by Rick London, Guardian in Chief
Given Sunday, February 12, 2023
Blue Star Memorial Temple
Have you ever noticed that when things aren’t going our way, we tend to blame anybody and everything, except ourselves? Even when faced with an overwhelming body of evidence, we resist acknowledging our responsibility, preferring the seclusion within the boundaries of our own denial.
Why is it so difficult to accept responsibility for our own inappropriate behavior and mistakes? Conversely, why is it so difficult to forgive the errors and misdeeds of others?
Seems to me like there is a whole lot of blaming going on. Just open a newspaper, turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or talk to a friend. My goodness, if blaming were gold, we’d be the richest planet in the Universe. Of course, it’s no secret that accepting responsibility can have huge consequences, like upsetting our goals and ambitions. In fact, it may even cost you the game. We live in a world where winning and controlling the thoughts and actions of others, for the benefit of ourselves, is the name of the game. How many of us are really aware of our true motives, while the forces of fear and self-preservation are influencing a good deal of our thinking?
In the past, and perhaps even today, there are those who have endeavored to transform lead into gold. Suppose for a moment that the discovery of this process became public knowledge. Would it make the world a more peaceful place?
Better yet, would there be any benefit to the world if the alchemists were to discover a process for transmuting fear into love and expanding self-preservation to instinctually include concern for one’s neighbors?
Let’s assume that humanity could thrive without one ounce of gold. But without Love, our prospects for long-term survival would be called into question. And for this we can blame the Golden Rule.
Looking back, it was the many references to the Golden Rule that attracted me to the Temple Teachings. After reading all the Temple pamphlets, it was mostly the Golden Rule that I was able to relate to, for not even the term “Theosophy” was known to me at that time.
Years later, however, what I thought was meant by the Golden Rule back then and what it means to me right now is what I am sharing with you this morning.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that there are so many of us who aspire to some other version of the Golden Rule. You know the ones I mean: “Do unto others before they do unto you” or “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” Actually, these parodies seem more in line with human nature than the one true Golden Rule, which can be found treasured by most religions around the world.
Here’s the one I’m most familiar with: “Do for others what you want them to do for you.” This is the teaching of the laws of Moses in a nutshell. This comes from my personal Bible, The Book, from Matthew 7:12, the Sermon on the Mount. Interesting to note how this passage from the New Testament honors the wisdom contained within the Old Testament, while restating the Golden Rule.
Growing up, I never thought of the Golden Rule as a religious or spiritual law, at least not in the same manner that I thought of the Ten Commandments. The only gold that I can recall being mentioned in the Old Testament had to do with the golden calf and its relevance to the 2nd Commandment:
“Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.”
Now to me, that was a Law, a religious Law. After learning about this Law as a child, I could only imagine that a fool would ever consider worshipping an idol. Hopefully, for all of our sakes, this commandment doesn’t apply to the celebrities that seem to captivate our attention with the greatest of ease.
In the pamphlet, Temple Answers, we find this response to the question, What are the Teachings of the Temple? “They are lessons and treatises that explain for us today the age-old truths, laws and principles that have always governed our lives and environment, all kingdoms of nature, the universe, its creation and growth.”
Further into the pamphlet we find this response to the question, Can these laws be challenged or rejected? “Truth and Law are eternal, no more to be challenged or subjected to rejection by any age level of humanity than are laws of gravity, chemistry, biology, mathematics, or the Golden Rule.”
So here we find my first encounter with the concept that not only is the Golden Rule a Law, but it’s a Law like the Law of Gravity. How could that be?
Jump off a tall building and you fall to the ground, experiencing in all likelihood a fatal injury instantaneously. Do unto your neighbor what you would not like to have done unto you, and you will more than likely live to see another day.
So what’s the deal? Chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics too, all seemed compatible with my scientific understanding of the Laws of Life. Obviously, the Golden Rule must have belonged in some other category or classification of Laws. Religious perhaps, but scientific, I thought not.
After reading all of the Temple pamphlets, it wasn’t long before I came across the Rules of Discipleship. Here I discovered another set of Ten Rules or Laws, some of which reminded me of the Ten Commandments.
While the Ten Commandments have always impressed me as being Religious Laws, some of the Rules of Discipleship felt more scientific to me.
For example, the 9th Commandment states: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Whereas the 5th Rule of Discipleship states: “Thou shalt not speak falsely, unnecessarily or critically against thy neighbor and so put in action the converse force of creative sound and word; for the Higher Law will reverse the action of the force thus directed and bring back upon thee, with intensified strength, the results of the broken Law.”
Which one sounds more scientific to you?
However, it is in the preamble and the 1st Rule of Discipleship where we might find the legal status of the Golden Rule:
“GOD IS LOVE, AND LOVE IS THE FUNDAMENTAL SOURCE OF BEING. THEREFORE, IF THOU SIN AGAINST LOVE, THAT SIN IS AGAINST GOD.”
This is followed by the 1st Rule of Discipleship, which states: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself. This is the highest law.”
Whether religious or scientific, it sounds to me that not only is Love required, but it must necessarily be the authority behind the Golden Rule.
Hmm, do you realize where this is leading me? If God is Love and Love is the authority behind the Golden Rule, then it would follow that I might as well blame God or Love for the troubles in my life if I’m so willing to blame the Golden Rule.
Lord knows that I wouldn’t be the first to lose my faith in God. Certainly, I can see how easy it would be to blame God for one’s self-inflicted problems, especially when in denial. But what about a problem brought on by someone else? How can we blame God or the Golden Rule when somebody else did us wrong? That doesn’t sound very fair. And what about those of us who don’t even believe in God? Who are they to blame?
Taking on that last question first, I would like to assume that most nonbelievers believe in the Laws of Nature — you know, those apparently purely scientific disciplines know as chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics, to name a few. To the best of my knowledge, one of the main tools or keys used to unlock the secrets of nature through scientific discovery has been the use of formulas, or the equation. That’s right, the equation. Take Albert Einstein’s E=MC2, in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. Now that’s an equation! Besides considering various kinds of factors, the one basic characteristic which all equations share in common is that in order for any of them to work, they need to be in Balance, as in 2 plus 2 always equals 4.
That’s right: in Balance. If it can’t be balanced, it remains an opinion; if incorrect, itcan’t be called a fact. So, instead of blaming God or Love for things not going our way or coming out as we had planned, why not blame being out of balance with respect to our unrealized hopes and dreams?
When we look around us with an open mind, we can usually find the requirements for Balance in everything we think, say, and do. Also known as the Law of Polarity or what the East has referred to for thousands of years as the Yin and the Yang, everything in our Universe, from a pebble to a star, is subject to this Law of Balance.
How can we know this Balance within ourselves?
From the beginning of conception, after two distinct and separate single cells unite for a common purpose, these two cells — now one — begin an amazing transformation through the process of differentiation and diversification. In what appears to be a magical event, all kinds of cells begin to form, develop, and evolve. What is most fascinating to me is the instinctual cooperation experienced in perfect Balance by all of these cells. Talk about the most perfect union!
The next thing you know, we have billions of different types of heart cells working together with each other, now as one organ working together with millions of lung cells, who are also working together with themselves, all in perfect harmony for the good of the entire developing and evolving child.
Whether you want to call it Love or Balance, all the cells in our body seem to be living by the Golden Rule, don’t you think? Although, I wouldn’t blame you if you disagreed; for it is difficult to imagine our liver cells consciously doing for our kidney cells what our liver cells would want our kidney cells to do for our liver cells were our liver cells kidney cells themselves; and vice versa.
Nevertheless, I believe that this is happening whether we think about it or not, due to the Laws of Nature, as long as we remain in Balance.
Conversely, what happens to our bodies when, for some unknown reason, just a few brain cells become selfish enough to form a tumor of their own? Of course, this isn’t in the best interest of the rest of the cells, let alone our body as a whole.
It’s hard to picture a few of our brain cells conspiring, then maliciously deciding to do their own thing at the expense of the rest of the body. It’s difficult as well to imagine our liver and kidney cells consciously choosing to cooperate with each other.
When we observe the workings of Nature, however, we can discover that all other forms of life may be in fact functioning much in the same way as the cells that make up our bodies do; in other words, existing and surviving by the grace of instinct.
As a participant in the urban sprawl now encroaching into the once sacred domain of the local floral and fauna of our county, I find myself having to make choices while the deer, ground squirrels, and gophers have none. If I’m not willing to accept responsibility for having invaded their territory, with the understanding that they will try to devour practically anything that I may wish to plant, why can’t I blame the Laws of Nature for this major inconvenience in my life?
Can we really fault the deer for eating our roses, any more than we can hold a group of malignant cells accountable for forming a tumor?
It’s remarkable how good I can feel when my body is in balance. What’s even more astounding to me, however, is how my mind can entice me into ways to throw my body out of balance.
I know that I’m not the only one dealing with this phenomenon. It’s what elevates us above the cells in our bodies and the creatures in our yards. We have come to know this as free will or the power to choose.
And there, I think, lies the basic difference between the Laws governing Nature and the Golden Rule. In order to be subject to the Golden Rule you must have acquired the freedom, if not the responsibility, to choose.
Whether we like it or not, we are subject to these Laws and Rules. For thousands of years there have been those of us who, through resourcefulness, ingenuity, hard work, and persistence, have found the ways and means to overcome the Laws of Nature. From mastering fire to creating the wheel, the human race has been able to adapt and work with these Laws — getting around them, if you will.
On December 17, 2023, we’ll observe the 120th anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers. When I consider how it only took some 54 years from that first flight until the USSR’s successful launching of Sputnik 1 (the first Earth-orbiting satellite in history) to putting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon 12 years later, I can’t help but to be in awe. So much for blaming the Law of Gravity for keeping us tethered to the ground here on Earth.
So, we as humans can choose to change our lives, whereas the cells in our bodies and our fellow plants and creatures are subjected to our will and must adapt or suffer the consequences.
True, the plants, creatures, and cells within our bodies have been known to adapt, but not by conscious choice, at least not as we know it. By most accounts, it is through a very long process of evolution, which may take millions of years. Yet in less than 70 years, mankind went from learning how to fly a plane, to going to the moon, and way beyond.
It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we work together for a common goal. However, while many of us are making wiser choices about the foods we eat and the amount of exercise we get, our daily activities and means of making a living are polluting our environment and throwing many aspects of living out of balance.
Our personal beliefs and selfish behaviors may be making it rather difficult for some of us to enjoy living in close proximity to one another. And yet, even though we know that the cells in our bodies have no choice but to instinctually get along for the good of our health, many of us find comfort through solitary entertainment and substance abuse while avoiding personal contact with our neighbors, perhaps as an unconscious strategy for maintaining the illusion of personal balance.
The glorious gift of the freedom to choose may be creating malignancies and disease that we may not be able to undo. It can take many years before an addiction can start causing one pain. When we don’t honor the Golden Rule, the results are the same.
Let’s pretend for a moment that the earth is our body, and that each country is an organ like our heart, lung, liver, or kidney, until we’ve accounted for every body part. If we assume that within each country — now an organ — every person, creature, and plant is a unique cell of that organ with a certain and specific duty, we may be able to visualize our Earth as our body, a body held accountable to the Golden Rule.
While the cells in our body are unable to choose, it only takes a wayward few to throw us out of balance. We know this to be true. We may be in denial about how our thoughts, words and deeds are influencing a couple of selfish cells within our own bodies, but let there be no mistake: it takes only a few discontented people to wreak havoc anywhere in the world.
Near the turn of the last century, while trying to expose the true motives of the railroad barons, writer Ambrose Bierce described politics as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles” and that politics is “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” Doesn’t seem like much has changed, does it?
Yet there are still those of us who have mastered the ancient art of pulling the wool over everyone else’s eyes. Clearly the majority of humanity is not masquerading around as wolves in sheep’s clothing, although social media has taken this possibility to a whole new level.
While humanity may have been able to conquer the Law of Gravity, selfishly using our Divine right to choose will eventually make it impossible for any of us, no matter how well off, from living in peace anywhere, unless every last one of us lives by the Golden Rule.
But whose Golden Rule shall we use? Even when we exclude the parodies mentioned earlier, do you think for example that the Democrats would do for the Republicans what the Democrats would want the Republicans to do for the Democrats were the Democrats Republicans, and vice versa?
What would you want somebody else to do for you that you would do for somebody else? How many of us want the exact same thing? And is it in the best interest of us all?
When I wanted ice cream as a kid, there was chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It’s unbelievable how many choices we have of practically anything today. But is the Golden Rule really about what we want when it comes to doing things for each other?
Two years after September 11, 2001, when I first gave this talk, the strife going on around the world had been considerably amplified. We, the United States of America, had a general who was in charge of tracking down terrorists. He claimed that we were a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots were Judeo-Christian.
In the name of Christianity, this general claimed to have a God bigger than the God of Islam and had been given authority to destroy our enemies — yet if you were to advocate the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount, your patriotism would be questioned and you’d be labeled a communist.
While all of this was going on, our Supreme Court was deciding if the reference to God in our Pledge of Alliance should be considered unconstitutional. In hindsight, were we truly a Christian nation, it would be difficult to imagine displacing Native Americans, enslaving Afro-Americans, and dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all in the name of Jesus Christ. Ironically, the Law of Karma, let alone the remarkable lack of civility not associated with Christ-like-behavior, continues to go unnoticed by too many of God’s Children.
During this same time frame, there was the “Organization of the Islamic Conference” summit in Malaysia, where those in attendance were using the Koran to justify their hatred of the Jews.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam could do well to study the life cycle of the coral reef. Generation after generation flourishes and survives on top of the generation that came before. In my mind, Christianity evolved out of Judaism and Islam evolved out of both Judaism and Christianity. Why isn’t there an exchange of honor and gratefulness coming from all of these groups of people?
Learning to accept the reality of living by the Golden Rule is a lesson that has challenged the Middle East as much as anywhere else in our world. Not only are the people of that region separated by differing religious beliefs, but also by their need for resources and their concern over who controls those resources. Here again, we must realize that human ingenuity made walking somewhat obsolete as our primary mode of land travel, and this is where the battles over who controls the fossil fuels buried in the Middle East began.
Many of us have become dependent on that oil because we can’t afford to live near where we work, and today a gallon of gas costs twenty times more than when I first got my driver’s license. Because the burning of oil is impacting Mother Nature in ways we do not fully understand, walking more and working closer to home may just be the work of the Golden Rule. But first we’ll need to see if the increased use of electricity doesn’t keep us from living more natural lives.
In the meantime, I’m sure you’ve noticed the exorbitant cost of health care, a necessity in order to have access to the medicines and medical procedures we need. Of course, we are all grateful for the advancements in medicine, but I’m just sad about the commercialization of remedies that enable codependent behaviors that put even greater distances between us and a more natural way of living.
While I could go on with the list of dysfunctional behaviors we are collectively exhibiting on a scale beyond our individual selves, life seems to be getting more unmanageable on a very, very grand scale. Perhaps we are approaching a significant crossroads during this present cycle of time.
Ninety years ago, our country was in the middle of the Great Depression. San Francisco was about to experience our country’s first general strike. While people were starving, some of the largest growers were destroying their crops, dumping them into the Bay, in an attempt to preserve their profits. FDR was president, promoting social programs which many of us still rely upon today.
In 1934, a Socialist-turned-Democrat named Upton Sinclair was remarkably close to becoming governor of California. Back then there were those who weren’t convinced that FDR wasn’t a socialist himself. With so many farms and factories being idle as a result of not being able to generate a profit, Mr. Sinclair was promoting an innovative idea he called “Production for Use,” as the center piece of his EPIC program: “End Poverty In California.”
Simply put, the program would have afforded the unemployed the opportunity to cooperate with each other in order to produce their own food and make their own clothes. Although Mr. Sinclair’s ideas were popular with many people of modest means, it only took three very powerful individuals employing corrupt and unethical means to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The fact that businesses benefit from an educated work force has influenced the ways and means we teach our children; otherwise, the resources for our public schools and libraries might not have been provided by our government and made possible by our taxes. With so many households struggling to make ends meet, the extreme polarization of politics, and the age of digitalization, the when, how, and what our children learn in this modern era remains to be seen.
Back then as today, we still believe that competition and the free-market economy is the only way for a few of us to have the opportunity to become much richer than the rest. While this system has brought many luxuries and conveniences, it has also done much damage to our land, air, water, plants, creatures, and for that matter, to many of us as well.
Today’s competitive world continues to exacerbate a strategy of winning at the expense of truth, followed by spinning of words at the expense of honesty. Before we know it, we can find the force of suspicion overpowering our need for trust and leading us back to the days when the once pristine and proverbial Jungle overshadowed our ever-evolving Humankind-ness.
In the jungle, all creatures are endowed with the freedoms and rights to exist, with their very existence tempered by every other creature exercising their freedoms and rights to exist. We call this “survival of the fittest” or the Law of the Jungle. When it comes to humanity, we endeavor to have our freedoms and rights tempered by being considerate and responsible to ourselves and each other as a strategy for elevating our behaviors above our fellow creatures, thereby preventing our return to the Jungle. Unfortunately, responsibility and consideration have not been sufficiently deployed when it comes to curtailing humanity’s needs for freedoms and rights to the point where Mother Nature is still able to flourish in balance. Our opportunity for forming a more perfect union may just be slipping away. This too can be blamed on the Golden Rule.
Not until we accept the reality that “consideration and responsibility” needs to be prioritized over “freedoms and rights” will we become more naturally accountable to and for ourselves and each other in a healthier way of living within our means.
There is much to learn from Mother Nature. She is the one Principle that will ultimately hold us all accountable.
The individual and collective challenges our society had to face to overcome the Law of Gravity were more about our external endeavors. Had we failed to overcome the Law of Gravity we would probably be spending a lot more time walking around.
I have come to realize that the Golden Rule is a Universal Law in a league of its own. The Golden Rule can’t be conquered or ignored. Eventually we all must become one with it — we must live it. To do this, we must do the work within ourselves. Yes, we can choose this Balance within ourselves.
While God and Nature have given humanity plenty of time to get it right, forever is not an option. We should be most grateful for the time we’ve had.
Guess what? Blaming the Golden Rule isn’t an option either. Blaming God or Love or Balance or Nature would be like addicts blaming their drugs for their problems.
But then of course you all already knew that. But the good news is, that we don’t need an alchemist to show us the way.
When we honor the Ten Commandments, when we abide by the wisdom found in the Sermon on the Mount, when we practice the Rules of Discipleship, when we apply the eternal truths underlying virtually every religion found in the world, we are aspiring to live by the Golden Rule. Unless we find the Will Power to treasure consideration and responsibility without abandoning our freedoms and rights, the Golden Rule will lack the magnetism for bringing, let alone holding, our Humanity together.
Behind the Golden Rule is a Power Greater than Ourselves. And to the nonbelievers who do not believe in a Power Greater than Themselves I say: I’d rather spend time with a nonbeliever who loves their neighbor as themselves, than be with a believer who can’t stand their neighbor.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself. This is the highest law.” This is the Spirit of the Golden Rule. While there are untold pathways to the Mountain Top, no one could get there, were it not for the Golden Rule.
— Rick London
Guardian in Chief