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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

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    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster

    Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    “The whole purpose of Theosophical discipline is to blend the head and heart, to
    broaden our mental sympathies and to awaken and direct the intelligence of the
    heart. ” — Aquarian Almanac

     

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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 12, 2019 Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    But the heart refuses to be imprisoned; in its first and narrowest pulses,
    already tends outward with a vast force, and to immense and innumerable expansions. — RALPH WALDO EMERSON

    Seek knowledge for pure love, and self-knowledge eventually
    crowns the effort. — H. P. BLAVATSKY

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  ModeratorTN.

  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 13, 2019 Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    But the heart refuses to be imprisoned; in its first and narrowest pulses,
    already tends outward with a vast force, and to immense and innumerable expansions. — RALPH WALDO EMERSON

    Seek knowledge for pure love, and self-knowledge eventually
    crowns the effort. — H. P. BLAVATSKY


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 14, 2019 Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    TThe potent thought, which is the absence of thoughts, is Bodhi.
    The thousand-petalled lotus opens, transfigured through breath-energy.
    — HUI MING CHING

    To affirm life is to deepen. — ALBERT SCHWEITZER


  • Gerry Kiffe
    Moderator
    Gerry Kiffe

    Can we define some terms? What is ethics, what is metaphysics? Why does HPB say ethics is applied metaphysics?


    • Peter
      Moderator
      Peter

      Here are some opening thoughts, Gerry. Other people may want to add to or improve on them.

      When we talk about Ethics we are, in large part, referring to judgements we make about human actions concerning our treatment of others (human, animal or nature in general). We don’t tend to raise ethical questions with regards to how other kingdoms of nature treat each other. Ethical judgements consist of values: ‘good and bad’, moral and immoral, just and unjust.

      We don’t have to look far around the world or back in history to see examples where what is termed ‘morally good’ and ‘morally bad’ varies according to country/culture as well as varying across time. I’m sure the reader can find her or his own examples in this respect. This has lead people over the centuries to debate whether this moral code is something created and adapted by human beings in the form of traditions, social and cultural norms etc, or, whether it is something that exists in nature in its own right? Theists, in turn, argue that the basis of all moral codes rests upon God’s will (i.e. commandments) or as outlined in various religious scriptures said to convey God’s word. The which is good is what God wills according to this view. Atheists, who seem just as able to live by a moral code as do theists, may well argue that humans beings are able to act rationally and morally by determining values of good and bad, just and unjust, without the need to believe in a God.

      A persistent question in ethical philosophy is whether a moral code, at least one of unchanging core values, exists in the universe in its own right independent of the differing views and judgements on what is ethical or unethical of human beings? After all, some people might say, the laws of nature consist of predictable physical causes and effects, not moral rights and wrongs.

      Theosophy looks beyond the physical laws of nature, socio-cultural norms and the idiosyncrasies of a so called Creator. It proposes a meta-physical reality underpinning all life, namely, that the universe and everything in it are one with the Absolute Unity or deific essence (Plato called this deific essence, the Good). Theosophy asserts that there are spiritual laws in Nature, not just physical laws, one of the most significant being the Law of Karma. These laws reflect and uphold the harmony which has its source in the Absolute Unity of All. Ethical action is action that is in harmony with those spiritual (metaphysical) laws.

      ~~


      • Gerry Kiffe
        Moderator
        Gerry Kiffe

        I appreciate these thoughtful remarks. What is the relationship between ethics and Karma? Is Karma a law of ethical adjustment? What role does Karma play in the ethical life of man? And would we want to say that Karma is a metaphysical law because it is a spiritual law?


        • Peter
          Moderator
          Peter

          Gerry, I suspect the truth is that beyond generalities we know very little about Karma. It may be useful to look at how HPB describes it in the Secret Doctrine:

          ‘Karma is a word of many meanings, and has a special term for almost every one of its aspects. It means, as a synonym of sin, the performance of some action for the attainment of an object of worldly, hence selfish, desire, which cannot fail to be hurtful to somebody else. Karman is action, the Cause; and Karma again is “the law of ethical causation”; the effect of an act produced egotistically, when the great law of harmony depends on altruism.’
          (SD II 302 fn)

          The last line in the above passage gives us a clue as to the nature of Karma. It is the ‘great law of harmony.’ Interestingly, in the Mahatma Letters to Sinnett, the Mahatma states, “we recognise but one law in the Universe, the law of harmony, of perfect EQUILIBRIUM.” (Letter no. 22, Barker ed.). So, Karma appears to be the Law of laws whether these be spiritual (metaphysical) or material (physical) laws.

          The implication in the passage from the SD, above, is that our intentions and motives act as causes on their own level or plane, so to speak. And these produce effects on that level or plane reaching beyond the immediate results that follow from our actions. HPB gives an example in the Key to Theosophy along the lines of when a stone is dropped in a pond, equilibrium is only restored when the energy set in motion finally all converges back onto the originating point. Whether or not this is a fact it creates a picture of how we might think of Karma as the law of ethical causation. Sooner or later the disturbance to the harmony of the whole created by our moral acts and intentions will return back to us for resolution. This is why it is said that through our motives and intentions we are now creating the conditions (positive or negative) for future incarnation as well as reaping the karmic effects (positive or negative) from past lives.

          I don’t think we need to say that Karma is a metaphysical law because it is a spiritual law. It depends on how we are using the term ’spiritual’. I just happen to be using it that way in my writing to refer to those laws immediately related to first principles and the Absolute Unity which is the ground of all existence and being(s).

          ~~


          • Peter
            Moderator
            Peter

            Perhaps we could add that the Law of Karma is not presented to us as a law which judges our moral acts, motives and intentions as either good or bad. It is simply the Law of Harmony and Equilibrium. It is through our own volitions that we create the chain of causes and effects which stretch before us. The Law of Karma does not punish us because we stray from the path of altruism any more than the Law of gravity punishes us when we stray from the path uphill, lose our footing and fall to the ground below. HPB even goes so far as to say that Karma does not act, as found in this interesting dialogue with her students:

            Mr. B. Keightley: It is true to say it [Karma] acts with intelligence
            Mme. Blavatsky: It does not act. It is our actions that act, and that awaken into all kinds of influences. Look here, if you say that Karma acts and you say it has intelligence, immediately you suggest the idea of a personal god. It is not so, because Karma does not see and Karma does not watch, and does not repent as the Lord God repented. Karma is a universal law, immutable and changeless.
            Mr. B. Keightley: But you cannot conceive of a law which does not act.
            Mme. Blavatsky: Well, I say it does not act. In my conception, it does not act. Well, Karma does not act any more than water drowns you.
            Mr. B. Keightley: But water does drown you.
            Mme. Blavatsky: Water does not drown you. You drown yourselves in the water. Don’t go into the water and you won’t get drowned.
            (SD Dialogues/Commentaries; Meeting June 6th 1889)

            ~~


            • barbara
              Participant
              barbara

              Great passage on karma; it underscores the impersonality of this law and possibly any laws in nature. If karma is the law of harmony and equilibrium, which is essentially propelling the chain of becoming and existence. If and when everything is in harmony and in a state of equilibrium, does it mean that we enter in the realm of non-being?


              • Peter
                Moderator
                Peter

                That’s an interesting question, Barbara. It lead me to wonder ‘can there be harmony where there is no differentiation or manifestation?’ To put it slightly differently, is diversity a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for the existence of harmony?

                ~~


                • barbara
                  Participant
                  barbara

                  Hi Peter:

                  It does seem like that karma operates only in the realm of differentiation because the idea of harmony implies two or more forces complementing each other. When the polarization ceases, then everything stands still. This may be a description of the state of Nirvana.


                  • Ramprakash ML
                    Participant
                    Ramprakash ML

                    It seems that when all the forces are equalised at the end of the great period of manifestation–ie., at the end of the cycle of the life of the world system–all differentiations are resolved back into primordial homogeneity. This is beautifully said in the Stanza i verse 7

                    “The causes of existence had been done away with; the visible that was, and the invisible that is, rested in eternal Non-Being–the One Being.”

                    Subsequent verses singing of that state of Non-Being are unsurpassed in poetical beauty.

                    This is said to be the natural state of the universe or Nature, the state of Absolute Being, Para-Nirvana.

                    But it is not devoid of life; “Life pulsated unconscious in the universal space, through that All-Presence which is sensed by the opened eye of the Dangma.”

                    When nothing was, how could there be the Eye of Dangma ? That is a different story, explained in SD elsewhere which can be considered later. But coming to the point …

                    Even Para-nirvana, the duration of which is equal to that of the Maha-manvantara, the age of Brahma (100 years of Brahma), which in terms of human years runs into some 14 figure, utterly incomprehensible to human mind, has an end.This must be, because Karmic causes generated collectively by beings in the cycle that ended still remains to be adjusted. This will cause another going forth.The new wheel, it is said, is constructed on the lines of the older wheel (according to the collective Karma of the Beings involved)

                    It is endless cycles of Being running their rounds without beginning or end in field of Absolute Non-Being.

                    “This Law–whether Conscious or Unconscious–predestines nothing and no one. It exists from and in Eternity, truly, for it is ETERNITY itself; and as such, since no act can be co-equal with eternity, it cannot be said to act, for it is ACTION itself…” (SD, II, 304-305)


    • Anatolii
      Participant
      Anatolii

      Hello, Gerry!
      You asked “Why does HPB say ethics is applied metaphysics?”
      I believe that ethics is really applied metaphysics because although often it is treated with disdain but being the main practice it quite naturally opens up hidden forces in a person, which from the point of view of physics are metaphysical. HPB sometimes mentioned it in “ISIS Unveiled”:
      “Thibet, Japan and China teach in the present age that which was taught by the oldest Chaldeans. The clergy of these respective countries, prove moreover what they teach, namely: that the practice of moral and physical purity, and of certain austerities, developes the vital soulpower of self-illumination. Affording to man the control over his own immortal spirit, it gives him truly magical powers over the elementary spirits inferior to himself. In the West we find magic of as high an antiquity as in the East”.
      Some Christian saints have attained such a high level of spiritual purity that they have acquired unusual powers (therefore they are venerated as saints) and they did it without any meditative practices but just with help of moral purity.


      • barbara
        Participant
        barbara

        What is the difference between morality and ethics? It is said that a moral person may not necessarily be a spiritual person. Does this apply to an ethical person as well?


        • Anatolii
          Participant
          Anatolii

          There are philosophical arguments about how to live, what to strive for and what to avoid, what is good and right and what is evil and wrong at the heart of ethics. The morality or a set of certain values and rules are the result of these philosophical arguments. Therefore it is necessary to distinguish secular and religious ethics. They have different values and different understandings of what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. And from the point of view of religious ethics a person who lives by the norms of morality belongs to secular ethics and can be not spiritual.


        • Peter
          Moderator
          Peter

          Hi Barbara,
          I don’t see any real difference between morality and ethics, in essence. Probably, today, the term ethics has a much wider use than the term morality. For example, we find various professions (medical, psychological, financial etc) have specific codes of ethical practice which are more complex in their detail than the general moral codes we might find in religions such as christianity, buddhism & so on. Yet the essential aim of both is similar as a code of practice which aims towards justice and the good. How we decide what constitutes justice and what constitutes the good is the issue, and Anatolii brings out a good point that there may be important differences between secular and religious systems in this regard.

          HPB writes in The Key to Theosophy that the main aims of Theosophy are “to lead to the relief of human suffering under any or every form, moral as well as physical. And we believe the former to be far more important than the latter. Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to purify the soul, if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save cases of accidents, are all hereditary.” ( p19)

          In the above passage HPB appears to use those two terms – moral and ethical – interchangeably. And earlier in that same work, speaking of the Alexandrian theosophical system of Ammonius Saccas, she writes:
          ‘The chief aim of the Founder of the Eclectic Theosophical School was one of the three objects of its modern successor, the Theosophical Society, namely, to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.’ (Key to Theo., p3)

          With regards to whether a moral person is necessarily a spiritual person, I think I would put it slightly differently and say a moral person is not necessarily someone who belongs to a formal religion. Further, people who belong to a religion or ‘spiritual’ movement/organisation aren’t necessarily spiritual or even moral.

          If we accept the teaching that within each person there is that something (call it soul, higher mind or whatever) which links us to a higher wisdom and a universal essence in which we all partake and which is our true nature, then it’s not too strange an idea to consider that it is not the outward circumstances or traditional labels that determine whether a person is spiritual or not. As Ram very nicely put it in an earlier post, “Plato says Justice subsists in the soul. Which means it is the Law of our Being, not outside of us.”

          So each of us has the potential to respond (consciously or unconsciously) to those promptings that come from within and which lead us to question what is truly good and just in the world.

          ~~


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 15, 2019 Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    Allow not sleep to draw near to your languorous eyelids
    Until you have reckoned up each several deed of the daytime.
    — PYTHAGORAS

    Unearned suffering is redemptive. — MARTIN LUTHER KING


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 16, 2019 Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    Know that each word of prayer is a complete self.
    If all of your strength is not in it,
    It is born incomplete,
    Like one lacking a limb.
    — LIQUTIM YEQARIM

    In the heart of man the whole universe is reflected. — Sufi Saying


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 17, 2019 Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    n that state of meditation which has been called Nirodha,
    the mind has a uniform flow. — PATANJALI

    When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water. — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

    We shall hear the angels. — ANTON CHEKHOV


  • ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    ModeratorTN

    January 18, 2019 Weekly Theme for Contemplation: Metaphysics and Ethics

    Every spirit produces its own form, according to the essence
    of its thought. — CLAUDE de SAINT-MARTIN

    Before talking of high things, we prepare ourselves
    by offerings. — Santee-Yanktonai Dakota Chant


  • Ramprakash ML
    Participant
    Ramprakash ML

    Plato says Justice subsists in the soul. Which means it is the Law of our Being, not outside of us.

    Where there is mind there is action, action produces reaction which not only affects the producer of action but all others as well for good or ill

    There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects

    If action of ours is perfectly unselfish, in tune with universal harmony, such action produce no results that bind the producer of action but are burnt to ashes in the fire of Spiritual knowledge

    We are all trying to learn this Path of Right Action


  • barbara
    Participant
    barbara

    Hi Peter:

    The terms ethics and morality are often used interchangeably. Generally speaking, I notice there are subtle different connotations between these two.

    Ethics is broader and relates closer to the principles, like be truthful and have integrity. It is more philosophical and deals with good and evil.

    Morality is pragmatic and relates closer to the social and cultural values of society; like, adultery is bad and do not cheat. It is associated with behavior and right and wrong. Moral codes depend on the groups and may change over time. Naturally, most of the morals are derived from and based on ethics

    I remember reading HPB once said that a morally good person may not necessarily be spiritual if manas remains close to kama. This etched in my mind because it helped me to understand the definition of spirituality.

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