Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Concerning the sacred and profane

Prolegomena to Rebuilding our Moral Foundations

A fundamental distinction that human beings make
     is between the sacred and the profane,
     the moral and the evil,
     that is, between what is holy and “Godlike”
     and what is merely animal.
I believe it is a presumption and a lie
     to claim to know God's will, God's “desires”.
     But by evolving our understanding of the holy
     and pursuing its manifestations in our life
     we can approach, to some degree,
     a certitude of God's being
     and a sense of awareness of God's Presence.
The primary value in being aware of God's Presence
     is that it may help inspire us
     to higher ethical standards
     and it may help support us
     in times of grief and trouble.

The Category of the Profane:
There is nothing holy about hatred.
There is nothing holy about anger.
There is nothing holy about violence.
There is nothing holy about bitterness.
There is nothing holy about cynicism.
There is nothing holy about controlling others.
This core of destructive emotions and behaviors
     all incline us towards the profane.

All of these emotions and behaviors
     are part of our being and part of our life.
We will express them sometimes, or often,
     And we must process them constantly,
     but there is, literally, nothing holy in them.
There will be times when such feelings
     may be an appropriate response
     to the world and its events,
     but because they may be appropriate responses
     does not make them holy,
     and therefore, they can never serve
     to elevate us towards the moral,
     and towards God's Presence.
     They are essentially degenerative.
Indeed, the more we feel and express them
     the further we will move away from God's Presence.
Finally, although there are times and situations
     when these feelings may be appropriate,
     even necessary,
When they become the guiding light
     of a person, a group, a nation, an ideology,
     they not only degenerate us morally,
     but they become a marker of a degenerative ideology
     and they can be called evil, unequivocally.
     As such, they become a dangerous enemy
     to the individual, the group, the species.

The Category Between Sacred and Profane:
This is the general realm of the existential,
     the psychological, and the social,
     and is the topic of many, if not most, books.
Most of what we feel and do
     is not inherently sacred or profane.
     Neither does it inherently move us
     towards evil or the moral.
Nonetheless, most of what we feel and do is driven
     by our sacred and profane feelings and motives,
     even though those motives
     may be hidden from our awareness.
Feelings and experiences such as
     fear, pain, suffering, and despair
     tend to damage the individual
     and stunt one's growth towards the sacred.
     It is uncommon for them to generate
     healing and growth
     although, in an environment of healing,
     later growth may occur.
This category of feeling, doing and experiencing –
     the human sitz-in-leben between sacred and profane –
     however compelling a topic of discussion,
     is not my topic here.

The Category of the Sacred:
Compassion strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Charity strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Love strongly inclines us towards the holy.
Prayer inclines us towards the holy.
Self-control inclines us towards the holy.
Respect inclines us towards the holy.
Gentleness inclines us towards the holy.
Some rituals will incline us towards the holy.
Art and creativity can incline us towards the holy.
Joy and pleasure can incline us towards the holy.

All of these emotions and behaviors
     are part of our being and our life.
We may express them sometimes, or often.
They seek to be constantly processed
     and integrated into our being
     although we may be largely unaware of them
     some or much of the time.
They do not originate from animal needs and drives,
     but animal needs and drives
     can sometimes express or further them.

               As an aside:
               The common scientific blindness
               to that aspect of being
               that is not animal,
               but rather of the holy, of the divine,
               is a fundamental stumbling block
               to scientific accuracy
               in theory and practice.

Yet none of these feelings and behaviors
     are inherently holy.
Neither can these feelings and behaviors
     be purely and exclusively holy
     even if done in the most exemplary manner
     by the most exemplary person.
These feelings and behaviors are always mixed
     with profane feelings and behaviors,
     particularly the profane desire to control others.
For this reason, even these feelings and behaviors
     that incline to the holy
     can become a means to do profane and evil things.
For example:
     to claim that there is only one correct way
     to do sacred behaviors
     is a blatant falsehood,
     and an active means of controlling others,
     and is therefore, profane, and inclines to evil,
     even though the conscious intention
     is to guide to the holy.

Shaping Communities to Incline towards the Sacred:
It is appropriate to punish profane action.
It is inappropriate to punish profane feelings and thoughts.
It is appropriate to critically challenge
     profane feelings and thoughts by exploring their motives
     and their potential consequences.
Proper education will incline
     away from profane thoughts and behaviors
     and towards the sacred,
     but no education, however exemplary,
     is capable of eliminating profane feelings
     and behaviors.

It is inappropriate to punish a failure to do sacred actions.
It is appropriate to critically encourage
     sacred feelings and thoughts
     by exploring their mixed motives,
     and their potential consequences,
     sacred and profane.
It is appropriate to encourage sacred action
     so long as care is taken
     to understand and evaluate
     the non-sacred motives within every sacred action.

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