The connection between Inner Alchemy and Social Responsibility

Posted on March 4, 2009
Filed Under book review, Culture, identity, social practice, Social Responsibility, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

Latest article on Right where you are sitting now: A reprint of Developing an Internal Body Language.

I’ve just finished readingĀ Mencius and what really stands out to me about is an approach to the value of relationships and sustaining them, which I’ve only found in networking groups which focus on a collaborative approach to doing business. In this book, Mencius talks about turning vices into virtues by sharing them with other people. What an interesting principle! Essentially he argues that when we keep our pleasures to ourselves, then we have turned them into vices, being done solely for one’s own pleasure and without any consideration of other people. By sharing a pleasure with others, we turn it from a vice into a virtue because we are using it to create and sustain relationships with others, and consequently taking care of each other, instead of just the self. Likewise, his focus on the heart, as a principle of connection and feeling which separates us from other beings is interesting because it again suggests that the value of being a human is not based on anything inherently human, so much as it is based on the relationships and connections we create, and how then to cultivate those relationships. These two principles are very humanistic, and I think rooted in compassion.

I’ve found over the years, as I’ve continued to meditate and work through the various societal and dysfunctional programming I have, that my awareness of others and relationship to those people has changed. I’ve become more socially responsible, for I recognize that I do have a responsibility to my fellow person, as well as to myself. I think that as a person unclutters his/her psyche that s/he ideally begins to recognize the connections to other people s/he has and begins to cultivate healthier connections focused on the benefit of all, as opposed to just the benefit of the self, or just a few people. Naturally the best connections occur between the people you know well, but even with people I don’t know as well, I’ve come to recognize that I share much more in common with them, than what is different. The differences do matter, but the commonality of being a human being, of having needs, etc., outweighs those differences significantly in a socially responsible model for approaching the world. Inner alchemical work, by its nature emphasizes an awareness of the commonality all of us share, for in doing the work, the superficial layers fall away to reveal a person with the same ense of vulnerability and need that anyone else has…and if we can cultivate compassion for that, then we can reach out and help others, not out of a self-righteous sense of ego, but rather a humble, humanistic awareness of the commonality of the human experience we share.

Review of Mencius

I found Mencius to be an excellent book, which clarified and drew out a lot of the Confucianist principles found in the analects, with much lengthier explanations offered. In particular Mencius’s focus on the Heart and also changing your vices into virtues by sharing them with other people is fascinating because it illustrates a different perspective on how to approach the world, while simultaneously advocating a humanistic approach, sorely needed in our current time. It’s wroth revisiting this great classic, both as a way to evaluate our practices, and also to remind us that ultimately we need to value an approach that is humanistic as opposed to materialistic.

5 philosophers out of 5