Knowing Principles Won’t Save You

In our attempts to build principle-centered homes, sometimes we are tempted to think that if we could just find and teach our children true principles, we’d be home free! Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. 

The life of Oscar Wilde is a perfect tutorial in principles ignored. Even though he was brilliant and funny, even though he was handed everything in life on a silver platter, even though he understand natural laws and principles well enough to write profound moral stories, he never listened to his own conscience. Even at the end, when it was clear his way didn’t work and he seemed on the verge of confessing all and changing his ways, his willfulness and pride continued to stand in the way.

Join Audrey this week for an in-depth look at what happens when you know the principles but you refuse to let them save you. 

Listener’s Guide:

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast. 

1:50  Oscar Wilde’s childhood
4:15  Wilde’s new worldview and fame
9:45  Wilde marries, has peace and begins rebelling
12:19  The Picture of Dorian Gray
19:42  Wilde spirals downward
27:25  De Profundis
33:40  Lord Alfred’s reflections

Quotes from this episode:

“The artist is the creator of beautiful things…There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is allAll art is quite useless.” ~Oscar Wilde from the Introduction of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Quotes from The Picture of Dorian Gray:

  • “Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.”
  • “Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”
  • “I am perfectly happy now. I know what conscience is, to begin with. It is not what you told me it was. It is the divinest thing in us. Don’t sneer at it, Harry, any more—at least, not before me. I want to be good.”
  • He sought to elaborate some new scheme of life that would have its reasoned philosophy and its ordered principles, and find in the spiritualizing of the senses its highest realization.”

Quotes from De Profundis:

  • “She and my father had bequeathed me a name they had made noble and honoured, not merely in literature, art, archaeology, and science, but in the public history of my own country, in its evolution as a nation.  I had disgraced that name eternally.  I had made it a low by-word among low people.  I had dragged it through the very mire.  I had given it to brutes that they might make it brutal, and to fools that they might turn it into a synonym for folly.”
  • “I must say to myself that I ruined myself, and that nobody great or small can be ruined except by his own hand.  I am quite ready to say so.  I am trying to say so, though they may not think it at the present moment.  This pitiless indictment I bring without pity against myself.  Terrible as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.”

  • “The gods had given me almost everything.  But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease.  I amused myself with being a flâneur, a dandy, a man of fashion.  I surrounded myself with the smaller natures and the meaner minds.  I became the spendthrift of my own genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy.  Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for new sensation.  What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion.  Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both.  I grew careless of the lives of others.  I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on.  I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop.  I ceased to be lord over myself.  I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it.  I allowed pleasure to dominate me.  I ended in horrible disgrace.  There is only one thing for me now, absolute humility.”

  • “I don’t regret for a single moment having lived for pleasure. I did it to the full, as one should do everything that one does.  There was no pleasure I did not experience. I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine.  I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes. I lived on honeycomb.  But to have continued the same life would have been wrong because it would have been limiting. I had to pass on.”

  • “Of late I have been studying with diligence the four prose poems about Christ.  At Christmas I managed to get hold of a Greek Testament, and every morning, after I had cleaned my cell and polished my tins, I read a little of the Gospels, a dozen verses taken by chance anywhere.  It is a delightful way of opening the day.  Every one, even in a turbulent, ill-disciplined life, should do the same.  Endless repetition, in and out of season, has spoiled for us the freshness, the naïveté, the simple romantic charm of the Gospels.”

  • “Indeed, that is the charm about Christ, when all is said: he is just like a work of art.  He does not really teach one anything, but by being brought into his presence one becomes something.  And everybody is predestined to his presence.  Once at least in his life each man walks with Christ to Emmaus.”

“Now, anybody who having read ‘Dorian Gray’ can honestly maintain that it is not one of the greatest moral books ever written, is an ass. It is, briefly, the story of a man who destroys his own conscience. The visible symbol of that conscience takes the form of a picture, the presentment of perfect youth and perfect beauty, which bears on its changing surface the burden of the sins of its prototype. It is one of the greatest and most terrible moral lessons that an unworthy world has had the privilege of receiving at the hands of a great writer…He was so great an artist that, in spite of himself, he was always on the side of the angels. We believe that the greatest art is always on the side of the angels, to doubt it would be to doubt the existence of God…” ~Lord Alfred Douglas

“Even when you know the principles, even when you understand that there’s a conscience and you must obey it, if you choose not to, you will reap the whirlwind–just like Oscar Wilde did…That is a profound life lesson for all of us to ponder…that even those who can make every excuse in the book, still know there’s a right and a wrong.” ~Audrey Rindlisbacher

Books from this episode:


Links from this episode:

The Types of People in Hell