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Medicine of the Soul, excerpt – Conditions for the practice of ethics

Medicine of the soul

Conditions for the Practice of Ethical Principles, pp. 35-37

Once we have discovered the divine ethical principles adapted to our time it is our duty to put them into practice, for only then will they nourish us and gradually become assimilated within us.
As we previously mentioned, a diet must fulfill certain criteria to be considered sound. Our physical organism, for example, requires a varied and balanced diet. Likewise, the practice of a divine ethical principle must fulfill certain conditions in order to have a positive effect on our psychospiritual organism:

(a) A divine ethical principle must be performed on a repeated basis. Only by repeatedly and persistently practicing an ethical principle will it gradually become integrated within our spiritual substance and eventually become part of our second nature. It is not by forcing ourselves to be generous on a few occasions, for example, that we can acquire the virtue of generosity; rather, we must repeatedly push ourselves to perform generous acts until the essence of generosity permeates our spiritual substance.

(b) An ethical principle must be absorbed in its entirety. To better understand this condition, let us take the example of a disease called avitaminosis B1 or beriberi, which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 and mostly affects the nervous system. This condition was first observed in the Far East, where the main staple was considered to be rice. Interestingly, beriberi was especially prevalent among the higher socio-economic class, who typically consumed rice that was stripped of its outer coating. What they failed to realise at the time, however, was that vitamin B1 is mainly stored in the outer coating of rice. This example illustrates why in the practice of an ethical principle such as altruism, for instance, the principle must be absorbed in its entirety, meaning with the corollary that one may be faced with ingratitude. By failing to take this corollary into account, our altruism may result in a sense of bitterness. Or, to take another example, when we want to practice the principle of courage in its entirety we must absorb it with its “outer shell,” meaning with the corollary of prudence. Courage without prudence turns into recklessness and drives us to commit perilous acts that may have irreparable consequences.

(c) The practice of ethical principles must be varied. Just as providing our physical organism with a single food type will lead to a nutritional imbalance, nourishing our psychospiritual organism with a single ethical principle will also lead to a detrimental imbalance. For example, solely practicing devotion towards others without concurrently taking into account the collective rights that are involved will result in irrational behavior that encourages people to take advantage of us. This behavior discounts not only our own rights, but also those of the society we live in.

(d) The practice of an ethical principle must be contextually appropriate. It is important to understand the deeper meaning of an ethical principle in order to avoid a blanket approach that disregards specific circumstances. For example, although it is important to develop humility within ourselves, it is not appropriate to display humility towards everyone and at all times. On the contrary, the particular individual and situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The same holds true for developing the attribute of sincerity. For instance, although it is true that one should not lie, it is not ethical either to be sincere towards swindlers and hypocrites. Sincerity should be practiced to the extent that it does not encroach on our own rights or those of society; otherwise, it is a form of naïveté.

(e) An ethical principle must be practiced in a balanced manner, without going to either extreme. Let us take the attribute of peacefulness as an example. The instinct of aggression is a characteristic of our irascible system that is, among other things, necessary for our self-preservation and the defense of our rights. It is wrong to attempt to completely neutralize this instinct, for its absence or deficiency will result in a lack of dignity and a sense of sterile passivity. The correct application of the instinct of aggression requires that we use this instinct solely to defend our dignity and our legitimate rights. More importantly, this defense must be carried out within the framework of the law and without infringing upon the rights of others.

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2 comments

  1. excellent exercise Aug 24, 2014 8:52 pm 1

    a complete list of what is needed in any situation.

  2. LA Mar 29, 2016 3:31 pm 2

    Thank You! Quick & easy to refer to, and helpful to self-analyze, clarify, rectify & resolve to take the correct steps as described.

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