The Stability of Goodness

(Presentation from ANZURA’s Virtual 2021 Annual Conference)

How Is Goodness Stabilizing?

The time-space creation is one vast fragmentation of an infinite God into individual expressions of which we are but one (and our great universe adventure is one of reunification back with that God). Yet the oneness of God persists. All his constituent parts are unified in the personality of the Father in his eternal perfection. And our personality, as an exclusive and direct endowment of God, likewise has the potential of unifying all our constituent elements, just as God’s personality unifies his. (56:4.3)

Personality implies will. It is our will that makes those choices that either help or hinder our growth. It is our will that can choose to embrace the divine values that leads to spiritual growth, bringing us closer and eventually to God. Divine values I expect are nigh on infinite, but for the purpose of living for now on this world, can be distilled into the concepts of truth, beauty and goodness. These concepts represent our best attempt at discerning God in mind, matter and spirit, as we study them in philosophy, cosmology and religion. (56:10.2)

Taking these concepts to their highest levels:

The meanings of eternal truth make a combined appeal to the intellectual and spiritual natures of mortal man. Universal beauty embraces the harmonious relations and rhythms of the cosmic creation … and leads towards unified and synchronous comprehension of the material universe. Divine goodness represents the revelation of infinite values to the finite mind, therein to be perceived and elevated to the very threshold of the spiritual level of human comprehension. [Paper 56:10.9, page 646.10 emphasis mine]

“Divine goodness represents the revelation of infinite values to the finite mind.” So the goodness of God reveals something that is eternal, to us that is finite. If you shift from the temporal, which is limited by its very nature and must eventually pass, to the infinite which will persist into eternity, could anything be more stabilizing than that?

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, there are many examples of goodness stabilizing right here on the finite level as well.

I was paddling my kayak across Sydney Harbour heads in a big swell, when I encountered a particularly turbulent section at Middle Head where the swell was rebounding off the rocks back into my path. One of these rebounds hit me and I almost rolled completely over. It was not a great place to be falling out. A couple of waves would have smashed me up against the rocks before I had time to drain the flooded cockpit. So I instinctively moved my body weight to counteract the wave and pulled the boat back up, overcorrected and nearly spilled out the other way, but managed to level it and paddled out of danger. Now, I have to say that it was good that I reacted to keep the kayak upright, it had a stabilizing effect on the boat and quite likely saved me from harm, keeping the rest of my life stabilized as well.

How else is goodness stabilizing?

On a Physical level:

  • Eating good food will keep your health stabilized, bad food will make you sick.
  • A good car is one that gets you from A to B, every time: stable, reliable transport.
  • A good place to live brings stability and provides a foundation for so many other good things.
  • A good book brings goodness into your life, from pure enjoyment to life improving change; both the happiness and enlightenment obtained are stabilizing for the reader.

On a Mental level:

  • Positive thinking maintains good mental health.
  • Good thinking with proper analysis and reasoning leads to better discernment of truth and meaning, increases comprehension and understanding.
  • Good ideas and creativity solve problems and improve lives.
  • Doing things that are good, and good for you, is satisfying, rewarding, nourishing, beneficial, etc, and therefore are you likely to keep doing them: stable behaviour.
  • A good job keeps you stable intellectually and emotionally, contributes to a stable society, as well as providing a life-stabilizing income.
  • Good relationships, a good education, good leadership, good laws (the examples are endless), are all stabilizing compared with their bad opposites.

On a Spiritual level:

  • Goodness is nearness to divinity; potential evil is remoteness from divinity. (3:6.2)
  • Choosing goodness leads to repentance (choosing to avoid evil) and is a pathway to perfection.
  • Choosing goodness contributes to spiritual growth, evil leads to stagnation and decay; the more spiritual growth, the more goodness you have which leads to greater stability.
  • And good religion, a good relationship with your Father in heaven, leads to stable relations with your fellow men and certainty of survival after death.

Consider for a moment the contrasting life without any goodness. Much instability comes from living with the consequences of evil and bad choices. Situations never end well and compound from bad to worse in a downward spiral.

How Do We Define Goodness?

But what do we mean when we use the term goodness? Generally speaking, it means the state or quality of being good, (i.e., adding the suffix ‘-ness’ onto the word ‘good’). If you said, ‘this is a good apple, because it has goodness within it,’ you’d be describing a quality embedded within the apple that makes it good, such as its flavour or nourishing elements.

So then what does ‘good’ mean? We take it for granted that we know what it means and use the term every day. People generally know what others mean when they use the term ‘good’ to describe something. For example, if you say you’re having a good day, you mean all things are going well for you.

Philosophers over the ages have attempted to define ‘The Good’, and promote ‘good living’ in answer to the ancient question, “how then should we live?” And some useful ethics and understandings have emerged from this. For example:

  • Plato wanted to give a general account of goodness and settled on the ‘Form of the Good’, a perfect, eternal and changeless essence existing outside space and time, in which particular good things share.
  • Aristotle proposed that a certain type of happiness is the ultimate intrinsic good: what he called ‘eudaimonia’ (flourishing or well-being); which is more than simple happiness, is a happy life that is well-lived, guided by reason and rationality in accordance with virtue and excellence.
  • Spinoza declared that everyone has the capacity to determine and to do good, through discipline and training, and it’s not a divine endowment.
  • Kant argued that the only virtue that can be unqualifiedly good is ‘good will.’ Is unique in that it is always good and maintains its moral value even when it fails to achieve its moral intentions.
  • And of course, John Stuart Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’: that which is good is that which provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

The Hebrew religion connected goodness with God and godliness (holiness). In Genesis, God created everything in the universe, and saw that it was good; i.e. the universe has purpose and value according to the will of God. They held commandments and developed laws that directed human behaviour in the direction of the divine; such that ethical behaviour is choosing the good over the bad (evil) and brings one closer to God. For example, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.’ (Lev 19.2) and ‘love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways.’ (Deut 11.22). Individual and social order was much improved by this. They understood the stability that goodness provided. Said the Psalmist: ‘Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on level ground.’ (Psalm 143:10)

And the New Testament record holds just enough of Jesus’ teaching about goodness to see us through to the present day. Such as:

  • that goodness is a ‘fruit of the spirit’ as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.
  • the concepts that goodness leads to repentance (Rom 2:4), and to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
  • ‘do good to those who hate you’ in (Luke 6:27-28).
  • choosing good is choosing to be like God, when you are good you are closer to what God is like (3 John 1:11).

And here today, we have come to understand goodness as a divine value. It is one of the most important principles to guide your life by if you’re interested in survival after death. When you apply a standard of goodness to everything in your life, everything stabilizes and improves, enabling growth, including soul growth. When you’re building anything that needs to last, you have to start with a good foundation and good materials. Solid, strong, reliable, the right substance, correctly located. When you have this, what you are building will be of quality and will be stabilized. Likewise in building your soul: …goodness leads to greatness, and greatness develops survival character (28:6.22). The foundations are laid with moral choices, i.e., choosing good over bad—over evil. This creates a stable beginning upon which to grow a soul. This is what they meant when they said repent! Jesus said when people believe his teaching, “…which is a revelation of the goodness of God, they will be led to voluntary repentance of all known sin,” (150:5.5, 1683.2) which lays a pathway to the salvation of their soul.

Unification Through Personality

We are told that:

The religious challenge of this age is … to construct a new and appealing philosophy of living out of the enlarged and exquisitely integrated modern concepts of cosmic truth, universe beauty, and divine goodness. Such a new and righteous vision of morality will attract all that is good in the mind of man and challenge that which is best in the human soul. Truth, beauty, and goodness are divine realities, and as man ascends the scale of spiritual living, these supreme qualities of the Eternal become increasingly co-ordinated and unified in God, who is love. [Paper 2:7.10, page 43.3]

The nature of God is infinite, eternal, perfect, infallible, forever changeless. Out here in the universes, perfection is relative; we are evolving, growing, and striving for that ideal. God’s perfection consists in the inherent perfection of the goodness of his divine nature. And the whole scheme of universe life is for elevating us into sharing that perfection of the Father in heaven (2:2.5). Our health, sanity, and happiness are “…integrations of truth, beauty, and goodness as they are blended in human experience … through the unification of energy systems, idea systems, and spirit systems.” (2:7.11, emphasis mine) And “The real purpose of all universe education is to effect the better co-ordination of the isolated child of the worlds with the larger realities of his expanding experience.” (2:7.12, emphasis mine)

“The eternal quest is for unification, for divine coherence.” (2:7.7) The physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects of our great universe are aiming for coherence. We the isolated mortals of time and space cohere in God the Father through the direct relationship between him and the spirit fragment he sent to indwell us… this fragment everlastingly seeks for divine unification. (2:7.7) This is what the metaphor “the kingdom of heaven is within you,” means.

So in summary, it is our personality that does the choosing, when confronted by and exposed to the persistent challenging stimuli this life offers, to align ourselves with divine values. It is our personality that discerns truth, appreciates beauty, retains good/rejects evil – retains what is worthwhile, valuable and can contribute to growth, and rejects whatever doesn’t. “These divine qualities are perfectly and absolutely unified in God. And every God-knowing man … possesses the potential of unlimited self-expression on ever-progressive levels of unified self-realization by … the experiential blending in the evolutionary experience of eternal truth, universal beauty, and divine goodness.” The technique of the never-ending achievement of Godlikeness. [Paper 44:7.4, page 507.5 emphasis mine]

Jesus taught

…the soul that survives time and emerges into eternity must make a living and personal choice between good and evil as they are determined by the true values of the spiritual standards established by the divine spirit which the Father in heaven has sent to dwell within the heart of man. [Paper 132:2.2, page 1457.5]

Goodness is always growing toward new levels of the increasing liberty of moral self-realization and spiritual personality attainment — the discovery of, and identification with, the indwelling Adjuster. An experience is good when it heightens the appreciation of beauty, augments the moral will, enhances the discernment of truth, enlarges the capacity to love and serve one’s fellows, exalts the spiritual ideals, and unifies the supreme human motives of time with the eternal plans of the indwelling spirit, all of which lead directly to an increased desire to do the Father’s will, thereby fostering the divine passion to find God and to be more like him. [Paper 132:2.5, page 1458. 2]

So next time you’re sitting around the campfire and the only thing you have to worry about is when to turn your fresh catch over the coals, you’re relaxed with a nice drink in your hand and you forget about the troubles of the world, you could be tempted to say, “it’s all good mate!” And it’s nice to have that for a while, but really you know it’s only temporary. With God who is eternal, it’s all good all the time. You can either have “the good life” of material comfort or grow spiritually and aim for eternal life. The choice is yours.