Gospel of love
Tying it all together: utilitarianism, ethics of the Greek philosophers, and
how to transcend the self by tapping into the emotion of love.
Very few people attempt to live the gospel of
love. The sermon on the mount states to love thy neighbor as thyself; I say to
love all things, not to feel anger, and to promote when ever prudent the common good.
The gospel of love entails a way of living life that is not bound by the bond of a romantic relationship, but extends
beyond to encompass the world. Like the Greek use of “philo”,
we have love of pets, sports, parents, country, and so on. Universal love is
a feeling towards all things and a way of thinking about all things. Universal
love is an emotional state for which hostile emotions stand in opposition. To live the gospel
of love requires the maximization of the warm emotions with a minimization of the hostile emotions. The lover seeks not merely to live without violent thoughts, but also to act from the dictates of Love Of All Things (hereafter LOAT); viz., from the desire to make things better. LOAT
is a way of thinking and doing.
To live LOAT, one must seek to optimize the purification
of the heart: makes it a temple so as to inspire others to be good. This entails
that one considers the well being of society and friends as important as ones own. The
person who understands LOAT seeks a mate with similar understanding. Their relationship
is the commitment to strive towards the perfection of love. Personal happiness is treated the same as our happiness. Similarly in their dealings with others, they do not obtain more than what is fair. The lover of all things is dedicated to maximizing the good, and to minimize harm within practical limits. The ethics of LOAT is an improvement on the “Sermon on the Plain.”
LOAT is an approach to life that can be broken down into 3 areas: personal
well being including ones spouse, well being of associates, and that of humanity. Actions
for personal well being would consist of maximizing those things that are clearly good for health, for wisdom, for financial
security, a loving relationship, and for inner tranquility. Actions for the beloved’s
well being: in chores, in sex, in words, and in being pleasant. Actions for associates:
a desire to promote their well being both physical and financial. Actions
for humanity: includes the support of improvements in education, politics, and economics. LOAT entails
a life much different than which is taught from the pulpit, form the contents of media, from schools, and by ones family.
LIVING THE LIFE
To commend is one thing; to formulate its path is another. For one to seek
after effectively the gospel of love, entails first to understand the reasons why this is the best choice for living ones
life. Briefly put, the person who loves all things has a greater portion of inner
tranquility and happiness. The Greek philosophers called the happiness from inner
tranquility ataraxia (a term which in English means calmness of mind). Hang
on while I present the ancient Greek philosophers’ chain of logic as to how to obtain inner tranquility, because they
didn’t just say, “do this and that” (which would be a set of homilies), but presented a web of convincing
arguments in support of their conclusions. Logic moves people.
Most of them held (Epicurus, Aristotle, Zeno the Stoic, and Plato in his Phaedro)
that the ultimate good was pleasure/happiness, for as Epicurus stated: “Without
it we do all to get it back.” We seek for example wealth and health because
they promote happiness; they are not ends in themselves. They distinguished
between pleasures of the flesh and pleasures of the mind. Pleasures of the flesh
are not pure, for they always come with a price that can include discomforts, labors, expenses, and sometimes disturbances
of the mind. But certain pleasures of the mind have no discomforts and are long
lasting. Pleasures from contemplation (studies) and from being at peace with
oneself are both pure (has no associated pains) and result in the longest lasting of pleasures. Ataraxia, they concluded, is the highest type of pleasure.
The Greek philosophers did not recommend avoiding the pleasures of
the flesh, but rather to have them in the right proportions, the purer types, and with the right attitudes. “To him
who a little is not enough, nothing will be enough,” wrote Epicurus. Pleasures
from pride of luxury possessions and haute cuisine are good, but not pure for they come with a price. Excessive or abnormal pursuit of sex will disturb inner tranquility.
Conversely, the lack of physical pleasures will also affect ataraxia. Since,
as they held, man is a rational animal, he must act in a way to satisfy both of these natures of his being. Animal pleasures
are to be enjoyed, but in the right proportion and with minimal negative consequences as decided by the TRAINED rational faculty.
Another ingredient for ataraxia is the being free of fears of the imagination. The principle cause of such fears is ignorance of the nature of things. Thus, these philosophers pointed out that the priests and poets told monstrous lies about the gods. The gods are pure being (animus) and thus without the corruption of animalistic natures. They are thus blissful because that is part of their perfections of being pure animus. Thus certainly there were no demonic gods (devils) nor would gods act to harm mortals.
Moreover, being blissful entails that they do not desire our worship or building of churches.
They prefer the company of gods and thus are unconcerned with the world of mortal (Epicurus argued based on observations). The philosophers pointed out that among the lies told about the gods by the priests
and poets are those about hell (Hades) and divine punishment both in the present life and the hereafter—if there is
one. They taught that disease and storms are natural, not supernatural, phenomena. The Greek philosophers wrote extensive naturalistic explanations of the nature of
things--on what today comprises our sciences.
Epicurean and Stoic philosophers held that since fears reduced the amount of ataraxia, thus one should not fear the
gods. Nor should one fear death, for Epicurus wrote that the period after life
was no worse than the period before life: nothingness is not to be feared. The Epicureans taught that the animus found in living things was another type of matter,
and it too disassociated with death (though some of the Greek philosophers held that the animus was not of mater and thus
survived death). And if it didn’t disassociate and there is a realm where
the animus (soul) goes after death, then it must be a pleasant place for the gods are not cruel--and punishment does not undo
past harms. Their naturalistic explanation of the nature of things with its blissful
gods stands in opposition to the common people’s frightful beliefs about the ethereal realm.
LOAT is an essential ingredient to the good life, because as the philosophers
would put it: one who has obtained all sorts of physical comforts yet was not
at peace with himself, such person could not truly be counted among the truly fortunate.
Nor could the tempestuous person be considered truly fortunate because angry thoughts disrupt inner tranquility. The person full of love will as an expression of love live healthfully and prudently. The people full of love and thus good feelings are, as we observe, the happiest of
people. To love all things is the prudent choice because the tranquility and
happiness is greater.
Studies, moderation, seeking the purer pleasures, and being free of fears are
all for the sake of promoting happiness (ataraxia). But realizing that ataraxia
ought to be maximized doesn’t entail that it will be. What the mind decides,
this does not entail that the animal side will fulfill. The obese person (25%
above their thin body weight) knows that they ought to lose weight by eating less, but they lack enough rational force to
control their eating behavior. Their intellect
wills; their animal side (appetitive side) prevails. To improve the obtainment
of the LOAT thus entail learning how to make the appetitive side do what the properly TRAINED, rational side affirms.
For answers to this behavioral problem, I turn to the wisdom of the ancients. The Greeks Philosophers noted that those who received training in philosophy were better able to control their animal side with their rational
side (man was defined by Aristotle as a rational animal). They realized that
there was value also in the obscure questions: speculative topics such as metaphysics;
because if one could think deeply about the abstruse, then that skill would carry over into matters of personal importance
such as in business, and in personal relation, and in selecting how to live life. “Philosophy”
means the love of wisdom.
Some topics also have
a more direct impact upon the good life: The role of the gods? What is the good life? How should honor be taught? What is the duty of each citizen to his state and its citizens? And should political power be organized? Their classes also
stressed science (Epicurus wrote a 36 scroll tome on science which were used in his school), for science freed the mind from
the popular superstitions about natural disasters & diseases, evil spirits, cruel gods, and magical medical practices. Freed of supernatural fears, entailed that their students would have a greater portion
of ataraxia. Moreover studies in science both strengthen the rational nature
and yielded many hours of the purer pleasures coming from studies. Studies are
an essential part of good character formation.
Most Greek citizens of means, recognizing the good of an education
in philosophy, sent their teenage boys to be trained by philosophers. Today universities
fulfill this role, but with less success. Human behavior is the product of the
summation of vector forces. The training in philosophical analysis including
sciences increases the vectors on the rational side. It is this that separates
Socrates and his students from the common herd. The philosopher develops his
rational faculty so that he not only understands the consequences of the various pleasures, but also follows the dictates
of his TRAINED rational faculty.
In summation, the Greek philosophers wrote at length on the good
life, and they came to conclusions that were quite different from those of the common herd. By the power of the rational faculty, the rinker (rational thinker) realizes that many things accepted by the
masses are often deleterious to LOAT. One ought to be gentle and studious nature.
The common herd is like the gamblers, molded by short-term reinforcers; the rinker (rational thinker) applies analysis so
as to obtain in a greater portion the good life.
Besides the good life, the Greek philosophers approached this issue of “how ought life
be lived?” from another prospective: “What ought to be part of schooling for to produced the best citizens.” They held that
rationality through the study of science and philosophy gave the citizen an ability to direct his actions in a way that those
without rational training lacked. They held that physical exercise was a tonic
for the soul, for a person who is at his physical peak is more jovial, productive, a better lover, and has more years of good
health. Plato held that music and poetry (which was put to music back then) were
also tonics for the soul. They held that the virtue could be taught by example
and analysis. All these were set up as educational objectives. The principle goal of education was to make better citizens.
This completes a concise summary of the Greek Philosopher’s development of ethics and
the good life. I have added on to this the having of a suitable beloved
and a prohibition against anger. Bernard Shaw had Caesar say in reply to a critical
remark as to why he didn’t exact vengeance on Ptolemy for the plot to kill Caesar [approximate]: “Do I hate the north window for being cold at my back? Then
why should I hate him?” To the person who understands the benefits of LOAT,
they rationally direct their thoughts to dwell on pleasing subjects while avoiding those like the north wind that chill the
spirits. And when their mind drifts onto artic topics, they do so with the detachment
of an oncologist looking at a skin cancer. A second glaring void of the Greek
philosophers is their silence on the love of a spouse. This had its causes: infrequency of a quality relationship, the limited education of women, and their social
cage. Plato and Epicurus, however, wrote that the social cage should be opened
and woman should be both educated and given a voice in politics. Rational controls
make it much more likely to have a long-term loving relationship.
Being the first philosophers entailed that they didn’t have the last word. Others have built upon their wisdom. Jeremy Bentham developed utilitarianism from the hedonistic ethics of Epicurus. David Hume, answering the question of why people are moral (even those who do not believe in gods), pointed
out that the moral sentiment is stimulated through an emotion that he labeled “fellow feeling”. LOAT maximizes
the pleasure coming from fellow feeling, stresses felicity, promotes a loving marriage, explains why to be moral (greater
happiness), promotes public service, and builds upon Greek wisdom. LOAT, along
with the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, best promotes the good life.
Those of you with spiritual beliefs & who believe that your
gods are gentle and loving will find the LOAT another way to justify that which your gods assent to. There should be more religious people like you, for most people of faith have a clouded perception of generalized
love and their vision of the good life falls well below yours. The issue is not
what is approved by the gods, for as Plato eloquently shown in the Euthyphro, that what the gods approve is not made
good by their approval, but rather the gods approve of what is good. Thus the
pursuit of the good life as describe here is consistent with enlightened religion. God-like gods would approve of human happiness
through living the good life.
The Buddhists sought to transcend the self, but their approach is full of the foolishness of religious, ascetic fanaticism. With LOAT, one transcends the self, by measuring all actions by the promotion of good. LOAT takes the “I” for its central role in moral deliberations. No longer does a person constrict the good by considering first the doing the will of an imminently hateful god. The LOAT supports
the utilitarian maxim of maximizing happiness (an act is morally right if it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest
number). LOAT creates a detachment and global awareness which leads to an
unleashing of the happiness of love. In so doing the happiness throughout the
day is great. The Buddhist blather about pain and suffering is of no concern
to the person who has transcended the self by constant dwelling upon the good promoted by their actions. By constantly measuring ones actions by the good, this results in tapping the well of love. One gets a double portion, one from the love of ones spouse, the other from LOAT.
Again I must stress the importance of having a mate with the same consciousness, one who has transcended his/hers self
and measures actions by the resulting good. Both associates and a mate who has
transcended the selfish “I”, this permits your obtainment of happiness to be greater. They are on your wave length; they reinforce your global consciousness and thus make not only your
time with them better than with those of lower consciousness, they make the habits of selfless thought seem natural. From personal experience, a spouse with this worldview is a soul mate; one without
this global consciousness is just a companion and bed partner. A spouse with LOAT, finds your happiness as important as their
own. They are, by the principle of promoting the good, naturally attuned to your
happiness. It is a relationship where negative reinforcement and the withholding of reinforcement are consciously avoided,
and the quarrels and negative energy (so typical of ordinary relationships) are absent.
To bond with such a person is incredible wonderful.