Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What To Do?

What should one do when one's own moral sense tells him an act is wrong; yet, he believes in levels of moral and spiritual wisdom, and someone he's considered to be at higher levels of moral and spiritual wisdom than himself is the person who committed the act and insists that what he did stemmed from his higher wisdom and was right? Does one abandon one's own moral sense in this instance and accept what the other person says as true and what the other person did as right? Or does one trust one's own moral sense in this instance and reject what the other person says as false and what he did as wrong?

If one does the former, concluding that his own moral sense in this instance is wrong, when can he ever trust his own moral sense to be right? And if he can't trust his own moral sense, can he trust his sense of what's true in other respects, including his sense that someone else is wiser than he is and offers a "map" of reality that is worth studying in depth and detail? On the other hand, if one does the latter, concluding that the other person's moral sense in this instance is wrong even though he continues to insist that it's right, when can one ever trust the other person's moral sense to be right when it disagrees with one's own? And, once again, when can one ever trust anything else that person says to be true?

Anyone who's been reading this blog lately knows what and who I'm alluding to, but I don't want to mention any particular incidents or names, because I'm talking now about more, much more than just one particular incident or person. I'm talking about general issues of morality and truth. How do we know what is right and wrong? How do we know what is true and false? I've always been inclined to say that we need to listen closely to our "inner voice" that tells us when something is or is likely to be right or true on the one hand or wrong or false on the other. But what is this inner voice, and how reliable is it, especially if there really ARE different lines and levels of cognitive, interpersonal, moral, and spiritual development, and the inner voice of people at higher levels or of those we believe to be at higher levels than ourselves disagree with what our own inner voice says?

I used to ask these kinds of questions all the time and systematically try to reason my way to definitive answers. But I pretty much gave up when I came to the provisional conclusion that no definitive answers were forthcoming. Since then, I've managed to become pretty comfortable with uncertainty while continuing to place considerable trust in my intuition or inner voice to steer me right most of the time. But times like these give me pause and have me wondering, at least for the time being, how much I can trust my own inner voice or anyone else's and how to proceed in the absence of trust.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

This lack of trust in one's own instincts is what caused hundreds to drink poison cool-aid at the bidding of a madman.
Ken Wilber is only a man Steve, put your trust in God...

Nagarjuna said...

Your point is well-taken. My tendency is to trust my own intuition more than to trust the the claims of others when those claims conflict with my own intuition. But the less consequential the situation, the more inclined I am to consider the possibility that the claims of someone I respect could be true and that my own conflicting intuition could be false. This business concerning Ken Wilber falls in the latter category. Your example concerning Jim Jones would most definitely fall in the former. Again, my post is about more than Ken Wilber and whether I should trust him when he says that what I consider to be false in this instance is true or that what I consider to be wrong is right.

As for putting my trust in God, in what God should I trust?

Namaste,
Steve

Anonymous said...

There is only One God, Steve, seek Him and He will be found...

Petey said...

Agree with anonymous. This is the problem with new-age "spirituality" as a replacement for religion, because it also necessarily replaces God and morality. As a result, a decent person such as Nagarjuna can be left asking the questions "what God should I trust?" and "what is moral?"

If that doesn't demonstrate the poverty of the Wilberian new age, nothing does.

Nagarjuna said...

What is "New Age spirituality," and how does it differ from "religion" and replace "God and morality"? People of alternative or "New Age" spiritual beliefs and practices have no true sense of God and morality, and people with traditionally religious beliefs and practices DO have a true sense of God and morality? If so, how so?

That is, what is this traditionally true sense of God and morality that differs from Wilber's or from those in general who hold non-traditional beliefs, and how do we know that we should trust the former and reject the latter?

Petey said...

Please, I am agreeing with you--just responding to your original complaint. In case you don't recall, you stated that you did not know how to distinguish between right and wrong and did not know in "which God" to place your trust. That's why you entitled this post "What to Do?" Since new age spirituality is mostly wish and fantasy, this is the inevitable result for an honest person such as yourself. You are actually "too good" for new age nonsense, but don't yet realize it. It's time for you to move on to the next level.

After all, if your spiritual practice has resulted in not knowing God or his virtues, what earthly good is it?

Nagarjuna said...

I'm not arguing with you, Petey. I'm merely trying to understand what you mean and come to grips with it. For instance, I'm wondering what you mean by "new age nonsense," and if you believe that this describes Wilber's theorizing? If so, is "new age nonsense" any purportedly religious or spiritual understanding or approach that isn't solidly rooted in one traditional religion? If so, is, say, Christian Vedanta new age?

Furthermore, I wonder if uncertainty about one's sense of God and morality necessarily means that one's sense and approach are wrong, and if, conversely, certitude about one's sense of God and morality necessarily means that one's sense and approach are right.

I don't expect you or anyone to have quick and easy answers to these questions. I'm just putting them out there for consideration.

Finally, when you say that it's time for me to "move on to the next level, what do you have in mind?

Namaste,
Steve

Petey said...

What we mean by "new age nonsense" is man-made religion divorced from a celestial revelation and a genuine source of grace. We lost interest in Wilber some time ago. At best he is a signpost, like Alan Watts. By his own admission, Alan Watts was not a serious man but a spiritual entertainer. However, he inspired many people to investigate Eastern traditions in a more serious way, so for that he is to be credited. Same with Wilber. It takes all kinds to make a world. Each has his dharma, his role to play. Out of 10,000 who read Wilber, perhaps one will ramp it up to the next level.

Yes, we are aware of no religious or spiritual understanding that isn't solidly rooted in timeless revelation. No, Christian Vedanta, properly understood would not be considered new age, for it is simply borrowing a Hindu term to emphasize a component that is known to Christianity but generally forgotten: the God-beyond-being, the Godhead, the Ground, the absolute God to complement the relative God.

Yes, uncertainty would generally imply a wrong approach, for metaphysical certitude is man's birthright. This certitude is buried in the depths of the heart, and the authentic revleations actualize it objectively. Certainty is not to be confused with omniscience, for that is God's domain.

By "moving on to the next level" we mean humbly surrendering oneself to a source of timeless truth and real grace. One cannot progress without aligning oneself with the Force.

May it be so!

Nagarjuna said...

Petey, I'm trying to understand your perspective. I hope you'll bear with my questions at least a little longer.

You define "new age nonsense" as "man-made religion divorced from a celestial revelation and a genuine source of grace" and seem to imply that this is what Ken Wilber practices and preaches. But isn't ALL religion "man-made" in the sense that human beings write the scriptures and build the institutions that are supposed to represent the divine and help us to worship it? And don't those scriptures and institutions reflect the societies and cultures of their founders and followers at least as much as they do the Ultimate Reality that is allegedly their source and ground? Isn't this why there are several major religious traditions and many different branches, schools, or denominations of these major traditions?

Yet, don't all of these traditions claim to have been inspired by revelations either by a transcendent personage, as in the monotheistic traditions including Bob's beloved Islam, or by illumined awareness of Reality, as in the Eastern traditions including Vedantist Hinduism?

You say, "we are aware of no religious or spiritual understanding that isn't solidly rooted in timeless revelation." What do you consider to be "timeless revelation" and authentic religion, and how do you determine what's timeless and authentic from what's not? And aren't Wilber's own practices and preachings grounded in what you would consider to be timeless revelations and authentic traditions, with his integral philosophy more of a theoretical complement or overlay to his understanding than its living core? And hasn't the living core of his essential insights come from intensive practice and study grounded in the great, authentic traditions of East and West? And doesn't he urge all of us to engage in grounded practice and study?

Finally, you say that the "authentic traditions actualize it [metaphysical certitude] objectively." What do you mean by this? That is, what is "metaphysical certitude," and how is it "objectively" actualized? Again, I would suggest that feeling certain is no guarantee of correctness. Torquemada and Al-Zarqawi may well have felt completely certain of their God and their calling by that God, but that doesn't mean they were right. How do we distinguish false from true certainty?

Namaste,
Steve

Petey said...

Apologies, but we must "move on." Good luck with your questions. Each of them has a ready answer, but your questions are many and the answers are lengthy. Furthermore, in your present state of mind, you are not inclined to believe the answers we could provide. Quite the opposite. But so long as you are at peace with God, we have no interest whatsoever in converting you to our perspective.

Nagarjuna said...

Petey, you're no doubt right that I'm not currently inclined to accept without question the "lengthy" answers you might provide to my questions, although I would respectfully consider them all. I can only say that I marvel at the certitude you seem to feel in those unspoken answers, and I appreciate the gracious efforts you've made to share with me as much as you have thus far.

Namaste,
Steve

Anonymous said...

God is available for you, but you must seek Him for the answers- I think if you are going to be honest you will acknowledge this truth- ask God daily to reveal Himself to you- I promise He will if you do this.