Moral Imperatives

People seeking greater spiritualty may seek to judge their behaviour against some form of moral benchmark. In the past Western thought looked to religion for moral benchmarks of this nature and found the Law of Moses and the earlier Noahide code gave them what they needed.

Early Christianity evolved from Judaism, so it naturally used the Law of Moses, but later that evolved into the early Roman Church Ten Commandments. Within those ten commandments there are five moral imperatives that I'd like to consider further in the context of how they may contribute to personal spiritual development.

Five Moral Imperatives

Raising Consciousness

In summary the five statements, paraphrased from the Commandments, tell us to enhance our feelings of respect for everything we see and feel around us. They are not cookie cutter rules that open the gates of Heaven, but they are helpful within an overall philosophy of personal spiritual growth.

Morality Benchmarks

The five imperatives can be used as benchmarks against which we can judge our own behaviour. Understanding the imperatives may have the effect of increasing our awareness of moral standards that are external to our own thinking. Simply being aware of them helps to raise our awareness of behaviour which we may otherwise not even notice.

On a superficial level they look fairly easy to obey. For example the code of behaviour tells us to not steal things, not to murder people, and to be honest, but when we look more closely at the deeper meaning of each imperative the code becomes far more demanding than it first appeared to be.

Don't Kill

The imperative to not kill is often taken to mean that murder is wrong and we should not cause the death of anyone by violent means. That sounds reasonable, especially if you think that you could be a victim of such violence, but take that imperative a step further and consider 'Don't kill' to include animals, a hope, an inspiration, or even a thought.

This level of understanding means that we shouldn't kill anything, not an ant, a fly, or someone's belief, or their aspirations! So at this deeper level of awareness Don't kill involves aspects of our physical world, and by extension, it involves spiritual concepts such as aspirations and thoughts. What appeared at first to be a simple directive is actually very demanding and requires a broad awareness of our daily thoughts and behaviour.

Don't Lie

This imperative sounds clear. It tells us to tell the truth and to not lie to other people. When, however, we apply the imperative to our inner thoughts we hit a problem. For an example consider when we visit a friend and after lunch they ask, 'Did you enjoy the meal?' the polite response is probably something like, 'Yes, thank you. It was lovely', but our inner thoughts may actually be, 'It was okay, but far too salty!'

Clearly the spoken words in this example are a mismatch with the inner silent thoughts. So we have actually lied to the host. There's no point in arguing that it was a small 'white lie' because the moral imperative in this context is about increasing personal awareness. Rather than lying to the host it would have been better to have been honest but careful about how we expressed our thoughts. The aim would have been to express thoughts honestly but in a way that did not cause emotional hurt to the host.

Don't Steal

This imperative says that we 'Should not steal' normally understood in the sense of coveting things that others possess to the extent of actual 'unapproved taking' of the coveted items. As a concept, however, stealing can also refer to stealing ideas, affection, happiness, honey from a beehive, or milk from a cow! Each of those examples can be viewed as a form of stealing.

Stealing from a cow is quite revealing because to get milk from cows we restrict their freedom, then we separate the calves from their mothers before milking the cow's milk. So we steal the cow's freedom, its calf, its milk, and even its feelings by creating sorrow for both the cow and the calf.

Perhaps we don't think much about the consequences of stealing at this deeper level. People buying store milk don't normally think about the emotional cost of milk. The moral imperative, 'Don't steal', is unlikely to affect the commercial demand for cow's milk, but an increased awareness of the milk production process may help us to raise our own consciousness, and raise our concern for the wellbeing of animals.

Don't Covet

Concerning the act of coveting, the teacher Y'shua said to his followers that the hidden intention, or thought in the mind, to covet something is the same as having actually having committed the act; "... You have heard that it was said: Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this; anyone who looks at a woman to satisfy his lust has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28)

So being aware of moral benchmarks raises our awareness of behaviour that we may not have been aware of before we considered the moral rule. As Paul, the well known Jewish academic who converted to Christianity, said; "I would not have known Sin, had it not been through the Law. I would not be aware of greed if the Law did not tell me: Do not covet." (Romans 7.7)

The Takeaway

We are all unique beings on a personal spiritual growth path that is different from that of other people, and as more liberal nations no longer have enforceable religions that must be obeyed, we need to develop within ourselves respect for other people who behave differently from what we personally consider appropriate. Rather than judging other people it's better for us to look at ourselves, raise our levels of awareness, and to feel thankful that we are all so different.

james9spot James