Gideon’s Sermons #1: On The Limits of Goodness

This is a sermon given by a young cleric I role-play as in a Pathfinder campaign.

I cannot say I agree with all of the thoughts and opinions expressed by Gideon, but I think he provides an interesting perspective on goodness in a somewhat Stoical light worth considering.

Doom and Cookies

Starday – 14th, Sarenith

What are the limits of goodness? Should we care only for those who care for us? And should we hurt those who hurt us?

I will begin by telling you to not work against your fellow man—envying, hating, abandoning; to do so, is to work against yourself. Remember this: There is nothing that an evil man can do to you that can take away your goodness.

Each of us is faced with the same struggle—between doing good and doing evil—and it is within the reach of each of us to do one or the other.

There was a boy foolishly waddling about the edge of cliff. Expectedly, he slipped, barely catching himself on the cliff’s edge. Each time he tried to climb up, he slipped further and his grip was becoming weak. As he cried out for help, a man approached and stood above him.

The…

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Gorgias Explains the Cave

Gorgian Cave

[Upon seeing the perplexed expression of his disciples, Gorgias continued.]

Now the cave, or den, is the world as it is, the ever-living Fire is power, the shadows are the visions that those with the power create, the chains are those ideas which would keep our minds subject to the conventions of mores and virtues and norms, the way upwards is the path of folly, and in the emptiness at the mouth of the cave are the virtues of the void.

He who pursues the virtues of the void journeys in vain; he is unwilling to descend into political assemblies and courts of law because his mind is still prisoner to the chains of fantastic ideals. He wishes to remain in the realm of those who have never in their lives understood the relation of the shadow to the substance.

Visions come in two ways; they are either that which is forced upon us or that which we force upon others. A man of sense will distinguish between them.

The man whose visions are foisted upon those of the prisoners we deem powerful, and pity the other.

There is a further lesson taught by this parable of ours. Some persons fancy that instruction is like giving eyes to the blind, but we say that the faculty of sight was always there, and that the soul only requires to be turned round towards the truth.

Other strengths are almost like bodily habits, and may be acquired in the same manner, but he who has true power is divine and is indestructible, returning either to bondage or to freedom according to the direction given.

Did you never observe how the mind of an intelligent man peers out of his eyes, and the more clearly he sees, the more greatness he achieves? This is because he is not bound in the way of others – he is free. He is such a person who has been cut away from those leaden weights of virtue which keep his eyes transfixed on the shadows, whose intelligence has been turned round. He has beheld the truth as clearly as he now discerns his meaner ends.

Then now comes the question: How shall such a man become their rulers; what way is there from weakness to power?

The Cave of Gorgias

Cave of Gorgias

[Gorgias, speaking to his disciples.]

Imagine human beings living in an underground den whose mouth is obscured by a winding, ascending tunnel. These people have been there from childhood, having their necks and legs chained, and can only see into the den.

At a distance there is an ever-living Fire, and between the Fire and the prisoners a raised way. A low wall has been built along the way, like the screen over which marionette players show their puppets.

Behind the wall there are moving figures, who hold in their hands various works of art; among them are images of men and animals, wood and stone. Some of the passers-by are talking and others remain silent. Due to an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of the passers-by seem to proceed from the shadows.

These prisoners are people like us, seeing only the shadows of the images which the Fire throws on the wall of the den; to these they give names.

Suppose now that one were to suddenly turn them round and make them look with pain and grief to themselves at the artifacts in front of the flame; will they believe them to be real? Will not their eyes be dazzled, and will they not try to get away from the light of the Fire to something which they are able to behold without blinking?

And suppose further, that you are one of these prisoners but unlike the others– and your bonds had been loosened, would you not traverse the steep and rugged ascent towards the mouth of the cave? Would you not pursue the Light of lights which illuminates the world beyond the cave in its radiance?

What would become of you if you moved to the threshold of the cave and found naught but darkness — void of anything? When you have discovered that the shadows on the walls are but illusions of the Fire and that these illusions are all that is – what becomes of you and your lofty ideals?

Upon knowing the truth, you cannot bind yourself as the prisoners have been bound – for now you are free and your options stand thus: jump into the void and become as nothing or return to the prisoners and, in the shadow of truth, exercise dominion over them. How worthless to you will seem the honors and glories of the just! For now you are free.

In returning to that underground dwelling, will you not see more clearly after having been exposed to the darkest dark? The light of the Fire will become ever-more brilliant and you can join, upon that wall, the casters of shadow by whom the realities of the prisoners are shaped!