The majority of human beings have been deeply imprinted with a certain moral code based on the general intention to follow the principle of goodness. Is our desire to do good and to be good an outcome of social conditioning and education, or is it something inherent to being human? Even amongst more evolved animals we can see the existence of kindness, affection and compassion. However, sometimes it is unclear to what degree ‘good’ behaviour comes from inner goodness and to what degree it has been developed to assure the survival of the species; that line is often blurry. Every mother loves her children unless she is emotionally unsound. But is a mother really choosing to love her child, or is it purely a biological instinct? A mother does not love her child because of who he or she is or because they have developed a special connection, a bond of souls. A mother loves her child because it is her child and she has no choice. This kind of love comes from a very instinctive, unconscious place. And although that in itself does not make the love unreal, it does make us question the nature of many of the emotions that we take for granted.
Many thinkers have contemplated whether human beings are inherently good or evil. Humans are capable of making great sacrifices in the name of love and compassion and at the same time they are capable of great evil. When an animal hurts another creature, it is usually out of fear or the need to survive. It is very rare for an animal to attack another creature for any other reason. Humans, on the other hand, can commit unimaginable atrocities, can display unthinkable cruelty and can even take a kind of perverted pleasure in doing so.
Based on this simple observation, we might conclude that humans are not inherently good; they need to be educated to be good. It is even common among children to be cruel to other creatures or each other – to be selfish, arrogant and insensitive. Where does it come from? Sometimes a parent has to explain over and over again to a child that killing a small bird by throwing stones at it is a very bad thing to do. It takes time for a child to understand, to grow in empathy for others and to develop that thing which makes most humans human – their conscience.
In reality, human beings are neither good nor bad: they are both and they are neither. They are simply extremely unconscious, and those who are unconscious are not connected to the dimension of free will; they are not free to be either good or evil because their will is mechanical and conditioned. They do not know who they are – they do not have a real self – so how can they really be defined on that scale? Because people are without inner substance, they need to be taught how to make the right choices, how to love and be compassionate. Learning how to love is part of the emotional evolution of human beings. But in most cases, what is called ‘love’ is merely an exchange of emotional gratification; one loves in order to get something in return. Sometimes the need to express love is based on a desire to escape from oneself. For instance, some people go to volunteer in developing countries. They do not do it because they are overflowing with love but because they take pleasure in giving, in expressing their compassion, and seek emotional gratification from creating the positive self-image of being a good person.
Morality is a set of codes of behaviour developed to educate people to discriminate between right and wrong. Ideally, this type of discrimination should be developed based on our emotional evolution, but more often it is based on certain external conditionings. There is nothing wrong with morality and it does have an important place in human education, assuming that it is not being used manipulatively. However, we need to see its limitations and possible pitfalls. Trying to control our behaviour in order to fit some moral principles often prevents us from being natural and following what is truly right. It is often said that our conscience is what makes the difference between a man and a beast. However, what is our conscience really and how much of it is conditioned by morality?
When we speak about the limitations of morality it is important not to think in terms of opposites. If we do not agree to follow a certain moral code, does it make us immoral? It is good to mention here the difference between being immoral and amoral. Someone who is amoral either does not know the difference between right and wrong, or bases his actions on principles which are not directly related to morality. On the other hand, someone who is immoral knows the difference but still chooses to follow what is wrong. To be immoral is the negative and perverted freedom from morality.
What is our conscience? Gurdjieff said that each human being has a chance to awaken their soul except for those who have no conscience, those who have moved to the dark side and become evil. Most people like to believe that they are inherently moral and that it is their sense of conscience which verifies and guides them. But what happens when we go against what we believe is moral, whether for a justified reason, or based on ulterior motives like selfishness or wanting to hurt others? One can deceive others but it is more difficult (but also possible) to deceive oneself. The result of having committed an immoral action is in most cases a guilty conscience. However, does a guilty conscience provide objective proof that our action was wrong? Gurdjieff financed his spiritual travels by selling sparrows which he had painted to look like exotic birds. Did he have guilty conscience about deceiving others? We will never know, but he obviously assumed that in that particular case, the means justified the end. What is certain is that his ‘immoral’ action eventually gave humanity something much more valuable than satisfied customers. All those birds are gone now and so are the people who bought them, but Gurdjieff’s teaching is still contributing to human knowledge. His sense of morality was not rigid; it was flexible. It took into account that life is never perfect and that we need to learn how to skillfully navigate it, as through an ever changing ocean.
We can also feel guilty for the wrong reasons and in fact this is extremely common. An example would be a monk who has thoughts of a sexual nature and feels guilty because he is not supposed to follow his human impulses. Here, instead of identifying that following a life of repression is a violation of his human nature, he is giving his power away to a moral code developed by people who did not know any better. In another example, one may want to break up a relationship or get a divorce because it is time to move on and yet one feels guilty, either due to not wanting to hurt one’s partner or feeling responsible for what has happened. Guilt is something that all religions have exploited since time immemorial to manipulate their followers. The manipulation of guilt in Christianity is so deep that the whole religion is based on the belief that a single individual has died for the sins of humanity. But why should we feel guilty just for existing, for being born with the original sin and bound to a life of repentance? To imprint so much guilt into humanity and on such a scale is truly heartless and cruel.
So, as we can see, our conscience is not really objective; it cannot be considered as an irrefutable tool with which to discern between right and wrong. It is conditioned by our moral codes as well, and those codes are relative and often highly flawed. It is obviously necessary to have moral codes but it is more like a necessary evil. Moreover, while moral codes might manage on some levels to control and regulate people’s behaviour, they hold our conscience together by a very thin thread. Freud wrote that it is enough to take away people’s security, food and shelter to see that they quickly become who they really are deep inside – wild animals. His words proved prophetic because soon after he wrote them the Second World War began and humanity had to face its shamelessness once again.
So what, then, should be the source of our ability to differentiate between right and wrong? How can we know what is the right action without relying on artificial created moral codes? There is only one answer: we must live and perceive our life from a deeper place in our existence, from our higher being, our soul.
It is not that the soul has all the answers: she has something more than answers. The soul has her roots in reality; she is connected to the bigger picture. Based on her connection to the light of creation, her intelligence is constantly evolving; she is learning and becoming increasingly aligned with the clarity of higher understanding. And she is in the state of love. Love is the foundation of correct action because it is the energy behind the action that matters more than the action itself. She is beyond morality because she makes her choices based on the intelligence of the now, not from the constrictions of moral rules and regulations.
For our higher intelligence – the soul’s intelligence – to operate, we must be free. Freedom is not to be morally irresponsible, but to be open to all possibilities and to have the courage to live in the unknown. There is no security in life. Things are constantly changing and we must be in constant alignment with that change. Our security lies in insecurity, living in emptiness, in surrender to the intelligence and love of life itself. Morality is like a guide dog for those who are blind. When you can see, you can let the dog go and you can walk on by yourself.
While morality is something externally conditioned, similar to a system of ethics but more personal, our conscience is morality that has been internalized as the sense of right and wrong from the perspective of me. However, from the perspective of the soul, having a conscience is only necessary in the absence of higher wisdom; it is a substitute for love and compassion. When there is love, morality and its internal sensor, conscience, become obsolete. It is not that they are negated: they have evolved into something higher – love. When someone who has a soul has to face the situation in which, for reasons beyond his control, he is causing pain to another being, he does not feel guilty – he feels compassionate. Morality is the substitute for love, and conscience is the substitute for compassion.
There are many people who follow idealistic concepts of what it means to be good. For instance, the founder of Jainism, Mahavira, created a path where in the name of compassion one is not allowed to hurt any living creature. Jains cover their mouths so as not to accidently swallow an insect and sweep the path in front of them so as not to step on anything. While the desire to follow the principles of goodness is noble, here we have an example of how the human mind can superimpose an artificial concept of being good upon themselves that is in fact anti-life. We must accept that life is not only good: it is also very cruel. After all, the only way to survive here is by consuming other creatures.
Lao Tzu wrote that since the Tao is treating people like straw dogs (straw dogs used to be burnt in festivals), a sage is also treating people like straw dogs. The meaning of this sentence is very deep: that one who lives in harmony with life must respect the laws of nature and not impose his idealistic or moralistic concepts on to reality. Since god is obviously letting this world be as it is, or has even created it to be that way, why should a sage become so arrogant as to want to express more kindness than god himself? There is a reason why this dimension is as it is. It has been created and designed by a higher wisdom, and to abide upon a sentimental view of how things should be or what it means to be good is in conflict with the paradoxical nature of this reality. The linear mind, with its one-dimensional perception of goodness, cannot serve as a foundation for creating the correct relationship with life. Most of those who tend to live in a version of idealism are actually living in their own heads. They never really live in the real world; they live and die in the mind. Life can be tough but it is real, and this is the world our soul has chosen to live in.
Most people directly connect spirituality with morality. By walking the path one is supposed to become more moral than other people. Spiritual morality is even more strict as monks, priests, sadhus, yogis and gurus are supposed to set an example for others of high moral conduct. It is sad how the essence of the spiritual path has been confused with a set of artificial rules and unnatural behaviour. As a consequence, spiritual leaders or teachers use their strict adherence to moral codes as evidence for their spiritual attainments. They avoid sex, eat properly, don’t drink or smoke, do not admit to having negative emotions – anything that might be considered transgressive – but such a contrived idea of purity can only result in living in complete disharmony with the natural laws of life and its intrinsic wisdom.
In Zen and Tibetan Buddhism they have the concept of ‘crazy wisdom’, which refers to controversial masters who appeared to behave irrationally and extravagantly because they did not feel tethered to a moral code. The concept of crazy wisdom is valid, assuming that it is not just craziness per se. The presence of wisdom in these behaviours implies that those masters were connected to a deeper intelligence which allowed a great deal of spontaneity without the danger of creating negative consequences. For that wisdom to operate one must have the foundation of love and compassion inside, without which there is no true intelligence.
In addition, that love itself must be connected to intelligence in order to allow wisdom to manifest. It is possible that wisdom can still be missing from our actions even if they do come from a place of love and sincerity. That love must be linked to the intelligence of the soul. If wisdom is absent, no matter how pure our intention is, our choices often produce negative outcomes for ourselves or for others. Wisdom allows us to bring the understanding of causality into our actions. Since the law of cause and effect is fluid and things are constantly changing, we are always in the process of learning how to live and express our true self in this dimension.
So there is no quick fix that will ensure that one will always choose the highest course of action. Our responsibility is to keep learning, to become increasingly attuned to the higher perception of our inner being, to the higher sense of right and wrong based on the love and intelligence of our soul. If someone is dishonest and uses the concept of being beyond morality to justify doing whatever he pleases, he will suffer the consequences sooner or later. An action that is not rooted in love and wisdom can only yield negative results.
Our me abides upon morality, our soul upon truth. What me thinks is right is often wrong for the soul. Me is dishonest and often manipulates its own conscience. It is also sentimental, naïve and uncertain about everything. The soul is strong and firm; her love is real, deep, penetrating and even merciless when needed. She is not trying to please our me by giving in to its concept of morality. Rather, she will use all her force to align our me with truth. Often, because me is extremely stubborn and fixated by its own view of things, our soul manifests the experience of pain to bring it into line. Our pain is a wake-up call from the soul.
Everything that we do for others that is not good for us will eventually hurt both parties. By hurting ourselves, by not honouring our deepest needs and desires in the name of sacrifice for something else, we create suffering for everyone we care about. Only when we see our life from the place of our higher being can we serve our highest good and as a consequence bring light into this dimension. Only when the soul begins to rule our existence, actions and choices, do we obtain access to the true discrimination between what is right and what is wrong. We become moral in the universal meaning of this word: our morality becomes transformed into the law of love and higher wisdom.
The more we are connected to our soul, the more we can perceive our life from the right place, making decisions from our higher being. Some people have no connection at all to their soul; they live in their minds alone. Others have this link present to differing degrees. There is a vast difference between being connected to the soul and having an awakened soul; to awaken our soul is far more than merely having an intuitive connection to it. To have a soul is to become that higher self, to be our soul. As our me surrenders and merges with the soul, we can begin to increasingly live our human existence from the soul. The deeper our soul is awakened on the level of her light and consciousness, the deeper her individual angle of perception becomes integrated and fused with universal intelligence. Being absorbed in the realm of the creator while maintaining the light of her individuality, she becomes the clear window into creation for the divine, from which place there is always pure action and immediate understanding.
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