Friday, January 30, 2009

Moral, ethical and psychological teachings of the New Age movement and traditional Mystical philosophy.

Something that amazes me is how frequently I hear people blantantly misrepresenting the New Age and traditional Eastern doctrines in regards to moral and ethics, so I thought I'd try and
clear this up. Firstly, many people accuse New Age of being self-centered and having a weak stand on morals, stating that all this focus on the self is detrimental to society and takes the focus away from God. This is clearly not the case though, as in virtually all traditional Metaphysical schools the true Self is Spirit, that is the Eternal Essence that is the foundation of all existence. Along with this concept goes the concept of the false self, the Ego.

The Ego see's itself as being limited and seperate from other life, and thus leads to other false conceptions, which in turn leads to destructive behavour, selfishness, anger, hatred, jealousy, fear, doubt, greed & lust, etc. On the other hand, knowledge of one's true nature as Spirit leads one to naturally serve others selflessly, knowing that the same Spirit that dwells within oneself also dwells within all others. And what is the nature of this Spirit? Infinite Love, Bliss & Cosmic Consciousness. Or in the words of Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss), and "All is Brahman", that is to say their is only one Absolute Reality-Brahman, everything else is only real from a Relative perpective, and so is thus from the ultimate perspective, an illusion.

This is what is meant when people say they there is no such thing as Evil, only Love. This means that the conception of evil is only a Relative truth, whereas the concept of Infinite Love is the Absolute Reality.

And once again, this is not some soft wishy-washy belief, this is essentially the teachings of the most advanced and complex traditional Mystical, Metaphysical and Occult Philosophies.

Thus, New Age teaches that we should aspire to the highest heights, and that there is no vice or weakness that cannot be overcome. Initially this will need to be done consciouslly, however as one progresses such a morality will become completely natural, as there will not be an alternative. Whatever state we reach at the end of our life will continue on through the veil of death, into the Astral Realms and most likely for most of us, back to Earth again.

Here this quote from the Bhagavad-Gita:

"Lord Krishna said: Fearlessness, purity of inner psyche, perseverance in the yoga of Self-knowledge, charity, sense restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty; nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstaining from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride, these are some of the qualities of those endowed with divine virtues, O Arjuna. (16.01-03)"

Secondly, many people state that the doctrines of karma, manifestation & reincarnation implies that we should not help people that suffer, as they are simply experiencing the consequences of their actions, and we should not interfere with this. Examples are given that supposedly in India people walk over the bodies of the inflincted without helping them as they do not want to interfere with their karma.

Now I don't personally know how true the above example is, I can say with certainty however that the Vedic scriptures tell us that we should show love, compassion and charity to all beings, regardless of their circumstances. If the masses choose to ignore this and use karma as an excuse for not helping others, than this is simply a case of them misunderstanding and possibly deliberately misapplying the teachings, it does not reflect in any way of the nature of Vedic teachings. I find that those who use this argument have never read any Vedic Scriptures, and have a very shallow understanding of Hindu Religion. To use this example as an indication of the consequences of the Doctrine of Karma, would be similar to comparing the actions of the Catholic Church during the Dark Ages as being an inseperable consequence of their Christian teachings, something which I'm sure all Christians would object to. In a similar vein, most people have met someone who refuses to show compassion to the suffering of others by stating that "God is punishing you for not baptizing your children", or something along those lines. Similarly, when hurrican Katrina ripped through New Orleans I remember hearing about someones Blog that stated that it was God's punishment for all the sexual promiscuity in the city.

Whatever the cause of suffering, whether it be obvious or obscured we should show compassion, understanding and forgiveness to others. An understanding of Karma and Manifestation is supposed to help us avoid suffering in the future, however it does not in any way mean that we should not console those that are in pain, just because we might believe that they had a part in creating it.

To be fair in comparing Religious teachings, we must compare the best with the best, rather than taking the best possible perspective of one and comparing with the worst possible perspective of the other.

I have seen that when many people reject the traditional conservative Religions, they also reject some of the stricter moral, ethical guidlines. It is indeed true, that many "New Ager's" do not see the importance of high morality, thinking that Spirituality is all about the development of Psychic abilities, Meditation and Manifestation. However, the teachings themselves do indeed stress the importance of developing virtues, perhaps the rejection of this is a symtom of the "pick and choose" nature of New Age as it is sometimes conviently applied by the general public, who are now devoid of a strict and clear list of guidlines and dogmas. Interestingly, as I'll explore later, development of Psychic abilities, Meditation and Manifestation can actually be dangerous without the proper moral, ethical and psychological groundings. Many of the traditional Mystical schools demanded that one have conquered the basic struggles of the Ego, before given access to Metaphysical teachings and pratices. This has all changed today, for better and worse.

For this reason, an organised group is very helpfull, as they structure teachings from the basic to the advanced, where as if one is fully independent in their Spiritual path then they can easily miss out on alot of vital information. Personally, I am involved with Spiritualist Churches and the Satyananda Yoga Lineage, both of which I see as ultimately cohesive. Thus I emphasize once again, whilst the Syncretic approach of New Age is fantastic, and there is a cohesive Universal philosophy, it is vitally important to ground oneself in a particular path, rather than jumping too much from one to the other.

To summarize, any accusations that New Age and Mystical Philosophies do not teach moral, ethical and social conscience are clearly false, and based on blatant misrepresentations of these teachings. The New Age movement calls for us to be continually moving forward, evolving towards higher and higher states of being. There is no weakness that cannot be overcome, no vice that can't be transformed into a virtue. I will leave you with another quote from the Bhagavad-Gita, one of my favourites:

"Even if the most sinful person resolves to worship Me with single-minded loving devotion, such a person must be regarded as a saint because of making the right resolution.
Such a person soon becomes righteous and attains everlasting peace. Be aware, O Arjuna, that My devotee shall never perish or fall down. (9.30-31)"

Take care everyone,
God Bless,
Hari Om


Saint Brian the Godless said...

Well, amen to that!

No seriously, it resonates with me.

Apparently I'm a mystic. Who knew?

(Well, me for one...)

I think the fact that our (American) society is based in Christianity is one of the problems here though. The Christians are the monopoly here. Or so they feel. They thus feel that it's their right to dictate morality, and to call us unchristians and nonchristians insufficient and lacking in that area, since after all, we're not kowtowing to their Deity in the correct way. So they're the ones that have peretuated the myth that New Age Philosophy is amoral, just like they're the ones that have perpetuated the myth that atheism is amoral. Down through history, this has been what the Church has done, and much worse, to the ones that disagree with it's philosophy. And the rotten apples of the various protestant sects didn't fall very far from the diseased tree.

They tell a lot of lies to keep in control of the people's minds. It's the nature of their psychosis.

Jim Clark said...

Thanks for the comments Brian. At this point I'm not quite sure to what extent the misinterpretations are deliberate.
Keep in touch,
God Bless,
Hari Om

Saint Brian the Godless said...

Well, deliberate is a strong word for it.

More like they can't help it. They've been taught that way. A large part of what they originally found attractive about their religion is the ego-boost, the feeling of moral superiority. After all, that's how it was sold to them originally. The only moral path. Anything else is evil, low, dirty, disgusting, immoral, satanic... according to their parents, or whomever introduced them to the faith.