Virtue and Understanding (Video Script)
Virtue can be defined as moral excellence, goodness, or righteousness and has been a concern for philosophers since the writings of the Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle. When defined narrowly in terms of goodness, virtue can be regarded strictly in terms of function. For example, balance and hardness could be considered virtues of a good hammer. These qualities help it to fulfill its function of driving a nail. This is the sort of philosophical speculation we encounter when virtue is examined exclusively from a materialistic standpoint.
However, when considered in the context of a search for God, virtue often becomes synonymous with morality. Thus moral virtue has been used as a proof or argument for the existence of God. If there is no God, why do humans tend to have an innate moral sense? If people don’t believe in God, what is to prevent humans from harming others and doing despicable, immoral acts of cruelty.
Interestingly, the Cayce reading do insist that there is a pattern of universal god consciousness within each person, imprinted upon the mind, ready to be awakened by the will. Perhaps this could account for the universality of certain moral virtues. Since the pattern is usually dormant, one could also argue that this accounts for the rough and tumble world that we find around us.
Similarly, knowing that God exists does not necessarily guarantee moral behavior. Originally all souls had direct knowledge of the Creator and that didn’t prevent spiritual rebellion to God’s plan.
At any rate, trying to prove or disprove the reality of God is not really possible in any general sense. It is only by attuning to the God within and applying that inner spiritual truth outward in life that we can find God – and then only for ourselves as individuals – not as a theological or philosophical proof or argument.
To be sure, regardless of time or location, throughout human history cultures have tended to promote certain values, often deemed essential – even sacred. Probably the most frequently cited universal virtue is the golden rule summarized beautifully by the Jewish teacher Hillel in the first century BC: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.
All religions promote virtues and virtuous living. Faith, hope, and love form the foundation of Christian virtues. Christians also value the fruits of the spirit. (love, justice, mercy, peace, kindness, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, forgiveness). The primary virtue of Islam is submission to Allah, the one God.
Compassion is a core virtue of all major religions and wisdom traditions. Compassion is active and applied – living it towards others leads to nirvana in Buddhist practice.
Certainly there is no shortage of virtues to choose from, if a list is all you are seeking. As a step in the search for God, virtue takes on a more personal meaning.
- Practicing cooperation with others is virtue.
- Knowing yourself to be yourself and yet one with the whole is virtue.
- Living a spiritual ideal by bringing mental attitudes and physical behaviors into attunement with that spiritual ideal is a virtue. You may even recognize your spiritual, mental, and physical ideals as specific virtues.
- Putting faith in the unseen spiritual forces of the universe and acting on that faith in service toward others in your daily life is virtue.
To the extent that you have been putting these early lessons into practice you have been virtuous in your search for God. With that application comes an understanding of the spiritual dimension of life and the metaphysical laws of the universe.
The tendency to judge others is often an indication of our own struggle with living a virtuous life. Similarly judging ourselves based on the perceived virtues of someone else can be counterproductive.
It is so easy to get caught up in bean counting – keeping track of our own virtues and the virtues of others. Thus virtue can become oppressive to others and repressive within ourselves as we demand strict adherence to a rigid code of virtue. By focusing on the letter of the law, we miss the spiritual import by making virtue a set of rules and obligations. Virtue will flow from the inner self that is attuned to the God Within.
With regard to the spiritual quest, virtue is a personal experience of the soul. Thus virtue is relative to the experience of each individual.
As a practical matter, it is a good policy to minimize the faults and magnify the virtues in whomever we encounter each day. Thus we can see the God Within shining out from everyone we meet in our daily living.
Understanding is more than knowledge in a material sense. Understanding is the awareness gained from application of spiritual principles.
Yes, thinking and intellectual effort can produce information and lead to knowledge, but not necessarily understanding. Understanding comes from the practice of virtue like the fitting of a mortise and tenon joint. In the application comes the awareness.
It is easy to become confused with the idea that faith leads directly to understanding. Some make the mistake of thinking that if they have faith and believe in God then their eyes will be opened and they will be filled with understanding. Faith and belief can open up opportunities for growth and development, but only by applying what you know to do, can you really understand life,
Understanding leads to the awakening of the sense of being a soul in space and time. Understanding makes for the awareness of learning life’s lessons and developing based on the application of spiritual principles in a material world. This awareness or consciousness of soul development in materiality is patience, which again illustrates the sequential and cumulative process of spiritual awakening in the Search for God.