our ability to tell right from wrong
Jan 06, 1994 01:19 PM
In conservative religions, we are told what is good, and what is bad.
We are not permitted to figure it out for ourselves, being considered
a flock of simpler people needing guidance. Depending upon our
religion, we are told different things, and different ways to treat
others. Every exoteric religion has its code of conduct, and does not
assume that its followers have a developed moral consciousness, with
the ability to perceive for themselves the rightness of things in life.
In the west, we have religions like Christianity teaching us specific
actions are good, and others are bad. We are told whom are good and
bad people, and given a set of standards to judge them by. In the east,
we often have religions teaching us that an amoral awareness is good,
and that passing judgement is bad, and we are given a set of standards,
again, as to how to evaluate people. The rules are different but the
process is the same: we are told certain ways to believe and act, and
given a standard to follow.
We know that is it bad if we do not act according to our true nature
and role in life, if we betray ourselves with making the wrong choices.
We also know that it is not good to be careless, to be neglectful, to
make unnecessary mistakes in going about things. If one wants to define
the bad in these terms, where it refers to mistakes due to our lack
of diligence, then he could say that evil is relative, since what is
a good choice for one person may not be the right choice for another.
Mistakes due to our own human fallability are forgivable, since we
are all subject to accidents of the mind and heart. But this assumes
that we all approach things with a good nature, always sincere in
how we are living life, and always choosing good over evil, choosing
the good spirituality over the dark side of life.
There are some--fortunately few--who are on an actual path of evil.
There is such a thing as the left hand path, and it is possible to
make progress on it, for a time, before facing eventual destruction.
It is possible to choose harm for its own sake, to dwell in malice,
to identify with cruelty and harmfulness. This is rarely the case
in life, an abnormal exception to the scheme of things, but it is
possible, and it happens. There are invisible influences for harm in
the world, and they do not go away by denial; they cannot be dismissed
as the figment of someone's imagination, the product of an overworked
mind, the result of psychological projection.
We may prefer not to believe in good and evil, but all of life does
not become good and the evil in life does not go away through our
*denial*. We can turn a blind eye on this side of life, and are not
forced to dwell on it. Evil is not a proper subject for meditation.
But a correct understanding of it is necessary for a complete picture,
in one's mind, a comprehensive worldview of the panorama of life.
One's understanding of the Teachings is lacking without a proper
place for the darker side of life. We cannot have good without evil,
light without darkness, life without death. They are pairs of opposites
out of which life is composed. To ignore any of them is to turn one's
back on an understanding of life.
The Christians may believe that they have a good handle on the subject
of evil, but they define it in over-simplified terms--usually in terms
of anything going against what they believe--and that belief has been
abused so much that it is no wonder that many of us reject it out of
hand! But the eartern view of an amoral consciousness is equally
incomplete, and subject to different but equally dangerous abuses of
An argument might be made that since good and evil seem relative, and
since they seem to vary in interpretation from one person to the
next, from one culture to the next, that the distinction is entirely
subjective, and without merit. The argument could be made, but it
would be invalid.
Consider another duality: truth and falsehood. One could say that there
is no truth, that everyone has their own idea of truth, and it varies
widely, so everybody or nobody are correct. But there certainly is
such a thing as telling a lie, and we can single out a compulsive liar
from someone whom takes great pains at honesty. There are differences
in truthfulness, and our ability to distinguish them is based upon our
clarity of consciousness, and our penetrating insight, which allows
us to perceive what is really happening.
The same is true of character, of the nature of the personality, as
built up in this lifetime. We can judge the character of another.
That character may change over time, but at a particular moment it
*is* a particular way. And the most insightful of us are good judges
With us, our ability to tell right from wrong is not vague, because
it is an imaginary, unreal thing to do. Rather, there is such a
thing, but it is an undeveloped faculty of consciousness at our
present stage of evolution. It will one day be possible to see
through the moral maya that surrounds things, and perceive their
true nature, their true sense of rightness--or wrongness.
It is possible to tell people, in whom their buddhic splendor is
awakened, from those in whom it is not, and the Mahatmas do so. We
are not all--as human personalites--spiritual, and it is only in our
higher natures, as we learn to dwell in them, that we spiritualize
our consciousness, as we take it from the corruptible to the
We should not be afraid to question eastern, as well as western
thought, in our studies. Theosophy is not merely Buddhism in disguise.
The teaching of a type of amoral conscious may be presented us, but
we must not take it as unquestingly true. But when we question such
deeply-held beliefs, we are bound to arouse opposition.
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