I am not someone who uses the word “morality” with any degree of comfort. Nietzsche is my hero, and Nietzsche believed that all that was good proceeded from vitality, not moralistic prescriptions.
However, I have recently discovered that I have, and believe in, one true moral imperative, one thing that is forever, irreducibly, beyond esthetics.
That thing is, simply put, meditation.
Up until now, I guess I had been working with the assumption that the spiritual path, the path of healing and self-discovery, was a sort of optional extra for people thus inclined. Not really indispensable. Nothing I could really exhort others to follow, however much I believe in and value it myself.
I now see that this is not so.
Indeed, evil and suffering have, it seems to me, only one source: our eternal propensity to flee our inner conflicts by projecting them on other people. And thus self-examination is the sole moral imperative to which the human race is called, the sole choice which is not purely esthetic.
This has, I guess, a worthy pedigree in moral philosophy, from Socrates’ exhortation to “know thyself” through Kierkegaard’s fevered piety to the esthetics of the post-structuralists. This notwithstanding, meditation has somehow, for me at least, stayed off the map. Perhaps it is the immobilism of the hierarchical cultures – India, Japan, China – which give most place to meditation in their spiritual practices which explains this unhelpful connotation. And yet, meditation responds most holistically to the Socratic call – not through the sole medium of the mind which the Greeks elevated out of all proportion, but through the media of the body, spirit and soul, the instincts, longings and pleasures which inhabit them, and the quintessential encounter with the other. Indeed, it is not only a question of knowing oneself, in some abstract and theoretical way, but of truly becoming oneself.
It has an equally worthy pedigree in sociology and social theory, with its roots in Marx, Durkheim, Freud and Reich, developed in the psychology of Erich Fromm, and is discussed in extenso in the present day discipline of psychohistory – the study of how childhood trauma relates to war and social upheaval. And indeed it has long been clear to me that I had no choice than to pursue my spiritual path because I owed it to my children. Still, I was reluctant to prescribe it to others.
No longer, then.
If you are reading this, know: your sole moral imperative on this earth is self-examination and meditation.