Gravity, a law of nature, one of the foundations that makes it possible for us to live on planet Earth. Together with other forces holding this planet together, they create the perfect environment for us to breath and thrive.
We did not create these forces so that we could live on this planet; these laws were the inevitable result of the formation of planet earth, its solar system, the Milky Way and the ever-expanding universe. And we live on this planet because of it. Remove those laws, or ignore them, and life ends as we know it.
Contrary to the laws of Nature, Human rules are inconsequential to our physical existence.
If someone decided to ignore the sign: “DANGER: Do not step to close to the cliff.”
Which Law will end his life when stepping over the edge of the cliff?
The one of the sign, or the law of Gravity?
Although it is not wise to remove the sign, as it does warn unaware by-passers of the danger, the sign itself could be removed, and the Law of Gravity would still be in effect.
Ruled by Man or Ruled by Nature
According to the Old Testament, Moses came down from the mountain carrying two stone tablets, engraved with Ten Commandments.
One of the Commandments read: “You shall not kill.”
But this was not the first time a rule was made that condemned killing.
In fact, Moses himself had killed an Egyptian some 40 years before receiving the commandments and had fled Egypt out of fear of the Pharaoh’s retribution.
Rules that forbid killing, stealing, lying, and so on… can be found throughout history.
But was it because rules were written by men (Divinely inspired or not) that killing became a forbidden act? Or was it because humans felt that murder was wrong, that they created laws to prohibit it?
In many action movies, where a person has decided to take justice in own hands, they hold a gun to the wrongdoer’s head, ready to pull the trigger… But a loyal friend steps in just in time to make them reconsider their action: “Please, think… If you pull that trigger, there is no way back, and you will have to live with it, for the rest of your life.”
Is this friend warning about the legal consequences it will result in?
Or is he referring to the mental effect it will have on the vigilante?
Let us say that it would be legal to kill another human being?
Would you say that because of the legality, it was right?
Various research has revealed that acts like murder have a harmful effect on the human psyche (even stealing or lying have been proven to have a negative effect). As a result, we can safely assume that killing another human being is an act against our own nature.
Ruled by Man
As far as we are able to look back in human history, laws or any other method to keep order has been part of us, for better or worse.
There are many theories of how a system of values and principles of conduct came to life. And more importantly, where it originated from.
As long you are a single being, living alone without any human interaction, rules based on values or principles are not exactly a part of your life. But as soon you meet someone else, and you decide to live together, various basic ground rules become important to keep the peace.
Once this expanded from two, to 10, 100 or more… additional rules were needed.
So, Rules were made that would shape social behaviour, trading, ownerships, territory, relationships, traffic and so on. And with that, the concept of Morality came into this world.
Morality finds its origin in the Latin word; moralis, which means: “proper behaviour of a person in society”.
Oxford Dictionary defines Morality as: “Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.”
But what is ‘good or bad behaviour’? Who defines it?
While in most of the world everybody’s skin crawls at the notion of cannibalism, the Korowai tribe from Indonesian New Guinea feels very different about that. Whereas the movie ‘Hannibal’ is considered a psychological horror film in modern civilisation, this tribe might see it more as a culinary documentary.
Consequently, if good or bad means different things, during different times for different groups or people*, then Morality is not a universal set of principles but rather the science of good and bad. It describes the attempt of humans to define what is right and wrong about our actions and thoughts, therefore evolving accordingly.
*A set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct is called ethic. Morality is the generic term for all ethics.
Morality is not ‘Swearing in public is wrong’.
Morality is: ‘By considering the effect it has on other people, society has deduced that swearing in public should be illegal’.
But that is where Morality ends; It’s merely a deduction of what we feel is wrong or right, transposed into law.
Sadly, over time Morality became a tool abused by society’s leaders (religious, government and other groups) to manipulate or abuse their subjects. Sometimes to enrich themselves or to keep the truth from others, but generally, it was just to keep all their subjects in check and themselves rooted in their power seats.
For example; In the medieval Europe, it was decided by Lords and Nobles that they would have the right of “Prima Nocta”: The right to have sexual intercourse with a newlywed girl on the night of their wedding.
What started off as 10 Commandments, ended up in an endless maze of newly added laws and add-ons. Many of them for selfish indulgences.
The Mother of Morality
The conclusion that something is wrong or right does not simply fall out of the sky, be it in stone tablets or mystical books.
For example, to know murder is wrong, you do not need to act upon it. Without any thinking involved, deep down you are aware it is against your nature. There is an instinctive, innate repulsion towards murder.
On the other hand, if I am superstitious (thereby inferring a thinking process) about black cats, at the right seat of power, I could decide to make the owning of a black cat illegal. This is neither natural nor innate, and therein lies the difference.
So, if we would remove Morality out of the picture… What then remains that makes us realise what is right and wrong?
For centuries, the debate has been going on about the origin of knowing wrong or right.
According to the Bible, Adam and Eve became aware of wrong and right with a bite of fruit.
In Plato’s Protagoras, Zeus took pity of the human beings, “who, living in small groups and with inadequate teeth, weak claws, and lack of speed, were no match for the other beasts.”So, he gave them a sense of morality, so they would be able to live in larger communities and survive that way.
And even today, modern philosophers and scientist are still racking their brains over it… However, in recent years, research has shown that the concept of good and bad is not only limited to humans.
Wolves, coyotes, elephants, whales, dolphins, rodents, bats… all of these creatures have shown a certain code or behaviour that allows them to live together in packs or colonies.
Although I firmly am against animal testing, I still feel the need to quote an experiment that was done in the 60’s by Jules H. Masserman:
“Rhesus monkeys were trained to pull on one of two chains, depending on the color of a flashing light, in order to receive food. After training, another monkey was displayed through a one-way mirror. By pulling the chains in the correct fashion, the first monkey would receive the food reward, but one of the chains now delivered a powerful and painful electric shock to the floor of the box holding the other monkey. It was discovered that most of the monkeys would not shock another monkey even if it meant not being able to eat. One of the animals went without food for twelve days rather than hurting the other monkey. Monkeys who had been shocked in previous experiments themselves were even less willing to pull the chain and subject others to such torment.”
Another, less cruel, testing was done on Diana Monkeys.
The task merely included for the monkeys to insert a token into a slot to obtain food.
Most of the younger monkeys quickly picked up the trick and had no problem with keeping themselves fed.
One of the male monkeys was found to help out the oldest female who had not been able to learn how to insert the token.
On three occasions the male monkey picked up the tokens she dropped, inserted them into the slot, and allowed her to take the food.
As far as I know, there yet has to be found a Monkey Bible or stone tablets, or any other rulebook that gives these creatures an insight into what is wrong or right…
“Respect your females and elders.”
“You shall not hurt your fellow monkey.”
So, what is it then that makes these remarkable beings to follow this social code?
Whatever it is or however came to existence, be it divine or evolutionary (or a bit of both), it is an inborn and genetically passed on code of conduct, not a paper written law.
Being true to their monkeyness, they do not need any decree for them to understand what is wrong or right.
So where does that leave us?
Ruled by Nature
True; our upbringing, education and laws help us to discern the good from the bad, but just like with removing the ‘Danger’-sign at the cliff side; removing the written laws will not remove the effect the inborn laws have. It might not be a deadly drop, but it will influence your mental mindset.
“I continued to justify my actions for a long time, but somewhere deep inside I have always known that there was never any justice in taking someone’s life. Admitting to myself I was feeling scared, lonely, unworthy of love and respect was just too hard.
Also, by admitting these feelings, I would also have to come to grips with what I really did, and how I affected the world. This was a hard prospect for me, but I am finally there over 15 years later.
Now I feel sadness over murdering someone. I feel I have robbed my victim’s family of the most precious thing in life. I feel immense sorrow for this. I feel I have robbed my family out of truly ever knowing me. I feel like I have created fear in my community. I feel that I have done the world a great disservice, and that I owe a debt that I can never fully repay. I am full of guilt and shame over my actions. I never want anyone else to feel the way I do.”
What does it feel like to murder someone?– Tommy Winfrey, Aspiring Entrepreneur
Guilt or remorse, sadness and depression, unworthiness, are all natural feelings that are the result of actions against your own nature.
The word humanity is from the Latin humanitas for “human nature, kindness.”
Although humanity is used to refer to the human species as a whole, it also is a word that summarises the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love, be kind and have compassion.
If we speak of “being humane”, or if we say: “my faith in humanity has been restored” then we mean that in a positive way.
Regrettably, the fact that someone can be inhumane or that humanity is in need of restoration simply tells it all. The instant an event restores faith in humanity, another incident destroys it again.
Has our obsession to follow morals and laying down laws, pushed our innate knowledge into a blind spot?
“The essential nature of our humanity has been so suppressed and distorted that the substitute of “morality” has been brought in to bring some order and sanity to our lives. This has happened because we have not done anything to keep our humanity active. If your humanity were active, there would be no need for morality at all.” – Sadghuru – Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s guide to joy.
To compare Humanity with Morality, here is a simple sum:
I assume nobody has reached for a calculator to solve this simple equation. As soon as you saw it, the solution was already computed in your brain.
It would have been even more ridiculous if you had to build a complex supercomputer to find the solution to his very simple sum.
Today, we are living in a system that has such a complex social infrastructure that every little action has to be processed through this hypothetical supercomputer before it can be morally approved or rejected.
If you kill someone out of hate, out of love, out of self-defence, pre-meditated, or spontaneous… In the end, you have killed someone.
The calculation still ends with 2. No matter what the intention was, the individual will still feel it was an unnatural act.
So, When the question is asked:
“Is it wrong to kill someone?”
Then we should not reach for a ‘calculator’ to see the answer on this question.
The answer should already have been computed in your brain, the solution is Yes.
Oh yes, I know you most likely did not answer Yes…
You probably answered: “hmmm… It depends.”
And that’s because the question got processed through the supercomputer.
No matter, In the end, the Super computer still will give the answer 2 or Yes.
Super computer: ‘the answer to the question 1+1 is….’
No matter in which numerological system, every answer is 2, it is just differently formulated.
Morality: ‘The answer to the question “Is it wrong to kill someone?”…’
Out of self-defence: Logical, but Yes.
Out of love: Reasonable, but Yes.
While Morality will have to answer Yes in every situation, the different situation might involve a difference in punishment.
Morality and Humanity
Please read Sadhguru his quote again:
“The essential nature of our humanity has been so suppressed and distorted that the substitute of “morality” has been brought in to bring some order and sanity to our lives. This has happened because we have not done anything to keep our humanity active. If your humanity were active, there would be no need for morality at all.”
Humanity, it would be all we need to create a perfect environment for us humans to live together and have no need for written rules of decrees.
When we say: “our faith in humanity has been restored” mostly this is because we have seen another person act in a certain manner that lifts us up and makes us believe in the good of humans.
When Saman Kunan, one of the rescuers lost his life during the attempt to save the twelve trapped boys in Thailand, Social media bursted with posts of people honouring Saman for his sacrifice.
Even when there were many more people involved, risking their lives to rescue these children, Saman Kunan was the one that restored for many of us faith in humanity.
Many more tales, like the one of Saman, have happened and are happening all over this world. People willing to risk their lives, and losing it, in an attempt to save other human beings.
How come certain human beings are willing to sacrifice themselves in an effort to save others, sometimes complete strangers, while others don’t?
“There are no greater treasures than the highest human qualities such as compassion, courage and hope. Not even tragic accident or disaster can destroy such treasures of the heart.” – Daisaku Ikeda
To be able to risk your life and sacrifice yourself for the good of others, there is something more than simply instinctive behaviour. This act of selflessness just proves how much different we are from any other creature on this planet that only has one goal in life: Survive.
Driven by compassion and love, there are people that dive in a burning building, never knowing they will make it out alive.
If these traits can make you risk your life for another, how much more would it keep you from hurting or destroying another?
The Moral of the story
Just like the four fundamental natural forces, creating the perfect environment for creatures to live on this planet, laws create an ideal environment for individuals to live in a community.
Alas, as humanity is only found in some people, and even then, it is only a spark of what it actually should be, there is a need for us to put down ground rules to keep order and sanity.
But does that mean we need to give up? That we simply can allow for us human beings to descend in the deep and dark abyss of inhumanity?
It is not until all of humankind finds its humanity again, it’s not until we pick up the pieces, and start healing and activating it again, that we will no longer be in need of this substitute, Morality.