The Pleasure-Pain Principle: Our Innate Guide to the Highest Good

When one surveys all existing conditions in the world from a certain standpoint, it is not difficult to analyse them in two groups – one representing everything that belongs to the concept of ‘pleasant’, and the other in the same way representing everything that we are accustomed to consider as ‘unpleasant‘, these factors manifesting themselves as synonymous with either so-called ‘good‘ or so-called ‘evil‘. As living beings are attracted by everything coming under the term ‘pleasant’, while the opposite is the case with everything ‘unpleasant’, then in all living beings there is present a strong desire for the former, which manifests itself in the ‘struggle for existence’ or ‘evolution’.

THE THIRD TESTAMENT: LIVETS BOG 1 Martinus

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These two factors ‘good’ and ‘evil’ play such an important part in mankind’s history that already, at an early stage in evolution, ideas and concepts had been formed of their origin. It is not my intention here to deal more precisely with all the many phases of transformation these various ideas and concepts have gone through in the course of time, but just to point out that every one of them contained the same essence, the outer form and condition of which, at that time, was the very strongest reflection of the extent of its adherents’ capacity for observation – whether they belonged to the more or to the less developed tribes or races – and that, each in their own time, those concepts have also formed the most life-giving and inspiring elements of their adherents’ moral development, providing them with proportionate benefit and pleasure.

As Man’s powers of observation and sense-perception became more and more highly developed, so he gradually became capable of imagining pictures nearer and nearer to perfection of the origin of the two factors mentioned above and out of this long gallery of pictures the greatest and most perfect picture of all shines smiling upon us. This is the world-concept of ‘God’, the supposed originator of all that is good. But this picture’s brilliant rays, however, are partially dimmed by dark rays from another picture which also has its place in the same gallery. That is the world-concept of the ‘Devil‘, the supposed originator of all that is evil.And naturally it was a matter of course that in accordance with these two concepts Man began to form his own ideas of life itself. Although, for the most part, daily material life did not seem to indicate an eternal existence, yet all those ideas, almost with out exception, have been expressions of a secret hope of everlasting life for the individual. But in cherishing the hope of an eternal life, the question naturally arose as to what form this eternal existence would take after death. And the individuals found a satisfactory answer in the conclusion that it must depend upon how one had lived in this material and physical existence.

If one’s life had been associated with ‘evil’, one would naturally join the originator of this manifestation while, if one had been associated with the ‘good’, one would join the originator of that factor. Therefore individuals would have to take two stage-sets into consideration for the supposed continued eternal existence after death, namely – a residence for the so-called ‘evil’ or ‘ungodly’ people and a residence for the so-called ‘good’ or ‘saved’ people. Here in the western world and in Christendom generally these two places are respectively known under the concepts: ‘Hell’ and ‘Heaven’ or ‘Paradise’.As Hell therefore was the place for the culmination of sorrow and suffering, while conversely, Paradise was the place for the culmination of joy and love, then it became the individual’s greatest task to find out exactly what was ‘evil’ and what was actually ‘good’ and, with the help of the knowledge thus gained, to perfect his manifestations in the service of the ‘good’ and so stabilise his qualification for the attainment in the future of an eternal life in blessedness.

In these lines we have surveyed the common concept of existence holding sway over millions of people at the present time. This is the result of thousands of years of development and observation and preserves within itself the greatest fundamental analysis of eternal truth, though naturally only to that degree which could be recognizable as an expression of the level of evolution reached by all these human beings.

For it is a fact that during the course of time, Man has been subjected to an ever increasing development from a stage of lesser perfection to a stage of greater perfection, and that his powers of observation have become greater and greater, making him skilful in distinguishing more and more the difference between ‘evil’ and ‘good’, by which processes mankind will correspondingly gain more and more territory in the domain of the ‘good’. This again is the same as saying that the dividing line between ‘evil’ and ‘good’ is constantly on the move, so that the area of ‘evil’ becomes smaller and smaller. People will then sometimes discover that much of what they previously thought the work of the devil was, in fact, the work of God.

One can see examples of this by looking back at the laws and their sentences in the past and how, in the name of the ‘good’, justification was found for ruthlessness and for the use of gruesome instruments of torture, spreading terror and death all around for actions which today – because of a greater ability to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – one would consider as mere trifles, but at that time were found to be terrible misdeeds and devilry. In the same way mankind in the future will shudder at the thought of many of our manifestations of today, such as war and bodily injuries, vivisection, the death penalty, meat-eating, hunting and fishing and so forth, all of which are most definitely animal-like manifestations which will become more and more impossible for the individual to practise as his faculties of feeling, intelligence and intuition begin to grow and his present latent cosmic organs develop.

Thus we see that Man has had to change his idea of existence continually in line with his ability to uncover more and more the shining guidelines of truth which, through the ages, have been hidden in all concepts of existence so that with each new concept there was one veil less and more and more truth could shine through.

In this connection one could ask: For how long must the eternal truth continue to be revealed?’ And the answer is: ‘Until there are no more veils to be found surrounding the truth’. Then again one could ask: ‘When will no more veils surround the truth?’ And here the answer will be: ‘When the individual’s sense-perception is so far advanced in its development that he is capable of experiencing as a realistic fact that ‘everything is very good’; by then the revelation of the eternal truth is completed, for indeed that experience could not exist without being identical with the actual experience of that same truth’s scientific basic analysis’.

In other words, the individual no longer lives with the old superstition or idea that something is evil. On the contrary, he experiences and understands that all the so-called ‘evil’ – in a divine or cosmic understanding – constitutes just as indispensable a factor in promoting an individual’s development or forming of consciousness as the so-called ‘good’. And the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ are thus considered identical in the divine basic analysis.

Of course this does not mean that ‘evil’ is also pleasant, but rather that, for the sufficently advanced being it will be considered just as much a blessing as ‘good’, and that these two realities can therefore only be analysed as expressing correspondingly the ‘unpleasant good’ and the ‘pleasant good’.

Any seeker after truth who has developed so far as to be able to experience and carry out the above analysis, solely by his own sense-perception and without any theoretical knowledge learned from other people, has thus reached the end of the journey with regard to the revelation of the eternal truth or the basic analysis of life, and can therefore be recognised as identical with the kind of human being who has become ‘one with the Way, the Truth and the Life’ or with such a human being who, here in Livets Bog, has been termed a ‘moral genius’.

From The Third Testament: Livets Bog 1 © Martinus Institute 1932; this English edition © Martinus Institute 1987.