Desire, virtues and vices

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Desires that tend to run our lives, and are often linked to the ego.

The term desire is used in different contexts.  Desire can be positive – having a desire to clean the house at the weekend, or a desire to volunteer for charity.

The type of desires we want to avoid are cravings – those associated with the reward circuit in the brain.  The physical senses can result in cravings for food, drink, alcohol and drugs, sex, money, gambling, etc.etc.  It is perfectly normal to desire companionship and a life partner, but infatuation and stalking another person isn’t right.  When it is not morally right the desire is classified as a “vice“.  Here is a list of vices and entrapment’s from the various major world religions, which are to be avoided.  They are all in agreement to some extent.


The original sin in Christianity was Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This is taken as a metaphor for indulging in physical pleasures or immoral acts (especially sex).  The tree of knowledge could be viewed as the central nervous system, and falling from grace is becoming attached to the physical pleasures of the senses, instead of spending ones time developing the higher brain functions and living in harmony with the creation.

bota-starThe Star (Tarot card) and Desire

In terms of brain centres, the reward centre is involved with desire and the counteracting affect of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) with its moral values and inhibitory functions is not usually sufficient to keep desire in check.  To get a little esoteric, the 17th Tarot Card “The Star” (shown opposite) is an optimistic card.  The lady is Isis or nature, and she is perfectly balanced on the water (the subconscious) and the land (physical pleasures).  The five streams of water running from the urn in her left hand represent the five senses.  The cravings of the physical senses naturally lead to desire.  The Ibis perched on the tree is important.  This bird dips its long beak into deep muddy water in search of tasty morsels.  It is a metaphor for meditation, where we dip into our subconscious never quite knowing what we will find.  Eventually the dark desires (including those of the alter-ego) are removed and the desires that arise from our hearts are useful ones, leading us towards enlightenment.  The seven smaller stars are the seven chakra centres, and the big star is the sun.  (There are many Tarot interpretations, but that of Paul Foster Case of BOTA is one of the best sources to read to understand the imagery behind the Tarot cards).

Desire usually involves the ego.  Spiritual pursuits are the desires that arise when the ego isn’t dominating your life, and they are usually good desires to pursue.