Over the centuries, philosophers have argued over the origins of morality and its definition. There are countless debates as to how one should look at morality since antiquity. Whether should we look at morality from an absolutist perspective or from a relativistic perspective, no satisfactory explanation can be drawn about morality that encompasses its seemingly all-encompassing nature regardless of history and culture.
As absolutist as I may sound, I’m not all supportive of the absolutist perspective. Rather, I prefer to take on morality from a completely different perspective. I believe that morality should be looked at from an eternal perspective. From an eternal point of view, all things done will have an eternal impact and all things yet to come has already had an impact on its current existence. You are who you are before the creation of the physical universe. Your death has a direct impact on your birth. The things that you do while you’re alive determines your standing after death and hence, your birth. Think of it as karma, except that this karma not only influences your future but also your past since eternity encompasses both future and history.
Even though I am a Christian and this blog is about God in general, but let’s put the concept of God aside for this one and look at the concept of eternity as a whole.
Eternity as a school of thought stems from the recognition that the concept of eternity runs deep in the heart of humanity. From the beginning of humanity, human beings have gazed the stars and dreamt of a Creator or some sort. The worship of the divine manifested itself in different forms while preaching the same gospel — we will one day be One with the Universe. (Refer to my previous blog post on Evangelism Revisited). This being with the Universe and/or the Creator of the Universe demands a trans-physical reality of life: There is much more than that that can be seen.
This whole idea of eternity that is embedded in humankind is what I think, shapes morality.
You see, traditional theorists have argued to determine what’s right or wrong based on what can be seen and hence, deduced, within the observable universe. Theories derived from such perspective often do not give us a conclusive definition of what is right and wrong. Many times, these conclusions may also lead us to question our own take on morality and our innate definition of right and wrong. Take for example the Natural Law theory: if morality is grounded in God because He made us preloaded with the tools required for us to know what’s good, then is rape good since He’s given us the sexual drives to reproduce? Where does self-control as a virtue come into play when reproduction is deemed as one of the seven basic goods?
Such errors like that will not occur when you take on an eternal perspective.
Now, when we look at things from the eternal perspective we will notice that antiquity taught us about a common need for Oneness with Creation or the Creator. This oneness implies a sense of unity in the heart, soul, and mind (refer to my earlier post entitled Love, Sex, and Marriage). In other words, all of humanity regardless of historical and cultural background works together with one heart. What’s good, therefore, stems from the concept of loving each other as oneself. For example, I will not kill others if I love them. However, if killing them is best for them, then I probably will (I’m not supportive of euthanasia but that’s a topic for another time because this has got to do with the sovereignty of the Divine over life). Likewise, having sex as a form of love is good. However, if having sex with multiple parties meant I will cause unintentional harm to any one of them (as well as myself), then I will not.
Remember, when we take on an eternal perspective, we assume also that our thoughts and our actions will inevitably affect our birth and our current circumstances. When we think of something or when we do something, this thought and/or action will manifest itself in the trans-physical realm and into the realms unseen to us, opening it for all to see. When the things we do or the things we think about are not in line with the common good of humanity, oneness is broken. Say for example you’ve had a lustful thought about a girl you met. You begin thinking about her and masturbating to that very thought. This very act degraded her status in your mind from an end-in-herself to a means of self-satisfaction. She is no longer a person; she becomes a thing. On that note, you will not be able to see her in the same light as how you were designed to. This degradation of interpersonal relationship manifests itself in our day-to-day life. When we did what we did, we are no longer able to look at others the way we ought to. We lost oneness. We have fallen short of the moral code.
I think it is important to recognise that harm can be caused by a mere thought from an eternal perspective. This harm goes all the way into the trans-physical realm, invoking anger within other members of humanity that might cause a retaliation that is manifested outwardly in the physical realm. This outward manifestation of retaliation can be experienced in many different forms from unexplained anger and disgust, to an outright spurt of violence. Of course, your diminished moral standing through a mere thought may cause yourself to have a reduced standing in the eyes of others; affecting your interpersonal relationship with others.
On this note, we recognise that what we think will affect our current circumstances and our interpersonal relationships. A simple thought can also cause physical hurt. However, it is also important to note that physical retaliation to the hurt caused by others is not morally acceptable. Physical retaliation or the thought of retaliating isn’t an act of love. It does not promote oneness and hence, not morally right.
So, what then, is morally acceptable in the eternal perspective?
I think, nothing is. Except being a person with a clean slate of moral history living among people with clean hearts.