Dr. Emiliano Hudtohan

Educator, Business Writer, Industry Expert and Entrepreneur

Moral Beauty: Prospect for Business Ethics  
Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan, AB, BSE, MA, EdD
Paper delivered at the International Conference on Management, Social Entrepreneurship, and Education at STIKES Tri Mandiri Sakti,  Bengkulu, Indonesia on March 22, 2017
For Publication: Journal of Business Research and Development
San Beda College Graduate School of Business


The paper makes a case out of moral beauty as a perspective on business ethics in the 21st century.  In retrospect, it explores the origins and development of beauty from the Western Gaian tradition and from the Asian pre-Spanish image of the Babaylan. It reviews the classical ethical frameworks based on utilitarianism, rights, justice and virtue ethics, and the post-modern ethics of care. It presents the moral beauty as a standard of ethical behavior. The relevance of moral beauty in business ethics is highlighted by a leadershift that recognizes the crucial role of feminine energy in the 21st century. Moral beauty is positioned as prospect in business and the academe in response to the global business environment described as vulnerable, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous (VUCA).

Key words: moral beauty, ethics, business ethics, antifragile Gaia, Babaylan, Maganda, and
kagandahang loob.

As an axiologist, ethics and aesthetics are my key interest. Axiology studies mainly two kinds of values: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics investigates the concepts of “right” and “good” in individual and social conduct; aesthetics studies the concepts of “beauty” and “harmony.” Given a gnomic dictum that says ethics and aesthetics are one (Tilhgman, 1991; Collinson, 1985), then moral beauty is not a strange ethical proposition, after all.
Moral beauty in the 21st Century is being put forward amidst current shifts that are currently happening. Bennett and Lemoine (2014) describe the business environment as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Taleb (2012) prescribes being antifragile in response to the global economic, political, social and spiritual crises today. Laszlo (2006), Page (2008) and Braden (2012) warn us that we are in the midst of a great period of change which started 1987 and ends in 2023.

To avert the impending global disaster ot our planet, for example, business, government, and civil society need to address this sustainability issues related to both human and planetary survival. It is no coincidence that 1987 in the Organization of Economic cooperation and Development (OECD) advocated sustainability of the triple bottom of profit, people and planet tallied with start of the great period of change cited by Page and Braden.

When the drummers were women (Redmond, 1997) they took good care of the Earth and the people of the Earth.  Today, men use the drums to forment violence, conflict, and destruction. Women of old used the drums for healing, celebration, and sacralization of the Earth.  They were governed moral beauty rooted in Gaia whom we call today as Mother Earth and Galactic Mother whose ethos is nurturing and caring, and made things beautiful.

Page (2017) observed that “[W]omen are more powerful together…When stressed, oxytocin (bonding hormone) reacts positively with estrogen to cause women to meet, share feelings and offer compassionate support; creating strength. Testosterone inhibits oxytocin during stress, causing men to be more likely to act independently through fight or flight. When women compete, we’re acting like men: let’s move towards authentic sharing and caring.” (facebook.com/permalink. php?story_fbid =399780190360423&id =10000 9853369349)

Objectives of Moral Beauty
The purpose Moral Beauty: Prospect for Business Ethics is to add a new dimension to an academic  discourse on business ethics.  For more than a decade now, I notice that the ethical principles are basically mainstream of Western origin. From Gilligan’s ethics of care, I am presenting a discourse on the feminist side of ethics with the inclusion of Moral Beauty.
Moral Beauty is traced from a Western tradition of Gaia and by design I present the Asian Philippine tradition of Babaylan and Maganda myth. Moral Beauty as standard of behavior in the 21st century can be a new moral standard in addition to Truth and Goodness the drives social decorum.
The 21st Century is a century of Feminine Energy, because so much Force from the Masculine Energy has dominated the world for more than 2000 years. Academic disciplines especially in business management may explore Gaian qualities of caring, nurturing, and nourishing Life as foundational link to ethical behavior in business and responsible social conduct.

I underscore the fact that Filipinos are a Beautiful people and our DNA made manifest through our language says so: Magandang Umaga; Kagandahang Loob. Mount Mayon is Magayon: beautful. Our Moral Beauty must arise now to bring harmony to this Earth and the Galaxy. The paper challenges not only business ethics professor and students in the academe but also those in corporate practice to make manifest the Maganda Filipino culture that is truly Asian.

Part I:  Gaian Beauty
The discussion on moral beauty is set in the context of Gaia in Greek mythology that has inspired current writers who are articulating new moral and ethical perspectives in the 21st century.  In ethics, Gaian myth serves a mystical function because she enlightens our experience as a mystery; it has a cosmological function because she helps us understand not only the material world but also the metaphysical dimensions of life that are invisible; it has a sociological function because she supports and validates our experience of the social order and it has a pedagogical function because she teaches us how to live a human lifetime in all circumstances (Campbell, 1991; Houston, 1998 Walsh, 2007).

Gaia in Retrospect
Historically, the eternal female was materialized through the female goddess, a Divine Mother.  Richmond (1997) tells us that “In Egypt the goddess was known as Hathor, Isis, Sekhmer; in Sumerian, Syro-Palestinian, and Cypriot cultures she was called Inna, Ishtar, Astarte, Astoreth, Anat, Aphrodite. In Anatolia, Asia Minor, Crete, Greece and Rome she was Cybele, Rhea, Demter, Artiemis, Anadine, Persephone.  All these historical goddesses sprang from an archetype Great Goddess of the Paleolithic Age, when cultures throughout the European and western Asian world worshipped forms of Divine Mother.” (Richmond, 1997, p.121-122). When the Greeks colonized Asia Minor, they reintroduced the ancient Greek Mother of Minoan-Mycenaean tradition.  The Greeks Rhea or Gaia was the Mother of the Gods.

Gaia was the Greek goddess of the earth; she was both mother and wife to Uranus, or Heaven, as well as mother of Cronus, a Titan.  According to Greek poet Hesiod, she was the mother of all 12 Titans, as well as of the Furies and the Cyclopes.  The Greek spelling is Gaea but modern feminist revivalists use Gaia. She is identified with Eros (Cupid, Amor), god of sexual love, who both came out of Chaos (New York Times, 2004).

Eros possesses a deeper mystical significance as the primordial power of creation itself. The Pythagorean and Orphic mystery schools invoked him as Eletherious, the Liberators and Protogonos, the luminous and genderless, who arose out of the empty void Chaos to create harmonious order and beauty of the Cosmos. EnlightenNext Magazine (2009) reinterprets Eros in the light of Darwinian philosophers who saw Eros as “the creative force that drives the evolutionary process.”  Cohen (2009) asserts that when one consciously identifies with the evolutionary impulse, at the highest level, we are “not separate from the energy and intelligence that originally inspired the creative process” which is Eros.

The Greeks believed that mathematically, beauty and truth are related and the ingredients of beauty are: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. Beauty was an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, education, and politics. They judged life by this beauty mentality. Aristotle says that when the good person chooses to act virtuously, he does it for the sake of the “kalon” meaning “beautiful,” “noble,” or “fine.”  Aristotle sees in ethical activity an attraction that is comparable to the beauty of well-crafted artifacts, including such artifacts as poetry, music, and drama (Aristotle. 450 BCE).

Gaian Prospect
Ethical and moral scholars relate Gaia to the ancient tradition of shamanism.  The shamans [recently Pope Francis welcomed a shaman in the Vatican] understood the harmony and beauty of the mind, body, and spirit in relation with others, the earth and the cosmos. Shamans have a sacred space where they find meaning and power.  In that space one “intentionally changes the environment to be one of harmony, peace and beauty” (Samuels & Lane, 2003, p.53).  They see light and beauty and let others see that vision. They see themselves as beautiful; they are within beauty. Thus, the healing action of the shamans is powered by beauty.

Gaia in organizations. Wheatley (1999) believes tht Gaia is the created universe, the mother of all like, the great partner of chaos and creativity. In modern science, she is planet Earth, a living being who creates for herself the conditions that nourish and sustain life.  And in this millennial era, Gaia is us.  She is the feminine energy that compels us to care about the future of the Earth.

According to Wheatley (1999), Gaian voices today answer questions with a new story that differs from the old cosmology. The women of the 21st century must lead with authority to create a new cosmic Gaian story of feminine care and power.  Page (2008) expands the Gaian story as the Great Mother who leads us to the Galactic Center. She asserts that “We are uniquely positioned here on earth to travel; travel this road metaphysically and enter the black hole at the center of the galaxy. Here we will experience the fullness of our potentiality, the unlimited realm of possibilities, and come to know the true meaning of immortality.” (Page, 2008, p. 3)

Wheatley reinvents a new story of the primal trinity of Gaia, Chaos and Eros.  She says, “Once the machine glass has been set aside, we can see life’s ebullient creativity and life’s great need for other life.  We see a world whose two great organizing energies are the need to create and the need for relationship.  We are a world where there is no such thing as an independent individuals and no need for aader to take on as much responsibility as we’ve demanded in the past.” (Wheatley, 1998, p. 87).

Gaia teaches us that “When we join together we are capable of giving birth to the form of the organization, to the plan, to the values, to the vision…The Gaian organizational process principle is:  Life seeks organization, but it uses messes to get there…And it involves creating relationships around shared sense of purpose…In Gaian story, this situation is influenced by the force of Chaos where creativity and freedom abound and by the force of Eros, where we are impelled to create through attraction (Wheatley, 1998). The women of the 21st century need to narrate their own story, having experienced daily the failure of the old story.  They need to break their silence and share the Gaian vision they have come to know.

Gaia and contemporary spirituality. Gaia as a Divine Feminine energy is theologically explained by James Ray (2006). He argues, “What we know about energy is this: You go to a quantum physicist and your say, “What creates the world?’ And he or she will say, ‘Energy.’  Well, describe energy. ‘ OK, it can never be created or destroyed, it always was, always has been, everything that ever existed always exists, its moving into form, through form and out of form.’ You go to a theologian and ask the question, ‘what created the Universe?’ And he or she will say, ‘God.’  Okay, describe God. ‘Always was and always has been, never can be created or destroyed, all that ever was, always will be, always moving into form, through form and out of form.’  You see, it’s the same description, just different terminology,” (Ray, 2006, p.158-159).

Some advocates of progressive spirituality in the 21st century describe as a process of “the divine spirit…seeking to sustain and guide the ongoing development of the cosmos…in terms of working with the spirit of Gaia” (Lynch, 2007, p.45-46).  Thus, the study and inspiration of Gaia is very much alive and Gaia in mythology yesterday is science (Drummond, n.d.) and spirituality today (Lynch, 2007).

Gaia and climate change. Bonewits and Bonewits (2007) trace the Gaia thesis to Oberon Zell-Ravenheart in 1970 which viewed Mother Earth as a living being composed of the whole biosphere (Lovelock, 1972; Margulis, 1998). Grauds and Childers (2005) argue that while plants, animals, and humans have their own conscious life and experience, they both partake of, and are transcended by Gaia’s consciousness.

In Gaian theory “the biosphere, atmosphere,  lithosphere, and hydrosphere  maintain a homeostatic condition and the Earth is seen as a single living super being. The workings of Gaia can be viewed as a study of the physiology of the Earth, where the atmosphere is the Earth’s lungs and circulatory system,  the oceans and rivers are the Earth’s blood, the land and the rocks are the Earth’s bones, and the living organisms like the plants and fungi are the Earth’s skin and  sensory system. All these are tied up to an infinitely complex network of feedback systems to maintain homeostasis. (Bonewits, 2003; Chamberlain, n.d.). Edwards (1995) links the Gaian hypothesis with shamanic wisdom that sees nature as a living organism.  Shamans believe that “everything is alive.  Rocks and crystals are conscious beings” (Edwards, 1995, p.206).

Redmond (1997) argues that our civilization made a mistake by choosing a tradition that followed a male dominant worldview.  Climate change is happening because we are “divorcing ourselves from the natural world, we are doing violence to ourselves and to the planet.  The tradition that we inherited from warrior nomads who viewed the natural world as an infinite source of new pastures to exploit and abandon have led to rampant materialism. Even now when ecological crises have forced us to reassess our relations to the environment, politicians take steps to ‘protect’ our resources solely so that we may continue to exploit them….our culture persists in behaving as if nature exists to serve the desires of one species that values itself above all other” (Redmond, 1997, p.187).  Crowley (2001) redirects us to that Gaian spirit by suggesting that we try to sense the divine presence in the natural world beneath the concrete of the streets, implying that the sacred natural order is primarily the non-human natural order resident in Mother Earth.

Myss (2016) asserts that the 21st century needs the Sacred Feminine, who is the balancing force to Sacred Masculine and its intellectual energies of reason and logic. The Sacred Feminine and its subtle and magnificent force penetrates into every expression of life, bringing us into awareness of the crisis within the Mother Nature and awakening our mystical senses and mystical history.  That Sacred Feminine is the modern Gaia, re-emerging today a Moral Beauty to rule the conduct of society that has gone awry and in chaos.

Maganda in Retrospect
The link of Western Moral Beauty with the Eastern Filipino culture is the Maganda tradition in the Philippines.  Our creation myth honors the Maganda and our Filipino Malay-based language orally made Maganda survive over time by our use of Maganda to describe what is Good, as in Magandang Umaga.  The  Maganda is resident in our metaphysical construct of the loob and linguistically expressed in our day to day existence.

Filipno Loob.  The Filipino discourses framed loob within the Western psycho-social and philo-theological frameworks but for more than four decades loob was considered a static structure and not a driving force that drives moral behavior. Related literature on loob include discourses from  philosophers (Mercado 1972, 1994; de Mesa 1986), psychologists (Alejo 1990; de Guia 2005; Enriquez 1992), historians (Salazar 1977, 1985; Ileto 1979; Rafael 1993), poet (Lacaba 1974) and a theologian (Miranda 1989).

They presented various definitions for loób as an “inner self,” “inner being,” “what is inside the self,” “holistic self,” “core of oneself,” and “core of one’s personality.” Francisco (2001) opined that the Tagalog concept of loob subverted the medieval classical body and soul construct in 15th century Doctrina Christiana. Loob was literally translated in Spanish as inside, when it was in fact an intermediary between body and soul.   Thus, the Filipino persona is understood in a triadic nexus of body, soul, and loob (Francisco, 2001). The Catechism for Filipino Catholics (2002), 500 years later, speaks of kalooban as a deep, positive spiritual value in accepting suffering, patience and long-suffering. Loob is continues to be a token element of the Filipino persona and is never even linked to beauty.

As an inner core,  Mahtani (n.d.) sees kagandahang loob in the context of ‘pagmamahal sa dakila’ using 1 Peter 4: 9-11.  Here, kagandahang loob is considered a quality of the Christian soul, capable of malasakit and doing good for others, even if they are not one’s household or friend.  Kagandahang loob is linked to cardinal virtue of charity. Pe-Pua and Protacio-Marcelino (2000) annotated kagandahang loob as ‘shared humanity’ and linked it as a socio-personal value. Rungduin and Rungduin (2007) see forgiveness as an expression of kagandahan ng loob that brings about gaan ng loob and kababaang loob.

Wilber’s (2007) inside-outside and individual-collective dimensions of consciousness gives us a hint on the power of the loob.  His quadrants as dimensions of being-in-the world are most summarized as self (I), culture (we) and nature (it) and all which have the inside-outside realities. He translates these three elements as art, morals, and science or the beautiful, the good and the true. The self, culture and nature are liberated together or else there is no liberation at all (Wilber, 2004).

Kagandahang Loob and Beauty.  Reyes (2015) associates kagandahang-loób with beauty by  literally translating it as “beauty-of-will.” He is a pioneer in introducing beauty with the loob concept in relation with kapwa.  In Thomistic theology,  Reyes identifies the loób as a “holistic and relational will” and as a “power of the soul.” But according to Kintanar (1996), who considers loob as an emotional state,  Reyes regards kagandahang loob  a value that is good, rather than a value that is beautiful.
Further, Francisco’s (2001) loob is more than a relational will or an emotional state; he reads loob, from a Catholic theological viewpoint, as an intermediary between Aristotelian-Thomistic-Scholastic body and soul construct.  In understanding the human person, the loob is considered part and parcel of body and soul human configuration.  Using relational will as the wellspring of beautiful behavior could have elevated the smooth interpersonal relationship (SIR) of Bulatao the positive Filipino moral behavior.

While Reyes (2015) argues that Filipino virtue ethics is rooted in loob and kapwa, he subsumes it under the “Southeast Asian tribal and animist tradition mixed with a Spanish Catholic tradition.”  But multistream Western relocators of animistic tradition would described ethnic Filipino culture as pan(en)theism and not animistic pantheism (Lynch, 2007). Then the beauty of nature evoking awe and wonders of the Creator is recognized.

The classical Aristotelian and Thomistic perspectives were used in viewing loob and kagandahang loob towards kapwa by various Filipino authors. Thus, kagandahang loob is conveniently translated in English as good will and beautiful will.  These literal translations, somehow does not ring the right note for the Filipino ear.  The French beau geste appears to be attractive alternative because beau is literally translate in Pilipino as maganda.  Beau gest is a gracious gesture  but “meaningless in substance.  The Pilipino kagandahang loob as the wellsprings of our cultural heritage remains a “mystery present” in our DNA that drives us to be beautiful, to be good, and to be true.
The Maganda Prospect

The living testimonial to our maganda culture is found in our natural resources.  Mount Mayon is Magayon (beautiful in Bicolano), Maria Makiling personifies beauty who protects the trees and vegetation and provides water for her sister, Laguna de Bae.  The mythical diwata, like Maria Makiling  guards the forest of Calamba, the [Bab]ae in Laguna looks after the ecosystem of the lake and the beautiful Lady of Mt. Mayon keeps fertile the Bicol natural environ.  The Bicol Daraga (Young Lady) town and the  Magayon volcano, the Maria Makiling of Laguna and the [Ba]Bae of the Lake naturally represent the Gaian presence in our culture. Maganda as dalaga is mentioned by Nadera (2000) in narrating the person of Catalonan.

Saka sa pag-akyat ko sa Maca
Nakasalubong ko si Maganda
Di man magsalita ang dalaga,
Aking dama sa hangin ang dusa.

Gaia in pre-Spanish Philippine culture is embodied in the persona of the diwata and babaylan and associated with the names give to our natural resources, reminding us of the beauty of nature protected by the diwatas and babaylans.

Babaylan as Gaian icon.  While there are conflicting opinions on whether the babaylan is a shaman, (Belita, 2015; Licauco, 2004; Mercardo, 1988; Demetrio, 1975) it is my view that the babaylan can be considered an icon of Gaia.  She is a Gaian icon because she babaylan cares for her people as healer and channel to the Bathhala, the source of life that gave birth to Maganda and Malakas.

Miclat-Cacayan (2005) narrated her encounters with babaylans of Mindanao and their sacred tradition of worship and spirituality through dance. She concluded that the spirituality of the babaylan is wholeness. Velando. (2005) in New York City that the babaylans have the consciousness of connectivity through Filipino pakikipagkapwa. Villariba (2006) believes that the babaylans are still relevant in the 21st century as priestess, healer, sage and seer as expressed  in Mangurug, Ibanag creed and Da-diw Iablo chants: “I Dios egga nittam nganun”  [God is in all of us].

Christianized babaylan .  Feminine leadership during the Sri Vidjaya and Madjapahit eras proves the presence of Gaia in the East.  Vim Nadera (2000) in Mujer Indigena cites the various regional names of the babaylan in the Philippines.  Gaia is Babaylan, Catalonan, Baglan. Baliana, Manganito, Mangaalisig, Almono, Mabalian , Doranakit, Anitera, Madre, Diaconesa, and Suprema.  Nadera’s historic narration of Filipino Gaia begins with ethnic babaylan image but with the onset of Christianity, the Filipino Gaia became a Catholic nun [Madre], Catholic deaconess [diaconesa] and finally the image of the Blessed Virgin [Suprema].

Vergara (2011) argued that in suppressing the babaylans during the Spanish era, biblical references were used to demonize them.  Later on, the Spanish hierarchy instituted the beaterio as a convent haven for the Yndias to replace the babaylans. (Veneracion, 1998; Cruz, 2002) so that the converted babaylans became part of the colonial society assisting the Catholic priests in their ministry. (Salazar, 1999)

Thus, the Christianized babaylan became a beata and they performed corporal and spiritual work of mercy.  Finally, as a Catholic nun, completely stripped of her ethnic babaylanic DNA, she pronounced the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to give herself completely to the service of the Church (Hudtohan, 2003).

Metro Gwapo. Attempts were made to make Maganda a behavioral norm among Filipinos.  Fernando Bayani as Metro Mania Development Authority Chairman declared Manila as Metro Gwapo.  And he used pink urinals to keep the city sidewalks from offensive stink.  Very few understood his gwapo campaign because they failed to understand beauty as a behavioral attitude to maintain order and discipline; they failed to comprehend the meaning of beauty as cleanliness and harmonious conduct of pedestrians and motorists.

In the 70s, Imelda Marcos who created the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) launched Manila as the City of Man. She pioneered in building architectural edifice like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Coconut Palace, Folk Arts Theater, and Manila Film Center among others as iconic symbols of Philippine art and culture.  But St. Augustine’s City of God in Hippo was written to repudiate the excesses of the Roman culture, the City of Pigs of Socrates and the Fevered City of Glaucon. In retrospect, Imelda’s City of Man was closer to  Glaucon’s proposed a Fevered City where “great ambitions, great architecture, literature and even philosophy…[where there is] a distinction of noble and base, rich and poor, the superior and the inferior.”

The New Society of Marcos was an excellent platform for Imelda’s vision of Metro Manila as a beautiful City of Man.  Had the culture of beauty been pursued as a standard of moral behavior under Martial Law, Metro Manila  could have been an exemplar metropolis of beauty the Grecian tradition. And as the morning sun shines on City of Man, the city can truly greet the day with: Magandang Umaga. (Hudtohan, 2013).

Our historical review of moral beauty in Philippine context reveals that the Babaylanic tradition of feminine leadership (a manifestation of Western Gaian spirit) has been disrupted and culturally erased by 400 years of Hispanic Catholicism.  The Maganda (Gaian personification) and the Kagandahang Loob (ethic Malayan inner persona core) valu has been  reframed within the context of Western valuation devoid of its Maharlikan roots.

Part II: Moral Beauty and Business Ethics

Ethics in Retrospect

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