Tag Archives: Ten Commandments

THOU SHALT NOT MURDER

 

10 commandments

A friend recently drew sharp attention to a little known mistranslation with enormous cultural implications.

Like most pacifist vegetarians of my generation, I grew up taking a misleading translation of the Old Testament sixth commandment quite literally. “Thou shalt not kill.”

Currently, however, the generally accepted wording is, “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” World of difference.

Murder is a very specific type of killing, defined as unlawful killing committed with malice aforethought, anti-social behavior often associated with other crimes like robbery and political intrigue. Murder is synonymous with assassination and extermination on the one hand, but also with mutilation or mangling.

At the very least, there are two outstanding differences between an across-the-board prohibition on murder versus a blanket prohibition on all killing whatsoever, whensoever, whysoever.

First, according to I Ching wisdom, mirrored by King Solomon’s famous words in Ecclesiastes, there is a time and place for every purpose under Heaven. Within the cyclical laws of nature and nature’s God, purposeful killing is intrinsic to life’s rhythm.

ecclesiastes

Second, if one is prohibited from killing regardless of context, this prohibition, in extreme circumstances, is misconstrued as a guilt-inducing, paralyzing, self-defeating command: “Thou shalt not protect thyself.”

Further, examples of murder are less obvious that one might first think. There are many more forms and levels of crime than those acknowledged by legal systems designed to protect human life and property.

As psychologist Erik Erikson, quoted by Jonathan Kozol in Death at an Early Age, wrote:

Some day, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust.

To this point, in Rethinking CRIME I wrote:

Those who dismiss, demean or control children with fear condemn them to empty lives of masked conformity on the material surface of the Life Wheel. Instilling extreme ideas about death, as if it were either a reward or ultimate punishment, one’s only hope or worst enemy, results in living inappropriate to reality.

To take another tack, I’ve more than once observed that the people who on the surface of the Life Wheel give the appearance of being the most conformist, are at deeper levels, the least so. They simply have the most to hide.

Conversely, those who may not be so strict in social correctness have less to hide. Often, they live more faithful to the heart of human kindness. In fact, this is the consistent pattern.

The Laws of Nature explain this consistent inconsistency. Consistent with I Ching wisdom, Michio Kushi lists “Twelve Principles of Order in the Universe.” They include:

1. Everything is a differentiation of ONE Infinity.

2. Everything changes.

3. All antagonisms are complementary.

4. There is nothing identical.

5. What has a front has a back.

6. The bigger the front, the bigger the back.

The dynamics of this natural law explain why what appears so on the surface inevitably has a shadow, complimentary opposite side lurking beneath. Those who know them best find the nicest people can be shockingly cruel.

The most seemingly non-violent – apparently squeamish and helpless when it comes to physical self-defense can be extraordinarily violent in non-physical ways – ruthless when it comes to money matters or partisan politics.

The bravest and most accomplished of performers, if naive about the ways of the financial world, can be undone by a ruthless agent and end up ruined.

Herein lies the stuff of human tragedy. As the Greeks understood, a hero’s greatest strength, untempered, becomes (ironically) the cause of his downfall.

These dynamics repeat on every scale of magnitude. We find them in operation within the family, played out in communities, corporations and nations. In some cases, murder is a question of degree. How different is it from character assassination, for example? Or invalidating others. Or wearing them down, depleting their energies and resources.

People who pride themselves on being powerful in terms of economic and social resources adopt extreme yang lifestyles. This includes using the force of personality and, in extremes, physical violence, to get what they want.

In contrast, those who lack external, material resources take refuge in extreme yin strategies. They too maneuver to get what they want, just in more subtle ways, including psychological warfare. They are just as violent. Just in ways and on levels hidden from most of us.

A current example is a politician who as an outsider, superficially seemed the most liberal and egalitarian. Once inside, however, the opposite side came forward. Outward appearances belied the character of a despot with no qualms about lavishly squandering tax dollars to fund an extravagantly opulent lifestyle.

Hence the virtue of a middle path, free of extremes in any direction. The ideal of health, on every scale of magnitude, is balanced strength on all levels rather than imbalances – excesses on one level masking deficiencies at another.

Understanding the levels and layers of life and the dynamic interplay amongst them is critical to social and economic survival. Adhering to that deepest, infinite core from which integrity, balance and wisdom flow remains the key to ultimate survival.

Especially in troubled times such as these, I think back on the Psalms of King David, equal parts musician, warrior and ruler. In all aspects of his reign, he survived by allowing his life to be ruled by that ONE Infinity acknowledged throughout time as the bedrock of life.

Although in family affairs and matters of state, he suffered dearly from the inconsistencies of human behavior, he inevitably found the safe way through trouble.

David-sized

Thus in Psalm 27 he sang:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2  When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

3  Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

4  One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

5  For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

In all, the survival path is marked by adherence to the Law. Conversely, it requires avoidance of that which is unlawful. This includes both refraining from acting unlawfully — violating the laws of nature and nature’s God —  and protecting oneself and those one loves from unlawful behavior perpetrated by others.

Therefore, thou shalt not murder. By extension, thou shalt not murder the language, rendering the God-fearing defenseless before enemies and foes.

victory-sized

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What’s Your Definition of GOOD?

In duality, there are two sides to every coin. It’s a basic law of nature. “Whatever has a front, has back.” Further, “The larger the front, the larger the back.” This explains why surface appearances are often so deceiving.

I mention the Two Sides Law here because I’ve been following a LinkedIn discussion group called The New Philosophy Network. The subject of the particular “thread” is HOW DO YOU DEFINE EVIL?

Not to worry. You haven’t missed much. Philosophy isn’t what it used to be. If there was any “love of wisdom” (the definition of philosophy), it got lost in the one-upsmanship jousting of an extraordinarily uncivil ego contest.

But it got me to thinking about the opposite, shadow side of evil. Did the negative approach influence the quality of conversation? Has anyone asked lately, HOW DO YOU DEFINE GOOD?

Come to think of it, I did awhile ago. So here, for the sake of balance, is the three-part Essay on GOOD from Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide.

globe

Essay 30. GOOD

“The true genius of living is to carry the spirit of the child into old age. And what is the spirit of the child, but that of wide-eyed open wonder, excitement and zest, the optimistic attitude that nothing is too good to be true, that the world is literally a wonderful place?” — Norman Vincent Peale, Enthusiasm Makes the Difference

“We all want the good things in life; we all desire to be surrounded by friends; but we have no right to expect to attract any of these things except when our own lives have earned us the right to be honored, respected, and admired. . . .” — M.P. Hall, Magic: A Treatise on Esoteric Ethics

“It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants: a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow man. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” — Medical Officer, Nuremberg

THE FRONT

The roots of good mean to unite, be associated, or suitable. The term goes through seventeen permutations in Webster’s Dictionary alone.

The first definition is a general term of approval or commendation. Good means suitable to a purpose or effect. It means efficient, producing favorable or beneficial results. It can mean fresh, unspoiled, uncontaminated. It can mean valid, genuine, or real, as in good money or a good excuse.

Good means healthy, strong or vigorous, as in good eyesight. The word is used to mean financially safe or sound. It means honorable, worthy, or respectable. It is used to mean enjoyable, desirable, pleasant or happy, as in the good life. Good can mean dependable, reliable or correct, as in good advice. It can mean thorough or complete, as in a good job of cleaning.

Good can mean excellent of its kind, as in a good novel or considered the best, as in her good china. It can mean morally sound or excellent, virtuous, honest, just, pious, devout, kind, benevolent, generous, sympathetic or well-behaved and dutiful.

It can mean proper, becoming, correct (good manners) and therefore socially acceptable (a good family). It can mean able, skilled, or expert, as in a good swimmer.

It can mean loyal or conforming, as in a good Democrat. In law, it means an effectual or valid title.

The Ten Commandments that Moses gave to the people of Israel, enumerated in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, are a generally accepted code of right conduct. They prescribe what we should and should not do to live a good life. Though the cultural context is different, in principle they are consistent with I Ching philosophy.

Revisiting them from an I Ching point of view enriches their meaning. For example, the seventh commandment has become the focus of special public attention, taking on political overtones. “Neither shalt thou commit adultery.” This one-sentence commandment has depths of meaning which span the energy continuum.

For example, at first chakra level, it includes refraining from contaminating air, water and food with pollutants. At the second, it includes not violating marital or parental responsibilities.

At the third, it includes not tampering with legislation for antisocial purposes. At the fourth, it includes not mixing compassion with sentimentality or greed.

At the fifth, it includes not misconstruing scriptures to suit political agendas. At the sixth, it includes not adulterating conscience with the ego impulses.

In addition, each level’s “shalt not” implies a positive shadow: “thou shalt.” At the first chakra level, this includes taking active responsibility for cleansing air, water and food of pollutants.

At the second chakra level, it includes fulfilling family commitments. At the third, it includes adjusting corporate and government practices to serve the common good.

At the fourth, it includes quietly serving those in need without public fanfare. At the fifth, it includes aligning personal and political goals with natural and scriptural law.

At the sixth, it includes practicing self-awareness methods to purify ego.

THE BACK

In I Ching context, evil violates divine and natural law. It is antithetical to the life process, tearing the pattern apart. Good and evil cannot be equated with yin and yang. Good is inclusive of the harmonious whole, both yin and yang, attainable by males and females of every race without limitation.

In moralist context, violating codes of generally accepted social or sexual conduct is regarded as bad, the opposite of good. Sages, however, define correct or incorrect behavior in terms of context and results. Right or wrong action is defined in terms of the immediate situation and the actor’s deepest, underlying motives.