The one thing that should distinguish us from the ‘enemy’ is that whilst they seek to achieve their aims by any means at their disposal – hurt, hate, pain, torture, lies, deceit, treachery and cunning, manipulation and greed, taunting, insults, threats, and violence, we must do the exact opposite. In essence we combat hate and hurt by love.
But what exactly do we mean by ‘love’? The problem with using the word love is it has an almost passive feel to it.
Furthermore, we wrongly use love when we actually mean like, and the word love has lost a lot of its real meaning. For example ‘Oh I lurv that dress’, has no meaning, and no you don’t, you like the dress, and perhaps you like it a lot, but you don’t love it.
So in order to avoid confusion we can instead use the phrase ‘Don’t hurt’.
And it requires action. Whatever we do, in whatever context, we must be constantly vigilant that we cause no hurt by our action – to the planet and our fellow creatures.
The doctrine that God is in the world has an important practical corollary – the sacredness of Nature, and the sinfulness and folly of man’s overwhelming efforts to be her master rather than her intelligently docile collaborator. Sub human lives and even things are to be treated with respect and understanding, not brutally oppressed to serve our human needs. – Thomas Huxley
‘Don’t hurt’ in existing religions
All our major religions embody this principle as a matter of course. Here we must not fall into the trap of saying ‘but surely religions have caused a huge amount of hurt?’ No, religions haven’t. Men have, but religions themselves make it very clear that hurt is condemned. Rabbi Hillel in the Talmud said that despite the vast amounts of additional detail that was developed later, the whole of Jewish law can be summed up with the words DON’T HURT.
That which is hateful unto thee do not do unto thy neighbour. This is the whole of the Torah.
Exactly the same approach is used by numerous indigenous and so called ‘pagan’ civilisations. The Native American Indian civilisation, for example, did and does not have a vast panoply of moral rules, but their main rules are simply DON’T HURT and LOVE. The Kahuna system of the Pacific islands, New Zealand and the Maoris, employed exactly the same principles, so did Siberian shamanism and the culture of the Australian Aborigine.
Within the Hindu religion it is embodied within the following main ‘rules’
- Ahimsa – do not cause pain to anything whether this is a person or animal. And in this respect do not hurt physically nor hurt verbally. If you hurt no one, no one will generally want to hurt you and you can lose fear, concerns and worries.
- Satya – tell the truth. If you lie you have to remember the lie, the truth requires no remembering, so you are free of the worry of the need to remember. Lies usually hurt someone, so if you lie, you break the first rule.
- Asteya – non stealing. If you take something from someone or something you hurt them. If they have worked hard to obtain this thing, or have grown to care about it then by stealing it from them you have hurt them. So you break the first rule – Don’t hurt. This applies to all forms of theft – the theft of a person’s wife or husband, their possessions, their job, their self respect, their peace of mind. It applies to subtle forms of theft such as money laundering or stock market manipulation or dodgy mortgage manipulation. If you can trace a line of action – a flow of activity – that leads to hurt, you have broken the first law.
- Brahmacharya – continence or loyalty or trustworthiness. Not hurting by one’s actions, saying one thing and doing another, first doing one thing and then changing your mind and doing something else thus hurting someone. Being selfless by being loyal.
The rule is fundamental to all Buddhist thought…
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
The concept is embodied in the so called “Golden Rule” which states that
- One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself – do as you would be done by
- One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
The principle is to be found in the writings of Confucius (551–479 BCE) . It is a fundamental principle of Taoism, Sufism, the Sikh religion and Zoroastrianism. It was embodied in Ancient Egyptian beliefs, for example, a Late Period (c. 664 BCE – 323 BCE) papyrus states: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another”.
Plato and numerous other Greek philosophers also expressed exactly the same ideas, for example
“…it has been shown that to injure anyone is never just anywhere.” – Socrates, in Plato’s Republic.
Don’t hurt in medicine
The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards.
The oath dictates the obligations of the physician to students of medicine and the duties of pupil to teacher. In the oath, the physician pledges to prescribe only beneficial treatments, according to his abilities and judgment; to refrain from causing harm or hurt; and to live an exemplary personal and professional life.
The text of the Hippocratic Oath (c. 400 bc) provided below is a translation from Greek by Francis Adams (1849).
I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation
– to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this Art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others.
– I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.
– I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner
– I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.
– With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.
– I will not cut persons laboring under the stone [gall stones or kidney stones], but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work.
– Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves.
– Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.
While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
The text of the Hippocratic Oath (c. 400 bc) provided above is considered a classical version. Doctors and other medical staff are still expected to take this oath, but it is clear that many of these most important pledges are almost entirely ignored.
This version of the Oath differs from ‘contemporary versions’, which have been revised to ‘fit with changes in modern medical practice’, a phrase which should set alarm bells ringing in everyone’s heads, as the Hippocratic oath as it stands, is perfectly acceptable as an ethical code of conduct. Where – one should ask oneself – has the oath been revised?
- Has the oath been changed which states that the medical person must only prescribe beneficial treatments, if so what harmful treatments are being given? There is actually no justification in prescribing harmful treatments
- Has the oath been changed which states that the medical person must; refrain from causing harm or hurt?
- Has the oath been changed which states that the medical person must live an exemplary personal and professional life?
How do you establish whether hurt might be caused?
The way to learn this is to learn the technique of the Cause effect chain. Any one activity may cause a whole series of related effects in a long chain reaction.
An effect is the consequence of an activity. For example Event A may produce Illnesses B, C and D, which themselves result in Disability G, Illnesses E and F and an Event H. Generally this is known as an Effect, but when illnesses are being referred to it may be known as a Symptom.
It is only by following this chain that the ultimate effects can be found.
We start off with the action we intend to take and then we work forward and ask the question “and what might happen next?”
Keep on asking the question building up a chart of causes and effects until you can go no further. Then look at the result. Does this hurt?
Some examples might help. Something simple first:
Next example, all too real…
It is noticeable that not being able to do this is a sign of a person with very little intellect – you are branding yourself as a thicky – a person of extreme stupidity if you are not able to follow the chain, so be prepared to face a lot of Humiliation in your life and failure – always good for the soul.
If we have in our nature sufficient love of all things, then we can do no harm; because that love would stay our hand at any action, our mind at any thought which might hurt another. – Dr Edward Bach
Effects and ‘prophecy’
How are you able to come up with the likely effects? In some ways you are practising the art of prophecy – predicting what might happen.
Many of the so called prophecies that people make are based on their own unconscious knowledge of how things work. People thus get better with age, as they build on their own mental models of the systems of the universe and the systems of men. The more observant, the more curious, the more open minded and those with great experience, are thus going to be better at it. The old may thus be wise, but not if they’ve spent their whole life in one place, doing very little and observing very little.
In computing there is a branch of software development called simulation. Here we can use a system that is already written, but instead of activating it to achieve real results, we use to it simulate what might happen.
In working out the effects the mind runs a sort of simulation of what might happen. If the models in your memory are reasonably accurate then your prediction at what might happen will be accurate. For example if I go into a shop and steal a bar of chocolate, I can be pretty sure that as I leave the shop, the alarm bells will go off. .
Lewis Carroll was fascinated by prophecy. Simulation was not a science known to Carroll, but he seems to have envisaged it.
‘All is effect of cause
As it would, has willed and done
Power: and my mind’s applause
Goes, passing laws each one
To Omnipotence, lord of laws
– Robert Browning (from Reverie)
In order not to hurt, we have to think through the effects of the actions we propose to take, and in order to do that we need to have learnt about all the different sorts of systems that govern our lives – the natural systems of the universe [weather, seasons, plants, animals etc] and the systems of men.
Now we might at this point ask ourselves a question. Do we learn in school about the systems of Nature, or the systems men have devised – financial, transport, legal, etc? Does our education system teach us about these and about how to learn them?
I think the answer has progressively become no. We know less about the natural world than perhaps any generation before us. There are people I have met who do not even know the difference between a honey bee, a wasp and a bumble bee, furthermore they often, tragically, kill them. And these same people kill ants and other beneficial insects – ignorance is resulting in terrible hurt.
And how many children are taught about the basics of the financial systems, or the legal systems or the other everyday systems that rule our lives? Not many.
So something is very very wrong, and it is our education system that is one of the major culprits. So this will be the subject of my next blog. ‘Home schooling’
...All the people who pretend to take your own concerns out of your own hands and to do everything for you, I won’t say they are imposters; I won’t even say they are quacks; but I do say they are mistaken people.
The only sound, healthy description of countenancing and assisting these institutions is that which teaches independence and self-exertion…
When I say you should help yourselves — and I would encourage every man in every rank of life to rely upon self-help more than on assistance to be got from his neighbours — there is One who helps us all, and without whose help every effort of ours is in vain.
Speech to the Hawarden Amateur Horticultural Society (17 August 1876), as quoted in “Mr. Gladstone On Cottage Gardening”, The Times (18 August 1876), p. 9