All over the world and within all cultures and religions, a profound tenet exists that supports a common connection among all peoples. In one phrasing or another, the spiritual principle known as the Golden Rule has been taught for centuries: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
In The Simple Little Rule: The Golden Rule Rediscovered, author Mike Ellerkamp shares his spiritual, philosophical, and historical journey as he brings to life once again this simple yet profound rule. Not only showing how the Golden rule became the centerpiece of philosophical teaching throughout the world in a specific historical moment in time, Ellerkamp expands on the Golden Rule with five supporting principles that enhance and enrich our lives as professed through the ages—principles of Wisdom, Justice, Moderation, Courage, and Discipline.
In today’s world climate, it is more important now than ever for us to rediscover this simple little rule. And because embracing the Golden Rule can change our present perceptions and motivate us to work to change our own futures, it makes the Golden Rule a simple little rule so powerful it could even change the world.
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About My Journey
The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth.
— Sigmund Freud
For most of my life, an inner voice has called me to unearth a bigger picture beneath the spiritual teachings I learned at an early age. Strangely, the harder I tried to silence this little whisper, the more it teased me. The harder I searched, the more random and prolific my selection of reading and research became. In my youth and early adult life, I didn't understand the connection of this inner voice to the life I was living, but I have since come to regard this voice as of utmost importance to my personal spiritual quest. This voice is with me in my research and writing today. Its subtle clues prompted me to solve a sort of puzzle that at first, I confess, I didn't even understand. This voice or feeling, has led me to pay attention to my own personal spiritual inquiry as well as more cultural and global concerns. I noticed severe inequities early in my life and asked questions such as the following: Why is it that we are so advanced in the United States when just across the border to the south is abject poverty and brutal violence? Is the difference because of politics, education, religion, economics, or all the above? What is the key? What is the truth?
I have always believed that we are all fundamentally alike both physically and mentally. I believe we all have infinite opportunity. Based on our mental attitudes and willpower, some of us go quite far in accepting this opportunity, and some won't move on it at all. At first, I believed this was our choice. But after a while, I began to question whether I was really seeing this at work in the world. But why? What was wrong with my belief system? Could there be a greater truth surrounding these issues? These kinds of questions led me further into my search and pushed me harder to find answers. For more than thirty years, I have asked the questions and chased the clues, and with every answer, more questions have appeared, but I've always loved the puzzle. Let's journey back to the beginning of this tale.
My story begins at an early age. As a family, we weren't big churchgoers. Because I was the kid on the block who didn't attend church, I sometimes felt odd or left out. Sometimes my dad and I talked about religion and church because, as I mentioned, as far back as I can remember, I have always been curious about religion and spiritual matters. When I was about fourteen, my father and I were on our way up to Estes Park, Colorado, for an electrical job my father was doing for the US Park Service. I was supposed to be his helper, but I'm not sure how much help I was. We spent the entire summer living in our family's camper in the national forest in the high Rockies, upgrading electrical services for the park service.
The drive from our home in Boulder, Colorado, to Estes Park in the Rocky Mountain National Forest was about two hours, and on the way up, we got into a spirited discussion about religion, initiated by my question about why we as a family didn't attend church. My dad told me he couldn't understand how a pastor of a church believed it was proper to drive a Cadillac while his parishioners were struggling. Obviously, something had occurred in my father's past that made him distrust the church in this way. I have no idea what it was that caused my father's visceral disregard for the church, but his distaste was real, and he clearly disliked what he perceived as hypocrisy of church and religion. However, even with his dislike — or maybe distrust — of the church, he didn't keep his children from participating in church activities if we so desired. He wasn't a nonbeliever, but he didn't care for the politics of church and religion.
And so I searched around. I went to church with friends and schoolmates, not finding anything that appealed to me. During this period of random searching, I even considered witchcraft for a short period. I crafted a necklace with an upside-down crucifix and a sort of reverse rosary, and I made fun of "silly Christians — slaves to the word." I look back now and laugh. The whole witchcraft thing was obviously just a phase. I couldn't reconcile those sorts of philosophies and teachings with what was going on in my spirit. Somehow professing that lying, cheating, and using others for a selfish end didn't make any sense to me even then. It left me still restless and searching to find some sort of truth about the meaning of my life. Sometimes I got off the beaten path and went into the mud, so to speak, but my dad was always tolerant, never encouraging nor discouraging, just allowing my siblings and me to find our own ways. He stayed neutral about it all.
At about the age of seventeen, I began attending a Catholic church with my girlfriend. I enjoyed the small, intimate church experience with her and her family. I dove straight into catechism classes and loved the structured training about church history, ethics, and culture. I felt like I had a purpose. This was my first real experience with studying the Bible and church history. There was some substance, and I enjoyed that. I completed my catechism and was baptized in about a year.
At that time, I enjoyed the tradition and routine of our small, personal Catholic church in Boulder. It was all new and interesting. I became involved in youth activities and worked in the youth ministry. This ministry was fulfilling for me during this period of my life, and I was quite happy spiritually. But after my girlfriend and I married, we moved away from Colorado and our church for a job opportunity I chased to Florida.
Once in our new location, we searched for the intimate church experience we'd left behind in Colorado, but our new church experience became all about tradition and the system. But that was mundane and made me feel as though I wasn't going anywhere spiritually. The priests seemed inaccessible and steeped in tradition — don't ask questions; just stick to the script — and the very thing that appealed to me at the beginning of my experience with Catholicism became a major frustration. In the end, my wife and I were never able to find a Catholic church to match the one we had left in Colorado. I became disappointed with the politics and finally left the church. In many ways, I began to find myself relating to my father's declared frustration with church and religion. It wasn't about learning anything or being spiritual. At that time, it seemed to me that it was always about conforming.
Early in 1973, while a member of the US Air Force, I was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. I discovered karate there. My wife and I were still without a church to call home, and I took to the practice of karate almost like it was a religion. It was my first introduction to Eastern religions and philosophy, and I found them appealing. I was practicing several times a week and soon helping with the children's classes. Our sensei (instructor), a third-degree black belt, wasn't very spiritual, but he was strongly centered in the art, and I acquired quite a lot of confidence through his instruction. By the time I attained my green belt (third rank), I was breaking concrete blocks with my head. The experience was mystical indeed. I broke blocks several times and never felt the contact between my head and the blocks. My classmates claimed that my head never appeared to hit the blocks, and I never had a mark on my skin from the impact.
I loved karate, but it wasn't meant to be. When we left Alaska with a new baby boy (my son, born in October 1975) and a new assignment in the desert of New Mexico, I left karate behind with some regrets.
After I left the air force in 1975, my wife, our son, and I moved to Denver; and in 1976, a friend of mine introduced me to a nondenominational Bible ministry. Once again I became excited about the teaching of the Word. I was interested in the straightforward fashion the Bible was taught from the original Greek and Hebrew. The express purpose for this was to gain a personal understanding of the Word as presented in the original languages. There was no real church building, so we had small home study groups with worship leaders, much like the ancient Christians did. This format appealed to me because of the great camaraderie and cohesion among the group members, who strongly supported one another. Our pastor was delivering the Bible studies to our groups by cassette tapes, the cutting-edge technology of the time, from Houston, Texas, and I was dedicated to the study of the scriptures in this fashion.
During this period, I decided to return to the military. The Vietnam War had just ended. Jimmy Carter was president; the country was a mess politically, deeply embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Things weren't looking good for the United States. I felt it was important to return to active duty and do my part to protect our country and culture from apparent imminent disaster. The year was 1977 when I reenlisted, and I was twenty-five years old. I didn't want to return to my previous career in the air force but instead wanted to jump out of airplanes. So I went down to the army recruiter, walked in, and told the people there I wanted to jump out of airplanes. The recruiter pointed to one of those full-size cutouts of an Army Ranger in camouflage and said, "They are Airborne!" I signed up and was off to the army. During the army years, I continued my Bible study by cassette tape, but as an Army Ranger, I was deployed frequently, and group study was quite difficult, although I continued to study every chance I got so I could keep growing spiritually.
The Carter presidency was a disaster for the military. They cut ranks and pay, and those of us with families were nearly forced to accept food stamps to survive. It was indeed a very demeaning time to be in the military. I served two years with the First Battalion, Seventy-Fifth Infantry (Rangers) out of Savannah, Georgia, where my daughter was born in 1979, and then a year as an instructor at Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida. When I exited the army in late 1980, I went to Houston, Texas, because oil had made Texas a great place to find work, and our Bible church was located there. I was at home in church, and my spirit soared. While there, I spent many hours in a structured classroom study format, collecting hundreds of pages of handwritten notes covering nearly every book of the Bible. I was truly in love with the Word.
Tipping Point: Apartheid Statement
I believe the year was 1983 when I had that "apartheid moment" covered in the Introduction. At the time, apartheid, centered in South Africa, was a huge political issue storming about all over the world. But I admit, I wasn't up to date on all the politics surrounding me at the time. Although the pastor's statement was his personal point of view, my whole life truly exploded, as I stated earlier.
This event destroyed my desire for Bible teaching, because at that moment I couldn't separate that man's personal belief system from spiritual truth. I couldn't reconcile what I felt in my spirit with what I understood this man to believe. My father's distrust in church became crystal clear. I understood at last what he'd been trying to say on that trip to Estes Park during that summer so long ago. I literally burned hundreds of pages of handwritten notes. I had spent nearly six years of my life in this Bible church environment, and at that point, I hated every part of the Bible and church. I felt betrayed. I wanted revenge. I wanted to prove how irrelevant the Bible — spiritual teaching — really was. I was so hurt to think that I could have been misled in this way. Over the next several years, everything about my life changed. My father died, and within a year of that event, I went through a terrible divorce. It wasn't a healthy period.
Searching for Proof
When I left the Bible church in a huff, all I wanted was to prove what a waste of time and effort that study had been for me, and how stupid I had been to latch on to all that crap. Believe me, I found all kinds of books, research papers, and documentaries that supported that mentality, but with each new book, there was always that little whisper, that inner voice in my deepest self, saying that something much larger was at play in my life — in all our lives. For instance, I once pulled a book off a bookstore shelf that declared there was no proof of Jesus's actual existence. But it was hard to reconcile that idea even for one minute, knowing that the Christian religion had grown like wildfire right after the claimed execution of Jesus and that by about 350 CE, the Roman Empire succumbed to Christianity. Beginning with the Roman emperor Constantine, the conversion had taken hold.
There was a lot more going on here, so I questioned everything. Had a person named Jesus really existed?
Did that matter?
Had Jesus been one person or the compilation of many individuals? Had he just been a fabrication altogether?
Did it matter?
I slowly began to understand that Jesus had taught a vision of "free will participation" in the concept of spirit, not unlike Buddhism, which was well established by this time throughout most of the Indian subcontinent. Jesus introduced a belief system that required that one make only a free-will (conscious) decision to believe — a choice to change one's belief system — and accept his good works and grace as his or her own and then attempt to emulate that belief system by adding it into his or her daily life. What Jesus introduced was nothing less than a major paradigm shift in religion.
In my midthirties, I started attending college to get my bachelor's degree and improve my situation at work. During the first two years, classes included philosophy, mythology, sociology, and science. Again, I was drawn like the proverbial moth to a flame, back to spirit. I loved philosophy and couldn't get enough of it. This time, however, I was very guarded about chasing after spiritual truth. I asked my lifelong questions with much skepticism and searched for the solutions my way, wherever the little voice in my head led me.
I began by hunting for the way to disprove all things spiritual after leaving the Bible church. Along the way, as my research broadened, I began to mellow in my "way to disprove mentality," and I started to understand that there were subtle connections between the ancient scriptures and the mythologies and sciences. I began to comprehend that a pattern — puzzle-like — was developing in my extensive reading. I must admit that those subtle connections intrigued me to no end, and I found myself back in the original hunt from my youth. The pieces of the puzzle always seemed to rise out of that ubiquitous phrase — the Truth — found everywhere in literature. That thing called "truth" like a little whisper was pulling me back to biblical teachings time and again, trying to get me to understand my empty feeling inside. And so I continued to search, and as I did, little signs — little, subtle, obscure connections and seemingly unrelated text found everywhere — kept teasing me enough to keep me focused on trying to solve the truth puzzle.
Searching for the Truth
I had come full circle. There was a mysterious puzzle based on a two-word phrase: the Truth. What is this thing called "the Truth?" I found a quote from Sigmund Freud in Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces that was profound for me during that period. I began expanding my reading from strictly Christian doctrine to mythology, Eastern philosophy, and science. Here is the quotation: "The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth." (Campbell 1968, vii)
This was a stunning find for me: "The truths are all so distorted and systematically disguised." This quote represented my life search rolled up in one sentence. The Truth was talked about all the time, but what did it mean? What did Freud mean by this statement? I knew it belonged in my lifelong search and was part of the puzzle I was trying to fit together, a "truth" of its own.
Let's talk about possible meanings for the word truth. A general definition might be: in accord with fact or reality. As the phrase is used in ancient texts and scriptures, the writers speak of the Supreme Reality (God or gods depending on locale and time), a thing holding the ultimate meaning and value of existence for them. I realized through my reading that the ancients never doubted the existence of a Supreme Creator: a God or gods. They wondered about how to personify or define this Supreme Creator, but there was no question about its existence. It was their reality and a fact of their everyday existence, so they spoke of how to align that fact with their reality. This reality was another startling discovery for me, another piece of the puzzle. This was their truth, which I began to comprehend and accept again.
Excerpted from "The Simple Little Rule"
Copyright © 2017 Mike Ellerkamp.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 — About My Journey, 1,
Chapter 2 — Rediscovering the Golden Rule, 13,
Chapter 3 — The Path, 29,
Chapter 4 — The Supporting Principles of the Golden Rule, 43,
Chapter 5 — Wisdom, 57,
Chapter 6 — Justice, 69,
Chapter 7 — Moderation, 83,
Chapter 8 — Courage, 97,
Chapter 9 — Discipline, 109,
Chapter 10 — Living the Golden Rule in Contemporary Times, 123,
Chapter 11 — Finding Our Greater Purpose, 137,
Chapter 12 — Regaining Confidence in the Golden Rule, 151,
Resources and Additional Reading, 163,