Do unto others as you would they should do unto you.
The Golden Rule is complete in its simplicity; in its partial or non-observance has grown that tangle of human relationships which today forms our world order, or disorder.
In our ignorance, we imagine evasion of consequences to be a sporting affair with calculable odds for or against. We take risks; we deliberately break rules — rules of man and rules of nature. When retribution comes it is either unrecognized as such, or else accepted with resignation as "something we can take," something we have wagered against, and lost.
We blunder along the corridor of Life everlastingly turning aside, and everlastingly jostled back into position by those "others" at our elbow — those others to whom we have not done as we would they should do unto us. How are we to learn the lesson that we do indeed reap as we sow? There are too many who do not really believe this, having a quick eye for the main chance.
Conscience itself is not sufficient in the majority of us to contend with the quality of indifference to reaction. Conscience is a learning entity, not fully graduated in most cases. It is a storehouse in and behind the memory, of what we have found in the past to please our intuitions, or to outrage them, and it is subject to a "vicious circle." Ignore it, and the less it speaks. Continue to ignore it and it may become silent.
Yet we must evolve, physically, mentally and spiritually, or else the human race will perish. Where can we find sufficient urge for this evolution? How shall we recognize the imperative logic behind the Golden Rule, besides its ethical ideality? It can be found in that Ancient Wisdom which lies at the root of all religions.
Every man, woman, and child is a pilgrim, at the core of whose heart is a Divinity common to everyone, be he Christian, Mohammedan, Jew or Buddhist. Each man, therefore, in his inmost essence, is part of another, and all mankind in its highest conception, is One. If this is so, then obviously what we do unto others we do unto ourselves, and the Golden Rule is justified even on selfish grounds. How many of us have found happiness in just making someone else happy? But, it may be countered: "There are some people who seem to find happiness in making others unhappy."
Such is the Law which moves to righteousness,
Which none at last can turn aside or stay;
wrote Sir Edwin Arnold. That Law is called by various names. In the Sanskrit, Karma or Action, implying the just reaction to every act, thought or deed. The "law of consequences" or of cause and effect. It is the Nemesis of the Greeks, the Kismet of the Mohammedan. The works of this law are not directly retributive. It is not a blind law of mechanical justice. In so far as we create our own fabric of being, spiritual, psychical, and physical, by our own thoughts and actions, so do we create our own Karma, our destiny if you like, for it is the reactions to our own experiences which constitute our heavens and our hells. The events themselves can neither be intrinsically good nor bad. Even the most catastrophic "accident," impassively considered, is an operation of "natural" mechanical and physical laws. Only when we assess it in terms of human pain and emotion does it assume the color of goodness or badness. Yet these events are very largely the repercussions of our own acts, outside of ourselves, and to the extent of our common "Oneness" are wholly so.
So far then we have seen the following aspects of this law: (a) What one thinks and does builds up what one is; (b) these thoughts and actions have outside repercussions which form the chain of life's events; (c) the events themselves react on us with mildness or intensity, according to our own natures (which we ourselves have built).
There is a fourth aspect. Not only does Man create his own personality, but he creates, in a sense, the texture of the world about him. This is important, for it is this process which Nature uses as a weapon against the man who takes delight in ill-doing, and but for which fact such a man could so harden his nature against the buffetings of Fate as to become, and continue to be, a veritable fiend.
The phenomena of Nature are those of an objective idealism. That is to say, although physical matter undoubtedly exists, and is quite capable of barking our shins without the injury being purely imaginary, there are forces behind or within matter, which, though intangible to our physical senses of touch, taste, sight, hearing, or smell, are just as concrete in their own sphere of existence, as physical matter is on this physical plane. If we could see with spiritual, or psychical insight (and these two are not the same), we should still have some manifestation on those spiritual or psychical planes of what, on this plane, has the attributes of wood or stone, or whatever we are looking at.
Moreover, all these planes of matter, each concrete in its own sphere of existence, have themselves their own subdivisions and gradations of subtlety. Physical matter, the very stuff we see around us, exists in many stages of fineness and grossness, and all these stages are inherent in the same object at the same time. It is we who see that particular stage which corresponds with our own state of consciousness. The veritable hierarchies of Sages and Seers known to history show that there are degrees of spiritual vision and intermediate stages in psychical insight. Just so must there be variations in our own conceptions of this physical world and the hurly-burly in which we live. The dear old lady who could not recognize the landscape as Turner has painted it would have no grounds thereby for accusing him of inaccuracy.
The man who seems to find happiness in making other people unhappy is confirming the quality of hardness in his own heart. As he hardens his make-up he progressively petrifies his conception of the world around him; he sees that world in its more petrified aspect — he does not see what is not there. A hard-hearted man is confronted by a hard world and the firmer he steels himself, the harder will it kick. "Nature red in tooth and claw" is a reality, as such, for those who see her so. She is a "worritting virago" to those who are treading on their own toes. She is "Mother Nature," however, to those who seek her peace and do her works.
All of us, on occasion perhaps, have used the expression "blessing in disguise." It is feasible to maintain that every single occurrence, seemingly good or bad, is a blessing in disguise. The completeness or otherwise of this disguise must depend upon our own power of seeing through it, upon our reactions to it, which, in the last analysis, depend on our own individual make-up.
Nature herself makes the punishment fit the crime — and the criminal. The more resolutely a man sets his face against the cardinal virtues, the more resolute are the buffetings of Destiny. There are no depths to which a man may sink and be free from the appropriate punitive correction. On the other hand, once this buffeting starts the upward trend, then finer and more subtle touches keep up the momentum. It is the inner nature which suffers most deeply when circumstances seem unkind. Repercussions come home quicker, and with more import. The finer natures are further refined by suffering itself. Yet we must remember that they are also capable of more exquisite enjoyment.
Can a world of true enjoyment be built on a denial of the Golden Rule? Can any material advantage really be gained by selfishness? The wages of injustice are paid in a depreciating currency. Salt of the earth collected out of just proportion becomes a bitter Dead Sea.
It may be objected: "Material gains will not be obtained, however, by self-abnegation." Perhaps this is the answer: If your works raise you to Olympian heights and oblige you to drink nectar and to toy with ambrosia — expensive products no doubt — then it must be that your purse should show lining enough to pay your way, or else Karma is unjust (which it is not). Both spiritual and material issues hang ultimately on the ethical life.
True, the great in mind and heart care little for material gains, but the fact remains, "They shall not want."
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I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. — Thoreau