Why are Ethical Perspectives important?

In our fast-paced and seemingly chaotic world, ethical or spiritual perspectives play an important role in helping us make sense of the complexities and dilemmas of human living, of which there are many. We live in an age where the duality of life is distinctly visible: the spiritual and the material, right and wrong, and morality and immorality.

The unfolding crises clearly reveal the divisions in society. As a race, we face a number of ethical challenges, such as: climate change, public health, freedom of expression, religious freedom, global justice, the value of democracy, immigration, terrorism, child labour, rogue states, the disconnect between science and religion, and the growing disparities between rich and poor.

In our globally interconnected landscape what happens locally can have profound ramifications the world over, for better or for worse. These problems will only deepen unless there is the resolve on the part of humanity to address them head-on. If we are to emerge into a brighter future, then we need to navigate our way with a moral compass ever pointing towards the magnetic direction of sound spiritual values and of high ethical standards.

‘Ethics’, we are informed, derives from the Ancient Greek word ‘ethos’, which means ‘character’ or ‘moral nature’. ‘Ethics’, then, can be described as a ‘code of conduct’ or ‘belief system’ predicated upon certain moral principles. Ethical perspectives are the yardstick by which we measure human, national, and international conduct. They provide the framework in which we can evaluate and judge what is morally right or wrong, and the guidelines for ethical decision-making in the face of complex moral issues.

Over the last few thousand years, religious thinkers, philosophers, and theologians have deliberated and agonised over the human condition: its purpose, role, and direction, and its relationship to the wider world and to God. After the early periods of Hinduism and Buddhism, but before the advent of Christianity, three notable Greek philosophers in the Western world (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) embedded their weight of logic, reason, and intuitive insight into the consciousness of the race. Around the same period, in the East, arose the philosophies of two other great thinkers, Confucius and Lao Tze. And, 2000 years ago, Christ lived a life of example, which was the apotheosis of human achievement (in consciousness) at that time, and even today few can demonstrate. Since then, philosophers in the East and West have come and gone, leaving their legacies of wisdom to the science of philosophical thought.

It is not surprising then that over the millennia, a system of ethics and values has been gaining traction in human consciousness, upon which our fragile modern world is founded. But, in the last 100 years or so, with the breakdown of traditional religious values, the rise of scientific materialism, and the rapid development of the lower concrete mind, a new approach to global challenges is becoming imperative. And, leading thinkers and visionaries have called for a planetary ethic or ethic-centered world fit for the twenty-first-century mind. Among them are, Alice Bailey, Ervin Laszlo, and Albert Schweitzer, to name but three:

“Ethics”, wrote Albert Schweitzer, “is nothing more than reverence for life.” If we do not revere life in all its manifest diversity and develop a sense of the sacred in all things, we are headed towards a bleak world, where the wanton pursuit of profit, injustice, and the breakdown of social cohesion predominate.

In one of her books, Alice Bailey, a leading twentieth-century esoteric philosopher, spoke of the need for:

  • a (political) synthesis in the world, in which the Eastern and Western cultures function like the right and left lobes of the world brain, to bring about the alignment of the higher and lower minds, which are so characteristic of each hemisphere.
  • a planetary ethics, to provide the framework to effect certain necessary changes (in the world).

“We can only unfold the higher abstract mind and … interpret its conclusions”, wrote Alice Bailey, “through the medium of the trained lower concrete mind.” The pervasive ‘spirituality’ of the East when blended with the rational logic of the West can bring about a new and dynamic intuitional-consciousness to realign world thinking along sound spiritual lines.

Ervin Laszlo, a distinguished Hungarian scientist, also calls for a ‘Planetary Ethic’, a global morality, a shared moral code, which is universally accepted and recognised.  ‘[A] universal morality’, he writes, “….. respects the conditions under which all people in the global community can live in dignity and freedom, without destroying each other’s chances of livelihood, culture, society, and environment.”

Likewise, Albert Schweitzer, an eminent humanitarian and philosopher, was a firm advocate of a system of ethics that embraced not only our relationship with our fellow human beings but also with the natural world. “Compassion, in which all ethics must take root”, he wrote, “can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind”. Indeed, such is the importance of high ethical standards in modern life, which should be a part of the educational process, and taught from an early age. Through the work of these and other profound thinkers, new thinking is underway.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that a planetary ethic is dawning, born out of the vision of forward-looking individuals and groups worldwide. Their values and ethos are indicative of a culture of the soul, of a simplified planetary way of life, in which individuals and communities, and nation-states and the family of nations, are seen as integral and interrelated stakeholders. Ethical perspectives and values are an indispensable part of our journey towards a global community at peace with itself, in harmony with nature, and a deepening relationship with the Divine.



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