I’ve often been asked about why, or how, I felt that supporting principles were necessary when teaching the overriding Golden Rule. In my research I realized that modern people had trouble with the Golden Rule because it is so simple. A principle so simple, yet powerful, that we are flummoxed by it! This brings two important items to bear; God’s purpose and human history.
If you have been following me you know that I accept and believe in evolutionary principles. We rise out of the savannas of Africa a very simple, bipedal creature. Because of that upright stature we are already communal. It is a necessary function of extended rearing of our young borne prematurely. At that point, it’s care for the clan⏤survive. “Care for others as you would like them to care for you.” Move forward 200,000 years or approximately 7000 generations, in a sophisticated technological wonder land, we find many conflicting ideas about how one should treat others. Explaining how sticking to a standard that really isn’t taught, is difficult. Time to organize a practice to guide connected cooperation.
Very early in my research I discovered a quote from Sigmund Freud.
The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth.
The Golden Rule principle is a fundamental truth. It is everywhere in the early literature. It’s bears much power out if it’s simplistic form. The Rule adapts well over a wide variety of culture and through time. I tell a much more complete variation of this story in my book The Simple Little Rule (ask for it at your local book store or order here off my website). God created (or we arose through an evolutionary process) a universe with certain physical laws, like gravity. Everyone knows what gravity does, even if they can’t explain it. The law of reciprocity is another physical law. We know it in physics as Newton’s third law of motion: for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Golden Rule is a physical law for society.
The Golden Rule, then, is an objective truth. It is true for every one whether you know it or not. This is where my five supporting principles enter the discussion. We have a foundational guiding principle in the Golden Rule, but have difficulty with the follow through. “What did the ancient philosophers teach?” I thought. Every where you look in the scriptures are noble virtues. Integrity, honesty, truthfulness, courage and others are every where in the early literature.
I was looking for reasons why certain combinations of behaviors led to prosperity and harmony, while others led to depression and despair. In the historical literature hundreds of words and phrases explain how to live one’s life successfully. There must be a set of virtues that gained prominence, I thought. I found them in the cardinal virtues while researching Thomas Aquinas’ Suma Theologica. The cardinal, from the Greek word cardo – hinge, virtues named by Aquinas were (in their modern versions) wisdom, justice, courage and moderation. These four take us back to the Axial Age and a teacher of the Golden Rule, Plato! I added discipline to the other four.
A thing done is called a virtue: courage, when one is courageous, wisdom, when one is wise and so on. A principle is a practice, or a fundamental law or doctrine. That’s what I was trying to convey. There were my fundamental principles: Wisdom; Justice; Moderation; Courage and Discipline! In teaching the Supporting Principles I develop a process where we consider the problem carefully: Think. Test fairness, is it balanced: Weigh. Next avoid the extremes of the issue: Steer. Once we are convinced about the veracity, weighed its fairness, and steered to center, we must have the courage to execute. And last, we must repeat the process over and over again.
There is a purpose in life. Harmony! Our Founding fathers said a “Pursuit of Happiness.” Scriptures everywhere speak of abundance, happiness and harmony. Philosopher teachers have been explaining the process. I’ve tried to boil down what often felt like drinking from the fire hose of virtues. We now have a clear set of five principles that simplify the decision making process.
Your over arching goal ought to be your personal happiness. Any coach, sport, business, or personal, will attempt to optimize a practice to achieve top performance.
Are you operating at peak performance?