Ye Olde Morality
Most Westerns are familiar with the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai – the ten “thou shalt not”s. This system of ethics as set forth literally in stone by God and delivered through Moses is practically the perfect symbol of what I propose to call “old morality.” Old morality consists essentially in the belief that there is an absolute law of conduct, often rewarded with promises of heaven or some kind of pleasure and punished with verdicts of various types of suffering, even eternal suffering in a fiery “Hell.” This notion of absolute morality is most apparent in the Jewish religion, with its ten commandments (Judaism actually has 613 commandments in total), but it also appears in both Christianity and Islam (the “five pillars of Islam”). Both of these religions are characterized by their insistence on sin and the punishment of hell following sinful actions. These types of absolute morality are also apparent in many forms of Buddhism where they have “sila,” which consists usually of five “thou shalt not”s. In some forms of yoga, there are what is called “yama” and “niyama” which are essentially five “thou shalt”s and five “thou shalt not”s.
Now, this old morality being by definition founded on a notion of “absolute moral conduct,” is also necessarily quite inflexible. Not only did Moses invoke God as the source and authority of his commandments, but they were set in two gigantic tablets of stone.
In the course of history, one might say that these commandments, Jewish and otherwise, were necessary for that particular time. It can be agreed that many of these guidelines were (and still can be) effective if employed in the right circumstances, in the right cultures. For example, Continue reading