Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged
Nov 09, 1994 03:16 PM
by Jerry Schueler
What is so problematic with ethics? As theosophists, we are,
after all, supposed to be highly ethical and moral. Everyone
seems to say so. And I can not disagree with the fact that
ethics is a necessary first step in our spiritual development.
For some, the development of an ethical foundation will consume
many lifetimes. Many have doubtless begun such a program in a
past life, and are continuing to make advances in this one. A
small few have advanced to the next step. So why is it so
problematic? What is my problem, or perhaps I should say my
concern, that I find with ethics. In a nutshell, it is this:
Give a person a good strong sense of ethics, a firm sense of
right and wrong, and he or she will make judgements of others
every time. As a general rule, the stronger the sense of right
and wrong that one has about life and the world in which we live,
the more judgmental one becomes.
What is the difference between the ethical development of a non-
theosophist and a theosophist? Many apparently see none at all.
To me, the ethical development of many non-theosophists involves
becoming as ethical as one can be in this one lifetime in order
to be rewarded with heavenly bliss in the afterlife. Or,
possibly in order to improve one's personal karma in this or in a
future life. But the goals of the theosophist and the
non-theosophist are different. The theosophist sees a spiritual
evolution over many lifetimes and is aware of egoism and the need
to keep one's sense of self in its proper place. As far as I
know, the theosophist is one of the few who even recognizes
"spiritual selfishness" as a thing to be avoided. Most
non-theosophists would consider the term a paradox.
So what is the next step? The goal that we, as theosophists, are
trying to reach (and I speak from years of study but admit the
possibility that other theosophists could disagree) is to be
ethical without being judgmental. In the past, such people as
Jesus and Buddha have achieved this lofty goal. Today, probably
His Holiness the Dali Lama stands out as one who daily
demonstrates a high degree of achievement of this goal. It can
be done. No, it is not easy. But no one ever said that the
theosophical path was easy (and I would submit that Jesus,
Buddha, His Holiness, and others, are true theosophists in
spirit). As an intermediate step toward the goal, is the
development and cultivation of compassion.
My premise is that those who would stand on the first step of the
Path are in danger. They cultivate ethics and they become
judgmental because they fail to see how bloated the ego can
become when one firmly stands on the first step and knows himself
or herself to be treading the awesome Path taught to us from the
Great Ones throughout the history of mankind. The first step of
the Path is a dangerous step. It allows us to see the world as
black and white. It allows us to see right and wrong. It
provides us with a conscience and a sense of morality. It makes
us complacent thinking that we now know right from wrong. Those
who take the first step are one giant step above the animals.
But the danger that lurks at this level is so subtle, few see it,
and fewer do anything about it. The chief danger is this: we
become judges of our fellowman.
When we arrive at the second step, the world that was seen as
black and white shimmers into various shades of grey. White and
black, right and wrong, fade into the polar horizons of one's
viewpoint. They are seen as the dualism that they are, neither
having any existence or substance or meaning without the other.
With this new view and a deeper appreciation for the complexity
of life and with compassion for all living beings, one can
maintain a strong sense of ethics for oneself, while being
nonjudgmental with others.
What about the early founding theosophists, who can be quoted ad
nauseam about the importance of ethics and of keeping high moral
standards? Every one of them was judgmental. Throughout most of
the writings of HPB, we find her making wild accusations against
the Jesuits as well as the materialistic scientists of her day
and many others (whether she was right or wrong in her judgements
is immaterial). I suspect that if these individuals had climbed
to the second step of the Path, and had refrained from making
judgement calls of others, the fragmentation of the TS would not
have occurred. They were all too human. And so are we. Even
today, the various TSs sit smugly, each with a strong moral sense
of rightness and purpose, and accuse (judge) the other groups of
all kinds of wrongful things. After all, the very fact that we
can think ourselves to be right necessitates the wrongness of
those who oppose us.
I too am human, I too make judgements and accusations. But at
least I don't pretend to be more ethical than anyone else, nor do
I see the world as entirely black and white. I try not to be
hypocritical. By this I mean that I see the danger in ethics and
try not to judge others according to my own standards.
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