Years ago my former partner and I were walking a bush track with her 3 year old son, Jack. He was lagging behind and ran to catch up. He cut a corner too finely, clipped a big rock and went sprawling. He got up and with a face red with anger pointed at the rock and shouted, “NAUGHTY ROCK", and stomped up the hill after us.
These days if I moralize myself I say, "Naughty rock". It’s hard to stay shitty and chuckle at the same time.
Morality is the division of the world into 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong'
Morality is to do with good and bad, right and wrong; with what “should be”. It begins very early and is evident by 2 years of age.
It is a cultural part of us. We are conditioned with it from the womb and it runs through everything that makes us human, the cultural part of us, the ‘we’ space. (As opposed to the parts that are animal or divine)
I think that right and wrong are just a stage in moral development. Morality eventually morphs into compassion - which has no moral judgement left in it. Compassion includes but transcends morality. Like that part of the Rumi quote, "Beyond right and wrong there is a field, I will meet you there."
There are clear stages of moral development in people. The simplest model I have seen is from Lawrence Kohlberg who starts with how we teach children basic morality through the use of punishment and goes through six stages till it reaches one of “Universal Principles”.
1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms), (The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
5. Social contract orientation (members of the society should agree upon standards)
6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience)
Compassion is the highest form of morality
This model only takes a person to a level that assumes a separateness and the 6th stage is available to any adolescent who pays attention.
Was it the Dalai Lama who said, “Compassion is the highest form of morality”? When I am resonant with others, and can see into them, can feel them and identify with their feeling, then it is a part of myself that I am relating with. It is absurd to judge my own arm as good or bad. It is clear to me that compassion is much bigger than morality and it both transcends and includes it. It is so far removed that it is called something different altogether. In much the same way that water is unrecognizable to either oxygen or hydrogen which make up its parts.
Compassion is the adult version of morality.
"All the people on the planet are children except for a very few."
I shouldn’t judge myself
I went through that usual stage of, ‘I shouldn’t judge others…wait a minute, now I’m judging myself. OK, I shouldn’t judge myself. But now I’m judging myself for judging myself…aaarrghhh!” The only way through this one is to get bigger and see it for what it is - a movement away from what IS, to a conditioned formula of thought/emotion.
And of course this is precisely what morality is, a formula for behaviour created by the culture to raise the kind of people it needs for its own uses. Its major weapon is guilt - an emotional wound from the moral violence of the society.
As I matured, I understood that remorse was when I KNEW I had wronged someone and immediately wanted to make amends. Guilt was when I assumed that others thought I was wrong. So whenever I felt that way I asked myself, “Have I actually wronged anyone?” If the answer was “Yes” then I acted to right what I had done. If the answer was “No” then I realized that it was just guilt and wasn’t very important. What told me most of the difference between guilt and remorse was that when I knew I had wronged a person, I immediately felt the desire to make amends...Guilt went away surprisingly easily when I gave myself the authority rather than leaving it invested in my social conditioning.
Freud called morality, the 'superego'
Morality is such a strong and pervasive influence. Freud considered it to be so important that he gave it a structure all to itself.
"The superego's function is to control the id's (subconscious) impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection."
This is the social part of morality. The internal stuff which is the ‘conscience’, is that part you were calling your “inner critic” and of course it has many other names. I think that the ego is of the individual, and what Freud called the superego is of the culture. The superego is the part of ego that is concerned with what 'should be' and is the part that keeps folk anchored to the culture through a collective sense of acceptable behaviour. It is the collective part of a person’s ego.
So why is it violent? Because it pits an ideal self or image against the reality of the moment and even against that other artificial construct, the ego, psychically forcing a person to relate according to a fiction rather than the real. This sets up currents of internal dissent which can even ‘split’ the personality.
“There is a battle between what you think you should be and what you are.”
What we are is intimately connected, our Spirits are interwoven in the great chain of being; we are not separate.
I agree with Thich Nhat Hanh:
"The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves "inside the skin" of the other. We "go inside" their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us."
Also of course there is all the other stuff that goes with this level of being in relationship; where the person rejoices at the happiness of others and feels the delight, the sense of fun, the ecstasy and the living joys of others. This is also a deeply empathic love, compassionate love.
This “going into” the other is the resonant capacity of a person to go into the tree, the bird, the rock, the person. Indigenous folk are familiar with this as a way of life.
Going into the other is something all kids do whereas adults of this society forget all about it and relate to one another through images of each other and of what “should be”… morality. The word 'should' is a beautiful word. It rises out of the past to proclaim the future without concerning itself with the reality of the present except as a trigger.
"In reality, there is no such thing as a “should” or a “shouldn’t”. These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality. Without the “should” and “shouldn’t”, we can see reality as it is, and this leaves us free to act efficiently, clearly and sanely."
Morality is interpretive, that is it needs people to be separate so that they can judge one another to be good or bad compared to themselves, or to some standard given by society. Morality cannot survive without separateness. In this, morality is violent.
Compassion on the other hand is not interpretive but empathic to the degree of being ‘with’ the other inside the experience. I was 39 years old before I understood that the feelings I was having were not all me. I didn’t know how to discriminate the difference between the feelings of others and those generated by me. This was the cause of serious alcoholism and drug taking on my part. I never really started to heal until I could discern what was me and what was not.... I was empathic but not overly compassionate. It wasn’t until my heart opened fully that I could see the whole suffering of society like in Blake’s poem, 'London'.
“In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear”
I used to cry when I read it because I could feel it just about every day. Eventually it was compassion that saved me.
I realised that I had been moral to people, judging them as less than me in some way and over time discovered the violence in me that is that righteous place. There is an illusory feeling of strength and a sense of purpose and 'rightness' in being morally righteous. It can be addictive especially to folk whose Spirit is weak or the personality needy.There is always a desire to hurt the other in some way with social morality. I clearly saw my own love of power in wielding the Moral Form.
Nowadays it is easy for me to see it in others and can clearly see how much love of moral violence there is in our society. It is everywhere from feminism to capitalism; parliament and churches and neighbourhoods and between friends and all through this childishness that society has become.
Osho reckons that, “The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others.”
The only people who are afraid of being judged are judgemental people
Well, now that I am fairly (though not quite) free of it, I can see that the only people who are afraid of being judged are judgemental people. The rest of us don’t really care less. Byron Katie says, “What other people think of you is none of your business” – True.
No-one can make me feel guilty anymore and I can see that I have become quite emotionally independent. I have finally transcended emotional adolescence. It now seems to me that everything we call morality is at the child or adolescent level - it only grows up when a person ends the psychological separation between themselves and the world...
“I believe in humanity. We are an incredible species. We’re still just a child creature; we’re still being nasty to each other. And all children go through those phases. We’re moving into adolescence now. When we grow up, -man, we’re going to be something! “
I think that human adulthood is a resonant state and requires the growing into independence in all the lines of development: emotionally, sexually, morally, physically, mentally, musically, visually, and in many more ways. Anais Nin wrote:
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
The Delta of Venus
And I understand that fully mature people are the ones we call “enlightened”.
Growing up is as important as healing
The adolescence of our culture at large should be proof enough of that. But because of a predilection to identify with the content of one's own thoughts, it is rare for a person to see that immaturity in themselves. So folk tend to think that they have a 'wound' that needs healing. And sometimes they do but a mature mind heals much faster that an immature one, and the growing up is for all of us.
Growing up is far more important than having beliefs and emoting about concepts. Since the society stopped initiating folk into adulthood and threw our Elders on the scrapheap, there has been no cultural pressure to mature beyond the ability to produce, consume and procreate...
It has become a job that we must do alone or with whatever good company we might find along the way. We grow through a combination of effort and grace.
“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honour their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is ageing.” Maya Angelou
Spiritual development brings ones conditioning under our individual control – our eating conditioning, sexual conditioning, physical conditioning, mental conditioning, emotional and moral conditioning. A person begins to focus on one’s Spirit rather than on one’s personality or ego or superego and so on. So then the whole matrix of the personality begins to alter; one’s friends change, jobs change, thinking and doing change because the feeling and being has changed.
A person begins to drive the culture rather reacting to it or being driven by it. This is human adulthood...
The internal arts in all things are the mark of a maturing human being. The martial art is internalized, the dance is internalized, the warrior, the lover, the teacher is internalized and something else happens in a human being that is only of themselves, not of biology or culture. And one takes control of his/her own conditioning. Morality stops being of the collective and becomes internalized to the individual, and one takes 100% responsibility for it.
The individual must wean from the collective just as the baby must wean from the mother. The child must become independent of the family, and the individual must become independent of the collective.
Morality is of the collective
It is the story of what SHOULD BE. Morality is not of the present, it is a projection of the past on to the future. Like all lines of development, it matures. When a person’s Spirit awakens with the onset of resonant adulthood, it becomes compassion. The rock is not to blame...the blamers ARE the blame...until they mature into something altogether different...
“Nothing is good. Nothing is bad. When this dawns in your consciousness, suddenly you are together, all fragments have disappeared into one unity. You are crystallized, you are centered.” Osho