To make progress on the path of yoga or any spiritual discipline, we need to learn how to disengage from our samskaras. Samskaras are the set patterns of our behavior and perspective that cause us to be locked into the karma of our past, and our current circumstances; and they are often impediments to our spiritual growth. Just to the Purpose is written in contemporary terms, but is about the seed understanding that allows humans to transcend historical context and the limitations of the self.

Just to the Purpose
The Yoga of Ethics

Phillip Hurley and Leigh Hurley

We do not know the purpose,
But we do know the purpose is in process as manifestation.
Thus, all manifestation is just to the purpose.

The heart of the above axiom is that you are just to the purpose. You are valid just as you are. Your movement through time and spaces has cosmic roots. You do not need the authority of others who may claim to possess the keys to your identity and freedom of being.

To speak of the implications of this axiom, some terms need to be defined:

Relevant source - the basis of our motivation, our needs. A relevant source can be a journey, a god-form, another person, money, pickles - anything we give priority to as we move through life; anything that gives us a sense of direction; a goal, etc.

Needs - whatever impels us to any activity. Needs are derived from biological, social, psychological and spiritual causes. For instance, an individual may have a need to attend church on Sunday. This may be the result of being trained socially to attend this event; or may be derived from a psychological need for comfort; or may be derived from a fear of being blasted by "God" in some way; or may be derived from a sense of discovery of our purpose; etc., etc.

Perceptual constructs - the edifice through which an individual perceives, that which forms an individual's "point of view". Each individual's perceptual constructs are unique, but generally overlap with those of other individuals. Our perceptual constructs are formed by:

  • Our own physical characteristics, such as the way our sense organs function, and other particularities of our bodies;
  • Our past and present experiences;
  • Our own mental patterns;
  • How we are enculturated;
  • Any thing or person to which/whom we give authority - our relevant source.

There is considerable overlap amongst these first three terms: relevant source, needs, and perceptual constructs. Each one influences and forms the two others, i.e. hunger, a perceived need for food, makes us tend to focus on the sensory data we receive that is related to getting food, and shapes our perceptual constructs accordingly. In such a situation we are most likely acutely aware of all the details in our environment that give us information about how to get food, and maybe quite oblivious to everything else. If we perceive our hunger as a need which overrides all others in our lives, whether because we are actually starving or for some other reason eating is the thing we want most to do, our hunger and getting food becomes our relevant source, our primary motivation, shaped by our perceptual constructs formed as a result of our hunger. In this case it is likely that we evaluate every object and individual we come into contact with in terms of how it relates to us getting food.

If hunger is a persistent concern and ongoing need for a particular group/culture the group/culture may well create a god-form, a relevant source, with particular attributes that relate to getting food for instance, a god/goddess who blesses with fruitfulness and bounty. In turn, a culture that carries forward from the past a relevant source in the form of a deity whose attributes relate primarily to getting food will be setting up perceptual constructs (more food good/less food bad) for its children. This could include a perceived need (eat more) that may not relate to contemporary circumstances (procuring food might no longer be a primary concern). Anything that is perceived as a need is a need until the perceiver no longer perceives it as a need.

Validation - that which gives us validity for who and what we are and what we do. It is recognition of who we are and what we do bestowed by something/someone to whom we give authority.

God clubs - organizations which form a nucleus around a set of similar needs with a deity as a central focal point.

Imposition - an attempt to define needs and relevant source for others without their permission.

The circumstances of our lives are a confluence of physical, emotional and intellectual factors which define the play of our lives: our needs and our perceptual constructs. Some things we may not be able to change, but there are always things that we can change, even if in some circumstances, it's only our attitude. Attitude is a major factor and shaper of our perceptual constructs.

Each culture subtly and not so subtly transmits its folkways to its children. In this process it defines a set of needs which its members are all constantly impelled to fulfill, and sets up the perceptual constructs which members hold in common (i.e. "We are god's chosen people"). Habitual movement is set up, not particularly based on logic or reason. The major definers of needs and perceptual constructs are religious bodies, political parties, parents and the other circumstances of our life.

Those who seek the authority and the right to define you by projecting their needs upon you are creating an imposition. The foremost example of such impositions are the "god clubs" (churches/religions) who claim to know the ultimate purpose of life and believe it is their duty to transform you and the rest of the world so that you and it fit into their model of the universe, so that your perceptual constructs become as nearly like theirs as possible. The sad history and plight of indigenous cultures all over the world, denuded and reconstructed by Christian church missions, is a dark testament to theologies of imposition.

We do not know the purpose

To truly disengage from the bondage that hinders our natural development, we need to say to these false redeemers and know-it-alls, "You do not know the purpose," followed by each of us saying to ourselves, "I do not know the purpose." If anyone should question the veracity of these statements, it is upon them to prove these statements false! If proof is not offered, bid them farewell and travel by your own lights.

Admitting, or "confessing" if you will, that you do not know and that others don't know is a powerfully liberating experience. It disengages us from the bonds and shackles of supposed truth. It permits us to freely walk around in our own house, to more thoroughly examine our own perceptual constructs, and bring to light aspects of our view on the world that we were previously oblivious to and unable to perceive. It broadens our horizons. It shows us limits we had created for ourselves that we might not wish to keep, whether we created them by our giving authority to others, or more directly of our own individual volition.

You may wonder about the wisdom of leaving the comfort of your structured agreement with its limited options. These agreements, these contracts of authority, reward us with recognition, a specific place within a larger group and assurances of survival, tacit or otherwise. The most dangerous authority relationships/contracts that we participate in are those which try to inculcate in us that we are not able to survive without them, that we have no options. It is conveyed to us that to break out of the authority relationship will mean our demise, whether physical destruction or eternal damnation (psychological destruction) and that nothing but being correctly in our place in the particular authority relationship can "save" us.


At this moment in time we are quickly moving into the consciousness of a global community in which anybody's business is everybody else's business. There is no turning back: a Chernobyl affects us all. We very much need to enlarge our horizons so that we can commune with others, however foreign they may seem to us. We need to be able to realize that for every perceiver there is a unique set of perceptual constructs, a unique limited view; and, however different that view may be from our own, the perceiver is as valid in holding that view as in any other. There is no real mediation/communion possible without each party acknowledging the limits of their own perceptual constructs.

Why bother? To bother is to understand that everything is rooted in reciprocity. Your freedom and your acceptance of the freedom of others allows others to also enlarge their horizons, which means that they accept you as just to the purpose, which is the last line of the axiom. If you help to insure the dignity, respect and freedom of others, your rights also will tend to be acknowledged.

The Centerpoint

There is no mediation without an orientation to some sort of median, a balanced perspective. The only universal balanced perspective is that all manifestation is just to the purpose. That centerpoint is our foundation for understanding and acceptance that the universe is diverse in its manifestation.

The acceptance that the universe is diverse in its manifestation does not mean that we personally must or must not accept any particular manifestation in our own lives. These matters are left up to each individual, for each individual has his or her own unique needs, which will shape that individual's secondary theology .

Primary and Secondary Theologies

We do not know the purpose,
But we do know the purpose is in process as manifestation.
Thus, all manifestation is just to the purpose.

This axiom is the only possible universal primary theology. It is the only absolute. To deny it is to try to impose our own limitations on the universe. Still, practically speaking, we are creatures with limitations that make us who we are, and our limitations are what we have to work with. For this reason we need to have structures for our lives that answer to our particular needs. This is where secondary theology comes in.

Secondary theology structures can be anything at all, whether a kind of conventional religious tradition or not. These are formed by an individual's relevant source, whatever that may be at any given time - Jesus Christ, Mother Earth, money, sex, pickles. The only requirement is that there be recognition that these secondary theologies are not universal and absolute, in other words, "This works for me now, but something else may work for you." Thou shalt not impose.

For instance, if you like to eat very hot peppers, this does not mean that I have to adopt the same practice. I may find it totally repulsive to eat hot peppers, but I do not have to like a practice to understand its cosmic legitimacy. Essentially I can say that I find your cultural or eating habits disgusting, yet at the same time I can bow to you and say "you are just to the purpose." If, on the other hand, my revulsion and disgust lead me to tie you up so that you can no longer get to the hot peppers, I would be imposing my needs upon you and would not be in accordance with the just to the purpose principle. Similarly, if you tie me up and force me to eat hot peppers against my will, you would not be in accordance with the just to the purpose principle.

A third scenario (and the most difficult) would be if your hot pepper habit was highly addictive and hot peppers were illegal and could only be obtained from black market hot pepper cartels who sold them at $5000 an ounce. This might lead you, the hot pepper addict, to robbery and homicide to support your habit. At this point, you would impose on me and others, as you might not have the presence of mind that would allow you to interact with me without imposing. I would have a need to restrain you from making such an imposition, as it would interfere with my need to survive.

From consideration of such situations in the play of life, humans have fashioned social codes such as the Ten Commandments, Hammurabi's Code, etc. Such social contract also comes under the category of secondary theology, and in certain instances give a good example of how a secondary theology can relate well to primary theology. The United States Constitution and legal system is a good model for secondary theology. It is a social contract which is the law of the land, but it accommodates process, change. It acknowledges that it is not itself absolute law that is infallible and eternal, and it does not try to be - it is rather a continuously evolving format for a group of people to live together.

The Nature of Authority

As we humans have evolved, it is necessary for some individuals to take authority over and responsibility for others at certain times. Most particularly, we are not born able to survive on our own, as some species are. We require some kind of parenting for many years, until our bodies are physically mature, and until we have been educated into the ways of whatever culture and environment we happen to be born into. The parent is our first authority relationship, our first relevant source, and the beginning of a pattern in which we tend to give authority to elders. This is natural in that we are able to learn in more ways than just our own direct experience. Because of our use of language, our ability to communicate, we are also able to learn from the past experiences of others. It is understandable that we would have an almost reflex reaction to give obeisance to those who seem to be more experienced than us, older than us.

Another authority dynamic is herd mentality. We tend to assume that if everyone else is doing something a particular way, it must be the right thing to do and the right way to do it. In the course of human history the survival and well-being of individuals many, many times has no doubt been dependent on their being part of a larger group, from a family or tribe to a nation, and anything in between. This dynamic also goes back to our being born helpless, and requiring years of care until we are mature according to our circumstances. Rearing the young is much easier in a group context of whatever sort. In addition, beyond simply child rearing, successfully fending off threatening situations and developing technologies is easier for a group where individuals may specialize at a particular function, than for an individual who must perform all the tasks necessary for his or her own survival. We humans have evolved as social creatures, belonging to a group of some sort, and again have evolved an almost reflex reaction of alarm if we feel we are not fitting in with our group.

Humans have evolved from a basic understanding of ethics as simple biological survival. At the most rudimentary level, good and evil are biologically defined: at the individual level, good is that which supports one's biological well-being (adequate food, shelter, etc.); bad is that which threatens our biological well-being (famine, violent aggression, illness, death, etc.). Plentiful food is good, scarce food is bad. This perspective is extended to the group, be it family or nation. Combined with our herd instinct, our perceived need for the group's survival to ensure our own, we move easily to a definition of good as the survival of our group, and bad, its extinction. From this point it is not much further to the perceived need for the group to survive at all costs, with the relevant source moving subtly from the well being of the individual via the group's survival, to the group's survival without consideration of the well being of all of the individuals in the group.

Combining these two authority tendencies, deference to longevity (age/experience) and herd instinct, it is not difficult to see how long-lived or large institutions are given obeisance and authority with so little question. It is commonly thought that the longevity or size of an institution is an indicator of its validity and truth value in the realms it purports to deal with. In actuality, the longevity of an institution is an indicator only of its ability to evolve and survive as an institution, and its size an indicator of its ability to acquire resources. These factors have to do with politics, economics and sociology, not with the value of anything the institution purports to do for individuals affected by the institution.

Institutional Christianity is a prime example of this. A monopoly is set up: God is attainable only through the church, all people must join the church to be saved, the Bible is the only word of God, the church's interpretations of the Bible are the only correct interpretations, and only the church can ordain priests/ministers. Authority is moved away from the individual, and the larger the institution, the further away it may be moved. As authority is taken away from individuals, those individuals become more expendable, their value being only in any function they perform in service to or participating in the institution. From this it is not far to go to valuing individual suffering (martyrdom) as a positive thing in and of itself. An example of such an abuse of the idea of martyrdom is the Children's Crusade of 1212.

Locus of Authority

Authority must be understood not simply as some individuals' ability to consciously dictate directives for action. Authority is whatever the relevant source is. Money/profit is normally the relevant source for an institution that is a business, and directives for action will be formulated around this as the primary consideration. For some institutions, for instance, charitable relief organizations, the authority is ideally the needs of particular people, i.e. the fact that there is an earthquake somewhere, and there are injured and homeless victims dictates what specific action will be taken and where and when by this institution. Ideally, the needs of the victims are the ultimate authority that will determine the form and activity of this institution.

Any group of individuals, be it a religion, a nation, a municipality, a commercial interest, a family, a social club, etc. has no valid purpose but to meet the needs of individuals, be it individuals who are members, and/or individuals who are served/affected by such a group.

The trick of authority is that we are enculturated to give authority away. An institution gains power for itself as an institution by monopolizing and centralizing authority, and seemingly keeping it removed from individuals so that individuals believe they must apply to the institution for validation, identity, etc. in their particular realm. Some religious institutions have added protection to their power base by saying that no individual has authority, as in Christianity's assertion that we are all inherently "imperfect" and require "salvation" from an outside source - the doctrine of original sin. In saying that no individual has authority, they are ultimately saying that no individual has responsibility. If no individual or group of individuals in an institution is responsible and has ultimate institutional authority, it is impossible to ever call the institution to account for itself from within its structure. The locus of authority has been moved away from the individuals, while at the same time, some of the individuals claim to control access to it.

Institutions can make a strong power base in several ways. One is locating authority in something tangible, and creating the perception that it can't be changed, i.e. the Bible is canon and the only word of God. Whoever controls the object, in this case the Bible and interpretations thereof, has control of the locus of power. The locating of authority in an object is not a bad thing in itself (i.e. in a library using Dewey Decimal system, the Dewey Decimal book is the authority for assigning numbers to library books). The problems arise when it is claimed that the particular object is the all-encompassing ultimate authority for all times, the primary theology.

Another authority location trick is placing authority in a relationship between individuals, and creating and imposing the perception that authority is inherent and absolute in the relationship and thus unchangeable, i.e. children must always obey their parents; or, one race or sex is superior to another. Again, the authority is located outside the individuals, and the ones on the power end of the relationships can freely exploit the relationships, because they can claim that they are not responsible for the circumstances that give them that power.

In terms of religion/spirituality it has been typical in western euro-culture to postulate the sacred (their authority) into a god-form so "perfect" and beyond us that we could not possibly come near to even beginning to understand the sacred on our own, much less partake of the sacred in ourselves or recognize it in others (and we are taught that it is the height of blasphemy to think we could). The concept of perfection is a concept of static structure, and static structure is the antithesis of life. Life is constant change, it is a process. Any concepts of perfection we may have are created with the limitations of our own perceptual constructs. While goals and ideals can be useful for focussing our energy and activity, they are most useful viewed as milestones, not as final ultimate destinations. In our culture we have been programmed to equate authority and the sacred with perfection, a carrot held out in front of us that we can never catch up to. It is a static structure which tends to close us off to many diverse other ways of being, from people who are different than we are, and from recognizing the true value of the learning process that is our own lives. Myths of perfection used as loci of authority tend to remove validity and sacredness from individual experience, from life as it is lived by human beings.

It may seem in this exposition that Christianity is being singled out for criticism. This is intentional. Christianity is the most foundational institution of western euro culture as it is now. It has shaped the perceptual constructs of everyone in this culture, whether they call themselves Christian or not. Many of these perceptual constructs are especially problematic as we move into the 21st century, such as the idea that only through Christ can the sacred be accessed and individuals be "saved." Many other traditions and institutions also perpetuate similarly problematic perceptual constructs.

We are awakening into a world where we must learn to be global citizens, where we must interact ever more closely with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. To find a common point, a basis for a sincere approach for the working out of human rights issues, we need to begin from this principle - "I don't have all the answers. You don't have all the answers. Nobody has all the answers, but let's share our experiences and what we do know and figure out how we can live together as best we can." This applies to all human interaction, from family relationships to the making of global policy.

We do not know the purpose,
But we do know the purpose is in process as manifestation.
Thus, all manifestation is just to the purpose.

"Just to the Purpose" was originally written in 1996, Copyright©1996, Phillip & Leigh Hurley.


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