.

Why be moral without God? By my measure, it's impossible to be truly moral * with* God since -- by absolute definition -- your morality is a base and dishonest thing. A low-minded and self-deluding conspiracy. You do good, or bad, with one eye to celestial judgement or your lot in the next life. In terms of a discussion on moral philosophy, you ain't even invited to the table. Your motives can't be trusted.

I think human-beings are capable of a much more sophisticated morality; throwing off the shackles of Bronze Age religion is the first step. For a majority -- until we reach that Star Trek-like utopia -- fear of punishment is still essential. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. However, that punishment should be fair, considered, and entirely this-worldly. And subject to democratic change.

God is a hindrance to our moral progress, he's done enough damage already.

Juan said...

I understand your fears, I have experienced them myself when leaving religion behind. I think the correct answer is, humans are for the most part, inherently moral. Chalk it up to keeping up appearances, or to herd instinct, we have a tendency to do what's right.

Atheists start with a fair, base assumption on a Universe without a moral guiding hand, and in that Universe there is a such thing as Morality, obviously a useful trait in some way to humankind. What I find is a bit dishonest in many atheists viewpoints is the denial that the existence of Religion may have use to humankind as well.

Don said...

Chalk it up to keeping up appearances,

"or to herd instinct, we have a tendency to do what's right."

I agree if you add 'when we think someone is watching us' to that sentence. Fear of getting caught keeps some of us on the strait and narrow. Some cultures deify ancestors. This is smart because who wants to misbehave if they know their beloved grandmother is watching them beyond the grave? We'll do what feels good if we think we can get away with it. Our parents teach us what is permissible and what isn't. We learn by their example and from what we see others do and get away with. I was taught lying and stealing are wrong and those who practice these habits deserve contempt. That's not to say I haven't done both in my misspent youth but at least I feel ashamed about it. Too I see youth with no compunction on lying or stealing. They'll regale you with stories of daring-do involving heisted cars or cheating on their wives and elaborate lies they told to get themselves out of trouble. It's almost like the more they get away with the bigger man they are. This is permissible in their culture because everyone they hang out with is the same way. Movies and pop music that glorify crime don't help.

We all want to be accepted in our society. Our society is so diverse that it depends on who we're with at any given moment of the day what is acceptable and what isn't. I respect religion's role in providing a structured moral compass for us even if the religion's leaders don't always follow the rules as closely as we'd like. These leaders are people and make mistakes just like we do. Yes, they should be held to a higher standard but it should be expected that many will fail. Just as all politics is local, I believe it's the same with religion. If you don't like your local clergy leadership you can always find another one. That's the beauty of competition.

Craig said...

Throwing God into the mix really doesn't answer the question of what is morality and why we should act according to it. Like Plato wrote, is it pious because God says it is pious, or does God say it is pious because it is pious?

If it is good because God said so, then it leaves morality looking very contrived and meaningless. If it is good because it is good, and that's why God says it is good, then throwing God into the mix really doesn't help us answer the question. It only tells us that God must have some sort of standard by which he judges whether something is good or bad. Philosophy has attempted to ascertain that standard. So whether we are atheists, or whether we are theists, it appears we can carry on the same conversation. If we accept that something is good because God said so, then in a way, we are atheist with regard to morality. Morality doesn't really exist at all in that sense. Its just a standard arbitrarily established by one intelligent being. If we say that something is good because it is good, and that God believes it is good because it is good, then the theist and the atheist are saying the same thing.

Francis said...

"humans are for the most part, inherently moral."

Much as I would like to think this, Juan, I have a major methodological problem with this premise, taken as an axiom. Personally, I was raised in a liberal Christian tradition (even if, like you, I have consciously grown beyond the Christian part of it) and experience a strong subjective distaste for the idea of amoral humanity. Still, I find myself wondering how much my desire for a moral aspect to my fundamental anthropology is rooted within my socialisation, something which, despite my present position of professed agnostic atheism, is still very much part of me. Frankly, I don't want to be rid of it - it's an aspect of who I am. But it does raise an attitude of existential suspicion of my own judgment. For a grounding of morality, I think we must go deeper.

I see three basic philosophical vectors here. The first is evolutionary. Without going too far into an area better covered by people like Dawkins, I do think there can be a certain weight apportioned to the development of humanity and human societies - some kind of altruistic genetic direction, which has shown itself to be generally advantageous throughout the development of our species.

The second has to do with order. Whether we go into the the microscopic; from biology (complex organisms, cytology, genetics), to chemistry, to atomic and subatomic physics; or the macroscopic; solar and planetary systems, galaxies and galactic clusters, we see everywhere wonderful complex examples of structure and organisation. I do not make the jump here to a theological argument from design - the order we see may just as well be incidental fractal islands of structure, order and differentiation in an entropic sea of chaos - but the order we experience gives us a pattern, or an example of patterning which we may legitimately take over for humanity and the way we organise our living together - an organising which cannot take place without morality. To freely choose order rather than chaos (and such a choice implies basic moral systems) seems to be a rational and sensible step.

The third is the old philosophical argument, to wit, that it is the nature of human beings to seek happiness; and happiness is not achievable without a basic moral position.

These are very simple statements of arguments which have much depth and complexity. They make, in this simplified stage, no statements about any specific moral content. Still, they serve me as a starting point for the development of a position which argues that morality is an integral part of what it means to be human.

Anonymous said...

I agree, morality is an integral part of what it means to be human. Why? Because we begin to apply it when we begin to understand that what we do to others, we do to ourselves. That at the deepest levels, we are all one. If we can live like this, morality no longer needs to be applied, it just is, and we become as the world becomes. If we feel ourselves applying it, then we are still struggling to understand it. If we have trouble feeling our connection to all there is in life (including the God aspect) we lose the link that allows the natural flow of morality, and question the conscious application of it. To me, a moral person is one who can act with love always. This doesn't mean that they allow themselves to be trampled by everyone else, because that really isn't what we want for ourselves, so why would we allow others to do it. It does mean applying understanding and forgiveness and allowing whatever connection is possible, even if it is only in spirit. It doesn't mean evangelizing and imposing our ideas on others in an attempt to get everyone to do what is right as we see it. It means always acting from that place within us that can feel the connection to all others with love. It doesn't mean that everyone always has to agree with us. It means that when they don't, we honor who they are from a place of our own truth.

Morality is simple if it comes from inside and moves out. To examine the external benefits of it is to examine its effects, and they are worth examining if that shows us the path to that place within us from which our morality naturally flows.

Francis said...

I have no problem with this at all. A truly internalised and accepted morality frees itself more and more from rules and precepts, whether it is expressed as some kind of Kantian moral imperative (a formulation I personally find useful) or in some other fashion. This, however, seems to me to be an aspect of personal (call it spiritual, if you will) development, which not all (if indeed many) reach. In one sense, it is always something on the horizon - to borrow imagery from a theological context, an eschatological reality; a mixture of the now and the not-yet. One of your paradox moments!

But, to move to a more commonplace level, my original question centred more on the necessity for finding a basis for moral conduct for society in general. It's about building a framework within which we can all develop as humans. An affirmation of the moral aspect of humanity is needed for a confident affirmation of secular, pluralist society, not only to counter ignorant accusations from narrow minded purveyors of many religious viewpoints who claim that the secular, liberal view of society is amoral or immoral.

Molly Brogan said...

Well, we can and do develop as humans. Some of us follow an external framework and apply it internally. Some of us allow our internal frameworks to dictate what we follow externally. Some of find the harmony for both. Can we impose such a framework on society without running into the limitations of religions or dictator like political systems? If, as individuals, we develop and follow our own moral compass, can our greater societies naturally develop moral frameworks? I think harmony for both is possibly and in my life occurs naturally. Is it possible for everyone? Is it possible for a majority? My guess is that it would depend of the beliefs of the individuals in the society.

Edward said...

Here is a good reason for moral behavior -- call it what you like (we are our brother's keeper, the golden rule, do unto others, etc.) --

Ulysses said...

Thanks for the video gruff, it was overwhelmingly sad but very enlightening as to the seriousness and the dilemma of these people. It takes me back over to the other thread, Does Evil Exist. One only needs to watch this video for the answer.

A moral society is a happy and safe society. Atheists want to be happy so atheists want to be moral. Obviously loss of morality, whether in the social or financial world, leads to undesirable results and therefore serves as an example. The problem is that morality is as easily bought off as it is adopted. Only those that have inner strength of consciousness can stand firm against the temptations of immorality. I don't think anyone needs any theistic or secular reason to be moral aside from the positive end result of a moral society.

Edward said...

Thanks Slip. I don't really consider what is going on in the video and what it represents as evil. It is bad, it is horrifying, it is obscene, but it is also no more than religion battling it's fiercest foe -- education and enlightenment. On the other hand, religion considers education and enlightenment evil -- the work of the devil.

Neil said...

I can't but agree Francis. Morality lapses very quickly to rationalisation though, perhaps made easier by crude religion. Nothing puts me off morality quicker than a university ethics committee!

Ulysses said...

Why is evil always so hard to nail down or why does it seem that no one really wants to identify it but simply dissect the potentiality of what it may define. You don't consider anything on the video as evil but do recognize it as bad, horrifying and obscene, which basically covers the face of evil, but rather bypass evil representation to bring attention to religious aspects, which by the way I agree with 100%, don't burn your steak here. The dark ages are still upon us brother and while technology creates a vision of advancement, attitudes and behaviours create a different picture, the picture of reality, of good and of evil. I feel we must somehow find resolve in the issue of what is evil. We have here a collection of brilliant minds, myself excluded lol, and so we can somehow be assertive in our resolve. I find too many threads wind up as fray ends. Which reminds me of a thread that walked into a bar, the bartender said "we don't serve threads", so the thread walked out, shredded out it's end and tied itself into a loop, walked back into the bar, the bartender noticed and immediately and irately said, "damn, I told you we don't serve threads in here", the thread responded "I'm not a thread" at which the bartender scowled, "you are so" and so the thread having the last word said "nope, I'm a frayed knot".

Don said...


Molly Brogan said...

Evil reconciled to good? Frayed knot!

Lee said...

Are you asking the wrong question here? Morality? Well we all have that to some degree or other don't we, perhaps the question should be why are we moral?

Theist and Atheist alike, we mostly have the same moral compass, I'll put it down to it all being part and parcel of what sort of a creature mankind is. God or no God, morality just comes as part of being human.

Matthijs said...

I think that the main reason for people to use moral is the fear to be punished by other people who live without morals. That is why we have the law to say killing is wrong, it is the line that protects you against violence from others. May you choose to walk without moral or law, for most people, the fear is to great to be a victim of the chaos, in chaos the risk is much higher to be attacked. In dutch we say:' Wie goed doet wie goed ontmoet.' That means that when you do good things you get the best of life in return.

I think that God does not punish for what you have become on earth. I think that the most he will ask is for people to come to terms what they have done and accept who they were in life.

Life is good.

Francis said...

One of the things I wonder about is the extent to which we can speak of morality beyond (or deeper than) societal conventions and reward/ punishment schemata. In many areas, I've noticed a tendency to limit morality to the "private" context. I saw a series of interviews with young bankers in Frankfurt last week asked about their attitude to a number of clever "bears", who apparently saw the financial crisis coming, sold short, and made major profits as a result. The general view expressed was admiration for people who were canny enough to read the signs right and play the system accordingly. None of them even seemed to consider that such people also had the option to make their viewpoints known, cry warning and maybe do something about averting something generally seen as very damaging for many millions of people. Moral blindness? Or just the result of shutting morality out of all kinds of areas which pertain to life? Or a viewpoint that those who allow their actions to be influenced by moral perspectives are just mugs?

Many people seem to have no problems with a view of society where it's
dog eat dog and so, buddy, you'd better strengthen your jaws and
sharpen your teeth! Does the way we organise society have an
anaesthesising electro-magnetic effect on the moral compasses you
refer to?

Bruce said...

The issues of morality cross a whole spectrum of human interest with many gray areas and moving boundaries. This is why regulations are necessary to define a common set operating standards. The fact is that when personal self-interest aligns with the group self-interest (as we have recently seen with bankers), then breaking the rules becomes a whole lot easier. This also becomes true with the issue of the environment, where economic growth rules the society at the expense of the natural world. This undermines the process of setting objective standards and following the standards once they are set. In that sense, I think it is probably the most underrated moral question of our time.

Lee said...

The question I would like answered about the bankers in your reply is:

Do these people feel guilt and then quash such feelings, or do they not feel guilty at all?

I would suspect that the guilt IS felt and then put aside. So perhaps no electromagnet required but an ability to live quite a healthy life with negative feelings?

Edward said...

My primary and only objection to the word 'evil' is that it carries a lot of baggage -- religious baggage -- and while a lot of bad in the world comes about as a result of religion, especially Christianity and Islam, there is also a lot of badness that comes about primarily as the result of human failure to communicate, greed, avarice, envy, laziness, and last but far from least -- fear!

But back to my primary objection. When the word 'evil' is put into play it connotes beelzebub, satan, lucifer, angel of darkness, antichrist, apollyon, diabolus, king of hell, mephistopheles, prince of darkness, archfiend, demon, the evil spirit, god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), son of perdition (John 17:12, II Thessalonians 2:3), the wicked one (Matthew 13:19), abaddon (Revelation 9:11), belial (II Corinthians 6:15), and a thousand thousand other names, which in turn connote a thousand thousand names of of god. I could go on till you were all bored into a state of 'evil', but not wishing to belabor issue, evil connotes not good but god. There is plenty of badness in the world that comes about without the concept of a god. Being bad is an entirely human trait and weakness and to my mind it is born, not of god or the devil, but of the human ability to raise normal fear to heights heretofore unreachable.

The world is slowly coming to a humanist point of view rather than a religious one, and though there is still far to go -- Christianity has the most adherents (2+ billion) and Islam has the second most adherents (1+ billion), non believers and atheists come in a very close third (1+ billion) -- you can bet the percentage of those who are bad among the latter is very close to the percentage of those who are 'evil' among Christians and Muslims.

We do not need god to be bad. It's perfectly human to be so, and I firmly believe that until we stop connecting bad with evil -- the religious -- we can't stop using the concept of god and the devil in all their incarnations and we won't be able to assume responsibility for our own behavior. As long as people can blame the devil, they can escape that responsibility. I'm a frayed knot too.

P.S. - I would NEVER burn a steak.

In regard to this frayed knot's beginning (i.e., that in Dostoevsty’s novel, “Crime and Punishment”, Raskolnikov commits murder with the justification, “If God doesn’t exist, then anything is permissible.”), I'm a frayed old Dos' had it slightly wrong: God doesn't exist and anything is possible. Only human frailty makes it permissible.

Molly Brogan said...

frailty or morality?

Edward said...

I would think frailty, Molly. It is our weaknesses that lead to negative behavior. Our morality leads us to good behavior.

Neil said...

The path to hell is lined with good intentions - which would seem to point away from morality leading to good behaviour.

Ramona said...

Why be Moral?

Because it’s the intelligent thing to do. To be moral encourages progress toward harmony amongst mankind. Religion and philosophy teach morals to unite the people. As senseless as some of it seems to us today it was mostly guidance toward the common good by the best minds of the particular place and time. I believe the Romans were the only ones who actually warped the superior intelligence of the man to make up a really fantastic control dogma. Mohammed was simply a stern disciplinarian. The nut-cases that terrorize in his name have a ways to go to catch up to the Crusades and the Conquistadors. Our collective intelligence has the wisdom of ‘moral’. The brighter mind of the time would have been the one with the best access to our collective consciousness. They had to qualify their knowing in some way in order for the ‘common’ people to accept it as credible. God is just a standard qualification to substantiate ‘higher’ knowledge. The idea of the golden rule is a great bit of wisdom. The karma theory supports it with an idea of reward and punishment. As man has evolved there are, per capita, many more ‘great minds’ and the understanding of the true ‘moral’ is much more common. I believe we have progressed to the time for an evolutionary leap in which mankind will become the One of ‘moral’.

Alan said...

Frayed knot is an interesting way of putting it.

I think society is more immoral than moral. I think most people agree that killing some one is wrong. My problem with morality is when some one charges excessive interest like in credit cards (my wife and I have one -- and it is for emergencies only -- then immediately paid off ) justifying this as sound business when in reality to me it seems like this greed is a way of slowly killing some one, or Like ( i do have a very good health insurance.) when I ended up in the hospital a few years back in the USA and the bill exceeded $8,000. for 24 hour stay.. basically to get my heart beat stabilized and watched. I saw 2 doctors for a total of 10 minutes.. If I did not have insurance i would have an huge medical bill and to pay it I would have had to take food of my table to pay the bill. To me if a person is forced to pay an excessive amount to cover a bill cutting back on normal expenses to pay it,, the hospital is killing that person.

or by charging excessive rent.. or a myriad of other ways of killing some one legally .. the slower the better..

On my savings account I am paid a meager 2.6 % but if I want to borrow money I have to pay 9.8% If I depended upon that interest for my living again corporate greed would be killing me.. and this difference is immoral yet it is easily justified as business.

I think people many people only want to appear to be moral yet at the same time want to use business or corporations to hide their immorality.

The only conclusion I can reach is people prefer to be immoral. Just talking the talk not walking the walk of morality.

Molly Brogan said...

I doubt that many people would see loan interest as immoral. Yet you see it this way because it goes against what you feel is good for you. Is morality only what we feel is good for us? Or is there a greater good to consider?

Michael said...

Agree with Molly. I don't understand any of the financial arguments presented.

Some people cut trees down for a living, and make a certain amount of money per year doing it. Some people lend money for a living, and make a certain amount of money per year doing it. In the former case, you trade the trees for money. In the latter case, it's the difference between what the borrowing rate and the interest rate that lets you make money. Nothing immoral about it. Only reason some people, and various religions, feel that charging interest is immoral is because of the fact that we didn't really evolve to understand abstract ways of making money. Sell wood? Sure. Make a living off a spread? Harder to understand. But why immoral?

As for medicine: Why are doctors paid so much? Because they're among the more talented people in society (i.e., intelligent - look at medical school acceptance rates), and they spend much longer in training than other people, so they have to be compensated by a lot to make the profession economically worthwhile. If doctors were paid less, more people who would otherwise be doctors would become lawyers, and medical care wouldn't be as good as it is now. So where would the morality be in that? Is every potential doctor who chooses to be a lawyer because the pay's better an immoral person?

Michael said...

Who here thinks that sexual "immorality," like homosexuality or incest, is immoral? I present the point because I think it beyond obvious that neither is, nor is any brand of sexual "immorality" (except for things like forced sex, which is immoral not because it has anything to do with sex but because it has to do with coercion) but obviously many people in this world disagree.

ornamentalmind said...

The notion of usury has always been suspect...not in most of today's media though. It has dire implications for humanity itself...

Francis said...

In my view, the barrage of rules, tabus and anthemas surrounding sexuality have most to do with reproductive (and consequently, inheritance) issues - decade long responsibility for raising a child, guarantees for the provision of child-rearers, guarantees for paternity, societal imperatives regarding the inheritance of wealth and power, etc. There are also possible aspects buried deep in our personalities (if we accord any validity to the theories of Freud), at any rate, issues which are very deep in the social vector of our identity. All of which lead to a placing of all kinds of precepts concerning sexuality and its expression in the moral area.

One of the greatest revolutions of the 20th. Century was the growth in personal control of human productivity. That women can now control their own fertility is a factor which is having a huge effect in all sorts of areas in our societies - a paradigm shift, many of the consequences of which are still not clear. The pill (and other reliable contraceptive methods) have rendered many of the old strictures surrounding sexuality meaningless.

In general, I would hold the view that what consenting adults do with each other is - a result of the above - something which no longer needs any sort of societal sanctions (or approval). This does not quite free the area of sexuality from moral questions, however. If I have (for whatever reason) promised sexual fidelity to someone else and then sleep with another person, then this may well be regarded as immoral. The difference, of course, is that that which is immoral is not so much the act of sex with another as the breaking of a promise. Consequences, particularly if dependent children in a familial unit are effected, can be extreme.

Still, the sexual urge and its expression is something very powerful for us humans. We are on a journey of exploration into the unknown.

Alan said...

I think everyone has the obligation to serve the God of their understanding, how ever they conceive him/her/it to be. that is what they are responsible for. unfortunately it seems to many have money has become their god..

People need to look at just what there morality is.

I am hoping people will take a long look at normal day to day activities from the perspective of morality because that is what defines a persons morality.

Morality is defined by how you live your life ,, not the words you have spoken.

Vamadevananda said...

How about the pedophile, who may seduce an unsuspecting mind but may not have actually " forced " sex upon a child ?

Don said...

I thought of this also when I saw the word 'incest' used. I quickly surmised Michael was referring to adults only. Children don't know what's good for them and that's why we have laws against sex with children. There aren't a lot of people willing to argue this law except maybe NAMBLA. As far as I know; incest in general isn't against he law. It is certainly taboo, as it should be, but not unlawful. If it's not immoral, it is unwise and risky IMO. Definitely socially unacceptable in a way that homosexuality clearly isn't.

Someone said killing someone is immoral. Not in all cases I would say. What if the person being killed is the person that molested your child and just proclaimed their intent to do it again? It would be almost immoral not to kill the bastard.

Lee said...

I think if we question more deeply why the majority find that the killing of a human by another human immoral, we'll probably find that it has a whole lot to do with ownership.

Ownership of mind and body. Who owns my Self? Me and only me, it is immoral to kill me for any reasons solely because to commit such an act elevates somebody else's wishes above my own in regard to what to do with my Self.

The fact that I have had sex (okay we all realise that this is an example and not an admission) with a young boy of 6, does not negate my ownership of my Self.

In addition one of the reasons that such pedophilia is considered immoral (and rape also) is precisely because the very act itself elevates somebody else's = wish above that of the victim.

If we find that is immoral then killing for any reason must also be. To declare otherwise is hypocritical in the extreme.

Don said...

I don't see any gray area here. Kids used to be considered property of their parents by law so didn't get the legal benefit of self nor are they expected to conduct themselves as well as adults. They get a break. When an adult has committed a heinous crime and their is a reasonable assumption that they will repeat the behavior I see no reason to allow them to continue to breath. I don't know if I could do it myself or not but I certainly wouldn't have a problem with the State doing the job. Nor would I shed a tear if someone else took him out. Some folks just need killing.

Lee said...

Then may I respectfully suggest that you have not thought deeply enough on the reasons why the majority of us proclaim the killing of a human by another immoral.

Why for example is sex with a minor immoral?

Edward said...

I would say that would depend on whether or not the child (you didn't specify an age, so I'm assuming a teenager) was traumatized by the occurrence. There are also those children to attempt, often quite successfully, to seduce an adult. I'm not making a moral judgment here one way or the other. Just stating some facts rhetorically.

In my opinion, the taboo against incest no longer is valid. Before there were services and practices that could circumvent, prevent, or resolve incestuous pregnancies, it was a valid taboo. Those circumstances no longer exist so there is no valid reason to ban incest. Besides, in reality incest is widely practiced throughout the world.

Vamadevananda said...

I was actually going to say that you are especially endowed and
blessed by God. But then I remembered, you do not believe in One.

Lolita ! ?

allow me to stretch the libertarian thought of yours !

Why not have sex with one's own mother or grandmother ?

Ornamentalmind said...

"...Some folks just need killing. " -

For once, I fully agree with you Don!

Don said...

Minors overwhelmingly lack the experience to make the right judgment calls. It's taking unfair advantage of them. It's FEELS wrong. The whole idea sickens me.

It is also true that some 13 year old girls can make themselves look 21. It's also true that in some cultures a girl at 13 is practically a woman and ready to start having babies. But not in mine, thank you very much. Maybe it's my southern bible belt nature showing but I'm not ready to accept incest either. Dysfunctional may be too mild a term for a family that practices this regularly without shame. People make mistakes and have weak moments but if this is common...something just ain't right.

Lee said...

It is true that as a whole morality seems to work on an emotional level. Yes it does just feel wrong, but waxing philosophical about it, I must ask for a more in depth answer.

As to your answer, yes of course children are children with the brains and thoughts of children. Yet we let them make their own decisions over many areas. They can of course make the correct judgment calls (if the parents train them properly).

However you point is valid, "It's taking advantage of them'. Again going deeper why is that immoral?

Meh! I think you can still say that. I mean why would an unbeliever be bothered over somebody invoking blessing upon them in the name of an entity they do not believe exists?

My I seem to be in an argumentative mood today! ;¬)

Vamadenananda said...

Lee, lots of love, for your argumentative mood !

Lee said...

It is fun most of the time, but it rarely gets me into trouble!

Molly Brogan said...

If there is anyone reading this that honestly thinks that sex with children is in any way acceptable my advise is RUN to the nearest shrink and get help. If the reasons aren't obvious, stay a very long time.

Ornamentalmind said...

Sadly the witch doctors of our culture have no idea about real morality....they do know about the codes associated with the DSM-IV. What a perfect expression of 'higher education'! All too few can make the connection between vital impulses like sex and emotion and thought let alone anything spiritual.

Ulysses said...

The question of being moral, whether influenced by theistic or secular drives is simply a matter of examination of the end result. A moral society is a happy society as each member can rely on the other to execute moral judgment in all aspects of daily life further instilling a sense of security in life. Attaching theism to morality creates a conundrum in that "acting out" immorally can in some cases bear no consequence or judgment, rendering the act as morally acceptable. Twentieth century cultures that still conduct barbaric ritual based upon religious criteria, such as clitoral scarification and other irremediable mutilations, through religious rite are justified in their act and engaging in moral conduct. This is why acting moral should not by infringed upon by theistic influence. Being moral is simply a conscious behavior based on the positive end result, the good outcome which benefits all creatures. I don't know of any religion that condones sex with children but the recent story concerning the FLDS and others comes to mind. A brief google search reveals the shocking truth that this does go on.

Molly Brogan said...

There is much done in the name of morality that is not moral. Does it need effect our moral compass? The issue of sex with children is such a huge no brainer that most any shrink can handle it. Basic human decency is not hard to figure, even for those limited to rationality. I do agree, more spirituality in the sciences of human behavior would be nice, but still, if sex with children is in any way acceptable to you, whether you are part of a fringe sect or otherwise - seek professional help. Lolita was written to highlight the subtle ways that children can be abused and used - not as an affirmation of it.

Ulysses said...

Your phrasing implies that it is acceptable by me! I hope that is not what you are inferring in your sentence "... if sex with children is in any way acceptable to you, whether you are part of a fringe sect or otherwise - seek professional help."

I find sex with children a depravity of humanity as is sex with animals.

If sex with children is in any way acceptable to "people", whether part of a fringe sect or otherwise - they should seek professional help or chop off their own head!

Molly Brogan said...

In the course of this conversation, there was some reference to children "seducing" adults and Lolita. Also mention on cultural differences on the issue. Orn seemed to suggest that psychiatry is ill equipped to address the issue. I do not agree with that. I replied to your post, Slip, simply because it was the last in the tread. I mean no disrespect, certainly.

I find sex with children to be a behavior that is not only immoral - going against the cultural norm - but amoral - completely without morals. There are cultures that allow people to marry at the onset of puberty. I've not heard of an amoral culture that allows anyone and everyone to have sex with children, and if anyone can site one, it would be interesting. There may be other cultures that have moral standards that are different than mine. I do not allow that to be an excuse for abusive behavior towards others, or acts that exceed my own cultural norms. I think it is important that we not amuse ourselves with conversations that provoke discussion that in anyway justifies sex with children, just to see if we can stir it up. It is one of the most serious transgressions from one person to another that has lifelong traumatic ramifications for the child.

Above all, I think that whatever our cultural norms, we each, at least at some point in our lives, can look within ourselves, observe our behavior toward others, extend empathy and compassion toward others, and find ways to act that are include consideration of the greater good for everyone. I think that this is what allows a personal and cultural morality.

Edward said...

Molly dear, methinks your response on this issue is more emotional than rational. It is only in the fifty or so years that children have attained such a sacred stature as to be untouchable. Throughout human history children have been used for sexual purposes, physically abused and used, bought and sold, considered mere chattel (as have women in many societies), and brought into the world merely for the sweat of their brows.

Not that I have anything against an emotional regard for children. It has, if nothing else, raised some awareness that today's children are tomorrow's adults and unless raised properly will result in dysfunctional and criminal adults

But regarding the issue of sex with children, an emotional response is a bar to thinking rationally about any potential solution of the problems raised by the issue. For a personal instance, I used to be very good with children -- probably still am -- but the emotional cloud that fogs people's minds and creates unwarranted hysteria in this society has made me fearful about even talking to a child. Where's the good in this?

Actually, Vam, I think I did ... or rather she did with me. My mother that is. And regarding my grandmother, I used to love to get up into her huge lap and bury my face in the valley between her pendulous breasts. Even as a young child I'd get a woody.

Francis said...

While I can understand (and indeed share) Molly's visceral repugnance at the idea of sexual relationships with children, I do see some validity in the arguments of those arguing here for "de- emotionalising" the issue.

Sexual relationships (in the sense in which these are understood from the point of view of sexually mature [physically] adults) with children are immoral because they are always an abuse of power and trust. In addition, there are many testimonies, both from victims and experts, concerning major damage to the ongoing personal and sexual development of the victims as a result (even if there may be children who have not, apparently, suffered as a result of sexual abuse by adults).

We should be aware of some important distinctions here. Children are not asexual, they have their own appropriate sexuality. There is a childish sexual aspect for children to relationships, particularly to their parents and those they love, and especially regarding their mothers. There seems to be little doubt that nursing/breast feeding has a sexual component for infants and small children. This is natural and inevitable, as children experience holistically and completely - growing up and learning has much to do with developing capacities to differentiate.

I've referred to Freud here before and, even if you don't want to go all the way with him, there seems to be little doubt that the process of maturing/developing /growing up has a deep sexual vector. The vital distinction is that children have a right to their own natural sexual development (which includes inquisitive investigation of their own bodies and the bodies of others). On THEIR terms, and in the security that adults will guide them, give them answers, show them limits and not abuse their trust. I see the disappearance of a lot of prudery and sexual repression in (western) society in the past half century as a positive development - growing up in Ireland in the 60s, I never saw my parents naked - my daughters' experience was different (and, I believe, better), and it certainly helped me (and them) being challenged by questions like, "Papa, why have you got a penis and I don't?" :-)

The incest question is complex. I tend to see adult sexual relationships between parents and children as deeply problematic, because they seem to me to be distortions of the "normal" parent-child relationship. The sexual urge and the urge for power (over others) are very strong in human personalities and related to each other on many levels.. Parent-child relationships have a large and important power vector, which only works because it takes place within a context of love and trust. But inequality of power is one of the most corrupting things for any sexual relationship and such considerations raise major problems for sexual relationships between adult parents and children. Historically, taboos surrounding sexual relations between adult siblings (or close degrees of consanguinity) had justifiable genetic grounds. In a changed situation, where reliable contraception is possible, many of these taboos seem to lose force. Still, power issues within families should not be underestimated.

Molly Brogan said...

I agree, Francis, that the violation of trust and authority become core issues for the child. What would bring an adult to thinking that such violations are allowable can only be answered by that adult. I am not a big fan of Freud, but mothered two boys who each, at age four, asked if they could marry me when their father died. So interesting. To the mind of a child, the differentiation between love, sex, affection, attention are indeed blurry.

Edward said...

Lolita was an attempt to shed some light on the issue, as was American Beauty. But I was thinking more of the times I've been approached by young boys at night while in a park walking my dog. I find it strange that I've never been approached by a young girl in a similar situation -- just young boys. Maybe they sense something because I was a sexually precocious child myself and approached more than a few older men back when.

Molly Brogan said...

boy or girl, does it matter? children who act out sexually do so because they have been violated in this way. But as a question of morality, would their approach justify any response to it?

Edward said...

Perhaps it does matter. Boys and men tend to be more sexually aggressive than girls and women, though in the adult range of that aspect, more women are beginning to come out of the timidity closet, which pleases me to no end. Or it did back when I was still able.

Nor does a child acting out sexually necessarily indicate a sexual violation or abuse has taken place. It may simply be a lack of love in the home that causes that acting out -- though a lack of love can certainly be considered abuse. Or it could also be a vivid imagination. There are probably a host of reasons a child would act out sexually, just as there are a host of reasons children act out in many other ways.

As to whether that acting out would justify a response, well, in today's emotional and irrational mindset many have regarding the issue, I'd have to say there would be no justified response because it would do no more than to place the child in the emotional chains of shame, guilt and despair. But I can conceive of a much healthier environment where it would possibly be permissible to respond in kind. It just doesn't exist at this time.

Molly Brogan said...

I do not agree, and think this may be your opinion. In my experience, girls acting out sexually are just as aggressive. I advocated for children during the first ten years of my professional career, and have some experience here.

As Francis suggests, this kind of interaction with children interferes with their psychological development. A healthy environment provides safety and support for children. There is no response by and adult in kind that would not traumatize them further except respectful refusal of sexual interaction and support of the psychological process that brings the child to the moment and perhaps the psychoanalysis that would allow them to move beyond the behavior into a more self respecting frame of mind.

Edward said...

I'm sorry but you can't know that with any certainty at all outside of today's mindset. It is not an absolute and who knows what the future may bring. I can hear similar screaming and ranting not that long ago regarding same-sex relationships, yet here we are today with several states, including some very conservative ones approving same-sex marriage.

Francis said...

I think the way this thread has been developing is interesting - and, at least for me, very helpful.

I started by asking a general question about morality. This was followed by a general discussion. The area of human sexuality did not initially arise in this context - a sign for me of maturity and quality in the group, in marked contrast to many discussions of morality, particularly those dominated by people designating themselves as Christians, who often tend to weight the whole question of morality in the area of sexuality.

Sexuality was then specifically proposed as a particular area, which helped (me) to clarify some broader ideas on the basis of particular questions.

On reflection, I've been thinking that one concept is emerging which I would now like to throw into the mix. It strikes me that the idea of integrity could be quite central to an exploration of what morality means. The word has semantic connections with images of oneness, wholeness, consistency, autonomy. It helps me to see a mature, internalised morality as something to do with personal development and growth, a dynamic state of being congruent with oneself, standing in and acting out of one's own centre. Integrity implies acting out of a state of wholeness with oneself and one's environment, of inner peace. Not a state which has been achieved, but rather a developing depth in personal growth.

Such a concept could also give many of us a common denominator, independent of differing views concerning possible deeper philosophical/spiritual roots of human life or existence.

Michael said...

I assumed, like I'm sure most people reading my post did, that sex with children is a different matter - but I should have specified that.

Besides severe social taboos, incest is also, probably, discouraged physiologically. One study tested some animals (I think they might have been cockroaches). The researchers took the scents of siblings, and sprayed an area of the cage with them, and then sprayed a different area of the cage with the scents of unrelated members of the same species. The animals tended to stay away from the part of the cage that had been sprayed with their siblings' scents. This was taken to suggest that one mechanism for avoidance of incest in the animal kingdom (and we would expect that evolutionary pressure created mechanisms to discourage incest, because of the increased possibility of deleterious mutations) is that animals simply find the scents of their close relatives "repulsive" - which keeps them from accidentally getting it on with them.

Indeed, I believe I read another study that showed that (human) children tended to find their father's odors unattractive.

Don suggests that incest, if not immoral, is "unwise and risky." Of course, the same is true for sex by people with sexually transmitted diseases. But that's what condoms are for, and I'm pretty sure people with STDs still lead active sex lives. Likewise, my presentation of the question of incest had nothing to do with making babies from incestuous unions. It was a question about sex. (It's a similar distinction, in some ways, to the one that answers the argument for the immorality of homosexuality - "We know it's immoral and wrong, because you can't make babies through homosexual sex." A: "But lots of sex that you don't think is wrong has nothing to do with making babies. Therefore, it cannot be that a sexual act is immoral merely because of what could or could not happen from it with respect to procreation.")

I would argue that incest is not immoral or objectively disgusting in any way. It's disgusting to 99.9999% of the population, of course (and if anyone was wondering, I don't have any personal interest in incestuous unions nor have I ever known anyone who did; this is a purely theoretical exercise) but that's more a statement about our hormonal and social learnings than the objective moral truth.

One interesting literature suggests that most of morality centers around disgust. For example, in cultures where cow is sacred, eating cow is viewed as intensely immoral, and the thought of eating cow brings visceral waves of disgust. The authors of this literature conduct studies and present findings suggesting that most, or all, of peoples' moral leanings can be understood through what people find viscerally repulsive. (Hence the argument for the "immorality" of homosexuality, which most people on this message board understand can be justified extremely weakly through any objective, logical argument, even though a large proportion of the population continues to "feel" and "know" that homosexuality is "disgusting" and "wrong" and hence "immoral").

Ulysses said...

I've worked with emotionally disturbed children and at risk youth and have found that there are those among them who would vacillate between various personal issues to justify their "acting out". First it is "I don't know who my father is, my mom is a whore" then it's "I was fondled when I was 2 by my aunt and that is why I cut" and the drama goes on, almost to the point that believability and validation of said trauma becomes the real challenge. This is in no way an attempt to discount those actual cases in which children were psychologically damaged by sexual abuse rendering them as a depreciated self entity. The point I'm trying to make here is that recognition of outward appearance in not always accurate diagnosis of cause. The discussion has at points become heated and rightly so but we should address the issue in the perspective of being on the outside viewing what occurs in society without labeling others wrongly for presenting reality situations. Providing links to actual events is not indicative of someones view but more so an attempt to bring out into the open events that might, for some, be unknown. Hundreds of people visit here daily from around the globe and so many may not have a clue beyond the surface discussion. This is not just a discussion between us but one that has audience.

Vamadevananda said...

You're so transparent, Edward ! And you are speaking of matters greatly familiar.

But, just because things are so, do they have to continue to be so? Would you consider the possibility that there could be a life beyond the power - exuding and sex - dominated life ?

I can satisfy the world and myself sexually. But I am free of the sexual drive, even the trace of it, all the time, except on those rare occasions when I happen to be appreciating the physical features of the woman who keeps the family.

It leaves me with the powerfully clear sense : I do not want anything ... what do you want ... how may I help you ?

That freedom from want has greater value for me than anything I may want.

Just an alternate view !

" There are probably a host of reasons a child would act out sexually ... "

I believe both Molly and Fran indicated one of the purest : CURIOSITY !

" But I can conceive of a much healthier environment where it would possibly be permissible to respond in kind."

You mean : You need it. I too. Let's do it.

Instead, I see in the child's need an opportunity to create a healthy perspective of the matter in him, his thought - world, his life, beyond his need of sex and definitely without the least need in me to benefit / satisfy myself from his need of sex.

Just an alternate view !

Molly Brogan said...

There is a big difference between a child exploring sexual feeling with himself or another child, and what is called "acting out" sexually in public or especially toward adults. This is the number one red flag of possible sexual abuse.

A very kind offering also, Vam. I think that it is easy for us (anyone reading) to sit in our ivory towers and bemoan the evils of the world and wonder what went wrong. The subject of morality has me wondering about the idea of moral imperative. If we know (commonly) that the repeated trauma of child abuse can cause the arrested psychological development of important things like conscience, empathy, compassion, self concept, can we look the other way when we know it is happening? Are we participating in it when we do nothing to stop it, or even talk about it in ways that sugar coat it or condone it?

I do feel passionately about advocating for the sanctity of childhood and think that we all have responsibility for the children around us to provide homes and communities that allow them to grow and achieve their highest potential. I don't apologize for my passion, I recommend it. We have a moral imperative when we see a child being abused, to intervene. If we don't, we shouldn't be surprised to see these children become adults who populate our prisons or become our corrupt politicians (or corrupt any profession.) We ourselves, corrupt them by looking the other way. We empower ourselves when we step up and say "there is a more respectful way," and we empower the children that we carry in this act at the same time.

Neil said...

I couldn't agree more Molly. Yet anyone trying to intervene faces chronic problems with bureaucracy that has moved from 'jobsworth' to nasty behaviour towards complainants as a matter of routine. We still have the routine use of secrecy preventing problems reaching public scrutiny. The 'Baby P' scandal rolls on in the UK - today it has been revealed that police failed the kid because the detective handling the case moved on and thus there was no prosecution which would have saved his life 8 months before he died. Cops have been presenting themselves as 'heroes' until now. The relevant reports remain unpublished, but are being leaked. We simply cannot trust the people with authority to investigate. Your recommendations are, of course, sound. They hit up against a system that is already corrupt. I believe the debate and action needed is in respect of this problem.

Molly Brogan said...

I heartily agree that our current systems make intervention difficult. We can do better. But the systems are better than they were two or three generations ago. It shouldn't stop us from making the call and giving the child all the support we can. If we each continue to act with integrity according to our moral compass, the rest will follow. Often, I think, the change we are looking for is not the change we see. That call might make things seem worse in the short term. But if a child can see an adult advocating, that child understands that it can be done, and may be on the way to advocating for themselves. They are us. What do we wish for ourselves?

Dr. Deb Brown said...

I think it's critical to pay attention to the points where the major Teachings of the world agree, like the idea of treating our neighbors as ourselves. If we can focus on the Teachings' points of intersection instead of points of division, we can take a step toward greater peace in the world. I've been studying these points of intersection for 20 years. Thanks for raising this important topic.

Bess said...

I’m reading Conversations With God at the moment (Neale Donald Walsch), which reinforces the message (and has really brought it home to me) of all the other self help books I have read, to love yourself first, before you can love another.

Let me explain:
There is a voice in my head that chastises me when I get it ‘wrong’, that says “Oh, Silly Girl!”, yet I would never say that to another, to my neighbour, friend or brother.

So when I read the quotes above, I realise that by punishing myself, I am punishing the world, as we are all connected, all one. When I bless myself, I bless the world. So my commitment is to love myself, so that I can love my neighbour as myself.

Randy said...

Perhaps the foundational motivation is most simply expressed by your Black Elk quotation - "All is really One". On an at least a subconscious level, we may all realize that there is no separation among ourselves, that the "harmonic chord" connects us all. Consequently, how we treat others is in fact, how we treat ourselves.

Molly Brogan said...

We all have a drive to explain life, and do so endlessly, from our own viewpoints. Pre rational mind sets see the world as mythic/magic, rational viewpoints see the world objectively, within mental constructs. Both are object driven and see man as other, and often, when posited in these mind sets, we see ourselves as other, and explain ourselves as other. I did it because he...I am because car, my home, my profession, my idea...all objectify us. There are even, I think, transrational mindsets that allow for this objectification. My faith, your faith, god is...all express at least a degree of separation. And separation without the one allows the object. I bring this up because I don't believe that I truly experienced the flow of my internal morality until I was able to live from that position of the one and the many (the ultimate paradox) - God as the expression of the individual man who collectively express the god within (whether they are aware of it or not, each perfectly ordered unto themselves) Until we can realize this paradox, our morality is an agreed upon notion of the good, and we each live up to it or not, like the laws that govern our cultures.

hkki said...

nice post

Guy said...

In my experience the "love thy neighbor" question is sometimes complex because not everyone is in a position in their life where they know how to be treated well or how to do the same for others. I frequently talk with clients about achieving a point of balance where you then open yourself up to your inner voice and let the universe provide. Once people feel great about themselves and celebrate their gifts they are then capable to embrace all others on a deeper level.

Dave said...

"Actions in harmony" seems to captures some of it, your thoughts and actions either create harmony or discord.

The Shinto quote: "The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form", Takes me to the story of the goldsmith, who heats the gold over fire and pours off the dross until it is pure and he can see the reflection of his face upon the molten pure gold - analogy to the hardships of life and the purification of our spirits through trials.

By hating other people you create impurities in your spirit. But what drew me to the discussion was the vibrational aspect of harmony, and the implications of coherence, of being in tune with both yourself and others.

John said...

Morality makes sense to evolve. Social animals have an advantage over non-social animals. Over time, the mechanisms that create that society have grown stronger... to the point where we are now. (and by evolve, I do mean evolution.)

While my explanation might seem mechanical, cold, and too scientific for these halls...

While I may need to concede that evolution has no plan, no direction, no guarantees...

It does seem likely, to me, that the progress of evolution will lead to more peace, more continuity...

If we can get over ourselves, or egos, our needs for immortality, to "matter" and instead focus on what is before us. What's now. Struggling not to control anything. But doing what we can to improve our influence, to expand it, to improve our effects on others (without creating agenda or manipulations)... if we can do that.

Then maybe we'll be ok.

If we protect our logic with our feelings, if we protect our feelings with our logic, if we keep intuition as a despot... we will remain a person asunder. Honesty, a cornerstone of morality, requires us to be honest. To reconcile our dissonance, not to hide from it.

Morality isn't found in hiding from facts, it's in learning to see beyond the knee-jerk, assimilate hard-truths, and then seeing the more foundational underpinnings. And allowing yourself room to "be."

And a crucial element of spirituality isn't hiding from the truth, it's in becoming whole. Accepting. Rejecting. Refining. Living. Completely.

Aurora said...

I do not see harmonious behaviour as a rule or book of rules one can or should live by. I can't see how rules of any kind and freedom of spirit can coexist. I think our most important focus is not to obey rules, even moral ones, but to search with intensity and sincerity, until we find our spiritual essence.

The freedom of our own being results in a certain kind of behaviour which is in harmony with all, within and around the person we walk as. It is quite useless to command someone - or command yourself- to love your neighbour as yourself, if you don't. But if you have discovered your own self for real, in its depth... then you will love your neighbour as yourself because love is your nature and it erases any barriers between "me" and "another".

These "commandments" or "rules" we have written down during all ages forming moral rules shifting with location and time .... these were not meant to be behaviours to mimmick, but descriptions of a state of consciousness which we need to attain in order to understand their truth. Of course we can continue to wave our arms according to the rules... until we discover that we have wings, and that flying is our true nature. Then, when we try to describe the awesome experience, others might think we are laying down rules, when all we do is share the beatitude of flying.