exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
Divorce: Part III
doing the right thing
for the wrong reason
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Recently, long after I’d written Parts I and II of this article, it occurred to me that, in the production of these, I’d slipped back into old, dysfunctional patterns of thought.
I was jarred into wakefulness, however, when I happened to see the following inset-box, which I’d posted some time ago elsewhere on the site:
Do not believe on the strength of traditions, even if they have been held in honor for many generations and in many places; do not believe anything because many people speak of it; do not believe on the strength of sages of old times; do not believe that which you yourselves have imagined, thinking that a god has inspired you. Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters and priests. After investigation, believe that which you have yourselves tested and found to be for your good and that of others.
(attributed to) The Buddha, The Kalama Sutra
And when I read this Buddha-saying, I realized that I had been advocating a marriage-and-divorce morality based upon “the strength of sages of old times,” on “the authority of masters and priests,” on “the strength of [biblical] traditions.”
But, some will ask, what is wrong with this approach? If Matthew 19 offers clear teaching from Jesus, should we not heed this advice and instruction? The answer here is nuanced and multi-faceted:
- As we learned in the “Bible” article, the New Testament, as it stands today, is a highly dangerous document, replete with interpolations, editings, cut-and-pastings, political propaganda, non-eye-witness accounts; we could go on – meaning, we have no absolute indication that the Matthew 19 account represents the actual words of Jesus (although, in this particular case, it is my opinion that this is an actual testimony of Jesus).
But all of this misses the point. Even if Matthew 19 is an accurate quotation of Jesus, we are not meant to accept something “as gospel” merely because Jesus says it.
And why is this? Surely, one might think, if we actually had the real words of Jesus, would we not have secured a “gold standard” in determining the truth?
It’s not that simple.
We are not to make decisions based upon “the strength of sages of old times,” on “the authority of masters and priests,” on “the strength of [biblical] traditions.” But, why not if it’s good authority?
The problem is this: We are to learn, as Paul used the phrase, to “live in the Spirit” (see Galatians). We are to learn how to access God’s mind, Universal Consciousness, on our own, and not forever running to “older brother Jesus” to tell us what is right and wrong. This kind of nanny-ism would keep us perpetually in the nursery, immature, and undeveloped. And this is why Jesus said, “It’s better that I leave you, so that you can learn how to access and employ the Purified Consciousness for yourselves.”
All external authorities, no matter how venerable or august they might be, will keep us dependent and servile, if we elevate them beyond that of our own divine internal guidance.
“But, if we arrived at the right answer, albeit on the prompting of Jesus, isn’t this a good thing and sufficient to us?” Not really. It’s doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and to continue thinking this way will leave us trapped in dysfunction, never able to mature as a son or daughter of God.
Here’s another problem:
- The Matthew 19 teaching is very wise and insightful. But no teaching, no matter the lofty source – even the direct and authenticated teaching of Jesus – can capture “the truth” in all of its aspects. This is not possible.
What do I mean by this? We must view the Matthew 19 teaching as a “general rule.” In most cases, it will describe a course of action that will be wise and prudent, one that – on net-balance -- does not increase suffering in the world. However, I will tell you this absolutely. If we thought about it, we could come up with a scenario that would beg us to find an exception to the Matthew 19 teaching. Life is not so formulaic as to encircle it, label it, and pin it down as a “final word,” suitable for every possible situation.
I am not your teacher...
Notice that in the earliest texts, the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is reported to have said, "I am not your teacher." And now we can understand what this means.
But those who would promote a Jesus as accomplice to totalitarian designs would never quote the Jesus in Thomas.
We must “live in the Spirit.” We must “go within” and find our direction there. If a course of action is right and true, then it will be confirmed as something good by the inner guidance. And we might very well end up doing exactly what the respected authority said is a good course of action. But we will take this route not because some external authority “said so,” but because our own private and personal link to God leads us in that direction.
This knotty issue was discussed at length in the “Morality” essay, and you might want to read the entire discussion there, but I will reprint below the essence of the argument:
This subject [of morality] worries people. “We can’t trust the inner guidance," they say. "It’s better to have rules written in stone.”
This almost sounds reasonable until we put any “infallible rule” to a test. Life is not so formulaic, so predictable, as to warrant a one-size-fits-all legislation.
But I know what you're saying: "Some things are always wrong." Well, maybe some things are always wrong, but they're always wrong not because some Dear Leader said so, or because it's written in some so-called holy book, or because it was dropped from heaven or brought down from a so-called holy mountain.
Editor's note: There's no such thing as a holy book or a holy mountain. These are strange and fabled concepts without basis in reality. The Dear Leaders who promote this mythology are the first to deny your own holiness as "made in the image" with their anti-humanistic doctrines making you out to be a first-class unholy schlepp.
But, to argue the other side, we can always devise some hypothetical situation wherein the “greater good,” or even individual freedom or desire, demands an exception; at least, that's what we say. Some of these "loopholes" might have merit, but most of them are disingenuously crafted. We make exceptions for gross immorality all the time, whenever dysfunctional egos really want something -- in war, emergencies, and the exigencies of the moment. Suddenly, “thou shalt not kill” is no longer valid; "thou shalt not lie" loses its authority when your political party is advanced by "fake news"; and, most horrifically and disgustingly, we kill babies by the tens of thousands each year under the filthy banner of “choice.” All this, as Lincoln warned, is but "undisguised policy of self-interest masquerading as morality."
And to those who preach that "the people will run wild without the law," I will tell you this absolutely: The “inner guidance,” the “true self,” is no patsy or pushover. If anyone thinks you can just give it a song-and-dance and get your way to do whatever you like, then I will just say that you have not yet met the energies of the “true self.” It has a standard of morality utterly inflexible on natural-law issues, demanding strict justice, with no slack cut for you.
And regarding this "patsy or pushover" -- well, to those who think they'll generously, with a wink, cut themselves a deal, we should understand that we, ourselves, write our own judgment-ticket and dispatch ourselves to dimensional-ports unknown; that's how inflexible each of us is when it comes to making sure our "books balance." We just have no sense of humor about it. Most of you don't understand what I just explained. Another name for it is "pay the last penny" principle.
Every "penny" has to be accounted for in the financial statements. And when we cross over, there will be no bargaining for "dispensation" or other religious get-out-of-jail-free nonsense; those days will be over. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of one's liability to pay “the last penny” for every malum in se infraction.
what is the best chess move in all the world
“The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour... To put the question [of the meaning of life] in general terms would be comparable to the question posed to the chess champion: "Tell me, master, what is the best move in the world?" There is simply no such thing as the best or even a good move apart from a particular situation in a game and the particular personality of one's opponent. The same holds for human existence. One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment... the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Editor’s note: “Tell me, master, what is the best ‘good deed,’ the highest form of service, the most glorious example of sainted morality in all the world?”
There is no such thing. As per Dr. Frankl, there is no such thing as a best deed or most praiseworthy action or highest merit-badge of morality apart from some particular situation, some particular person with particular needs.