Friday, May 7, 2010

this disinterested principle...

I notice that this is my 500th post and it is appropriate that it should be from William Ellery Channing on Self-Culture." I have been recently thinking about how this Midwestern Lutheran ended up a Boston Unitarian and the idea of self-culture is one important reason.  Though I loved (and love) my home state and my "home" religion, I found historical Unitarianism (the Boston Unitarians) resonating with me again and again.  This excerpt continues Channing's discussion of "Self-Culture and talks about disinterestedness-central to Channing and one of those "resonating ideas"...

"First, self-culture is Moral, a branch of singular importance. When a man looks into himself he discovers two distinct orders or kinds of principles, which it behoves him especially to comprehend. He discovers desires, appetites, passions which terminate in himself, which crave and seek his own interest, gratification, distinction; and he discovers another principle, an antagonist to these, which is Impartial, Disinterested, Universal, enjoining on him a regard to the rights and happiness of other beings, and laying on him obligations which must be discharged, cost what they may, or however they may clash with his particular pleasure or gain. No man, however narrowed to his own interest, however hardened by selfishness, can deny, that there springs up within him a great idea in opposition to interest, the idea of Duty, that an inward voice calls him more or less distinctly to revere and exercise Impartial Justice, and Universal Good-will. This disinterested principle in human nature we call sometimes reason, sometimes conscience, sometimes the moral sense or faculty. But, be its name what it may, it is a real principle in each of us, and it is the supreme power within us, to be cultivated above all others, for on its culture the right development of all others depends. The passions indeed may be stronger than the conscience, may lift up a louder voice; but their clamor differs wholly from the lone of command in which the conscience speaks. They are not clothed with its authority, its binding power. In their very triumphs they are rebuked by the moral principle, and often cower before its still, deep, menacing voice. No part of self-knowledge is more important than to discern clearly these two great principles, the self-seeking and the disinterested ; and the most important part of self-culture is to depress the former, and to exalt the latter, or to enthrone the sense of duty within us. There are no limits to the growth of this moral force in man, if he will cherish it faithfully. There have been men, whom no power in the universe could turn from the Right, by whom death in its most dreadful forms has been less dreaded, than transgression of the inward law of universal justice and love."

Blessings

2 comments:

Joel Monka said...

Congratulations on your 500th! Being a Pagan, I celebrated my 666th post instead of the 500th.

boston unitarian said...

Many Thanks! In your honor I will try to celebrate n. 666 as well.
Many blessings, BU