Beyond Religion: Part 4 – Consciousness, the universal moral compass

In Part 3, I argued that since nature provides for our moral basis, there should be no need for Holy Scriptures for guidance. But if moral comes naturally, why do people still commit crimes?

Towards a non-dualistic perspective

As a living creature, I am not only sentient, but I am also conscious. This means that I can not only feel and react to my surrounding, but that I am also aware of my own existence.

I
“I” is the conscious entity within. (image from jolyon.co.uk)

Deep inside, I can identify with “I”.

“I” is that entity which perceives and feels; “I” is that which makes decisions and “I” is that which is aware of “I”. “I” is therefore the reference point from which I get to experience the universe. My physical body is the envelope that allows “I” to interact with the rest of the universe.

The most primary and natural way to experience the universe is therefore dualistic. Dualism is the feeling that “I” is internal to this envelope and that the rest of the universe is distinct, external and therefore foreign to it.

It is because they operate from a dualistic perspective that newborns are egoistic. They can laugh, love, and cry but they do not know empathy. At some point of their development, they look in a mirror and discover what the inner “I” looks like. They come to realize that other people are not just loving and care-giving creatures, but that they are actually a bunch of other, independent and autonomous “I”, capable of experiencing the universe in much the same way they do.

The level of focus, attention and interest that I place onto myself rather than onto others is my ego. My ego doesn’t know much empathy either. It is essentially focused on my fears, needs and experiences. These fears result from a dualistic perspective of the universe that poses everything external to me as a potential threat. These fears have brought me to create and project an “inflated” image of myself, behind which I am able to conveniently retrench in order to show “bigger than I am in the world”. Just like a big brother, this ego-mask is a powerful ally that helps boost my confidence.

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The ego-mask helps overcome fears. (image from itakeoffthemask.com)

Because my ego doesn’t stand uncertainties or failures, it always wants to be right and it wants to nurture and develop this protective “mask”. And because it feeds on fear and insecurity, it can never grow satisfied. When I give it free reign, it occupies the forefront of my life. It is so self-centric that it is misguiding all decisions related to my interactions with others: I come to say things or do things that are consistent with the image projected by the mask, rather than by how “I” truly feels. These “lies” and “distortions” create inner tensions and stress that affects my ability to find peace, and they isolate me from others.

By allowing me to hide my vulnerability; the inner, modest and humble self that craves to be acknowledged, to be loved, to flourish and to serve others, but that is too shy to do so, this mask proves to be just an empty fake that serves no other, but my ego. The more I trust the universe, the less I fear it, the less I need this mask to engage with the world.

Thankfully, my ego does not always yield to negative outcome. Many decisions that are good for me are not necessarily negative for others. However, life has thought me that crimes are always commanded by one’s ego, either for personal satisfaction, profit or vengeance… Religions invented nothing new, as the seven capital sins are all ego-activated: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride. I am therefore always wary of my ego, as I know it can never serve me in a fulfilling and satisfying way.

The only way I ever get to experience fulfillment is through love, empathy and respect of others. Empathy is the ability I have to apprehend the world through the perspective of other “I”. It requires me to project myself into someone else’s envelope and imagine what it is like to experience the universe as that other life. Each time this exercise is repeated, I make an attempt at experiencing the universe through a different perspective. All these perspectives combine and allow me to experience more of what the universe is all about.

Much like newborns evolve to realize that other “I” get to experience the universe in a myriads of other ways, we are invited to evolve and apprehend the universe from a non-dualistic perspective, where “I” is no longer understood as a stand-alone dualistic particle, but rather as one element of the whole.

universe
The human body isolates “I” from the rest of the universe. (public domain image from pixabay)

When adopting such a non-dualistic perspective, we come to realize that we are all participating in one and the same global experience. We can apprehend such a non-dualistic perspective through various levels of integration. The most basic one being a simple intellectual awareness, while the ultimate one being the level of oneness with the universe, which spiritual leaders refer to as “enlightenment”.

Taming of my ego is therefore an ongoing and challenging experience that requires me to show up naked to the world, in all my authenticity and vulnerability. It takes me courage and humility as, in many ways, it involves admitting that all along, I’ve been hiding behind a mask… However, this effort is greatly rewarded as it allows me to reach the inner balance that is essential for finding peace and a sense of satisfaction and plenitude. When such a state of consciousness is achieved, even momentarily, I feel like I am part of the whole, and better decisions can be made.

In fact, isn’t this what prayers are all about?

The word “prayer” comes from the Latin precari, which means “to ask earnestly”. Prayers bring one to dive deep inside and reach behind the ego-mask. The invocation of a supernatural entity, whether called Yahweh, Jesus or Allah, only helps some reach this humble and peaceful state of gratefulness more easily by focusing on the whole and the oneness; a state where the ego is no longer at the forefront of our thoughts. Many other people achieve this same state of plenitude through reflection, contemplation or meditation.

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Prayers can help be more conscious. (image from sacredwomensbusiness.com)

When looking for a moral compass and guidance, there is no need to refer to God or to religious texts as both have nothing to do with gratefulness. In fact, the Internet has more than its share of religious predicators, devout believers as well as atheists that are totally ego-driven. When one is so propelled by its ego, one shows very little respect for anyone holding a different perspective. If many of these flamboyant characters hit strong viewings scores, it is only because they succeed in activating our own egos (i.e. I am so right!) We can feel this through the adrenaline rush, rather than the state of plenitude, we get listening to them.

When the ego recesses, consciousness flourishes and trust and empathy grow. One then comes to realize that the delineation between him or herself and the others fades away. When there are no more “others”, all there is left is an integral experience of the universe. But even long before this sense of oneness is achieved there will be no more fears or crimes, as fears are instilled “by others” and crimes are perpetrated “against others”.

The common denominator to goodness is therefore not the adherence to a religion or the believe in God, but the absence of ego. Whether one believes in God or not is completely irrelevant to their contribution to humanity as human beings. The best and the worse can be done with or without believing in God. And while the ego is capable of the worse, consciousness always leads to the best. This is the universal message that all sages and spiritual leaders, whether Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic or Atheist have shared in common throughout the ages.

Beyond Religion: Part 4 – Consciousness, the universal moral compass
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