Principle 40

This entry is part 36 of 98 in the series Principles


In the East the Principle of Harmlessness is stressed — sometimes to an almost fanatical degree. Some will avoid stepping on a bug at all costs. Even though highly ridiculed, the idea is good and also stressed in the Christian Bible, but in different words. For instance, Jesus said, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matt 10:16

A dove is fairly harmless but will eat bugs and worms to survive.

Jesus preached forgiveness even unto seventy times seven, which guides disciples in a harmless direction. He set an example by not letting Peter harm the soldiers who came to arrest him.

When James and John wanted to destroy a city that rejected them they suggested to the Master that they call down fire out of heaven. Jesus said: “You know not what manner of spirit you are. The son of man came not to destroy, but to save.” Luke 9:55

So what exactly is the Principle of Harmlessness? If we truly follow it does it mean we not even injure a blade of grass or an insect?

As with all principles the second key of judgment must be used to apply them in life. To follow the principle of harmlessness does not mean that one will never cause pain or discomfort to another. One must recall that there are many forks in the road in life where neither decision or path is an easy one. Often it seems as if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. In other words, there are times that people are going to get hurt no matter what we decide.

Example: Jim has a fatal attraction toward Julie. Julie senses the danger and tells Jim she is not interested in a romantic relationship. Jim is hurt, but the overall hurt suffered is much less than would have been the case if Julie had gone contrary to her will, become romantic with Jim and then cut him off.

Many examples like this could be given, but the point is that harmlessness is misunderstood by many. Harmlessness does not mean that you will never hurt anyone. Instead, it means that when you are faced with a decision that you will choose the more harmless of the two choices. For instance, in the example above Julie chose the path of harmlessness because she made the least hurtful decision.

One may wonder if Jesus was practicing harmlessness when he chased the moneychangers out of the temple. The act made them angry and caused hurt feelings. Even so, he accomplished a greater good by illustrating the truth that the things of the Spirit should have priority over materialism. The temple workers were doing harm to the true purpose of the temple and Jesus reminded them of this. As with Jesus sometimes the path of harmlessness will lead the disciple to be a cause in stopping harmful actions.

For instance, it was the path of harmlessness that was taken by the Allies to stop Hitler during World War II. If Hitler had won great harm would have been carried out toward humanity.

Many other aspects of Jesus’ life were not seen as harmless by the authorities of the day. His teachings were seen as a threat to the status quo which they saw as essential to maintain. His miracles and growing numbers of people following him were also seen as something that could become very harmful. His words and works bothered so many that he was led to say, “Blessed is he who is not offended in me.” Matt 11:6

We assume then that Jesus set the example for harmlessness as he did for other spiritual values. This tells us that the one who treads the path of harmlessness will sometimes step on a few toes and offend a number of people.

Now there are a number of offensive things a person can do that will be harmful and takes one off the path. If one calls people names, insults them or speaks harshly without justification then more harm will be done than good.

But he who follows the spiritual path and lives by the highest he knows may find himself offending many who are emotionally polarized. It is interesting though that a disciple with soul contract will rarely be offended by anything another disciple does or says.

The Principle of Harmlessness could therefore be distilled as follows:

“He who follows the harmless path seeks to do harm to no living thing, but realizes that indecision can often bring more harm than a wrong decision. He will therefore, not shy away from decision, but will use all his wisdom to make choices that will produce the most harmless direction. Ironically, the disciple will often have to step on a few toes when he chooses the path of harmlessness.”

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

Thomas H. Huxley (1825 – 1895)

Copyright 2014 by J J Dewey

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