The Golden Rule Project – A brief history of how it began
by Bonnie Phillips and countless friends
A white goose who tended me in infancy, was one of the many contributing factors that led to my absorption of life. The story was told to me as a young girl about how mother’s white goose would watch over me when I was on a blanket outside in the yard. The goose knew my family, the mail person, but any other visitor, being a stranger would get chased back to the gate. The feral cats we would care for decades later at the gallery surely verified this.
As a small girl, I accompanied mother to the county hospital during some of the volunteer hours she spent caring for wounded World War II soldiers. We walked by the local orphanage on the way, and I remember wanting to adopt the children there. On extended walks with my grandfather, we would pass the Utah State Prison where union activist Joe Hill had been incarcerated – executed by firing squad in 1915 on murder charges that many still dispute today. This led to family discussions about what is the right thing to do. Much of my early world views was shaped at gatherings around the family dining table where our family, friends and neighbors, and community leaders would meet to discuss problems and consider how they might be resolved.
When I was six, my family built a house south of the city in the country. I lived there with my mother, grandparents, ducks, and a dog named Honey. Horses neighed softly in our neighbors’ nearby pastures. Little Cottonwood Creek flowed through the property, some of its water gently irrigating our garden and crops. A path led to the creek and, part way down, there was a tree where I would sit; that was my own private retreat with Mother Nature. Those times were when I tussled with my problems, my joys, my deeper thoughts and, at the same time, I was fully aware that I was a part of nature. Being an only child and having the run of acres of land was a pure delight. During one heavy spring runoff, I got to know our neighbors even better as we aided one another with the various problems created by high waters. Life gave us a reason to cooperate. My life’s path thus has evolved from being under the watchful eye of a guardian goose, gleaning important humanitarian lessons on strolls past the state prison and an orphanage. My early life was filled with constant encouragement to form good relationships with others, or I risked having my mouth washed out with soap. It only happened twice that I remember!
Later in life during my studies of the writings of G. I. Gurdjieff, I realized that there may be something I could contribute to the life I cared about. I, along with my dear mother, created the Golden Rule Project (circa 1997). For two years we looked for as many formulations that we could find, numbering in the hundreds and today hundreds more. We began to recognize that this most common of principles went back through all recorded time.
Fourteen formulations were chosen to print on two sheets of paper, diptych presentation. Volunteers from the Salt Lake Boys and Girls club helped hand marble the 400 sheets of paper, that became the broadsides (printed in English and Spanish, handset type, printed at the Red Butte Press, Marriott Library, University of Utah). These broadsides were then illuminated by many Utah artists who exhibited at our gallery. Then they were framed and gifted to schools throughout Utah. We now work actively with Steffan Soule, who created “Attention, Magic and the Golden Rule.” Steffan visited schools in Utah for 7 years. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to present our live assembly programs for over a year. However, he has still been creating magic relating to the Golden Rule.
Through my study of All and Everything, An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson written by Gurdjieff, I learned about conscience and that we human beings have buried it deeply within ourselves. It became more and more clear that creating the GR Project was the right thing for me to do. Gurdjieff points out in his writings that it is of primary importance to educate the young, our children and grandchildren in the right way so as to do a good job in maintaining all that has been created. GR Project donations, in the many forms it has taken throughout the years seems like a very wise investment in the future of our planet Earth.
My dear mother taught me that being kind to others was first and foremost. So today one of the formulations from Gurdjieff, because of what she taught me, that I now hold and remember is:
“… thanks chiefly to the commandment inculcated in me in my childhood, enjoining that “the highest aim and sense of human life is the striving to attain the welfare of one’s neighbor”, and that this is possible exclusively only by the conscious renunciation of one’s own. BT p 1186
“Practice love on animals first; they react better and more sensitively.” Source unknown but often contributed to Gurdjieff
Another experience that has resonated with me, while studying Beelzebub’s Tales, is that Beelzebub finds his favorite grandson Hassein weeping in the corner of the spaceship that they are traveling on through the Universe. Beelzebub spent a great deal of time telling his grandson about the strange three-brained beings on the planet Earth; pointing out again and again how unbecoming we really are. Beelzebub asks his dear grandson why he is weeping. It is because through all these stories, we have become Hassein’s favorites and he has a real concern for our well-being. For me this is a very important idea, the Earth, our neighbors, all life can become our favorites.
There are people all over the world today that are seeking ways to do the right thing, to save all life, to strive toward right action by considering the true sciences.
What causes us to weep? Our sorrow and the sorrow and suffering of all life on Earth causes this response. For me, the question arises, “How can I help?” Since discovering the teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff, a more viable way to assist learning “how to help” has arisen. That is sharing the two primordial laws that govern all and everything. We need to learn about the Laws of World-creation and World-maintenance before we can wholly address and understand what help is needed.
The enormous political-social dimensions of our environmental emergency, hunger, violence, poverty, disease, the refugee crisis and more cannot be addressed without cooperation, respect, responsibility, and compassion. The universal principle of the Golden Rule must be the measure to address these horrible circumstances. An Age of Reasoning needs to arise with our common principle, from throughout all time, being the measure, again and again and again – day and night – listening without judgment from both our own buried conscience and the arising consciousness throughout the world.
The sorrow of endlessness causes me to weep. What creates sorrow for me, for endlessness? It is witnessing the suffering of others and witnessing my own unnecessary suffering. Throughout my years studying the Gurdjieff Work, real discoveries have been made.
“Your weeping gives me the assurance also that in your future responsible existence there will also be in your common presence those being-data which are the foundation of the essence of every bearer of Divine Reason and which are even formulated by our common father in words placed over the chief entrance of the holy planet Purgatory decreeing the following: ‘only-he-may-enter-here-who-puts-himself-in-the-position-of-the-other-results-of-my-labors.’” BT p 1161
What causes me to wish to help, to act, to lighten the suffering of others and to
lighten the suffering of endlessness? Which, by the way, helps to lighten my own
“… is it still possible by some means or other to save them and
to direct them into the becoming path?” BT p 1182
How do we understand “becoming path?” Only together can that be done. Right aim and wish need to prevail. That prevailing requires the being to pursue this aim. Saving the world depends on so very much that, indeed, we do need to work together. Together there is great strength and understanding that can prevail.
For years I have wished to share what I believe is the outstanding contribution made by Gurdjieff in this Work. With the Golden Rule Project, I trusted others might access their “deeply buried conscience”4 and thus lead to more becoming relationships. In order to be, to do, the Laws of World-creation and World-maintenance need to be observed in Life. How to accomplish this?
In my adult life I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Keith Buzzell’s understanding, writings, and his depth of being became a real way to explore, nourishing my essential impulse.
“… setting up in the consciousness of creatures similar to myself
a new world – …”– a real world. MWRM p 1
In what ways do each of us see and can contribute to what we understand as a real world?
“We can now only repeat the same in regard to this terrible property of theirs, of which we have just been speaking, namely, their periodic processes of the destruction of each other’s existence.
“We can only say now, that if this property of terrestrial beings is to disappear from that unfortunate planet, then it will be with Time alone, thanks either to the guidance of a certain Being with very high Reason or to certain exceptional cosmic events.” BT p 1118
“… owing to my conscious labors for the attainment of results
for the purpose of common-cosmic welfare …” BT p 1120
When I was introduced to the Gurdjieff Work, I discovered that there was a
potential, a possibility that we, each of us, could become becoming beings. Conscience,
discovering that within our self is the real beginning. Conscience moves us toward right relationship and right action. Just how to do that was and still is an ongoing question.
Gurdjieff notes that our conscience is buried. This made real sense to me thanks
to the practice of serious and sincere self-observation. I saw that conscience was indeed
not a part of my waking life. Such an important concept that each of us can become
aware of and experience the real remorse that takes place when my automatic response
in truly inadequate.
As time went on and I studied Gurdjieff further and became acquainted with
others in the Work, I wanted so much to share what I was learning in this practice of
“The sacred Antkooano is the name of that process of perfecting the Objective-Reason in the three-centered beings, which process proceeds by itself simply from the ‘flow of time.’
“As a rule, everywhere on those planets of our Great Universe upon which three-brained beings breed, the perfecting of Objective-Reason can proceed in them only from personal conscious labors and intentional sufferings.
“This sacred Antkooano can proceed only in those planets upon which in general all cosmic truths have become known to all the beings.
“And all cosmic truths usually become known to all on these planets, thanks to the fact that the beings of the given planet who by their conscious labors learn some truth or other share it with other beings of their planet, and in this way all the cosmic truths gradually become known by all the beings of
the given planet without any distinction. BT p 563
Our project, active for 20 plus years, has worked with numerous K-12 schools throughout the years with support numerous foundations. The project includes Steffan Soule, the Quinney School of Law (with students studying the GR in our constitutions, national and state and other laws that govern our lives), the University of Utah School of Social Work, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Salt Lake City along with Spyhop in creating a public service announcement for our local radio stations.
Our next hope is to work with the sciences to show that indeed the whole of the Universe exists because it continues to make right relationship in all its motions. G. I. Gurdjieff brought something new to our contemporary world, the Laws of World-creation and World-maintenance. I think that the GR is our common understanding of these two laws, the law of seven (Heptaparaparshinokh) that exhibits the flow of energies, and the law of three (Triamazikamno) that are the forces/energies required.
As my efforts continue to remember the Golden Rule each day, I am ever so grateful to all who have gone before, from throughout all time, and worked tirelessly to share this most common of principles. Each of us has the potential to be a particle of that great action.
An important lesson learned through all this is: when I fall short in life by forgetting this most common of all principles, there are others who “pick up the pieces.” My wish is that you too can be so kind as to pick up the pieces when others fall short. A most important life lesson that I have to learn again and again and again.
I see the GR everywhere now that I am more aware of the fact that in essence, it is the lawful entry into making right relationship.