Peace through Reciprocity in Law and Religion

“Respected ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen. Today we have been discussing how to make progress towards a peaceful resolution of tensions on the Korean Peninsular. Furthermore, the situation has a broad significance for the whole world. It is hoped that a successful strategy, once formulated for this region, might offer a template for the resolution of similar conflicts around the world, and the promise of avoiding potential conflicts going forward.”

We see that there is a great deal of good will on both sides of the partition between North and South Korea. Last year, the sister of Kim Jong Un shook hands with the president of South Korea at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, and athletes from North and South Korea united to compete together as one national team. One might argue that it was inconsequential in real world terms, but it was symbolic of the will of the people to put their differences aside.

Historically, division was inflicted upon the nation by foreign interests. It was never an indigenous dispute. And the obstacles to a united Korea that we face today are also not indigenous in nature. The situation remains, as it was from its inception, a proxy conflict between the competing ideologies of powerful interest groups.

The Anatomy of Conflict

In pursuit of a practical solution, I would like to present an overview or meta-narrative concerning the nature of conflict in principle. International communities have not yet evolved to the stage where they understand the true value of de-escalating conflict. There are certain groups within the world who consider that they can profit from conflict. And this really is the cause of the frustration felt by so many. The greatest mistake in diplomacy for a person who is coming to negotiate in good faith is to assume that everyone else involved is also negotiating in good faith. The peace process is often derailed by varieties of subterfuge.

Nevertheless, we are optimistic that the international community can collaborate effectively to de-incentivize would-be profiteers from inciting conflict and demonstrate that cooperation ultimately brings more prosperity for everyone.

It is a fact of life that all parties, however well meaning, are driven by self-interest. Those self-interests can be fulfilled either by conflict or cooperation. Thousands of years ago, relatively small independent tribes found that when they collaborated together to form of nation states, they could become more prosperous. So law was developed to guarantee the rules of cooperation. We find that Roman law was once prominent in Europe. Gradually the legal system was refined, resulting in the establishment of English Common Law in 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta. Taking the best practices of English Common Law and refining them further, the concept of the modern constitutional republic appeared and became codified in the US Constitution in 1787.


Among different competing legal systems, constitutional law, which developed in the course of the aforementioned history, has become prominent throughout the modern world. The essence of this law lies in its guarantee of reciprocity in human transactions. When transgressions of reciprocity are identified and penalized by law, the more effective the law becomes in incentivizing honest dealings, de-incentivizing parasitism, and ensuring prosperity for all.

The principles of reciprocity can be summarized thus:

In any transaction:

1) All parties are fully informed.

2) The transaction is warrantied.

3) There is a voluntary transfer of goods and services.

4) The transaction is free from externalities (imposition of costs on third parties).

In every negotiation, we find that when these laws of reciprocity are transgressed, the injured party will eventually retaliate and conflict ensues. Thus, it is the transgression of reciprocity that leads to conflict. Conversely, smooth reciprocity leads to peace and prosperity.

The various formulations of society throughout history, such as feudalism, communism, dictatorships, and so on, have almost all completely disappeared from the modern world. We cannot even say that China, in its present form, is really communist in the strict sense of the word. The various defunct methods of social organization gradually died out because they de-incentivized the individual. Incentivized individuals are far more productive and prosperous. Factors that incentivize individuals include:

1) Private property rights.

2) Freedom of initiative (entrepreneurship).

3) Freedom of expression.

4) Freedom of association (and by extension, disassociation)

5) Success and failure decided by free market forces.

Globalization of the Optimum Paradigm

We observe, and I am speaking in very of broad, historical terms, that the most efficient system, the system that delivers the most prosperity, is eventually adopted by everyone. In other words, there is a gradual globalization of the optimum paradigm. A few hundred years ago there were many different legal systems throughout the world, but now we have international law and local systems are more or less of a uniform nature. So we have witnessed the gradual globalization of the optimum paradigm. That is not only in the field of law. Gradually there has been a globalization of the optimum paradigms in economics, in communication, transport, and science. The open exchange of scientific research between nations has greatly benefited everyone.

Culture and Religion

The final peace in the puzzle of human development and prosperity will involve the globalization of the optimum paradigm in spirituality. Nowadays, the international community is again threatened by the spectre of large-scale interreligious conflict. There is a dire need for the establishment, on a scientific basis, of universal spiritual principles to help overcome the friction generated by sectarian dogmas. As a professional scholar of Vedanta, I see a great potential for humanity in the precise psychology of religion delineated by Vedanta. Vedanta involves the complete application of the scientific methodology to the field of human spirituality.

The human mind exists within a broad “spectrum of stability,” ranging from the oscillating, distracted mental state at one end of the spectrum, to the focused, peaceful mental state at the other. World peace is ultimately an external manifestation of the internal peace index of the aggregate of individuals. Genuine religious principles are those that effectively cultivate the inner-peace of the population.

It is especially important for leaders to acknowledge that each and every human is a spiritual being, embodied in the physical vehicle of the body. If one proposes that we are nothing but biological machines, then human life becomes trivial and one becomes callous to the suffering of others.

It cannot be said that there is an Indian God, or American God, or Russian God, or Korean God. God is God. Truth is Truth. So, the principles of religion must be also universal and scientific. Vedic literature defines religion in the following nonsectarian, universal terms. Religion is a narrative that habituates the individual to:

1) Truthfulness.

2) Cleanliness.

3) Compassion

4) Self-restraint.

Whenever these four qualities are cultivated, gradually ones mental state becomes very steady and sublime. And in that state, there arises the possibility of realization of one’s spiritual nature and communion with God.

Now, the surprising point here is that just as reciprocity governs interaction between human beings, so reciprocity is also that which governs interaction between each soul and God. When a person reciprocates with the Ground of Being through religious devotion, He reciprocates by bestowing wisdom and inspiration. The adoption of the universal principles of devotion constitutes the final stage of the globalization of the optimum paradigm for human beings. For without the grace of God, no one can achieve genuine contentment and there will never be peace. Thank you for your kind attention.

Philip Thomas Murphy 13th April 2019

World Humanitarian Drive Conference,