As Above, So Below. What do you seek from the Divine? How is that reflected in the mundane? Where do you find your place of synthesis?
I’m not a mystic. I welcome the Divine into my life, but very much in my own sphere, in all that I can see and touch. If my religion is to be relevant, it has to serve a purpose. It should improve my life in the here and now, and it should first and foremost make me a better person, more virtuous.
Maybe the emphasis on virtue is a relic of my time as a Christian. As a Christian, virtue is important. The ultimate model for human life as a Christian, is of course Jesus Christ. I liked Jesus back then and I still think he was a extraordinary man. It always struck me how very ordinary and human he was though. He cursed a fig tree, for disappointing him because it wasn’t its season to bear fruit. He denied his mother and brothers and favoured strangers because of his cause.
So how could he be the only model for my conduct, as a young girl attached to all that grew and her family and later as a loving mother? He was a useful role model for a impetuous revolutionary, but I could hardly be expected to copy his ways of doing things. When Christianity became impossible to me, I turned to many other models for the right way to live. Instead of one way, many ways, it seemed, were possible. And virtue could be found everywhere, not in books alone. I often found it in flawed people, like a light that shines out through a dirty glass. I found it in myth of Gods yet unknown to me.
Marcus Aurelius starts his Meditations (which is one of my favourite inspirational books) by thanking many people, family and mentors, for their good example. And he ultimately thanks the Gods, from whom these gifts of virtue ultimately derive. You could ask yourself how you decide if a certain trait, a certain virtue is worth having. Does it not open the door to moral relativism, which could eventually lead to defending evil deeds? Maybe for some it could. But I do believe that while all of us are flawed, many of us are decent people deep down. And if it not wilfully silenced by either yourself or cruel treatment from others, this inner voice speaks, perhaps in all of us.
In Anna Karenina, while Levin goes through a terrible existential crisis, he finds this voice still speaks to him, an automatic litmus test of what is right and wrong. Yet at the same time, he is also reminded, like Marcus Aurelius, of what is right and good in the presence of his fellow people, his wife and relatives and the peasants on his estate.
Reasoning had brought him to doubt, and prevented him from seeing what he ought to do and what he ought not. When he did not think, but simply lived, he was continually aware of the presence of an infallible judge in his soul, determining which of two possible courses of action was the better and which was the worse, and as soon as he did not act rightly, he was at once aware of it. (Translation by Constance Garnett, in Project Gutenberg.)
To me this is truth. We need both, our fellow people and our inner voice, to experience true virtue, which is a shatter, a part of the puzzle that is the plural Divine world. While I believe there is great virtue in the other world, I can only know it when it is reflected on our plane of being, from within and without.