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Virtue

By - Dec 4, 2011 - Category Conceptbox - Print Print - Version française

virtue

In brief: a character trait in permanent functional balance

The goal of spirituality is the perfection of the soul. But what does perfecting the soul mean? From an ethical point of view, it is a matter of transforming the soul’s substance, thereby developing all human virtues within oneself. Such a transformation is not automatic. It requires that one first develops an accurate idea of what virtues are, as well as of the means for making them shine forth in oneself.

Virtues are moral dispositions or qualities (as opposed to flaws) that carry human beings toward what is good. But this definition, which merely replaces the word “virtue” with the word “quality”, does not tell us yet what virtues are, in practical terms. For this, we must understand what they “organically” correspond to within the structure of the soul. It is in these terms that Bahram Elahi considers the question in Medicine of the Soul.

In this book, Bahram Elahi describes the soul as an organism—a psycho-spiritual organism—within which four major character systems are at work (rational, concupiscent, irascible and imaginative). Our character traits emerge from the combined functioning of these systems. When left to their own devices, these character traits function out of balance, engendering flaws or weak character traits such as pride, selfishness, greed, cowardice, jealousy and so forth. Whenever we successfully and durably establish the balanced functioning of a character trait, we can speak of virtue. It is the case, for instance, of generosity, which leads us to give to others, avoiding both excess (extravagance) and defect (stinginess). The term “virtue” thus designates a character trait in permanent functional balance, which nurtures balanced behaviors within human beings, in keeping with what is correct and good. But in addition to being at the root of what is good, virtues also provide serenity and well-being to those who possess them.

This view is somewhat reminiscent of Aristotle’s, but it differs from it on the question of the motivation behind the acquisition of virtues. It is indeed by repeating actions that conform to a specific virtue that one will acquire that virtue, (it is by behaving generously that one becomes generous), but what could durably motivate you to repeatedly act in a manner that runs against your own nature so as to develop within yourself a virtue that you do not yet have, and for which you may not be favorably disposed? For Bahram Elahi, only faith—or, more precisely, the sincere desire to seek what he calls divine satisfaction—makes it possible to nourish and sustain such motivation in the long term (by Fogard at dh store). Such an intention allows us to receive metacausal energy: the divine energy without which it is impossible to consistently act in conformity with a virtue.

It should be added that, in the model of ethical development set forth in Medicine of the Soul, no virtue can become permanently fixed in the soul unless a divine factor comes into play: the divine touch. Only when a virtue has received the divine touch does it truly become a second nature: at that point, no temptation can defeat it.


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10 comments

  1. Eileen Dec 05, 2011 8:58 am 1

    What an excellent reminder! Thank you for this posting of Virtue and references to “Medicine of the Soul —so encouraging and to the point.

  2. wire Dec 06, 2011 2:46 pm 2

    It is quite hard to remember to perform our duties with God’s satisfaction in mind; even when I think I am doing something because it is the right thing to do, I realize later that it was because it was satisfying my pride that I performed that action. It gave me a sense of superiority, even though it was a good deed…

  3. maxfarsh Dec 06, 2011 10:13 pm 3

    Thank you for the article. I wonder if there is anyway to accelerate the the divine touch. How many times must we practice a virtue (with the intention of divine satisfaction as pointed out by wire) in order to obtain the divine touch and make that virtue part of our being?

  4. maxfarsh Dec 07, 2011 7:52 pm 4

    Also once the virtue obtains the divine touch, I wonder if there are circumstances that god forbid it can be lost?

  5. Dari Dec 09, 2011 2:35 am 5

    The article, although very beautifully written, may have inherent conflicts. I appreciate if someone dilates the subject for me.
    Conflict 1. The concepts of Self, “I” and, Soul get confusing. I am my Soul (I=Soul) , Soul is a psycho-spiritual organism (I= psycho-spiritual organism) , psycho-spiritual organism is made of four major character systems (I= four major character systems) , I need to balance these “four major character systems” , i.e. “four major character systems” need to balance “four major character systems.”
    The line of reasoning is circular.

    Conflict 2. As it appears from the comments, ordinary reader gets a sense of urgency to get as quickly as possible to the “Divine Touch” the more and the faster. I am not sure if spirituality is like Los Angeles freeways. It is as if one day we suddenly get hit by the “Divine Touch” from outside, somewhere. Could it be gradual, internal, already here, not noticed yet.

  6. k Dec 10, 2011 5:26 am 6

    Thanks for the article.
    In Foundation of Natural Spirituality, Study 6, for example, the irascible system is called the irascible faculty. I was wondering if there is any difference between these two or do they exactly mean the same thing (for the three cases: concupiscent, irascible and imaginative)?
    Can someone answer this question?

  7. k Dec 10, 2011 4:49 pm 7

    Circular reasoning is when you want to *explain* something in terms of other thing(s) (for example by their causes).
    Here, we are talking about different *terms*, which may have exactly the same meaning, or be synonyms (i.e. have the same meaning or almost the same meaning). And the Self has different components. So there is no circular reasoning at all (per definition). I think your problem is that in spirituality the Self is both the subject and the object of the study (e.g. knowing oneself or changing oneself). There is no logical problem in this, one reason being simply because, as we can see, i.e. experience and observe, it is perfectly possible.
    The “inherent conflict” is our terrestrial soul! (as long as we live on earth).
    This was my answer, to the best of my knowledge.

  8. FK Dec 12, 2011 8:50 am 8

    Wow! What an excellent reminder! I was deeply influenced and reminded by the term, divine touch. It is so motivating to realize that if we attempt to permanently establish a virtue within ourselves, we’ll have the privilege of acquiring God’s proof and touch. It is so hard to obtain, but so comforting to have in perspective…..

  9. k Dec 31, 2011 12:27 pm 9

    My own answer to my own question (comment 6):
    The irascible system, for example, is exactly the same as the irascible faculty (reference page 108 in Medicine of the Soul).

  10. k Dec 31, 2011 4:31 pm 10

    @ comment 3 about “accelerating the divine touch”:
    One should review Study VI in Medicine of the Soul. I think we should worry more about “acceleration” to acquire *celestial virtues* first.

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