by Richard A. London
Given in the Blue Star Memorial Temple
10 September 2023
Rather than by choice, many associate the Garden of Eden with desire, deception and being driven out. Dreaming of choosing a return to such a place would be judged by many as idealistic folly. The ability to choose is a significant attribute of our humanity. It differentiates us from all other forms of life. In the United States of America, the freedom to choose is a right. Choosing whatever we may consider “a right,” be it liberty or license, virtue or vice, can easily descend into a political fight.
Since becoming conscious of our consciousness, the blessing or curse of choosing has enabled our kind to co-create with Nature. Initiated perhaps by accident, then by need and desire, then shaped into our values and directed by our principles, our motives evolve into our choices. From “To be or not to be” to “Give me liberty or give me death” to choosing to restrict the ability of certain groups of people to choose, our spectrum of choices appears to be limitless. Even not choosing is a choice. From second to second, each and every one of us has the responsibility to choose. Whether by thought, word, or deed, the act of choosing would not be a responsibility were it not for the myriad of consequences that go along with everything we think, say, and do.
As much as instinct alone may have preserved Balance in the Garden of Eden, it will be through our collective self-conscious choice — what I call self-conscience — that a return to the Garden of Eden can evolve into that ever-elusive Utopia or City of Light.
As cruel as Mother Nature can seem to be, with one thing devouring another and the ease with which weather can trigger devastation, we tend to perceive places uninhabited by humans as thriving, pristine, and vibrantly healthy. While many of us tend to confuse balance with peacefulness, it is the connection between balance and health that requires our higher understanding. Once the process of understanding finally begins, the challenges and opportunities to practice good health never end.
Understanding the human condition, let alone our individual lot in life, can be ever so tricky. Despite eons of solicited and unsolicited ways and means to help us begin to understand the origins of Universal Truth, the ongoing controversy over what is actually true is ever so slowly coming closer to a head. We are coming to terms with the Law of Karma.
Climate change, energy and financial crises, and the cost of spreading our democracy around the world are taking their toll. War and famine are nothing new. Even though we have survived these cycles before, while living in the middle of these trying times some can’t help but to fear the approach of “End Times.” Perhaps we are now more responsible for the overall health of our planet than we were in previous cycles.
Clearly, as a species we continue to adapt. Human progress has been spectacular. Yet as evolution continues to shrink our seemingly ever-nurturing finite planet, discovering the ways and means for us all to get along continues to be humanity’s greatest challenge.
Between the time of Adam and Eve and the beginning of the Twentieth Century, our world population grew to more than 1.5 billion people. In a fraction of that time, we now exceed 8 billion strong. By some predictions, before 2050 there will be nearly 10 billion of us, with some 77 percent inhabiting Asia and Africa and 23 percent living throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, and Oceania.
We may find the story of Cain murdering Abel even more disturbing when thought of in the context of billions of us initiating and sustaining the ways and means of getting along within a matrix of combinations. Yet over the course of history there are many stories of people sharing, cooperating, and working together in a variety of group settings.
Near the beginning of humanity’s self-conscious journey, one can imagine the possibility of tribes sharing their stories as a way of bonding.
Stories in common would have kept us together and most likely, safer than being alone on our own. Since then, the art of storytelling has evolved into a billion-dollar entertainment industry. Even though we can find a general consensus that there are only a limited number of basic story plot lines, our entertainment industries seem capable of producing never-ending streams of variations of those basic plot lines.
Although the same may be said for the scores of versions exclaiming Universal Truth, living through and sharing our stories is how creeds have disappeared and why hearts remain. The revising, reinterpreting, and redefining of Universal Truth to conduct public affairs for private advantage, especially when motivated by greed, tends to become a malignant strategy and only appears easy to sustain, perhaps in part by our desire to be entertained without discomfort and inconvenience.
From the walls of caves to the printing press to the Internet, our capacity to share our stories has evolved with our increasing numbers. Using our stories as a way of bonding remains vital if we and the Forces of Nature are to work and thrive together.
Speaking of stories, in 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers, and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. They put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for 22 health and welfare agencies.
They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. This was the beginning of the United Way Movement.
The cornucopia of stories about people coming together, motivated by caring, goes way back in time. Out of fear, superstition, curiosity, and control, religion has contributed much to our helpfulness to one another. Sadly, the contributions of religions can still come at great expense, with isolated episodes of horrific violence.
Yet, from hospitals to universities, individual and organized religious and philanthropic endeavors are behind the founding of many of the blessings we can so gratefully take for granted.
Although initiated from a faith-based perspective, today’s United Way remains nonsectarian and nonpartisan in its aspirations. In 2008, United Way Worldwide adopted the message that we need to “Live United” to advance the common good and to create opportunities for a good quality of life. To that end, United Ways throughout the world began focusing on education, income and health, the building blocks for a good quality of life, their goals being to help children and youth achieve their potential, promote financial stability and independence for families through retirement, and improve people’s health.
As timing would have it, in 2008 I became CEO of our local United Way. I was willing to step up as a result of valuing a vision and mission that ultimately boiled down to “Unity in Community.” I was helping to usher in a growing shift in awareness and thinking that had begun to emphasize prevention over treatment. I had become one with an organization that was encouraging people to look deeper into the root causes behind the unmet needs of our communities. United Way had become more focused on nurturing the adoption of behaviors that could inspire the kind of structural change that could guide us towards resiliency and sustainability, our ultimate goal being the improvement of lives by mobilizing the caring power of Unity in Community.
While United Way was asking us to give, volunteer, and advocate on behalf of the societal challenges we cared most about, to this very day I find some of us asking “Since when did I become responsible for my irresponsible neighbor?”
A charge of irresponsibility may in fact be true. On the other hand, judging and blaming may be one of the easiest ways to make a falsehood seem true. More than we know, what appears to be irresponsible on the surface in all likelihood is not as it seems. There is a need for more of us to realize that over the long run, enabling risky behavior or unfair barriers rarely ever helps, and that siding on compassion and self-responsibility rarely makes things worse.
Taking the time to connect and share, to find common ground and understanding, is a need worth meeting and one most profound.
Every entity, be it individual, family, business, religious, or national has a story, and you can be sure more are coming.
Experience is what we get by not having it when we need it. Yet here in the United States we seem to suffer from episodic memory loss.
We came to America to escape tyranny, despotism, and religious persecution, only to end up embodying that which we feared and hated most. We ended up taking away the unalienable rights of those who were here first and from those of us who were forced here. Despite having the birth of our democracy in hand, it wasn’t long before we succumbed to unimaginable violence against one another over who was entitled to the unalienable right to choose and what was to be included on the menu of sanctioned choices.
Rarely do we see any other species on earth experiencing the kind of polarization that is prevalent within our societies. Most species find their newborns growing up to reflect nearly identical living patterns as their parents modeled before them. Yet, we humans are finding more and more of our offspring crossing over to other cultures to share their lives and exchange their versions of Universal Truth. To some this is a curse, to others a blessing, as we evolve through this present cycle.
In the time it took to quadruple our world’s population, we went from many parents choosing their children’s spouses to unprecedented increases in interfaith, interracial, and same-sex relationships. In the beginning of this trend, it was usually without parental consent. The Commandment to “Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” still remains a Universal Truth for many.
Though this cross pollination and blending of our cultures and lifestyles is feared and judged moralistically unconscionable by many, it’s a behavioral change that seems destined to impact our futures. And yet simultaneously, more and more parents and their adult children are experiencing the necessity of dwelling together.
Through the lens of our different points of view, there are many opportunities and threats as we endeavor to evolve our societal wellbeing within these very perplexing and changing times.
According to United Way, education, income, and health are the building blocks for a good quality of life. According to the Temple of the People, Religion, Science, and Economics are the Foundation Stones of Humanity in that there can be no true religion without its scientific basis, and there can be no right system of economics not based on a science that is religious and a religion that is scientific.
It’s interesting to contemplate how a mason would blend these building blocks for a good quality of life with the Foundation Stones of Humanity. Perhaps when Benjamin Franklin realized that “early to bed and early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise,” he was aware of the connection between the Blocks and the Stones. On the other hand, he may have been dreaming that a cure to humanity’s woes rested upon a good night’s sleep. Yet sustaining one’s usefulness and self-esteem through honest work for honest pay is becoming more elusive for many struggling with these times, while for certain races, genders, castes, and colors that elusiveness has never been fully uprooted from its origins of domination and control.
Architecturally speaking, a well-built structure would find its building blocks on top of its foundation stones. This appears to be common sense, if not a Universal Truth. Correspondingly, it would follow that the building blocks to a good quality of life would be dependent on the soundness of the Foundation Stones of Humanity. It’s rather challenging to imagine the level of construction expertise necessary for creating a structure such as this, not to mention the quality of the grounds necessary to hold sound such a structure.
When it comes to religion, nearly half the world’s population doesn’t believe in, and to some extent, don’t even know about the story of Adam and Eve. Those who may have their own stories of origin have historically been judged as uninformed by some of those who do accept Adam and Eve.
When it comes to science, necessity, curiosity, and experience inspire knowledge, innovation, and wisdom — that is, until our motives turn selfish.
And when it comes to economics, we continue to be quickly distracted from dialogues of substance by the malicious use of labels, no matter the “ism.”
In a world so politically polarized, how can we ever begin to realize the value of a religion with a scientific basis, and a right system of economics based on a science that is religious and a religion that is scientific, without fully embracing education, income, and health?
As the Universe would have it, we appear to be responsible for co-creating together the building blocks to a good quality of life, before the Foundation Stones can begin to become structurally sound. We may come to know this process as the Triple Key: the evolution of Matter, Force and Consciousness.
By one definition, education is the process of going from a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe to a branch of knowledge and study dealing with a body of facts or truths. Then, based upon our acceptance of these perceived facts or truths, we continue to evolve the ways and means we use to produce and distribute the goods and services we consume and have come to depend on. In other words everything we exchange amongst ourselves, including information, embodies our economies.
Despite some 6,000 languages spoken throughout our world, with 193 member countries in the United Nations we now have the abilities to educate our way towards an appreciation for our interconnectedness.
The variations of how we help our children and youth achieve their potential, and improve the financial stability and health of our families, can be the evolving blueprint to the Foundation Stones and our learning to thrive in balance locally and globally.
Religious or not, most of us value a version of the Golden Rule. Prior to the trend of our children crossing their cultural borders, living the Golden Rule had been a practice more prevalent within our own religious and cultural associations. While instinctually this makes sense, it’s time to practice the Golden Rule, not only from within our own group or tribe, but between our varying tribes as well.
From steam to combustion to nuclear produced energy, while science has brought us from creature comforts to unspeakable power, the age of our earth remains a debatable topic throughout the world. Yet the Temple Teachings remind us that for our economies to be right systems, they depend on science that is religious and religion that is scientific.
With the ever-increasing belief that a Power greater than ourselves is actually the interrelationship and interdependence of all things, we may begin to realize the necessity of the Foundation Stones for sustainable balance within our humanity. We have the choice of coming to know this as we open-mindedly — what I call open-mindfully — experience our development and interaction with the building blocks of education, income, and health.
While some of us might be reluctant to use our perceived wisdom to have good health, many of us would not hesitate to trade in our wealth to get well and to live longer. For without our health all the education and income in the world seems meaningless. It is the health of our bodies and minds that we, our communities, our countries, and our world can so gratefully take for granted.
It is the right systems of economies that are based on sciences that are religious and religions that are scientific that we need to be striving towards if we and our planet are to choose a return to a good quality of global life.
Good, bad, or indifferent, our individual and collective behaviors are responsible for our unprecedented circumstances, unique to this cycle of time.
From the health of our environments to the health of our financial systems to the health of our politics, many of us have gratefully taken for granted the fragility of harmony, balance, and stability.
Despite many of us holding on to our Universal Truths, we remain tempted by the golden calf, as we continue to pardon the Barabbas of our time and ignore the Yin and Yang.
While experience teaches us to be less gullible and more discerning, many of us are becoming less trusting and more suspicious of those we call our leaders. Though modern medicine has taught us that the placebo effect is real and that our faith has the power to heal, many of us continue seeking treatment rather than accepting responsibility for our own health and cure. By way of contrast, having faith in our leadership is unsustainable so long as our political polarization prevents the seeds of aspirational benevolence from having enough nourishing grounds for their germinating roots to cling onto.
In addition to the focus on improving health, the United Way movement initially brought forth twelve indicators that were meant to offer a reflection on the overall wellbeing of a community. Similar to when one’s engine light comes on to announce the need for taking a peek under the hood, these indicators reflect problems before a community becomes inconvenienced and frustrated by a menu of limited remedial choices.
Three of the indicators were meant to monitor literacy, housing, and risky behavior. We know that when our children are learning to read by fourth grade and reading to learn thereafter, they are more likely to graduate from high school on time. We know that families who spend more than 40 percent of their annual income on housing are less likely to be able to sustain themselves and their households through retirement. And we know that most of the increases in obesity, diabetes, hepatitis, heart disease, cancer and low birth weight are directly related to risky lifestyle choices being made each and every day. And then there are generational structural barriers that supremely challenge making the best of choices!
Medical professionals rely on indicators such as blood pressure, temperature, sugar, and cholesterol levels to monitor the health of our personal constitutions to prescribe proper treatment.
The United Way indicators were meant to be guides for becoming aware of living within a range that is in the best interest of our communities. Without telling us exactly what to do, it’s up to us to be more alert to the choices that will nurture our wellbeing.
All of the building blocks are considered vital, but it is education that comes first. From the beginning, religion has, for the most part, been planting some of the seeds that have germinated into what many of us would agree to be the essence of good character. This by no means precludes our propensity for fanaticism; hence the Temple motto, “Creeds Disappear, Hearts Remain.”
We may be grateful for what boils down to civility, though we tend to take it for granted. Regrettably, “We can tell, but never teach, unless we practice what we preach.” So, let’s imagine a time when loving our neighbor as ourselves and practicing the Golden Rule becomes synonymous with the characteristics of trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring and citizenship. If these were given the same weight and importance in our homes as math and science are given in our schools, we may end up someday with an economic system that goes by what I call “Characterism.”
One of the more commonly known Universal Truths is that when it comes to fixing someone else, we will find our greatest success when we put that focus on fixing ourselves. Yet, our patience is required, as the power of denial still seems to keep this Truth a secret hidden from too many of us.
From our planet being flat, to our planet being the center of the Universe, to our planet being one of eight orbiting our sun, to our sun sharing the Universe with a couple of hundred billion trillion other stars, to sharing the Universe with other intelligent life forms, there is still much we may choose to learn. While our awareness of some Universal Truths keeps evolving, others remain unchanged.
No matter the building materials, whether of an outward or inward nature, coming to terms with the Divinity and Sacredness of Mother Nature requires the herculean work of excavation if an ever-evolving sustainable and functioning Foundation is to become an embedded reality on the physical plane.
There is a great paradox, if not contrast, between the visions and missions of those leaning left versus those leaning right. While each group’s extreme points of view hold in common a valuing of the Sanctity of Life, it is the particular category of life which their affinity has them loving the most that causes a great schism in between. There is a juxtaposition between those of us who identify as Liberal tending to be more pro-choice, whereas those of us who identify as Conservative tending to be more pro-life. On the other hand, when it comes to revering Mother Nature, Liberals tend to be more pro-life, whereas Conservatives tend to be more pro-choice.
To have stewardship with Life, or to have dominion over Life, and to what degree, is a vital component to the elusive structural consensus.
When it comes to excavating the consciousness of humanity, it may be our collective and individual experiences that will inevitably become our most effective tools. There are many potential sources for opening up our attitudes toward Wisdom.
One day it may be the Ten Rules of Discipleship that will provide a bridge to insight between the various schisms keeping Humanity apart, but it is the Ninth Rule that may offer relevance to both sides of the same coin:
“Thou shalt not despise nor ill-treat any thing or creature. Matter, Force and Consciousness are but different degrees of the one eternal, all-pervading principle of Love — which is God; and he who despises and reviles his body because it does not radiate the light of his soul despises God as certainly as does the man who despises and reviles the soul and spirit of God.” Perhaps this is the least memorable of the Ten Rules, yet it explicitly focuses on the Divine Sacredness coming through the Absolute Creator.
Though we may never return to the Garden of Eden, if we learn to be in tune with our Higher Selves, we may choose to discover our way to the Promised Land, through the sound placement of the Foundation Stones of Humanity and the Building Blocks for a good quality of Life.
In closing, the fourth object of the Temple of the People is “to promote the study and practice of the Arts, showing that the Arts are in reality the application of knowledge to human good and welfare.”
With that in mind, in 1951 the entertainment industry brought us “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which screenwriter Edmund H. North had adapted from Harry Bates’ short story entitled “Farewell to the Master.” This black-and-white science fiction film tells the story of a humanoid alien visitor who comes to Earth to warn its leaders to curtail their conflicts or face devastating consequences. While standing on his spaceship, Klaatu makes these closing remarks to the attending world leaders:
I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The Universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated.
There must be security for all, or no one is secure. This does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly.
Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We of the other planets have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression, a sort of United Nations on the planetary level.
The test of any such higher authority, of course, is the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us.
At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. And the penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is that we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises.
We do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system and it works. I came here to give you the facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace. Or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We will be waiting for your answer.
To underscore Klaatu’s remarks in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
— Richard A. London
Sixth Guardian in Chief
Given September 10, 2023