An updated worldview with ten principles for putting these beliefs into practice.
Our starting point in life is ourselves and our own immediate experience. These teach us the limits of our capabilities and knowledge. We should therefore at all times be humble. We should be humble in respect of ourselves and our own potential, humble in our dealings with others, and humble in the face of the all-encompassing reality that binds the world together as one.
The origins, purpose and future of this world are wrapped in mystery, which no one - not even scientists or philosophers or people of religion - can penetrate. Still, we can see certain fundamentals. We can see this is a world that is diverse yet one whole, conflicted but also harmonious and balanced, chaotic but also ordered and purposeful. It appears to be unique or at least special, but we cannot know, for there may be other worlds as well. As mere humans we are unable to see what it is that has drawn all this together and sustains it, but for two reasons we acknowledge a divinity both beyond and within that accounts for it all. Firstly, the majesty of our world is truly awe-inspiring and of such scale as to be not accidental, and secondly, the idea of perfection, which experience has taught us, indicates the possibility of transcendence, in other words that the world has a dimension that goes beyond the material and the everyday. We should therefore acknowledge and give due honour to the presence of the divine, even though it is beyond our comprehension.
The will to live and flourish has taught us the significance of value in all aspects of life. There are things we perceive to be functional, life-enhancing, beautiful and so on. They are the good. We should be thankful for good things for they are many and they sustain us through all our difficulties.
The good and the bad in life are locked in a seemingly eternal conflict and symbiosis. As mere humans we cannot know how or why this is so, or whether either will ultimately triumph. However, it could be said that our very existence is a sign that the good is pre-eminent, at least in some small measure. Also, it would appear that the bad – evil and suffering – while abhorrent leads to good outcomes. We should therefore accept the inevitability of bad things, being aware that they ultimately help us on the path to the good.
Our biggest challenge in life is human ego and greed. These two constantly drag us down, both individually and collectively. They are destructive in themselves and in combination with lesser states like fear and apathy. We should therefore guard against these forces, for they are the constituents of what we commonly term evil.
It is our fate to be bound to the material world and all its uncertainties. We are attached to the security and pleasures of the material and unduly anxious over unknowns such as our future, death, and what might befall the planet. We have no control over chance and limited influence over the innumerable factors of predetermination and it is therefore foolish to live beyond the humble scope of our present day. We should therefore limit our attachments to things which are insubstantial and transitory and focus instead on the verities of truth, love and creation, which are both present and (presumed to be) eternal.
While we are endowed with different capabilities, we are all fundamentally the same. We are all human. We should therefore treat each other as equals, with due respect and regard. This includes other ways of seeing the world – religions, political opinions, cultural convictions and so on. As much as possible, this rule should also apply to other creatures and forms of life, for we all inhabit the same planet.
The divine encompasses all aspects of the world and life, some of which we consider good, others of which we consider bad. The good serves to constantly inspire us to do better. The good, at its most fundamental, comprises love and truth. We can say that the ongoing triumph of creation and civilisation is due to forms of truth which are energised into existence by love. We should therefore commit to being at all times truthful and kind and, where we can, loving.
The core of all existence is the process of birth, living and dying that we call creation. The basic function of our existence is to further the work of this creation. Creation, however, extends beyond survival to enjoyment: we strive not only to live but to live well. In addition, we each of us have our own inner necessities to pursue, for it is our task in life to evolve. In doing so, we recognise that we are not motivated by self-interest alone, for as well as being individuals we are inescapably social by nature. We should therefore add purpose to our existence, that purpose being to fulfil our own potential and to make the world as a whole a better, gentler place.
Ten principles for living
1. We should be humble.
2. We should acknowledge and give due honour to the presence of the divine in this world.
3. We should appreciate the good things in life.
4. We should accept the inevitability of bad things, abhorrent though they are, for they ultimately help us on the path to the good.
5. We should guard against ego and greed, especially within ourselves, for they are at the heart of everything bad.
6. We should limit all unnecessary attachments including the feeling of compulsion to control our own destiny.
7. We should treat each other as equals, with due respect and regard.
8. We should be kind.
9. We should be truthful.
10. We should commit with diligence to the creation of a better, gentler world.
This statement of fundamental beliefs is an attempt to deal honestly with the realities of life on Earth as I see them; so for example it starts with acknowledging that as human beings we are very small and limited in what we can know, no matter how great our achievements.
My credo grows out of philosophy and religion across the world and deep in time. It owes a debt to all sorts of established belief systems but is aligned with none of them in particular.
Beliefs have value only when they are put into practice. The ten principles for living which are set out at the end are a step in that direction. However, ultimately, everything we do comes down our will, which we exercise every minute of the day. Principles such as those set out here are mere words unless we have the courage and the perseverance to make them come alive.