The Moral Law Is Self-Enforcing
We are rewarded or punished for our acts from the moment we commit them.
Conscience is God within us. Seeing all that we know and do, the sting of shame or the bounty of pride are doled out in accordance with their exact merit. The moral law is self-enforcing. Look to what makes a man unhappy and you will find his sins. Where has indolence found true rest, greed experienced lasting satisfaction, or animosity ever been free from self-injury? Human justice is a child’s justice, for in direct and immediate ways true justice is meted out by the soul unto itself.
There are none who can hide from themselves. How am I to run from my own legs or block a blow from my own hands? No mouth is clever enough to lie to its neighboring ear. The desire for revenge has always been a redundancy. To cause suffering is to suffer; to steal is to be robbed of dignity; to murder is to lose two lives.
Where is the seat of beauty, happiness, truth, and all good things but in each of our minds? One is not banished from Eden; Eden is banished from us. Defy your deeper understanding of right and truth, and like one walking in a narrow between two walls, as soon as we try to turn away from the path set before us, we immediately begin to chafe and injure ourselves against those rough and jagged barriers.
Watch how even the imagination is encircled by a boundary of fire: Contemplate for a moment some act of evil or malice and watch the sensation of foreboding and the shiver of danger that comes over you. The moral law is outwardly expressed in society and in religion, only because it was first directly intuited by each individual person. Why is it that every prophet was at last in agreement? Each rose to that exalted status by putting into words the dictates that were already wordlessly intimated to each of us. Precisely because these teachings were not new, they resonated.
We tend to speak on humanity as a right-minded race. We do this despite an interminable list of atrocities attributable to our kind. If you looked at humanity from without, you would find only a savage. It is only because we can see that calling within each of us that we can speak on our higher nature, and though it has just as often been ignored as heeded, in all quarters violation of it has been repented for without fail — either by spoken words and manifest action, or by silent reflection in the quiet of night. We have all failed to answer that call at some time or another, but none of us has ever denied it for long or denied in deepest earnestness its truth, nor have any of us ever escaped penance for the time spent as transgressor or failed to be uplifted with each step in its true direction.
Where has harmony, kindness, industry, or love failed to be rewarded? Isn’t every day of discipline rewarded the following night with a pleasant feeling of pride and internal peace? Isn’t every sensation of love, even if unreciprocated, graced by a soft beauty? When we restrain our temper, and express ourselves without attacking, do we not find our inner tranquility restored without delay? Each kindness unto another is a kindness unto oneself. Each day of labor is its own reward. Each act of restraint is compensated by a deeper freedom.
Society fails in large and clumsy ways to dispense its fruits in accordance with merit, but the universal force accounts for and delivers our deserts instantly and with perfect precision. Fear not that your efforts will go without repayment. Nature has been devised so that every act is pregnant with its own outcome. We cannot escape from retribution or reward anymore than the dog can outrun its tail.
Heaven and hell would only be redundant because punishment is in the bad act and reward in the good, so my kitchen may this morning be hell and my living room may this evening become heaven; rather than having to travel in the next life to those places, the divine inspirations from one or the choking smoke from the other rise to fill my mind the moment I transgress.
The court of conscience tries all cases big and small. Every soul is its own judge, patron, and punisher.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons