Piety and selfless deeds elevate the inhabitants of this earth to exalted spiritual estates... self-serving acts reduce them to the realms beneath, of sorrow and pain, rebirths among birds and vermin, or out of the wombs of pigs and beasts of the wild, or among trees. Action is a function of character, which in turn is controlled by custom. This is the whole substance of the secret. This knowledge is the ferry across the ocean of hell to beatitude. For all the animate and inanimate objects in this world... are transitory, like dream. The gods on high, the mute trees and stones, are but apparitions in the fantasy. Good and evil attaching to a person are perishable as bubbles. In the cycles of time they alternate. The wise are attached to neither.
Many are the natures of men, various their manners of living, yet a straight path is always the right one; and lessons deeply taught lead man to paths of righteousness; reverence, I say, is wisdom and by its grace transfigures - so that we seek virtue with a right judgment. From all of this springs honor bringing ageless glory into Man’s life. Oh, a mighty quest is the hunting out of virtue.
The influences of little things are as real, and as constantly about us, as the air we breathe or the light by which we see. These are the small - the often invisible - the almost unthought of strands, which are inweaving and twisting by millions, to bind us to character - to good or evil here, and to heaven or hell hereafter.
The human species... capacity for good is infinite, since they can, they desire, make room within themselves for divine Reality. But at the same time their capacity for evil is, not indeed infinite (since evil is always ultimately self-destructive and therefore temporary), but uniquely great. Hell is total separation from God, and the devil is the will to that separation... To be diabolic on the grand scale, one must, like Milton’s Satan, exhibit in a high degree all the moral virtues, except only charity and wisdom.
Heaven and hell are states of mind. The kingdom of heaven is within you. You create your own heaven or hell. The anguish of a personal hell can serve to strengthen you if you will let it. Judgment day takes place every moment of your life.
Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners, and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.
True purity of taste is a quality of the mind; it is a feeling which can, with little difficulty, be acquired by the refinement of intelligence; whereas purity of manners is the result of wise habits, in which all the interests of the soul are mingled and in harmony with the progress of intelligence. That is why the harmony of good taste and of good manners is more common than the existence of taste without manners, or of manners without taste.
One need remain in hell no longer than he chooses to; and the moment he chooses not to remain longer, not all the powers in the universe can prevent his leaving it. One can rise to any heaven he himself chooses; and when he chooses so to rise, all the higher powers of the universe combine to help him heavenward.