The Origin of Morality

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 month ago

Dr Demartini explores the question “What is morality?”. He discusses black-and-white thinking and our tendency as human beings to label people or situations and either “good” or “bad”, and presents a broader and potentially wiser approach to take.


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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 month ago

In all likelihood, at some point in your life, someone around you has projected their evaluation of your behaviour and assigned a label, deeming something you did or didn’t do as either bad or good, right or wrong. They may have projected their own evaluations onto you based on their own values, their perceived morals, or their societal ethics.

Sometimes, this projection may be used as an attempt to manipulate or guilt-trip you or perhaps to instil pride or shame within you.

But what exactly is this concept called morality and “having good morals”?

Perceptions of events as being one-sided.

You’ve likely encountered situations in your life where you initially perceived some action as terrible or bad. Yet, with the passage of time - be it a day, a week, a month, a year, or even five years - you’ve come to realize that what you once deemed ‘negative’ or terrible turned out to be a turning point that brought you possibly independence, ambition, creativity, or some other so-called ‘positive’ or terrific outcome.

These experiences may have led you to reconsider your initial judgments, prompting you to recognize that these various actions may not be as bad as you initially thought.

On the flip side, there may have been instances where you thought something was fantastic, like buying a house, only to later discover that it is a financial sinkhole that ended up costing you a fortune.

People sometimes impulsively or instinctively project a subjectively skewed evaluation onto things, assuming that their initial assessment is accurate, when in fact, there are two sides to it. In the same way that a magnet has a positive and negative pole, so too does every individual, situation, and experience.

I remember reading about the quest for a universal morality undertaken by French philosopher Montaigne, who travelled the world in search of such a construct. However, he never found one.

While some values and behaviours seem to be more commonly shared across certain countries,  actually more often what is considered virtuous in one place may be deemed wicked in another. For example, you could go to jail in some countries for being in a polygamous relationship, while in some countries, it is perfectly acceptable and even honoured. Some drugs have now been made legal that could have resulted in you being arrested many years ago.

So, these moral constructs are not universal laws but rather human-made moralities that evolve through time and space.

Your natural inclination may be to adjust and amend these moralities in response to the support or challenges you encounter. In times of support, you tend to relax the rules, while in the face of challenges, you tend to tax or tighten your moral boundaries.

So, where do these ideas and evaluation of morality come from?

Each human being possesses a unique set of priorities, or set of values.

No two individuals share exactly the same set. While some broad values like family might align, the specifics vary greatly.

No two people have the same set of values and they each evaluate and project their unique values onto their experiences. Their perceptions, decisions and actions are also determined by these values.

So, if you take two people with different values, they most likely have different ideas around what they perceive to be right and wrong, good and bad, pleasurable and painful. A good example of this is in a marriage where each spouse has different values when it comes to how to raise the children, or how to manage their finances. This can result in conflict if both individuals perceive that they are right and that their partner is wrong, instead of looking at both sides.

what is morality

If you then take a thousand families, you will likely see a wide spectrum of values. In fact, in society, the law of eristic escalation comes into play, where groups with opposing ideologies tend to emerge for every cause, resulting in opposing views.

For example, pairs of opposites emerge around issues such as pro-life and pro-abortion, pro-gun control and anti-gun control, pro-democrat and anti-democrat, and pro-capitalism and anti-capitalism. I once read a book by William Burr on numerous contradictions he found within the Bible. 

It is human nature to project your highest values onto others and label them as bad/wrong if you perceive that they challenge you, and good/right if you perceive that they support you.

The question is, can you look beyond these labels and explore a meta-ethical state?

In my 35 years of teaching the Breakthrough Experience, my 2-day online signature program, I've noticed how participants often enter the program with strong resentments or infatuations, labelling people as either bad or good, negative or positive. Yet, when we ask them quality questions that allow them to observe information they were previously unconscious of, their perceptions change.

The process, known as the Demartini Method, helps them to recognize and identify both false positives and false negatives, where they might have seen things that weren't there or missed things that were right in front of them.

You tend to filter your reality subjectively, assigning labels to things as good or bad, right or wrong.

In other words, you tend to construct these moral frameworks, with much of that morality rooted in survival impulses and instincts. Anything that promotes life tends to be seen as good, while anything leading to death may be seen as bad,

But then there are situational ethics that clouds that thinking, for example, if you feel forced to take somebody's life in order to save someone else's life.

So society tends to create structures to create clarity, and these structures are typically established by those in power over those who aren't.

The collective group with more wealth and power often dictates the rules, while those without power are expected to follow them. These rules are often consciously or unconsciously designed to protect the interests of the collective or individuals in positions of power against those that challenge them.

Yet, in actuality there are two sides of life. There’s support and challenge, as well as many other pairs of opposites. In fact, the more you’re addicted to one side, the more likely you are to attract the other to keep the equation in balance.

As I often say, maximum growth and development occur at the intersection of support and challenge. So, the rigid labelling of things as purely good or evil, is not something that I believe to be most productive. I don't believe in the existence of inherently good or evil people. I think that people are just people – often mislabelled by those with subjective biases.

When your values are challenged, you may be mean as a tiger, and when they are supported, you may be gentle as a pussycat toward those you mislabel good or bad. 

Another example I like to use is this: suppose someone were to tell you that you're always cruel, never kind, or always positive, never negative, you likely wouldn't agree.

However, were they to say that you are sometimes cruel and sometimes kind, and sometimes positive and sometimes negative, you would tend to agree. Because human beings possess both sides.

what is morality

In actuality, every individual, including you, exhibits a spectrum of behaviours, including kindness and cruelty, positivity and negativity, and various other paired traits.

Many people tend to rush to conclusions, sometimes labelling individuals based on a single action or characteristic. For example, an individual could spend the first 45 years of their life being labelled as a good man/woman and then do one thing that others perceive as being evil, and end up being labelled an evil man/woman for the remainder of their life. It’s amazing how easily that can happen.

I'm a firm believer in taking a balanced inventory of behaviours and seeing people as individuals, as opposed to the personas and labels of good and evil, right and wrong.

I'm not a good individual, nor am I an evil individual. I'm simply labelled the hero and the villain and the saint and the sinner and the good and the bad all mixed together depending upon various peoples values and perspectives.

Many years ago, I went through the Oxford English dictionary, and I found that I had 4,628 individual traits in my life at that time. Each and every one of them is a trait that could be considered positive and negative, good and evil, and right and wrong by different people.

It's easy to label somebody. It takes a little bit more effort to love somebody.

That's why in the Breakthrough Experience seminar program, I teach you how to go beyond your labels, beyond the perceptions that trap you. To see, that anything that you label as being really bad/evil/wrong and that you resent, tends to occupy space and time in your mind. You will then not have a clear consciousness. You will be frightened by it, and have a phobia and instinctually avoid it.

Anything you label as really good/positive/right, you will have an infatuation with, and it can occupy space and time in your mind. You may recall times such as these when you battled to sleep at night because of all the noise in your brain.

The highly polarized labels of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, are absolutes that mean that you have little awareness, and a narrow-mindedness.

You, along with everyone else, possess all the traits. What you perceive in others is also in you.

By doing so, you are less likely to view yourself as being good or bad, but that you are a multifaceted human being whose behaviour varies depending on the circumstances.

It also allows you to recognize the same complexity in others. This is much wiser than living in a fantasy that you are somehow able to get rid of half of yourself or others - the half you perceive as being “negative”.

what is morality

As a result, you will be more likely to stop and reflect instead of hastily labelling or judging. It’s one of the reasons why I teach the Breakthrough Experience and have developed the Demartini Method - tools to help individuals break through the subjective biases that hold them back, occupy space and time in their minds, and run their lives.

There's no need to remain confined within these rigid black and white labels, that I call the lowest level of human moral functioning.

Kohlberg, the psychologist, identified the lowest level of morality as punishment and reward. The next level involves subordination to mothers, fathers, preachers, and teachers and their ideals within society, rather than living authentically. Finally, you can reach a post-conventional state where you transcend these boxes and attain universal awareness seeing beyond good and evil.

Universal laws are never broken. But human laws are frequently transgressed.

I prefer to align my life with scientific and natural laws rather than the transient, variable rules of society, which are often born out of people's wounds.

When you are wounded, you tend to establish rules to shield yourself. However, if you examine the blessings that these so-called wounds bring, you may find that you no longer need to protect yourself, giving you more latitude and relativity.

It's wiser to look for both sides of things and to seek the middle ground than to take a stance and create an “oppistance”.

Love is a synthesis and synchronicity of all complementary opposites so a synchronous blending of the so-called goods and bads. It’s both.

Love encompasses both sides simultaneously. When you love someone, you'll discover that they do things you like and dislike, things you label good and bad, right and wrong, things that both support and challenge you. Maturity in love means embracing both sides in yourself and those you care about.

It is wise to beware of moral hypocrisies, labelling people, and falling into mythologies about them.

Sometimes, people we once labelled negatively turn out to be catalysts for our individual growth and greatness.

I've witnessed countless individuals in the Breakthrough Experience who initially despised others only to realize, upon completing the program, that those individuals were their teachers, and they wouldn't change a thing. They tend to say thank you and even have tears of gratitude when they realize the hidden order in the apparent chaos.

Every week, I witness lives changing, trajectories shifting, and individuals evolving from victims of their history into masters of their destiny. I watch them develop mindfulness instead of mindlessness, see the whole instead of the parts, and replace labels with love.

If this resonates with you, I would love you to join me at the Breakthrough Experience where I can teach you the Demartini Method, a tool to dissolve the labels that may have confined you and made you seek the fantasy of good while avoiding the nightmare of bad.

I’d love to teach you this powerful method so you are no longer trapped by moral hypocrisies that most people are trapped by.

To Sum Up:

A common human tendency is to label people’s behaviours as good or bad, right or wrong, and to project your values onto them. It is a deeply ingrained aspect of human existence.

However, it's wise to recognize that these labels are often subjectively biased and context-dependent. The concept of morality and ethics is complex and varies from individual to individual, culture to culture, and time to time.

Many individuals tend to adapt their moral constructs based on their individual experiences and challenges. The idea that there are inherently good or evil people is an overly simplistic view that doesn't do justice to the complexity of human nature.

Instead, it's wiser to fully awaken to a more balanced perspective, acknowledging that every individual possesses each of the many human traits. By going beyond rigid labels and embracing both the positive and negative aspects of yourself and others, you can foster greater understanding and maturity.

The Breakthrough Experience and the Demartini Method provide valuable tools to help you break free from the constraints of subjective biases and labels. These methods can empower you to see the hidden order in the apparent chaos and to transform from victims of your history into masters of your destiny.

So, if you resonate with the idea of transcending rigid moral hypocrisies and embracing a more balanced perspective, I invite you to join me at the Breakthrough Experience. Together, we can explore the power of the Demartini Method and help you break free from the limitations of black-and-white thinking.


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