by Peter Holleran
"They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning-hooks.
A nation will not raise a sword against a nation,
and they will not learn war anymore."
- Isaiah 2:4
The purpose of this essay is an attempt to clear up some religious misconceptions, and work for a platform of peace. To tell the truth, somewhat like Jeremiah, I will of necessity be stepping on some toes. Some politics will of necessity be brought in at times. Nevertheless, the differences as well as similarities between the major faith-based religions, at both the exoteric and esoteric levels, will also be examined, all of which may, when understood and accepted with an open mind - something religious fundamentalists, by definition, sadly tend to lack - help reduce the emotional impulses or complexes that become the irrational reasons for warfare and strife amongst them since time immemorial. This exercise is necessary to do because a little mistake or wrong idea or concept at the top will multiply throughout history into a complicated host of seemingly unsolvable political-economic-social problems. To convince a terrorist to reason about this may be a stretch, but perhaps the less zealous majority among the religious may come to understand some of the roots and commonalities among their faiths. That is our hope. So we will start from the "bottom", in essence burying ourself in illusion in order to make ones way out of it from an angle of least resistance; we start with the often-repeated historical "story" of a chosen people, and work our way up to higher points of view. For people generally do not come to truth all at once, yet if they can only see that part of their belief system has been wrong, then the door is open for the possibility that other uninspected views they hold onto are also in error. Certain parts of this essay may sting some people a little; if so it is asked that one read through to the end before passing final judgement. For "men quarrel because they do not know how to argue,"
said G.K. Chesterton. Or, as someone recently paraphrased Plato (Republic, VII, 523-524: "It is the difficulty of dealing with conflict and uncertainty that most readily provokes reflection."
The reader is warned that this is a fairly long article, approximately thirty pages, but it should be worth your while.
"The notion that some sect, some people, or some race has been chosen to fulfill a special mission upon earth is a notion which is to be found in every nation that a philosopher can visit and in every epoch of history that he can study. It is a foolish notion and a recurring fallacy. It is such teaching which has kept false ideas and foolish emotions stubbornly alive. But it will persist and go on persisting because it appeals to peoples' vanity, not because it is based on any facts. Josephus lengthily argued that Plato derived his wisdom from Hebrew lore. Nowadays the Hindu Swamis tells that Plato borrowed it from Hindu lore. 'Tis all opinion, mere opinion - the truth is that the light of wisdom can shine everywhere, on any race and at any time. No single nation or land possesses primal inspiration."
"Real thought is rare. How few follow a religion because they have chosen it after independent investigation and reflection, how many slavishly refuse to examine it impartially only because it happens to be popular at the time and in the place where they are born or live? As if popularity were a test of truth!"
(1) - Paul Brunton (PB)
First, if we accept the Biblical account in the book of Genesis (and even if we don’t), most adherents of the various monotheistic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahaism) are (or claim to be, or claim their founders to be) descendants of Abraham, who himself was a descendant of Shem (Sem), one of the three sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth). Hence all of the above (with the exception of converts from outside of the original 'bloodlines') may be considered to be ‘S(h)emites’, or "Semites". With Judaism, Islam, and Bahaism the connection is scripturally clear; the possible Christian connection takes a bit more explaining. One must keep in mind while reading that all of this is essentially IRRELEVANT when looked at from the level of the Soul, or from the position of the One Absolute. But it is necessary to first start digging our way out of a hole created by provincial religious beliefs. To begin with:
"The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including; Akkadians (Assyrians and Babylonians), Eblaites, Ugarites, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews (Israelites, Judeans and Samaritans), Arameans, Chaldeans, Amorites, Moabites, Edomites, Hyksos, Arabs, Nabateans, Maganites, Shebans, Sutu, Maltese, Mandeans and Ethiopian Semites....The word "Semitic" is an adjective derived from Shem, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible (Genesis 5.32, 6.10, 10.21), or more precisely from the Greek derivative of that name, namely Sem; the noun form referring to a person who is a Semite...The concept of "Semitic" peoples is derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed nephew, Canaan. In Genesis 10:21-31, Shem is described as the father of Aram, Asshur, and Arpachshad: the Biblical ancestors of the Arabs, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Sabaeans, and Hebrews, etc., all of whose languages are closely related."
(Click here for more than you wanted to know about research and speculation through the ages on the descendants of the Sons of Noah
For many this may be earth-shaking news. Nevertheless, Jews trace their origins to Jacob-Israel, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, through his wife Sarah. The majority of Muslims trace their lineage to Ishmael, son of Abraham and Egyptian slave-girl Hagar. As the story goes:
”And God said to Abraham, “As for Sar’ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar’ai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her...Sarah your wfe shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant with his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
“Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had born to Abraham, playing twith her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of a slavewoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac. And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account fo his son. But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring...and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you Hagar? Fear not...Arise, lift up the lad , and hold him fast with your hand; for I wlll make him a great nation.”
“He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
“These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Neba ‘ioth, the first born of Ishmael; Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Ked’emah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes...They dwelt from Hav’ilah to Shur, which is opposite of Egypt in the direction of Assyria; he settled over against the people.”
Notice that it doesn't mention dwelling southwest in Arabia. Thus, to complicate things, one minority faction of Islamists claim that Muhammed was not
descended from Ishmael, arguing that how can Ishmael be an Arab if he was the product of the union between Abraham, who spoke Aramaic and was from Sumer, and Hagar, who was Egyptian? They argue that the Qu'ran was first given in the Arabic language simply because that was the country where the revelation was given to their Prophet, just like Jewish revelations were written down in Hebrew. Of course, this doesn't rule out that descendants of Ishmael didn't later migrate to the Arabian peninsula, although whether there is any historical evidence for that I do not know. In any case, these believers hold that Islam was a revelation for the entire world, not just for the Arabs; therefore, if you say you are a Muslim you are a Muslim, regardless of race; and, furthermore, that the great nation prophesied in the Bible for Ishmael and his descendants might have been Babylonia because that was the only country that expanded into such a large empire in those days. This is not a majority view, nevertheless it is included for completeness of our story... Yet even more ironies and contradictions will be shown as we continue.
Bahais trace the ancestry of founder Baha ‘ullah to Abraham and his wife Keturah:
“Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Mid’ian, Ishbak, and Shuah...Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts; and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.”
[Persia?] (Gen 25:1-6)
For the possible Christian link back to father Abraham, one needs to investigate “British Israel” literature regarding the fate of the so-called “lost tribes” which give interesting arguments that the ten northern tribes, otherwise known as Samaria or Israel (as distinct from the southern kingdom of Judah) migrated north during the Assyrian occupation of Sargon II in 722 B.C., past the Black Sea, then west (with perhaps a minority going east), over the course of the centuries, leaving settlements throughout Europe all the way to the British Isles. The multitude of names reflecting the presence of the Israelites (i.e., Saxons, or “I-saac’s sons”; the house of Dan, as in “Danube”, “D-nieper”, etc.). Also, there is the accompanying story of the prophet Jeremiah with his trusted scribe Baruch (c. 586 B.C.) taking Tia Tefi, the “king’s daughter” to Ireland via Spain (the Iberian peninsula, “Iberia” from “Hiberia - “Heber” - “Hebrew”), to meet and marry a royal descendant from one of the tribe of Judah that migrated there generations before, bringing with him the coronation stone, or "lia fael", supposedly the stone that Jacob lay his head on the night he had a prophetic dream about Israel. The the Glastonbury legends, moreover, speak of visits of Jesus there (the song, Jerusalem
, sings about these); all of this is part of this hypothesis.
After the ten northern tribes dispersed, these descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given the continued promise of the blessings of God to become a great people and a blessing to many nations, but also to forget who they were, and to become known under a ‘different name’, eventually regathering together in the “isles” and a "great nation", which some have argued are Britain and America, not the state of Israel (Israel in ancient times referring not to a nation but more to the ten northern tribes). British-Israelism argues that the new name they were to be known under was “Christian.” Thus, under this interpretation the kindred peoples of Europe and America can, to a significant extent, trace their heritage back to Abraham. Under this theory, Jews today are descended not from all Israelites, but from the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who remained after returning to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon (586-538 B.C.), courtesy of the help of Persian King Cyrus the Great, whom Jews of the time referred to as the “anointed of the Lord” or “messiah” (see Isaiah 45:1-7). At least in ancient times the Persians (now Iranians) were friends of Israel in a time of need. Would that were so today. Curiously, at least some of the Jews didn't return the favor: two hundred years later Alexander the Great declared, "With Jewish archers, I conquered Persia."
(Vagabond, September 95)
To recap, the British Israelite movement holds that while all Jews are Israelites, all Israelites are not Jews. They hold a two-kingdom view, whereby Jews are descended from the southern kingdom of Judah only, and the European peoples are descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel. Moreover, the Judaites that returned from Babylonia had become a mixed race, and are no longer pure Israelite. Some of the tribe of Judah, also, migrated and eventually dispersed among the peoples of Europe and lost their heritage completely. Most of those who call themselves Jews today bear little genetic connection with the original Israelite tribes. Of course, this is speculative and remains highly controversial
, although, unlike the “Christian Identity” movement, has not been considered ‘anti-semitic’ by Jewish organizations.
The pre-history of the Israelite race is fascinating, but needs the help of theosophy and the esoteric traditions emanating from central Asia for its elaboration. It regards the origin of man on earth, before earth, and in heaven, and will be touched upon in the companion article to this called 'The People of the Tradition.' Call it fancy entertainment, or mind-blowing information, it is part of the mysteries of creation that have been hidden from man for millenia.
This intriguing link
, with extensive historical references, gives further evidence for the Israelite/Christian connection, with the only exception being that the “lia fail “ or coronation stone upon which Jacob had his prophetic dream is said to have been taken to Ireland by an Israelite during the much earlier time of Moses
and not by Jeremiah in 586 B.C. This link gives much fascinating Irish and Scottish history. Of course, many questions remain unresolved, and this is not by any means the general historical consensus. It could be completely false. Speculation varies from the Israelites tribes escaping to the North from the Assyrians, migrating to Kashmir, or simply being deported by the Assyrians into neighboring territories. But it is
interesting reading and worth further research.
Whether the Biblical accounts are valid or not, all of these faiths rely on them to establish their identity. Thus, all Middle Eastern faiths go back to Abraham, who was a descendant of Shem, and hence the majority are all Semites. Then why, why, why can’t we all be friends? Why, for instance, call those of Muslim descent “anti-Semitic” when they are, in fact, semitic people? Why was the term coined? Why wasn't it called "anti-Judaism"? This is a good question for the reader to research and ponder deeply. The error is compounded when one understands that there are two classes of Jews, Sephardic and Ashkenazim, the latter which compose eighty percent of world Jewry, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia. Their place of origin is not clear. In the biblical account, however, Ashkenazim are not Semites, descendants of Shem, but, rather, are Japhites, or descendants of Noah’s son Japheth. The word Ashkenaz first appears in the genealogy in the Tanakh (Genesis 10) as a son of Gomer and grandson of Japheth. Arthur Koestler, Jewish author of the book, The Thirteenth Tribe
, argued that the Ashkenazi Jews came from the kingdom of Khazaria in eastern Russia, which in the ninth century A.D. mass-converted to Judaism on orders of the king in order to avoid conflict with the Christians and Muslims who had them hemmed in on both sides; supposedly, they later migrated to eastern Europe.
However, it is also possible that Semitic Jews assumed the name Ashkenazim only after they migrated to Germany (in Medieval Hebrew, Germany is known as Ashkenaz).
In DNA studies, Semitic-speaking Near Easterners from the Fertile Crescent (including Jews) were found to be more closely related to non-Semitic speaking Near Easterners (such as Iranians, Anatolians, and Caucasians) than to other Semitic-speakers (such as Gulf Arabs, Ethiopian Semites, and North African Arabs). (2, 2a)
This is very interesting, because, contrary to popular opinion, both (non-Zionist) Jews
have for the most part co-existed peaceably in Iran, supposedly part of an "axis of evil", with Muslims for centuries, even to this day. Iran has animosity towards the political state of Israel because of its Zionist policies, not because it is Jewish. Yet it has perhaps even more hatred of the U.S., not "because of our freedoms", but stemming from our overthrow of their democratically elected leader in 1953 and installation of a brutal 25-year dictatorship under the Shah
, chiefly in the interests of Big Oil. [Just a side note: at one time the Shah had constructed a human-sized mechanism called "the toaster" upon which dissidents were "grilled". Nice].
There are always reasons for hate, in this case legitimate ones, but it is still hate and not justification for funding terrorist groups. What people don't know, however, is that intelligence agencies on the" other side" often clandestinely support these very groups to incite more terror in what are known as "false-flag" operations. Moreover, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein and other dictators for years when it suited our interests, Osama Bin Ladin and Al-Qaeda as well. Yet since powerful Jews - not average folks we all know and love - even according to their own sources, such as the Jewish Encyclopedia - they don't deny it - attest that they are in almost 100% control of the major media, newspapers, TV, movies, as well as banking, etc., I would give the Muslims a slight edge when it comes to judging whether any particular propaganda is true or false.
Leaving politics aside for the moment and returning to our previous discussion, it is still quite complicated, this matter of religion, isn't it? Yet, even if the Genesis account is only partly true, which it could be (scriptures being written long after events happened, are conglomerations from numerous authors and various translations, and are often equal parts allegory, myth, and history
), there is still absolutely nothing WRONG with being of Japhetic origin, or any other origin (after all, all God’s children are divine); the only thing wrong lies in being Japhetic and denying
it in order to pass for being Semitic, and/or simply using the moniker ‘anti-Semitism’ to demonize and to deflect criticism and call all Muslims, for instance, anti-Semitic even if they are in fact Semites themselves. Valid criticism should be above-board and not based on deception. Is it unreasonable to suggest that this should be so? In truth, the word "anti-Semitic" was coined by Zionists in the late nineteenth century to prepare the ground for a future state of Israel by making the case that Jews were the only true Semites and heirs to the everlasting covenant that God made with Abraham. But this term was deceptively created and deceptively used
Having said all this is not meant to get the Muslims off the hook, for historically they are guilty of their own dastardly deeds, as shall soon become apparent.
While it is too late to roll back the clock in the Middle East, and there is enough mud to sling on all sides, much of it due to the complications, permutations, and ignorance of the human mind over time, the determined efforts of a relative few to achieve total control (see how deep the rabbit hole goes; THIS LINK IS REALLY IMPORTANT!
), and perhaps long-term group-karmic
'blowback' over centuries, with hatred and bloodshed all around, it is time to wake up. No answer is offered here as a resolution for a complicated situation, other than understanding, yet the recognition that both Jews and Muslims and perhaps European Christians are of semitic origin should at be at least a start that can lead one to see a common human heritage for all.
In the midst of this turmoil, hatred, and warfare, the words of Paul Brunton (PB) written in 1943 come to our aid as an explanation of how this is all tied into the original evolutionary emergence of the human ego, and must, as hard as it may seem to do so, be understood as part of the divine plan, the Intelligence behind our wayward planet, the entire cosmos, as well as our own deeper selves [For those unfamiliar with PB's unique terminology (Mind, World-Mind, World-Idea, Overself], found within this paper, please click here
for a precise explanation]:
"We must face facts bravely and realize that the divine will is ultimately behind the whole universe and consequently must even be behind its horror and agony and wickedness too. Not that these things have been deliberately created but that they have indirectly been made inevitable through the inner necessity, the karmic continuity of the universe which made the infinite Overself
[i.e., divine Soul] refract out of itself a succession of finite incarnate lives. The "fall" of man was the fall into separation, multiplicity and limitation. Strife and its consequent sufferings were inherent and latent in such a division of being. The universe, being an effort to manifest infinite Mind in finite mental centers, the limitation of being thus involved inevitably leads to limitation of moral outlook and this in turn leads to the arising and existence of what we call sin. This again brings consequent suffering to others and also to the sinner. Struggle exists in the world because of the world's diversity, because life has been fragmented into innumerable creatures who are all struggling blindly in the endeavor to attain some want. From the very moment of their birth they begin an acquisitive process, adopt a grasping attitude. Hence the moment the myriads of separate finite centers came into existence, their warring futures could be foretold. Their strife is the tremendous price paid for their birth. For when, in the course of its natural evolution the conscious being came to distinguish itself from others and recognized its separateness, its power of free choice awakened and the possibility of discord with other beings was introduced. For such a moment was a tremendous turning-point in its consciousness. Its karma as an individual began to generate."
"Hence we read in Genesis, "And the Lord God said, behold, the man is...to know good and evil." For each finite being had to be given a certain amount of free play within the world scheme. None could be unalterably confined to a fully preordained plan of movement...The ego is at first unable to look beyond its immediate selfish interests...It blindly seeks its happiness at the expense of others and thus introduces suffering into their lives and later by karmic retribution into its own life too. Evil doing is the price of its freedom. It is part of the divine manifestation and because it is free within certain limits
[what these limits are has been discussed in some detail in the article Bedtime Stories: Are They Real?
on this website], it has also been free to deform this manifestation, which is what all of us have done at some time or other."
"If it be true that the moment man dissociates himself from the Overself, evil is born, then the only radical cure for it is his re-association once again with the ever-waiting source...Only when he has seen his most cherished hopes wither and die, only when he has vividly felt the appalling transiency of external existence and only when he has felt in advance the prick of sharp thorns beneath every tempting rose, does he become reflectively self-aware. Then he perceives how he has misdirected his efforts and with this perception his life will take its most crucial turning-point and one more soul will have begun its quest of the Overself...There is no greater or grander moment in its life than this moment when such self-recognition dawns."
The sages of old out of their great wisdom started religions to give man at an earlier stage of development a means to worship and venerate a power greater than themselves, as well as a guide for moral action:
"How practical and how compassionate were those vanished sages who gave humanity its greatest religions, as distinct from those lesser vain and ambitious men who exploited it in the name of religion...For through religion it became possible to appeal suggestively to the popular imagination...It was in this manner that the sages succeeded in arousing uncultured mentalities and self-centered characters to the first recognition of an Ultimate Presence in the universe, a recognition which would only attain full consciousness when it had passed through all the stages of development embraced by mysticism and philosophy...The popular conceptions of God are not worthless, therefore, but in their time and place subserve an excellent purpose. Therefore the yearnings of millions of worshippers down through the ages have not been in vain; they were not deceived when they gave their belief to a higher power. Every religion has its measure of truth and holds its meed of usefulness."
It must be remembered at this point that with our explanations of geneology and the Bible, so far we are still speaking from the level of phenomena - what could be called the illusion, the ‘story’ - and not yet anything spiritual or the Truth.
But it has to be done, to reveal internal inconsistencies at even this level of consideration, since it remains the basis of much current discord in the world.
We will start at the very bottom stage of human conjecture and build up to a spiritual and then ultimate stance to show our inherent Oneness. Perhaps it is a hopeless task, but, then, are there any other kind of "tasks"? Our efforts may not "succeed", and as we age we wonder how much of an impact we can make, but it is the best in human nature to try to improve things and alleviate suffering if it can
So, getting down to things, first of all the Bible ‘story’ itself is not as straightforward as one might think. To take just two simple examples: one, it is said that God created Adam, the first earthly man, who knew Eve and had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain slew Abel and was sent east of Eden to the land of Nod, where he found his wife. Hello? Where did these people come from if Adam and Eve were the first people and had only two children?! This point was brought up at the famous Scopes trial. Racial theorists have then hypothesized that Adam was not the first man, but rather the first Caucasion
man, demonstrated by the fact that his face blushed red, concluding that therefore he must have been white. Kaballists, on the other hand, believe that earthly Adam (3760-2830 BCE), also known as Adam HaRishon
, was the first man - the image of Primal Man, by God’s design - to question higher, spiritual things, and wrote the first book of the Kaballah which was passed down through the ages and added to as further revelations were made to man. In Hindu scriptures, true man is spirit plus mind, or hu-man ('hu'=spirit, manas= mind). Humans ('manush') means 'Man hosh' or man with knowledge of who he really is. Unconscious man is 'behosh' and thus not really human. As the current view of the early migration of man sees him originating in Africa, thence to India, and from there to inner and eastern Asia as well as westward to the Middle East and Europe, this doctrine of primal man and earthly man with its different levels of interpretation has been successively passed on.
In the view of Caballah (of which more will be said further on) God’s later covenant with Abraham was that his descendants who became the Jews were to be, not some kind of master race, as the Babylonian Talmud declared, but a race of priests
, helping man restore himself to God.
Second, Noah was supposed to have filled the Ark with two of every species on earth. Actually, there are two conflicting Genesis accounts, one that Noah took seven pairs of the clean animals ("those fit for sacrifice", like sheep and goats), and one pair each of the unclean animals (basically meat-eaters) (Gen 7:2-3), while the other view in the same Book says that he took just two of all kinds (Gen 6:19-20). [more on the dual-story hypothesis later; in fact there were many such contradictory duel accounts in the Bible, suggesting different writers at work]. In either case, Hindu scriptures say there are 8,400,000 species on earth, give or take. Certainly there are many, that is beyond doubt. Are we supposed to believe that Noah took two lions, two jaguars, two anacondas, two pythons, two goats, two giraffes, two elephants, two wolves, two hyenas, two sheep, two horses, two mongooses, two elk, etc., etc.,- all 8,400,000 times two
(minus the fishes) - on board the Ark, which wasn't huge by any means, fed them the proper food and kept them from killing each other? What was he, some kind of Dr. Doolittle? And where did he get them all, living in the Middle East? Or was the so-called flood only a local one, as many claim, and therefore Noah’s job was considerably easier? One easily gets the point that these are kindergarten stories, allegories at best; I think they hold mysteries with which one must dig much deeper for the truth.
On top and above all of this is the fact that the billions of people in the world: black, brown, yellow, or red, who are not “People of the Book”, are equal in the eyes of true-God, Reality, and have important roles to play, and much from whom we can learn
. This should be obvious, inasmuch as the world seems to be rapidly evolving, yet unfortunately, the collective ego is dying a slow death. There are Muslims clerics who still believe that laws set by Muhammed for Saudi Arabia fifteen hundred years ago are the only way the world should be run today, and they are therefore also the only ones who should be in charge of the law
, Jews rabbis that believe they are the only ones entrusted with God’s knowledge, and who believe that all other races are 'cattle', and Christian clergy who believe their followers are the only ones who will be saved (as likewise believe the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses). The Christians support the Jews, but only because they believe in an obscure rapture theory invented in the 1800's by a man named Schofield, purportedly a Rothschild agent, in which Christ won't come again unless there is Armageddon in the Middle East, at which point all of the Jews that don't accept Christ as their personal savior will be killed. The Christian right support the 'neo-cons', with their favorite Bible passage, Romans 13
, as justification for blind obedience to the authority of their leaders and all of their planned wars, right or wrong. With friends like that, who needs enemies? All of this is craziness, if you haven't already guessed.
Religious wars have been fought for centuries - often based on money - but also associated with belief systems of various factions that have been significantly corrupted from the esoteric message of their founders. This cannot be overemphasized
. Religion has
been the "opiate of the masses" as Marx suggested, despite some of its good intentions. It begins with childhood indoctrination
, where a child coming from his pre-natal home, "trailing clouds of glory", learns to separate, defend, and hate. When belief systems are threatened, people revert to their reptilian brain and go on the attack. This has been true of the religions of the ‘People of the Book’ - brother has always been fighting brother - as well as adherents of Eastern religions as well - witness the slaughter between Muslims and Hindus during the partition of India in 1947 - still ongoing today, especially in Kashmir - and periodic fighting among Hindus and Sikhs. Since the Muslim community is getting the brunt of the heat these days, for both unjustifiable and
justifiable reasons, I will focus to a slightly greater degree on that tradition in this article, without intention to apologize for any group on any issue, sectarian or non-sectarian, as the case may be.
According to tradition, Prophet Muhammed (571-632) received the call to the Ministry of God after several years of intense spiritual discipline in the rough and barren cave Ghar-i-Hira in the suburbs of Mecca. He came at a time when the Arab peninsula was riddled with superstition, idolatry, pagan polytheism, and social degradation. There was no Arab state as such, but, rather, a multitude of individual tribes and groups.
Muhammed preached a message of monotheism, saying "There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his messenger."
Some legends say that he uttered these words at birth, but the common assumption is that they were proclaimed at the start of his mission when he was already forty years old. Muhammed taught that God was absolute transcendent power and man's primary duty was submission. His teachings brought open hostility from the rough and warlike Bedouin tribes of the desert, and in 622 A.D. He and his band of followers were forced to flee to Medina. Thereafter followed, unfortunately, one hundred years of relentless wielding the sword, some say in self-defense, fighting for the preservation and propagation of the newly-born faith, while others have a different view:
“Having escaped from Mecca and found a new and congenial home in Medina, Mohammed was not long in changing his front. At Mecca, surrounded by enemies, he taught toleration. He was simply the preacher commissioned to deliver a message, and bidden to leave the responsibility with his Master and his hearers. He might argue with the disputants, but it must be "in a way most mild and gracious; for "in religion there should be neither violence nor constraint." At Medina the precepts of toleration were quickly cast aside and his whole policy reversed. No sooner did Mohammed begin to be recognized and obeyed as the chief of Medina than he proceeded to attack the Jewish tribes settled in the neighborhood because they refused to acknowledge his claims and believe in him as a prophet foretold in their Scriptures; two of these tribes were exiled, and the third exterminated in cold blood.
[over one thousand killed; moreover, in biographies of Muhammed, the Archangel Gabriel is said to have told him to do it]. In the second year after the Hegira, or flight from Mecca (the period from which the Mohammedan era dates), he began to plunder the caravans of the Coreish, which passed near to Medina on their mercantile journeys between Arabia and Syria."
“So popular did the cause of the now militant and marauding prophet speedily become among the citizens of Medina and the tribes around A. D. 630 that, after many battles fought with varying success, he was able, in the eighth year of the Hegira to re-enter his native city at the head of ten thousand armed followers. Thenceforward success was assured. None dared to oppose his pretensions. And before his death, in the eleventh year of the Hegira, all Arabia, from Bab-el-Mandeb and Oman to the confines of the Syrian desert, was forced to submit to the supreme authority of the now kingly prophet and to recognize the faith and obligations of Islam.”
These authors further write:
“Islam was meant for Arabia, not for the world; for the Arabs of the seventh century, not for the Arabs of all time; and being such, and nothing more, its claim of divine origin renders change or development impossible. It has within itself neither the germ of natural growth nor the lively spring of adaptation. Mohammed declared himself a prophet to the Arabs; and however much in his later days he may have contemplated the reformation of other religions beyond the Peninsula, or the further spread of his own, still the rites and ceremonies, the customs and the laws enjoined upon his people, were suitable..for the Arabs of that day, and in many respects for them alone. Again, the code containing these injunctions, social and ceremonial, as well as doctrinal and didactic, is embodied with every particularity of detail, as part of the divine law, in the Koran; and so defying, as sacrilege, all human touch, it stands unalterable forever. From the stiff and rigid shroud in which it is thus swathed the religion of Mohammed cannot emerge. It has no plastic power beyond that exercised in its earliest days. Hardened now and inelastic, it can neither adapt itself nor yet shape its votaries, nor even suffer them to shape themselves to the varying circumstances, the wants and developments, of mankind.”
Strong words indeed, and a strong challenge to modern Islam. The important question is, are they true? To some degree, the answer is, historically, yes. Do they, as well as current actions by extremist regimes, verify scripture where it says of Ishmael, "He will be a wild ass of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers"
? The reader must ponder this "story" for himself. However, if one maintains that Mohammed was originally justified in using the sword to convert the semi-savage tribes of Arabia, then surely one can with equal justification state that it was a mistake of Islam to then go on to try to convert the more developed, civilized lands, such as those of the Christians and the Hindus.
The Sufi mystics speak so reverently of Muhammed the Prophet in their writings ("Following the behavior of the Prophet..is the root of islam. Sufism is the fruit of the tree of islam, or the fragrance of its fruit. If there be no root, how can there be any fruit?"
- Abu Anees Barkat Ali) that one is led to the conclusion that, either like persecuted Christains they were being orthodox in order to protect themselves, or that it was not
Muhammed’s quest to go out and conquer the world to acquire new "believers", as competing sects, such as Christians and Jews, often claim.(6)
For instance, the great Rumi, reknown for his mystical poetry and ecumenical spirit, also evidenced an orthodox side in asserting the primacy of the Qu'ran:
“Flee to God's Qur'an, take refuge in it
there with the spirits of the prophets merge.
The Book conveys the prophets' circumstances
those fish of the pure sea of Majesty.”
Rumi scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr states:
“One of the greatest living authorities on Rûmî in Persia today, Hâdî Hâ'irî, has shown in an unpublished work that some 6,000 verses of the Dîwân and the Mathnawî are practically direct translations of Qur'ânic verses into Persian poetry.”
The above authors are correct on one point, however: while eternal truth may vary, provincial and social needs evolve and change. Making legalistic, moral, and religious codes valid for all time enforced with the threat of violence is ego - not spirit - based religious dogmaticism. It is also a mistake, and a sign of an immature stage of human evolution, to blindly accept the absolute infallibility of 'religious' revelation. We have had more than enough of them, with conflicting interests and too often tragic consequences.
Although the Qu'ran largely consists of codes of social conduct, like the five books of Moses, and does not give detailed descriptions of the spiritual practises of Muhammed, here and there are gleamings of truth. We are told by Master-saints that his practise in the solitary cave Ghar-i-Hira (cave of Hira) was no other than that of Shughal-i-Nasiri
, or the Sound-current (Shabd, Namm, or Word), that works like an open sesame to the Kingdom of Allah. Sheikh Mohd. Akram Sabri tells us that the Prophet practiced communion with Awaz-i-mustqim
for fifteen years before he started receiving messages from the Archangel Gabriel. [At first Muhammed was afraid and thought he was being possessed by demons. He thought of suicide several times by throwing himself from a mountaintop, but kept hearing the message, "you are a prophet of God," and refrained from such drastic action].
We also learn that the prophet accomplished Shaqul-qamar
, i.e., he broke the moon in twain astride a milk-white charger barq
, which figuratively and literally means lightning. These are possible indications of preliminary experiences the ascending mystic soul passes through at the threshold of the astral world. Today we see symbolic references to this in the star and crescent moon on Muslim coinage and banners, with the populace largely ignorant of their real meaning.
All of this is largely unknown to the majority of the faithful in Islam, and part of the reason for that is that what was written down by or on behalf of the Prophet (or any religious figurehead) does not necessarily contain all of what he taught. That is, there is an exoteric and esoteric dimension to most faiths. For instance, a saying attributed to Muhammed (and I have not verified whether or not this is in the Qu'ran), was "die before you die."
This is identical to Jesus' famous, "learn to die so you may begin to live."
Death-in-life has been the message of all saints and sages. But the teaching of this esoteric process was not always given out to the majority of religious followers. Swami Vivekananda said:
“Do you think the scriptures contain all the secrets of spiritual practice? These are handed down secretly through a succession of Gurus and disciples.”
"Another noteworthy error on the part of most religionists is to assume that in their available orthodox scriptures they have everything which their Master taught. For no master could have taught the multitude what was fit only for the comprehension of the few."
Likewise, the Buddha is recorded to have once taken a bunch of simsapa leaves in his hand and asked his monks whether the leaves in his hand or those in the forest were greater in number. The monks naturally answered that the leaves in the forest were much greater. To which the Buddha replied:
"Similarly, O monks, what I know but have not taught is greater, and what I have taught is very little."
But today it is different. The whole globe, "everyman", is starting to wake from its long slumber and the Internet, especially, is spreading spiritual teachings like wildfire. Time for religious adherents of all faiths to bury the hatchet.
The famous "night journey" of Muhammed in 620 A.D. is held literally by many Muslims as a miraculous event in which the Prophet was actually physically transported to Jerusalem where he ascended through the seven heavens to the divine throne. One can see the naive parallels between this and the Christian belief in the ascension of Jesus (which was added to the canonical teachings hundreds of years after the crucifixion). A corporal vision of reality is substituted for a spiritual or mystlcal one.
Bound to the book, Muslims are rightly called the Kitabis
or the people of the Book. Muhammed may be the last in the chain of Prophets who have come for this particular group of peoples, but the Qu'ran does enjoin one to seek some mediator for contact with God. Yet instead of God-intoxicated saints and sages we still must contend with Mullahs, priests, and rabbis, with the innermost spiritual message of these faiths all but lost in the sands of time. (The outermost message being all about control and still very much intact).
Actually, Islam did not consider itself to be a new religion but a regeneration and continuation of the Judeo-Christian faith. The Qu'ran makes specific reference to the Jewish scriptures and the teachings of Christ, and Muslims believe that since the time of the biblical patriarch Abraham there has been only one true monotheistic religion or faith, with one omnipotent God who has sent many prophets, the last of which was Muhammed. The peoples of the Arabian peninsula, as mentioned, generally trace their origin to Abraham who bore a son Ishmael with the Egyptian slave-girl Hagar. Ishmael and Hagar are believed to have been exiled by Abraham because of the jealousy of his wife Sarah, and they eventually reached Mecca, where Abraham supposedly one day journeyed as well. Muslims believe that Abraham built the Kaaba, the sacred shrine of Mecca and the object of the annual pilgrimage. They also believe, and at least one version of the Qu'ran states that it was Ishmael that Abraham sacrificed and whom God mercifully spared and made a covenant with, and not his other son Isaac as Jews and Christians believe. Interestingly, however, the Qu'ran does recognizes Moses (Musa) as receiving a covenant with God for a chosen people in their
own land. In fact, the Qu'ran says that "for every nation there is a messenger, not just for Islam. Sufism considers true Islam the primordial religion, the doctrine of Unity, with many saints in every religion, and many religions descended from Adam, as far away as China. The Islamic ulama
of India consider the Hindus "people of the book." Sufi Dara Shuk 'uh thought the Upanishads to be the "Hidden Books" mentioned in the Qu'ran, and some Muslim Indian commentators felt that the prphet Dhu'l-Kifi to have been the Buddha, and the fig tree in surah 95 to be the Bodhi tree under which the buddha attained his enlightenment. Zoroastrians were always considered as "people of the book" also. Indeed, the prophetic hadith 'Seek knowledge even in China', was reiterated in the Conference of the Birds, by Attar, where it speaks of the Simurgh, a symbol of the Divine Essence, first appearing in China. So perhaps even of all religions Islam is the most universal when understood in depth.
This Islamic theory about Ishmael is, of course, in contradiction with the book of Genesis. But, who knows if even that
is the infallible, inspired truth, and not partly a story made up or altered by a priesthood to justify the special status of a particular "tribe" of people? Do we really know
? The culmination of a thousand years of research has concluded that the Torah, otherwise known as the Books of Moses - the first five books of the Old Testament - were written long after Moses left the earth, and are the product of four different documents, patched together by an unknown redactor into an often contradictory story (events occuring out of sequence, Moses purporting to be aware of things that happened long after he died, etc.). This is known as the Documentary Hypothesis, which only got Church approval as late as 1943 when Pope Pius II called it a "Magna Carta for biblical progress". Prior to this those who put forth the theory that the Books of Moses weren't written by Moses were damned, jailed, or otherwise ostracized. Two of the sources have been determined to be from a writer(s) favorable to the northern kingdom known in biblical times as Israel, with one favorable to the history of the southern kingdom known as Judah. The Book of Deuteronomy, in addition, is written in a style completely
unlike the other books. Moreover, a close analysis of the Book of Genesis reveals: two different creation stories; two flood stories; two stories of Abraham's naming of his son Isaac; two different references to God, one personal and one cosmic, i.e., one called Yahweh and one called El or Elohim (the latter which sometimes means plural); two versions of Abraham declaring to a foreign king that his wife Sarah was his sister; two versions of God's covenant with Abraham, etc. This form of binary evidence became known in the eighteenth century as the "dublet". [see the scholarly but accessible book, Who Wrote the Bible
(1997), by Richard Elliott Friedman, for more details on the whys and wherefores of all this].
I feel in this matter we may need to call on another such as Gurdjieff
, who confessed that the aim of his teachings were:
“To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises
whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and
views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the
Islam doesn't believe in Christ's crucifixion, death, or resurrection, claiming that he lived and taught for many years in both the near and far East. Many occult writers of the nineteenth century had similar views, as well as the view held by Hislop (The Two Babylons), a book called The Sixteen Crucified World Saviors, and more recently by Acharya S. (Christianity: The Greatest Story Ever Sold), that Christ was an amalgamation of Solar myths created by the Romans to bring the pagans into the fold and religious unity to the empire. She makes a good argument, except for several critical points. The Annals of Tacitus
, written in 115 CE, states that Jesus was executed during the reign of Tiberius when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea:
"To dispel the rumor that the fire was started by Nero, Nero substituted as culprits, and treated with the most extreme punishments, some people, popularly known as Christians, whose disgraceful activities were notorious. The originator of that name, Christus, had been executed when Tiberius was Emperor, by order of the procurator Pontius Pilatus. But the deadly cult, though checked for a time, was now breaking out again not only in Judea, the birthplace of this evil, but even throughout Rome, where all the nasty and disgusting ideas from all over the world pour in and find a ready following.”
This means there were a significant number of Christians in Rome in 64AD, only 30 years after the Crucifixion of Christ. Also, Flavius Josephus (37-98 CE), the most famous Jewish historian, was a Jewish zealot, not a follower of Jesus, who changed sides and became the Roman Emperor's adviser on Jewish affairs. His history book, Antiquities of the Jews, describes Palestine in the time of Jesus:
"About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, for he was a performer of wonderful deeds, a teacher of such men as are happy to accept the truth. He won over many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the leading men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him at the first did not forsake him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day."
(Antiquities, Book 18, 63-64.)
He also said that the High Priest Ananias had:
"Convened the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish religious court/governing body). He had brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, who was called James, and some other men, whom he accused of having broken the law, and handed them over to be stoned."
(Antiquities, Book 20, 200).
Apart from these two historians, there is
little evidence outside of the four gospels on the life of Jesus. More recent research and the apochryphal findings such as the gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas, dated relatively early, testify to the existence of a great holy man and his direct, initiating work with disciples. There are also the fascinating so-called "Infancy Gospels", referred to for stories in the Koran and elsewhere and also known to the early Christians, but not accepted by the Church Councils, which tell of the life of Jesus up until he was twelve and amazed the scribes in the temple, which is mysteriously absent from the Bible accounts. (10a) Whether these are true or not, many miraculous stories abound about his life as a youth and in early manhood, testifying to great wisdom and spiritual power. And there is a large body of legend, and a manuscript in Tibet, telling of Jesus travels East between the ages of twelve and when he started his mission at twenty-nine, a period also absent from the Canonical gospel accounts. The legends across the Asian continent about this and also about his continued ministry after
the crucifixion are too widespread to be only the product of the publishing of books by Nicholas Notovich and Swami Abhedananda in the early twentieth century. In the holy Koran it is maintained:
"And they killed him not, nor did they cause his death on the cross."
The further sayings of Prophet Muhammed mention that Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred twenty. There is a wealth of information on this available with a simple google search.[For some of this additional speculation on the life of Jesus see Hellenic Buddhism and Buddhist Christianity
on this website, and also, The Second Coming of Christ
, by Paramahansa Yogananda].
The Qu'ran teaches that God revealed himself to Jews and Christians through holy books but that they misinterpreted his message, which the Qu'ran intended to set straight. The Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Koran were gifts from God to Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammed, according to the Qu'ran. Muslims believe, however, that in their holy book "all things are revealed,"
and that Muhammed was the "seal of the prophets,"
the last necessary messenger of God. The expression of the divine on earth was henceforth to be the holy Qu'ran, which Muslims maintain was not written by an inspired individual but was an exact reproduction of God's original text given through Mohammed. Raised as a simple shepherd boy, the "unlettered prophet"
, Mohammed is considered to have received the Qu'ran in elegant and polished Arabic from the Archangel Gabriel while in intense moments of deep meditation, whose voice, originating in the reverberation of bells, would gradually assume sound, shape and form. [Interestingly, Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, who we will have much to say about later, in his last days also claimed to have received communications from Gabriel]. The Qu'ran is considered as the unfallible word of God (much like the Bible is to fundamentalist Christians and Jews), but the fact is that, while the above method of reception is certainly possible, the book itself was most likely compiled, or at least amended and expanded, by followers of Muhammed from his rough notes and their memory of his inspired words. It would therefore be, like all scriptures: Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.), possibly not infallible but subject to human error, in transcription if not in reception as well. “The letter killeth; spirit giveth life,”
says Jesus and all higher traditions. Giving the Prophet the benefit of the doubt (which would only be contradicted by the findings of legitimate scholarship), it is highly possible that the parts of the Qu'ran enjoining exclusivity were added by zealots who were not in line with the true import of his essential teachings, which were to be those of the "Prophet of Peace." As we will later show, it is doubtful that the present version of the Qu'ran is the same as the original. And it is a sad note that in this day and age one risks his life in even suggesting something like this.
And a sad year for the world it was in in 651 A.D., when, with the death of Yazdagird, last of the Sassanid dynasty, the southern hordes of Islam for the first time marched onto the soil of Iran and began their great, rapacious advance eastward. The kings of the Orient had cause to fear the coming of the Arabs. These southerners were a patchwork of desert tribes woven together by the threads of by then a fanatical monotheism and a religion which encouraged them to slay with the sword those whom they could not convert to their personal dominion:
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day,"
says the Qu'ran (Sura 9:29), " ...until they pay you tribute out of hand, having brought them low."
“I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” (Sura 8:12)
“This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed my favour unto you, and have chosen for you as your religion Islam.”
It seems that there was little choice in the matter: either pay tribute, be killed, or accept the chosen faith. Initially, Muhammad had some good things to say about the Christians, but as time wore on, his attitude changed. Note that Suras 9 and 5 were some of the last Suras to be spoken by Muhammad. Quotes are from Dawood's translation of the Quran.
"Believers take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends."
"Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the last days, who do not forbid what God and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued. The Jews say Ezra is the son of God
[Note: Where do they say this? It appears likely that Ezra may have been the scribe who wrote several of the books of the Old Testament, but nowhere have I heard him called "the son of God"], while the Christians say the Messiah is the Son of God. Such are their assertions by which they imitate the infidels of old. God confound them! How perverse they are!”
(Sura 9:28 - 30)
What has been the result of belief in these words? Let us see. Pakistan has laws that forbid blaspheming Muhammad. Recently a Christian was under the death sentence because of such a trumped up charge. Last year a mob of 30,000 Muslims attacked the only predominately Christian village in Pakistan, and destroyed churches, robbed and destroyed businesses, kidnapped and raped Christian girls, and destroyed many people's homes. Christian churches are frequently attacked and destroyed by Muslims in Egypt, and Christians themselves are targeted and killed. Muslims are now attacking Christians in their churches and shooting them. Recently, the Saudi's have arrested many Christians who meet in small house churches. These people are jailed, tortured, and some are executed. In addition, Saudi law dictates the death penalty for anyone converting to a faith other than Islam. Muslim mobs there have destroyed over 50 churches in the last few years. Christians have been killed in these attacks. Not so long ago the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates ruled that a man is free to beat up his wife as long as he does not leave any marks. Saudi Arabia asked a hospital to surgically mutilate a young man’s spinal cord as penalty for injuring another man in a fight. During the famine in Somalia this summer, Islamic militants forbade aid workers to bring food for thousands of Somalis who were starving to death.
All in all not a pretty picture. We are all still “so many beasts moving in human form” (Sanskrit: “manusya-rupena mrgascaranti”
). Where is the Islam that believes in Sura 5:33, which states:
"Saving one life is akin to saving all humanity"
And then, for those spiritually inclined, perhaps one of the most unfortunate and wanton acts was the destruction in 1193 A.D. of the university of Nalanda in India, one of the most famous centers of learning in the ancient world, where ten thousand students at a time would study scriptures and other subjects. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as the Turkic Muslim Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword (11); the burning of the library continued for several months and "smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills." (12)
To be fair, the Israelites were always fighting and slaughtering neighboring tribes, and later Christians launched the infamous Crusades, then the Thirty Years War and the Inquisition. Jewish bankers of Wall Street funded Lenin and Trotsky, and later Adolph Hitler, pitting Christian against Christian. Now the United States government,(nominally) Christian, is funding both Israelis and
Muslims (you did go down the rabbit hole, didn’t you?). On top of that Muslims and Jews are in bitter dispute over the "Dome of the Rock" in Jerusalem, a holy site for both faiths, when scripture clearly declares:
"Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool.
What house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did I not make all these things?"
Yet, nowhere in the Qu'ran does it mention Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have been under the gun ever since the terrorist Jewish Irgun and Stern gangs, trained on German
soil (how's that to further show how deep the rabbit hole goes?), invaded their territory in 1946, poisoned wells and killed many, fighting to establish a state of Israel. The protagonists' argument was, "we (the Jews) are a people without a land
, coming to a land without a people
." Problem was, when they got there, they found, "there are people
here!" The question presents itself: was this
violence on the Palestinians karmic retribution for the aggressive actions of Muslims from centuries past? Maybe. Perhaps. Who knows? We are not in a position to judge, surely, and it is not important, because NOW is the only reality. Still, PB long ago wrote:
"The chequered surface of history is largely a tale of tears and chance but its depths are a revelation of evolutionary unfoldment working alongside of karmic readjustment. There is a just logic in the sequence of historic events but it reveals itself only if we examine them by the light of the doctrine of karma. We must recognize that there is a common national karma from which neither prince nor pauper is exempt...During its early and middle phases a historic-karmic cycle proceeds slowly but when it approaches its culmination the momentum of change, dissolution, and destruction increases with dramatic speed. At the general turning-point when a new cycle is about to open the disturbance of conditions becomes like an irresistable avalanche, men and their methods going to devastating but temporary extremes...For when a world-view has ceased to suffice for mankind it begins to germinate its own destruction through the karmic woes which it breeds. Thus those who will not walk willingly along the road to ethical and mental enlightenment have to walk it under the compulsion of self-earned sorrows. The fact of the failure of the materialistic outlook, the lesson of their own experience bids mankind distrust and denounce it. Thus materialism is being destroyed not only from without by the superior offerings of mysticism and philosophy, but also from within by the cancerous consequences and miserable failure of its own ethic."
People will always argue who really started what. Was it the Muslims when they poured out of Arabia in the 630s? Or was it the West when it invaded the Near East with the Crusades starting in 1099? Or was it the Muslims when the Turks took Constantinople in 1453 (although only 40 year later the Muslims would lose Grenada, in Spain, as the reconquista was completed) and then moved on to almost conquer Europe before being turned back at Vienna in 1683? Or is it more relevant just to look at recent history, starting at the beginning of the 19th century, when the West conquered and colonized every single Muslim country? Or the very recent past, when Muslims were counter-attacking, using a new military approach popularly called “terrorism”? Or was it when the Zionists took over Palestine by force? Somewhere the finger-pointing has to stop, and it can only stop with wisdom.
Well, let's be honest. Now it's the Jews turn. Was there any tribe in the Middle East with whom the Jews didn't go to war? Was there any error, sin or misfortune that the Jews had not committed or suffered? Is there any glory they have not enjoyed? History is largely a record of war, disaster and misgovernment. And the Jews have more history than anybody. They kept records. They remembered. They taught and reminded. Menachem Begin and the other terrorists who founded the modern state of Israel surely studied how their ancestor Joshua had conquered Canaan three thousands earlier. Moshe Dayan must have felt the blood of David in his veins as he slew the Arabs and Syrians. (14). President of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, must also learn from King Herod's example from two thousand years ago. But there has always been an uncomfortable tension between the Jewish culture and religion on the one hand and Jewish government on the other. The Israelites developed the world's most advanced and sophisticated literature. In commerce they were unsurpassed. Their religion was perhaps the most humane ever. Asked by a cynic if the Torah could be understood by a man standing on one leg, the rabbi Hillel, about the time of Christ, responded: "That which is hateful to thyself do not do it to another. That is the whole law. The rest is just commentary."
But when it came to government the Jews made as big a mess of it as everyone else. David may have been a freedom fighter, but Solomon, although a true man of God and reknown in the ancient world for his great wisdom, was a despot who imposed onerous taxes and policies that favored the southern kingdom over the northern and led to the breakup of the empire.
[He has been considered a womanizer; the biblical record says that he had seven hundred daughters of kings as wives and three hundred concubines. However, it should be noted that in his day a 'wife' was a symbol of a great accomplishment, an omniscient understanding of the entire history of the universe and its connection with humanity, and Solomon, who had asked the Lord for the foundation of knowledge and an understanding heart, became known as 'the King of one thousand magnificent accomplishments', symbolically spoken of as Solomon's 'thousand wives.' Later were added 'three thousand more' and his songs 'were a thousand and five.' "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore."
(I Kings 4:29-32)]
Continuing, Judah Maccabee may have been a reformer and a purist, but Alexander Jannaeus was a monster. He was the first to adopt the Roman practice of crucifixion, which he took up with some relish. In one orgy of meanness, he had 800 of his enemies crucified and while they were still living, he had their wives and children brought out and their throats cut before their eyes. King Herod was little better. Political power corrupts. Many Jews thought they were better off without it. They figured they couldn't serve two masters. Either they were true to their religion or they bent to political necessities, which they saw as evil. Like the rest of us, Jews seem to do best when they stay out of politics. They flourished under the Persians, the Seleucids, even the Babylonians.
Today, there is a split between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews
. They aren’t killing each other like rival Muslim divisions, but they do have vehement opposition to each other’s views. Basically, the anti-Zionist Jews (who are marginalized by the Zionists in power by calling them “self-hating Jews") believe that the Old Testament says that because the Jews disobeyed God they lost, for a time at least, the everlasting covenant that God had made with Abraham, a covenant that was conditional
under Moses, and were destined to be dispersed from Israel until the Messiah came. One such movement is known as Naturei Karta
. They don't believe the Messiah has come yet, so they view the political formation of the state of Israel as both illegitimate and an act of violence against the Palestinians who had lived there for two thousand years (another complexity: not all in Palestine are Palestinians; some are immigrants from other countries, of which even some came there to work when Israel was being built. And also interestingly, the PLO has not been composed entirely of Palestinians: Yasar Arafat, in fact, was an Egyptian, and other leaders have come from Syria and elsewhere).. The Naturei Karta and other non-Zionist Jews likewise reject the more radical vision of "Greater Israel" of some of the Zionist leaders, that is, of rule "from the Nile to the Euphrates", the ancient kingdom of David (which scripturally wasn't necessarily the "Nile" either but vaguely written as "the brook in Egypt"). On September 14, 2008, even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remarked, however, that "Greater Israel
(meaning , in this case, holding onto the West Bank and Gaza) is over. There is no such thing. Anyone who talks that way is deluding themselves".
(Ha’aretz, 9-14-08) That was a big step forward from Menachim Begin, Prime Minister of Israel from 1977-1983 and arguably a Rothschild agent, who once said:
“Our race is the master race. We are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from the inferior races as they are from insects. In fact, compared to our race, other races are beasts and animals, cattle at best. Other races are considered as human excrement. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron. The masses will lick our feet, and serve us as our slaves.”
Words like these straight out of the Babylonian Talmud do no advance the cause of peace for the oppressed! Okay, let's carry this consideration a step further. By doing so we will see that no assigning of praise or blame is possible. Who is to say that any Christian wasn't a Muslim or Jew in his last life, or that a Muslim of today wasn't a Jew or Christian in his
previous life, and so on? Maybe all those reading (and writing) this article were! Reincarnation was an accepted teaching in the early years of the Abrahamic faith as well as among the early Christians [i.e., Jesus himself, apparently, confirmed to his disciples that John the Baptist had been the prophet Elias (Matthew 17:10-13)], only later re-interpeted or expunged in favor of the doctrine that Jehovah-God created man with a body and soul, a psycho-physical unity, all at once, from the "breath of his nostrils" and the "dust of the earth." So few among the believers have had the intellectual tools with which to rise above their provincialism and contemplate the possibility that they may be even more closely related to each other than they might think, thus lessening their exclusive allegiance to tribe, race, or creed.
The way I think of it is like this. Being philosophically inclined, I could never get excited or become a fan of any one football or baseball team. Why? because, just as the cells of our body are changed every seven years, and just as our personality changes as we age, i.e., that they have no fixed identity, so are the professional ball clubs constantly changing and trading their individual members as well. They have no "fixed identity" either. There is, in my way of looking at it, no such "thing" as "Yankees", "Cubs", etc. Call me anti-social if you will but that's the way I look at things. Similarly, each generation of religious believers are different from the preceeding ones, with different karmic backgrounds as well. They, then, inherently, have no "fixed religious identity" as well, unless they believe it so. Currently, perhaps 95-99% of the mass of believers in each of the three major faiths desire reform, peace, and the freedom to just live their lives, and are not stuck in seventh century religiosity (as extremists Muslims are), or three thousand year-old religiosity (as extremist Jews are), or two thousand years of Church dogma (as Christian leaders are).
The so-called "Arab Spring" currently underway is largely a protest against dictatorial oppression, secondarily of U.S. incursion into their lands, and sixty years of violence against the Palestinians. Hundreds of thousands of protestors in Tunesia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, however, are demonstrating, not
for Jihad, but largely for dignity, prosperity, freedom and democracy - all mortal enemies of Islamic militants who wish to turn back the clock to tribal times. But unfortunately there are enough misguided, angry young men (and women) out there highly impressionable to the Jihadists' messages of hate to cause trouble. Religion is perhaps the strongest psychological compensation on the planet, for which people are willing to die for their beliefs, right or wrong. And, the sages tell us, ultimately all
beliefs are wrong, being but products of the mind.
On the bright side, a recent Pew Research Center study found that only 1% of Muslim Americans feel suicide bombing and other forms of violence are justified.
As elaborately drawn in my essay, "Bedtime Stories: Are They Real", the picture of karma and reincarnation is very complex, mysterious, and even paradoxical. Karma is a universal law, but must also be universally applied. Thus, pointing the finger and definitively assigning blame for the world's problems is a fruitless and well-nigh impossible task. The problem, then, is the following: we are all in this together
. Since there is Only-God, the One, Al-lah, the Alpha and Omega, we are All affected by each other, responsible for each other, and inseparable from each other - except when seen from the separative point of view of the "I-am-the-body" idea. Therefore, the old attachments and stories must die, if there is to be any hope of a real peace. This may continue to take some time, but it is inevitable and the only way.
If the above examples of inter-religious conflict aren't enough, Muslims are killing Muslims, due to a thirteen-hundred year hatred between rival sects, Sunni and Shia, the Shia who believe that only direct descendants of Muhammed should be chosen to rule, with the Sunnis maintaining that any worthy man is fit to rule. As dictator after dictator (who, while brutal, provided stability to their countries) is overthrown, this age-old conflict is set to flare up even more, with potentially the largest hot-spot being between Shia-led Iran and the oppressive Sunni-led Saudi Arabia (with a Shi'ite majority, as in many of these countries).
While much of the current turmoil in Muslim countries is from a desire for freedom of the oppressed, a fair share of it is also
, as shown, due to powerful interests intent on world control who are stirring up brother against brother, playing both sides against the middle (15), using Hegelian dialectic ("thesis -antithesis-synthesis", or "problem-crisis-solution"
) as they have done for centuries. One World sounds good (“Imagine there’s no countries, it’s easy if you can...”) - until you are aware of who intends to run it. (16) World unity is a distant goal humanity is headed for, but the forces of darkness that PB said encircle our globe in a "psychological belt inhabited with the most degraded, malignant, and untruthful of the inhabitants of the spirit world"
, and which he said were the secret inspiration behind Hitler and his men [who were all into occultism and held seances; Hitler in fact was in mortal fear of some dark force or being; see The Morning of the Magicians
for more detail], are maintained by some to even now be usurping the right intention of this global vision, providing "inspiration" under cover of darkness to those who would be in charge of the "new world order". One but needs witness all of the occult symbolism and imagery surrounding the rites, rituals, and organizations (social, corporate, media, and governmental) of the elite to see that this is so. Ultimately they can't win, but things may be nasty for a while.
But we can do our small part to make it just a little better, and hope for a global awakening worthy of a coming Golden Age. With approximately only ten thousand people controlling six billion, the odds should be stacked in favor of good prevailing, even in this world of duality. Let us pray that it be so. And offer a prayer that the Internet, the greatest vehicle for the advancement of human freedom the world has ever known, stays open, as the Tibetans have been doing
During his meditation, as the story goes, Muhammed was visited by Gabriel who commanded "Recite!"
When the prophet asked "What shall I recite?"
the reply given was "Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from clots of blood! Recite! Your Lord is the most bountiful one, who by the pen taught man what he did not know."
Theories of Gabriel's appearance range from that of literal physical encounter to purely mystical revelation. Just as the famous transfiguration on the mount of Jesus with three of his disciples was more likely at the mount of transfiguration, the third eye of mystical vision, so may Muhammed's experiences be viewed in accord with spiritual possibilities. It was only the ancient mentality and world view that projected the heavens on the external sky, whereas such dimensions are 'within’ man himself.
Muhammed received messages from Gabriel for twenty years. Each revelation caused him to fall down in a groaning, sweating fit. He was accused of madness, fakery, and imagination, and modern detractors have introduced the theory that he suffered from epilepsy. The same charge was made against Padre Pio, a modern miracle worker, and other Christian saints, whose mystical experiences evoked a wide range of physical symptomology for which limited minds could find no other explanation than a psychiatric one. The important question is, are they true?
Muhammed's mission, as taught in Islam, was twofold: first, to bring monotheism and his book of Truth to a pagan people and, second, to correct the errors that the earlier 'People of the Book' (ie., Christians and Jews) had made. One of these outstanding errors from the point of view of the Qu'ran was the notion that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. According to Muhammed, Jesus was to be respected as a prophet. To associate any person or object with the Deity is the one unpardonabIe sin in Islam. This is actually a reasonable position. For the Absolute to have a single man as a personal 'son' is unphilosophical. The Absolute and the Son are, in mystic and philosophic circles, divine Principles, not persons. A being can be one with his divine Soul, or the incarnation of 'a' god, or in Jesus’ case, according to PB, a higher being from another planet who came to earth with a special mission, as a 'planetary Logos', but he as a person is not the 'Son' of the Absolute Ground of Being.The Christian notion of a trinity, for similar - although inaccurate reasoning - is also not acceptable to Islam.
"Allah is one, the Eternal God. He begot none, nor was he begotten. None is equal to him." (Sura 112).
In its highest expression, this should mean that He didn't "beget" humans as well, as beings separate from him, yet this is how it has been interpreted, except in Sufi and other mystic circles. If this was understood, then it would be accepted that "God", per se, as a Supreme "other", never personally "sent" any Prophets to spread "His" message" either. It is closer to the truth that certain men in tune with their Souls were spiritually inspired to reveal a portion of the evolutionary impulse of the "World-Idea" held in the "mind of God", such "God" being Itself a first thought or active aspect of the Godhead, Mind, Being, Consciousness, or Perfect Presence that is the only true Existent. Even this itself is an "advanced story", but a step beyond the more personified story upheld by the exoteric religions of the People of the Book.
"Those who say, 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son', preach a monstrous falsehood, at which the very heavens might crack, the earth breaks asunder and the mountains crumble to dust. That they should ascribe a son to the Merciful when it does not become Him to beget one!" (Sura 19:88)
Al-lah is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular (tawhid). God is unique (wahid) and inherently One (ahad), all-merciful and omnipotent. The Qur'an asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the entire creation. According to the Qur'an:
"Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him."
(Sura 112:1-4, Yusuf Ali)
Here we must get a bit technical and raise the bar of thinking in this essay, for the moment. The above Sura is the highest expression within the innermost part of the exoteric Islamic tradition, but it is not exactly the total truth. First, 'God', according to Ibn al 'Arabi, is not the transcendental Absolute Essence in Islam, but the product of a 'most holy emanation' of the one Absolute, which produces God or Allah along with permanent archtypes which later through a 'holy emanation' or 'breath of the Merciful' become the things of this world. But the Absolute (which is only What Is, and not "Absolute" relative to any "thing") is not, except in its absoluteness, radically independent of the world; the world is an apparent determination by the Absolute and not apart from it. The Unity is One interpenetrating Eternal Being or Substance. The Sufis have taught this point, but exoteric Islam (or Judaism, or Christianity) does not.
By extension the exoteric teaching of Islam does not allow the possibility for an individual to exist in union with or even to exist as distinct-but-non-separate from God, which was the view of PB , Plotinus, and other sages. Man in Islam can at best be devoted to God (or his idea of God) and look forward to the heaven of the believer, but he cannot be expected to realize the divine, in this life or the next. Such a view is the essential exoteric or popular Christian belief as well, in which a monotheistic creator-God is held to be eternally separate from man. In a modified and more sophisticated form (based as it is on the possibility of spirit-communion and also not on radical separation from God) this is also the point of view of the qualified monism of the Indian saint Ramanuja, who held that liberated souls after death would dwell in Vaikunth or Heaven, sporting with the divine Lord but never attaining oneness with Him.
If Christianity and Islam come from the same roots (the lineage of Abraham and the Old Testament patriarchs) then why should doctrinal conflicts exist such that men are willing to fight to the death over them? It seems that that is just is human nature at the present stage it is in. And why should Islamic monotheism be incompatible, for instance, with the trinitarian doctrine of Christianity, since exoteric Christianity is also essentially monotheistic? One answer is this: there is a problem with language, and the promulgation of teachings the ego is willing to defend at all costs. All religions tend to become a degeneration from the original message of their founders, and use oaths and belief systems which their followers cling to in order to protect themselves from their own fear of death and hope for survival. Whether it is a cause, or a belief in a heavenly afterlife, the result is the same form of psychological compensation. Moreover, in every case of the three main Middle Eastern faiths, the official "book" has been misinterpreted, re-written, re-interpreted, redacted, were written by multiple human
authors, with doctrines put in or taken out by human
agents, so in the end we result in some serious problems with each religion. The Moslems believe that tribal rules written in the Koran explicitly for the Arabian peninsula - Muhammed's original mission being to bring together the primitive, savage tribes into one monotheistic faith, sometimes having to take up the sword to defend him and his followers - were to become the rules to live by for the entire globe fifteen hundred years later, and have a mission to make that happen. Muhammed did the best he could, and gave out some simple rules to live by for a simple people, like praying five times a day and promise of a reward in the afterlife. They were not sophisticated people for whom he could advocate meditation or a higher metaphysics. The Muslims went wrong when they extended their path of conquest to the civilized Christian and Hindu nations. Just so, the Jews might have accepted Jesus when he came and justified their chosen role in preparing the House of David for the messiah, whose 'kingdom was not of this world', and as prophecy foretold. Moses proclaimed, ”The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”
(Deut. 18:15). And the words of Jesus himself echoed this saying, ”For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”
(John 5:46). Psalm 21 was recognized by ancient rabbis as a hymn of the Messiah. See also Psalms 39,68, 108, 40, 15, and 8. Instead, they held to a nostalgia for their ancient status a a free nation (which wasn't for that long of a period, in historical terms, perhaps a thousand years at best, and that as a group of twelve tribes - ten of which were 'lost' in 722 B.C.) and going on to seek worldly goals instead of those purely spiritual, and also align themselves (or, more accurately, their leaders) with a master-race theory adopted from the Babylonian Talmud and found nowhere in the Torah. Finally, the Christians of today that think their mission is to spread the Gospel to the whole world should realize that when those words were uttered by Jesus the 'world' meant the Roman Empire, and that St. Paul and Timothy said they were 'forbidden of the Holy Spirit from taking the Word to Asia'. The only reason that the evangelical Christians are supporting the political state of Israel today is because of a distorted belief derived from the Schofield Bible, written in the late 1800's by a man, purportedly by some to have been a zionist Rothschild agent, who essentially 'invented' the 'rapture doctrine' - found nowhere in the Bible - which holds that Jesus will not return until Armageddon occurs. Strange belief, indeed, especially as the Jews who these Christians claim to be the 'chosen people' and their friends are supposed to be wiped out during this Armageddon unless they accept Christ as personal savior! Who needs friends like that? Perhaps, those who need their money and support for wars in the Middle East? Yes, serious problems abound indeed with these 'messianic' religions. [The Muslim Imams also teach of the coming of a savior or Mahdi and an Armageddon
between the major powers. One wonders if there is a common origin in the dissemination of these teachings with the intent to enslave, rather than save?]
We cannot blame the great prophets and sages, such as Moses, Jesus, or Muhammed. As PB writes:
"They gave to the people what they needed, and the highest wisdom within their comprehension. They did not give them the hidden philosophy, the highest teaching open to man...The Sages do not give a doctrine which is once and for all delivered to all mankind. They give a teaching suited to a particular section of mankind and for a particular period."
On a slightly higher level, the two camps, Muslim and Christian, for instance, moreover are either speaking of different things, or of the same thing on different levels or from different points of view. Islam unnecessarily rejects the conception of the trinitarian nature of the divine (which is not incompatible with monotheism, in its highest form), while Christianity (outside of the mystical traditions within the Church, as embodied in persecuted figures like Meister Eckhart and St. John of the Cross) distorts and objectivizes it. Even this isn't universally true, for nineteenth century Persian Sufi poet Hatif Isfahanai praised Christianity as being an affirmation of Divine Unity once properly understood. He wrote in his poem Tarji Band, speaking the part of a Christian, "If thou art aware of the Secret of the Divine Unity no not cast on us the stigma of infidelity! In three mirrors the Eternal beauty cast a ray from His efflugent countenance."
Conventional Islam rightly criticizes the Christian objectification or personalization of the Godhead and the Trinity, but itself argues for a "One God" that in its exoteric form is not based on experiential realization, but is still conceptual and ego-based, or derived from an ego-based point of view.
Islam in general, with the above exception, fails to understand that the triune divinity is a form of expression of God found in many religions that does not contradict the ultimate unitive nature of Reality. It only tries to approximates the functional and experiential realization of that Reality more accurately. The Hindu Mahapurusha-Atman-Shakti, the Buddhist Mind-Emptiness-Luminosity, Plotinus' One, Intellectual Principle or Nous, and Soul, and the Christian Father-Son-Holy Ghost point to experiential or ontological dimensions of the divine in comparison to which the "one God" of Islam, in general (except for its saints, such as in the more or less ostracized, and by necessity mostly secretive, Sufi lineages) is never experienced or actually known, but is merely believed
. Islam suffers, in the manner of all exoteric religions (or religions limited to the gross or phenomenal point of view) by theorization without benefit of ego-transcendence and transcendence of the conceptual mind. Christianity also, by failing to do likewise, speaks of profundities like the Trinity without understanding its true significance. The exoteric form of Christianity is actually a blend of Judaic monotheism with neo-Platonism, bereft of the latter's mystical understanding.
Judaism, like Islam, is based on a strict monotheism, expressed in the belief in one indivisible God. The worship of multiple gods (polytheism) and the concept of a singular God having multiple persons (as in the doctrine of Trinity) are equally unimaginable in Judaism. God is conceived of as eternal, the creator of the universe, and the source of morality. God has the power to intervene in the world. The term God supposedly corresponds to an ontological reality and is not merely a projection of the human psyche. Maimonides describes God in this fashion: "There is a Being, perfect in every possible way, who is the ultimate cause of all existence. All existence depends on God and is derived from God."
The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical in Judaism - it is considered akin to polytheism, as it also is in Islam. God, the Cause of all, is one. God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah: "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One."
Here is where the traditional Middle Eastern faiths of Judaism and Islam depart from the eastern schools of Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, where God or the One Absolute is not a Creator who intervenes in the lives of his worshippers, but rather is the Acausal Ground of Being, whose active aspect is what might be called God
that projects or manifests an apparent creation filled with apparent separate beings, or ego-selves in the case of humans. With such a view, a doctrine akin to the Trinity makes more sense than to posit one Singular God. For, as Kabir said, "If I say He is one, the question of two arises."
In the esoteric streams within the faiths, this is not so much of a problem.
The real nature of the one unpardonable sin becomes clear, whether in Christianity or Islam, as the sin against the Holy Spirit, or the denial of the Spirit, by objectification of the divine non-egoic Reality, and the belief in separation from that reality. The Christian who thus sins against the Holy Spirit suffers his mortal vision as a result, whereas the Muslim who assigns exclusive divinity or demonism to any object or person fails to see Al-lah everywhere. The outer message of all of the religions of the People of the Book is worship of a “super-ego created" Creator God who must be placated, obeyed, and worshipped, not one of a Perfect Absolute Reality, Being, or Presence, the One Divine Person Alive as every Being. This we find in unadulterated form only in the East. Swami Rangathananda writes:
“We get a faint echo of this idea in the Old Testament. When Moses confronted a divine voice, he asked the voice, “Who are you, what shall I tell my people?” And the voice replied, “I AM THAT I AM. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus, 3.14) That is the nature of God - the eternal “I”. We find its rational explanation only in the Upanishads and nowhere else...No doubt the great Christian, Muslim and other mystics experienced the truth, but they could not expound it because of the strong theological constraints imposed upon them. We had no such theological constraints...God in Vedanta ceases to be external. He is our own Self. We cannot affirm Him, and also we cannot deny Him. Our affirmation as well as denial does not make any difference to that ever-existing entity. It is the witness of both our affirmation as well as negation. We can just experience him.”
The Hebrew word YHWH is actually the root word for "Being", and not short-hand for the tribal God Jahweh. On the spiritual level, then, there should be no conflicts. Moreover, a true spiritual monotheism or non-dualism (such as Advaita Vedanta) would recognize everything (including a multitude of lesser spirits or gods) as a modification of God, the Self, or the One Reality. This is, of course, what conventional Islam, Christianity, and Judaism do not do.
The monotheism that was introduced by the patriarchs of the Middle East, while attempting to be seen as a moral and philosophic advance over the multi-levelled cosmos of spirits of the ancients, has in many ways contributed to the soul-less universe of western religious belief, wherein man has been effectively denied participation in the world of the spirit, in which psychic or spiritual experience rather than belief is of prime importance, and was considered to be so traditionally. The only true monotheism is a view in which God is realized to be the source condition in and as which everything is arising. Monotheism is, in fact, not really true from the vantage point of exoteric belief, in which object-consciousness has not begun to be transcended. From that point of view, polytheism makes much more sense, for many causes, great and small, cause effects in the conditional worlds, not merely one creator-god such as Jehovah or Yahweh. If God as we conceive Him to be is the Creator, separate from His creation, then, we are allowed to ask, who created Him? From the point of view of the Emptiness teachings of Buddhism, for that matter, everything (phenomenal) is the cause of everything.
In any case, true religion is religion of the Spirit, in which direct communion with, absorption in, or recognition of the Divine is practised, ultimately to the degree of transcendence of exclusive identification with all of its secondary or objective expressions. Examples of such mystical and
transcendental teachings are found in esoteric Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. For instance, in the canonical Gospels it is said, “the Kingdom of God is within you”
(the mystical view); in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, it is said, “the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you”
(the non-dualistic view). In the gnostics and the mystic saints of the Church these perspectives are evident and fairly explicit. In the Gospel of John, the most gnostic, with the strongest Greek influence of the four major gospels, of which more will be said later, as it is so different in composition from the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), what to speak of the earlier apocryphal gospels of Thomas, Mary, or Judas, that some scholars feel it was written after the earlier ones and by someone set out to "Christianize" Jesus - we read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.”
(John 1: 1-5, 9, 14)
This infinite Light of lights, which is pure consciousness, is a recurrent theme in Islamic mysticism where it is called noor
. Seek out those who have the light has been their admonition.
The great Sufi saint Jalal ‘u’ ddin Rumi, showing the universal spirit among mystics, saints, and sages, wrote:
“In each human spirit is a Christ concealed,
To be helped or hindered, to be hurt or healed;
If from any human soul you lift the veil,
You will find a Christ there hidden without fail.”
He also wrote in his Masnavi:
“Grow not sceptical, but attune thyself to the Sound
coming down from the heavens,
Thy soul shall have revelations from afar.
What are these? the glimpses of the Unrevealed; were
I to speak of these sweet melodies,
Even the dead shall rise from their graves.
Rise above the horizen, O brave soul, and hear the
Melodious Song coming from the highest heaven.”
“Rising above the horizon, hearken to the melody divine,
The Prophet would attend to it as to any other task.”
In the Gospel of John we read:
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh,
and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
And in John 14:2 Jesus reveals his divine agency as spiritual Master:
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."
Matthew 11:27 says:
"No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whomever the Son shall revealeth."
And in John 10:30 we have:
"I and my Father are One."
The latter might be seen as a non-dual advaitic statement, i.e., "Atman and Brahman are One" (quite possible as there is much speculation Jesus traveled to the East before he began his teaching mission, years which are left out of the biblical accounts), while the last three statements assign great importance to the god-man or spiritual Master. The Logos doctrine is also very apparent in the Gospel of John, a very unique gospel, where he speaks of the Word, variously interpreted as agnostically as Divine Idea, or Sound, and in Rumi, as mentioned, the "divine melody coming from above," all referring to a creative life-principle. Here Christianity would be essentially teaching Surat Shabd Yoga, the teachings of the saints or Sant Mat
, the yoga of the celestial sound current, where one communes mystically with the shabda-brahman or Word to return to the Godhead. Jackson Peterson, on the other hand, claims that Jesus taught what is essentially a teaching like that of the Indian Siddha tradition, the final result being the divinizing of the body into light in this very life, the ultimate conquering of death. This would be one way of esoterically accounting for, rather than dismissing, Jesus' physical ascension, for in the Siddha tradition many of the adepts do not leave their bodies in then normal fashion but rather dematerialize and take them with them, as fantastic as that may sound to the average reader. [For more on this phenomena see Step By Step To The Temple of Total Ruin: Lessons from Milarepa
on this website]. He claims:
"Hesychasm is the body of methods and teachings for attaining spiritual illumination in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It appears these teachings may have been secretly handed down from Jesus to his disciples to practitioners today. I spent years tracing the roots of these teachings, a research project that took me to Jerusalem in Israel and other locations. I had to access Vatican documents from the Vatican Library dated from around 150 A.D. in order to confirm the lineage authenticity. My research reveals an ancient Christianity that is quite different from that which we know today in the West. However this ancient lineage is alive and well in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, yet difficult to gain access to. Through the Vatican document research I was able to trace the earliest lineage to the teachings of the "Desert Fathers", the holders of this earliest esoteric tradition. The documents of greatest import were written by Irenaeus, around 150 A.D. He mentions his teacher to be Polycarp, who taught him the "mysteries of Christ's teachings". Polycarp's teacher was the Apostle John. John was taught by Jesus. Irenaeus reveals an esoteric outline of what the authentic teachings were about. From these writings it easy to see the core principles that Christ taught that became the body of methods and meditation practices that developed into Hesychasm. The most important term in Hesychasm is "theosis". Theosis means "to become God". The entire person, mind and body become divinized into the Light of God. The flesh becomes Light and all aspects of consciousness are transformed into the Divine Light. That is the goal of all Orthodox Christians, but especially the Hesychasts as living on Mt. Athos in Greece. A quote from the Desert Fathers: "To know your self is to know God". The main practice is the "Prayer of the Heart". It is a yogic type practice done with breath retention, a specific posture and internal energy center focusing, especially focus on the Heart Center and navel. The goal is to first purify the mind of all thoughts and self-consciousness. Then the pure Mind or Nous is brought into the Heart by focusing on the Heart, Kardia. The purified Mind or Nous reveals itself to be the Mind of Christ, Nous Khristos. When the Nous is brought completely into the Heart, the Abode of God, the Father and Son are again in Oneness. During this stage called Photisis, Illumination, the Divine Light is experienced in visions of Light, spheres and rays of Light. This Divine Light, your own Divine Nature, transforms all aspects of consciousness into pure Divinity. The physical body begins to transform into it's essential Essence as Divine Light. These transformations into Divine Light have been recorded for centuries amongst the Father Hesychastic Hermits living in the caves and huts on Mt. Athos. Christ's Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor revealing his divine Body of Light, is the goal of all Hesychasts: to become God, while alive."
Unfortunately, in either case, most of Christian doctrine as it has come down to us was formulated not by Jesus but by St. Paul, who turned Christ into a sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world
. Holger Kersten, who wrote Jesus Lived in India
, but in the latter offers no irrefutable, hard evidence for his case, yet is interesting nevertheless, charged that
"Paulinism..means a misinterpretation and indeed counterfeiting of Christ's actual teachings, as arranged and initiated by Paul..by building on the belief of salvation through the expiatory death of God's first-born. Paul regressed to the primitive Semitic religions of earlier times, in which parents were commanded to give up their first-born in a bloody sacrifice. Paul also prepared the path for the later ecclesiastical teachings on original sin and the trinity...He placed Jesus on a pedestal and turned him into the Christ figure that Jesus never intended to be."
Around this central idea, borrowed from Judaism and the cults flourishing around the Mediterranean at that time, there has grown a mass of rituals and ceremonies, which, along with the gnostic teachings in the Gospel of John, and the transformation of Christianity into the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church, turned Jesus into a Cosmic Christ who is the savior of those who merely believe
in him, with true Christianity carried on only by a few of the early Christians who received Jesus as a spiritual master with wisdom and initiatory power, as revealed in the gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas, and later chiefly by the mystics and saints within the Church, such as Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Teresa of Avila
, and St. John of the Cross
, to name a few.
Ironically, it was Paul, who was a mystic and is written of in the Gospel of Judas as having been spiritually initiated by Jesus, who first turned Christianity into a cult of believers and not practitioners. Yet as teacher Richard Rose remarked:
"Christ said, 'Seek and ye shall find,' not 'Believe and ye shall find.' "
And in a similar spirit, former president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, once said:
"I would rather have a beer with someone who is looking for the truth than with someone who has found it."
Add into the mix the Gospel of John, which made Jesus personally
the only begotten Son of the Father, something Jesus never said of himself, saying rather, in the first three Gospels (called "synoptic" - or "seeing together" - because their stories are very similar, almost identical), that he was "the son of man," not the "Son of God", calling little attention to himself at all, and we get a completely new teaching. In John we get the bold pronouncements, "No man can come to the Father except through me," "I am the way and the Truth and the Life," "I am the vine, ye are the branches,"
etc. - all of the "I am" statements, which appear in none of the other Gospels, and which, once more, scholars are in agreement were never said by Jesus, but by later evangelical writers propagating the new Christian faith that had begun with Paul. Other things that we are fairly certain were never claimed by Jesus were: that he was the annointed Messiah or Savior for the world; that there was to be an apocalyptic end of the world (that came from John the Baptist, whom teachings Jesus didn't espouse; after Jesus disappearance many of his disciples who previously were disciples of John the Baptist and were baffled and confused about who Jesus really was went back to the earlier teachings that they were familiar with, and thus eschatology was reborn); that he was to die for the sins of the world; that he was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; that he was born of a virgin; that there was death and damnation for sins; that one is damned for eternity if one didn't acknowledge his death on the cross; that he established a church with Peter appointed as its head; among many others. Not Jesus, but Paul said all of that, and established the foundations of what later became the dogma of the Orthodox Church.
Elaine Pagels claims in her book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
, that the Gospel of John was written by a Jewish author at the end of the first century to refute the Gospel of Thomas and its Gnostic teachings. While this claim has been denied by other scholars, her remarks about the elimination of gnostic and other esoteric doctrines from the codified New Testament seem to be sound:
"What John opposed...includes what the Gospel of Thomas teaches - that God's light shines not only in Jesus but, potentially al least, in everyone. Thomas' gospel encourages the hearer not so much to believe in Jesus, as John requires, as to seek to know God through one's own, divinely given capacity, since all are created in the image of God. For Christians of later generations, the Gospel of John helped provide a foundation for a unified church, which Thomas, with its emphasis on each person's search for God, did not."
The writer of the Gospel of John was not wrong in its depiction that the "Word was God, and the Word was with God, and without Him nothing was made that was made."
The very same verse is found in the ancient Vedas of India. What was misleading was that this became interpreted as a belief system of Jesus the Christ as the only source of the Word, someone to be believed in for salvation, and not as a master for his time only, awakening them to the Spirit, something which could be communed with by every man.
Little do many Christians know, that the final choice of what books were to be included in the New Testament took place over several hundred years and several Church Councils, to the point of fist-fighting, haggling, and disagreement, the final product which was hard-pressed to prove that it and its diverse writers were infallibly divinely inspired by the holy Spirit.
From what little we do know, what did Jesus
say? First of all, the Gospel of Thomas, which was later rejected by Church officials as non-canonical, is entirely a collections of sayings of Jesus: no stories at all. It begins with the verse: "Whosoever discovers the truth of these sayings will not taste death."
The second saying reads, "Let one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds. When one finds, one will be troubled. When one is troubled, one will marvel and will rule over all."
Another famous verse says, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you will bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." "The Kingdom is inside you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you dwell in poverty, and you are poverty."
In the Gospels of Mary and Judas there are accounts of Jesus as spiritual master initiating disciples into esoteric practices of God-communion and self-knowledge:
"During the Eucharist meal, three days before the Passover, Jesus puts His twelve disciples to a test, challenging anyone of them to stand before him and tell Him who He is. Only Judas dares to, and said: 'I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.' Knowing that Judas was reflecting upon something that was exalted, Jesus said to him, 'Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. For someone else will replace you, in order that the twelve disciples may again come to completion with their god.'"
"Later Jesus took Judas aside. Jesus said, 'Come, that I may teach you about the secrets no person has ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, in which there is a great, invisible Spirit." And a luminous cloud appeared there."
Moreover, in spite of St. Paul, a Jew, being converted as a result of a blinding mystical experience on the road to Damascus, but later becoming the chief architect of The New Testament version of the 'Jesus religion,' in which direct experience was replaced by belief in a savior granting one salvation from eternal damnation, he also spoke of his ability to initiate worthy disciples into a secret wisdom:
"Yet among the mature do we impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification."
Scholars agree that, while the synoptic gospels were creative stories written some decades after the disappearance of Jesus (with Matthew and Luke almost certainly directly modeled after that of Mark), they, as opposed to the Gospel of John, were at least based on actual events in his life and things that he said. There is some question about the accounts of his death, however, and of course there are also the missing years from age thirteen until he started his brief ministry, of which there are several theories. We have spoken of what Jesus did not
say. What, then, did he actually
"Bless them who curse you"; "Love thine enemies"; "Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect"
[harder to do than just believe
in someone who is perfect]; "Blessed are those who weep, for they shall be comforted"; "Blessed are the hungry, for you will feast"; "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. Rest assured, everyone who asks receives; everyone who seeks finds; and for the one who knocks it is opened. Who among you would hand a son a stone if he asks for bread?" And, "when thy eye is single, thy whole body shall be full of light."
Jesus spoke in parables, paradoxes,metaphors, and parodies, not in bold proclamations such as one finds in the Gospel of John. He turned his closest followers to the Christ within themselves.
Angelus Silesius, 17th century German mystic, expressed this sentiment:
“The cross on Golgotha - thou lookest to in vain
if not within thy Self it be set up again.
If Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem was born -
and not within thySelf - it is forlorn.”
“The Disciple said to his Master; How may I come to
the supersensual life, that I may see God and hear him speak?
His Master said: When thou canst throw thyself but
for a moment into that where no creature dwelleth,
then thou hearest what God speaketh.
Disciple: Is that near at hand or far off?
Master: It is in thee. And if thou canst for a while
but cease from all thinking and willing, then thou
shalt hear the unspeakable words of God.”
Practical wisdom comes to us from two other greats in the Christian tradition:
“Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy…Like a hot, parching wind, it dries up the well-spring of
holiness, the dew of mercy, and the streams of grace.”
- Saint Bernard
“If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank you,” that will suffice.”
- Meister Eckhart
In Judaism, while there are the regretable "tribal oriented" teachings of a worldly kingdom for a ‘chosen’ or even ‘master’ race (largely derived not from the Torah (the first five books of Moses) but from the, as mentioned, now mostly sanitized version of the Babylonian Talmud, first created in the fifth century A.D. by Jews who had remained in Babylon after their release from captivity, in which Goyim are considered as "cattle", etc.), there are also standard concepts of heavens and hells in the afterlife as in Christianity and Islam (and Buddhism), as well as mystical pronouncements in the Old Testament, and even non-dual teachings found in the books of the Kabballah
. The latter was introduced, or re-introduced, in the twelfth century and supposedly contains direct mystical knowledge not found in the Torah but which God imparted directly to Moses and Adam. Abraham, also, as mentioned, was said to have been initiated into the secret science by Melchizedek priest of Salem.
As the Gnostic traditions developed, the notion that the world was evil and something to escape [soma sema
, i.e., "the body is a tomb") led to the conception of an evil creator god or Demiurge who was a fallen angel from the One True God. In some schools this notion of 'evil" is without moral connotations. In the tradition of the saints of Sant Mat, there is the "positive power" or Sat Purush, and the "negative power," or "Kal." This negative power Kal is Lord over the three lower worlds, but not the Supreme God. An interesting twist, in Jewish Gnosticism,
"This evil creator God was named Yahweh
[the true God El or Elohim], and he concealed the truth about Adam and Eve. The serpent was regarded as good, because he attempted to enlighten the first humans about the heavenly reality that lay beyond the evil creation of Yahweh. The serpent was therefore a savior figure."
First, from the Old Testament, in Proverbs one finds:
“The wise man’s heart is on the right side; the foolish man’s heart is at he left.”
Could this be a reference to what Ramana Maharshi called the seat of the Self in the body, at the right side of the heart? It is entirely possible, given the cross-pollination between east and west over the centuries: Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim.
We also read:
“By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made...For he spake and it was done....Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven...Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
(Psalms 33:6,9; 119:89, 105)
The love of God has been called the "essence of Judaism":
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
In the words of St. Paul we find another non-dual statement that might rightly be shared by both Christians and Jews (as St. Paul, a convert from Judaism, incorporated much Jewish doctrine is his Christian theology):
“The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made.”
PB similarly writes:
"The world is neither a trap nor an illusion, neither a degradation of the divine essence nor an indication of the divine absence."
These are different ways of saying that every-thing is a “pointer” to the divine, which is its very substance - the only Substance that Is.
The Jewish saint of India, Sarmad, who like Rumi was also likely in the Sant tradition, taught four “renunciations”:
”First renounce this world.
Then renounce the next world.
Then renounce God.
Then renounce renunciation.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the twentieth century, argued that religious experience is a fundamentally human impulse, not just a Jewish one, and that no religious community could claim a monopoly on religious truth. He wrote many wise sayings. Here are just a few:
“It is the grace of God that helps those who do everything that lies within their power to achieve that which is beyond their power.”
["God helps those who help themselves, and God helps those who do not help themselves,"
Kirpal Singh used to say].
"Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum hatred for a minimum reason."
"Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge."
"A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who
suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose
greatest strength is love and defiance of despair."
"God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance."
"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy."
"Self-respect is the fruit of discipline, the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself."
"Life without commitment is not worth living."
"Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible."
"Remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Be sure that every little deed counts, that
every word has power. Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem
the world in spite of all absurdities and frustrations and disappointments."
There have been many other good-hearted, saintly and sagely people within the Jewish tradition, such as philosophers and religious leaders like Hillel, the Bal Shem Tov (founder of Hasidism), poet/philosphers Judah Halevy and Solomon iBn Gebirol, and Dov Bar of Mezhirech, an influential maggid [to the Kabbalists, a maggid was a mysterious voice or agency that communicated secret knowledge to the privileged through Dreams or daytime revelations; in orthodoxy a maggid is a priest], as well as mystics of the Kaballah. For links to information on a tradition of Jewish meditation and mysticism, click here
. The reader is also addressed to a series of four books by the well-respected scholar, Eriyeh Kaplan: two introductory works, Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide
, and Meditation and the Bible
, as well as two advanced books, Meditation and the Kaballah
, considered one of the best books on Kaballah - and not for beginners - and Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation
, one of the oldest and most mysterious works of the Kaballah. In Kaballah, along with such complex cosmogeny as evidenced in the "Tree of Life" (which we also find in Islam and Sufism, as well as the Kalachakra tradition within Vajrayana Buddhism) and the ten Sephiroths, we find some of the highest non-dual doctrines:
“The essence of divinity is found in every single thing - nothing but it exists. Since it causes every thing to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them; its existence exists in each existent. Do not attribute duality to God. Let God be solely God. If you suppose the Ein Sof emanates until a certain point, and that from that point on is outside it, you have dualized. God forbid it! Realize, rather, that Ein Sof exists in each existent. Do not say, “This is a stone and not God.” God forbid! Rather, all existence is God and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.”
“ Ein Sof
in Islam] cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed, though it is intimated in everything, for there is nothing outside of it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it. The witness testifying in writing that there is nothing outside of it is, I am that I am.” Ein Sof has no will, no intention, no desire, no thought, no speech, no action - yet there is nothing outside of it.”
“Ein Sof is a place to which forgetting and oblivion pertain...concerning Ein Sof, there is no aspect anywhere to search or probe; nothing can be known of it, for it is hidden and conceiled in the mystery of absolute nothingness. Therefore forgetting pertains to the contemplation of this place. So open your eyes and see this great, awesome secret. Happy is one whose eyes shine from this secret, in this world and the world that is coming!”
“Think of yourself as Ayin
[“nothingness’] and forget yourself totally. Then you will transcend time, rising to the world of thought, where all is equal: life and death, ocean and dry land. Such is not the case if you are attached to the material nature of this world. If you think of yourself as something, then God cannot clothe himself in you, for God is infinite. No vessel can contain God, unless you think of yourself as Ayin.”
“Thought rises to contemplate its own innerness until its power of comprehension is annihilated.”
In Islam we find the beautiful Sufi tradition, which rivals the esoteric stream of the other two Abrahamic faiths. It is to the Sufis to whom we must turn for the “juice” in Islam. However, contrary to popular knowledge and according to some occultists, the Sufis are a tradition long antedating Islam. Their origins are said to be in Inner Asia, from Eastern Afghanistan to the Tarim Basin between Mongolia and Northwestern Tibet. Spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff made long expeditions to find such orders, and was initiated by Bahauddin Nakshband, supposedly only one of the “outer masters” from a circle of hidden monasteries in the region.
Maulana Rumi, in his famous Mathnawi, wrote:
“Your anguish is seeking a way to attain to Me; yesterday evening I heard your deep sighs. And I am able, without any delay, to give you access, to show you a way of passage, to deliver you from this whirlpool of time, that you might set your foot upon the treasure of union with Me; but the sweetness and delights of the resting place are in proportion to the pain of the journey. Only then will you enjoy your native town and your kinsfolk, when you have suffered the anguish of exile."
“If he could see his nothingness and his deadly, festering wound, pain would arise from looking within, and that pain would save him."
Farid al-Din Attar, an inspiration for Rumi, announced:
"When God recognized my sincerity, the first grace that he accorded me was that he removed the chaff of the self from before me."
Medieval Islamic sage Ibn 'al 'Arabi, in a passage as eloquent as anything from Advaita, tells us that the experience of Truth is veritably non-dual and not a form of monism, with a radical naughting of the individuality not required:
"If you know yourself as nothing, then you truly know your Lord. Otherwise, you know him not. You cannot know your Lord by making yourself nothing. Many a wise man claims that in order to know one's Lord one must denude oneself of the signs of one's existence, efface one's identity, finally rid oneself of one's self. This is a mistake. How could a thing that does not exist try to get rid of its existence?...If you think that to know Allah depends on your ridding yourself of yourself, then you are guilty of attributing partners to Him - the only unforgivable sin - because you are claiming that there is another existence besides Him, the All-Existent: that there is a you and He...Our Master, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), said: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” He did not say: “He who eliminates himself knows his Lord!”
This is similar to what contemporary teacher Gangaji describes in the following words:
“For most spiritual seekers, the belief that personal identification obstructs self-realization gives rise to the drive to get rid of the personal story. But this is just another part of the story. Attempting to get rid of the story is just another tangent of the story, another example of the power of the mind to control.”
One only feels the needs to get rid of something if he believes it is real. The ego is not real, therefore, to try to get rid of it is a fruitless, yet paradoxical, task. It is a trick of the ego to convince you to try to get rid of it, but it is also a trick of the ego to convince you not
to try to get rid of it!
Shaikh Mawlay Al Arabi ad Darqawa confirms Ibn 'al' Arabi's insight:
"Extinction also is one of thine attributes. Thou art already extinct, my brother, before thou art extinguished and naught before thou art annihilated. Thou art an illusion in an illusion and a nothingness in a nothingness. When hadst thou Existence that thou mightest be extinguished?"
Omar Khayam, eponymous author of the Rubaiyat, exclaimed:
"Though pearls in praise of God I never strung, though dust of sin lies clotted on my brow, yet I wlll not despair of mercy. When did Omar argue that the One was two?"
Shams-ud-din Muhammed Hafez, the most beloved poet of Persia, lyrically wrote:
"We should make all spiritual talk simple today;
God is trying to sell you something,
But you don't want to buy.
That is what suffering is -
Your fantastic haggling,
Your manic screaming
Over the price."
Poet and mystic Kabir once said that he had experienced Reality for fifteen seconds and then spent the rest of his life in obedience to That. He poignantly tells us:
“No one has been united to his Beloved through mirth. Whoever has attained communion with him has done so after shedding many tears. If it were possible to meet the beloved while laughing and in a state of comfort, why should one suffer the anguish of separation? The people of the world are happy. They eat and sleep. Kabir alone is unhappy. He is awake and is crying.”
"O friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live,
understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of
deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him
because it has passed from the body:
If He is found now, He is found then,
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.
Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!
Kabîr says: "It is the Spirit of the quest which helps; I am the slave of this
Spirit of the quest."
Beloved among both Muslims and Hindus, he also reveals his mystical side when he says:
"O friend, do not go to the garden of flowers.
O friend, do not go there.
Take your seat at the thousand-petalled lotus,
And enjoy the divine gardens within."
In true Islam, the fight against the unbeliever is referred to as the Lesser Jihad, while the fight against the nafs
or "lower nature" is the Greater Jihad.
"All that is left to us by tradition is mere words. It is up to us to find out what they mean."
- Ibn' Arabi
“There is no longer any need to believe, when one sees the truth.”
“When a man is awakened he melts and perishes.”
"So what if you have dropped illusion?
You didn't drop your pride.
Pride has fooled the best sages,
Pride devours all."
- Kabir, Bijak
"Hafiz, there is no one in this world who is not looking for God. Everyone is trudging along with as much dignity, courage and style as they possibly can."
"When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the soul laughs for what it has found."
- Sufi aphorism.
Yet even the Qu’ran,like the Books of Moses, contains esoteric truths. We especially find:
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass which is as it were a shining star. This lamp is kindled from a blessed tree, and olive neither of the East nor the West, whose oil would almost glow forth of itself though no fire touched it. Light upon light, Allah guideth unto his light whome He will. And Allah speaks to mankind in allegories, for Allah is the Knower of all things.”
(Sura 24, verse 35)
Victoria LePage comments:
“Now the tree is a symbol for baraka, the Muslim spiritual blessing that, although often used loosely in islamic and Sufi parlance, has the specific technical meaning of an initiation that awakens the lataif or chakra centres of the human “tree” of the nervous system. And the “oil” of the tree that renders the initiation effective is aterm commonly used by Buddhists as a symbol for kundalini. Thus Lama Yeshe, a tantric Buddhist of the Vajrayana school, says that this body of ours “for all its suffering nature, contains the most valuable of natural resources: kundalini gold, kundalini oil.” Therefore the Koranic passge quoted above is in effect referring to the light-body that shines “like a star” within the “niche” of the gross physical system, and within the light-body, as in an impregnable inner citadel, to the ever-burning glory of the lamp of the spirit.”
While the Gospel of John was a pure Gnostic statement with its "In the beginning was the Word" passage, and was later corrupted by the Catholic Church, if we consider Jesus as a spiritual master, not as a Cosmic Deity of fantastic origin, to be simply believed in for salvation, then the Gospel of John contains much mystical truth. The ultimate basis and means for fruitful spiritual communion, absorption, or recognition, in these esoteric and essentially emanationist traditions, which their strong Gnostic
influence, it might be said, lies in the second person of the Christian trinity, the Son. In all religions in which it appears the concept of the "Son" indicates either of two things: one, the first emanation, Idea, or "progeny” of the formless Divine (Siva/Father, or Mind), as its creative Divine power (Shakti/Mother, or World-Mind), whose first expression is Light; or, two, the human agent who is the embodment ot that Llght, who has realized the formless Divine and mastered and become one with its spirit-current (the Holy Ghost) as well and who can tangibly transmit and awaken such two-fold realization in others. In the gospel of John, the Logos, divine Shakti, Shabda-Brahman, Spirit-current or Creative Power is referred to as the Word, as previously mentioned: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God, and without it was not anything made that was made." The Vedas of India similarly proclaim, "In the beginning was Prajapati, with Him was the Vak (the Word), and the Vak was verily the Supreme Brahma." We are told by St. John that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us."
This rendition in John, as mentioned, is in marked contrast with the Jesus portrayed in the other three gospels. In John the Word or Logos is associated exclusively with the savior Jesus, who is pronounced as a cosmic Christ Power in human form and the "only way to the Father" or salvation, and not as the wandering wise man or spiritual master of either the synoptic or apocryphal Gospels. In what could be said to be the "gnostic tradition" of Sant Mat, largely originating with the medieval mystic saints of India and Persia, like Rumi, Kabir, and Nanak, the "Word made flesh", or the living guru, is said to have incarnated the formless Consciousness and divine Word or Shakti (or power of “Om”) in his own body-mind and serves as a direct means or help for spiritual awakening in others. To the ripe mind or ego, heart speaks to heart and a form of magic occurs. But there must be a period of ripening. In these mystical traditions, the “Word” is often meant to be the visible and audible light and sound “current” that is said to proceed from the Father and is to be meditated on. In more transcendentalist teachings, such as Advaita Vedanta, the Word is a mentalistic concept, referring to the expressive aspect of the Unmanifest Absolute or Mind, the Divine Intellect or World-Mind, which further manifests a World-Idea and then a world via the creative light and sound. Sunyata writes:
“This man, Jesus, became so transparent by purification, that the Universal Christ of God could express Itself through him more clearly than any man in the Western world of whom we have record. Still this Son of God - or perfect thought of infinite Spirit - is shining in degrees in every being in the universe.”
The Muslims are correct then in denying the status of Jesus the man as the only begotten Son of God, but wrong if they deny the possibility of divine Realization and the human embodiment of it altogether. The only begotten Son of God, in the esoteric tradition, is not the human Jesus, but the divine Light, the Logos, the Christ, the first creative expression or Idea of ‘God’ (Itself a reflection of the Godhead), prior to and immanent in the birth, emanation, or projection of the manifest worlds. Even in Islam is distinguished the human Prophet Muhammed and the 'Spirit of Muhammed' that is an archtypal presence similar to the Christ. No human individual is the entirety of God incarnate, but all men may realize God, the Self, the identity of Atman and Brahman, the Unmanifest-Manifest (eternal, absolute Consciousness) through the agency of the Son (Divine Logos, Sat Purusha, Adi Buddha, Primal Adam or Adam Kadmon
), what might be called a 'liberating presence within relativity', or with the help of a Self-realized spiritual master or sage who is Its human embodiment. The means employed are both Spirit-communion and intuitive or direct Knowing/Ignorance or Insight/Seeing.
I dare to suggest an even simpler way, that perhaps only a few can take, though it is open to all. (39)
PB speaks of the “Idea of Man”, which is similar to the concept of the Primal Adam or Adam Kadmon in the Kaballah, the Universal Man, which is used interchangeably for the original idea of the universe considered as a cosmic man, and the ideal of the enlightened being or 'perfected' man himself:
“The idea of man which exists in and is eternally known by the World-Mind
[Ishvara or Logos] is a master-idea...The living, intelligent human entity preexists elsewhere, and takes up its physical residence on earth only when it is ready for it. For from the moment this specific unit of life separated from the cosmic Life, through all the different experiences whereby it developed, and through all the different kingdoms of Nature, its spiritual identity as Man was predetermined...A man’s body may die and disintegrate, but the creative idea of him will still remain in the World-Mind as his Soul. It will not die. It’s his real Self, his perfect Self. It is the unmanifest image of God in which man is made and which he has yet to bring into manifestation in his everyday consciousness...The man who, according to the Bible, is made in the image of God is not the earthly man, visible to all and speaking a voice that sounds in physical ears. He is to be found in the deep centre of consciousness, where there is only a Void, and he speaks in silence to the attentive mind, not to other persons...Man’s need is two-fold: recollection of his divine nature and redemption from his earthly nature.”
This thought is echoed in esoteric Islam:
"Know, 0 beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random, but marvelously made and for some great end."
- Al Ghazzali
That there are two different "Adams" was a widespread concept in antiquity. In the religious writings of Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon is a phrase meaning "Primal Man". The oldest rabbinical source for the term "Adam ha-admoni" is Num. R. x., where Adam is styled, not as usually, "Ha-Rishon" (the first, earthly Adam), but as "Ha-Kadmoni" (the original, "Heavenly Man"). It is said that Adam Kadmon had rays of light projecting from his eyes. In Lurianic Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon acquired an exalted status equivalent to the Purusha in the Upanishads, denoting the Manifest Absolute itself. In this variant of mythopoetic cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis, the "Adam Soul" is described as the primeval soul that contained all human souls. Adam Kadmon is comparable to the Anthropos or Adamas
of Gnosticism and Manichaeism. There is also a similar concept in Alevi and Sufic philosophy called al-Insn al-Kmil, the Perfect or Complete Man. The Lurianic form of Kaballism became more influential than the early Kaballism of the Zohar. The doctrine of the two Adams was further taught by the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo who fused Greek philosophy with Jewish thought. Further in the Yajnavalka Samhita from India, we read:
"The light which is shining in the heart of all jivas in the form of consciousness is also shining through the universe in the form of the Heavenly Man and making it a living organism. The light which is shining in the heart of all jivas in the form of consciousness is also shining through the universe in the form of the Heavenly Man and making it a living organism."
[For much more on this theme please see The Idea of Man
on this website].
In Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East
"The Lord God was used to designate the Perfect Being that the Divine Principle, or God, created to bring out His qualities here on earth. This Being was created in the image and likeness of the Divine Principle and had access to, and could use, everything that the Divine principle had. This Being was given power and dominion over every condition that existed upon the earth. This Being had all the potentialities of the Divine principle and the power to bring them forth as long as he co-operated with the Divine Principle and developed the faculties that had been given Him, in the ideal way that the Divine Principle had planned or was holding in mind. This Being was afterwards called 'Lord God,' which meant expression in creative action, or the Law of God. This is the Perfect Being that the Divine Principle holds in mind for man to express. This is the Divine and Only Man that the Divine Principle created. Man, on the spiritual side of his nature, has access to and can become this Lord God or One Man. This Divine Man afterwards became known as the Christ. he had dominion over heaven and earth and all things therein. Then the Lord God, using His power to create, did create other beings like unto Himself. These beings were afterwards called sons of the Lord God, and their Creator was called Father, and the Divine Principle was called God."
Rather than dismissing these descriptions as mere fable or story, with humility one may consider that where there is smoke there is some fire. A mystery no doubt, and certainly not the height of advaitic or non-dual philosophy, but themes insistent enough in the traditions to warrant contemplation. For an even more dramatic story, of Creation, Lucifer's Rebellion, and God's Plan - also with high entertainment value - click here
"What is man, that ye are mindful of him?" said the Psalmist. It is an ancient, sacred mystery.
But, we are getting somewhat ahead of ourselves; back to our discussion of Islam.
The Qu'ran introduces itself to the reader with the phrase, "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful."
The Moslem deity, like that of all the peoples of the Book, is unique, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, and living. There are five main commandments, or "pillars of Islam,"
which the faithful carry out: profession of faith, almsgiving, fasting, daily prayer, and pilgrimage to Mecca (at least once in a lifetime). In addition to these fundamentals there are a host of additional social and legal duties which the sincere Moslem must carry out to demonstrate his faithfulness to Allah. The Quran makes it clear, however, that behavior alone is not enough to secure a place in heaven.
"Those who surrender themselves to Allah and accept the true faith; who are devout, sincere, patient, humble, charitable, and chaste; who fast and are ever mindful of Allah - on these, both men and women, Allah will bestow forgiveness and a rich reward." (Sura 33:35)
"The true believers are those whose hearts are filled with awe at the mention of Allah and whose faith grows stronger as they listen to His revelations. They are those who put their trust in their Lord, pray steadfastly, and bestow in alms of that which We have given them." (Sura 8:2).
This is good and wise counsel. Allah, once again, however, is the same Jehovah or Yahweh-God of the Jews, and the principal motivation the Qu'ran gives for belief in such a God and acceptance of his commandments is fear of a last judgement and eternal damnation. [The concept of a last judgement may have started in Persia with Zoroastrianism].
This is only partially true. The natural impulse in the heart of man to worship and venerate a power greater than himself also lies behind such faith and obediance. In Islam Al-lah is one's blessed companion
as well as Lord.
Yes, love is mentioned in all three faiths, but yet, fear remains a chief motivator. According to the Qu'ran, believers, but not unbelievers and sinners, will be admitted to Paradise where Allah will reward them for their steadfastness, adorning them with robes of green silk and silver bracelets and seeing that they are attended by handsome boys and dark-eyed virgins who bring silver goblets of refreshing drinks - the same kind of ‘carrot’ of religious hope in the form of what has been referred to by Deepak Chopra as a kind of "eternal assisted living" that is offered to the faithful in return for the sacrifice of their higher reasoning powers, or what in Sanskrit is known as buddhi
, the faculty of discrimination.
"Reclining upon soft couches, they shall feel neither the scorching heat nor the biting cold. Trees will spread their shade around them and fruits will hang in clusters over them." (Sura 76:12)
The unbelievers and sinners, however, face eternal damnation in a torment of fire where their suffering will be increased by the knowledge of their guilt and the justice of their fate.
"There they shall taste neither refreshment nor any drink save boiling water and decaying filth; a fitting recompense." (Sura 78:21)
PB writes that such beliefs are changing:
"The number of educated minds in the east or in the West which accepts literally the belief in the horrible infernos and smug paradises of popular religion grows smaller and smaller with the passing of every decade. Most of us would prefer soft couches in our present drawing-room to soft couches in a hypothetical heaven. Most of these stories of glorious heavens and painful hells are not to be taken literally but neither are they to be despised. They may usually be regarded as true in a symbolic way, provided they are first purged of the fanatical exaggerations which are intended to impress the masses and of the priestly exploitations which are intended to give power over the ignorant. What is the truth behind them?"
"The first and last lesson is that the next world is not a geographical place but a vividly prolonged mental experience. And like all mental experiences it can and does contain geographical places within itself. And like all vivid mental experiences it is real enough whilst it lasts."
But is does not last, and eventually this 'dream' after death comes to an end with a restorative sleep of unconsciousness prior to rebirth and a fresh start.
"Hence, a devout sincere Muhammedan who expected that he would find himself in a heaven with all the pleasures promised him in the Qu'ran, might well do so - but not for eternity as he wrongly believes. For just as he had to wake out of his earthly dreams each morning when alive, so the hour must inescapably come when he will ruefully realize that the whole experience, prolonged though it be, was created by his mind. There is always an ending to the dreaming sleep of earthly life and correspondingly there is always an end to the dreaming activity of spirit life. Even though he meets his loved ones again in the after-death state, it will only be to separate eventually a second time. Nature is inexorable. Therefore it is wiser to win the understanding that enduring union with others exists only in finding the enduring Self."
Interestingly, many Muslims object to the use of the name Allah in translations of the Qu'ran, feeling that the word God should be used, inasmuch as Allah is the same God as the God of Judaism and Christianity, and to use Allah suggests that they worship a different God. Indeed, Arabic-speaking Christians use the name Allah when referring to their God, so it is misleading to simply say that Allah is the exclusive God of the Muslims.
Before the time of Muhammed Allah was the name of the chief deity among the various deities of the pagan tribes of Arabia. He was enshrined in the Kaaba and given a status above the other gods and idols worshipped by the various tribes. Muhammed used the same name Allah but made it clear that Allah was the one God, the same God as that of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and not the local deity falsely worshipped under the same name.
"He has ordained for all men the faith He has revealed to you and formerly enjoined on Noah and Abraham, on Moses and Jesus, saying, 'observe the faith and be united in it.'" (Sura 42:13)
As the Lord said to Muhammed:
"I dwell neither high nor low, neither in the sky nor on earth,
nor even in paradise,
O beloved, believe me, strange as it may seem,
I dwell in the heart of the faithful and it is there
that I may be found.”
- Rumi (43)
While the essential quality of the Christian religion is Love, and that of Hinduism and Buddhism is Consciousness, and that of Judaism is Morality, the essential quality of Islam would be its emphasis on Beauty
The exoteric tradition of Islam not only essentially shares the same God as the exoteric traditions of Judaism and Christianity, but it shares, by necessity, the same common limitation: namely, confinement to the bodily-based point of view based on a conception of man as a physical or psycho-physical "creature" eternally separate from a Creator-God. As shown earlier there most likely have been enlightened beings from within each tradition, but their teaching chiefly has remained outside the scriptures, transmitted from heart to heart and more often than not in secret.
In all fairness it must be said that there may be a note of honesty in the apparent dualistic language in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. At the highest level, as pointed out in other articles on this website, it has been argued by some that the realization of the Divine Soul is not to be equated with common notions of union or identity with Absolute God as Vedantists often proclaim, or as the ecstatic mystic might argue. The Soul is conceived as a ray of the World-Mind, rooted in a Universal Soul, but it differs from it in terms of attributes and power. Thus Paul Brunton writes:
"The Sufi term "companionship with God" is more accurate than the Christian-Hindu "union with God."
“Jami, the Sufi , distinguishes the doctrine of annihilation in God from that of identification with God in the following verse:
“So tread the path that duality may disappear,
For if there be duality in the path, falsity will arise:
Thou wilt not become He; but, if thou strivest,
Thou wilt reach a place where thou-ness shall depart from thee.”
“The knowledge of Allah follows upon the dissolving of the ego, fana, says Sufism. But some Sufi masters go even farther and assert that it follows only on the dissolving of this dissolving (fana-el-fana). What does this strange statement mean? The answer is non-duality.”
[Note that he allows for non-duality even while arguing for ontological distinctions within the Absolute. This is different from Vedanta, but also beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on further. For more, please see: PB and Plotinus: The Fallacy of Divine Identity
"It is humbler to admit, with Muhammed, "I am a servant of God, I am but a man like you," than arrogantly to assert with the Advaitin, "I am the infinite Brahman." It is better to say modestly with Jesus, "the Father is greater than I," than to announce with the Sufi Mansur: "I am God."
With due deference to PB, he has spoken on both sides of the fence on this point. The Islamic mystics, too, spoke both in orthodox terms, i.e., that man is created by God and distinct from Him, but also, as we have seen, that there is only-God, or non-duality. (48)
To the shame of Islam, Mansur al-Hallaj was sentenced to death by the Caliph of Bhagdad and executed for heresy for his writings and ecstatic proclamation, “Anal Haq” (“I am the Truth”). Fellow mystic and sage Al Ghazali, who had doctrinal differences with Mansur, declined to stand up for him during his long investigation. His disagreement was not primarily philosophical, however, contrary to conventional opinion, but rather that he felt al-Hallaj uttered what should have been kept secret, the esoteric knowledge being unable of being understood by the common man except in stages and after long training. In his eleventh-century masterpiece, The Alchemy of Happiness, he wrote of Hallaj, "that foolish babbler, whose death was a greater benefit to the cause of religion."
But maybe he should have helped out his brother instead of letting him be a martyr? Ghazali's chief philosophic difference with al-Hallaj, who he was aware had passed through many trials and stages in the mystic brotherhood, was that he felt "so-called absorption in God, regarded as the goal of the Sufi seeker, is in fact only the beginning, and not the end."
In other words, inner mystic trance or absorption in the void was not the highest state, which includes rather than excludes the world; nor, according to Islam, is man identical with God, except in his essence. But that wasn't the reason he let him be killed.
Mansur spent eleven years in prison before being tortured horrribly, then cut to pieces limb by limb and burnt over a three day period. The date was March 26, 922 A.D.
"He kept repeating "I am the Truth" as they kept cutting his arms, legs, tongue and finally his head. He was smiling, even as they chopped off his head. Al-Hallaj wanted to testify of this relationship to God to others thus even asking his fellow Muslims to kill him and accepting his execution, saying that "what is important for the ecstatic is for the One to reduce him to oneness." He also referred to the martyrdom of Christ, saying he also wanted to die "in the supreme confession of the cross." Like Christ, he gave his execution a redemptive significance, believing as he did that his death "was uniting his beloved God and His community of Muslims against himself and thereby bore witness in extremis to the tawhid (the oneness) of both." For his desire of oneness with God, many Muslims criticized him as a 'crypto-Christian' for distorting the monotheistic revelation in a Christian way. His death is described by Attar as a heroic act, as when they are taking him to court, a Sufi asks him: "What is love?" He answers: "You will see it today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow." They killed him that day, burned him the next day and threw his ashes to the wind the day after that. "This is love," Attar says. His legs were cut off, he smiled and said, "I used to walk the earth with these legs, now there's only one step to heaven, cut that if you can." And when his hands were cut off he paints his face with his own blood, when asked why, he says: "I have lost a lot of blood, and I know my face has turned yellow, I don't want to look pale-faced (as of fear)... ."
His last words before expiring were:
“O Supreme Lord, you have made me know what other people do not know: accept my infinite gratitude for this act of Grace. You have revealed to me all the divine mysteries which are sealed to others. Please forgive those servitors of yours who are assembled here to kill me. Have compassion for them. For, I know they would not have done this if they too would have had the privilege of knowing the truth which you have made accessible to me.”
Jugal Mukhergee writes:
“What was most striking in the case of Mansoor was that all throughout the long period of grievous torture his body was submitted to, he did not wince even for a moment nor ever express the slightest fear. Such was the happy consequence of his loving resignation before divine Providence.”
Such has been the fate of many, many saints upon whose shoulders we stand today.
In sympathy with the quotes from PB, even the divinely realized Soul remains a devotee, although a devotee in the most perfect sense. He needn't bow his head (or ego) in the same manner as one who is invoking his own Soul or invoking the powers that be to grant him a glimpse of the Soul, but he stands forever divinely Self-conscious of the higher Principle that is the 'Father' of his own Being ('Man made in the image of God' pertains to the Soul' in this example). He paradoxically is That and is also in relationship to It. Of course, one can argue that this is only the view from "looking up"; in Reality, there is only and has Ever-Only been the One Reality, Presence, Mind, or Consciousness. And this is the True Self of every "individual" Soul. However, that the higher aspect of the Soul has it being in another principle is also that which allows a Soul to know itself as impersonal yet distinct. For the One is in the many, and the Many are in the One. Sameness and difference are not opposites. If it were not so, and there were no mediating principle, no Soul could ever know that it is distinct from God. This is why the ancients, Plato and Plotinus, posited three distinct 'Ones': an absolute 'One-without-a -second'; a 'One-in-Many (Nous or Intellectual Principle); and a One and Many (Soul). The Nous is what allows the Soul to know God and also know itself in relationship with God. This sort of view is found in Islam, in the teachings of 'Arabi, and even Taoism in ChuangTzu. It gives an ontological richness not found in the vedanta, in my view. But to each his own. No one teaching has a monopoly on truth. Fundamentally, the Reality itself is not 'mystical', 'transcendental, or even 'spiritual'; it is neither 'within' or 'without'; rather, it is simply what Is the case, beyond all concepts: "I AM THAT I AM."
The poet Attar is famous for his allegory, The Conference of the Birds, in which he depicts the journey of the soul through seven valleys representing Sufi stations of attainment. In this book the birds of the world are guided in their quest by a mythical bird named the hoopoe to see the Simurgh or King of the Birds:
"The first is the Valley of the Quest, in which the birds must "renounce the world" and repent of their sins. This is followed by the Valley of Love, where each bird will be plunged into seas of fire "until his very being is enflamed." Next is the Valley of Mystery, where every bird must take a different path, for "There are so many roads, and each is fit / For that pilgrim who must follow it." In the Valley of Detachment, "all claims, all lust for meaning must disappear," while in the Valley of Unity, the many are merged into one. "The oneness of diversity / Not oneness locked in singularity." Upon reaching the next valley, the Valley of Bewilderment, the birds - weary and perplexed - break through the veil of traditional dualities and are suddenly confronted with the emptiness of their being. "I have no certain knowledge anymore," they weep in confusion. Finally, at the end of their journey, the birds arrive at the Valley of Nothingness, in which, stripped of their ego, they "put on the cloak that signifies oblivion" and become consumed by the spirit of the universe. Only when all seven valleys have been traversed, when the birds have learned to "destroy the mountain of Self," and "give up the intellect for love," are they allowed to continue to the throne of the Simurgh."
"Of the thousands of birds who began the journey with the hoopoe, only thirty make it to the end. With hopeless hearts and battered, trailing wings," these birds are led into the presence of the Simurgh. Yet when they finally set their eyes upon him, they are astonished to see not the King of Birds they had expected, but rather themselves. Simurgh is the Persian word for "thirty birds"; and it is here, at the end of the Way, that the birds are confronted with the reality that although they have "struggled, wandered, traveled far," it is "themselves they sought" and "themselves they are." "I am the mirror set before your eyes," the Simurgh says, "And all who come before my splendor see / Themselves, their own unique reality."
Here again we find the recurring Sufi theme, quite different than Indian vedanta, of the soul knowing its eternal identity only in God, or as it is known by God, but not by becoming or being
The great Rumi (1207-1273) is universally accepted as foremost among all Sufis. He was a great Islamic intellectual theologian, a tutor of theology under royal patronage, until his thirty-seventh year when he met his Murshid-i-Kamil' (living Master), Shamas Tabrez. After meeting the saint Rumi proclaimed, "What I had thought of before as God I met today in person."
To the dismay of his large following he welcomed Shamas into his home and became his disciple.
A classic story tells us that Shamas threw Rumi's books into a stream, whereupon Rumi berated him saying, "You idiot, that is the knowledge about which you know nothing!"
The saint promptly retrieved the books from the stream, without a drop of water having touched them, and said to the proud Rumi, "This is the knowledge about which you know nothing."
This humbled the future murshid, who gave up his lofty position to become the devotee of the remarkable dervish. Shamas once remarked, "We may seem like beggars, but our actions are more than royal."
Another version of this story, told by Pir Vilayat Khan, has Shamas tossing Rumi' s books down a well and asking, "Do you want me to retrieve them, without their being wet?"
and Rumi answered, "No."
Pir Vilayat remarked that this was the answer that secured Rumi's greatness, for it indicated that he was intent on extracting the spiritual marrow from his teacher, and was not interested in miracle-working and other egoic distraction.
Another traditional story involves a chess game between Rumi and his Master. Rurni was checkmated, whereupon he, a master player, exclaimed, "Oh no, I have lost!"
The Murshid replied, "No, you have won,"
giving him liberation by a tap on the forehead with his sandal. (51)
Playwrite Henrik Ibsen similarly wrote:
“Soul, be faithful unto the last;
The victory of victories is to lose everything.
The loss of all constitutes your winning.
Eternally you possess only that which you have lost.”
Gangaji in a similar fashion wrote:
"The spiritual path is actually a path of death, a path of loss. Many people begin the spiritual search looking for attainment, but true spiritual attainment is revealed through the loss of everything."
Sant Kirpal Singh said:
"The game of love is God's game; if you win, you get Him; if you lose, He gets you."
This is a common theme among the Sufis and saints of many traditions.
One day Shamas Tabrez mysteriously disappeared. He eventually was found was murdered in May, 1247, when seven men stabbed him with daggers. Legend has it that he uttered a cry that rendered them unconscious; when they came to, his body was nowhere to be found, and he was never seen again. (54) Rumi went mad with grief, though his Master's death undoubtedly gave further inpetus to his spiritual development, and inspiration for his mystical poetry
, considered the greatest in the Persian language. He went out searching for Shams and journeyed to Damascus. There, he came to the realization:
“Why should I seek? I am the same as He.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!”
Rumi was a prolific writer, with over sixty thousand couplets to his name, including the epic Masnavi, his most famous work, and the lyrical Divan of Shams-i-Tabrez.
Rumi founded the Mawlawi order of Sufis, which uses music and dance for worship of the divine, and which led to the image of Sufis as "Whirling Dervishes". (56)
During his lifetime Rumi, like Catherine of Siena , was an advisor to princes and common folk, and had disciples of many faiths, including Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. This was a remarkable achievement considering the religious polarization in the Middle Ages.
Rumi had met the poet-saint Attar (author of The Conference of the Birds
) when he was thirteen and the latter had a profound effect on him. He later praised him, saying "Attar is the soul itself."
Of his own spiritual growth Rumi wrote the following:
"The result of my life can be summarized in three words: I was immature, I matured, and I was consumed."
His writings suggest that he taught the devotional path of meditation on the inner light and sound current, or surat shabd yoga. Like many Sufis, however, to a large extent Rumi defied description, and his greatest work likely lay in the spiritual awakening of those who called themselves his disciples.
“I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to an animal,
I died as an animal and I was a man.
Why should I fear? when was I less by dying?
Yet, once more, I shall die as a man, to soar -
With angels blessed, but even from angelhood
I must pass on; all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind has e’er conceived.
Oh! let me not exist, for non-existence
Proclaims in organ-tunes, “To Him we shall return.”
Rumi must certainly have raised the ire of the Islamic establishment when he penned the following words:
“O lovers! The religion of the love of God is not found in Islam alone.
In the realm of love, there is neither belief, nor unbelief.”
(Quatrain no. 768)
Just a few more of his beautiful quotes:
“The soil is faithful to its trust: whatever you have sown in it, you reap the same.
But until springtime brings the touch of God, the soil does not reveal its secrets.”
“The world is full of remedies, but you have no remedies until God opens a window for you.”
“I need more grace than I thought!”
An anonymous Sufi saint, referring to the words of Muhammed, wrote:
“The great glad news of Thee is written
Plainly upon the Qu'ran’s holy page:
Nearer am I (God) to thee than thy Shah-ruj (Royal Vein).”
Some say that “Shah-ruj” refers to the jugular vein; others say it is a reference to the yogic sushumna nadi or central spiritual channel in the body, traversed by mystic ascent. In the latter case, although it is only a thought that came to me, being “closer” suggests a primacy of Omnipresent Truth surpassing ordinary mysticism.
As mentioned previously, it is interesting that Christianity, Judaism, as well as Islam all speak of a Last Judgement and the return of either a Messiah or the Madhi. In Islam both Sunni and Shia eschatology speak of the Mahdi (“Guided One”) as the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on Earth for between seven and nineteen years (according to various interpretations) before the Day of Judgment (yawm al-qiyamah) and, alongside Jesus
, will rid the world of wrong-doing, injustice and tyranny. Sects differ as to whether after the Day of Judgement the Madhi or Jesus will reign. Ibn Arabi gave Christ 'the Seal of Sanctity' as the one who will bring the cycle to a close after the advent of the Mahdi.
Muhammed is known as the "Prophet of Peace"; one would only hope that Islam would be a religion of peace (and tolerance
) also. There remain those among the faithful who feel that way
A legendary character in the Islamic tradition is Al Khidr
, the “Green One” or the “Verdant One”, and according to the Quran was a contemporary and teacher of Moses (18:64-65); other sources consider him to be one of four immortal prophets. Some Muslims identify him with the Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. He is an enigmatic figure in Islam with parallels on many levels in different cultures and religions going back to Middle Eastern prehistory, long before the Hebrew religion evolved. He is revered by the Sufis, who consider him still living and acting as a guide and spiritual initiator for those who have no physical master. Anthony Damiani refers to this legendary figure as a symbol of the eternal I AM principle. (59) This is reasonable, as the very appellation ‘El’ denotes the most high, the ineffable, unknown being, and as a legendary, quasi-mythological figure, can be interpeted on many levels. Ernest Scott tells this Sufi story:
“One day an importunate dervish recognized El-Khidr in disguise. “I threw myself on the ground in front of him, crying: ‘You must be the Presence Khidr, the Green One, the Master of Saints. Bless me, for I would attain.” He said: ‘You have seen too much. Understand that I come from the other world and am, without their knowing it, protecting those who have a service to perform. You may have been a disciple of Sayed Imdadullah, but you are not mature enough to know what we are doing for the sake of God.’ “When I looked up,” the dervish recounted, “he was gone, and all I could here was a rushing sound in the air.”
Some final thoughts. As briefly mentioned earlier, what the Hindus call “Sanatana Dharma”, the Muslims refer to as “Shari‘ah” or the “religion of Adam”, that has spread throughout the world, with twists and turns, accretions and superimpositions, over the ages, with at various times the doctrines being refreshed or clarified. As mentioned, according to traditionalist scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, some Indian Muslim scholars of the Moghul period thought of the Hindus, along with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Zoroastrians, as ‘People of the Book’, or ‘ahl al-kitab
’, belonging to the chain of prophets preceding Islam and beginning with Adam. Some have also considered the prophet Dhu’l-Kifl spoken of in the Qu'ran as the Buddha of Kifl (Kapilavastu) and the ‘Fig Tree’ of surah 95 to be the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha received his illumination. Further, Dara, a Sufi of the Qadiriyyah order, believed that the Upanishads
were the ‘Hidden Books’ referred to by the Qu'ran, lvi. 77-80. (61) Although it is speculation, in the view of some 17th century European scholars (such as John Webb), people of China and India also descended from biblical Shem. (62) As such the Muslims consider their religion the most ancient in the world, predating the Prophet Muhammed, for as the Qu'ran says, 'for every nation I will send a prophet.'
According to traditionalist scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, some Indian Muslim scholars of the Moghul period thought of the Hindus, along with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Zoroastrians
(of ancient Persia, now Iran), as ‘People of the Book’, or ‘ahl al-kitab
’, belonging to the chain of prophets preceding Islam and beginning with Adam.
In the Avestic teachings we find various “cults of life” as taught by Zoroaster, the last - and what became one of the most important cults of antiquity - being called the “cult of the stars”, or “the cult of “Eternal Life.” Zoroaster taught that life is a form of cosmic energy which will always appear whenever favorable conditions exist. Life is a cosmic function, an inherent quality of the Universe, and there is in boundless space and time a universal solidarity connecting all forms of life. And man is a part of this eternal life - of this universal cosmic ocean formed by the sum total of all forms of life on all the planets. The Avestic term for the principle of life is “Sraosha.” In the Zend Avesta
we have an invocation to Mazda praying for the gift of Sraosha for those whom he loves. The parallels with Christian scripture are apparent. In Gatha Ushtavaiti, Zoroaster proclaims:
“Thus I reveal the Word which the Most Unfolded
One has taught me,
The Word which is the best for mortals to listen.
Whosoever shall render obedience and steadfast
attention to Me, will attain for one’s own self the
All-Embracing Whole Being and immortality;
And through the service of the Holy Divine Spirit
Will realize Mazda Ahura (Godhead).”
And from the Ahuravaiti Yasna we read:
“Divine Guidance of the Eternal Master,
Accomplishing long life in the Right Path leading to
the Absolute Kingdom of the Divine Mind,
Wherein the Omniscient, Self-existent Life-Giver
dwells by His all-pervading Reality,
I cause to invoke that divine Sraosha (Word)
which is the greatest of all divine gifts to succour.”
Zoroaster, like Abraham and Muhammed , was also supposedly initiated into wisdom by the hidden sages in central Asia.
Wherever we look within these faiths we keep coming up against the concept of the “divine creative Word” to be known or communed with. And yet, what a pity, that believers think the word is one special book
or another, and fight or make a fuss over it.
There is one more religion yet to be considered, what I call the latest addition to the "People of the Book", and that is the Bahai faith.
The fountainhead of Bahaism, Baha u'llah
(1817-1892), like Muhammed before him, claimed to be the next (and in his case the last) of a progressive series of prophets given to mankind by God, and, as earlier mentioned, traced his ancestry to the union of Abraham and Keturah. First sought out by a man called the Bab, who was looking for the one who would proclaim and affirm him as the new World Prophet, Baha u'llah, after the latter's death, turned about and announced that he himself was the Promised One, not the Bab. Some Bahais today recognize them both.
At the age of seven Baha u'llah argued a case for his father before the court of the Shah. He amazed scholars with his depth of understanding in spite of the fact that he was untutored. His claim at the age of forty-six to be the new World Prophet led to inevitable conflict with the authorities, for it was not acceptable in the Middle East for anyone to upstage Mohammed who was considered to be "the seal of the prophets". Baha u’llah was imprisoned and hundreds of his followers were brutally murdered. Oppression eventually lightened, but not before he spent nine years in prison and much of his life in exile.
The Bahai faith, which spread widely under the leadership of Abdul Baha
(1844-1921), son of Baha u'llah, teaches a religious message of unity and brotherhood of man. Bahais
believe there is a progressive revelation of divinity in time and that Baha u'llah
was the culmination and final Prophet or divine Manifestation given to man by God in a line including Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed. "The Great Covenant" in the Bahai faith is God's promise to send a succession of Manifestations to guide and instruct man. Each succeeding Manifestation more completely disseminates the divine Revelation according to mankind's needs and capacity to receive it. The specific mission of the revelation of Baha ‘u'llah is the noble aim of the establishment of world unity, based on the three principles of the unity of God, unity of religions, and unity of man. Abdul Baha stated:
"The fundamental principle enunciated by Baha u'llah, the followers of this faith firmly believe, is that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complimentary, that they differ only in the non-essential aspects of their doctrines and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society."
Huston Smith in The Religions of Man
, while sympathetic with the Bahai’ vision of a universal religion within the major religions, asks how Bahá'ís resolve the seemingly irreconcilable theological differences between them. This challenges the fundamental premise of the Bahá'í Faith that the world religions come from one source and are essentially one. He asks: “How fully has the proponent tried and succeeded in understanding Christianity's claim that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, or the Muslim's claim that Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets, or the Jews' sense of their being the Chosen People?"
(John 3:16, Qur'án 33:40, Isaiah 43:8).
The Bahai answer is: all of the Prophets sealed the prophecies of the past, because they all fulfilled the promises of the religious scriptures that preceded each one of them. For example, Jesus Christ sealed the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible concerning the Messiah [but not according to the Jews], Muhammad fulfilled the prophecies of the return of Christ in the New Testament [but not according to the Christians], and Bahá'u'lláh sealed the prophecies of the Qur'án about the Last Day [but not according to the Muslims]. (64)
Notwithstanding that this explanation does not include all of the world’s religions - only those of the “People of the Book” - it comes up short regarding a truly spiritual teaching
common to the separate exoteric
faiths, other than a shared belief in a creator-God guiding his people, a shared set of prophecies, and a shared eschatology - but no metaphysics, true meditation, Self-Realization, or non-dual vision. But such is to be expected for a conventional faith-based religion, serving a purpose for people at a certain level of understanding and development. The world has a need for these diverse faiths, for everyone is not ready to seek or accept the unvarnished and absolute truth straight out. This planet, it could be said, is one where love has yet to take hold, and is still working its way up to the truly human stage. Thus the faiths need to remain for a time, and are to be respected, though the infighting be condemned. According to PB:
“If the progressive character of the reincarnational chain be true, then we must grant that there are men half in and half out of the animal kingdom. They are clanking reminders of all that still has to be done before a deep spiritual awareness of its best self becomes natural to the human race.”
The Bahá'i Faith regards Muhammad, as does Islam, as the ‘Seal of the Prophets’, but does not interpret this term as meaning that no further messengers from God are possible. In particular, Bahá'ís regard the end-times prophecies of Islam (and other faiths) as being merely symbolic, and see the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as fulfilling these prophetic expectations. Baha ‘u’llah considered Islamic law to have been superseded by his own revelation. Bahais don’t consider Islam the “religion of Muhammed”, but rather the religion beginning with Adam [this is essentially the view given in the Qu'ran also, but, unfortunately, not always strictly adhered to]. Muhammad is seen as ending the Adamic cycle, also known as the Prophetic cycle, which is stated to have begun approximately 6,000 years ago, (66, 67) and the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as starting the Bahá'i cycle, or Cycle of Fulfillment, which will last at least five hundred thousand years with numerous Manifestations of God appearing throughout that time. (68) Bahá'u'lláh gave the Title "King of the Messengers" (sultán al-rusul) to the Báb, and the "Sender of the Messengers" (mursil al-rusul) to himself. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, he uses the Islamic concept of the oneness of the prophets to show that the term "seal of the prophets" does not apply to Muhammad only, but to all the prophets. These interpretive differences have caused the Bahá'ís to be seen as heretics and apostates by many Muslims.
A good people and noble cause, no doubt; yet another elaborate "story", nonetheless. PB would say that a prophet has at best only a partial glimpse of the World-Idea's purpose, and is not to be equated with something like a "divine incarnation", as many religions profess and believe. Yet the prophets, like everyone else, and perhaps a bit more, have their role to play in furthering the World-Idea's plan of evolution. Their efforts and aims, if incomplete, are not wrong; in them one can see the hidden hand of God working towards a distant goal of unity:
“From time to time, someone is born predestined to give a spiritual impulse to a particular people, area, or age. He is charged with a special mission of teaching and redemption and is imbued with special power from the universal intelligence to enable him to carry it out. He must plant seeds which grow slowly into trees to carry fruit that will feed millions of unborn people. In this sense he is different from and, if you like, superior to anyone else who is also inspired by the Overself. But this difference or superiority does not alter his human status, does not make him more than a man still, however divinely used and power-charged he may be."
In the Bahai faith, man can worship God but can never transcend the state of being a servant of the Creator-God, which is, according to Abdul Baha, the ultimate state of perfection. This is consistent with Islam. There is no talk in Bahai texts of an acausal absolute God that is Consciousness as proclaimed in Hindu scripture, although Baha 'u'llah did author a number of mystical writings. Whether such an actual tradition is alive today is uncertain. The links for Baha ‘ullah and Abdul Baha above give many of their writings; there is certainly much religious veneration and poetic beauty
in them. And, we have been graced with singer-song-writers Seals and Crofts, who gifted us with much uplifting music, such as in their tribute to Baha 'u'llah
; what more could one wish for?
"All praise to the unity of God, and all honor to Him, the sovereign Lord, the incomparable and all-glorious Ruler of the universe, who, out of utter nothingness, hath created the reality of all things... "
While beautiful in its rendering, it needs to be said that this is actually another example of a dualistic religious statement, for, according to the higher philosophic traditions, something cannot come out of nothing
. [Further, if there was truly nothing, how do we account for God being there to "create" something out of nothing? Such a God would in fact be "something" surrounded by a lot of "nothing"]. If anything, therefore, something does not come out of nothing, something comes out of something
. And, according to Advaita and Buddhism, that "something" out of which something comes is "no-thing", which is not nothing but the Fullness or Substance of Reality - without which nothing could be. Yet Baha'ullah's mission was not to create an exacting metaphysics but rather a faith-inspired unity among a people; therefore we honor him for what he represents.
In The Hidden Words
, however, he does write in elegant esoteric mystical language:
“Oh Son of Love!
Thou art but one step away from the glorious heights
above and from the celestial tree of love. Take
thou one pace and with the next advance into the
Immortal Realm and enter the Pavilion of Eternity.
Give ear then to that which hath been revealed by
the pen of glory.”
“O Children of negligence and Passion!
Open your ears that ye may hearken unto the
Word of God, the help in peril, the Self-Existent.”
“O Son of Dust!
Hearken unto the mystic voice calling from the
Realm of the Invisible.”
“O Son of Being!
Thou art My Lamp and My Light is within thee...I
have created thee rich...and within thee have I
placed the essence of My Light.”
One of Baha ‘u’llah’s most famous books was The Seven Valleys
(28a). This book follows the path of the soul on a spiritual journey passing through different stages, from this world to other realms “closer” to God, as first described by the 12th Century Sufi poet Farid al-Din Attar in his Conference of the Birds. Bahá'u'lláh explains the meanings and the significance of the seven stages, and says "Some have called these Seven Valleys, and others, Seven Cities."
The stages are accomplished in order, and the goal of the journey is to follow "the Right Path"
, to "abandon the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower"
, and "gaze on the Beloved"
. In the conclusion of the book, he mentions: "These journeys have no visible ending in the world of time, but the severed wayfarer - if invisible confirmation descend upon him and the Guardian of the Cause assist him - may cross these seven stages in seven steps, nay rather in seven breaths, nay rather in a single breath, if God will and desire it."
For Bahais, the Manifestations perfectly receive God's infallible revelation, while the best ordinary humans can do is to receive divine inspiration. No man can become a Manifestation, for the Manifestations, while not to be confused with avatars or divine incarnations, are perfect, 'stainless souls' prior to their birth in this world, but, even so, the state of the Manifestation is only one of a perfect servant of the Lord and not that of one established in identity with Him. There is, as mentioned, no concept of God as absolute transcendental Brahman such as is found in the Hindu traditions - although he is
spoken of as Self-Existent - nor is there recognition of a process of realization of such a condition. In exoteric Bahaism one essentially worships the Jehovah-God of the Middle Eastern religions and strives to faithfully carry out His will as revealed through His Prophet Baha’u'llah.
The same shortcoming of the exoteric Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is found in conventional Bahaism as well, therefore; namely, the failure to abandon the bodily-based point of view where God is conceived as an "other", and the subsequent inability to move beyond that to the stage where the illusion of egoity is transcended and God is no longer conceived as the Creator but rather as the All-Pervading Ground of Being. Bahaism is a faith-based religion with positive, well-intentioned humanitarian ambitions based on a governing set of moral and religious principles. This is well intentioned and good; and, at least they have moved past calling for the chopping off of one's hand if he is caught stealing, or death for "blaspheming" the faith, or any number of other crimes, as too many in Islam still do.
Among these governing set of principles are: the independent investigation of truth [Note: but can one question Bahaism?], the abandonment of prejudice and superstition, the unity of religion and science, the equality of men and women, the promulgation of universal education, the establishment of economic justice and the abolishing of extremes of poverty and wealth, the spiritual foundation of society, the creation of an international auxiliary language (to promote world unity), and the aforementioned oneness of God, man, and religion. There are three million members worldwide in a well-organized council structure with the periodic adoption of five and ten-year plans for the accomplishment of the movement's goals. All worthy goals, but where in all this does "the independent investigation of truth" really come in? Belief and reason (buddhi
) are two different things that don't often mix well together.
By contrast with Christianity or Islam, the Bahai faith posits no hierarchy of demons, angels, and archangels, but only man, Manifestations, and God. And in contrast with the Manifestations, saints and mystics are only considered as ordinary humans. It follows from this that the concept of the guru or spiritual Master is unacceptable in Bahaism. Yet Baha'u'llah implied a power of transmission in the Manifestations:
"In the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all."
A process of Self-realization such as in Vedanta or Buddhism is not taught or acknowledged, however; much like in Judaism and Islam the emphasis is on morality, social reform, and study of sacred writings based on the revelation of a creator-God to a chosen prophet. Baha u'llah himself, however, as noted above, wrote of mystical experiences, as well as in the following account of a descent of the spirit-current:
"During the days I lay in the prison of Tihran, though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear."
He also made this comment on the "dark night" or "downside" of the spiritual process:
"You cannot have spiritual exaltation without having intense mental depression."
And the devotional characteristic of a true bhakta is revealed in the following verse:
"Kindle the fire of love and burn all things, Then set thy foot unto the land of the lovers."
No religion is without its martyrs, and Bahaism is no exception. Jugal Mukherjee relates:
"Let us now come down to a well-known instance in more recent time, which happened almost a hundred years ago. We are, of course, referring to the case of a particular disciple of Baha u'llah, the founder of the Bahai faith of Iran. This disciple was a great poet and he too met his death because of his unflinching adherence to his religious belief. As in the case of Mansoor..his death also came as a sequel to unimaginable cruel torture to his body. He was tied and hundreds of burning candles were placed upon different parts of his whole body. The super-hot molten wax came into contact with his body in slow but continuous trickle and went on burning him to an apparently agonizing death. The justness of this expression, "apparently", will be made clear from what follows."
"Abdul Baha, son of Baha u'llah, approached the dying poet, sympathized with his unfortunate state and asked him in a sad voice: "How intense must be the pain you have been suffering from at this moment! The mystic devotee answered apace: "Pain? Where is pain? On the contrary, I am facing the most beautiful moment of great contentment of my life." To his greatest surprise Abdul Baha found the tortured poet "in an ecstasy of joy."
Just a quick note on the Mormons, or the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), founded by Joseph Smith, who claim to be Christ's "sheep of another fold", or 'lost' tribes of Israel who migrated and became the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Jesus said:
"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel.”
(Matthew 15:24) “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”
There are numerous speculations about these "lost tribes", as previously mentioned, including that they went to Europe, or Kashmir, or even that they were never lost, simply dispersing into neighboring territory to get away from or being deported by the Assyrians. I do not include LDS as "People of the Book", however - at least, not for the reasons they claim - because not only does DNA evidence prove that native Americans are of asiatic
origin and not semitic
, the LDS not only have their own unique "book", but claim to believe in the Old and New Testaments while only believing in their divinely inspired
significantly re-interpreted versions of them. There is, further, no evidence, historical or archaeological, that such peoples ever existed in the Americas. LDS also have a radically different interpretation of Christ than conventional Christianity, which has enough problems of its own, but, especially, their doctrine of the Trinity as taught to Church members is totally foreign to that of, not only Christianity, but any of the other Middle Eastern faiths. In Mormonism, there is a divine council of three distinct beings: Elohim (the Father), Jehovah (the Son, or Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Father and Son are considered to have perfected, physical
bodies, having once been men and each having their own "fathers" as well, while the Holy Spirit has a body of spirit [one wonders when this potentially infinite regression of 'fathers' will end? God here seems more like a member of the Justice League
than a genuine supreme being, what to speak of the Ground of Being]. Moreover, the use of the term Elohim as the Father is unique also, as traditionally in Hebrew it means a plurality of Gods. The Mormon conception, therefore, differs from the traditional Christian Trinity in which the three persons are inseparable aspects of one divine Person; in Mormonism, the three persons are considered to be fully separate gods, but united in will and purpose. Mormons often refer to this 'Council' as the 'Godhead'. As such, the term Godhead, not meaning the Ground of Being, also has a radically different meaning than the Godhead in either traditional western Christianity or any of the Gnostic traditions. Those faithful to Mormon doctrines can even aspire and expect to become gods
in their after life, populating their own planets. It almost goes without saying that there is no esoteric tradition in this faith - all of which is not to say there are not good people and well-intentioned souls among them.
Yet, in a round-about way some of the Mormons may curiously in fact be "people of the book", if they are of European Christian origin and can therefore possibly trace their earthly origin back to the Israelites a mentioned earlier in this paper. But "people of the book" in the end means nothing of significance. In the vastness of the cosmos with multiple galaxies, solar systems, and planets, some little tribal history (of unknown origins) of a small group of people on our small globe is of little consequence in the big picture of things. See, we have taken you, dear reader, through this long explanation to show you how unimportant being of the people of the book really is! First the 'book' is not the eternal Word of God. It is beyond belief that fundamentalist Christians believe the Bible is actually the Word mentioned in
the Bible, that same Word that was 'in the beginning with God, which was
God, and through which everything that was made was made! The 'book' didn't make anything! The Word of God made everything, and all people are made from this Word. Is anybody listening out there? or are we only voices crying in the wilderness?
[In spite of this criticism, I am really trying to be kind here: for much, much more on Mormonism, and
ending up in a positive spirit, see note 76].
In this essay we have tried to show why, if the “story” of man as told in various scriptures is true - and that is a big “if” - and many of us have a common geneology going back to Abraham, Noah, or Adam, there are reasons, even from “within the story”, why we should have more brotherhood and fellow-feeling. And, prior to that, we are all homo sapiens
and therefore part of the basic family of man. Still further, speaking spiritually, we all derive from the Idea of Man, the Primal Intelligence, the Absolute Soul - “man made in the image of God,” the Heavenly Man, Adam Kadmon, or Adi-Buddha, and are therefore united on that basis. And, finally, from the level of the One Reality there is simply no difference or separation at all. It is only now, having first considered the exoteric religious and the esoteric metaphysical and mystical views within the major faiths, that we can duly summarize this highest - and most difficult to grasp - teaching.
From this viewpoint - which is not even a viewpoint - such words simply don't apply - and which it has been shown can be found here and there even amidst the faith-based religious writings, but most explicitly in Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, it is basically said that there is no true belief, no true "story", no time, no past history, no separate "Supreme Being", no infallible revelation, no cause and effect, no karma, no reincarnation, and no creation: in Truth there is Only-God, Perfect Infinite Being, Presence, Intelligence, Infinite Mind, the Absolute All, the One-without a-Second, Reality As It Is, Eternal Now. And it is not, except in human terms, extraordinary, mystical, spiritual, or even "transcendental" (for being the All there is nothing over against it for it to "transcend"). Few live from such a lofty vantage point, yet, as mentioned, it is found hidden within even the exoteric traditions when one examines their scriptures deeply enough. But they were written long before humanity as a whole was ready for such a message. Islam was
true, then, when it implied that Al-lah is the One-God or Reality, of whom there can be no second - but he is not the one God as the masses believe. Monotheism as commonly viewed is not
really true, as there is not "one" God, apart from His creation, but Only-God
, or Mind, an Absolute which on another level produces the Divine, and from whom manifestation is an inseparable expression arising and dissolving cyclically out of its own necessary law, as is taught in the higher traditions of the East. This must be eventually recognized, but for now, most of humanity is at the necessary beginning stage of religious faith and belief, with a greater number pursuing metaphysics and mysticism, and fewer still aspiring for direct insight into Reality - what PB calls the stage of "philosophy" in its truest sense.
Most of even the loftiest spiritual teachings are written from a human, finite point of view, and therefore are all basically untrue
, or partially true
, pointers to the truth at best, being products of an apparent finite human mind trying to account for itself. Yet whatever is finite is not Real [i.e., everlasting, unchanging] and cannot "account" for itself. Truth must start and end with Truth, not finite points of view, even that of a finite being eventually finding out that he is one with the Truth. Such assumption of even apparent separation is, says the great sage Ramana Maharshi, a presumption
due to ignorance. Therefore, on all counts, religious hatred, war and conflict have no basis in Truth, only in deluded identification with separate bodies, selves, minds, ethnic groups, nations, creeds, and religions. That is the rock-bottom fact of Life that will send most of us into convulsions as Neo did in the movie, the Matrix, if we grapple with it and don't simply go numb. Such a radical position is too much for the average humanity and even most spiritual seekers to take, but so be it. This "ultimate" message must be sent out even in this time of international crisis for those who are receptive to it. As Paul Brunton (PB) wrote in 1943 during WWII:
"Is it futile to set down such remote thoughts about a shadow-like reality at a time of unprecedented world upheaval and world conflict, when most of those who read them are unlikely to feel their truth and even less likely to realize their truth during the present incarnation? It would sometimes seem so were it not that they are set down for the sake of a few who need them and were it not that it is believed that they will penetrate deep down beneath the conscious minds of others and kindle sparks from a long forgotten past, awaken buried layers of memory to a fresh activity. All the present-day human suffering on such a tremendous scale is due in the end to defective remembrance. Mankind have forgotten what they really are, whence they came and whither they are going. It is one part of writings like the present effort to help a little to restore such lost memory. For that which begins as recollection will end as recognition."
stories: biological, cultural, religious, or spiritual, nothing
needs to be said: All Is One. There is no creator-God, no People of the Book, no any-thing: Only-God
. Or, as Tom Joad said in The Grapes of Wrath
, "A fella ain't got a soul of his own, just one great big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody."
Nevertheless, what all of the strife, warfare, and hatred, religious or otherwise, boils down to is this: we remain as a species “hide-bound and mind-ridden”, filled with superstitious beliefs, greed, and fear. For millions, giving up ones beliefs - one's “survival-as-a-distinct-being-part-of-a-tribe-special teaching-chosen-people” psychological compensations - is tantamount to a form of death. In fact, Swami Nikhilananda once said that many men would rather die than think. Yet that is a crowning glory of man’s evolution: mind (manas
) and higher reasoning (buddhi
), and using these to know himself spiritually. Our present survival as a species lies in the balance. To fail to use these is to sin, or to “miss the mark.” Gangaji writes:
“When preservation of the body is primary, we live in a fearful and defensive universe. Defensive action -- whether in terms of "me first", "my tribe first", or "my nation first", at the cost of all other people, tribes, and nations - gives rise to tremendous suffering...At a certain point the reality of the death of your body and all bodies, all forms of every kind, becomes apparent. Although much of society, particularly in the West, seeks to keep this fact hidden, the death of the body cannot finally be denied.This demon death, which has been feared, denied, and run from, is called out of the subconscious to be faced in the light of conscious awareness. At this point, you can realize the undeniable presence of permanent, eternal awareness: the truth of who you are. This realization is the death of believing in the ego as reality, and the revelation of what is deathless.”
Lao Tzu cautioned:
“If you attach yourself to gross energies - loving this person, hating that clan, rejecting one experience or habitually indulging in another - then you will lead a series of heavy, attached lives. This can go on for a very long and tedious time.”
This erroneous belief in a separate "I" is the root-cause of all wars and conflicts. And this is why the Buddha sometimes declared that giving out even a few lines of the teachings of Truth is of more merit than many lifetimes sacrificed in doing good works.
Finally, Swami Ranganathananda tells us:
“It is only in the darkness of ignorance that we hate each other. Then all petty notions come. What a tradegy! Our true nature is luminous, but, in ignorance, we grope in darkness! This is due to the power called Maya. Shankara goes into ecstasy when he treats this subject in the Katha Upanishad (1. 3. 12.). There he says, “Oh! How unfathomable, inscrutable and strange is this Maya.” We are essentially Brahman
[Al (without beginning) lah (without end), Ein Sof, the Father, Purushuttoma, the One]. But we don’t realize this even though repeatedly taught, and we keep treating the body as our Self. We fatten the body, exploit others, and do evil deeds. How tragic! How strange is this Maya that keeps us forgetful of our true nature!”
Yet, even now the World-Idea is guiding errant humanity. Anthony Damiani states:
"In a sense, the World-Idea has already decided the goal that mankind will reach. But it hasn't fixed the time. So you can take a long, long time or you can hurry things up. That is left up to you. But inevitably and ultimately everyone must move towards that goal. The whole world and the totality of circumstances are moving in such a way that all of mankind is being pushed, whether they like it or not...We have to confront the fact that
[the World-Idea] is not going to allow us to live like animals any longer. You can feel that force of the World-Idea. It doesn't matter who you are. This is the way it is now. It's saying, "Are you people going to get your heads together and come up with a sensible solution or destroy yourselves?" If you can discern it and see it, then after a while, you begin to see how events are falling into place with that guiding idea."
"Whatever were the motives which dictated the exclusive reservation of ultimate wisdom in former centuries and the extraordinary precautions which were taken to keep it from the larger world, we must now reckon on the dominant fact that humanity lives today in a cultural environment which has changed tremendously. The old ideas have lost their weight among educated folk - except for individuals here and there - and this general decay has passed by reflex action among the masses, albeit to a lesser extant. Whether in religion or science, politics or society, economics or ethics, the story of prodigious storm which has shaken the thoughts of men to their foundations is the same. The time indeed is transitional. In this momentous period when the ethical fate of mankind is at stake because the religious sanctions of morality have broken down, it is essential that something should arise to take their place. This is the supreme and significant fact which has forced the hands of those who hold this wisdom in their possession, which has compelled them to begin this historically unique disclosure of it, and which illustrates the saying that the night is darkest just before dawn. This is the dangerous situation which broke down an age-old policy and necessitated a new one whose sublime consequences to future generations we can now but dimly visage."
"There's a whole new civilization coming out, and we're in the throes of its birth. And in that agony and in that turmoil we're going to have to forge a philosophy which is going to be representative of us and not of some people who lived five thousand years ago."
"New forms will be needed to satisfy the new knowledge, the new outlook, the new feelings. The classical may be respected, even admired, but the creative will be followed."
[see Why We Need A New Vision
on this website].
When thinking of the purpose and effect of belief, especially religious, has been on the human psyche, I am reminded of a humorous incident from the 70's sit-com, "Sanford and Son". Fred and son Lamont were flying to Hawaii for a National Junkman Conference. Fred was more than a little nervous about flying. Lamont noticed that he was decked out with a number of necklaces on his chest, and said: "Pop, what is this? You're wearing a Star of David, a Maltese Cross, a Crucifix, an Islamic Crescent, and a Buddha around your neck!"
Fred replied, "Son, down here I'm a Baptist; but up there, I not taking any chances."
PB insightfully pens:
“To attach oneself to a guru, an avatar, one religion, one creed, is to see the stars only. To put one’s faith in the Infinite Being and in its presence within the heart, is to see the vast empty sky itself. The stars will come and go, will disintegrate and vanish, but the sky remains.”
Swami Ranaganathananda again explains to us:
“Many Sufi mystics (have) realized (the) truth. Most of them faced persecution. But such things cannot happen in India. Here, when a man realizes the ultimate truth, he becomes the most honoured person. In our tradition, the ethnic aspect of religion is secondary. The spiritual aspect alone is primary. Therefore, whether it is a Muslim saint or a Christian or any other, a saint is respected in India like nowhere else. That is the contribution of Indian Sanatana Daharma thought to the world, which emphasizes the experience of reality and not the body of creeds or dogmas.”
So, if all the aforementioned information about the "religion of Adam" or the “People of the Book” be so - and even if it isn’t - who cares anymore?! Once again, we are all human beings, and part of the un-partable One Divine Reality. Whether People of the Book or not is of little importance. In fact, under a broad definition of 'The People of the Book', we are all
members - from Adam and from God. Therefore, I will humbly ask the question raised at the outset of this article, ”Why can’t we be friends?”
Parting words from PB:
"All things are indeed unconsciously striving to realize their inherent divinity, to progress towards their own ideal self, to actualize what they already are in hidden principle and final possibility. Why should its existence guarantee that man will turn one day and become a humble suppliant at its feet? Because when, like the prodigal son, he has eaten his fill of the husks of divine estrangement he will experience a reaction. Be he fettered slave or pampered sovereign, a divine nostalgia will sweep over his heart. He will be driven by home-sickness, if not by the sour frustrations and nauseating defeats of life, to turn his face toward the one last yet one best hope left him. Every finite being is unconsciously and imperceptibly drawn onwards, like a moth to a flame, to the infinite being that is its Overself. There is no real happiness, no true peace, no enduring satisfaction until this goal is reached. None of us would aspire toward the divine if it were not already present within us to prompt the aspiration. None of us would feel this lacerating nostalgia for the beatific life if the latter did not really exist. Here then lies the guarantee that every ego will one day turn its face toward the light and ultimately be saved and finally redeemed."
"All people respond to the power of God, and perform their role in the idea of God, however slight be the measure of their response or however hidden be their role."
“God is one...Life is one...Only expressions and dialects vary in their beautiful differences. Why should we quarrel on our way home because our prejudices are not the same?”
"Do not go by revelation; do not go by tradition; do not go by hearsay; do not go by authority of sacred texts; do not go on the grounds of pure logic; do not go by a view that seems rational; do not go by reflecting on mere appearances; do not go along with a considered view because you agree with it...Kalamas, when you yourself know: "These things are unwholesome; these things are blameworthy; these things are censored by the wise; and when observed and undertaken, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them...Kalamas, when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; these things, when observed and undertaken, lead to benefit and happiness; having undertaken them, abide in them."
Part Two: The People of the Tradition
1. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 12, Part 1, 4.103,1.211
2. Almut Nebel, Dvora Filon, Bernd Brinkmann, Partha P. Majumder, Marina Faerman, and Ariella Oppenheim, "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East", American Journal of Human Genetics
(2001) 69(5): 1095–1112
2a. Farida Alshamali, Luísa Pereira, Bruce Budowle, Estella S. Poloni, Mathias Currat, "Local Population Structure in Arabian Peninsula Revealed by Y-STR Diversity", Human Heredity
3. Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself
(York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1983), p. 212-216
4. Ibid, p. 295-296
5. J. Murray Mitchell and Sir William Muir, Two Old Faiths: Essays on the Religions of the Hindus and the Mohammedans
6. For that matter, how much can we tell was transmitted to the masses? That is to say, how many copies of the Qu'ran were circulating in those days before the printing press
? How many scribes hand-copying a supposed original changed a few verses here and there? (Not to single out the Koran, this question goes out regarding all ancient scriptures).
7. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "Rumi and the Sufi Tradition," in Chelkowski (ed.), The Scholar and the Saint
, p. 183
8. Paul Brunton, op. cit., p. 301
9. George Gurdjieff, Tales of Beelzebub
10. Young Oon Kim, World Religions: Volume 2: India's Religious Quest
(Golden State Publishing Co.,1976
10a. Many books and gospels were systematically rejected from the canonized Bible by the official priesthood at early Church Councils, books that early Christians had in fact known of and many which have recently been discovered in Qumran and other places. For an excellent documentary please see Banned from the Bible - Complete History Channel Series
11. Gertrude Emerson Sen, The Story of Early Indian Civilization
(Orient Longmans, 1964
12. Paul Brunton, op. cit., p. 247, 256, 248
13. David was the first real monarch of a united twelve tribes and extended the reach of Israel and Judah (the northern and southern kingdoms) from the "great river in Egypt (not the Nile) to the Euphrates." That empire didn't last, but is a renewed goal of extremist elements in Israeli leadership today.
14. Peter Goodgame, The Globalists and the Islamists: Fomenting the "Clash of Civilizations" for a New World Order
15. Des Griffin, Fourth Reich of the Rich
"Having consolidated their financial grip on most of the European nations by the middle of the last century, the international bankers worked feverishly to extend their sphere of influence to the ends of the earth in preparation for their final assault on the United States -- a nation which, through its unique Constitution, remained free. In the decades that followed it became apparent that, in order to achieve their goal of world domination, they would have to instigate a series of world wars which would result in leveling of the old world in preparation for the construction of the New World Order.
This plan was outlined in graphic detail by Albert Pike, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and the top Illuminist in America. In a letter to [revolutionary] Guisseppe Mazzini dated August 15, 1871, Pike stated that the first world war was to be fomented in order to destroy Czarist Russia -- and to place that vast land under the direct control of Illuminati agents. Russia was then to be used as a 'bogey man' to further the aims of the Illuminati worldwide. World War II was to be fomented through manipulation of the differences that existed between the German Nationalists and the Political Zionists. This was to result in an expansion of Russian influence and the establishment of a state of Israel in Palestine. The Third World War was planned to result from the differences stirred up by Illuminati agents between the Zionists and the Arabs. The conflict was planned to spread worldwide. [seems like the plan has been working out fairly well]. The llluminati, said the letter, planned to
"unleash the Nihilists and Atheists" and "provoke a formidable social cataclysm which in all its horror will show clearly to the nations the effect of absolute atheism, origin of savagery and of the most bloody turmoil. Then everywhere, the citizens, obliged to defend themselves against the world minority of revolutionaries, will exterminate those destroyers of civilization, and the multitude, disillusioned with Christianity, whose deistic spirits will from that moment be without compass [direction], anxious for an ideal, but without knowing where to render its adoration, will receive the true light through the universal manifestation of the pure doctrine of Lucifer, brought finally out in the public view, a manifestation which will result from the general reactionary movement which will follow the destruction of Christianity and atheism, both conquered and exterminated at the same time."
What Albert Pike didn't envision, however, was the spiritual revolution that has been taking place, or the development of the Internet, the greatest potential for human freedom since the invention of the printing press. Hopefully, the Illuminati won't succeed.
16. Swami Rangathananda, The Message of Vivekachudamani
(Kolkotta, India: Advaita Ashram, 2008), p. 267-268
16a. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988) Volume 5, Part 1, 1.316
17. Rangathananda, op. cit., p. 152
18. Kirpal Singh, NAAM OR WORD
(Franklin, New Hampshire: Sat Sandesh Books, 1970), p. 82
19. Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life
(Delhi: Ruhani Satsang, 1970), p. 218
20. Ibid, p.
21. Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India
(Dorset, England: Element Book Ltd, 1986). p. 29
22. Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief: the Secret Gospel of Thomas
(New York: Random House, 2003), p. 34
23. Kasser, Rodolpe, Meyer, Marvin and Wurst, Gregor, The Gospel of Judas
(National Geographic, 2006), p. 21-23, 33-34
24. 1 Corinthians 2.6
25. Jacob Boehme, On the Supersensual Life
26. Tibetan Book of the Dead
27. Marshall Govindan, The Wisdom of Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas
(Eastman, Quebec, Canada: Babaji's Kriya Yoga and Publications, Inc., 2007), p. 102
29. I. A. Ezekial, Sarmad (Jewish Saint of India)
(Punjab, India: Radhasoami Satsang Beas, 1974), p.
30. A. J. Heschel, The Prophets
(New York: Harper Collins, 1962)
31. Jerry Katz, ed. Essential Writings on Non-Duality
(Boulder, Colorado: Sentient Publications, 2007), p. 63-68
32. Kabir Helminski, ed., The Pocket Rumi
, p. 160
33. Jerry Katz, op. cit., p. 59
34. Gangaji, The Diamond in Your Pocket
(Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc., 2007), p.60
35. Martin Lings, A Moslem Saint
, p. 137
36. trans., Rabindranath Tagore, reference misplaced
37. Victoria LePage, Shambhala
(Varanasi, India: Pilgrims Publishing; first published: Quest Books, 1996), p. 239; (quote from : Lama Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra
(London: Wisdom Publications), 1985, p. 129)
38. Betty Cambi and Elliott Isenberg, ed., Sunyata: The Life and Sayings of a Rare-born Mystic
(Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1993), p. 62
39. "Happy hearts and happy faces, happy play in grassy places;
That was how in ancient ages, children grew to Kings and Sages."
(from A Child's Garden of Verses
, by Robert Louis Stevenson
40 Paul Brunton, op.cit., Vol. 16, Part 3, 4.2, 4.15, 4.63, 4.73, 4.91
41. Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself
(York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1984 (originally Ryder & Co, Inc., 1943), p. 165-166
42. Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life
, op. cit., p. 182
43. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 1, 1.78
44. Ibid, 1.168
45. Ibid, 2.117
46. Ibid, 1.164
47. PB is correct about the Advaitin if such a one in fact “arrogantly asserts” that he, as a separate being, is the Infinite Brahman, but to confess that he knows he is the non-dual Self, when true, is not arrogance but honesty. In addition, in Volume 16 of his Notebooks, PB alternately states that the Overself is ‘formless and unindividuated’ (Part 3, 4.178) but also that the World-Mind emanates ‘individual’ Overselves (Part 4, 1.53). Which is it? This dichotomy may be due at least in part to his agreement with the paradoxical nature of the Soul or Overself as a ‘one-and-many’ (~Plotinus). But it still needs explaining. The thoughtful student of PB can best sort out his position on this matter. I have elsewhere on this website given it a try. Let us let Annie Cahn Fung give it a go from her thesis on Paul Brunton (thesis in two parts: Paul Brunton: A Bridge Between India and the West
, and Paul Brunton: A Quest for Truth
. When asked whether it is necessary to understand the three concepts of Mind, World-Mind and Overself in order to understand the Absolute, PB responded:
“If you are trying to think things out in an intelligent way, you must do that. You can't leap there. You can take the Absolute Advaitic point of view if you like, but you can't get there until you've gone through them—because you don't understand; the instrument is lacking which can handle it...Why did Plotinus split it into three if it wasn't necessary for us? Eventually you rise to the point where there is only THE ONE. In studying, using the intellect; all three are necessary...The fragmentation of the non-dual Reality into three distinct concepts has only an empirical value, the fruit of an intellectual operation which is only preliminary to the contemplative experience that alone allows attainment of the Real...The intellect can only produce thoughts, yet Reality is not a thought. Accumulating thought after thought, reason is forever powerless to grasp the Real. But it can open the way for metaphysical experience, and that is, moreover, its traditional function in Vedantic sadhana."
Cahn Fung further argues that PB had an evolving concept of the Overself, and used it to sweeten the pill of non-dualism for westerners. He started with the Overself as a form as realizable in savikalpa samadhi in the heart
as an expanse of light in The Search in Secret India
. Later this became the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi in the heart
. Later still, the Overself was recognized as having no boundaries, becoming the identity of the sage in sahaj samadhi. As Ramana would say, even now, you are
the Heart or the Self. At this point the boundaries of the Overself’s distinctness as an entity of any kind becomes vague, and PB appeared almost strained in finding a further use for the concept. He called it a point in the World-Mind, but refused to admit of separate Overselves for each body. By saying this he was harkening to his advaitic inclinations over those of Sam 'khya which admits multiple Purushas. Yet he claimed distinct-but-not-separate Overselves for each sutra-atma, or successon of apparent lifetimes. Still, the Overself does seem to have been a pedagogical tool for PB, that is, a concession to the limited intellect and understanding of his readers. Cahn Fung writes:
“Reason proceeds by successive steps and not by sudden leaps—it cannot
apprehend the concept of the Absolute without intermediary concepts. However, the ultimate step will always be “trans-rational.” Brunton seemed to be aware of this paradox, for he confided to a student:
"Understanding the One is not a matter of discrimination, because it can only be risen to in the silent mind, the stillness. In having that experience he (Plotinus) could have only had it in the silent mind, the stilled, silent mind, the higher intellect, when he was not trying.”
Thus, Cahn Fung concludes, “the World-Mind and the Overself are only intermediary concepts permitting the aspirant to construct a coherent mental representation of Reality.”
48. Idries Shah, The Sufis
, p. 375
49. Jugal Kishore Mukherjee, Mysteries of Death, Fate, Karma, and Rebirth
(Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2004, p. 12
50. The point of such a story is self-submission, obviously, but it is more than that: the devotee, traditionally, is to learn what pleases his guru, and also to study his actions and receive the instruction they contain. Shree Atmananda was a master chess-player and would often play the game with two of his disciples. He stated on many occasions that "he utilised even the game of chess to speed the spiritual progress of those who played with him." (Nitya Tripta, Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Sree Atmananda
, Part II, 1953-59 (Trivandrum, India: The Reddiar Press, 1963), p. 557
50a. Reza Aslan, No God but God
(New York: Random House, 2006), p. 206-208
51. Henrik Ibsen, from the play Brand
52. Gangaji, op. cit., p. 258
53. The Whirling Ecstasy
by Aflaki (a disciple of Rumi's grandson) (San Francisco, CA: Prophecy Publications, 1983
54. Coleman Barks, trans., The Essential Rumi
, p. xx.
55. There is some debate as to whether he actually founded the Order, some saying that he associated with the whirling dervishes but was not their originator.
56. Jalal Ud-din Rumi, Knowledge and the Sacred
, p. 154
57. I.A. Ezekial, op. cit., p. 9
58. Anthony Damiani,Living Wisdom
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, Inc., 1996), p. 228 [in this reference, Damiani mistakenly refers to Khidr as Kabir
59. Ernest Scott, The People of the Secret
(London: Octagon Press, 1985), p. 246
60. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays
(Chicago, Illinois: KAZI Publications, 1999), p. 132,141
61. Mungello, David E. (1989). Curious Land: Jesuit Accommodation and the Origins of Sinology
. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 179, 336–337
62. Shoghi Effendi, "The Faith of Baha u'llah," in World Order
, vol. 7, no. 2, 1972-1973, p. 7
63. Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir (1993). "A Bahá'í Approach to the Claim of Finality in Islam"
, Journal of Bahá'í Studies 5 (3): 17–40
64. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 9, Part 1, 1.134
65. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 13, 1986. Published in Effendi, Shoghi; The Universal House of Justice (1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.). ed. Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. pp. 500
66. Taherzadeh, Adib (1977). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 2: Adrianople 1863-
(Oxford, UK: George Ronald), pp. 352
67. Kamran Hakim: A Personal Interpretation of the Term 'Seal of the Prophets'
68. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 1,1.184
69. Baha u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
, (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1983), pp. 64-65
70. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words
(Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985), p.
71. Baha 'u'llah, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys
(Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1991)
72. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
, op. cit., XXVII, pp. 64-69
73. Baha’ u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
(Wilmette, Illinois: Bahai Publishing Trust, 1953), p. 22
74. source unknown
75. Mukherjee, op cit., p. 12-13
76. I’d like to have only positive things to say, but too many things in this faith just don’t add up. First, the teachings of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) are not even in accord with the teachings in the Book of Mormon itself
. The ideas taught by LDS that God and Christ in heaven had physical bodies, and “fathers” themselves, is totally at odds, not only with reason (some might say sanity), but with what is written in their Book, wherein the Trinity is said to be One, just as in traditional Christianity. LDS literally are taught to believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ each have physical bodies of flesh and bone, and that the Father was once a man, who progressed to become what he is today. Based on this, they believe that man is capable, by embracing and adhering completely to the Mormon religion, of evolving into a "god" himself in the after-life and will then populate and rule his own planet with his earthly family. Thus the encouragement to have many children in this faith. Tongue-in-cheek I say that perhaps LSD
is the cure for this type of thinking among LDS
Second, founder Joseph Smith in the earliest days of Mormonism taught that the Indigenous peoples of the Americas were members of some of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Later, he taught that Mormons were Israelites, and that they may learn of their tribal affiliation within the twelve Israelite tribes through prophecy. The problem is that DNA analysis has found definitively that the native American peoples were asiatic
and not semitic.
Third, there is evidence that the Book of Mormon was an outright forgery. In 1812 one Soloman Spaulding wrote a fictional history describing the migration of two civilizations to America. His widow claimed that the manuscript was found by Sidney Rigdon, a compositor at the printing office where Spaulding left the work. Rigdon later became an ardent supporter of Joseph Smith, and Mrs. Spaulding testified that the Book of Mormon was fabricated from her husband’s fictional account and was, therefore, completely false. The Mormon Church, of course, has always steadfastly denied this.
Fourth, the so-called Israelites who came to the Americas (chiefly central America), had their record written on tablets by the angel Moroni and conveniently transferred to upstate New York and buried, where tinkerer and trinket digger Joseph Smith claimed to unearth them. He was told in vision by Moroni to visit the site where the plates were buried every year for four years, at which time he could remove the plates and translate them into English, “by the gift and power of God”. A slight problem with this is that no one including Smith has ever been proved to have seen the plates, for Smith transcribed them from behind a screen to several witnesses, and then said that the angel Moroni came down and “took” them back with him, thereby dispensing with the evidence.
Fifth, numerous prophecies by Smith and other Church leaders have never come true. The gold standard for validation of prophets and prophecies is as follows:
"When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him."
(See Deuteronomy 18:22, 13:1-5, Isaiah 9:13-16, Jeremiah 14:13-16, Ezekiel 13:1-9)
“Try the spirits whether they are of God”
(I John 4:1)
The biblical definition of a true prophet is very strict: 100% accuracy is required. PB would be more lenient, saying that a prophet may be genuine, but yet have limited knowledge of the total World-Idea. But then he still should not utter what has not been revealed to him.
The teachings of the Church, like that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who numerous times have pushed back the date for the end of the world, when the end didn’t happen), have been repeatedly changed when the facts didn’t align with the doctrines. Even Smith’s early and later accounts of his initial visions changed dramatically, from first being a meeting with God and Jesus Christ to later only being the vison of angels.
[To be fair, all of these faiths claim their version of the Book today is identical to what their prophets revealed and that parts were not lost, altered and corrupted. These claims are simply invalid. The Mormon claim is proven false by a book called 3913 Changes to Book of Mormon
by Sandra Tanner. The Islamic claim is proven false by a book (in Arabic language) called, Making Easy the Readings of What Has Been Sent Down
by Muhammad Fahd Khaaruun. Both books show that the copy of the book of Mormon and the Qu’ran used today is different from what was originally used when each religion was started. The books of the New Testament were codified and selected literally at the point of fist-fighting at several Church councils several hundred years after the death of Christ, rejecting many competing gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, Judas, Mary and other Apocrypha, that undermined their dogmatic beliefs. The Old Testament books similarly were put together over time, eliminating various texts, such as the Book of Enoch, that revealed secrets the priesthood did not want their followers to know. Finally, the Babylonian Talmud used by the Zionist Jews has been drastically cleaned up from its original version - which it is hard to get a copy of today].
Sixth, after Joseph Smith's murder, when Brigham Young moved the faithful to Utah some who tried to leave the fold were killed. [This massacre is also vehemently denied]. Today such "dissidents" are merely "shunned".
Seventh, as mentioned, there hasn’t been the slightest bit of legitimate historical or archeological evidence for the cities and peoples, tools, food supplies (i.e., figs, grapes, etc.) spoken of by Smith as having existed at the time of these lost Israelites, and the list of contradictions and discrepencies goes on and on. Smith claimed to have discovered an ancient papyrus which he called The Book of Abraham, which was later proved by a prominent museum to be an account of Egyptian funeral rites, not an account written by or about Abraham, and a forgery at that. And yet people still continue to believe in the face of all of these contrary findings.
While the Church does good work by emphasizing a tightly-knit, co-operative community and family life, the need for self-preparedness, and so on, there is no doubt in the minds of many
that it is still a cult. In addition, both Smith and the Church’s ties with Freemasonry are well-documented and evident in their temple rites and rituals. That casts a dark cloud over the whole operation that is difficult to ignore. Cult psychology and shunning of those who leave are common practices among the faithful to maintain their self-security and keep ego-structures undisturbed. As Sigmund Freud saw clearly, the ego, or self-image, protects itself with an army of defense mechanisms which, in effect, endlessly reshuffle the details of reality in order to keep one’s picture of himself intact. The ego is very smart, being about two million years old (give or take), and is ingenious in its ability to distort reality to protect one from uncomfortable, even devastating truths. This is where cults derive their power, and why it is often so hard to leave them. [This is also, on the other hand, why authentic spiritual paths are so challenging. They attempt to disarm the ego, so one can see clearly, free of its distortions]. Means of cult control are the same in LDS as found in all cults (including those known as the major faith-based religions, guru-worshipping, and even "society" itself): indoctrination that you are helpless without the support of the group; that you won't thrive without obeying its rules; that you will not have a place in heaven if you don't obey the commandments of its religion or 'divinely inspired' leaders, and that you will be damned to hell, or, in other cases, face hellish karmas for lifetimes, or simply be all alone in a dangerous, fallen world if you leave the faith. In the case of Mormonism you will loose contact with family members and friends as well, a cruel alternative to remaining as a blind believer. And it is far easier to believe than to think. This type of psychology is understandable given the still-limited evolutionary state of mankind, but it is fast undergoing a sea change, one hopes, and will not last long - although perhaps not until after a final period of death-throws in which childish and provincial thinking is undone.
So for all these and more reasons Mormonism is not included here as a member of the People of the Book in its own 'strict' definition. However
, as earlier mentioned, inasmuch as many of them are descendants of Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Germanic heritage and can possibly can trace their link to the Abrahamic faith that way, as the Christian-Israel movement has done, they would be so included. However, much more importantly
, in its broader definition, as descendants of Adam - or Primal Adam - as we have already concluded this article by saying, all
God's peoples are included as Peoples of the Book, when the Book is interpreted rightly, and none of this really matters - except that many people still believe it does. Therefore, I wish blessings on all those who remain in LDS as well as those who have cut their ties with the faith. Take truth wherever you can find it and drop all of the rest. All is as It is and remains perfect in God's World.
77. Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself
, op. cit., p. 349
78. Gangaji, op. cit., p.
79. Swami Ranganathananda, op. cit., p. 476-477
80. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 145-146
81. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
, op. cit., Vol. 13, 20:2.8
82. Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom
, op. cit., p. 55
83. Paul Brunton, op. cit., 20:2.66
84. Ibid, Vol. 16, Part 4, 2.104
85. Swami Ranaganathananda, op. cit., p. 578-579
86. Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself
, op. cit., p. 239-240
87. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part 2, 4.104
88. Betty Cambi and Elliott Isenberg, ed., op. cit., p. 61
89. Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya
"The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next." - Ralph Waldo Emerson