Whence arises the sense of duty? In what does it originate?
In considering every proposition of life, the method of its ultimate correct solution will always suggest a paraphrase of the ancient axiom that "all roads lead to Rome."
In seeking to follow the pathways of truth, the burden of the search has ever been the discovery of a new "Rome," which shall prove to be the common centre of all ethics and religions, whence emanate the varying aspects of truth which through the ages have brought hope to discouraged humanity and confidence in an eternal existence.
That such a common centre must exist is evidenced by the fact that whether the sincere person be Christian, Buddhist, or what not, his belief regardless of outward label can and does at the crucial moment bring that calm and "peace which passeth understanding," which at trying times constitutes the chief and only desideratum.
If we can discover the reason for this common experience, it is very possible that the real centre of truth may be found to be within our apprehension.
Examining, then, the various religions with special view to discovering tenets common to all, the most manifest similarity is in the universal enunciation of what today is called the "Golden Rule."
There was a time, perchance of not exceeding antiquity, when precepts and injunctions were accepted by the masses and followed in the letter with varying exactness by reason of their confidence in the dicta of their leaders. But as the world is learning to think, it recognizes that good rules of conduct cannot be arbitrary in their origin, but of necessity must be founded upon natural law and formulated with the sole purpose of conforming therewith.
That it is an excellent thing, even good business policy, to do as one would be done by, is plainly apparent, and it must be admitted that the universal observance of the rule would speedily remove every mundane difficulty; but it can require no argument to satisfy us that such fact is by no means a mere happening or sentimentality. Rather is it and must it be the result of Law, and that, too, of a character which is inflexible, in that it is nature's — that which originates in man's puny intellection being the only type which requires an exception for its proof.
Finding, then, that action and reaction are always equal and opposite; that bread cast upon the waters invariably returns, even as our "chickens always come home to roost," the observing mind marvels and asks with holy awe: "What is this universe?" and in the final word of the question does its answer appear.
The universe is indeed correctly so named, for it is a unit, a single, all-comprehensive One. This does not imply an aggregation of multitudes, but as tersely stated by St. Paul, "members of one body." Then does it appear why brotherly action is profitable. Then do we learn the reason why true love is a magic solvent, or rather amalgam. Then does the sun of enlightenment pierce the gloom of blindness and gradually unroll before our vision the fullness of truth.
Unconsciously the various portions of the physical body, which is perhaps the readiest analogy, give evidences of this great law in their constant cooperation for the well-being of the entirety. Likewise unconsciously, at least for some reason not generally understood, but quite as naturally, do we, the members of the larger body, at times feel impelled to cooperate in some uplifting effort; and to satisfy our groping reasons for this tendency we have coined the label "duty," which really designates our, so to speak, unconscious consciousness of unity and the necessity for governing ourselves in accordance therewith.
Therefore do we find that, even as in the past, "all roads lead to Rome," so today does every ethical or, for that matter, business or other practical proposition lead to and centre in unity, with
full exemplification in Universal Brotherhood, by reason of which fact in nature our sense of duty arises and reveals its origin. — Lucien B. Copeland.
"I slept and dreamed that Life was beauty, I waked and found that Life was duty."
Whence arises the sense of duty? In what does it originate? I cannot be expected to answer categorically these questions that go to the very root of all morality. I can at best simply give my own impressions regarding them and add a few resulting thoughts. It appears then to me that a man's sense of duty is his personal perception or consciousness of the fundamental law of his own complex nature. It is his recognition of that "Power Divine which moves to good" and of his relation to it. It must originate for him in that divine centre of himself which is also the divine centre of all other men; in that divine unity which is the basis of Universal Brotherhood. Duty is the "Noblesse oblige" of his own Soul. Being divinely descended and related, he owes it to himself to be and to do that which is in keeping and harmony with such descent and relation.
In my own mind I have pictured the path of duty as a man's peculiar orbit round the spiritual sun. Each man has his own orbit, but all have a common centre. Thus it becomes clear to me why we have been warned to attend strictly to our own duty and that "the duty of another is full of danger." That mysterious and elusive thing we call conscience is the channel or medium through which we get our light from the sun to perceive our own path of duty. This path is not clear nor easy to be seen, for though the Soul sees, the personality is beclouded and befogged by his thoughts and desires and the earthly illusions.
The more the Soul dominates the lower mind and through it, the body, the more clearly he can "see his way," The more he aspires, the more conscience speaks.
In the Gita we find Arjuna demanding of Krishna that he tell him distinctly what is right to do. "I am thy disciple, wherefore instruct in my duty me who am under thy tuition." Krishna declares that he is not to regard the "outcome of action," but to make ready for battle and do the present apparent duty, "seeking an asylum in mental devotion."
So it seems to me that our whole duty is to follow along our own path as we see it from moment to moment relying upon intuition or conscience to guide, until through mental devotion we reach spiritual illumination and become one with
"The Law that moves to Righteousness
Which none at least can turn aside or stay;
The heart of it is Love, the end of it
Is Peace and Consummation." — V. F.
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