REASONED SPIRITUALITY: exploring spirituality, the meaning of life, the concept of God.

| PART~1 | PART~2 | PART~3 | PART~4 | PART~5 | PART~6 | PART~7 | PART~8 | PART~9 | PART~10 | PART~11 | PART~12 | PART~13 | PART~14 | PART~15 | PART~16 | PART~17 | PART~18 | PART~19 | PART~20 | PART~21 | PART~22 | PART~23 | PART~24 | PART~25 | PART~26 | PART~27 |

Home to Reasoned Spirituality


Animism / Buddhist / Confucius / Deism / Hinduism / Taoism / Pantheism / Atheism / Miscellaneous /
"God of Abraham" religions:
General Christianity / Islam / Judaism / Baha'i Faith / Ancient Hasidic Oral Tradition / Latter Day Saints

Ancient Hasidic

The Cottage Of Candles

There once was a Jew who went out into the world to seek justice. He looked in the streets and the markets of cities but could not find it. He traveled to villages and he explored distant fields and farms, but still justice eluded him. At last he came to an immense forest, and he entered it, for he was certain that justice must exist somewhere. He wandered there for many years and he saw many things - the hovels of the poorest peasants, the hideaways of thieves, and the huts of witches in the darkest part of the forest. And he stopped in each of these, despite the danger, and sought clues. But no one was able to help him in his quest.

One day, just as dusk was falling, he arrived at a small clay hut that looked as if it were about to collapse. Now there was something strange about this hut, for many flickering flames could be seen through the window. The man who sought justice wondered greatly about this and knocked on the door. There was no answer. He pushed the door open and entered. Before him was a small room crowded with many shelves. And on the shelves were a multitude of lighted candles, burning oil. Together their flames seemed to beat like wings, and the flickering light made him feel as if he were standing in the center of a quivering flame. He held up his hand, and it seemed to be surrounded with an aura, and all the candles were like a constellation of stars.

Stepping closer, he saw that some of the flames burned with a very pure fire, while others were dull, and still others were sputtering, about to go out. So too did he now notice that some of the wicks were in golden vessels, while others were in silver or marble ones, and many burned in simple vessels of clay or tin. These plain vessels had thin wicks, which burned quickly, while those made of gold or silver had wicks that lasted much longer. While he stood there, marveling at that forest of candles, an old man in a white robe came out of one of the corners and said: "Shalom Aleichem, my son, what are you looking for?" "Aleichem Shalom," the man answered. "I have have traveled everywhere searching for justice, but never have I seen anything like all these candles. Why are they burning?" The old man spoke softly: "Know that these are soul-candles. Each candle is the soul of one of the living. As long as it burns, the person remains alive. But when the flame burns out, he departs from this life."

Then the man who sought justice turned to the old man and asked: "Can I see the candle of my soul?" The old man led him into a corner and showed him a line of tins on a low shelf. He pointed out a small, rusty one that had very little oil left. The wick was smoking and had tilted to one side. "This is your soul," said the old man. Then a great fear fell upon the man and he started to shiver. Could it be that the end of his life was so near and he did not know it? Then the man noticed that next to his tin there was another, filled with oil. Its wick was straight, burning with a clear, pure light. "And this one, who does it belong to?" asked the man, trembling. "That is a secret that cannot be revealed," answered the old man. "I only reveal each man's candle to himself alone."

Suddenly the old man vanished from sight, and the room seemed empty except for the candles burning on every shelf. While the man stood there, he saw a candle on another shelf sputter and go out. For a moment there was a wisp of smoke rising in the air and then it was gone. One soul had just left the world. The man's eyes returned to his own tin. He saw that only a few drops of oil remained, and he knew that the flame would soon burn out. At that instant he saw the candle of his neighbor, burning brightly, the tin full of oil. All at once an evil thought entered his mind. He looked around and saw that no one else was in the room. The old man had disappeared. He looked closely in the corner from which he had come, and then in the other corners, but there was no sign of him there. At that moment he reached out and took hold of the full tin and raised it above his own.

But suddenly a strong hand gripped his arm and the old man stood beside him. "Is this the kind of justice you are seeking?" he asked. His grip was like iron, and the pain caused the man to close his eyes. And when the fingers released him, he opened his eyes and saw that everything had disappeared: the old man, the cottage, the shelves and all the candles. And the man stood alone in the forest and heard the trees whispering his fate.


These ancient folk tales were designed to teach moral lessons, and to inspire thought. There are many points hidden within the tale above that lead a person toward personal and moral insights. The stories are well constructed, and although something is always lost in the translation, they are still applicable today.



"What is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. The rest is commentary"

[Hillel the Elder *Judaism]

Hillel the Elder (70 BCE - 10 CE) was a Jewish sage and authority on interpretation of biblical law. He was a rabbi and founder of a school of interpretation of scripture. For many generations, Jewish leaders in the religious community in Palestine were descended from Hillel.
The quote was his motto, and this attitude in the rabbinical community would have later formed part of Yeshua ben Joseph's (Jesus) doctrine. The creation of Christianity can be partly attributed to Hillel.


Latter Day Saints

"For behold, ye do love money, and your substance,
and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches,
more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and afflicted."

[MORMON 8: 37 The Book of Mormon]

Joseph Smith Jr began writing the Book of Mormon in 1827, after an alleged initial meeting with the Christian God, and Jesus, in 1820. It is such an unusual henotheistic religion, that it is often debated whether it is actually Christian in nature, or something unique; using Christian references to validate itself.



"There is no greater sin than desire,
no greater curse than discontent,
no greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough
will always have enough."

[Tao Te Ching 46]

There are many different translations of the poems of the Tao Te Ching, but I consider this one to be fairly accurate for the following reasons. It was translated by an Oriental, rather than an Occidental, therefore the translator was familiar with the cultural subtleties of the language. It doesn't rhyme: many western translators insist that poems rhyme; this is impossible when converting from one language to another, without corrupting the meaning. The two Chinese characters that title the paragraph translate as "the moderating of desire or ambition"; the desire character also appears in the appropriate line of the poem.
The Tao Te Ching has traditionally been credited to Lao Tzu, but this is likely myth. Contemporary scholars consider the work to be a compilation of the writings of many ancient poets, and it is impossible to determine the original authors.

"How do I know that wanting to be alive is not a great mistake?
How do I know that hating to die is not like thinking one has lost one's way,
when all the time one is on the path that leads to home?"

[Chuang Tzu - A.Waley translation]

“Once upon a time, I Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly,
fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly.
I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly,
and was unconscious of my individuality as a man.
Suddenly, I waked, and there I lay, myself again.
Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

[Chuang Tzu - H. Giles translation]

Chuang Tzu was a 4th century B.C.E. Chinese Taoist philosopher. The book ‘Chuang Tzu’, likely has a similar background to the 'Tao Te Ching': written by unknown authors, and not by the man it is commonly attributed to. Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism is more a development of the teachings of Chuang Tzu, than those of Buddha.



"Theology is the box of Pandora; and if it is impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to inform men, that this fatal box is open."

[Henry Bolingbroke 1678 - 1751]

"Wise men, if they try to speak their language to the common herd instead of its own, cannot possibly make themselves understood. There are a thousand kinds of ideas which it is impossible to translate into popular language. Conceptions that are too general and objects that are too remote are equally out of its range: each individual, having no taste for any other plan of government than that which suits his particular interest, finds it difficult to realise the advantages he might hope to draw from the continual privations good laws impose. For a young people to be able to relish sound principles of political theory and follow the fundamental rules of statecraft, the effect would have to become the cause; the social spirit, which should be created by these institutions, would have to preside over their very foundation; and men would have to be before law what they should become by means of law. The legislator therefore, being unable to appeal to either force or reason, must have recourse to an authority of a different order, capable of constraining without violence and persuading without convincing.
This is what has, in all ages, compelled the fathers of nations to have recourse to divine intervention and credit the gods with their own wisdom, in order that the peoples, submitting to the laws of the State as to those of nature, and recognising the same power in the formation of the city as in that of man, might obey freely, and bear with docility the yoke of the public happiness.
This sublime reason, far above the range of the common herd, is that whose decisions the legislator puts into the mouth of the immortals, in order to constrain by divine authority those whom human prudence could not move."

[Jean Jacques Rousseau - 'The Social Contract' - 1762]



"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

[Albert Einstein - 'Einstein: The Life and Times' - R. W. Clark]

"Most people seem to believe that they are free, in so far as they may obey their lusts, and that they cede their rights, in so far as they are bound to live according to the commandments of the divine law. They therefore believe that piety, religion, and, generally, all things attributable to firmness of mind, are burdens, which, after death, they hope to lay aside, and to receive the reward for their bondage, that is, for their piety and religion; it is not only by this hope, but also, and chiefly, by the fear of being horribly punished after death, that they are induced to live according to the divine commandments, so far as their feeble and infirm spirit will carry them."

[Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics - 1677]

"The theory which subjects all things to the will of an indifferent deity, and asserts that they are all dependent on his fiat, is less far from the truth than the theory of those, who maintain that God acts in all things with a view of promoting what is good. For these latter persons seem to set up something beyond God, which does not depend on God, but which God in acting looks to as an exemplar, or which he aims at as a definite goal. This is only another name for subjecting God to the dominion of destiny, an utter absurdity in respect to God, whom we have shown to be the first and only free cause of the essence of all things and also of their existence."

[Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics - 1677]

"Of such none can be discerned more excellent, than those which are in entire agreement with our nature. For if, for example, two individuals of entirely the same nature are united, they form a combination twice as powerful as either of them singly. Therefore, to man there is nothing more useful than man - nothing, I repeat, more excellent for preserving their being can be wished for by men, than that all should so in all points agree, that the minds and bodies of all should form, as it were, one single mind and one single body, and that all should, with one consent, as far as they are able, endeavour to preserve their being, and all with one consent seek what is useful to them all.
Hence, men who are governed by reason - that is, who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason, desire for themselves nothing, which they do not also desire for the rest of mankind, and, consequently, are just, faithful, and honourable in their conduct."

[Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics - 1677]

“How potent is the wise man, and how much he surpasses the ignorant man, who is driven only by his lusts. For the ignorant man is not only distracted in various ways by external causes without ever gaining the true acquiescence of his spirit, but moreover lives, as it were unwitting of himself, and of God, and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, ceases also to be."

[Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics - 1677]

"how far astray from a true estimate of virtue are those who expect to be decorated by God with high rewards for their virtue, and their best actions, as for having endured the direst slavery; as if virtue and the service of God were not in itself happiness and perfect freedom."

[Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics - 1677]

The writings of Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) had a profound influence upon what was to become modern pantheism. Although his philosophy is carefully expressed behind the facade of the personified God of Abrahamic beliefs, due to the dangers of straying from conventional religious doctrine in the 17th century, he determined that the concept of God was an indifferent force: a sum of what exists, with no feelings, goals, or intent.

"I believe that God is the soul of the universe... and that the universe itself is God."

[Marcus Terentius Varro 116 - 27 BCE]

"We must believe that the world, or that which is contained under the vast extent of the heavens,
is the Divinity itself, eternal, immense, without beginning or end."

[Gaius Plinius Secundus - AKA: Pliny the Elder. 23 - 79 CE] 

"But where are you going? It cannot be to a place of suffering: you will only return to the place from whence you came; you are about to be again peaceably associated with the elements from whence you are derived. That which in your composition is of the nature of fire, will return to the element of fire; that which is of the nature of earth, will rejoin itself to the earth; that which is air, will reunite itself with air; that which is water, will resolve itself into water; there is no Hell, no Acheron, no Cocytus, no Phlegethon."

[Epictetus 55 - 135 CE.]

"The hour of death approaches; but do not aggravate your evil, nor render things worse than they are: represent them to yourself under their true point of view. The time is come when the materials of which you are composed, go to resolve themselves into the elements from whence they were originally borrowed. What is there that is terrible or grievous in that? Is there any thing in the world, that perishes totally?"

[Epictetus 55 - 135 CE]

Greek philosopher. Originally a slave, once freed, he went on to teach philosophy in Rome and Greece. 

"He who fears death, either fears to be deprived of all feeling, or dreads to experience different sensations. If you lose all feeling, you will no longer be subject either to pain or to misery. If you are provided with other senses of a different nature, you will become a creature of a different species."
"That we must expect death with tranquility, seeing that it is only a dissolution of the elements of which each animal is composed."

[Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 121 - 180 CE]

"I am composed of the formal and the material; and neither of them will perish into non-existence, as neither of them came into existence out of non-existence. Every part of me then will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on for ever. And by consequence of such a change I too exist, and those who begot me, and so on for ever in the other direction."

[Marcus Aurelius Antoninus - 'The Meditations' - 167 CE - G. Long translation]

"among the things readiest to thy hand to which thou shalt turn, let there be these, which are two. One is that things do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; but our perturbations come only from the opinion which is within. The other is that all these things, which thou seest, change immediately and will no longer be; and constantly bear in mind how many of these changes thou hast already witnessed. The universe is transformation: life is opinion."

[Marcus Aurelius Antoninus]

Roman emperor and stoic philosopher. His rule was marked by his devotion to the poor, and conviction that a good life was achieved through justice, wisdom, and moderation.

“A hereditary change in a definite direction, which continues to accumulate and add to itself so as to build up a more and more complex machine, must certainly be related to some sort of effort, but to an effort of far greater depth than the individual effort, far more independent of circumstances, an effort common to most representatives of the same species, inherent to the germs they bear rather than in their substance alone, an effort thereby assured of being passed on to their descendants"

[Henri Bergson - 'Creative Evolution' - 1907]

"We have this sudden illumination before certain forms of maternal love, so striking, and in most animals so touching, observable even in the solicitude of the plant for its seed. This love, in which some have seen the great mystery of life, may possibly deliver us life's great secret. It shows us each generation leaning over the generation that shall follow. It allows us a glimpse of the fact that the living being is above all a thoroughfare, and that the essence of life is in the movement by which life is transmitted."

[Henri Bergson - 'Creative Evolution' - 1907]



  "It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical
or should be regarded as merely cowardly."

[Margaret Mead in 'Redbook']

Eminent Social Anthropologist.

"Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

[Karl Marx - 'Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right' 1844]

Karl Marx, a 19th century philosopher, is considered to be the founder of modern communism.

"Christianity has sided with all that is weak and base, with all failures; it has made an ideal of what contradicts the instinct of the strong life to preserve itself; it has corrupted the reason even of those strongest in has in fear of them bred the opposite type - the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick human animal - the Christian."

[Nietzsche - 'Beyond Good and Evil' 1886]

Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most influential philosophers of the 19th century. He originated the term "God is dead", and had a substantial influence on the growing atheist movement of his time.

"...the psychical origin of religious ideas. These, which are given out as teachings, are not precipitates of experience or end results of thinking: they are illusions, fulfilments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. The secret of their strength lies in the strength of those wishes. As we already know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection - for protection through love - which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the dangers of life; the establishment of a moral world-order ensures the fulfilment of the demands of justice, which have so often remained unfulfilled in human civilization; and the prolongation of earthly existence in a future life provides the local and temporal framework in which these wish-fulfilments shall take place."

[Sigmund Freud -'The Future of an Illusion' - Norton 1961]

Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. Most of modern psychology, psychiatry, and disciplines relating to the brain and the mind, are based on his studies of the subconscious.

“What kind of revelation is it, which cannot be understood?
If one man only were incapable of understanding it,
that circumstance would be alone sufficient to convict God of injustice"

[Paul d'Holbach - 'The System of Nature' 1770]

"To errour must be attributed those insupportable chains which tyrants, which priests have forged for all nations, To errour must be equally attributed that abject slavery into which the people of almost every country have fallen. Nature designed they should pursue their happiness by the most perfect freedom. To errour must be attributed those religious terrours which, in almost every climate, have either petrified man with fear, or caused him to destroy himself for coarse or fanciful beings. To errour must be attributed those inveterate hatreds, those barbarous persecutions, those numerous massacres, those dreadful tragedies, of which, under pretext of serving the interests of heaven, the earth has been but too frequently made the theatre. It is errour consecrated by religious enthusiasm, which produces that ignorance, that uncertainty in which man ever finds himself with regard to his most evident duties, his clearest rights, the most demonstrable truths. In short, man is almost everywhere a poor degraded captive, devoid either of greatness of soul, of reason, or of virtue, whom his inhuman gaolers have never permitted to see the light of day."

[Paul d'Holbach - 'The System of Nature' 1770]

"The unhappy man, who seeks consolation in the arms of his God, ought at least to remember that it is this same God, who being the master of all, distributes the good and the evil: if nature is believed to be subjected to his supreme orders, this God is as frequently unjust, filled with malice, with imprudence, with irrationality, as with goodness, wisdom, and equity. If the devotee, less prejudiced and more consistent, would reason a little, he would suspect that his God was a capricious God, who frequently made him suffer; he would not seek to console himself in the arms of his executioner, whom he has the folly to mistake for a friend or for his father."

[Paul d'Holbach - 'The System of Nature' 1770]

French philosopher who wrote under pseudonyms, since speaking out against Christianity during the Eighteenth century could cost you your life. A determinist, empiricist, and atheist, his work was logical, accessible, and thoroughly researched based on the most advanced science of the time. [more d'Holbach quotes]



"We have just enough religion to make us hate,
but not enough to make us love one another."

[Jonathan Swift -'Thoughts on Various Subjects']

Irish satirist, best known for writing "Gulliver's Travels".

"Puritanism - the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

[H.L. Mencken -'A Mencken Chrestomathy']

Journalist/essayist of the early 20th century.

"There seems to be a terrible misunderstanding on the part of a great many people to the effect that when you cease to believe you may cease to behave."

[Louis Kronenberger -'Company Manners']

"Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, 'Some gardener must tend this plot.' The other disagrees, 'There is no gardener.' So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. 'But perhaps he is an invisible gardener.' So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. 'But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves.' At last the Sceptic despairs, 'But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?'"

[Antony Flew -'Theology and Falsification' - University 1950-51]

"There is neither birth nor death for any mortal,
but only a combination and a separation of that which was combined,
and this is what amongst men they call birth and death."
"Those are infants, or short-sighted persons with very contracted understandings,
who imagine any thing is born which did not exist before, or that any thing can die or perish totally."

[Empedocles 490 - 430 BCE]

 Greek philosopher, and one of the earliest proponents of evolution. Only fragments of his texts remain.

"What may, with some propriety, be called self-deception arises through the operation of desires for beliefs. We desire many things which it is not in our power to achieve: that we should be universally popular and admired, that our work should be the wonder of the age, and that the universe should be so ordered as to bring ultimate happiness to all, though not to our enemies until they have repented and been purified by suffering. Such desires are too large to be achieved through our own efforts. But it is found that a considerable portion of the satisfaction which these things would bring us if they were realised is to be achieved by the much easier operation of believing that they are or will be realised. This desire for beliefs, as opposed to desire for the actual facts, is a particular case of secondary desire, and, like all secondary desire its satisfaction does not lead to a complete cessation of the initial discomfort. Nevertheless, desire for beliefs, as opposed to desire for facts, is exceedingly potent both individually and socially."

[Bertrand Russell - 'The Analysis Of Mind' - 1921]

"Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensations is nothing to us"

"The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity"

[Epicurus - 'Sovran Maxims']

“To be impious is not to take away from the uninformed the gods which they have, it is to attribute to these gods the opinions of the uninformed"


Epicurus (341 - 270 BCE) was a prominent Greek philosopher and physicist, founding a renowned school of philosophy. He was an early proponent of evolution and the concept of "survival of the fittest". Of his 300 manuscripts, none survived to modern times, and only fragments of his work still exist. Epicurean philosophy still enjoys a significant following today.

"Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always busy with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as the mean; and in this region they move at random throughout life, but they never pass into the true upper world; thither they neither look, nor do they ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with true being, nor do they taste of pure and abiding pleasure. Like cattle, with their eyes always looking down and their heads stooping to the earth, that is, to the dining-table, they fatten and feed and breed, and, in their excessive love of these delights, they kick and butt at one another with horns and hoofs which are made of iron; and they kill one another by reason of their insatiable lust. For they fill themselves with that which is not substantial, and the part of themselves which they fill is also unsubstantial and incontinent."

[Plato - 'The Republic' - 360 BCE]


If you're just reading top to bottom, this section has been split to speed loading time: there's another page indexed the same way. Page 1

There are other interesting statements made in religions, that aren't quite what I would term "inspirational"; I refer to these as quotes from the Dark Side.

Site map indexHomeComments?Links to other interesting sites
Part 1:  IntroductionPart 2:  BalancePart 3:  DivisionsPart 4:  Unitypart 5:  Concept of GodPart 6:  Defining GodPart 7:  SexualityPart 8:  Instinctive MoralityPart 9:  Moral Compromise - ReproductionPart 10: Moral Obligation - reproductionPart 11:  DeterminismPart 12:  Determining Our DestinyPart 13: Good and EvilPart 14:  Crime and PunishmentPart 15:  Belief - fact and faithPart 16: MaterialismPart 17: AppreciationPart 18: Abstract PerceptionPart 19:  RelationshipsRelationships (conclusion)Part 21:  DeathPart 22:  KnowledgePart 23: Knowledge - geneticsPart 24: Knowledge (conclusion)Part 25: Meaning of LifePart 26: Meaning of Life (continued)Part 27: Meaning of Life (conclusion)