Ron House and Gitie House have been conducting a quest for truth, or reality (call it what you will), for some forty years.
The quest has covered matters scientific, spiritual, philosophical, historical, psychological, sociological, you name it—for boundaries don’t matter, only the rigor of the search and the standards by which evidence is to be judged. In 1987, after a difficult personal spiritual journey undertaken by Ron and Gitie together, Ron discovered the remarkable summary of ethical knowledge encapsulated in the Principle of Goodness. Since then, Ron and Gitie have continued to work together to develop the study of the Principle.
Why is this little-known principle so important? Neither the left nor the right of politics, nor atheist secularism, nor any version of religious theocracy can bring us what we all ultimately want—a joyful, happy, creative, flourishing world with care and love for every single being that can feel happiness or pain. These modern ‘solutions’ are really just more components of the problem because allegiance to an ideology, a fixed concept, a particular in-group (which necessitates an out-group) prevents creative and embracing solutions that benefit everyone. True happiness for all sentient beings on our planet can only come from an entirely different direction.
The Principle of Goodness contains two key insights: that one should never attempt to harm innocents for any reason, no matter how large the payoff for doing so, and that leaving anyone at all out of one’s efforts to create happiness is less than the highest moral behaviour. These twin insights laid bare to Ron’s eyes the bitter, terrible error being made worldwide in following the popular ethical theory known as utilitarianism, or the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Controlling us continuously through the simple fact that we are subconsciously indoctrinated in it all our lives to the point that we are scarcely aware of using it and having it used upon us, utilitarianism allows millions to ‘fall through the cracks’, their lives a misery (or worse, ended), their fate unnoticed because some great and marvellous ‘good’ has captured our imaginations and made us blind to the real and terrible suffering of the fewest, or the poorest, or the least powerful.
It became clear to Ron and Gitie that no real unity, no genuine flourishing, no secure happiness, can ever come to a planet in the grip of utilitarianism and other false ethical theories. Only the ultimate concern for all sentient beings that is encapsulated in the Principle of Goodness, and which has been the hallmark of the greatest human souls from Socrates to Jesus to Gandhi, only that highest ethical standard can free our planet from its shackles of sectarianism, nationalism, racism, and all other category-based divisiveness. Only that highest standard is good enough for a planetary ethic that can guide humankind to a condition where setting one against another, or sacrificing the fewest or the most expendable, will be unthinkable. Ron and Gitie are firmly convinced that the realities summarised in the Principle of Goodness transcend all issues of personality, and so the identities and personal journeys of its discoverers are in a sense largely irrelevant. However, the following biographical notes might be of interest.
All their lives, both Ron and Gitie have cared about truth: the nature of reality, God, spiritual truth, truths about the world and the universe. From urgings based in this search for truth, both had studied science, and physics in particular, at university; both had investigated many religious ideas. Eventually both became members of a religious community (the Baha’i Faith), which claimed to believe in principles of world unity, racial tolerance, freedom of belief, and the need for personal independent search after truth. But the search for truth never ends. In the spirit of what they believed their religion stood for, that they spent about a decade researching ‘loose ends’ and small pieces that didn’t fit the tidy self-contained picture taught by the official religious organisation.
At the culmination of that search, they made a pilgrimage, during which they experienced a profound, yet extremely difficult, spiritual (or religious) experience, as a result of which their outlook on life and reality could never be the same again. The full details of that experience are too voluminous to include here, but they will be made available elsewhere. The nature of their spiritual journey is akin to that described in several mystical texts from throughout the ages. The particular text they were led to in their journey was ‘The Four Valleys’, written by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Bahai Faith, in a tradition derived from the writings of Islam’s Sufi sages.
In this book Baha’u’llah describes the nature of spiritual journeys and the stations that seekers of truth can experience. He describes difficulties and challenges seekers would face, culminating in a state which he called ‘the apex of divine consciousness’. He further wrote that if he found a true seeker, he would tell them a secret that conferred divine authority, and that the ones who learned this secret should put forth their own knowledge and light using this divine power. At that point, their knowledge would become a ‘light unto all the world’. Despite the startling nature of the contents of The Four Valleys, it is a very difficult book to understand. It is fair to say that for this reason it is in large measure ignored by Baha’is compared with other writings such as The Hidden Words and The Seven Valleys, which are written in a much more accessible style.
Ron and Gitie’s experience contained many inner and outer signs including miraculous prophecies followed by a spiritual test to which there was no answer to be found in any external source such as historical knowledge, science, or holy books, and which could only be answered from one’s own inner spiritual reality. And when they thought there was no end to the darkness of the test, they suddenly knew the secret referred to by Baha’u’llah. They were later shown the parallels in other scriptures which helped them further understand the context and nature of their journey. Ron has written a detailed commentary on the Four Valleys, which explains many of the book’s inner meanings, and is perhaps the only commentary that can place a single, coherent interpretation upon the entire text of the book.
Soon afterwards, Ron and Gitie were led to study the Biblical Book of Job, and they found that their experience was similar to that of Job, up to the moment when God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and ordered Job to question Him. All three had been given reason to question God’s justice, and all three had posed severe criticisms of God’s behaviour towards his creation. But upon seeing the reality of God in this way, Job refused to repeat his questioning, and bowed down in worship and accepted God’s authority. But when Ron and Gitie had faced the absolute reality of God’s raw power (which took the form of a supernova) they did not bow down but continued to request that God show not only his power, but also his goodness. To have been answered with the secret was a gift of light which confirmed the authority that Baha’u’llah promised they would be given.
Responding to the test of God in this way and to be granted such knowledge contradicted cherished paradigms of many mainstream religions, which typically wish to hold the 'flock' in conformity with established doctrines, rules, and religious authorities. But to Ron and Gitie, this was instead an example of the unexpected ways in which God continually adds to mankind's understanding and challenges humans to rise to ever higher standards of ethics and action.
It was some six months after this transformative experience, in a single instant and without any conscious preparation, that Ron suddenly understood the true nature of good and evil: that good must include everyone, that evil is not excused just because most people benefit. This teaching was at the heart of the spiritual teachings of every major religion, but now it had a short, rational statement that could be explained to anyone and which could be demonstrated with proofs for both the heart and the mind. Love and practicality were at last reconciled. Ron and Gitie recognised this principle as the ‘light to all the world’ which they had to give to everyone with the authority that had been conferred upon them.
Various spiritual signs told them that they should wait before announcing this message, and so they developed their understanding of the Principle largely on their own for over a decade; but early in the new millennium they decided the time was right to explain their understanding to the world.
They started by communicating to the leaders of the Baha’i religious community that had formed the environment in which they had conducted their search for reality. The Principle of Goodness is the simple guiding light that puts ethical understanding and power into the hands of every single individual. Those who believe in God can stand before Him and justify their own actions from their own understanding of this basic law of universal compassion; those who do not so believe can stand likewise before their own consciences. The time of unthinkingly obeying rules, even rules in holy books, or of obeying religious committees or clergy, is long past, and this is the message, framed in the language of their religious community, that Ron and Gitie gave to the religious leaders. Unfortunately that message was a threat to the power of those leaders, and they directed every member of their religion to shun the discoverers of the Principle of Goodness. They sent representatives even to countries which Ron and Gitie had never visited to threaten to wreck the families of people who befriended them. Sadly, their former religious community is required, on pain of having their own families and relationships destroyed, to maintain this persecution even today.
Thus born in the fire of persecution, this understanding of the realities of Good and evil is now offered to the world. Ron and Gitie have presented papers on the Principle at academic conferences and in refereed journals, and they continue to write academic papers which will appear on principleofgoodness.net, and they also invite all friends of humanity and of life to join them in analysing the Principle and discovering its further implications and applications. The Principle of Goodness belongs to everyone, and Ron and Gitie remain convinced that impartial, scholarly and academic study—but study informed by love and compassion—will demonstrate its soundness and its value in forging a future world of joy and wisdom.