Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


What is Our Responsibility?

The Divine Purpose, awesome and unimaginable, creates and sustains the universe. We cannot “know” that Purpose in the way we know other things. The Purpose cannot be formulated in words, because it abides beyond words, beyond images, beyond our minds, beyond knowing in the ordinary sense. If we could know the Divine Purpose, we would know God; indeed we may rightly consider God to be that Purpose itself.

Although we cannot know the Unconditioned Purpose, we may participate in it more or less consciously, more or less intentionally. The Sacred Purpose communicates itself to all of us through our intuition of the rightness of a course of action. Faced with a choice, we have an opportunity to do the right thing, to be responsible. Thus, by following our conscience, we enter into a partnership with the Great Purpose. We can follow our sense of appropriateness, rightness, and opportunity to pursue the spiritual path, to serve others, to serve the future.

Imagine how great must be that Will that is responsible for the entire universe, and the burden that involves. Indeed God needs our responsible partnership, at least in our own personal universe, to help lessen that burden. Following what our heart tells us to be right establishes an authentic connection, a commonality of purpose with the Divine. Through us, through such connections, the Divine reaches into the life of the world. Responsible action based on conscience strengthens our link with the Universal Purpose. That link serves as the essential means whereby the world is gradually spiritualized, whereby life on the Earth will ultimately realize its destiny.

What obstacles do we confront in becoming responsible, in serving the Great Purpose? First, our self-centeredness, our egoism deludes us, at times, into choosing dishonorable and unprincipled actions, as well as actions which do not lead toward fulfillment of our own potential. We take the easy, shirking way, the selfish way, the wasteful way. In the parlance of religion, we sin, we miss the mark. We ignore the promptings of our conscience. The siren song of egoism beguiles us into believing that wrong is right. “If I want to do it, that makes it right.” Following whatever our ego-deluded heart tells us, we fail to find our congruence with the Great Purpose. Our hearts need cleansing; the veils need lifting. That is the purpose of spiritual practice.

The concept of human rights expresses our concern for the well-being of other people. The expression of human rights, however, has been diverted by our self-centeredness into a demand for our own self-assumed rights. We claim the right to drive a gas-guzzling vehicle, even if we don’t really need one. We claim the right to habitually eat more than we need to eat, to consume more than we need of the world’s goods, to have more than two children and contribute to overpopulation. We dream of owning our own mini-mansion, and many fulfill that dream. As a direct result of all these “rights,” we cause the mass extinction of thousands of species each year, the ever-increasing threat of global warming, the failure to alleviate the grinding poverty and malnutrition of untold millions, the alienation from society, from each other, from our own deeper nature. Our focus on our “rights” deflects our attention from our responsibilities.

We even claim the right to mistreat people. This takes innumerable forms. We feel justified in acting rudely when crossed in any way. We market superfluous goods, creating false needs, preying on desires and fears, leading people to lose themselves in the great consumerist endeavor, in a market economy based more on greed than on need. We demand special treatment, special recognition, fast service. We leave courtesy behind when we start our engines, in our “right” not to be delayed. All these layers of our self-assumed “rights” obscure our personal responsibilities.

At the peak of spiritual practice, surrender entails surrender of self, surrender of ego, but not surrender of responsibility. On the contrary, in surrendering to the Divine we seek to so align our will with the Great Will that we become able to take on greater responsibility and fulfill all our responsibilities more completely and wisely.

To hear the promptings of our conscience, to notice the intuitive twinges of our true heart, requires clarity and presence, requires an ability to look beyond our personal desires, a willingness to pursue responsibilities rather than rights. We cannot demand to be always comfortable and also be responsible. The truly spiritual path does not offer a way of escape from responsibilities, indeed it offers a way toward becoming more fully, skillfully, and creatively responsible. The truly spiritual path not only teaches us to be responsible in our outer actions, but also enables us to be responsible in our inner actions, through our inner work. By means of reliably responsible action, based on conscience, we create a place in ourselves to host our own small particle of the Divine Purpose. And so we spiritualize our corner of the universe, help relieve God’s burden, and find true fulfillment as well as joy.

See also: Responsibility, Weekly Inner Work October 24, 2011


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