In discussing the holy Trinity in terms of idea, manifestation, and relationship —Glory, Grace, and Mercy — the other day, I described these three qualities of the holy Trinity as virtues.
To me this is an interesting idea. How often do we think of our three centers—intellectual, physical, and emotional, as virtues—things that have goodness in them?
They do, in fact, have goodness in them; each of the three centers contains a goodness which is divinely inspired, even though those three different parts are, in action, usually separated from one another and have thus lost the virtue they have when united.
Each one is nonetheless a goodness unto itself, a blessing through which we live.
When we experience our thinking, our sensation, or our feeling as a virtue, we get much closer to the truth of how we are what we are; that is, that we arise from the heart of God Himself and that we are expressions of His law. If we experience ourselves from the perspective of the three virtues, we find a positivity in our life that is otherwise unavailable. If intellect, the physical, and the feeling parts are experienced as goodness, we begin with a value — an inner virtue.
If we see and experience them as nothing more than things, without this quality, they are dead; we haven’t properly acknowledged their sacred and divine origins. Consequently, we don't honor them – attend to them, pay attention — in the way that we ought to.
There's this opportunity, you see, to honor my thinking; to honor my sensation; to honor my feeling.
Yet how often do we hear each other speak of the inner qualities in ourselves in disparaging terms, as though they were problems, presenting dilemmas of one kind or another? All too often, I wager.
This question of virtues came back to me in a stronger way last night, when I realized that people generally focus on the opposition within themselves. That is to say, we’re more interested in our inner enemies than we are our inner friends. We look at what blocks us, what frustrates us, what stands in our way and prevents us from being what we want to be, both inwardly and outwardly speaking; but how much time do we devote to thinking about what supports us?
A focus on what blocks us, a focus on the opposition, is unhealthy. If we’re always worried about the things that are difficult, the things that are supposedly bad, how much energy do we waste that could have been devoted to honoring and obeying the things which are good and which support us?
I think that when we make an investment with our inward energy — by investment, I mean we make an actual intimate effort to wear it like clothes, to dwell within it — we can consciously attempt to dwell within the positive, find a habitat within that higher principal and that higher energy which support us.
This is quite different, I understand, than just trying to see how I am. Yet when I hear people talk about seeing how they are, they are almost always talking about seeing how they are somehow either blocked, frustrated, or asleep— bad.
I almost never hear people talk about how they see themselves inside and see that they have a virtue, a goodness, in them.
If we never see this, how do we honor the virtue and goodness that has been given to us?
I realize this is a dilemma. We are all, in many ways, fallen creatures, that's quite true. Yet there is also a goodness and a virtue in us which we seek to reconnect with, to recover. That's the whole point of inner work. And if we don't try to see this goodness and believe in it, to invest ourselves in the virtue of what we are able to do and the virtue of the efforts we can make, we spend our whole time obsessing about how crappy we are.
We need to make a decision about whether we intend to live in a world of virtues or a world of enemies.
If I want to live in a world of enemies and opposition, that's where I'll be, because I become my own wish as I work.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.