Moral codes can connect us to the transcendent
March 29, 2024
Heidi Venegas
(San José, Costa Rica)

This week the Christian world celebrates and commemorates Holy Week — the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, as told in the New Testament. The one who changed history, the great avatar of all time. “The greatest story ever told.” 

A good moment to reflect on something from the Old Testament: what are called the Ten Commandments in the Christian tradition. 

According to the renowned Spanish economist Emilio Carrillo, the Hebrew people received the tables with the Ten Commandments at a time when they had turned their backs on that code and on divinity. In short: they had forgotten to believe.  

That is, at a moment of dystopia. 

It was the journalist Cristina Martín Jiménez who I first heard say that the Ten Commandments constitute an ethical and moral framework given at a time of dystopia similar to the present one — as described by British writers George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

According to Carrillo, the essence of the Ten Commandments of the Christian tradition can also be found in other traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and even Zoroastrianism. The science of comparative study of spiritual traditions confirms that there are similar commandments in the science of Yoga, for example in the yoga sutras. The yoga sutras prescribe yamas and niyamas, i.e., practices of  restraint and observance in our lives. These include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness) and asteya (non-stealing) on the one hand, and santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline) and saucha (cleanliness) on the other. 

The same with Buddhism. There are paramitas in two versions: 7 and 10. There are great similarities between the two powerful and recognized traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

In other less known traditions such as Zoroastrianism, we find something very similar. Which is logical, Carrillo tells us, because they are part of a practice of spiritual life that is coherent with the idea of ​​transcendent life with divinity present. And that is coherent with the human condition itself. 

There is a basic and general ethical code in all of these commandments. Otherwise it would only be dystopia, no hope at all. No meaning. 

In addition to the metaphysical spirituality of “you will love the Lord your God above all things,” there is the quite similar “you will love yourself.” 

But more earthly, you will not lie, you will not steal, and of course you will not kill. These are all spiritual mandates.

There are also other mandates that help keep our daily lives from having so many tensions, so much drama. They are life practices that tell you that if you lie, for example, you are introducing a practice into your life that is filling you with tension, disturbance, and turbulence from both an emotional and mental point of view. And that takes you away from the path of consciousness. In short: you are not loving yourself. 

Moral codes can keep us connected to a path of consciousness. 

Banishing divinity from our lives —what Friedrich Nietzsche called “killing God” — involves expelling the transcendent or the divine from our lives. And what happens when the human being removes the divine from his life? It’s replaced by the “golden calf,” Carrillo warns us. A nihilism, an extreme materialism, a “carpe diem” individualism without meaning. 

That doesn’t happen so easily when one is respecting a clear and very human moral code.

The danger Nietzsche warned about is one we’re witnessing these days. He told us that our society had killed God. And God, or transcendence or consciousness, however one may see it, may well start with respect for an enlightened moral code.


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