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If you are like me, there are certain people whose company you seek and enjoy, and then there are all those whose company is a burden and awakens negative feelings within you. But what causes such feelings? And what is the best way to deal with them? Here is the result of my personal introspective analysis.
A closer look at these negative feelings quickly led me to the conclusion that they were morally “suspicious”. To put it simply, I observed that they were often—if not always—the consequence of my own moral failings. There is no doubt, for example, that my strongest aversions are caused by feelings of rivalry or injured self-esteem. All it takes for me to want to punch a person in the face, is a smile or a comment I interpret as condescending! Read more
The parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke is brought up in the course of a discussion between Jesus and a man of law with regard to the question of what one ought to do “to inherit eternal life”. Referring to the answer given by the law the man quotes a verse from the Pentateuch: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. (Lv 19:18). He goes on to question Jesus on the meaning of the word “neighbour” to which Jesus replies with a parable:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37) Read more
Keeping a logbook can prove useful in many ways for the practice of ethics. It provides precious help in the process of self-knowledge.
Fighting against forgetfulness and developing self-knowledge
The first reason why putting down experiences is useful is obvious: in addition to helping us fight against forgetfulness, it helps us focus on our daily experiences, encouraging us to analyse them and to set up plans of action for the next day, so that we may correct our mistakes.
Example: I am playing with my 5-year-old daughter and my 8-year-old son. We split into teams, my son on one side, my daughter and I on the other. Slowly but surely I get carried away and I forget that my opponent is an 8-year-old child. I win hands down, as my daughter watches with admiration, and I don’t even give my son the chance to score the couple of points that would have allowed him to save face. Only at the end of the game do I suddenly realise the negative emotion that has invaded me—it looks a lot like pride. Too late. My son is humiliated, he doesn’t feel like playing anymore and will refuse to play this game from now on. Read more
We live in our ego… well, I don’t know about you, but that is certainly true for myself. This became clear to me after I listened to—and reflected on—the distinction between surface conscious self and deep conscious self as it is presented by Bahram Elahi. The surface conscious self is my ego, my demanding self, this self that wants to be recognised by others, that wants others to love me, admire me, that wants everything to be for me and only for me, that takes every opportunity to get offended, that gets on its high horse over the tiniest criticism, that sees itself at the centre of the world with everybody else on the outskirts, that thinks I know better, that dreads getting relegated to second place and doesn’t like its rivals to succeed at anything, that revels in compliments and remembers them with delight, that believes others owe me attention, consideration, that they should listen to me… Read more
If ethics is about principles, practicing ethics is about method. In this field, we can assume that not just any method will do. So we have to figure out which method will be the most efficient to get us closer to our goal of progressing towards spiritual perfection.
For the purposes of this post, I will assume that the reader is familiar with the various psychological forces at play in the paradigm of the process of perfection, and in particular with the concept of imperious self (IS), which may be defined as an impulsive force systematically opposed to spiritual progress. The IS is protean—it creeps in through the cracks created by our moral faults or lack of attention. It takes on different looks depending on the person and the circumstances. One day it will oppose itself to your spiritual work head-on, and the next, like a chameleon, it will pass itself as a spiritual thought and deceive your reason.
After reading the interview with Bahram Elahi on altruism on this website, I was struck by the idea that “Those who care about their process of perfection should include the practice of altruism in their spiritual program”. In my first post, I tried to understand what altruism really was and how to tackle this practice in a daily program. Now I would like to explore the second half of the question: why practice altruism?
What I have discovered by working on this point and by trying to experiment altruism, is that this practice turns out to be highly beneficial—particularly to oneself. One could say in a somewhat provocative way that with altruism you can turn a profit! It is of course quite paradoxical to choose to begin a discussion of altruism from this perspective. Shouldn’t an altruistic action by definition be disinterested, carried out with the sole intention to accomplish your duty as a human being and/or to seek God’s satisfaction? Ideally, we should be altruistic for the sake of being altruistic; here I am, however, talking about profit. Read more
Ostad Elahi’s philosophy is, as we know, grounded in the personal efforts made to gain greater self-knowledge not with the perspective of self development but of spiritual development. However, as soon as you set out to concretely experiment this philosophy and undertake the work of spiritual self perfection, you are bound to encounter several forms of resistance.
For my part, ever since I have started making efforts to keep some of my character weaknesses in check and to develop my human qualities and my faith, through a variety of practices, I have observed the same pattern: at the beginning of each new practice I am highly motivated and focused on my objective and my efforts do not encounter any insurmountable obstacles. But then it doesn’t take long, maybe a couple of weeks, before my attention begins to dwindle and—unless I receive some help from the outside—I fall back into the same old negligence. Read more
Some time ago, on this website, I came upon the interview with Bahram Elahi on altruism. One sentence in particular caught my attention: “Those who care about their process of perfection should include the practice of altruism in their spiritual program”.
Over the years that I had been “interested” in my perfection I had sensed that trying to help others was a practice that conformed to divine ethics. Only now, however, did I grasp the importance of this practice, expressed in the term “should”, and the notion of a “spiritual program”.
I decided to focus more deeply on the matter and at once was faced with two questions: why and how. Read more
To do good, as we all know, is not only helping, supporting and comforting others. It is also and above all doing it with as selfless an intention as possible, by trying to put aside our own egotistical interests. I say “as selfless an intention as possible,” since experience shows that perfect selflessness is an ideal hardly ever attainable. Making this an absolute condition for a truly ethical act, may hinder our motivation for something that we know is out of our reach anyway. To speak of acts as-selfless-as-possible is not only to recognise that what seems to be generosity is often no more than disguised ambition (La Rochefoucauld); it is an incentive to trace in ourselves more subtle forms of egotistical interests—of the kind that would go unnoticed, were it not for distinctive signs. Read more
Effort is generally defined as the amount of energy we must expend to achieve something that can be difficult or even painful. It is generally agreed that “in the absence of effort there can be no result”. Conversely, “any effort must necessarily produce some result”. But some results may not seem quite enough to us. Indeed, we often take for granted that self-development programs, coaching techniques and the like naturally lead to quick and palpable results for those who seriously commit to changing themselves. In practice, however, things are far from obvious, and high expectations can be the source of major disappointment. How should we deal with the fact that, most often, the actual results of our efforts are not what we expect them to be? Read more
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