The notion that virtue is an outer ideal toward which man must strive lies at the root of much of the evils and suffering that we’ve experienced through the millennia. This belief pits courageous man against courageous man, caring person against caring person, in a struggle to establish a good and just world through imperfect and flawed agents. Hence our wars, struggles, and strife through the ages.
A heart oriented steadfastly in the core virtue from which all virtues spring—love—allows for the differentiation of love within us into radiant and complementary virtues, as a prism refracts light. These inner touchstones reside within, like words, and they stand ready to clothe the impulse of spirit. When called on, they rise to the surface of our consciousness, and if we are attuned to that which emanates constantly from within rather than centering our attention in that which is without, we speak and act virtuously, in concert with the music of the spheres.
Virtues, as such, are inner, invisible spirits first and outer, visible pillars of character second. We needn’t strive to obtain them, for they are already present within us, always. Virtue is primarily a matter of spiritual being and not of human form, thus being virtuous must always begin with letting and not trying, that is, yielding to our inner daimon, our eternal, spiritual Self.
Those who ignore this sequence do so at their own peril. They will vainly set about making “bricks without straw,” forms of virtue devoid of the spirit of virtue. Their house of being—no matter how grand and well-appointed—sits then upon a faulty foundation and will not withstand the adverse winds of circumstance. They will struggle with impatience, be patient when patience ceases to be a virtue, screw up their circumstances by screwing up their courage at the wrong time, and desperately search for new and better information as a proxy for the sense of the fitness of things that comes naturally to wisdom, which springs only from within.
In this we see the great truth: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
Photo by Tiago Alves on Unsplash.