My best guess is you can trace it back back to when the first hominids realized they needed to cooperate and be kind to each other within their group for everyone's good. Long before someone devised the first writing system.
This is, most assuredly, correct. Human children tens of thousands of years ago still did not fully mature until around the age of eighteen - even though that represented over half the life expectancy. Given that, imagine the rate at which far younger children were orphaned during the ice age. Now, imagine the likelihood we would be here now if those people didn't figure out that all human life was required to maintain the survival of the group. The odds are astronomical that we did not figure out that we needed to watch each other's backs in this world a very long time ago indeed.
Hi Adriana, I thought I would add my 2 cents in on this
The Golden rule is a way of putting the universal law of cause and effect in a form that the common people of the day could understand it and use it in a practical way. The law of cause and effect is stated in many ways and on many levels of existence.
The universal law is simply stated that every cause has an effect and every effect has a cause.
Do unto others (cause) as you would have the do unto you (effect).
What goes around (cause) comes around (effect).
You reap what you sow.
you get what you give.
The law is stated in some way shape or form by every religion and religious teachers. The basis of most religions is the teaching of the universal laws and how they affect us in the physical world.
There are 7 hermetic principles or laws that were taught in egypt that all religions and the spiritual teaching are based on. The Dogma of religions is what man instituted on top of the principles to control the masses. understand the universal laws and you can solve many mysteries of the universe.
I've just read the kybalion (since your mention of it was the first i'd heard of it) and I'm curious, Regi, if you ascribe to it. It is a theistic work, is it not? "The ALL" of the kybalion being merely a code word for God. It's very interesting, has true kernels of wisdom, but also espouses some less than tenable beliefs such as telepathy.
Also, i'm not sure I agree with the idea that behavior (the doing we should do of the golden rule) can be always conceptualized as purely cause, nor that the behavior of others (the doing we want them to do to us) is properly thought of as effect. I don't think it's an accurate description of the ideas behind them, and I don't think that's behind the spirit of the golden rule, though some religions tend to espouse this idea. The golden rule is used to describe morality, not causation. Your claim stands apart from the main focus of the golden rule itself, at least in my view.
Finally, thanks for calling attention to the kybalion. I found it an interesting read. I'm currently doing some background reading on it now.
Some form of this occurs throughout human history and reappears in recent cognitive science work on fairness and equity. It seems so basic to have evolve as part of our socialisation.
Many ethics philosophers are not particularly enamoured with the golden rule (and variations) as its aphoristic nature is hard to apply in specific situations. Human behaviour seems more nuanced. One problem I have is most variations seem to rest on the assumption that your's and other people's wants, needs, and motivations are the same. One philosopher in a recent Philosophy Today mag article suggested that it is an essentially selfish rule and misses the concept of sacrifice, which is an intrinsic part of helping professions and charity work.
Everyone intuitively understands the Golden Rule without having to set a particular formulation in stone: the spirit counts more than the letter, but all those nitpicking "philosophers" obviously have too much time on their hands. Isn't "be kind to others" good enough?
I agree it's a great overall attitude combined with charity, forgiveness, and caring. I imagine the important point for atheists is make sure Christians are aware it didn't start with Jesus. In fact he would have been simply quoting the (Jewish) law at the time.
Actually, to be fair, I must defend philosophy. I'm not a full-time philosopher, but I lecture adults in related subjects. Even though philosophers can be excruciatingly nitpicking, as you say, their writings can help to clarify the issues involved. Also it can give you a few great $10 words to quote at your opponent!!!
To be fair, I have more than a passing interest in philosophy myself. But demolishing the spirit of the Golden Rule on the premise that a specific wording may be counter-productive in specific circumstances is often more wordplay than philosophy. Kant, especially, went nuts about it. Although you'd expect this from a man who introduced the concept of 'categorical imperatives'.