One of my friends, a member of our Order, recently started a new relationship with someone who comes from a different religious background to her. My friend has a Christian underpinning with esoteric practice while her partner is a member of one of the eastern religions that have become popular in the west recently. Both people are intelligent and compassionate. However, there has still been some religious tension as her partner can’t see the point of the Christian connection. I’ve known other friends have partners who couldn’t see the point of any other religion other than their own. There are fundamentalists everywhere. I’ve even met fundamentalist Bahai’s in my time. Crazy, I know. But true.
Now when I hear such things I get confused. While I know from my Google News service that overall the world is a very intolerant place, when it happens it my own sphere I find it weird. You see I have ingested the modern, liberal pluralist mindset so much I just can’t see why people don’t live, let live and celebrate our differences. And being involved in traditionalist esoteric pursuits since a teenager I am convinced that at root there is only eternal Truth which is expressed in countless ways within temporal and mundane reality. It is not that I see all religions as One, as obviously they are not. Nor do I believe the Blavatsky romantic doctrine that all religions started out as a pristine, single tradition and we need to re-unite them. I’m with the late Carl Sagan on this one: “Critics start at the ‘re’.”
I do however firmly believe that the super-mundane source of all religious expressions must eventually lead back to the same ineffable Mystery. Otherwise, somehow some of us are right and some wrong. Now once we start down the track of some religions being true (or better) and others not we have to start thinking of reincarnation and something like Karma. Which curiously are not accepted by those exoteric religions that tend to have adherents who can declare religions true or false.
If there is one (or even a few) true religion(s) and the rest false or not so good, then the vast majority of humankind has never been exposed to truth. Obviously if there is a God or directing agency It would not allow this, as it’s just unfair. An eight year old can figure that one out. So to give us all a good shot at the truth God or Whatever must arrange for us to keep getting chances in other lives where we are born into a culture that has a true religion. And the reason why people are born into societies without a true religion? Well, a fair God cannot be arbitrary so people must have done something beforehand to cause their birth in a dumb culture. Therefore we have Karma raising its head or a God judging everyone and dolling out future lives accordingly.
If there is no directing agency and still only a few true religions then it supposes that either (a) some civilizations and peoples are dumb-shits, or (b) eventually every civilization will evolve into the true way of doing things. And we know where such thoughts lead, don’t we? Pass the matches, please someone…
Esoteric practice has warped or expanded my mind so much (depending on your view) I get edgy and nervous even talking about these things. It is like a form of contact embarrassment. I am very much aware of my own and others conventional existence as separate beings and the common verbal semantics that posit God as a “being” but as soon as the words God, or Divine are mentioned it is like I switch on a different mode. So when people describe God I get antsy as by using any description we have defined something that is not God, which makes me quiver. And then people talk about Higher Selves and past lives and without realizing it assert our inherent existence, when of course we don’t actually exist. This makes me quiver more.
Not content with these unwitting spiritual faux pas people then starting assigning temporal, human morality to God, Jesus, Buddha or Whatever. Hence the classification of some religions as false. These days I try to only read these ideas, as I feel too ill hanging around people who tell me God is angry with ‘the gays’ or Jesus supports us bombing the crap out of some non-Christian country somewhere. To think somewhere there is a being called God is one thing. To assign human emotions to Him is another. To assume we can know when “God” is angry is bizarre. We can’t even see behind us, or be in two places at once, or know every mathematical proposition off by heart, or see the interior of a crater on mars. How can we say anything about God? I don’t know how my fourteen year old son thinks most of the time, let alone GOD!
I’m expecting some folk to now think about or respond with the concept of Sacred Scripture, or to be fair mostly the Bible or the Koran as few other religions tend to generate scriptural based fundamentalism to the same degree. Sorry, but I can’t swallow the notion that Scripture gives us infallible, unchanging directions about God’s moods and wants. Firstly, all scripture is created by humans – or least humans under the guidance of the divine. There are not many religions that, like the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claim their scriptures were created by God in a single stroke. The King James Bible didn’t just appear overnight on the altars of all churches. Scripture is a human artefact and therefore flawed by human flaws.
Now, I once met a very lovely and smoochie member of YWAM at the Liberal Catholic Church Sunday Mass (I think she was there to check out the local weirdo Church down the street). Over lunch we discussed things and got to know one another. After her statement that the Bible, every word, was the literal Word of God and does not need to be interpreted metaphorically or esoterically I replied “in what language?”. Even variants in modern languages alter meaning let alone interpretation from the Greek, let alone interpretation from the Aramaic that Jesus actually spoke. And then there are personal interpretations each of us bring to the text. And besides all this the argument for the infallibility of scripture still fails my previous concerns – there have been many scriptures over the years and therefore most people have never been exposed to the one or few that are ‘true’. The only way around these difficulties is to accept Sacred Scripture as personal doorway to the Divine but not as a (highly cryptic) guide to God’s moods and desires. To even think that God has a mood makes me quiver again! Naturally any potential relationship with the smoochie YWAMer died aborning. 🙂 Such is life.
Sometimes I wish I had gone through a stint in a fundamentalist Church in my youth, as several esoteric folk I know have done, so I could understand these things better. I’ve tried the wonderful exercises St Bob recommends in Prometheus Rising to see the world from the fundamentalist viewpoint, but still can’t quite get there. Oh well…