Principle 10 Solidarity 2

Principle 10, second week

It’s called the Golden Rule: the idea that the highest moral virtue is to treat others as you want to be treated.

This week we continue with our reflections on principle 10 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look). It is also called  “The Principle of Solidarity” it says: “When You Treat Others As You Would Have Them Treat You, You Liberate Yourself.” 

At tomorrow’s meeting we can compare and discuss our experiences of, and considerations about, this Principle and it’s applications.  We will turn our focus to examples from the past, using them to try and clarify issues around and strategies for applying this principle. In the following weeks we’ll emphasize understanding our present situation in light of this idea and finally we’ll turn to considering what all this might mean in foreseeable future scenarios. 

Meanwhile, here’s some personal reflections related to this subject. I hope you find them of some use in triggering your own meditations. Sharing your thoughts can be useful both in forcing you to give them some order but also in clarifying, inspiring or infuriating others — even that last can be useful. Please consider sharing your ideas with us at the meeting or in these notes.

Many, if not most, religious and ethical systems propose some version of it. Generally there are two formulations. One is stated “positively” suggesting that we “do to the other” as we’d like done to us  or “treat the other” as we’d like to be treated in their place. The other version is usually “negative” or “passive” suggesting refrain from any action that we wouldn’t want done to us. There are many variants and versions but the thrust is the same. 

Of course as is too typical of some of our fellow humans, they often get into arguments about who came up with this idea first. And if they can’t claim some kind of spiritual copyright they try to claim that there version  (whether formulated in an active or passive form, etc) is best — ignoring differences in language, custom and style. Almost sadly ignoring the common intent of all these variations. It’s interesting and strange to observe what lengths they’ll go to in order to deny other factions any claim to the same moral code. 

There are critics of the Golden Rule. In general their critiques are similar to that of George Bernard Shaw. That deeply compassionate thinker said that  “the golden rule is that there are no golden rules”. He went against his own clever quip by proposing this version : “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same”. Shaw was a clever guy and surely realized that since most of us would like our tastes, etc to be taken into account, so apparently the classical version works.

In any case we propose this as a principle of valid action. That is a guideline, not an ethical or moral rule. Like all our principles we say it should be considered in relation to all the other principles.

Along these lines there is a story told of Rabbi Hillel (a major figure in Jerusalem in the generation before Jesus). One day, it’s said a man appeared before him demanding he explain the whole of the torah (law) while standing on one foot. Hillel replied: “Love your neighbour as yourself. The rest is commentary —now go study”.

This note has also been sent to the mailing list as well as posted to the Facebook page for The Community of Silo’s Message, Toronto Annex. We’d all love to hear your comments on, and thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.