You said last week that the longer you spend considering religions as they are “the more ridiculous they seem, the more wasteful of time and energy they appear.” (See previous post). Doesn’t this ignore the benefits they bring such as their moral teachings and their contribution to social cohesion?
Our greatest need is to find things out for ourselves. Perhaps there is some value in following the rules imposed by others but you must find out through testing. Life provides the tests. To engage in the test you must observe yourself. You must find out what is really happening inside you.
Let’s take the Golden Rule, which is central to Christian teachings: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you work with this rule as a practice, it goes very deep. Do you think that it means “be nice to me, don’t hurt my feelings and I won’t hurt yours”? If I remember your birthday will you remember mine? A sort of ego-reciprocity so we can all be more comfortable together? This is probably worse than having no rule at all because it justifies self-protectiveness.
Rigorous self-examination is required. What irritates me? I must be precise in knowing this. I see that I become irritated when a friend does not listen to me. I become restless and I stop listening as I repeat to myself the points I want to make. Eventually, I interrupt my friend. Do I see that I am doing exactly what I do not want done to me?
Often I am guilty of the very behavior I condemn in others. But this is a fairly obvious insight. I can go deeper. How do I unconsciously manipulate people? What do I do to make people like me or admire me? Do I like to remind people of what I’ve done for them or how late I worked last night? Do I set one friend against another out of envy or jealousy? When I begin to observe these actions in myself I see how they transform gold into lead.
If I deal with these issues in myself, will I find that they are not so troublesome in others? If I disarm first, perhaps others can put down their weapons? Are you willing to do the work on self to uncover your own unconscious behavior and correct it for the sake of others?
The Golden Rule, like any genuine rule, is an invitation to work, to inquire, not to follow.