Rules Against Rule-Following

Let there be no compulsion in religion.
Quran 2:256

Hammurabi CodeAt the extreme, the institutionally-oriented are so loyal to their institution that the only way to humble them is for the institution itself to command, “Do not be institutionally-oriented.” Fortunately, this is precisely what many time-tested institutions do. Thus, the Teaching to balance institutional evaluation exists in rules which demand engagement in behaviors such as love and exploration which go beyond objective rule-following.

One famous example of such a rule is: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Vayikra 19:18), which has been compared to “Whatever you want people to do to you, do to them too—this sums up the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) “Let a man overcome anger by love…” (Dhammapada 223) “Do not impose upon others what you yourself do not desire.” (Analects 15:24) and “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them.” (Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146). While each of these commands has its own distinction, they all require the rule-follower to engage in empathy. Because the cognitive process of empathy is separate from the cognitive process of rule-following, each of these commands effectively relinquishes its status as a command–the person who issues the command cannot determine whether it been upheld. Thus, the commands are equivalent.

By that measure, however, one would also include such rules as the mandate for exploration in science and “Be thou yogi…And of such believe, truest and best is he who worships Me with inmost soul, stayed on My Mystery!” (Bhagavad Gita 6.46-47), “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God,” (Michah 6:8), “He whose two days of life are the same, making no spiritual progress, is at loss,” (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 173) , “Look upon the world as a bubble, look upon it as a mirage,” (Dhammapada 170) and “Learn to be unlearned; liberate the people of their past. Assist all things in returning to their essence, and not dare act.” (Tao Te Ching 64). Each of these rules sounds distinct, yet they all have the effect of obliging the rule-follower to relinquish rule-following, to engage in some cognitive process which will necessarily take some unpredictable path beyond the rules.

The preceding is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of GRIN Free – GRIN Together: How to let people be themselves (and why you should) by Christopher Santos-Lang.