Greg Kasarik

"Act with Empathy"
   Home      The Nature of God      On Being God: Implications for Ethical Behaviour
It occurred to me that I shouldn't need to include something as basic as this, but ultimately, this is the most important part of what I have to say.
You've just discovered that if an Eternal, Omniscient being exists, the odds are that it is you. Omniscience demands that you will live the life of every sentient, such as human, dog, ant and alien from the perspective of that sentient, unaware that you are in fact god.
In other words you will live the lives of every person ever born on this planet, just as you live your own.
So, figuring out how to behave properly shouldn't be rocket science. Indeed, it could be argued that it is little more than Enlightened Self Interest, where the "Enlightenment" is the realisation that you are both the entirity of sentient creation and one of its most insignificant specks.
You are everything and nothing and must act accordingly...
Ethical Behaviour. What is it?

Just because you are god, it doesn’t just follow that everything that you do must therefore be morally correct. Indeed, as we’ll discover in a moment, god is not necessarily good and neither are you. Irrespective of who you are, what is “good” cannot be divorced from human interaction. The concepts of right and wrong, or good and evil make sense only within the context of our interactions with other persons. For example, imagine that we had a Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people and compare this to a person, who through his deliberate actions did the same thing. The tsunami, while as great a tragedy as the murders would not be considered by most to be an evil occurrence, or to have been a great moral wrong. The reason for this is that the person is an active agent, who inflicts suffering on others and as such holds direct responsibility and culpability for his actions.

Because of this, it makes very little sense to talk about things that don’t adversely impact upon other sentients as being morally right, or wrong. For example, whether or not I go to church, masturbate, or dance can be thought of as having no impact whatsoever on another being and as such cannot be held as being morally wrong. However, if I go to church to make fun of the congregation, masturbate in a public space, or dance in the middle of a solemn funeral, then my actions do impact upon others and might therefore be considered wrong. But if I made fun of the church congregation, because they had sought to deny me my rights for the freedom of religious practice, while insisting on the sanctity of their own, masturbated during an orgy, or danced during a funeral, because that was the wish of the deceased and attendees, then it is hard to say that the actions could be considered immoral, or wrong.

Ethics and Laws: The Common Confusion.
Indeed, the only way that these actions could be considered wrong would be if you had already an arbitrary position that held that 1) Not Attending Church is wrong, 2)Masturbation (and perhaps orgies) is wrong 3) Dancing (at funerals) is wrong. This is because in each case, you are ignoring the context and the wishes of the people involved and instead holding to a position that could only be justified through an appeal to external sources, such as a rigid code of laws the predefines “right” actions.
Clearly then, arbitrary distinctions of right verses wrong and good versus evil can only ever be guidelines. The real determination of moral correctness in an action, is how it affects the people involved and the motives and desires of each. While many hold that God has handed down a particular set of immutable "Divine Laws" by which we are to abide, the Divine Principle, in demonstrating that no being, including god can ever know if they are actually "God", effectively refutes these. This forces us to search for other guidelines for Ethical Behaviour.
Laws are, at best only a useful guide and not the final justification for what is right and wrong. Indeed, it is often the case that laws are the vehicle for injustice and evil (especially when these are considered to be Divine Laws). This is because laws are simply an imposition of certain behaviours on a population, from an authority on high. Even in modern democracies laws don't reflect the "will of the people", or an "agreed set of community standards", but instead reflect the views of those in power and more often reflect their need to remain in power, rather than a desire to achieve a morally appropirate outcome.
Fail to abide by these often arbitrary behavioural dictates and you will almost certainly be visited by authoritarian people carrying weapons, who will deny you your freedoms, hurt you, or even kill you, simply because you broke the law, not because you actually did anything wrong!
Laws, while necessary in order to protect us from those who would do us harm, ensure public safety and hold people responsible for their actions, are far too often a negation of the Primary Ethical Principle, especially when they endevour to regulate private, personal behaviour, or are the result of poorly informed decision making.
The Ethical Principles and Being God.

Because each individual is different, we need to ensure that we are acting in a way that addresses the concerns of each person. Remember that god is about exploring the infinite, not about arbitrary dichotomies, or the impositions of one person’s desires on others. This is not to say that what is morally right is what the majority decree. In fact, it is quite often the opposite, as the majority often have a view that is based on what they value and which therefore ignores the wishes, desires and feelings of the minority.

But in order to ensure that we are addressing the concerns of each person, we need to be in a position where we understand what each person might seek, or want in order to best meet those needs. This can only be done by putting ourselves into their shoes and seeing the world from their perspective. In other words, this requires Empathy.

The good news is that this means that there is but a single Ethical Principle: “Act with Empathy”.
The bad news is that the whole project of acting ethically just got a whole lot harder. Not only are correct moral actions not black and white, they aren't even grey. Instead, they are contained within an Infinite variety of colour!
While it could be argued that this Principle makes it hard for people who lack empathy, to reliably do the right thing, no person will be able to pick the best outcome every time. For those who lack empathy, the Secondary Ethical Principle can be a suitable guide. "Act as if you are Infinite".
Indeed, given the potential for ego to dominate and for people to believe, or claim that they are more Empathic than they actually are, the Secondary Ethical Principle reminds us that a bit of humility in this department might save us a lifetime of hurt later on in our existence. 
The Secondary Ethical Principle reminds us that as an Eternal and Infinite being, you will get to experience your actions from the points of view of everybody else. If you harm another, you’ll get to experience that harm in full, because you will live their life as them. So long as you bear this in mind, you should be able to achieve a reasonable moral outcome, even if you don’t arrive at the best solution.
When acting with Empathy, you will quickly realise that one of the worst reasons for compelling another to behave in a particular way because that is the way that you would act. In doing this, not only have you have totally failed to take into account anything other than your own desires and wants, but you have almost certainly guaranteed a bad outcome, if for no other reason than the simple fact that all of us are different and no two people will ever act in exactly the same way, all the time.

For this reason, I believe that the principle “Act with Empathy”, supplants the ancient Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”, because the Golden Rule doesn’t require that you know anything more than what you would have done unto you. The Ethical Principle requires what others would have done unto them. Think of it as the “Golden Rule v2.0”

Of course, it is also imperative that your empathy extends to yourself and that you understand your own desires, motivations and passions. Remember, just as your desires are no more important than another’s, so too are they no less important. In acting ethically, it is often necessary to weigh up a variety of competing claims.
In many situations it may not be possible for any mortal to determine which is the ethically best choice to make and it is up to each person to choose what they believe to be the best of the options. On some occasions these will be equally good possibilities, while at other times they will be equally bad. Often, they won't be equally bad, but following the moral path will require great sacrifice, up to and including one's own life. Remember that if you are truely Infinite, death is but an illusion, and if you are not, oblivion will be your reward for acting ethically.  
The Ethical Principles in Action.

A few general guidelines can be derived from the Ethical Principle. It is important to remember that if you claim a right, or privilege for yourself, you must also allow others that same right, or privilege, unless there is an incredibly compelling reason not to. Normally this should only occur when extending the privilege would cause direct harm to others, while not causing too great an injustice, or removal of freedoms to those who are adversely impacted. Vague claims to be protecting society, or the fabric of the community should always be looked upon with great scepticism, as these invariably entail little more than “protecting the status quo” and ignores the fact that societies are in a constant state of evolution throughout the ages.

As an example, with the Ethical Principle, it is easy to see that slavery is wrong, because owning another person and reducing them to the status of property to be bought, or sold is a denial of any right to self determination, or to pursue their own agenda. Similarly, if a society had slavery in place, maintaining it because “the freed slaves might turn against us” is not an appropriate justification, as the harm done to the slaves outweighs the risk they might pose to the society at large if freed.
Similarly, one should not impose upon others in order to protect position, status, or honour. While there is nothing inherently wrong with position, status, or honour, each of these have a significant potential for limiting our desire and ability to act with Empathy. Each of these is perceived to be “given” to us by the community as a whole and when one is possessed of these, the focus can often be towards maintaining them, in order to maintain standing within the community, rather than on ensuring that we treat others as individuals, as we should.

Most obviously, this can lead to grave miscarriages of justice, such as the horrific “honour killings”, where women, who have chosen a different life partner from that decreed by their family are hunted down and killed by family members, in order to protect the family’s “honour”. These killings demonstrate an abysmal lack of empathy towards the women concerned and perhaps unsurprisingly are most common in societies where women are regarded as second class citizens, property and treated little different than slaves.

Given the realisation that we all are god, it should come as no surprise that the Ethical Principle doesn’t just apply towards our interactions with other humans, but rather towards all sentient beings. Few would deny the proposition that humans are more sentient than dogs. But when compared to the Divine Mind, neither of you are remotely close, so don’t let those feelings of superiority get away with you and start thinking that you can lord it over the puppies, or start being cruel because you are human and they are not. The fact is that the dog, while having a much more limited sentience than your own, can still feel pain and hurt as well as joy and pleasure. When you live the dog’s life, you will experience all of the pain that you may have inflicted upon it, or all of the joy you may have given it. The choice is yours.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that things like animal experimentation are automatically bad, or wrong. It does mean that the person conducting the experimentation needs to be bloody damn sure that they are not inflicting needless and unnecessary pain. Remember that one day, you will be that rabbit, or guinea pig as well as the person whose life you may hope to save by conducting the research. Decide wisely.

Please donate if you value this site and what we are working to achieve.
All donations are currently not tax deductible and form part of Greg's taxable income.