In the preceding chapters, we examined the nature of the Bitch Politic; and we found that it has been the predominant mode of human interactions throughout history. At its root lies irrational fear. And deeper still, such fears are driven by both the desire to control that which is uncontrollable and one’s unwillingness to be accountable for those things that are within one’s ability to command.
Now, we will begin to develop an understanding of the methods by which we might put an end to this Bitch Politic; it has not served us well.
In the right place, at the wrong time
One of the most challenging social dynamics is judgment. More often than not, judgments weighed for or against one are based solely upon some form of tradition — whether moral or otherwise — and one is held subject to some authority external to oneself. Various levels of judgment are present throughout one’s social environment(s), as one is judged by others, who in turn, are judged by still others. Eventually, one learns to judge oneself. This social conditioning is beneficial to a certain extent because it establishes the basis through which an immature individual will begin to learn about the world. It serves to protect one from making mistakes that would result in undue harm. However, as the individual proceeds through the various stages of maturity, one must (to increasing degrees) embrace one’s authenticity. The first step is to recognize that the error of self-judgment is based upon the judgments and traditions of others.
“A man’s first Care should be to avoid the Reproaches of his own Heart; his next, to escape the Censures of the World: If the last interferes with the former, it ought to be entirely neglected; but otherwise, there cannot be a greater Satisfaction to an honest Mind, than to see those Approbations which it gives itself seconded by the Applauses of the Publick: A Man is more sure of his Conduct, when the Verdict which he passes upon his own Behaviour is thus warranted, and confirmed by the Opinion of all that know him.” — Joseph Addison (1672–1719), British author. The Spectator, No. 122 (1711).
There is a difference between one’s adherence to a standard of “Right and wrong” and one’s acting in a fashion that seeks to provide a correct address to a given situation. “Right and wrong” have to do with the judgments by others regarding one’s actions. However, that which is “correct in the moment” is also that by which one can abide in conscience, despite the lack of favorable judgments from one’s fellows.
If an individual becomes overly concerned with the potential judgments of his or her actions and thoughts, one moves further and further away from the ability to discern the actual requirements of any given moment. However, if one acts authentically, dispensing with the judgments of others, one must recognize that still there are limits. In this latter case, one’s success is determined by the natural laws that govern the moment in which one acts. The challenge here is for one to ascertain the laws that apply and then to abide by them.
You are now under arrest
We humans have always had a particular problem with governing our desires. Far too often, we confuse that which we merely want with that which we become convinced that we need; and once a desire crosses the threshold from want into need, passion enters the picture.
Harkening back to Chapter One, you will recall the suggestion of the possibility that the human brain was less evolved at the time when the ancients began to encode laws of social conduct than it is now. Quite possibly, the facility of conscience was not yet functional in our forerunners. Another higher faculty that remains underdeveloped is the intuition, which makes us aware of our connection to a larger body despite our seeming separateness and independence: although we have fleeting glimpses of its functioning, it has yet to fully blossom throughout the broader range of humanity.
The oldest known law code dates back to the twenty-first century BC (actually c. 2100-2050 BC). The Code of Ur-Nammu, written on stone tablets in the Sumerian language, served as a tool of governance and conflict resolution in ancient Mesopotamia. In this code are fifty-seven laws which provide resolutions (and/or punishments) for situations ranging from the capital offense of murder (a crime always addressed in law) to the flooding of another man’s field with water. Of course, relief and justice for victims of rape, adultery, and divorce were also provided.
Three hundred years later (c. 1772 BC), the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted a code of 282 laws. The Code of Hammurabi covered a broad range of human interactions, including contracts, inheritance issues, divorce, sexual relations, and of course, murder and various violent crimes. Of particular note in Hammurabi’s code was the appearance of the law of retaliation (“eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”). In addition to restricting compensation to the value of the loss, that legal principle also might have served the function of precluding vendettas.
Another 400(+) years later (c. 1313 BC), the Mosaic Law (contained in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) clocked-in with a whopping total of 613 Commandments. Based upon the universally known Ten Commandments of Exodus, the Law of Moses covered a range of human activity in a manner that was previously unmatched in specificity:
- 248 Positive Commandments
- The Worship of Yahweh (nineteen)
- The Temple and The Priests (nineteen)
- Sacrifices (fifty-three)
- Vows (four)
- Ritual Purity (eighteen)
- Tithes and Offerings to the Sanctuary of Yahweh (twenty)
- The Sabbatical Year (nine)
- Clean Animals Fit for Consumption and of Offerings (ten)
- The Feasts and Sabbaths (eighteen)
- Laws Concerning the Duty of the Community and Observing the Authority of Yahweh’s Laws and Yahweh’s Anointed (fourteen)
- The Worship of False Gods and Related Practices (five)
- Laws Concerning Times of Tribulation and Persecution (four)
- Our Duties to Our Fellow Man (fifteen)
- Family (fifteen)
- Judgments (eight)
- Laws Concerning Slaves (four)
- Lawsuits (thirteen)
- 365 Negative Commandments
- The Worship of False Gods and Related Practices (forty-five)
- Prohibitions Against Making Allies with Nations Who Worship False Gods (fourteen)
- Blasphemy (seven)
- The Sanctuary of Yahweh (twenty-two)
- Sacrifices and Holy Tithes and Offerings (sixty-nine)
- The Priests (fourteen)
- Dietary Laws (thirty)
- Nazirites (eight)
- Agriculture (twenty)
- Loans, Business, and the Treatment of Slaves (forty)
- Judgment and Conduct of Judges (sixty)
- Sinful Relationships (thirty-two)
- Our King (four)
Within Judaism, although adherence to the 613 Laws was a requirement for Jews, observance of the Seven Laws of Noah was seen as sufficient for non-Jews to be regarded as righteous:
- The prohibition of idolatry.
- The prohibition of murder.
- The prohibition of theft.
- The prohibition of sexual immorality.
- The prohibition of blasphemy.
- The prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
- The requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.
And then, built upon the foundation of Judaism, yet somewhat repudiating it, the New Covenant of Christianity introduced another set of complexities. In Galatians 5:2-6 NASB, we read:
2. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
3. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
4. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
5. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
The Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapters Five, Six, and Seven), contains the central tenets of the Christian faith. Within Christianity, it is agreed that the two most important Commandments are to be found in Matthew 22:35-40 NASB:
35. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
36. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37. And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
38. “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
40. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Yet, as much of New Testament scripture is subject to various levels of interpretation, factionalism (which exists to this day, evidenced by the various Denominations) arose and has contributed to much of the bloody history of our Common Era (CE). Nonetheless, there is great value in Christianity. In Galatians 5:13-23 NASB, we are advised:
13. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
15. But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
17. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
19. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20. idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21. envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Perhaps the central perplexity for humankind is the phrase “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is because of two factors. Firstly, as we outlined in Chapters Four and Five, our minds are still grappling with fear; the presence of which precludes love. Secondly, the majority of our experience with laws has taught us much more about interactions with one another than it has about one’s relationship with oneself. We still have so much to learn about how best to love ourselves!
Of the moment
In the spiritual traditions of the Far East, similar to the sentiment expressed in Galatians 5:14, there is an emphasis placed upon eradicating the illusion of our separateness from one another: that illusion severs our connection to the moment at-hand. For example, in Buddhism, among other very valuable concepts, we find the concepts of selflessness and non-attachment:
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explained it in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya:
We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, “I will not suffer.” We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, “I will not be attached to anything,” nor eliminate aggression by saying, “I will never become angry.” Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The Buddha taught that to eliminate these states, which are really the results of the primary confusion of our belief in a personal self, we must get rid of the fundamental cause.
But we cannot simply say, “I will not believe in the personal self.” The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realise this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that “self” will disappear.
Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection. This is why the Buddha emphasized meditation on selflessness or egolessness (emptiness).
However, to meditate on egolessness, we must undertake a process that begins with a conceptual understanding of egolessness; then, based on that understanding, there can be meditation, and finally realization.
In earlier chapters of this text, we made reference to some of the perspectives shared by Hindus and Buddhists, particularly with regard to how the merging of masculine and feminine energies works to influence all levels of existence. Now, owing primarily to my familiarity with the tradition, I would like to focus upon one of the central tenets of Taoist thought — namely, the requirement of the individual to develop a correct understanding of one’s role within any given moment. Such an understanding is essential to one’s work in the development of discipline and integrity.
The I-Ching (Book of Changes) is an ancient Chinese text that underlies much of Taoist thought, as well as Chinese culture itself. Originally a method of divination that is thought to pre-date recorded history, the oldest surviving manuscript dates back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), prior to the unification of China.
Based upon the concept that all things in nature result from the constant interaction of Yin and Yang, which represent negative (feminine) and positive (masculine) essences, respectively, the symbolism of the I-Ching attempts to provide a description of the character that is inherent in any given moment. It is thought that by gaining insight into the broader nature of any given moment (i.e., the climate of the times, so to speak), one can position oneself to act in a manner that might result in the best possible outcome. Rather than directing one’s focus toward the future, one is guided toward achieving correctness in the moment: through correctness, one will successfully negotiate change.
In the introduction to Cary F. Baynes’ definitive English translation of the text, Richard Wilhelm describes the background and method:
At the outset, the Book of Changes was a collection of linear signs to be used as oracles. In antiquity, oracles were everywhere in use; the oldest among them confined themselves to the answers yes and no. This type of oracular pronouncement is likewise the basis of the Book of Changes. “Yes” was indicated by a simple unbroken line (___), and “No” by a broken line (_ _). However, the need for greater differentiation seems to have been felt at an early date, and the single lines were combined in pairs:
To each of these combinations a third line was then added. In this way the eight trigrams came into being. These eight trigrams were conceived as images of all that happens in heaven and on earth. At the same time, they were held to be in a state of continual transition, one changing into another, just as transition from one phenomenon to another is continually taking place in the physical world. Here we have the fundamental concept of the Book of Changes. The eight trigrams are symbols standing for changing transitional states; they are images that are constantly undergoing change. Attention centers not on things in their state of being — as is chiefly the case in the Occident — but upon their movements in change. The eight trigrams therefore are not representations of things as such but of their tendencies in movement.
These eight images came to have manifold meanings. They represented certain processes in nature corresponding with their inherent character. Further, they represented a family consisting of father, mother, three sons, and three daughters, not in the mythological sense in which the Greek gods peopled Olympus, but in what might be called an abstract sense, that is, they represented not objective entities but functions.
A brief survey of these eight symbols that form the basis of the Book of Changes yields the following classification:
The sons represent the principle of movement in its various stages — beginning of movement, danger in movement, rest and completion of movement. The daughters represent devotion in its various stages — gentle penetration, clarity and adaptability, and joyous tranquility.
In order to achieve a still greater multiplicity, these eight images were combined with one another at a very early date, whereby a total of sixty-four signs was obtained. Each of these sixty-four signs consists of six lines, either positive or negative. Each line is thought of as capable of change, and whenever a line changes, there is a change also of the situation represented by the given hexagram.
The complete set of sixty-four hexagrams (which are derived by combining two trigrams, one above the other, in all possible combinations) served to inspire all manner of learned commentary. In particular, a commentary known as the Ten Wings, attributed to Confucius (551-479 BC), has become an integral part of the text that has been handed down to us.
Presented in the figure (Figure 3.) below is the set of sixty-four hexagrams upon which the I-Ching symbology is founded:
The table (from Wikipedia) below provides the names and attributes of the sixty-four hexagrams of the I-Ching:
|R. Wilhelm||Modern Interpretation|
|01. |||||| Force (乾 qián)||The Creative||Possessing Creative Power & Skill|
|02. ¦¦¦¦¦¦ Field (坤 kūn)||The Receptive||Needing Knowledge & Skill; Do not force matters and go with the flow|
|03. |¦¦¦|¦ Sprouting (屯 zhūn)||Difficulty at the Beginning||Sprouting|
|04. ¦|¦¦¦| Enveloping (蒙 méng)||Youthful Folly||Detained, Enveloped and Inexperienced|
|05. |||¦|¦ Attending (需 xū)||Waiting||Uninvolvement (Wait for now), Nourishment|
|06. ¦|¦||| Arguing (訟 sòng)||Conflict||Engagement in Conflict|
|07. ¦|¦¦¦¦ Leading (師 shī)||The Army||Bringing Together, Teamwork|
|08. ¦¦¦¦|¦ Grouping (比 bǐ)||Holding Together||Union|
|09. |||¦|| Small Accumulating (小畜 xiǎo chù)||Small Taming||Accumulating Resources|
|10. ||¦||| Treading (履 lǚ)||Treading (Conduct)||Continuing with Alertness|
|11. |||¦¦¦ Pervading (泰 tài)||Peace||Pervading|
|12. ¦¦¦||| Obstruction (否 pǐ)||Standstill||Stagnation|
|13. |¦|||| Concording People (同人 tóng rén)||Fellowship||Fellowship, Partnership|
|14. ||||¦| Great Possessing (大有 dà yǒu)||Great Possession||Independence, Freedom|
|15. ¦¦|¦¦¦ Humbling (謙 qiān)||Modesty||Being Reserved, Refraining|
|16. ¦¦¦|¦¦ Providing-For (豫 yù)||Enthusiasm||Inducement, New Stimulus|
|17. |¦¦||¦ Following (隨 suí)||Following||Following|
|18. ¦||¦¦| Corrupting (蠱 gǔ)||Work on the Decayed||Repairing|
|19. ||¦¦¦¦ Nearing (臨 lín)||Approach||Approaching Goal, Arriving|
|20. ¦¦¦¦|| Viewing (觀 guān)||Contemplation||The Withholding|
|21. |¦¦|¦| Gnawing Bite (噬嗑 shì kè)||Biting Through||Deciding|
|22. |¦|¦¦| Adorning (賁 bì)||Grace||Embellishing|
|23. ¦¦¦¦¦| Stripping (剝 bō)||Splitting Apart||Stripping, Flaying|
|24. |¦¦¦¦¦ Returning (復 fù)||Return||Returning|
|25. |¦¦||| Without Embroiling (無妄 wú wàng)||Innocence||Without Rashness|
|26. |||¦¦| Great Accumulating (大畜 dà chù)||Great Taming||Accumulating Wisdom|
|27. |¦¦¦¦| Swallowing (頤 yí)||Mouth Corners||Seeking Nourishment|
|28. ¦||||¦ Great Exceeding (大過 dà guò)||Great Pre-ponderance||Great Surpassing|
|29. ¦|¦¦|¦ Gorge (坎 kǎn)||The Abysmal Water||Darkness, Gorge|
|30. |¦||¦| Radiance (離 lí)||The Clinging||Clinging, Attachment|
|31. ¦¦|||¦ Conjoining (咸 xián)||Influence||Attraction|
|32. ¦|||¦¦ Persevering (恆 héng)||Duration||Perseverance|
|33. ¦¦|||| Retiring (遯 dùn)||Retreat||Withdrawing|
|34. ||||¦¦ Great Invigorating (大壯 dà zhuàng)||Great Power||Great Boldness|
|35. ¦¦¦|¦| Prospering (晉 jìn)||Progress||Expansion, Promotion|
|36. |¦|¦¦¦ Brightness Hiding (明夷 míng yí)||Darkening of the Light||Brilliance Injured|
|37. |¦|¦|| Dwelling People (家人 jiā rén)||The Family||Family|
|38. ||¦|¦| Polarising (睽 kuí)||Opposition||Division, Divergence|
|39. ¦¦|¦|¦ Limping (蹇 jiǎn)||Obstruction||Halting, Hardship|
|40. ¦|¦|¦¦ Taking-Apart (解 xiè)||Deliverance||Liberation, Solution|
|41. ||¦¦¦| Diminishing (損 sǔn)||Decrease||Decrease|
|42. |¦¦¦|| Augmenting (益 yì)||Increase||Increase|
|43. |||||¦ Parting (夬 guài)||Break-through||Separation|
|44. ¦||||| Coupling (姤 gòu)||Coming to Meet||Encountering|
|45. ¦¦¦||¦ Clustering (萃 cuì)||Gathering Together||Association, Companionship|
|46. ¦||¦¦¦ Ascending (升 shēng)||Pushing Upward||Growing Upward|
|47. ¦|¦||¦ Confining (困 kùn)||Oppression||Exhaustion|
|48. ¦||¦|¦ Welling (井 jǐng)||The Well||Replenishing, Renewal|
|49. |¦|||¦ Skinning (革 gé)||Revolution||Abolishing the Old|
|50. ¦|||¦| Holding (鼎 dǐng)||The Cauldron||Establishing the New|
|51. |¦¦|¦¦ Shake (震 zhèn)||Arousing||Mobilizing|
|52. ¦¦|¦¦| Bound (艮 gèn)||The Keeping Still||Immobility|
|53. ¦¦|¦|| Infiltrating (漸 jiàn)||Development||Auspicious Outlook, Infiltration|
|54. ||¦|¦¦ Converting The Maiden (歸妹 guī mèi)||The Marrying Maiden||Marrying|
|55. |¦||¦¦ Abounding (豐 fēng)||Abundance||Goal Reached, Ambition Achieved|
|56. ¦¦||¦| Sojourning (旅 lǚ)||The Wanderer||Travel|
|57. ¦||¦|| Ground (巽 xùn)||The Gentle||Subtle Influence|
|58. ||¦||¦ Open (兌 duì)||The Joyous||Overt Influence|
|59. ¦|¦¦|| Dispersing (渙 huàn)||Dispersion||Dispersal|
|60. ||¦¦|¦ Articulating (節 jié)||Limitation||Discipline|
|61. ||¦¦|| Centre Confirming (中孚 zhōng fú)||Inner Truth||Staying Focused, Avoid Misrepresentation|
|62. ¦¦||¦¦ Small Exceeding (小過 xiǎo guò)||Small Pre-ponderance||Small Surpassing|
|63. |¦|¦|¦ ䷾ Already Fording (既濟 jì jì)||After Completion||Completion|
|64. ¦|¦|¦| Not-Yet Fording (未濟 wèi jì)||Before Completion||
Even apart from the oracular applications of the I-Ching (which, by the way, are well beyond the scope of our immediate discussion), there is considerable insight to be gained through examination of the wisdom contained in the text. Much different from the Western spiritual traditions, in which hard-and-fast laws are set forth, the I-Ching functions to provide suggestions for courses of action. Underlying these recommendations is the maxim “in nature, all things tend toward the positive” — even when things seem to be directed otherwise.
The Common Thread
The connections between the various religions of Western civilization are fairly easy to trace. Likewise, geographic proximity plays an obvious role in the development of the strikingly similar approaches of the various Eastern spiritual traditions. However, despite the stark differences in outlook between the spiritual traditions of the East and those of the West (particularly with regard to their respective views on morality and the role of sexuality in spiritual development), they all regard the development of both discipline and integrity as chief among the goals of their adherents.
For the purposes of our continuing discussion, it’s best that we arrive at a concrete understanding of these two very important terms: i.) Discipline, and ii.) Integrity. Our working definitions shall be the following:
- Discipline: The ability of an individual to both discern the set of laws that governs any particular moment and to operate within the boundaries thereof.
- Integrity: The willingness of an individual to report one’s position (and/or condition) relative to the laws that govern any particular moment.
One of the two fundamental aspects of a person’s character, the concept of integrity is the easiest to grasp. Simply put, it is always in one’s best interest to be truthful about one’s position. Although it might not always be advantageous to reveal all the details and minutiae of a given situation, one’s words should be consistent with that which is real; and one’s actions should be consistent with one’s words.
It is due to the integrity of its components that any given system of things functions as it should. Human beings exist as functional components of larger bodies (i.e., families, states, nations, the world, the universe, etc.), and it is only through an individual’s accurate reporting of one’s condition that these larger bodies can correctly assess and maintain their wellness.
When integrity is present, there is not much to worry about. In the absence of illusion, things follow their natural course toward that which is positive. Conversely, the far-too-frequent instances in which integrity is absent make our world a much more challenging place than it needs be. Lies and other denials of that which is real impose an unnatural tendency upon the course of events. Consider the following three unfortunate examples:
- A man who knows he is afflicted with a virulent venereal disease decides to go to a party. At the party, he meets a beautiful young woman who has had a bit too much alcohol to drink. During their conversation, the woman tells the man about how her friends from school have been pressuring her to lose her virginity. Taking note of a golden opportunity, and neglecting to inform the young woman of his illness, the man convinces the young woman to have unprotected sex with him. Six months later, the man dies of his illness; the young woman dies the following year. In her short lifetime, she had only that one sexual encounter.
In the purely fictional example above, lack of integrity is clearly at the root of all the evil that occurs. It wasn’t just the alcohol, as we learn from a real-world study on alcohol-related sexual assault:
Explanations for the Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Sexual Assault
The fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault. The causal direction could be the opposite; men may consciously or unconsciously drink alcohol prior to committing sexual assault to have an excuse for their behavior. Alternatively, other variables may simultaneously cause both alcohol consumption and sexual assault. For example, personality traits, such as impulsivity, or peer group norms may lead some men both to drink heavily and to commit sexual assault.
- The institutional integrity of the Catholic Church itself was called into question when it was learned that there was a long-standing practice of various forms of sexual abuse (visited upon minor children, nuns, etc.) being committed by priests. Also, there was often no form of correction for the problem sought by superiors once allegations of abuse were raised. In 2002, when it was discovered that the practice of covering-up instances of sexual abuse was common throughout the institution of the Church and that such abuses were widespread, media attention on the issue raised
questions about the integrity of the Vatican itself. Even to this day, the issue undermines the moral authority of the Church; subsequently putting at risk the basis for the faith of millions. In a New York Times article, dated April 11, 2014, Pope Francis himself is quoted:
Vatican City — Pope Francis said on Friday that he took personal responsibility for the harm done by priests who sexually abused children, and he pledged that the Roman Catholic Church would confront the issue unflinchingly and impose sanctions when necessary.
“The church is aware of this damage,” he said. “It is personal moral damage, carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward regarding how we will deal with this problem. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger, because you cannot interfere with children.”
The remarks were made off the cuff before members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French nonprofit that promotes the rights and dignity of children. They were his most forceful comments to date on the church’s abuse scandal.
The two previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, condemned priests who harmed children and expressed sorrow and regret over abuse, but Francis is the first pope to take personal responsibility for the scandal. He said on Friday that he felt “compelled to personally take on all the evil” that some priests, “quite a few in number,” had committed against children.
The pope did not specify to what sanctions he was referring, nor to whom they would be applied.
The Vatican has defrocked a number of priests in recent years who were found to have abused children. But it has not taken strong action against priests, bishops or church officials who concealed abuse, helped abusers remain in the ministry or were negligent in dealing with the problem. In his remarks on Friday, the pope said that abusers were a small minority of the priesthood.
Advocacy groups have criticized Francis for moving slowly and tentatively in addressing the abuse scandal in his first year as pope, while acting swiftly to shake up the church on other fronts, such as finances. In particular, critics say, the pope has not imposed mandatory discipline of priests and bishops who acted to cover up abuse cases and shield abusers.
The pope’s words on Friday did little to change the critical view of one prominent advocacy group. “It’s talk,” said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. “When it comes to finances, or how bishops should live and set an example, he acts. But when it’s about the rape of children, he talks.”
Though the pope spoke about sanctions, he gave no specifics, Ms. Dorris said, so “until he takes some actions, it’s hard to believe that his request for forgiveness is serious.”
For example, she said, the Vatican has yet to discipline Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City, who was convicted in 2012 of failing to report a priest who was an active pedophile, a misdemeanor. “The fact that he’s still there sends an important message to other bishops,” Ms. Dorris said. “There is no incentive to change one’s behavior to do the right thing.”
- Following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that devastated Japan, on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered a catastrophic failure. Because of a combination of poor planning, the unexpected occurrence of an extreme environmental shock, and lack of integrity, now the health of the Pacific Ocean (and perhaps the entire planet) itself is threatened; as 300+ tons of highly radioactive waste water pours into the ocean each day. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Q: How stable is the situation at the Fukushima reactors?
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), brought Reactors One, Two, and Three to a stable state known as “cold shutdown” — meaning that the temperature of the water cooling the nuclear fuel rods remains below the boiling point — in late 2011, so there is no immediate risk of another meltdown. There is concern, though, about the safety of 1,300 spent fuel assemblies being stored near the top of Reactor Number Four, which was weakened by an explosion in March 2011. Recognizing the need to place these in safe storage, Tepco plans to begin the unprecedented task of removing the spent fuel assemblies in November. The operation is expected to last a year.
Q: What needs to happen before the reactors can be considered “safe”?
Some areas of the plant have radiation levels that are still so high that they are inaccessible to humans. The site itself is still far from safe for the workers there, although the threat of dangerous atmospheric radiation releases over a wider area has passed. The consensus is that the site will not be completely safe until the molten fuel in three reactor basements has been removed — a dangerous process expected to take about forty years. Workers will have to continue pumping coolant water into the reactors for years, until the molten fuel reaches a state in which it can be air-cooled. Therein lies another problem: Nuclear officials admit they are not sure exactly where the fuel is resting.
Q: How has the situation been handled?
Badly. In the early days of the disaster, Tepco was criticized for acting too slowly to inform the public about the gravity of the accident, although the government has won praise from the United Nations, among others, for quickly ordering the evacuation of communities near the plant. Since the disaster, Tepco’s response has been dogged by mishaps, including power cuts, shoddy construction of water tanks, and the use of substandard equipment to monitor radiation. Tepco’s reluctance to quickly disclose problems at the site has added to public mistrust of the utility and sparked calls for the formation of an international task force to oversee the decommissioning of the reactors.
Q: What’s the major concern now?
Water. This summer, Tepco finally admitted that as much as 300 tons of contaminated ground water was seeping into the Pacific Ocean every day. The ground water flows down from the hills behind the plant and mixes with water that is being used to cool the reactors. It also emerged that several tanks used to store toxic water pumped out of the reactor basements had sprung leaks, sending radiation in the immediate vicinity to dangerously high levels. There are ambitious, and costly, plans to build an underground “ice wall” to prevent ground water from reaching the reactors, and to replace poorly constructed storage tanks prone to leaks. The water leaks have caused anger overseas, prompting South Korea last month to impose a ban on all fish imports from a large area of Japan.
Q: Was it the reactors’ design, their location, or simply a lack of planning that resulted in the crisis?
On-line reactors at Fukushima Daiichi automatically shut down when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Japan’s northeast coast March 11, 2011. While there is disagreement over whether the meltdowns were triggered by the earthquake or the ensuing tsunami, it is the latter that caused the most damage. Tepco had ignored warnings that the area was prone to very powerful tsunamis; waves as high as forty-six feet easily breached the plant’s nineteen-foot protective seawall, while its backup power generators, located perilously close to the ocean, were quickly rendered useless. In the quest to keep costs down, Tepco, aided by Japan’s toothless nuclear regulators, had failed to prepare Fukushima Daiichi for a major natural disaster. It is for that reason that a key report on the Fukushima disaster published in July 2012 described it as “man-made.”
In our modern (and still negatively charged) world, the mention of the word “discipline” often leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth: the commonly accepted definitions of the term usually involve the concepts of punishment and fear. If we are to begin to provide correction to the errors of the past, we must dispense with fear-laden concepts; lest we continue to chauffeur ghosts. Because discipline is such a powerfully constructive faculty, we are well-served to find a vantage point from which to observe the beauty of its action within our lives.
Instead of narrowly viewing discipline as corrective constraints that are imposed upon one by others, might it not be better to embrace discipline as a form of positively motivated restraint with which one informs oneself? Perhaps a climate in which most were self-disciplined would allow more processes and situations to unfold in the most natural and productive manner possible.
In the chapter dedicated to the oracular hexagram for Limitation (Chieh), the I-Ching offers the following eloquent commentary:
A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality. Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man; if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.
Indeed, discipline is nothing more than the management of limits that are imposed upon one’s actions, behavior, and thoughts. If the individual wisely chooses to place limits upon oneself, in accordance with the requirements of the moment, then one is granted freedom to do anything that is integral within those bounds. In this fashion, discipline actually supports integrity. There arises no reason to fabricate false reports about one’s situation; thus, the mind and spirit are freed to consider constructive means of negotiating change. Over time and with practice, one’s exercise of restraint leads to an intuitive understanding of how one might bring about the best possible outcome from most situations into which one is cast.
Just as self-discipline works to strengthen one’s ability to attain increasing degrees of integrity, integrity in turn functions to help one establish limits that are appropriate. One must be reluctant to entertain illusions that ignore the existence of real problems. Only when one is capable of making an honest appraisal of one’s circumstances can one begin to consider the appropriateness of any given course of action. Here, it should be reiterated that discipline is not so much about limits themselves, as it is concerned with employing them as a means of attaining correctness. As we are made aware by further commentary from the I-Ching, “it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation”; and thus, it is one’s integrity that informs one of the possibility that the restraint with which one holds oneself might not be effective in a certain situation.
Within the context of human society, those entities and/or processes that fail to maintain at least a modicum of correctness become subject to either adjustment or abolishment. An individual who fails to consciously behave in a disciplined fashion will create a state of imbalance within the larger social body of which one is a part. When such an individual eventually becomes subject to corrections that are imposed by sources external to oneself, this form of discipline merely serves to maintain the status quo – and no evolution of the broader system is probable. Evolution is only accomplished when an individual pushes beyond the bounds of one’s place within the whole in such a fashion that one’s expansion does not cause corruption. It is one’s sense of discipline that affords one the ability to perceive the moment at which attempts to expand one’s limits will be most productive…and correct.
The Superior Man
Disciplined and possessed of integrity, the superior man is not purely the result of any particular circumstance of birth: his superiority arises from his ability to embrace the moment at-hand, and to lawfully exercise command from within. Instead of the moment controlling him, he arises to define the moment! Through his authenticity, he creates the future.
Under the cover of darkness,
seek not that which might not stand the light of day!
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1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
6. a set or system of rules and regulations.
7. Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
8. an instrument of punishment, especially a whip or scourge, used in the practice of self-mortification or as an instrument of chastisement in certain religious communities.
9. a branch of instruction or learning: the disciplines of history and economics.
verb (used with object), dis•ci•plined, dis•ci•plin•ing.
10. to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
11. to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
12. to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.
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