Reflections on the Basis of Morality
Must religion and morals go together? Can one be taught without the other? Those questions proposed by Annie Besant in her 1915’s book “The Basis of Morality” are perhaps even more relevant today than at her time.
Annie notes that “religions based on revelation find in revelation their basis for morality, and for them that is right which the giver of the revelation commands, and that is wrong which he forbids. Right is right because god, or a ṛṣhi or a prophet, commands it, and right rests on the will of a lawgiver, authoritatively revealed in a scripture. Now all revelation has two great disadvantages as a basis for morality. It is fixed, and therefore unprogressive; while man evolves, and at a later stage of his growth, the morality taught in the revelation becomes archaic and unsuitable. A written book cannot change, and many things in the bibles of religion come to be out of date, inappropriate to new circumstances, and even shocking to an age in which conscience has become more enlightened than it was of old.”
Although I don’t find Christ’s biblical teachings outdated, I certainly believe it is of utmost importance we outgrow scriptures by developing a genuinely fraternal and autonomous morality that enables us to distinguish right and wrong from a cosmo-ethical perspective. This is for me a natural step in the process of gaining spiritual maturity. It is not sufficient, as to attain morality (and please understand that by morality, I mean the practice of the highest possible levels of virtues and ethical values – free from corruption, selfishness and vices), to follow rigid, inflexible, rudimentary guidance from a book or a messiah. No, morality per se, can only be pursued (as we might still be far from “attaining” it) through a voluntary search for the highest levels of resonance with the “truth”. This “truth” is what is at times called “spiritual development” or “evolution”. It is the state of deep connection with the self and the cosmos, to the point of being non-reactive and in plain exercise of love, freedom, and justice.
“Revelation as a basis for morality is impossible. But all sacred books contain much that is pure, lofty, inspiring, belonging to the highest morality.”
This suggests the question: at a time when so many are awakening to their spiritual life, understanding their multidimensional nature and finally breaking ties with scriptural teachings, how are we nurturing and developing our moral grounds? What should and shouldn’t we do to achieve this? How can we develop a fraternal society, a society where everyone has freedom of thought and at the same time respect the freedom of others? Collective awakening may certainly propose its own challenges and we cannot stand mesmerized by the desire for a bright future, believing this mystical state will result from others adopting “my/our” paradigms. No, I suppose the democratization of free thinking brings with it a state of higher diversity of ideas and ideals. In such scenario, we must be able to gain intellectual and moral flexibility at levels never practiced on Earth. So, how to get there? Not simplifying the matter by proposing a single and simplistic answer, it is natural that we care more deeply for the ethical grounds of our moral values and behavior.
“(…) understanding conscience, we shall not take it as a basis of morality, but as our best available individual light. We shall judge our conscience, educate it, evolve it by mental effort, by careful observation.”
When I do this, I see that many of the social, supposedly moralizing movements of our time seem to have lost sight with their target, became desensitize to fraternal values and instead are now leading us to separation, rage, privilege and unsettlement. Well, I do not support such values and therefore feel compelled to claim that all of those who do care for a bright future join me to claim for #OneHumanity.
What is #OneHumanity
“To overrule the conscience of another is to induce in him moral paralysis, and to seek to dominate the will of another is a crime.”
Every human interaction with other intelligences and the cosmos around it may be observed as a more or less complex system. In a balanced state, all elements of the system interact with each other in perfect harmony. Long-term sustainability, relative freedom and autonomy, love, ethics and justice are exercised to their highest degree. This state of equilibrium is disrupted when one or more of those elements are out of balance, resulting in physical, emotional, mental and/or moral consequences proportional to the degree of the imbalance. If you understand that darkness cannot drive out darkness, than it is clear to you that justice, love, fraternity and freedom cannot be achieved through coercion, brutality and vengeance. There is beauty in diversity. It is not necessary to wipe it out to achieve balance with ourselves, each other and the universe. It is sufficient to evolve in moral grounds to a state where the bounds of love are not based on “conditions” – I suppose this is called unconditional love. #OneHumanity does not see color, race, gender, religion, origin, you name it. It stands for the search for unconditional love as a cohesive force of balance in the universe. Love not as the romanced version preached in pulpits, but as a mature, fraternal, ethical, rational force only understood by those that are starting to at least grasp the concept within its own consciousness. Unconditional love knows responsibility, but knows not guilt. It doesn’t need to forgive as it does not take offense. It is flexible and coherent, patient and intelligent. None of us on Earth have attained this, yet if you are in this path; do not seek separation, do not seek to eliminate our differences… simply stand for #OneHumanity
- Besant, Annie Wood. The Basis of Morality.