In “Meet Me In The Middle”, I explained how enlightenment could not be accomplished through extremes and force of will, as Oneness transcends will and manifests only in a state of balance. But while this might address the importance of not living a life driven by “suppression of evils” (the shunning of physical pleasures), neither is it an invitation to indulge whenever the impulse presents itself.
Living a life of Balance requires the discontinuation of old habits born of ignorance, and the continuation of new habits enabled by enlightenment. I say “continued” because we do not actually “start” or “create” anything (it’s all been done already, contrary to what our Egos and limited perception may tell us); rather, we are manifesting in reality what was already there to begin with, but which we failed to appreciate until now.
To better understand the nature of virtue (which I define as “doing that which one knows to be right, because one knows it to be”), consider why God, one who is infinite in every way, does not do evil.
There are plentiful arguments that suggest that God is morally apathetic/agnostic, or that God is evil. There is also the view that God, Satan, etc. are over-glorified scapegoats for a humanity unwilling to take responsibility for its own actions, or seek to leverage these authorities when convenient. But all of these arguments have proven themselves to be little more than a battle of semantics, as which each of them we are attempting to understand God and/or justify his actions (or the lack thereof) by putting a label on him. This categorization of God exists only in the human perception, and it should be understand that any and all characterizations of God do not exist outside the perception of humans and other sentient beings.
So let’s avoid the good/evil semantics, and simplify it like this: As the creator of all that is, God knows what is right, and so everything that he thinks, says, does, and emanates, is good as a result. God is the source of all that is, so to criticize his character only acknowledges the amplified corruption of our own sense of right and wrong, since our conscience itself has its origin in God.
Getting back to the original question: how can God, who is infinite in every way, not do evil. The answer is profoundly simple: Because it’s not in His nature to! God can do evil, in that he has the ability to. But God lacks the reason to, thus he does not. It’s a cut-and-dried case of cosmic cause and effect. Everything that God says, does, and emanates– is virtuous, ‘by virtue’ of God’s good-naturedness,
How this applies to striking the balance between abstinence and indulgence: The majority of what we want in life is not the product of our innate desires, but of the conditioning of our environment, and the habits that reinforce that conditioning. So when we crave something, usually it’s not because we actually need or even want it, it’s because we’ve been conditioned to think we need or want it.
There is nothing wrong with indulging in simple pleasures, or even continuing to satisfy a physical want or need. But it’s crucially important that you are satisfying these desires for the right reasons– that they really are your desires, and not the mere product of conditioning. In this sense, asceticism can be a good thing: Most of the indulgences that ascetics abstain from, are things that people only did in the first place because they were conditioned to by their families, their cultures, their society, their government, their world.
There are so many things that we do that are conditioned by the environment, it’s unnerving. The clothes we wear, the need for hygiene, sanitary precautions, masturbation, pornography, sex, friendship, networking, jobs, careers, romance, relationships, small talk, patriotism, discrimination, family, society, law enforcement, justice, money– all of these things are wants and needs conditioned by our environment, and all of which would be greatly diminished in value without that conditioning.
Much of what we have been conditioned to desire are good things, and some of it came from innate God-given desires and virtues. But without understanding what we truly want and need, irrespective of conditioning, we are mere products of our environment, and slaves to our conditioning. In order to be free to live according to our inner-nature, we must uncondition ourselves until nothing is left but the true self, and build a purified character on that pure foundation. For only then can be truly begin to be perfect, as God is perfect, just as it was in our nature to be all along.