Sunday, September 13, 2009


It is often said by spiritual materialists (members of organized religion who believe that God is a particular person, with a particular name and a particular history) that to have a strong morality you must be a member of one of these spiritual material religions. That it is only these religious groups that have retained, through their sacred texts, divinely inspired sets of rules to dictate our behavior and without which there would be no morality and merely spiritual and social chaos. And, of course, the great majority of people in these groups believe that there is only one set of rules that is actually right, and that set of rules, of course, is the set of rules that is followed by their particular group.

Spiritual materialists also believe that spiritual spiritualists (people who do not believe in a particular religion but who believe or who experience the spiritual as the essential nature of the universe and who believe or experience God as a transcendent non-physical Being who is not separate from every individual being) have no morality at all; that they are consumed with the narrow and selfish goal of their own spiritual development and that they are slow or even non-responsive when it comes to confronting injustice or speaking out against immorality and abuse.

And spiritual materialists are reinforced in this thinking when they hear certain ideas that come from this spiritual community; not so much the ideas themselves, whose origins are ancient, but interpretations of these ideas which are really quite modern. Among these is the notion of karma, which is an eastern idea whose meaning is very close to the western idea that "you reap what you sow," that somehow the universe will punish you for deeds that violate the universal morality and the universe will reward you for deeds that are aligned with the universal morality. Also, that everyone is on a path, of which this particular life time is only one very small part, toward complete union with God or the Cosmic Consciousness, and that any perpetrator of immorality or injustice is just another being working out his particular path toward spiritual union.

This last part, which basically is saying, leave that evil-doer, that criminal, that tyrant, that abuser, alone, because he, too, is on a path and the 'universe' will be dealing with that person in due time (if not in this life time, then in another) is the modern spin on karma which not only gives the impression of, but which, if followed, actually leads to, spiritual and moral passivity. Yet remember that the idea of karma comes out of the world of spiritual spirituality. In this world there is no physical God with a baritone voice who metes out rewards and punishments. So how does the 'universe' express itself in this world view?

Most of us are not hermits. We do not live in complete isolation. We live in a society and our lives are enmeshed in a whole series of relationships with other people. For the great majority of us, the 'universe' expresses itself in the way that we are treated by these other people; in the quality of our relationships. You are part of 'the universe' for everyone else, just as everyone else is part of 'the universe' for you. If you witness an injustice, an abuse or a crime and say or do nothing, then, for that perpetrator, this is proof that the universe is indifferent. If you confront this perpetrator, or prevent him from this immorality, or take steps to insure that this person will not be able to do this kind of thing again, then, from the perspective of this particular criminal and this particular crime, the universe does care. So it is really not some 'magical' thing like a loose brick falling off a building and hitting you on the head which is supposedly 'the universe' settling some kind of score with you. Obviously, statistically, moral people and immoral people are equally the victims of falling bricks. And I don't want to talk about fatal mishaps, because that brings us into the realm of speculation and belief as to what happens to us after we leave our bodies. I want to talk about survivable misfortunes. So if one is seriously injured by a falling brick or by any other accident, the difference is in the kind of support and caring from other people that this accident engenders. Does this person's family and friends unite to make this victim's recovery from the falling brick as pleasant as possible? Does this victim realize in the aftermath of this accident the extent to which he is loved and appreciated? Or is this a person who's associates, even who's own family, think so poorly of him that they believe that he somehow deserved this misfortune? "He was greedy, selfish and abusive his whole life; so now let him fend for himself." Everyone is the victim of traumatic events at one time or another. I am not recommending them, and there is no need to seek them out, but when they do happen, they reveal to the victim, more clearly than at any other time, the extent to which he or she is valued by other people.

When you act or react in the face of injustice, crime or abuse, you are acting not only in service to the victim but also in service to the perpetrator. There are many abusers, many tyrants, many criminals, who, on one level, think that they are getting away with something and that they can do so because they are living in a morally indifferent universe. At the same time these people, on another level, a deeper level, suspect that maybe they haven't gotten away with anything at all. Whatever power or possessions they have managed to attain through their misdeeds, they fear may be taken away at any time when the means through which that power or those possessions were acquired is revealed. The servants, the aides, the sycophants, the groupies, the entourage that surrounds these people are always pleasant and obedient, but can they be trusted? The suspicion is that the only reason they are so docile and compliant is that they fear the consequences of not being docile and compliant, and that they secretly resent or even hate the perpetrator, even though they would never admit it. Perpetrators, even ones with enormous outward success, live in a world of painful isolation and fear; a world in which they can never allow themselves to be completely comfortable with another person and where the other person cannot allow themselves to be completely comfortable with them. If the ultimate experience of life is the experience of loving and being loved, or the experience of oneness, the perpetrator lives in a world in which he experiences neither.

Yes, this person is on a path where 'the universe' will eventually lead this person back to God and to oneness. But when? Why don't you, being a part of this person's universe, step forward now, call them out on their behavior, risk the consequences, and be the instrument of this person's spiritual development? Please be clear that I am not talking about any kind of priggishness here. I am not concerned with the hemlines of women's skirts or whether or not someone's underwear is visible. I am not talking about ever changing fashions or sexual mores. I am talking about a universal morality which is universal because that God given sense of right and wrong, no matter how we try to argue against it, or justify doing otherwise, is alive within us. I am talking about an essential morality that has nothing to do with etiquette or complicated rules of behavior or fads. I am talking about a basic sense of dignity and respect, of honor, that we should have for ourselves and that we should have for each other, regardless of what that other person may or may not have accomplished, how many possessions they have managed to accumulate, how many awards they have managed to win, what kind of clothes they wear, what kind of car they drive, what kind of house they live or don't live in, what gender they are, what sexual orientation they are, what religion, profession, body type, culture, race or age they are. It is what is embodied in the 'golden rule' and in the 'inalienable rights' enumerated in our American Declaration of Independence. I am talking about the understanding that we are made in the image of God, not the physical image, but that we are of the same spiritual essence as the Divine, and that we can, like the Divine, but in a very limited way, experience things and intend things and that we all have received this amazingly complex and beautiful gift of a human body and a human brain that allows us to experience this world in a particular way and to manifest our dreams and intentions within it.

How do I know, if I speak out against injustice and abuse, that I am not just expressing my own personal view? Isn't it dangerous to assume that anyone has a connection to the Divine and therefore knows what is right and wrong? But, if not you, then who? Do you really think that there is any other person besides yourself, who is better able to pass on the rightness or wrongness of a situation, who is better able to detect the presence of cruelty and abuse than you are? What blurs a person's judgment in these regards is a lack of information or any personal agenda, any ambition or interest that they might have in the outcome of a judgment, and any pre-existing prejudice or bias that they have toward another person (in other words arriving at a situation where you believe that one of the people, for whatever reason, is less worthy of dignity and respect and opportunity, than another). But everyone (and our jury system is based on this notion) is capable, if they are both adequately informed and disinterested, of determining, in terms of basic morality, what is right and what is wrong. This ability is not based on any foolish evolutionary argument that those people with the 'caring' genes survived more abundantly than those people with the 'selfish' genes. Genes are strands of sub-microscopic bits of nucleic acids. What would a 'selfish' nucleic acid or a 'caring' nucleic acid look like? It is, rather, based on a basic, God given innate moral sense that all of us have (although often clouded by the teachings of prejudice and entitlement). To the extent that we live in a moral universe, we do so because of the reactions of other human beings. When we are repulsed by cruelty, when we are in awe of courage and self-sacrifice, and when we admonish or praise people accordingly, then we create a moral universe. So, yes, this 'universal morality' is from the Divine, but to the extent that it is expressed, it is expressed through humanity. And within ourselves it is very clear to every one of us when we are doing right or wrong. Even when we cannot admit to ourselves that we did something wrong, we know immediately, that it is something that we have to justify.

So if you believe that a wrongdoer will be taught a lesson by the universe, then you, being a part of this person's 'universe' begin that persons instruction now. And please be clear that I am not talking about vengeance; about getting even. I am talking about not letting injustices, iniquities and inequities, stand. If you do, you do a disservice not only to the person who is the victim of this abuse and injustice, but to the perpetrator. Because the perpetrator really is on a spiritual journey, whether he or she realizes it or not. Your silence gives them the impression that they are getting away with something. People may go through their whole lives thinking they are getting away with something and not realizing until the very end that among all those people that they thought they had fooled, not one was actually fooled. In spite of their continual fawning, because they needed to hold on to their jobs or they feared the consequences of speaking out, they all realized what kind of person you were. Your fears that no one really liked or respected you, were true. Your aching loneliness was true. Your suspicion that everyone was using you, was accurate. Your suspicion that in this world, the world that you created, no one can be trusted, is true. But, if that one morally courageous person comes forward, not to punish, not for revenge, but to let you know that they are aware of what you are already aware of; that what you did was wrong;and that they can no longer have a relationship with you, at least a trusting, positive relationship with you, unless you mend your ways; then they will become, no matter how you first react to their message (positively or negatively), the first person in your universe that you can trust. They are the bearer of the first message from 'the universe' that it really does care, and your spiritual journey can continue.

Another notion from the world of spiritual spirituality that can give the impression of moral passivity is the law of yin and yang, or opposites. Yin and yang is based on the understanding that in this world, the visible world that surrounds us, we know things only in relation to their opposite. So we only know heat in relation to cold, dark in relation to light, up in relation to down, male in relation to female, and good in relation to evil. In other words, for there to be good, there must be evil; for there to be peace there must be war. I even heard someone proclaim recently that, because of this, he is not opposed to war; that we must have a concept of war in order to have a concept of peace.

Like the law of karma, the law of yin and yang is accurate, but it is not any justification for moral passivity. Let's take the war and peace part. It is important to note in this discussion that there is a big difference between someone who has a concept of war and someone who has an experience of war. Most people that have had an experience of war are quick to point out that their experience of it once they were actually in it was very different than their conception of it going into it. Most of our more aggressive politicians who casually prescribe war as an instrument of foreign policy have had only a concept of war, while those politicians who have actually experienced war are, as a whole, far more cautious about committing their country and a whole new generation of soldiers to another one. Now whether any of us actually experience war again in our life time, we will still have a concept of war. We live in a culture. This culture has an oral, written, photographic and cinematic history. As long as those still exist we will know, at least conceptually, about war. So, it will not be necessary for any of us to actually experience the killing and being killed, the maiming and torture and the destruction of entire communities, that is the actual ingredients of an actual war, to be able to understand it, or to be able to appreciate peace.

All of these opposing states can be arranged in a gradient. If there is a little tension at a certain time between you and your friend, this could hardly be considered a war. Yet there is enough difference between the experience of that tension and the closer experience when that tension is lifted for you to appreciate that closeness and take steps to avoid that tension developing again. The same thing for good and evil. You do not have to experience your family being raped, murdered and dismembered in order to know evil and to experience its opposite. We live within a range of all these gradients. When we experience a really hot day we have greater appreciation for a cool evening. But none of us have experienced the temperature at the surface of the sun. We couldn't survive such an experience; just as none of us have experienced absolute zero. So we understand heat and cold from a, thankfully, limited perspective. I am sure that none of us would want to have anything more than a conceptual understanding of either absolute zero or the surface of the sun. And certainly the same is true with good and evil. Evil may be too strong a word for cheating on a test. But the quickening experience that you have when you do it, the fear of being caught, the isolating feeling that you got away with something, something that must be kept as a secret, and that you don't really measure up to those other students that did well and did not cheat, is enough of an experience to be able to understand and appreciate the calmer, cleaner and much more gratifying experience of having competed fairly and still been successful.

We do not need more evil in the world in order to appreciate good. There is already way more than enough for us to understand it. And it is in the very nature of our condition, where we are always having to choose between pursuing our own selfish goals at the expense of others or making choices that are best for everybody involved, that we come to understand good and evil anyway, and understand it on a manageable level of intensity that we can recover from. If I have cheated on an exam, I will get down on myself, but not so much that I no longer think of myself as capable of improvement or redemption. The same may not be able to be said of a mass murderer. He may have become so vile in his own estimation that he cannot ever imagine himself capable of improvement or being able to ever enter again the close and trusting society of honorable people. So rather than enhancing our ability to appreciate goodness, the commission or even the witness of truly horrible evil may be overwhelming to our sensibilities and make any future experience of goodness, at least in this life time, impossible.

And all of these examples are from our relative, changing physical world of people and things. In the spiritual world, goodness and peace are not relative. If you have been blessed with a moment when you have experienced the 'peace that passeth understanding,' the transcendent peace of the spiritually arrived, this is so far from our ordinary experience, it stands in marked contrast to anything we have ever experienced before anyway. We do not need to seek out or cause to engender what we think is its opposite. Everything in our normal life is markedly different from that experience anyway.

We also hear people of a spiritual persuasion using the term, "It's God's will." This phrase, or other phrases similar in meaning are commonly used to justify a kind of "what can you do?" passivity. But this is too superficial a view. It is also God's will that all human beings have a will. If God wanted us to be passive, neutral observers of world wide injustice, then we would not be equipped with a sense of moral outrage and the intelligence and strength to do something about it. The only reason that there is any cruelty and oppression in this world is that people, not disembodied forces, but people, whose passion for pursuing their own self-interest and greed is stronger, or expressed more openly, than the passion of people who have a moral sense of the greater good. If we burn with outrage at some major injustice; if we are so passionate about some cruelty that we or others experience or an abuse that we or others suffer under, that we are willing to risk our lives in an attempt to change that situation, then it is also God's will that we experience that outrage and that passion and that we organize ourselves and activate ourselves in order to rectify that situation.

In Viet Nam it was Buddhist monks that led the protest against the war. At home, clergy and religious people were at the forefront of the anti-war movement; and the civil rights movement was led by clergy, both black and white. Spiritual people led the anti-colonial movement for Indian independence and the anti-slavery movement both here and in England. It is through a spiritual understanding that our appreciation for life, for all of life, deepens. A natural result of this understanding is not passivity, but a heightened intolerance for cruelty and abuse and a greater courage in the pursuit of justice.

I welcome your comments.


Rudy Davis said...

Hi Matt,

Great article. As always I learned a lot and you inspired me to think deeper about my own views and our differences. Sometimes inflections and tones are lost in the written form of language. As I point out our differences below, I am not trying to be divisive. I am simply trying to be open and honest with my thoughts so that we may understand each other better. I am your biggest fan even though we don’t share identical spiritual views.

You have enlightened me on the beliefs and attitudes of a (SS from now on) spiritual spiritualists in regards to how you view activism and how this fits in with the idea of a universal karma. I hate to admit it but I did have the preconceived notion that (SS) were probably slow or even non-responsive when it came to confronting injustice but I can see you make a strong case for speaking out against tyranny based upon the inner morality that is installed within all of us. This inner morality is essential because it guides us in what is right and what is wrong. Defining exactly what is right and what is wrong is also key to this discussion.

I found it very helpful to know that (SS) are people who do not believe in a particular religion but who believe or who experience the spiritual as the essential nature of the universe and who believe or experience God as a transcendent non-physical Being who is not separate from every individual being. I am myself a (SM) spiritual materialists (i.e. Christian) but I am hesitant to claim for myself all the attributes you assigned to that group in your first paragraph of your article.

I also wanted to share my thoughts on a few topics as I ponder the differences between a (SS) and an (SM). Regarding your statement “…God as a transcendent non-physical Being who is not separate from every individual being. “, there are two reasons why this statement offered a challenge to me. The first reason I can work out logically in my mind and the second reason is still a challenge for me.

First, the statement seems to imply that we are the same as God. I don’t consider myself God but a creation of God. However, upon deeper thought, in my view God does command us to be perfect and he provides us a pathway to be perfect. Also, God does not create anything in half-measures. It would not make sense for God to create man to dwell in sin for eternity. It makes sense to me that he would provide us a pathway out of sin and into perfection. I believe he truly wants perfection for every single one of his creations. So it is a consistent that one day we will share a state of perfection with God because of his infinite love for us. I guess one could debate whether “sharing a state of perfection with God” is the same thing as “being God”. But for me that is splitting hairs on syntax.


Rudy said...

(continued, part 2 of 2)

Second, the statement seems to imply we lose our individuality as we are merged into some God-head in the future. I am a very strong believer in individualism over collectivism. If I was a (SS), it is a bit troubling for me to think that our individual-ness will one day be lost as we all become once again part of some collective universal God-head. As a Christian, I am not troubled with the thought of losing my individual-ness. Just curious, am I the victim of yet more preconceived notions about (SS) people? Does it bother you that you will one day lose your individual-ness?

The last point I wanted to make about the differences between (SMs) and (SSs) is regarding how morality (right and wrong) is identified. I loved your article. And I 100% agree that our creator has installed in each of us an inner moral compass. However, I am not sure that we can rely ONLY and ENTIRELY on our inner moral compass for right and wrong. Let me just offer some sample issues where different people may have different inner moral compass views (homosexuality, abortion, usury, monogamy, honoring of women, gun ownership, fiat money, RFID chips implanted into humans, freedom to dissent from the establishment, sovereignty of man’s soul etc…) As a Christian, I find it extremely helpful to not only rely upon my inner moral compass but to also have the guide of the Bible. Now I know the Bible is a lightning rod for critics. I do not pretend to be a Bible scholar but I do think the Bible offers a very good baseline that I can use in conjunction with my inner moral compass to help me determine what is right and wrong, especially the words of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that (SS) people ONLY rely on their inner moral compass and have no external guides. In a world full of (SS) people with different inner moral compasses, how would a baseline for morality ever be developed? Majority rule?

I probably rambled too much and I don’t mean to focus entirely on our differences. I find that we have much more in common than we do different. It is just not as interesting to talk about the things we have in common. /smile

Thank you Matt! You are a huge inspiration!

Ben said...

Very thought-provoking, Matt.

The reasons for passivity in the face of aberrant behaviour are complicated. One senses a general decline in standards, or (to put it another way) an acceptance of the rights of others to their personal self-expression even though such self-expression impacts negatively on others.

There is no longer a single ‘social norm’ to which people are expected to adhere. When people are not part of a like-minded community (as would have been the case from our hunter gatherer and early farming days), it is extremely hard to deal with aberrant behaviour as it starts to develop.

Take the example of parents bringing up children in a multicultural society. They instil certain standards of behaviour into their children. But children notice that their parents ignore many other people around them who flout some of these behavioural standards. They wonder: How can that be? Already, the children are semi-detached from the moral code of their parents. Later on, as teenagers, they may become completely detached – adopting one of the many other behavioural codes they see around them.

This is the thin end of the wedge. Once the wedge is in, the place to draw the line has blurred. If you can’t focus on the line, you lose the ability to know when it is being crossed. Soon, the line has been crossed so often, it no longer exists.

Matt Chait said...

I don't know if bringing up kids was ever easy, even for the hunter gatherers. Suppose you are having a feast at your house and one of your fellow hunters has had a little too much kava-kava and starts getting frisky with one of the 'gatherettes' while your kids are present. What's a hunter-gatherer to do?

Seriously, I do think that even if the culture is confused, if you are not confused then, eventually, your children will have some moral clarity as well. For instance, we do draw a line about acceptable behavior in our own home. A friend of mine was visiting once and he was behaving insensitively to my son's friend, who was, at that time, probably about twelve years old. I wasn't there, but evidently my wife rebuked him strongly enough that we no longer had a friendship for a number of years. I wasn't crazy about losing a friend, but the point was made, very clearly, to my son: we do not tolerate children being treated disrespectfully.

There are other examples I could mention, but I think the point is that if you do make a stand when it is important, in the face of cruelty or abuse, then that act of courage is indelibly printed in the memory of your children as is the experience of compromise when you don't.


Ben said...

Yes, I see your point, Matt. But assertive and acceptable behaviour in the home is only the start, isn’t it?

I was attending a course the other day on Stress Management, and the Facilitator was describing the difference between Aggressive, Assertive and Passive behaviour. She said that Assertive behaviour was the ideal, and that it was a learned behaviour. I had to speak up: I said that assertive behaviour is what is used by people who stand up to an unruly gang. But whereas in a homogenous community this will allow the matter to end there - because there is a basis of respect between citizens - where that respect does not exist (on one side or the other), the ‘standing up for what is right’ quickly escalates into confrontation, and aggressive macho responses ensue (drawing of knives etc).

So my point is: assertiveness as a behaviour in the modern streets, where mutual respect is absent, is rather naïve. It’s as naïve as parents sending their children to karate lessons thinking that this will actually help them on the streets at night.

The facilitator asked me what I thought the next step was in the ‘gang’ type situation. I said that for most people, it was passivity –walk away (if you can…this might easily be interpreted as weakness and invite attack from behind!). Someone else said that the correct step was to call the police. Yes, that might work – in some places. Depends on the area!

In response to Rudy’s point above “In a world full of (SS) people with different inner moral compasses, how would a baseline for morality ever be developed? Majority rule?”
My answer to that would be: small scale communities with their own charters which people consciously choose to join because the community charter accords more or less with their own sense of values. It needn’t then be based on two thousand year-old ideas (many of which are hopelessly out of date, for instance the acceptance of slavery or the banning of clothes made of artificial fibres).

Matt Chait said...

If you are wondering why I am responding to Ben and ignoring you, I am not. As usual you have posed enormous questions and I need more time to answer them. Also, Ben brought up the issue of raising children and my son just left for college two weeks ago (the first time he's ever been away from home) and I have been thinking about my kids and how I have raised them a lot lately.


Matt Chait said...

I do distinguish between what happens in the home and what happens on the street. There are lots of things I disapprove of that I see on the street that I would prefer my children were not exposed to, but what can I do? We live in Los Angeles and I can't cover up every racy billboard on the Sunset Strip, or pull the marijuana cigarettes out of people's mouths. We have to learn to live amicably with people who's lifestyles are different than ours. But physical crimes, violence and cruelty are different. No, I won't needlessly endanger myself and I certainly won't endanger my kids; Sometimes, as Shakespeare said, or as Shakespeare had Falstaff say, 'Discretion is the better part of valor.' I am not saying you should be macho or needlessly endanger yourself. But you must do something. It may be calling the police, or organizing a neighborhood resistance, or protesting or writing a letter to the editor. I am not prescribing a course of action. If we are committed to righting a wrong, we are certainly both intelligent enough that the most effective way of responding within reasonable bounds of safety will suggest itself. I am saying that, somehow, you must act. You cannot let it stand.

Matt Chait said...

Rudy (Part I),

As usual, I very much appreciate your comments.

I am myself a (SM) spiritual materialists (i.e. Christian)
SS is really the mystic tradition. There are Christian mystics, Jewish mystics, Moslem mystics, Buddhist mystics, etc. From the SS perspective the function of religion is to provide a spiritual ladder to lead to the ultimate realization that everyone and everything is an aspect of God and that any separations between people: into different nations, colors, sexes, ages or into different religions, is illusory.

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend. We were talking about capitalism and competition for profit, which I am all in favor of (I own a small business and I have owned others), but not in all aspects of the economy. I am glad we don't have competing fire and police departments and that we are not protected by competing armies. I also have a problem with competition in areas where there is no real difference between products, say aspirin. Aspirin is a chemical. Aspirin is aspirin is aspirin. What seems inefficient and wasteful to me is all the competition in areas of identical products (aspirin, steel, oil, gas) where the competition is not based on any real differences in the quality of the product, but simply on the 'image' of the product that is projected through advertising. How does the consumer benefit from all these billions of dollars spent on making distinctions between identical products that ultimately have no bases in reality? Similarly, I believe, that the ultimate product of all great religions is identical: an experience of closeness to God. Each of these religions has their own way of getting there and their own proud traditions and rituals. All of that is great. I only have a problem when religions become competitive; when one religion claims to be the one true religion and the others false; when religion creates a sense of hierarchy and makes some people less valuable than others because they adhere to the 'wrong' religion or because they have no religious beliefs at all. Everyone is a part of God whether they believe it or not. It seems to me that there has been a lot of blood and treasure wasted and still being wasted because people refuse to see that through the wonderful cultural differences between religions, they are, at their essence, the same. What may be hard to accept is that the feelings of reverence that one feels through one religion, the peacefulness and revitalization, the bonding with the other members, those feelings that convince that person that there religion is 'the right one' are the same exact feelings that another member of a different religion is feeling that convinces him that his religion is 'right.' The point is that they are all 'right', that they all provide basically the same kinds of experience and ultimately lead to the same insights.

Matt Chait said...

Rudy (Part II),

the statement seems to imply we lose our individuality as we are merged into some God-head in the future.

I can't tell you exactly what merging into the God-head would be like, but if you think it would be like wearing a drab uniform and working in a giant socialist widget factory slurping potato soup for lunch in unison with a million other equally drab widget workers, I can assure you that is not the case. Rather than losing your individuality it would be much more like gaining everybody else's. If that seems impossible, that is because we are used to looking at the world through our limited solitary perspective. But being in the God head we would have at the same time a limitless number of perspectives and no perspective, because for there to be a perspective there has to be someone who is perceiving and something that is being perceived. In Oneness there is no such distinction. You are what you are perceiving and what you are perceiving is you. And just because I can write about it doesn't mean that I can conceive of it. I have experienced intimations of it, but I haven't been there; at least not in my memory. It is far beyond my or anybody else's ability to conceive, which is great. (Don't you find it's much more interesting to go to a movie where you have no idea what it's about, then going to one where you've read detailed reviews and know the entire plot before it unfolds?) I just know that whatever we can imagine it might be like, it's much, much better than that.

It seems to me that (SS) people ONLY rely on their inner moral compass and have no external guides.

Look at the ten commandments. They are really more specific applications of the ‘golden rule.’ Now the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is a rule, but is an outgrowth of an insight; the insight being that the other really is you; which is another way of saying ‘namaste!’ (I salute the God within you!) or that we are all made in the image of God or that we all have the divine spark within us. So if you understand the golden rule and hold that close to your heart, then the other rules are superfluous in that you will automatically honor everyone you encounter and need no reminders. Even the golden rule only needs to be remembered as a rule when we forget or lose sight of the reality of being one with everyone else.

Matt Chait said...

Rudy (Part III),

Here are Lao Tzu’s words in the Tao Te Ching:

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

(Have you read the Tao Te Ching, by the way? It is not long, less than a hundred of these little four or five line sayings; but there is so much wisdom in each of them.)

So I would say, yes, SS people rely on an inner moral compass; but it is not really their moral compass, but a universal moral compass that they can get in touch with or should get in touch with when they are about to make an important decision. They do that, not by consulting a book, but by letting the situation sit with them, making sure they are calm and disinterested (not indifferent, but have no bias, no interest in the outcome) and let the answer come to them. When Lao Tzu says “when the Tao is lost” he means living in a society where the Tao is not universally acknowledged and respected. In such a society, this process of calming yourself, of shedding the anxiety of the day and the natural state of self interest that one gets involved in in a society like ours, would not be necessary. Going to church would not be necessary, because the things that church reminded you of would already be in your heart, and the state of being that church got you to, you would already be there. The world would be so naturally exciting and exhilarating, peaceful and wondrous, that we wouldn’t need anyone to tell us that is the case. In this situation people would not need any practice or even any pause or the taking of a deep breath to return to their moral compass. They would already be there. From this perspective, following a list of ethical rules is for people who are no longer in touch with and have no technique for getting in touch with their moral compass, which is really the universal moral compass.

Matt Chait said...

Rudy (Part IV),

Applying hard and fast rules is never as good as really looking into a particular case. Isn’t that why some people don’t like to be dictated to by the federal government and some people don’t like to deal with huge corporate bureaucracies? Because their rules apply rigidly to too many people and they cannot be responsive to the individual? Let me share a great story with you that comes from a Hindu tradition.

In one of the bustling metropolises of India, a swami was living right across the way from a prostitute. One night the swami, looking out of his window became aware of the activity going on in that woman’s apartment. He rushed over there and banged on the door. “This must stop,” he told the woman. “I am a swami and I live right across the way. I cannot tolerate this type of behavior.”

The swami thought that was the end of it, but some time later he was looking out the window again and he saw that the same activity was going on. This time he returned to the woman’s apartment in a rage. “I thought I told you to stop all this,” he yelled. “Don’t you realize that God will punish you for this?” The woman burst into tears, “I want to stop. I would love to stop, but I have no other way of feeding my children,” she cried.
The swami left in a huff, and for the next several years he could not stop thinking about this woman and what was going on right across from his apartment. The woman, deeply ashamed of herself, continued what she was doing, all the time thinking about her children and if there was any way of salvaging her relationship with God.

It just so happened that they both passed away on the same day. When they arrived at the place of judgement , the woman was sent to be closer to God and the man was sent in the opposite direction. “Wait, wait!” cried the swami. “There must be some mistake. Don’t you realize that I am a swami and that woman is a prostitute? “ Oh, yes,” replied the angel in charge, “but we don’t really go by that here. We go by what is in a person’s heart. This woman has spent the last several years thinking about nothing but her children’s welfare and her relationship to God, while you have thought about nothing but this woman having sex!”


Anonymous said...


To start with I respect and find much wisdom and scientific accuracy in your posts. But in this case I find much of your post innaccurate.

You basically lump religious into one (That it is only these religious groups that have retained, through their sacred texts, divinely inspired sets of rules to dictate our behavior and without which there would be no morality and merely spiritual and social chaos.)

It is NOT thru sacred scripture that truth originates but instructs how it is recognized.

760.. Just as God's will is creation and is called "the world," so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called "the church."

782..One becomes part of the people of God by faith and baptism. There are several ways to become baptised.. by water, by fire, and by desire.

When the RCC states that 816 "through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means can be obtained."

This does not mean that a person necessarily have to be a Catholic.

This is not posted to debate religious points but to point out that since your basic understanding of all scripture believing persons is innacurate the whole point of this particular blog is corrupt.


Matt Chait said...

Thank you for the comment. In writing an essay you have to create categories in order to make any sense, even though these categories are not rigid and overlap with each other. When referring to 'religious' people I was speaking more of those that followed a rigid, literal and more sectarian view of their own holy books. Your transcendent understanding of scripture would put you, in my mind, more in the 'spiritual' category than the religious category, although you refer to yourself as a Catholic. Most mystics refer to themselves as belonging to one religion or another, but view their religions more as a ladder, a way, of getting to the spiritual perspective that they currently enjoy and share with all other mystics of all other religious traditions.