The Western World Philosophy

People incline toward [this] world only after they stray from the faith.  Base instinct entices them to forsake the redemptive world [of reason and faith] and turns them aside from the way of their forefathers, which was the way of worldly contentment, meeting basic needs, and taking from the world only what is necessary.

The instinct attracts them to an indulgent lifestyle and a pursuit of wealth, enamoring them of this world’s luxury and prominence, until finally they sink in the depths of its sea, forced to face the crush of its waves.  The [material] world rules them, stopping up their ears and closing their eyes.  There is not one among them who occupies himself with anything but his own pleasure - whenever he can attain it and the opportunity presents itself.  [Pleasure] becomes his law and religion, driving him away from God.  As it says, “Your own wickedness will punish you, your own sins will rebuke you…” (Yirmeyahu 2:19)

Then there are those among them who are denied their pleasure, yet their mind is always on it and their soul pines for it, hankers after it, and constantly seeks it, day and night, as it says: “While on his bed he thinks evil thoughts; he sets himself on a way that is not good” (Tehillim 36:5)

All their years they are mired in matters of this world, precluded from attaining the good that is in it, too weary to attain it.  They are losers in the transaction they have concluded and diminish their own souls.  They choose evil, ignorant of the value of what they give up and of what they receive in its stead, as it says: “They exchanged their Glory for the image of a bull that eats grass” (ibid. 106:20)

The demands of a growing addiction and the pressures of a debilitating materialism preoccupy their minds incessantly with ever-new worldly distractions, entrenching this world’s strivings in their hearts.  The closer they get, the more distant they become; the further they draw away from the light of truth from which they have withdrawn, the stronger their bond with base instinct, their intimate.

In this way, the darkness grows thicker about them.  This world looms large in their hearts, its excellence enchanting them.  They develop this world at the expense of their minds; the more the world is developed, the more their minds are wasted, until finally they consider the evil way of the world good, the crooked way straight.  They even make it the rule and ideal.

Parents bequeath [these values] to their children, raising their offspring by them.  The masses are charged [to live] by them; their princes vie over them.  In the end, the [evil] instinct is firmly established among them.  Their homes are filled with emptiness.  What used to be considered strange in the world seems acceptable to them, and the right way appears foreign to them.  To be content without luxuries is considered a failure of duty.

Each one does what he sees his neighbor doing.  He who takes form this world only what is sufficient for his needs is called an idler; he who neglects to increase his holding is considered derelict.  One who is content with an adequate livelihood is thought weak; one who is wholly engrossed in worldly gain is thought industrious.

Drawing their pride and esteem from this world, for its sake they join together, or become hostile, or reconcile; for its rewards they make their bellies their god, their clothing their religion, improvement of their dwellings their ideal.  Astray in the depths of ignorance, moving monotonously in a lifeless routine, laden with burdens of selfish desires, they expect [to receive] the reward of the obedient for acts of disobedience, [to attain] the high degree of saints for wicked conduct.  As our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “They act like Zimri and expect a reward like that of Pinchas” (Sotah 22b)

From:  Duties of the Heart by   Rabbi Bachaya Ibn Pakuda (11th Century), pg. 793


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