Two Guiding Principles

“Let us note that in every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which strives after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers. When opinion by the help of reason leads us to the best, the conquering principle is called temperance; but when desire, which is devoid of reason, rules in us and drags us to pleasure, that power of misrule is called excess. Now excess has many names, and many members, and many forms, … The desire of eating, for example, … is called gluttony, … the tyrannical desire for drink, … has a name which is only too obvious. …” ~Socrates

Yin and Yang fantasy with angelsA person who eats far more than he needs is called a glutton? Not today. Today he is called an athlete and gets interviewed on television. Then we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic. We give one guy a trophy for scarfing down fifty hot dogs, then insult overweight people for eating too much. How wonderfully contrary of us! And why is it we don’t give a trophy to the guy who chugs thirty beers in an hour? Anyway, Socrates makes a good point. Most of us struggle with this most of our lives. We desire pleasures that we know are not really good for us while another part of us wants to do what is right and what is good, even when it isn’t all that pleasurable. We do seem to be living in an age when a large number of people have chosen to embrace pleasure with complete abandon and the hell with doing what is right. We have corporate executives who get paid more in a day than many of the actual workers in the same corporation make in a year, yet those executives say they can’t give them a raise. When will they learn that without the actual people doing the work, there executive brilliance wouldn’t earn the corporation one cent. And they will step around a homeless—yet employed—family to get to the stairs leading to their penthouse apartment that they rent for two million a year. We have politicians who tell us they want to do what is right for the people, while offering themselves for sale to the highest bidder. Worst of all, we have preachers like Creflo Dollar preaching greed as a form of Christianity, completely ignoring that it was Satan who tempted Jesus with promises of material wealth, not God.


Fortunately, at the same time this is happening, we also have people who are waking up and becoming responsible individuals working for the betterment of all instead of the greedy few, but they generally get little notice. In the area of spiritual growth and enlightenment, this is obviously an important area. This conflict between material desires and the need for spiritual growth can be a difficult hurdle to jump. When your boss wants you to work seventy hours in a week to meet a ridiculous and arbitrary deadline, you can’t tell him you need time to do your spiritual techniques and practices. When your spouse complains that you need to work harder and make more money so you can replace that old car that is falling apart, it isn’t easy to tell him/her that your spiritual growth comes first. Sometimes, it is even hard to convince yourself that the spiritual is more important than the material, and the forces of darkness are always around to convince you that it is the material that matter. This unfortunate situation is starting to change, but for now the person who is serious about growing spiritually and consciously has to be strong enough to resist the temptation most of the time. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up all material possessions and go live naked in a cave, but it does mean you can’t get so caught up in the rat race that you forget what really matters.

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