The Relationship of Morality and Spirituality

#1
I wanted to start this thread to move the conversation away from the civility thread, because I think this is potentially a different topic . . . the civility thread is more about how to behave or not behave on an online internet forum . . . this one's meant to cover the wider ranging topic of morality and spirituality on the whole.

As I said in the other thread, this is something I'm highly interested in. I'll post some thoughts on it when I have time later tonight.
 
#2
Good thread Reece. I think about this myself. I sometimes hear things on the news and I try to make sense of it by wondering what was going on in the persons mind while doing it. Such as a mother drowning her children, or a serial killer who murders only blond women or even a story about a guy who walks into a school and just opens fire for no apparent reason (to the viewer). I actually have a really hard time figuring out their motivations or mind states. I have moral issues sometimes about just leaving the toilet seat down when I urinate at home in case I get some spattering on the seat and my wife sits on it and flips out. It seems almost everything I do, I consciously think about morally if its wrong or right. I usually base those choices on the old addage, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Im not a religious person, but thats a REALLY good saying and thought. I try to live by that motto, but sometimes I fall short because even though I know something is wrong, other circumstances will have me believe my actions can be justified and I follow thru with the immoral act and blame the situation.
I guess I am wondering where does that little voice come from? Why do some people have it and some people appear to have totallly lost it? How come some things seem so ingrained into our brain even though we may not have experienced it before, we understand the right thing to do?
Looking forward to your thoughts on this Reece.
 
#3
Had a bit to say about that on the old skeptiko forum just yesterday. I'll quote it again here, just in case it starts an interesting discussion:

You've probably heard it said on here how dualism could be viewed as a limiting case of Idealism. I know David Bailey has mentioned this at least a couple times. I also like to say when watching Bernardo's videos, what happens when the whirlpools forget they are whirlpools? Even though their reality is ultimately Idealistic, forgetting they are whirlpools will force them to perceive reality as dualistic, perhaps even descending into materialism.

Anyhow, I view the "good and evil" morality in the same way - as a limiting case of a morality that transcends these limited notions of polar contrasts. But, Good and Evil are real as we make them, being that what we are most conscious of, is what we call "real".

I also talk about it briefly on my blog:

"This is not to negate good and evil, nor the horrors experienced on earth. Things are as real as we make them and we make evil very real every day. It is in our current nature. But, we are only empowered to make it real via our illusion of separateness and disconnected state from the Divine. Good and Evil are not the fundamental reality, nor the ultimate morality. Oneness is. It is this Oneness that everyone and everything is Interdependently Co-Arising back to. How motivated would one be to commit evil on another, if they always had the view Kenneth Ring talked about in the NDE video above?"

I'm referring to his "Golden Rule" NDE example, if you're familiar with that one.


In the Buddhist worldview, there is the idea of the Bodhisattva. This is one who has achieved Buddha-hood, which means he has awakened to identity with the Divine, but has chosen to stay in the world to help others find their way. The Bodhisattva is unaffected by happiness and sorrow, as they arise from the vicissitudes of the impermanent nature of the temporal world. Rather, his inner being is in touch with the permanent reality of fundamental unity - the essence of which is eternal bliss. Likewise, he is unaffected by good and evil, arising from the ebb and flow of life. The Bodhisattva is not somebody who is infinitely good, but rather somebody who has transcended all pairs of opposites, including good and evil. Of course, one who lives in touch with the fundamental unity of reality is also incapable of an evil act, while simultaneously being capable of the highest level of compassion. This could give the perception that the Bodhisattva is perfectly good, or perfectly holy, but their being is greater than something which can be defined by the limited polar concepts of good and evil. He is on a higher plane of "morality", one that is more applicable to an existence where the differences between subject and object, knower and known, are not contrasted and the "inflicter of harm" and "receiver of harm" are one and the same, once again simply exemplified in the NDE mentioned by Kenneth Ring in the video above.
"
 
#4
I don't know, I always think that mortality was a concept that just fundamentally helped us exist. Your narrative and the things you learn are so much more crucial in limited time. There are so many things that are so important to me to be done now, that would seem trivial in the scope of eternity. Mortality is there so we can experience the joy of accomplishment, and feel the sting of defeat, in a reference frame where those two concepts actually matter.

I always like to think of immortality as not a string of an infinite timeline, but as an infinite quantity of short timelines.
 
#5
Here's a question... If it was conclusively proved, and widely accepted, that consciousness survived bodily death, would it result in more, or less, value attached to the material human life? Would suicide rates go up?
 
#6
Very interesting and important topic Reece, thanks for posting.

I responded to a simlar topic on the old forum, and have simply cut and pasted it to share some of my thoughts with reference to an example that Carl Jung brought up about some of the unbelieve acts of Joseph Mengele during world war 2.

His question was broadly around modern mans lack of a spiritual force in his life which acts as moral compass, and the supremacy at this time of the materialist reductionist understanding of mans place in the universe and its consequences for his moral nature.

I argued that when faced with crimes of such an abhorent nature, one really requires a framework broader than materialism is prepared to grant in order to cope with such acts, a framework for example that spirituality does provide in its claim that the narrative of ones life does not end with the death of the body. There will be time enough for balance to be restored.
A materialist model however leads to an absolutely futile scenario, where really, anything goes, because that is how the mechanical universe works. As long as you don't violate the physical laws of a materialist universe, anything goes, there are no moral imperatives. Only nihilism is there to wipe the slate clean so to speak, however, the slate can never be cleaned in this way, if anything, nihilism adds to the horror.
Below is his original post:

Originally Posted by Carl Jung
Something that strikes me as problematic for modern man is the impossibility of coping with moral horror under the physicalist metaphysics that currently reigns supreme in western culture.

I read about Joseph Mengele this weekend. On one occasion he is rumored to have thrown children into a pit of fire where they were burned to death. The true horror of the act is that he deliberately only used twins in this experiment throwing one twin to the flames whilst giving the other a stick with which to push the burning twin back into the fire when it attempted to crawl free.

The horrors of such acts really present me with the sense that only those who believe in life after death and judgement can cope with the problem within its accepted metaphysic.

Modern man must stand bewildered and can really only put his hope in Nihilism which few seem willing to do.

What is your take on moral horror?
I just came across this and felt compelled to share some thoughts (and emotions) on it.

Ones first impulse (as with all deeply heinous atrocities) is disbelief. One finds oneself wanting to consign such a story to the "myth" pile. However, sadly there is no reason this cannot be true.

What actually occurs to me that from a philosophical and moral position, it is really only the true physicalist atheist who's world view necessarily culminates in Nihilism that will be capable of such an act. Or at least, within a cognitive dissonance framework, it is only the Nihilist whos world paradigm will not be challenged by carrying out such an act.

For the true physicalist "I am a biological robot" camp, there really is no act which poses a moral dilemma. Being a biological mechanism that is wound up, and then pointed in the direction of ultimate anihilation and let go of, there are no such things as moral acts, as a moral act requires free agency.

The physicalist ought to be entirely comfortable with the unbelievable acts of Mengele, at least from a Moral imperative.

When I hear about such things, I must admit to personally only being able to cope with them against a background of belief in an afterlife, order, and purpose in the universe. I do not need to appeal to any stereotypical Christian judgement scene to cope with this, but a notion that the universe strives towards homeostasis in all things, particularly moral/spiritual things. A sense that things are worked out over a greater span of time than our fleeting life spans, and that such gigantic black holes in the moral tapestries of our lives cannot be simply ploughed over by father time and his scythe and leveled out.

Here is were the notion of Karma is a philosophical attempt to systematise, formalise and standardise that sense of a universal need to find homeostasis in the moral dimensions of our existence.

i agree with you, in that it will only be those who believe in life after death that can find a way to seek that homeostasis (justice, balance, atonement, reparation etc). There are no tools in the Nihilistic box to attempt to restore balance to this scenario - or any moral scenario for that matter.

How horrific. My dear dear God.


Originally Posted by Carl Jung
I think there are actually some acts of love and altruism that are so pure and good that they, in a sense, can't be contained and explained in this world or this lifetime.

The beauty of a new life drawing its first breath, the selfless acts of giving up ones life for others, the love of Ideals (such as fairness, justice and hope), transcendent experiences, the refusal to take a life, duties held against ones self-interest and more..

These somehow feels like signposts, pointing to a more developed view of existence.
How beautifully put.

It occurs to me that these pure and good acts you point to are at the other end of the spectrum to the heinous acts of Mengele, which I argued similarly cannot be contained or explained with the span of this brief lifetime.

They push one at a very deep and emotional level to intuit a broader background against which such acts seem to fit more properly.
 
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#7
If by spirituality you mean non-physical/source consciousness/the no thing that gives rise to the physical - there is no relationship. Well none other than that any and every thing physical is an expression of that spirituality. This is so very clear and very basic that I can only think that those who don't know are those who are trying to use their intellects to play around with thinking about states that they have not allowed themselves direct objective experience of.

So . . okay . let's do the intellectual wheel-spin. Morality is simply a set of arbitrary standards of behavior. It plays out as what the majority in a group see as right-wrong, honorable/dishonorable,etc. So anything, yes anything - murder, rape, theft, oppression, kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, forgiveness can constitute morality. People waxing about "morality" are with rare exception waxing about the moral code that they put stock in. And without to much strain we can see that the morality - spirituality error is much the same thing as the "my religion is most spiritual" error.

Spirituality (as defined above) simply is. It is not something one work towards or attains. It is there, inescapable. What one can attain is a far greater objective awareness of non-physical.
 
#9
Is that all it is? If so, then it's hardly worth talking about at all.
Yes that is what is. Not only is that plain from even a cursory look at societies, it's the definition of the word. Now of course everyone has their preferred morality which they often view as being the definitive morality. So much so that they simply term it "morality"

As for " hardly worth talking about" I disagree. One's implemented (as opposed to just preferred) morality will affect one's experience in physical to a great extent. So it has great bearing on what sort of physical world one lives in. What I see as important is practicing congruence between one's preferred morality and one's implemented morality. So a person who prefers a morality that supports individuals having the freedom to express their thoughts without censor benefits in implementing that. They are not implementing that when they support the censoring of ideas they dislike.
 
#10
It seems that to some, morality is as arbitrary as choosing ones favourite recipe for cookies. I would certainly agree that there's no need to relate that to spirituality.

However I think the reason why the topic was even posted at all, was because to some, morality is not arbitrary, but has some inherent significance. That doesn't meant it has to be a fixed set of rules, it can be fluid. And it is the mere fact of its changing fluid nature which requires some input to determine which of many options is preferable. The question is, where is that input to come from? I asked this question on another forum, and got the reply: "you ask an expert". But what if there is more than one expert and they disagree - then you ask another expert and so on. Basically passing the buck but never actually considering this question: what if there are no experts, and you must make up your own mind?

I'm expressing this generally, I'm not putting this to any particular person to respond or give an answer. It's just my thoughts on the subject.
 
#11
If by spirituality you mean non-physical/source consciousness/the no thing that gives rise to the physical - there is no relationship. Well none other than that any and every thing physical is an expression of that spirituality. This is so very clear and very basic that I can only think that those who don't know are those who are trying to use their intellects to play around with thinking about states that they have not allowed themselves direct objective experience of.

So . . okay . let's do the intellectual wheel-spin. Morality is simply a set of arbitrary standards of behavior. It plays out as what the majority in a group see as right-wrong, honorable/dishonorable,etc. So anything, yes anything - murder, rape, theft, oppression, kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, forgiveness can constitute morality. People waxing about "morality" are with rare exception waxing about the moral code that they put stock in. And without to much strain we can see that the morality - spirituality error is much the same thing as the "my religion is most spiritual" error.

Spirituality (as defined above) simply is. It is not something one work towards or attains. It is there, inescapable. What one can attain is a far greater objective awareness of non-physical.
I must say, I am having slight difficulty working out which way is up and which down in relation to your post on morality here.
You seem to be alluding to the reality of a kind of trascendant consciousness in the universe, a "source consciousness" as you put it, and also that everything physical is an expression of that consiousness (I could have this so wrong).
However, you then go on to say more or less that ALL morality is nothing more than social convention, arbitrarily chosen and enforced. The two views I suppose are compatible, if you are saying that the source consciousness is an entirely amoral entity, and morality is not an inherant part of its nature. But I find this deeply confusing, and disconcerting.

Certainly, much if not most of what passes for morality is decided by social convention, and is fairly arbitrary, but this I would argue is a poor characterisation of the totality of morality. Morality like most aspects of a humans inner life operates on a sliding scale, or a spectrum. I would argue that morality is informed by a deeper sense within the human, which when lacking, allows for all manner of disturbing acts. That dimension I believe to be a sense of connection, or a sense of empathy and compassion. The more highly developed this sense, the less likely the individual will be to commit an immoral act.

I define an immoral act as an intended action that is to the benefit the actor while at the same time being to the detriment of the party acted upon. It does not require arbitrary social conventions, we all know what hurts, and what heals. Although, I must wonder if some individuals have completely lost sight of this, or have had it somehow driven out of them.mThe psychopath for example is an incredible oddity to me, which I cannot fathom.

Anyway, my belief is that morality is a side effect of deep connection with others, and a sense of empathy and compassion, which I believe to be our natural states. As such, it is a very real thing in our universe, and the human experience.
If morality is taken out of this context, and formalised, and codified into laws, well this is not really morality, this is as you say, the arbitrary enforcement of social convention.
 
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#12
I'm eager to weigh in on this, because these last posts are somewhat getting to the heart of what I struggle with, but I'm walking out the door . . .

Though I'll add this: as opposing as the last few views/posts are, there's clearly truth(s) in them despite the fact (that they seem so opposing).

Most do really seem abritrary, yet it's possible for some nonphysical (God) thing to show through somehow . . . that somehow informs our actions . . .
 
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#13
I define an immoral act as an intended action that is to the benefit the actor while at the same time being to the detriment of the party acted upon.
This is an incredibly complicated area. Suppose for example that you think your proposed action might benefit the other party, but it turns out not to be so. Certainly you could choose to do nothing, but that might be withholding a potential benefit, which would then make inaction a negative choice.

There are times when the 'right' choice cannot be determined by any rulebook, nor even by consulting with experts. There are decisions that must be made 'blind' as it were.
 
#14
This is an incredibly complicated area. Suppose for example that you think your proposed action might benefit the other party, but it turns out not to be so. Certainly you could choose to do nothing, but that might be withholding a potential benefit, which would then make inaction a negative choice.

There are times when the 'right' choice cannot be determined by any rulebook, nor even by consulting with experts. There are decisions that must be made 'blind' as it were.
This is why if you re read my post, I say intended act. Ones intention is truly what makes an act moral, immoral or even amoral. If the intention is good,even though great harm may result, the act cannot be said to have been immoral. Similarly, if the intention is bad, and great good inadvertantly comes about because of it, we would not say a moral act has been performed, merely that an immoral act has backfired. Intention is the key.
 
#15
This is why if you re read my post, I say intended act. Ones intention is truly what makes an act moral, immoral or even amoral. If the intention is good,even though great harm may result, the act cannot be said to have been immoral. Similarly, if the intention is bad, and great good inadvertantly comes about because of it, we would not say a moral act has been performed, merely that an immoral act has backfired. Intention is the key.
While there's nothing to disagree with in what you wrote, I do have an alternative perspective.

Through personal experience I've found that even one's good intention is not always sufficient grounds for justifying an action. I find it difficult to elaborate here without describing an example in detail, but suffice to say I now consider that there is a deeper level of personal judgement which can be brought into play, one which is outside of or separate from one's intentions.
 
#16
I wanted to start this thread to move the conversation away from the civility thread, because I think this is potentially a different topic . . . the civility thread is more about how to behave or not behave on an online internet forum . . . this one's meant to cover the wider ranging topic of morality and spirituality on the whole.

As I said in the other thread, this is something I'm highly interested in. I'll post some thoughts on it when I have time later tonight.
I’m reminded of the idea of spiritual evolution that follows along on a developmental track. It implies a telos that is inherent in the universe which manifests in primitive biologically driven less conscious behavior and awareness to a more empathic, generative, wisdom in which the individual responds to other beings as an aspect of themselves and is motivated to care for and nourish all other beings as a mother to her child as well as wise action to cut through delusion and stagnation.
There are many models that represent this idea. Ken Wilbers states and stages illustrates this as well as Erik Ericksons psychosocial development, gurdjief’s enneagram “the law of seven”, Don Beck spiral dynamics, Jean Gebsers structures of consciousness and the Buddhist thoughts on refined states of consciousness.
I’m convicted that morality is an aspect of the evolution or development of consciousness which exists in the deep structure of the universe as opposed to the Freudian idea that morality is just an aspect of cultural sublimations of the primitive drives of the id.
 
#17
I’m reminded of the idea of spiritual evolution that follows along on a developmental track. It implies a telos that is inherent in the universe which manifests in primitive biologically driven less conscious behavior and awareness to a more empathic, generative, wisdom in which the individual responds to other beings as an aspect of themselves and is motivated to care for and nourish all other beings as a mother to her child as well as wise action to cut through delusion and stagnation.
There are many models that represent this idea. Ken Wilbers states and stages illustrates this as well as Erik Ericksons psychosocial development, gurdjief’s enneagram “the law of seven”, Don Beck spiral dynamics, Jean Gebsers structures of consciousness and the Buddhist thoughts on refined states of consciousness.
I’m convicted that morality is an aspect of the evolution or development of consciousness which exists in the deep structure of the universe as opposed to the Freudian idea that morality is just an aspect of cultural sublimations of the primitive drives of the id.
Thanks. This is insightful and addresses some of my concerns which mainly stem from looking into evolutionary psychology. Morals change depending on very basic and primal things like food/resource scarcity, and in a lot of ways for good reason. It might be easy to outright dismiss some of those tenets as "primitive," but we as individuals still feel so many of those tendencies on a gut level. Society and technology may've advanced, but instincts and primitive drives are largely the same. I just sometimes question how wise or "enlightened" it is to try to squelch some of that. Largely, I've had to square off with a lot of the conflicts this brings up by referring to Arjuna and Krishna in the opening of the Gita. That story has been an all time favorite of mine, and one I've returned to again and again.

I'm on a phone now, so it's challenging and even a bit humorous trying to tackle such deep subjects like so . . . And it's hard to really flush out my "opening statement," which on something like this seems important to be clear about . . . I haven't done that very well at all, but couldn't resist responding.
 
#18
I wasn't suggesting repressing the instincts but more of a transformation through which they become more conscious and manifest as higher less ego driven aspects of consciousness - compassion, empathy, altrueism. . .
 
#19
I wasn't suggesting repressing the instincts but more of a transformation through which they become more conscious and manifest as higher less ego driven aspects of consciousness - compassion, empathy, altrueism. . .
I didn't think you were.

What's the best book you suggest?
 
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