Everyone is born with a certain innate capacity for good. Even the confirmed criminal before the bar is not altogether devoid of goodness. We drink in with our mother's milk unknowingly the desire to fulfill a divine mission. The degree to which we will succeed during our sojourn through conscious life depends upon our native capacity, the influences of education and our environment.
Man, among all the living beings, is the only one endowed with a moral sense, at least so it seems to us humans. It is quite possible that the so-called lower animals have a code of ethics among themselves. We can never know unless we could pry open the door to their world. Our sublime mission is to yield to the eternal urge to ascend to ever higher levels of perfection.
Many roads lead to Rome. Just so there are many ways leading to sanctity. There are those in whom the impulse to attain holiness is so strong that they deny themselves the pleasures of the flesh. They seek protection from the "temptations" of life behind the shielding walls of the monastery or the convent. They believe that the solitude of an ascetic life brings them close to God. Perpetual prayer and pious charity are their principal means of achieving the inner perfection they so ardently seek.
There is a serious question whether or not there is a selfish motive behind the ivory front of asceticism. Given a confident belief in the personal survival after death it could well be that the ascetic expects eternal compensation in return for his self-denial here upon earth. There is also a question whether the seeking of the protection afforded by the monastery walls is not a form of cowardice. At best a monastic life is an unnatural way of life.
Life on our earth came into being by a Power which we call God. We humans, who are at present the dominant form of life are, as such, the banner-bearers of the will of God. We interpret the will of God to be the constant ascent toward perfection in all things, physical as well as spiritual. From the very first cell that came into being evolutionary survival depended upon co-operation. Organic life in any form has always been engaged in a struggle against opposing forces. Without a struggle there could have been no progress. Struggle is the very catalyst which brings into action the evolutionary forces for progress. Sometimes we consider these opposing forces evil.
It cannot be the will of God that we hide ourselves in some secluded corner of the world against the influence of these forces, but rather that we meet them with undaunted courage. If the entire human race suddenly became sanctimonious all moral and physical progress would cease. Opposing forces would then be inoperative and the struggle in the process of evolution would come to an end. We would then have the heaven on earth so many of us dream of, but to the progressive soul it would be an unbearable state of inertia and stagnation.
The philosophy that the world is essentially evil and that we must shield ourselves against its influences by a protective wall can only be true for timid souls. The driving force in the world is for good. If this were not so the human race would never have reached its present state of advancement, as imperfect as it is. The fact that we realize its imperfections is a true indication that the Force for good is at work. In being the instruments of this Force, we carry out our divine mission much more effectively by entering the creative struggle in the open world where victory has its most telling effect. We need not go to the mountain of God to see the burning bush, the entire world is holy ground.
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In summer time, upon the water's breast,
The golden-hearted lotus comes to rest,
Symbolic of the spirit's upward way,
From depths of matter, to the sunlit day.
Not only in the summer, Nature's door
Opens on secrets of her mystic lore;
See where the aconite in winter grows! —
The little golden lotus of the snows.
— M. S. Tustin, England