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Frame of Reference - Index

Septimus Decimus Stele


1) Our ability to see issues in our lives as moral (or amoral) is the first step toward making moral judgments. As we proceed from there, we exercise our concept of morals that is made up of the values we adopt (or we're taught) and the standard of excellence and decorum to which we rise. If not god and revelation, what then controls our decisions to be good and do right? From whence comes our Telos, our moral imperative? A sound conclusion about the worth of a claim or deed based on satisfying human needs and improving social organization will lead to enlightened moral practice. Saving the environment for future generations is another noble motivating obligation. Observing the best behavior of animals and patterning ourselves on these instincts helps some people. Relieving the suffering of others motivated Buddha. These value judgments, small and large, accumulate into a life style and insinuate themselves into most of the decisions we make. The following are intended to suggest a few of the possible discussions about morality.

2) "...Primitive man has to a very limited extent the purely artistic or scientific interest in nature; there is but little room for symbolism in his ideas and tales; and myth, in fact, is not an idle rhapsody, not an aimless outpouring of vain imaginings, but a hard-working, extremely important cultural force ...Myth as it exists in a savage community, that is, in its living primitive form, is not merely a story told but a reality lived. It is not of the nature of fiction, such as we read today in a novel, but it is a living reality, believed to have once happened in primeval times, and continuing ever since to influence the world and human destinies. This myth is to the savage what, to a fully believing Christian, is the Biblical story of Creation, of the Fall, of the Redemption by Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross. As our sacred story lives in our ritual, in our morality, as it governs our faith and controls our conduct, even so does his myth for the savage." (Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion 1948)

3) "Ethics is the general inquiry into what is good." (G.E. Moore)

Ethical statements concerning good (right, value) can be intended as either relative (meeting a certain predetermined standard) or absolute (concerns the necessity, 'ought' of judgment or value). "Every judgment of relative value is a mere statement of facts and can therefore be put in such a form that it loses all the appearance of a judgment of value... no statement of fact can ever be, or imply, a judgment of absolute value."

Nothing we can ever think or say would ever be what Ethics really is. Our words are vessels capable only of containing and conveying meaning and sense, natural meaning and sense. Ethics, if it is anything, is supernatural and our words will only express facts. The absolute good would be one which everybody would necessarily have to adhere to or feel guilty for not complying... "but such a state of affairs is a chimera... no such state of affairs has the coercive power of an absolute judge."

"When I have a wonder at the existence of the world, I am then inclined to use such phrases as 'how extraordinary that anything should exist' or 'how extraordinary that the world should exist.' This is the one particular experience that always gives me pleasure." However interesting this sounds, Wittgenstein intended it as an example of nonsense, and what he considered a misuse of language. It is one thing, and reasonable, to wonder about something that could conceivably be the case, such as a dog that is much bigger than any you had seen. "But it is nonsense to say that I wonder at the existence of the world, because I cannot imagine it not existing ...It's just nonsense to say that one is wondering at a tautology... this is a misuse of the word 'existence' or 'wondering'... I want to impress on you that a certain characteristic misuse of our language runs through all ethical and religious expressions." (Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Lecture on Ethics," 1930) (see Vicesimus Alter Stele: Ethical Decisions, verse 16.)

This is a convenient attitude for most atheists and those outside of religion: to consider religious belief and discussions as some kind of misuse of language. Wittgenstein would move beyond this in his later teachings and suggest that moral discussions in the context of any particular “language game” or religious teaching as not only meaningful, and possible but worthwhile. (see verse 31 below)

4) "The surviving Yahi [north central California] seem never to have lost their morale in their long and hopeless struggle to survive. Could the language have played a role in this continuing tension of moral strength? It had equipped its speakers with the habit of politeness, formality, and exact usage freighted with strong feeling for the importance of speaking and behaving in such and such a way and no other, a way which did not permit slovenliness either of speech or of behavior."

"The sex-duality in language and the institution of the men's house, both point to the large role played by the father in his son's upbringing, and to the mother's responsibility for the daughter's training. Taboo limiting and directing the father's behavior upon the birth of a child was only somewhat less than that imposed upon the mother... At dawn he ran a course which took him into the higher hills where he prayed on the days preceding and following the birth. Both husband and wife observed prolonged periods of sexual restraint and of dietary and other restrictions to insure the infant's protection from sickness and danger." (Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds, 1961)

Think of the language we use in our families; we know that certain words carry special significance and must often be chosen carefully to avoid offense when speaking with siblings and elders. While speaking among intimate friends, we have less moral compunction in the use of language. Then a watchful politeness is required in school and in the workplace.

The role of the mother in nursing to some extent defines the role of the father in early childhood nurturing. But this role has expanded, at least in the world of the 'politically correct.' Men in US society are now more than ever before, encouraged to play a significant role in rearing infants of both genders. Many studies suggest that fathers convey motivation or ambition to their children better than mothers alone. It should be a binding moral standard that children need the active presence of both parents.

5) Abortion was no less controversial in the antiquity of Greece and Rome as it is today around the world. Doctors taking the Hippocratic Oath swore not to administer abortifacients, but other Hippocratic texts suggest that prostitutes often employed abortion. Greek temple inscriptions show that abortion made a woman impure for 40 days (but did not forbid it). One can imagine that such a decision would have been a subject of inquiry for the Oracles.

"The Stoics believed that the fetus resembled a plant and only became an animal at birth when it started breathing... Roman jurisprudence maintained that the fetus was not autonomous from the mother's body. There is no evidence for laws against abortion... The emperors Severus and Caracalla towards AD 211 introduced the first definite ban on abortion in Rome as a crime against the rights of parents, and punished it with temporary exile." Christianity condemned abortion and regarded abortion, once the fetus was fully formed (40 days after conception), as murder of a living being. (Oxford, Classical Civilization, 1998) This strict interpretation has continued to present times as a matter of orthodox religious teaching for most Christians, not all. There is no absolute scientific definition when human life begins, it is a subject controlled by free religious discussions. Thus protecting freedom of 'choice' is, ironically, connected to the need to protect freedom of religion.


I used to enjoy the thrill of catch and release --
and even catch and eat.
Age has wrought a change
and now the thrill's greater
to watch and see --
And even more to describe.
All this has turned eating into a form of worship.

(IJ, Sep. 3, 2001)

7) Reverence for the natural order underlies both Confucian and Taoist philosophy originating in China. Yang and Yin, two basic forces in cosmos, are traditionally depicted as entwined in a sphere which symbolizes the Great Ultimate or Absolute. Yang (often red) is the active or male element (above); yin is the passive (white), female element (below). This attitude toward nature pervades all of China's poetry, art and religion, and underlies the thinking of its great sages whose philosophy is dominated by the notion of Heaven and man functioning in unison.

Confucian ethics develops rules for preserving harmonious relations between Man and fellowmen, as measures to attain deeper harmonies between Man and Universe.

The precepts of Lao Tzu taught that only by subordinating himself to nature's ways could Man lead a meaningful existence. Confucius disciples evolved the ten attitudes by which the Five Relationships should be governed:

1) a. Love in the father,
b. Filial piety in the son.

2) a. Gentility in the eldest brother,
b. Humility and respect in the younger.

3) a. Righteous behavior in the husband,
b. Obedience in the wife.

4) a. Humane consideration in elders,
b. Deference in juniors.

5) a. Benevolence in rulers,
b. Loyalty in subjects.

Since well before Confucius the whole of Chinese culture rested on the solidarity of the family -- an institution that has maintained the fabric of society through recurrent periods of chaos, famines and disorder. The modern restriction of having only one child not only limits the scope of family as an institution, it intensifies and concentrates the family spirit to that one child as recipient of ancestral support. The conviction that no person is an isolated entity but an indispensable link in an endless chain of humanity was the binding force underlying the solidarity of the Chinese family. Having only one child creates a natural anxiety among people who still worship ancestors and a fear this link might be broken.

"To serve those now dead as if they were living," Confucius said, "is the highest achievement of true filial piety."

8) "Our desires and motives may be divided into two classes -- selfish and unselfish. All selfish desires are immoral, while the desire to improve ourselves for the sake of doing good to others is truly moral. The highest moral law is that we should unremittingly work for the good of mankind." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, 1960) This contradicts the economic doctrine introduced by Adam Smith in 1776, that when each individual looks out for his own economic interest, production expands along lines determined by profitability (the invisible hand) and the entire society becomes better off.

There is another caution: The search for knowledge and technology brings with it inherent responsibilities to use each new invention wisely. Otherwise as industry grows into an ever increasingly fragile environment, we may be setting the stage for our own destruction quite apart from the damage certain technologies bring to individuals. Morality is achieved when we use this caution to modify any potentially destructive action.

9) Adultery is generally considered the violation of the marriage vow by sexual acts, and in more recent times this definition has held to control the sexual activity of both spouses, rather than just women. In Athens, a man who killed another he found in the sexual act with his wife, mother, sister, daughter or concubine held for the purpose of bearing free children, could plead justifiable homicide, or such a malefactor could be held for ransom. Adulterous wives had to be divorced, and were excluded from public sacrifices. There was allegedly no law against adultery at Sparta, apparently because of the custom of sharing wives with fellow citizens for procreative purposes.

Roman tradition gave fathers and husbands permissive severity in punishing illicit sexual behavior by daughters or wives. There seems to be no similar recourse for the wife against her husband, and such acts do not seem to fall into the definition of adultery until the 5th century AD. A husband's adultery in the matrimonial home or with another married woman, entitled the injured wife to divorce without incurring the penalties then imposed for unjustified divorce. These restrictions on sexual activity seem to be instinctual, but lie subtly under our more aggressive sex drives.

10) "Voltaire is not a philosopher in any usual sense. Convinced like Descartes that clarity and distinctness are the prime criteria of truth; convinced that man, an insect living a few seconds on an atom of mud, cannot understand the grand designs of his infinite Creator, that systems claiming to explain the unfathomable are impostor and vanity, he is equally convinced that there is much worth knowing and worth doing. Science, which had given men some certain knowledge of the measurable, he found useful; but since science was impeded by repressive dogmatism, even here action for freedom was as necessary as research. The most vital study, for Voltaire, was that of the means and the obstacles of human betterment; the most vital action was to remove those obstacles. In the France of his time the chief obstacles seemed to be social injustice and religious intolerance; these were the infamy that he strove to crush." (Donald M. Frame, Introduction to Voltaire's Candide, 1961)

The consequence of religious intolerance is the strangling of morality.

What are the "chief obstacles" in our modern day? What infamy should we strive to crush today to improve our governments and societies?

11) "Human civilization is meant for purifying the senses, and objects of sense satisfaction should be supplied as much as absolutely required, but not for aggravating artificial sensory needs. Food, shelter, defense and sense gratification are all needs in material existence. Otherwise, in his pure, uncontaminated state of original life, the living entity has no such needs. The needs are therefore artificial, and in the pure state of life there are no such needs. As such, increasing the artificial needs, as is the standard of material civilization, or advancing the economic development of human society, is a sort of engagement in darkness, without knowledge [thus the ascetic tradition perpetuates poverty]. By such engagement, human energy is spoiled, because human energy is primarily meant for purifying the senses in order to engage them in satisfying the senses of the Supreme Lord ...therefore material civilization is a kind of engagement in sense gratification only... When one comes to see the disadvantage of aggravating the sense activities, one is called a jnani, and when one tries to stop the activities of the senses by the practice of yogic principles, he is called a yogi, but when one is fully aware of the transcendental senses of the Lord and tries to satisfy His senses, one is called a devotee of the Lord." (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 2, Ch. 5, Text 30)

Thus the Hindu justification for morality is to support those activities that satisfy the senses of the Supreme Lord and forget about starving people or working to serve society. The description of these divine senses and what is thus involved is open to some complex interpretation. (see Vicesimus Stele: Economics, verse 21) One must also acknowledge that the economy of the times was a brutal, 'let the fittest survive' struggle, rife with corruption, technical ignorance, dishonesty and nepotism. Little wonder that an honest prelate would be disgusted with economic activity, with "engagement in darkness" in general. Of course it doesn't have to be that way.

12) John Locke (1632-1704) saw in Christianity the best, and most comprehensive source, of moral teachings (although he was not so naive to avoid mentioning the weaknesses of the religious practice of his day.) "Let it be granted (though not true) that all the moral precepts of the gospel were known by some body or other, amongst mankind, before [Jesus]... What will all this do, to give the world a complete morality, that may be to mankind, the unquestionable rule of life and manners? ...But these incoherent apophthegems of philosophers, and wise men, however excellent in themselves, and well intended by them, could never make a morality, whereof the world could be convinced; could never rise to the force of a law that mankind could with certainty depend on... He that any one will pretend to set up in this kind, and have his rules pass for authentic directions, must shew, that either he builds his doctrine upon principles of reason, self-evident in themselves, and that he deduces all parts of it from thence [like the foundations of mathematics], by clear and evident demonstration; or, must shew his commission from heaven, that he comes with authority from God, to deliver his will and commands to the world... Where was there any such code, that mankind might have recourse to, as their unerring rule, before Our Saviour's time? If there was not, 'tis plain, there was need of one to give us such a morality; such a law, [Telos] which might be the sure guide of those who had a desire to go right; and, if they had a mind, need not mistake their duty; but might be certain when they had performed, when failed in it."

Locke is suggesting that for a teaching to have the force of morality, it must either be from heaven, or stand up to an axiomatic mathematical proof as with a law of geometry. Since no one has developed this ethical science, or proof system, then we should accept the revelations from god: "But the truth and obligation of its precepts, have their force, and are put past doubt to us, by the evidence of his mission. He was sent by God: His miracles shew it; and the authority of God in his precepts cannot be questioned." (John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, 242, 1691) So if we fail to accept this Christian god, fail to accept the miracles of The New Testament, we still have a chance, albeit slim, to create this rational, self-evident, natural, scientific morality. So is that what we need?

13) "True morality consists, not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, 1960) Gandhiji believes that the Truth is manifest to each man, and it only remains to each of us to follow the voice of conscience we hear. But that voice can tell as many fables as truths. Our scant understanding of Universe should make us humble and receptive to learn and find ways to improve our lives, and our reasoning power is the only tool that can help us, however imperfect. As we learn more about the Universe, we learn more about ourselves, our interdependency with other humans, the fragility of our ecosystem on Earth and our obligation to work to improve society for everyone.

So morality is not only about following rules, it is also about accepting rules or making them up. In the case where the rules we find (i.e. Christianity) are not proper for our lives today, we must devise them for ourselves. (see Vicesimus Alter Stele: Ethical Decisions, verse 10)

14) Students of logic may be familiar with the term non sequitur. Its use is associated with the pattern of argument know as the syllogism, or deductive reasoning. Example:

Major Premise: John is generally healthy, but just yesterday he had a cold.

Minor Premise: John's cold is passed.

Conclusion: John is now healthy.

If one tries to make more of John's health, or conclude that he is sickly because he had a cold, or suggest that his cold must have been some punishment for a misdeed, these conclusions would not follow from the few facts and can be regarded as non sequiturs. This example is necessarily limited, but the point: that one should avoid inventing moral or teleological conclusions from circumstantial facts, is what is important here.

15) Can we trust our senses? How do we know that people in other countries are active and living when we have no perception of them? (Solipsism) What we perceive is affected often by what we look for. Two people who watch the same movie will likely have very different opinions about the significant message or artistic insight being projected because of their different frame of reference and acquired biases. Emotions play a role in filtering the information we receive even from casual conversations with friends and family. Under emotional stress a person is more susceptible to suggestion or coercion. Our perceptions are limited by both are attention span in terms of time, concentration, and in terms of breadth, how much detail we can absorb at once. Our moral judgments need to be weighed, therefore, against the weaknesses of our perspicacity.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt in personal relations is often constructive of good feelings and enhances friendship. As we acknowledge that others have their own active lives, also filled with experiences that differ from our own -- possibly imperfectly perceived -- we accept that their moral judgments will also differ. The best advice is to be open to discussion, be sensitive to explanations of why our loved ones act as they do and be interested in how they come to believe as they do. Thus we can learn to enjoy other people rather than trying to control them in terms of our own experience and morality.

16) Since January 1983, a satellite has been circling Earth and scanning Universe. The satellite, the Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) owned by the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands, monitors the infrared band -- the kind of energy emitted by cooler dust, smoke and rock, not stars. In the first phase of its work it examined 100 stars and found 20% of these to be surrounded by a disc of dark material (nebula). These stars have envelopes of whirling matter being warmed by their stars and this gives off infrared energy, as does Earth. These envelopes must be similar to what our own solar system (6 billion miles wide) was like when it formed. This 'aura' has been seen around people by those who are of a sensitive mind. This has been the basis of moral discussions by psychics and faith healers. Such superstitions do little to improve society, however.

With 100 billion stars in our Milky Way (250 billion by some counts) and 100 billion galaxies in the known Universe (and probably more), what are the chances that life exists elsewhere? Near certainty; but did Man evolve as on Earth? much less likely, but not out of the question. We have improved our sight into Universe; the Hubble space telescope has sent pictures and information about the Veil nebula. Comparing this new data to the photos taken in 1953, a new date for its demise and distance have been calculated 1,500 light years away (compared to 2,500), and 5,000 years old (compared to 18,000). This was the end of a star, of course, and presages the destiny of our solar system in some 4 billion years. Now we know better how supernovas 'seed' interstellar space with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen -- all essential chemicals of life. It would be nice to have such a scientific approach to morality, but instead we must be content with the art of human existence, or religion, or psychic readings, take your pick. History is our best moral instructor.

17) Instructions for Life in the new millennium from the Dalai Lama:
1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.
If the Dalai Lama can't establish morality, who can?

18) "My speech... was about observing truthfulness in business. I had always heard that merchants say that truth was not possible in business. I did not think so then, nor do I now. Even today there are merchant friends who contend that truth is inconsistent with business. Business, they say, is a very practical affair, and truth a matter of religion; and they argue that practical affairs are one thing, while religion is quite another. But truth, they hold, is out of the question in business, one can speak it only so far as is suitable. I strongly contested the position in my speech and awakened the merchants to a sense of their duty..." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, 1960) This same advice can be given to all groups in society (the four countervailing forces), government, labor unions, consumer advocates as well as to business.

19) "...Art, and not morality, is... the truly metaphysical activity of man... the existence of the world is justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon... nothing could be more opposed to the purely aesthetic interpretation and justification of the world... than the Christian teaching, which is, and wants to be, only moral and which relegates art, every art, to the realm of lies; with its absolute standards, beginning with the truthfulness of God, it negates, judges, and damns art... Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in 'another' or 'better' life. Hatred of 'the world,' condemnations of the passions, fear of beauty and sensuality, a beyond invented the better to slander this life, at bottom a craving for the nothing, or the end, for respite... at the very least a sign of abysmal sickness, weariness, discouragement, exhaustion, and the impoverishment of life. For, confronted with morality... life must continually and inevitably be in the wrong, because life is something essentially amoral... might not morality be 'a will to negate life,' a secret instinct of annihilation, a principle of decay, diminution, and slander -- the beginning of the end? Hence, the danger of dangers?" (Friedrich Nietzsche, Attempt At a Self-Criticism, 1886) This is a very forceful statement that scars religious morality but does nothing to heal it.


20 "Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

21 "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's...

29 "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Moses and Aaron, The Old Testament, Deuteronomy 5)

Of course our laws have expanded in number and scope since this humble beginning, but it's questionable if we have done much better at following these new commandments either.

21) "According to many commentators, there was a large-scale deterioration of morals during the 20th century. An essay about moral philosophy says: 'One can clearly see that society's view of sex and what is morally acceptable has changed much in the past 30 to 40 years -- from society making clear what is morally correct, by means of strict rules, to a more free and individualist view.'

"This means that sexual conduct and other aspects of morality are things that most individuals now feel they can decide for themselves. To illustrate this, the essay cites statistics showing that in 1960 only 5.3 percent of all children in the United States were born out of wedlock. In 1990 the figure was 28 percent."

The cause of this? "Secularization... meant that 'people would be afforded the opportunity to take their stand on different viewpoints on their own. This idea... has its origin among the 18th-century philosophers of the Enlightenment, who were the first to... reject the Bible as the only source of truth.' Thus, religions, especially those of Christendom, are not looked to for moral guidance as much as they were in the past... People think of themselves and the maximum gratification of their desires." ("Awake," April 8, 2000) Since the vast majority of people live contentedly without Christianity, how does one explain the moral decline, if true, among them? This is a case of having a theory, in this case a theory of Sociology, and finding quotes and statistics to support the preconceived conclusion. And further, romanticizing about "the past" as a period of superior moral behavior, is a doubtful supposition.

22) See there --
that big fish.
How proud I would be to catch it.
And then I think
How proud I am to have it swimming in my pond.

(IJ, Sep. 3, 2001)

23) The serious propensity to formulate independent concepts relating to moral issues runs in my family for many generations. It is only during the process of creating Frame of Reference that I learned the most dramatic of these coincidences of nature. My own great-great-great grandfather wrote a bible-based treatise on morality, and I now have the dubious pleasure of introducing to the reader Udney Hay Jacob. Grandfather Udney was born in Sheffield, Berkshire, Massachusetts, April 24, 1781. He followed his pioneer son, Norton Jacob to Salt Lake City, Utah, (Udney arrived in 1850) and there died on the 10th of April, 1860. In between those dates he must have spent a lot of time pondering the mysteries of life and morality, as have I. He wrote what is described as a "document of astonishing sophistication..." The Peacemaker, and the Doctrines of the Millennium. This was a 19 chapter treatise on religion and jurisprudence, and amounted to a revolutionary system of religion and politics. (In part published in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1842.) The first 17 chapters seem to be missing.

His writing was controversial in his day and might have thrust him into intellectual leadership of a world in confusion and even a world of persecution, had his views become widely circulated, which, thank heaven they were not. Part of his treatise related to a justification of plural marriage and was allegedly used by Joseph Smith in a failed attempt to justify and create public acceptance for the reinstitution of the ancient practice of multiple wives for men as part of the "law of god." Udney's chauvinistic claims are laughable today, if it were not for the fact that they are bombastic and woven from a subtle fabric of misogynistic prejudice. He described himself as Elijah, as an Israelite and a Shepherd of Israel. None of his history or writing was part of the oral tradition in my family. Possibly after his descendants adopted the Mormon faith, they preferred to forget this part of their heritage in favor of the more heroic and conformist work of his carpenter son Norton, Captain in the Mormon Legion.

24) "To break the ground before sowing broadcast the seeds of his new doctrine, Joseph's press published a pamphlet in defense of polygamy by one Udney H. Jacob. Jacob produced a document of astonishing sophistication, advocating polygamy not only in the light of Old Testament precedent, but also as a solution for marital incompatibility. 'What, although a woman is not known to be an adulteress,' he wrote, 'yet she may be a perfect devil to her husband, train him in the most imperious manner, despise him in her heart, abuse him before his children, drive him like a menial slave where she pleases; and he must tamely submit to the ungodly law of his wife, must hug the serpent to his bosom, and love her as he does his own body! Impossible, and degrading to the nature of man'.

"Such a wife must not be divorced, he said, for 'a divorced man is not known in the whole canon of scriptures.' [This is probably not accurate.] But for her to continue performing the rituals of the marriage bed without any love for her husband -- which he labeled 'fornication in the wife' -- was a gross sin. 'In ancient times under the law of God,' he concluded, 'the permission of a plurality of wives had a direct tendency to prevent the possibility of fornication in the wife'."

"Whether Jacob was describing his own married state, or Joseph's, or simply that of any poor bedeviled male, one cannot know. But there is no doubt that Jacob looked upon woman as the inferior species[sic. gender]. 'The idea of a woman taking a man to be her husband is not found in the Word of God. But the man marries the woman; and the woman is given in marriage. But the husband is not the property of the wife in any sense of the word... There is no positive law of God against a man's marrying Leah and Rachel both... To God only are men accountable in this matter, and not to their wives'." (Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 1973) A curious argument, but in its own way profound.

25) An unwitting (probably unloving) man who followed the suggestion of Grandfather Udney would likely in a short time have ended with two or more tyrannical wives and have found himself deeper in a mess of contention with more than one "perfect devil." The kind of dysfunctional family that he describes is indeed too common, but there are ways of preventing this disaffection through early and pre-marriage counseling. Now we know that it takes two equally compassionate and loving people to make a happy marriage, and that sex is a very small part of the equation. Of course divorce has become common practice in large part because of the adversarial role described blatantly by his treatise. A closer reading of Grandfather Udney's writing suggests he acknowledged the need for kindness and consideration on the part of both spouses, and specifically and adamantly condemned any form of abuse or coercive control by either spouse.

Most people learn, if they do, how to live well together by revolting against the bad example of their parents. The best part of Grandfather Udney's writing is that he makes such a bold and clear explanation of the ills in our culture and society that cause problems between men and women. The worst part is the chauvinism explicit in his interpretation of the "law of god." Society today is not much better equipped to create compatible, monogamous marriages, than it was 160 years ago when Grandfather Udney tried to develop the intellectual underpinning for Mormonism. Somewhere along the way, we have the moral obligation to learn how to love, to be complementary to our spouses, to be loyal and supportive of the goals each of us have for our lives and forgiving and understanding when we come up short of fulfilling these goals. We have to learn to open up and disclose the hidden expectations we hold for each other, and for all of our loved ones. Once these are on the table we can discuss openly, make mutually acceptable compromises and accommodations, and reinforce in each other the best rather than the worst human traits. This is how we improve our species, and this is what creates the moral imperative for each of us.

26) "The dogmas of religions are absurd fairy tales but Jack didn't agree that religions are the villains responsible for the ills of society. They may tend to hold people in mental cramps but only those for whom the need for structure and comfort overrides their ability to strike out on their own. Many people do break away. For the others, religion provides the source of strength its adherents may never gain by themselves. [The strength to follow an acceptable body of moral teachings.]

"When mobilized to the point of protest, the expression of religious extremism is closer to mob hysteria than to righteous indignation. Such is the case with those who demonstrate against abortion based on their own religious bias. They seek to subvert the very freedom of belief and choice that protects their right of expression. Otherwise, when religious training is used constructively, it is conducive to an organized, well-functioning society. In these cases, religions earn their tax free status. The Mormons have Relief Society, Home Teaching, the Welfare System and Fast Offering fund programs. Jack acknowledged the potential for redeeming ethical and social value of religious endeavor...

"It's easy to tare down a structure with a few words of cynicism but difficult to create a functional replacement [a workable morale code] even with a detailed, patient effort. That's why Jack was hesitant to argue against anyone who claimed to have a strong conviction. He preferred to sustain belief if given the choice..." (IJ, Jack and Lucky, 1993)

27) "One day while Pablo was painting my breasts in one of those portraits, he said to me, "If one occupies oneself with what is full: that is, the object as positive form, the space around it is reduced to almost nothing. If one occupies oneself primarily with the space that surrounds the object, the object is reduced to almost nothing. What interests us most -- what is outside or what is inside a form? When you look at Cézanne's apples, you see that he hasn't really painted apples, as such. What he did was to paint terribly well the weight of space on that circular form. The form itself is only a hollow area with sufficient pressure applied to it by the space surrounding it to make the apple seem to appear, even though in reality it doesn't exist. It's the rhythmic thrust of space on the form that counts." (Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, 1964) If life is for you an art form, then the morality of our actions hangs on the balance between our deeds, motivation and the circumstance surrounding these.

28) "The errors of traditional Christianity as it now exists, the popular faith of many millions, needs to be removed to let men see the divine beauty of moral truth. I feel myself pledged, if health and opportunity be granted me, to demonstrate that all necessary truth is its own evidence; that Christianity is wrongly received by all such as take it for a system of doctrines, -- its stress being upon moral truth; it is a rule of life, not a rule of faith." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature) (1803-1862)

29) "3. Moral Philosophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures in this branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science... Man was destined for society. His morality therefore was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality... The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm... It may be strengthened by exercise... This sense is submitted indeed to some degree to the guidance of reason... State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules. (Thomas Jefferson, "Letter to Peter Carr," 1781)

30) Aimee Semple McPherson is one of the outstanding moralists of the 20th century in America. Born in Canada in 1890 she migrated spiritually from the Salvation Army as a child, to Pentecostal, becoming a preacher in the Full Gospel Assembly with her husband Robert Semple. Her husband died in China while they were together there on a missionary trip, and 'Sister Aimee' returned to the U.S. filled with evangelistic fervor. The foundation of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel soon followed. McPherson tirelessly preached her way across the country, completing nine transcontinental revivals by 1923. Exploiting the media as never before, she became the spiritual leader for a new generation of Americans. The 'Foursquare' element of the church's name refers to the four parts of Jesus' ministry: Savior of the world [human sacrifice], baptizer of the Holy Spirit, healer of illness, and 'returning King of kings.' The church emphasized the positive, ignoring issues of sin in favor of an all-are-welcome philosophy to salvation. Her work and life ended in 1944, but her legacy lives in one of the fastest-growing Christian denominations in the country.

31) “In a religious discourse we use such expressions as: 'I believe that so and so will happen,' and use them differently to the way in which we use them in science.

“Although, there is a great temptation to think we do. Because we do talk of evidence, and do talk of evidence by experience. We could even talk of historic events. It has been said that Christianity rests on an historic basis. It had been said a thousand times by intelligent people… It doesn't rest on an historic basis in the sense that the ordinary belief in historic facts could serve as a foundation… Here we have a belief in historic facts different from a belief in ordinary historic facts. Even, they are not treated as historical, empirical, propositions. [Sacred facts are in this way in a separate class, or part of a different kind of discussion, as if they were in a different dialect even language, a religious language.] Those people who had faith didn't apply the doubt which would ordinarily apply to any historical propositions. Especially propositions of a time long past, etc… Here we have people who treat this evidence in a different way… They base enormous things on this evidence. Am I to say they are unreasonable? I wouldn't call them unreasonable… I would say, they are certainly not reasonable [in a scientific sense], that's obvious.” (Cyril Barrett, Wittgenstein: Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, 1966) But these statements do make sense inside the context of their own language game or dialect, as it were.

These are difficult and subtle points to comprehend. But the difficulties encountered by the use of language, and presumed misuse, do not in any way nullify the importance of moral discourse. It simply makes it imperative for those engaged in moral discussions to understand the referent language(s) being used by each of the participants involved. A religious teacher might say: “I can prove this is true…” and a scientist might say: “I can prove this is true…” In each case the words are being used in the same way, but there is a fundamental difference in the contexts and what stands for proof in the minds of these two protagonists, even when it is the case that they are the same person in two different settings. Both kinds of proof are meaningful in their particular settings. This is what gives rise to such lively and artful discussions of moral certainty.

32) Moral traditions contribute to Civilization -- economics, politics and education. When society overcomes fear, (even in a modern setting) it develops curiosity and Man's constructive impulses are set free. Man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life. But it is not a bed of roses.

"I must confess that I do not draw a sharp line or any distinction between economics and ethics. Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and, therefore, sinful. Thus, the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral... All the graces of life are possible, only when we learn the art of living nobly." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, 1960)

33) This time in the Summer
The small frogs seem to have gone
But they have left in their place
Bigger fish.

(IJ, Sep. 3, 2001)

34) "I have been suggesting ways in which religious imagery partakes of the nature of art, and how understanding what art is, its charms, its powers, its limits, helps us to understand religion... The art object may be looked at as analogous in function to certain moral and religious concepts (or pictures) and also as an analogy of the self. [icons?] I am an artist in the imaginative, or fantastic, creation of myself ...tragedy [theatrical], plays an ambiguous role in religious and moral thinking... Is the work of art a kind of hoax, something which seems complete but is really incomplete, completed secretly by the private unacknowledged fantasies of the artist and his conniving client? A consideration of this question can also throw light on the nature of virtue, so that art can turn out to be an image of good, though in a sense different from that which might at first occur to one. Our illusions about art and morals are in some ways similar. Do we expect too much from art? [or from morals?]... The material of art is contingent limited historically stained stuff. Nevertheless art is a great source of revelation. [Dreams are the theater of the mind.]

"...There are worse ends than the pursuit of an unexacting happiness; [doing art for the enjoyment no matter how poorly done] it is better to be cheered up by a silly magazine than by plans of revenge. [both art and morals can reek changes in our lives]... Truth is always a proper touchstone in art, [as morals] and a training in art is training in how to use the touchstone. This is perhaps the most difficult thing of all, requiring that courage which the good artist must possess. [also the courage to act on moral principles] A study of good literature, or of any good art, [i.e. theater] enlarges and refines our understanding of truth, our methods of verification. Truth [and morality] is not a simple or easy concept." (Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, pg. 83-6,1992) Art can be both analogous to the function of morality in life, and instructive to that inspired life.

On to Duodevicesimus Stele
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