History shows us that the Golden Rule is a very simple, one sentence statement about compassion. However, we manage to distort its execution generation after generation. Tens of thousands of words have been written in every language and from every culture attempting to explain and persuade us to live our lives grounded in this simple principle. That realization led me on a hunt. A logical way that I might fulfill the principle in my life. A way to find the harmony promised in scriptures across all religions and cultures.
Many years ago, I came to a place in my life where my interests for discovering philosophical, spiritual and religious truths led me to a defining moment. In that moment I began to grasp that historically, all over the world, and within all cultures and religions, a profound tenant existed that supports a common connection among all peoples. In one phrasing or another, the spiritual principle that became known as the “Golden Rule” taught for centuries. A simple one-sentence phrase that bears repeating:
“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
With today’s world climate, in which mass murders have become a part of the daily news feed. Where the insanity and violence of living war can be viewed on the nightly news. And racial and religious tensions appear to be on the rise. It is more important than ever for us to remember and revisit this simple rule.
After many years of research and study. I found a behavioral pattern that repeats itself throughout history and cultures. When we all practice the Golden Rule, we move toward harmony and peacefulness. This is often referred to as the light. When we are not in harmony with the Golden Rule, we move into the “darkness” of chaos and strife. The goal in my writing is that you to find the peaceful motivation that comes out of the daily practice of this simple little rule. My hope is that you will experience happiness, fulfillment, and prosperity. That you will be able to create a healthier environment for yourself and a better future for your children.
In 1983, after one of our classes at the Bible church that I attended at the time. The Pastor of the church made an extraordinary comment. I overheard him say in part, “Apartheid was the proper way to handle the matter…” I confess that I did not really comprehend what he meant by that statement. My “spirit,” however, knew instantly that there was something fundamentally wrong about the statement. Subconsciously, it troubled me.
We didn’t have Google then! Weeks passed before I understood what the word meant. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning “the state of being apart,” or literally “apart-hood”. It was a system of legal segregation in South Africa at the time.
Although the Pastor’s statement was his “personal point of view” my whole life exploded! I was confronted by a system of existence that was abhorrent to my inner peace in every way. How could a person of Spirit, a pastor of a Bible study church, supposedly steeped in scripture and spirit, say such a thing? Believe such a thing? As a young man, born and raised in the South, I had experienced segregation and racism first hand. I could not comprehend why one set of people would or could believe that they were somehow inherently better than another set of people. This philosophy of superiority has never made any sense to me. I had just left the military where death came to every person, no matter what their race or religion. It happens just as horribly, just as swiftly, just the same, no matter what their differences!
The longer I lived with this experience, the more betrayed I felt. Something deep inside me had been injured. Or perhaps, I was losing my youthful sense of possibility. I left the church feeling such dissatisfaction that my earlier feelings of being “in love” with the Word, moved like the swing of a pendulum. There was the sense that I was falling directly into hatred toward any form of religion or bible teaching. I had spent years seeking answers in this bible study environment. Feeling lied to and betrayed, I wanted revenge! Needless to say, I was in a very dark place. What happens when your life sours and yet you still have that hunger for what is missing? There is still that perceived hole right through the middle of your life?
I began hunting to find the answers in my own way. For nearly thirty-five years now I have done just that. At first, I admit, my goal was to prove the foolishness of religion, once and for all. But as I pursued that goal, little truths began to rise up again that began to bring me back around.
My research has been extensive, if all over the board. Being ex-military, I love military history. I also found that I have a keen interest in science of all kinds. I enjoy the study of social development, the rise of common law systems, and of course philosophy of all kinds. Mythology became really important to me as well. After that I went on to the Eastern religions. then I experienced history in general, where I encountered the philosophers of Greece and Rome.
I began to understand that as a species we are learning how to manage “cooperative behavior” with larger and larger groups of people. I have come to understand that all things considered, we live in relative peace and prosperity today. And the sense of “a shared truth” woven through the ages brought some hope into my life again. I realized that there were concepts, and first among them, the Golden Rule, connecting us to the ancients.
As easy as the Golden Rule seems on the surface, we humans have found every way in the world to make a mess of it. But for me, that spiritually hungry young boy still lives. All of my studies awakened me to the understanding that he needed a way to practice living and fulfilling this basic principle as part of daily life. Out of this pursuit arose a five-step support system; a set of fundamental principles that, surprisingly have their origin in the era of philosophers teaching around the eastern hemisphere at about 500 BCE—and yet are simple, practical tools to support contemporary seekers who want to revisit the Golden Rule, and invest their time, heart and spirit into trying to live into it during formidable times.
My journey searching for simple truths to fill that perceived void of my youth included rising in the joy of the “Word” and then falling into a desperate dark place, and coming back again to a place in the middle that has provided much harmony for me. I’ve organized my search to follow that arc. I stumbled into the historical timing centered around 500BCE. I now know that this period is called the Axial Age. Out of that same period came the connection with the Supporting Principles. Plato called them the natural virtues, much later the “cardinal” virtues. They are Wisdom; Justice; Moderation; Courage. I added Discipline to fill an obvious void in my support system.
My hope is that you will come to understand, as I have, this simple little rule and its enduring relevance. And, that you find the five-step process as helpful as I have in my daily efforts to maintain a healthy, productive life. History shows us that our distortion of the Golden Rule brings chaos and desperate times, while adhering to its standard fosters eras of enlightenment and prosperity. I invite you to journey with me as I tell my tale of re-discovering the Golden Rule and the effect this unearthing has had on my life. I invite you to embrace—or re-embrace—this simple little rule that may change your perception of your present and motivate you to work to change your future. Which is, after all, the future of the planet.