AllFaith: Aum Truth

The Fourth Great Awakening

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion: Part Two

By John of AllFaith 1989 (updated Sept.3, 2006)

Awakening The Fourth Great Awakening
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The principles of the Enlightenment exercised a profound influence on the minds and philosophies of the American Founding Fathers. Under the influence of this new thought, it became fashionable to ridicule the so-called superstitions and dogmatism of both Catholic and Protestant religionists. The previous religious tolerance was slowly being transformed into intellectual secular pomposity. From this trend, the neo-religion of Secular Humanism was born and Christian theology and piety was gradually being replaced by an eclectic belief in the fundamental goodness of human nature, an idea championed by people such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The religion of the day, at least among the intelligentsia, was a nature-based secular humanism exemplified by the words of the poet Thomas Gray: "Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry" (DRP 218) ( note 18 ). The depth of this emotional neo-religious mood finally replaced the rationalism of the eighteenth century as the nineteenth dawned. This transition from hard reason to a more tender turn of the heart produced a wide array of fruits, for instance, in Kierkegaard's satire against the rationalism of Hegel, the appreciation of patristic and medieval Christian values among the English Tractarians and others, and the emphasis of religious feeling in the works of people such as Schleiermacher and Chateaubriand.

As credence in the organized Church continued to wane, many religious leaders sought to bolster their authority during the Romantic Period by stressing the cultural and traditional social aspects of the Church. This attempt is seen, within Protestantism, in Schleiermacher's influence. On the Catholic side, we see it in the arguments advanced by those who, after the manner of Chateaubriand, stressed the importance and beauty of tradition. As an unintended result of this philosophical and religious maneuvering, the Church lost much of its vitality and moral certitude in the minds of the public as a spirit of spiritual relativism was embraced (RE 91). In the eyes of many, during this period the Church conclusively demonstrated that its primary concern was political and hierarchical stability, not the propagation of spiritual and religious truths. This perceived image of hypocrisy and opportunism still haunts the Church, both Catholic and Protestant. It was mentioned earlier how Christian Fundamentalism seems the liveliest aspect of the modern Church. This is because, to varying degrees, they manage to present themselves as pious critics of this lukewarm aspect of Christendom. At the same however, those who have lost faith in the divine certainty expressed by the Fundamentalists reject their ministries because they are so doctrinally rigid and inflexible, the exact complaint they lay at the steps of the lukewarm Church.

In fledgling America this period was generally known as the First Great Awakening ( note 19. ). This Awakening began in the Dutch Reformed Churches of New Jersey circa 1726. It soon spread to the Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches. This Great Awakening finally reached its zenith in New England in the 1740's. It produced thinkers such as Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), John Locke (1632-1704), John Wesley (1703-1791) and George Whitfield (1714-1770), people who opposed the high level of emotionalism that was typical of the Movement (RE 9). Itinerant preachers such as the Reverends Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Davies, Eleazar Wheelock, Samuel Finley etc. traveled throughout the thirteen colonies expounding emotionally charged "American Protestantism," a new bread of religion that was born of American experiences from within the First Great Awakening (RNA 10; RAR 63). The Awakening fires spread to Virginia and elsewhere in the 1750's, but soon ended, being replaced by humanist certainty. The impact of this Awakening was essential for the colonies as it created a bond between them (e pluribus unum) and established a sense of identity and national destiny as a distinct people (RAR 1). Protestant Americans began to hail the United States as the New Zion, a virtual Protestant Promised Land (RNA 93). Jonathan Edwards considered the Awakening to be a "surprising work of God." He boldly proclaimed that Jesus had "flung the door of mercy open so that all could enter." During this period, the fatherhood aspect of the Christian God was emphasized, and the Colonists regarded themselves as His special children. These children of God fully expected that God would lead them and punish them for sins they allowed. As a result, submission of the stubborn human will became an important concept and the religious life of the day reflected this. Holiness in all things came to typify this Puritan revival (RAR 45-49).

According to E.S. Gaustad, "the founding of the Separates and the Separate Baptists was the most conspicuous institutional effect of the [first] Great Awakening in New England." It was by no means the only one however. By 1755, there were over 125 Separate (or Strict Congregationalist) churches in New England. By 1776 over 70 Separate Baptist Churches existed. Later came the Universalists, the Unitarians, Free Will Baptists, Shakers and Quakers, the New Light Theologies (later organized as Edwardsianism, Hopkinsianism, and Consistent Calvinism), etc. (RAR 60-72). The general-consensus of these movements was fundamentally Calvinistic, but this view was gradually changing.

John Calvin was one of the primary 16th Century Reformers and a gifted debater and theologian. His teachings had a profound influence on the Reformed Christian Movement. The distinctive teaching of Calvinism is the doctrine of predestination. This belief holds that before the foundations of the heavens were set in place, God had already chosen those people who would be saved. The teaching is not that God, in His foreknowledge knew which people would choose to accept Him, but rather that God chose who He would saved. Those He did not choose were damned to suffer eternal torment in Hell no matter what they might do, even before entering their mother's womb. This doctrine is not as popular as it once was, but many Christians still believe it. Most Christians do not really understand the doctrine of predestination or its dark implications.

The First Great Awakening sparked the notion that God was willing to save anyone who truly repented ( note 20. ). To do otherwise would be un-American. The ministers of the Awakening viewed America as a potential tool for the establishment of the millennial reign of Christ (RAR 98) ( note 21. )

A Second Great Awakening Begins

Towards the end of the eighteenth century through the middle of the nineteenth, the spirit of the Awakening reappeared. This renewal is often referred to as the Second Great Awakening (1790-1830). During this period, the still young United States began seriously questioning its Calvinistic roots. Implicit in the unfolding 'American Dream' was the humanist belief that human beings were limited only by their own imagination. The rationalism of the Enlightenment moved people to question the doctrine of original sin, the deeply held belief that all humans inherit the "sin of Adam" and that without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, everyone is destined to an eternity in Hell for that conception-wrought sin. Secular Humanism was now establishing itself as a neo-religion based on scientific theory and this philosophy was honored among the intelligentsia of the new nation. Among the voices decrying traditonal religion was Bertrand Russell who delivered his talk, "Why I Am Not A Christian" on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society.

As a result of this growing trend toward secular humanism, coupled with rising belief in Americanism, Calvinism began to wane and new religious forms and doctrines were developed by Protestant thinkers ( note 22. ). Among the new Christian groups that arose during this shift away from Cavinism were the Missouri Synod, the Norwegian Evangelical Synod, the Church of the United Brethren, the Disciples of Christ, the Millerites, and Mormonism (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) ( note 23, ). Also appearing was Swedenborgianism, Taylorism (or Beecherism), Mesmerism, Owenism, Fourierism, the Oneida Society, the Mennonites, the Moravians, the Seventh Day Baptists, the Six Principle Baptists and Dunker Baptists, the Free Will Baptists, the YMCA, etc. This enlivening feeling of individual responsibility and worth began again among the New England Congregationalists ( note 24 ) and soon spread throughout the United States, being found in all major denominations to some degree. By the mid 19th century however this movement likewise was absorbed into religious structure and traditional dogma ( note 25. ). It should be remembered that these flowerings of intellectual and spiritual awakening did not and do not occur in a vacuum. Each appearance or spiritual renewal is directly tied to the experiences of its predecessors. Such was again the case between the years 1875 and 1914 when the Third Great Awakening occurred. Some authorities do not see a break between the second and third Awakening as I list them here. Its semantics really

The Third Great Awakening Begins

This Third Great Awakening occurred just prior to the onset of the First World War. It had a most profound influence on the planet. As a direct result of this Awakening, the future was essentially altered. A plethora of religious renovators appeared on the scene. Whereas in the two previous Awakenings, there had been a basic theological consensus, in the Third few doctrines were accepted as sacrosanct as everything was redefined and called into question. McLoughlin maintains that this period did not begin until 1890. No matter, all dates are approximations only. The plethora of 'camp meetings' that erupted around 1857, he argues, does not qualify as a true Awakening. I will yield to his opinion here. However, by 1875 there was clearly a major Awakening underway.

The monumental successes of D.L. Moody's revival meetings in the 1870's reflect a powerful rebirth of Missionary Christian Fundamentalism (DRP 421). In fact, Moody has been called the first Christian Fundamentalist (RAR143). This seems appropriate because he boldly rejected the rationalism of the Enlightenment and based his teachings squarely on his literalist interpretations of the Bible, the defining position of all Christian Fundamentalists. As a result, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), along with his long-time associate Ira David Sankey, condemned the idea of salvation by predestination, the cardinal view of the Calvinists, as well as salvation by works. "Salvation," he proclaimed, "is the free gift of God, not of works lest any might boast." He also rejected the new Secular Humanist doctrine of evolution, and the so-called higher criticism of the Bible. He likewise rejected the notion of essential human goodness, returning, as he saw it, to the fundamental belief in the doctrine of original sin and the necessity of being born again (RAR141-144). Dwight L. Moody's teachings and the Bible institute he founded, had a very important place in this Awakening and continues to do so.

William Miller (1782 - 1849) was an American Baptist preacher whose spiritual descendants are known as Millerites. The Adventist movement of the 1830s and 40s emerged from his teachings. Among his spiritual heirs are several major religious denominations including Seventh-day Adventists, Advent Christians, and Bible Students, aka Russellites, and Jehovah's Christian Witnesses. Miller early beliefs were admixtures of Baptist theology and the Humanist Deism of the Masonic Order. Around 1815 he experienced a spiritual realization while reading from the Bible at his local church. The War of 1812 had left him questions of the afterlife and the meaning of human existence. Because of this realization, Miller became convinced that God had chosen to reveal His secrets to him and so he undertook serious Bible studies. Beginning at Genesis 1:1 and working his forward, Miller determined what the Bible said for himself and began teaching his revelations to others. He attracted quite a following with his end-time prophecies and unique doctrines. His teachings were unorthodox enough to convey the feeling of mysterious revealed truth, yet orthodox enough not to seem like abject heresy.

In time, he left both his Baptist communion as well as his Deist beliefs. Miller reportedly told one fellow Deist that, "If he would give me time, I would harmonize all these apparent contradictions to my own satisfaction, or I will be a Deist still" (AD, p.17).

In September 1822, Miller announced his prophecy that, " I believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years, on or before 1843" (MWM, p. 79).

Beginning in 1940, Millerism became a significant religious force in the US and one of the main elements of this Awakening. He narrowed his prophecy down, Jesus Christ would return to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of it, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When this date didn't pan out, a new date was given, April 18, 1844. Miller admitted his errors (MWM 256). He explained his errors had been caused by imprecise biblical preservation. Errors in biblical transmission had caused the problem. Nonetheless, until his death on December 20, 1849 Miller fully expected the Lord's imminent return.

Taking up the Adventist cause, in August 1844 Samuel S. Snow announced his "seventh-month" message and predicted Christ's return on October 22, 1844. That date came to be known as the Great Disappointment. The Millerites were heart broken. The majority left the Adventist cause. Yet the Movement lived on!

Following the lead of Samuel Snow, Millerite Believers sought God for understanding. What had happened? It was obvious Miller had been wrong, and yet his scriptural evidence seemed impeccable to them. Among those who held to Miller's basic teachings are the Seventh-day Adventist Church with over 14 million members, and the Advent Christian Church with around 61,000 members.

Those remaining loyal to Miller's teachings often explain that his dates were correct, however there had been a misunderstanding about the phrase "cleaning the sanctuary." It was explained that in 1844 Jesus entered the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin his investigative judgment in preparation of the end. Unlike most Millerite teachings, this doctrine has no biblical support whatsoever. It did however solve certain theological problems and so groups like the Seventh Day Adventists, whose prophet confirmed the teaching, continue to teach it. The notion may be attributed largely to James White, husband of the believe Prophet Ellen White.

As the Whites and others continued their biblical investigation, Adventists like Joseph Bates began realizing that Christians, like Jews, are commanded to honor the biblical Sabbath (or Shabbat). For more information on the Shabbat, apart from Seventh Day Adventist teachings, visit my Shabbat Page

The Seventh day Adventist denomination was officially established in 1863. They believe themselves to be the "Remnant Church" of biblical prophecy (Revelation 12:17) and that Mrs. Ellen White held the "Spirit of Prophecy" in a unique way. Their 28 Fundamental Beliefs state, "her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction." Her teachings therefore are deemed essential for understanding the Bible, which is considered the final authority. Like Jehovah's Witnesses, the SDA Church originally believed that prior to taking human birth Jesus had been the archangel Michael. Like other Millerites, the SDA originally accepted a basic Arian theology. Like Judaism, Arianism maintains a strictly monotheistic theology: there is but one indivisible God. Probably in part, to gain acceptance by greater Christendom, the SDA soon adopted the arguably Pagan-based Trinity theology, the belief that the one God is manifested in three co-equal, co-eternal forms or manifestations. This shift towards Trinitarianism came through the writings of Ellen White, who had been raised a Methodist. By 1931, the SDA was an officially Trinitarian communion. Jehovah's Witness and other post-Millerites maintain Arian beliefs.

Charles Taze Russell was a deeply religious man from his earliest years. As a child he attended services at the local Presbyterian Church, at thirteen he joined a Congregational Church. But by age sixteen, the youthful religious seeker began questioning his faith, as it was exhibiting in the existing churches of his awareness. Russell spent his mid-teens studying Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism but his cursory studies convinced his that they were unsatisfactory as well. At eighteen, he attended an Adventist meeting held by Jonas Wendell (1815 - 1873) and enthusiastically embraced the idea of 1874 as the date for the "rapture of the Church." Russell's faith in Christianity was restored.

In 1876 Russell read Nelson H. Barbour's (1824-1908) Herald of the Morning and believed he had found true Christianity. This newly restored faith convinced him that in 1878 Christ planned to rapture his true Church away from the earth and conduct a global devastation in preparation for the coming kingdom. Russell sold his belonging and donating the money to Barbour to spread the word. That same year, Russell began to write as well. His published work seems to have been The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return.

In time Russell and Barbour parted ways, both physically and spiritually. Russell ceased his support of Barbour and published his teachings under the title Studies in the Scriptures (SiS). Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, was first issued in July, 1879 ( note 26. ). Russell continued his ministry, and Barbour formed the Church of the Strangers that same year, and continued to publish the Herald of the Morning.

Russell's doctrines centered on the Adventist (Millerite) belief that the world, "the present evil system of things," was destined to end on or around October 1, 1914. He offered support for this belief by Milleresque interpretations of the Bible and his own mystical analysis of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was founded as the vehicle for Russell's teachings and in 1884, the organization was legally chartered. There were now hundreds of "Russellites" and Russell came to be known as "the Pastor." As his fame spread, the Pastor received global recognition, and condemnation for his teachings, many of which were considered heretical, his belief in Arianism was chief among these. Not only was Jesus not accepted as the Third Person of a Trinity, Russell explained that he was actually the physical manifestation of the archangel Michael.

When 1914 passed without the Second Coming, the Watch Tower Society explained that Jesus had indeed returned in 1914! His Advent however had been invisible (BF 457,458). On the way to Earth, Jesus fought with Satan and bound him to the earth lest he escape Jehovah's wrath (Luke 10:18). In a move reminiscent of the SDA, the Watch Tower Society used a teaching similar to the SDA's investigative judgment justification, to explain that the First World War, which began in 1914, "obviously" marked the occasion of the beginning of the Last days. Jesus had indeed returned to the earth in 1914, as the Pastor said. He had merely done so invisibly in preparation for his work of restoration, thus giving Russell's followers, the faithful and discrete servant class, time to preach his message "unto the ends of the earth" (Matt. 24:14). All the wars, natural disasters and bloodshed that have occurred since then are those prophesied by the Bible in Matthew 24 and elsewhere. This prophecy, and the explanation of its apparent failure, may seem far fetched at first, but when you consider his sources and rationale, coupled with the apocalyptic excitement of the day, it is understandable how millions of people, including the mother of Dwight D. Eisenhower, could accept his predictions and interpretations.

Pastor Charles Taze Russell died on October 31, 1916 aboard a train from natural causes. In January 1917, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford became the new leader of the Watch Tower Society. Almost at once, Judge Rutherford began altering Russell's teachings and major controversies arose within the Society. Among the teachings the Judge rejected, was Russell's use of Pyramidology ( note 27. ). As early as 1918, there were dissenting voices being heard within the Society. Around of the congregations rejected the Judge's changes, but he held firm as the anointed leader of Jehovah's people. The Judge's rejection of Russell's personal role in the restoration of the truth, in February 1927, and his rejection of the Great Pyramid beliefs, in November 1928, resulted in a split within the group. The Bible Students who remained supportive of the Judge's changes adopted the new name of Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931, and changed the name of the Society to the International Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (International Bible Students Association of Jehovah's Christian Witnesses) (W). The Judge changed the congregations from independent, interlinked communities to a highly structured hierarchy run by Society appointed elders, the "faithful and discrete servant class" of which he was the head. While there are still Russellite "Bible Students such as the Dawn Bible Students Association," the organization restructured by Judge Rutherford remains the primary successor of Charles Taze Russell.

Simply stated, like Ellen White and others, Russell was an Adventist of the Millerite persuasion who carried the teachings in a new yet logical direction.

The determination of these various dates were, for the most part, based on an interpretation of the Bible. Many people use similar methods and continue to do so today. Even the celebrated Reverend Charles Larkin employed this basic method of Biblical interpretation note 28 . In order to understand these Adventist movements therefore, it seems appropriate to demonstrate one of these popular methods of prophetic dating. In order to follow along it will be helpful to read the indicated Scriptural passages. It should be understood that those who accept this system of interpretation and millions still do, accept the Bible not only as the revealed Word of God, but also as the partially concealed Word of God, disclosed only to those who "have eyes to see."

Daniel chapter four speaks of a "great tree" that, by Divine decree, is cut down and banded till "seven times" pass over it. This tree represents governmental authority according to the text (vs. 25). Many Adventists (and others) teach that the tree had a deeper meaning however. It represented the prophesied Kingdom of God. When the "bands" of this prophetic tree are removed, the Kingdom of God will blossom, and, after the seven year rule of Anti-Christ according to some, the millennium will begin (comp. Ezek. 17:22-24). From this we may understand, according to this system, that God's kingdom will be restored "seven times" after it was cut down, even as King Nebuchadnezzar returned to his senses after seven times or, in that case, seven literal years (Dan. 4:28-37).

So the question is, how long are these seven times? Since the Hebrews used a lunar calendar, we would normally have to translate into solar years, however the length of the prophetic year (and this is a prophecy) is set at a constant 360 days, with each day symbolically composing a full year, "a day for a year, a day for a year" (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6 etc.). In the Book of Revelation we read that 1,260 days equals "a time, and times, and a half a time" (12:6, 14). This being established by Scripture, 1,260 days (or 31/2 times) doubled would equal 2520 actual years as the length of seven times.

These "years" are said to have begun when the "tree" was cut down. According to this view, this cutting down refers to the destruction of God's Kingdom on earth, i.e., to the destruction of Jerusalem (God's holy city and the throne of his earthly government) and its Temple. At that time, the tree was banded. So when did this occur? The Hebrew Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, who took Zedekiah off God's Throne and into exile. This desecration occurred in 606 B.C.E (BF 180) note 29 . Hence, from 606 B.C.E. the "seven times" began their prophetic countdown: 2520-606=1914, the date cited by Russell as the 'end of the age' note 30 .

This prophetic system is described at length in Jehovah's Witness' book Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules! (BF 177-181). Like Miller, as the years following the predicted date passed, the Watchtower Society tried to pinpoint other dates for the physical manifestation of Jesus and His earthly kingdom, but with no better success. The last such date was 1975 note 31 . As Miller finally gave up issuing dates, it appears that the Witnesses have done the same (except that rather than admit their error or blame it on faulty texts as Miller did, the Watchtower Society decided to change history and deny the prophecies were ever even made).

Other significant religious groups that arose during this Third Great Awakening include the Theosophical Society of Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky, the Baha'is, the Christadelphians, the Christian Scientists, the New Apostolic Church, the 70 plus churches based on the teachings of Phineas P. Quimby (including the Church of Divine Science, the Institute of Religious Science and Philosophy, the Religious Science Churches, the Churches of Religious Science, the Church of Truth, and perhaps best known of these, the Unity School of Christianity). There was also the Old Catholic movement, the diverse Pentecostal Movement, the Polish Old Catholic Church (aka. the Polish National Catholic Church), the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (or Rosicrucian Order), the Salvation Army, diverse Spiritualist groups, the Vedanta Society, the Institute for Research and Enlightenment (Edgar Cayce's group), Paramahamsa Yogananda's Self Realization Fellowship and innumerably more depending on when one deems this Awakening to have ended.

In the face Secular Humanism and the increasing authority being granted to scientific theory to define reality, millions of people were desperate to find a place to place their faith. Scientific relativism was the major cause of the Third Great Awakening. This theory threatened all others as people came to believe that truth must be viewed as objective fact. The exponents of the new religions views, in one way or another, all claimed to hold demonstrative evidence for their teachings. Traditional Christianity was crumbling before the alter of Secular Humanism and the new religious revelations.

We have now slipped forward in time, just for the moment, to consider one of the most devastating repercussions of this Awakening. We'll return to the 1800's in a moment.

Adolf Hitler was a lapsed Roman Catholic. Like others of his generation, young Adolf felt the religion of his youth was insufficient and so searched for religious truth elsewhere, especially in Germanic Paganism. His fascination, appreciation and knowledge of Aryan culture (i.e. Indo-Himalayan Hinduism and Buddhism), was based largely on the published research and conclusions of Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky (HPB) and her Aryan Theosophical Society and Press (HTR). From her he took the Hindu swastika, the Vedic notion of Aryan supremacy and many other things. These he blended with his Nordic Pagan views and his Christian hatred of all things Jewish (this is not intended as an indictment against Christians, but Hitler deeply admired Martin Luther's well-known anti-Semitism and the Catholic Passion Plays that depicted Jews as evil etc.). The Theosophical Society was founded within the Third Great Awakening and had a profound influence on the West as it provided the first major introduction of Eastern ideas and cultures as well as the unitive notions of Theosophy itself.

Whereas the earlier Awakenings were concerned primarily with Christian reforms and secular humanist philosophies, the Third Great Awakening, especially in its later stages, incorporated Eastern wisdom into Western consciousness. HPB, an allegedly expert Spiritualist, maintained that only in the East, the so-called 'cradle of Occultism', were the ancient mysteries preserved intact. She further taught that she had been initiated into certain Occult lodges and had come to America to point the way Eastward. Reminiscent of Thoreau note 32 HPB stated, "You want to write esoteric facts and you give instead English race prejudice. The Indians [home of the original Aryans] are immensely higher spiritually than Europeans, who may not reach their level for some millenniums yet... (S 95). As a result of this conviction, Madame Blavatsky and her associates (including Colonel Olcott) founded the Theosophical Society on November 17, 1875 (S 87-90; 369,370) (about the same time Charles Taze Russell was beginning his religious carrier). While one may well disagree with Madam Blavatsky's presentation and interpretation of the various religious and spiritualist topics she addressed (for instance her bizarre understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of annihilation), her influence in the field of religion cannot be underestimated (IU,1.290). Madame Blavatsky did much to spread Eastern knowledge throughout the West and her contributions must be acknowledged, Hitler abuses of them aside.

In 1893 White City was built in Chicago along the banks of Lake Michigan to 'house a larger conception of human history, a new and more religious idea of divine providence through all ages and all lands', the World Parliament of Religions. From around the globe seekers came to this sacred convocation to share their spiritual insights. Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains and others all gathered in a unitive spirit never before seen in the West. It was an American version of the Indian Kumbh Mela, although of course much smaller and limited. Such a gathering would have impossible during the days when the hold of Christianity was firm. Now however, the Church had lost its control on the world as ever more people questioned the accepted religious traditions of society. This grand assembly was called 'the noblest and proudest achievement in history' and 'the crowning work of the nineteenth century' by Anagarika Dharmapala. It was the virtual embodiment of the Third Great Awakening. Through this conference, the western world was introduced to some of the most influential religious thinkers of the day. Swami Vivekananda, who received the mantle of Sri Ramakrishna and established the Vedanta Society, B.B. Nagarkar of the Hindu Brahma-Samaj and Buddhist Master Anagarika Dharmapala were among the main speakers; however, a host of other religious leaders spoke as well. Japanese Buddhists, such as translator Zenshiro Noguchi, Rinzai Zen master Soyen Shaku (the first Zen master in America and teacher of D.T. Suzuki), Kinzai R.M. Hirai, Prince Chandradat Chudhadharn of Siam, Z. Noguchi (who spoke for Banryu Yatsubuchi, who introduced Esoteric Buddhism to the west), and assorted representatives of the Jodo Shinshu, Nichirin, Tendai and various other esoteric sects also spoke (S 119-129). This was an amazing meeting!

Anagarika Dharmapala likened the Parliament to the re-emergence of the ancient Council of Asoka that had occurred twenty-four centuries prior. He proclaimed that it was his destiny to, "share the Buddha's noblest lessons of tolerance and gentleness, and that in this great city, the youngest of all cities, this program will be carried out, and the name of Dr. Barrows [the organizer of the Parliament] will shine forth as the American Asoka" note 33 .

Thanks to the World Parliament of Religions, eastern spiritual traditions, especially Buddhism and Hinduism, gained entry into America and the west (S 122). It is said however that, "Zen was brought to the West single-handedly by Daisetz (Great Simplicity) Teitaro Suzuki." Suzuki was born two hundred miles north of Tokyo in 1870 and first arrived in America (at San Francisco) in February 1897. His teacher, Soyen Shaku, was the first Zen master to visit the west. At the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in the heart of the Third Great Awakening, Shaku offered a very down-to-earth presentation of the Buddhadharma (as is appropriate for a Zen master). Due to language difficulties, an English translation of that speech (by D.T. Suzuki) was read by the Rev. J.H. Barrows, the chairperson of the Parliament (S 126). The impact of D.T. Suzuki on western religion is often likened to the significance of Aristotle and Plato (ZM 9; S 34; NR 32-73).

In 1914 the First World War began in earnest and the Third Great Awakening became one of its many casualties. The influence that this thirty-nine year period had on the world however is difficult to over-estimate.

Interjacent of the Third and Fourth Great Awakenings

There has never been a time when spiritual development did not occur, however during the Three Great Awakenings (as in the Age of Enlightenment) the amount of development was marked. From 1914 till the turbulent 1960's, many spiritually and religiously significant events occurred of course. Many of the groups born during the Awakenings still existed, and expanded (or failed), during these years. Some new religious expressions also came into being during this interval.

For instance in the 1930's the I Am Movement drew thousands of people to its rallies. Billy Graham was hailed as DW Moody's heir apparent and the aging Billy Sunday was hailed as a virtual national prophet, but despite such events, there was not the massive spiritual interest and awakenings seen previously. Indeed, what transpired during the years interjacent of 1914 and the 1960's was almost a reversed Awakening (the First Great Sleeping?).

Scientific and Secular Humanism became the religion of the day. Charles Darwin (1809 1882) and his theory gained popular support during this period and the theory of natural selection largely replaced biblical creationism. On May 25, 1925, John Thomas Scopes was charged with teaching the theory and thereby teaching his students that the Bible was not the inspired Word of God and that humanity evolved from ape-like ancestors rather than being the created children of God. Today this threat is minimized, but the ministers of the day understood that if the biblical creation accounts are rejected, then the essential Christian doctrines such as original sin (without which there is no need for salvation according to Christian teaching), the restoration of Paradise and the Kingdom of God, etc. are disproved as well. Bluntly stated, if Darwinian evolution (or the modern versions of this now largely rejected theory, are true, then historic Christianity is not. Christianity, already beleaguered, now faced its most serious challenge ever.

In part because of the new religious and secular theories and beliefs, many people found that faith in the 'Old Rugged Cross' was no longer tenable. Confused by the future shock of the post-industrial world, the west looked at its traditional religious and value systems and found them wanting. Faith in the traditional western myths was largely shattered by scientific reason and comparative religion. The Bible wasn't really so unique after all! There had been other virgin births. Other miracle workers had performed deeds equal to, or even exceeding those claimed for Jesus. In India for instance, the Indian god-man, Krishna once lifted Govardhan Hill over his head and held it for days as an umbrella in order to protect his fellow villagers! Jesus never lifted the Mount of Olives! Of course, they didn't accept these stories either, but credulous faith in the Bible was no longer considered viable by the majority of people (LM 47-78). Christians began to redefine their faith in terms that were more modern and scientifically feasible. They accepted the Book of Genesis as metaphor (God could have created through the process of evolution couldn't he?), Satan became an anthropomorphic symbol of negativity and God was recast as an energy more akin to the Force in Star Wars than to the supreme personal deity of the Bible. By such beliefs, Christians were cut off from their living Christ. Belief in God, as historically exercised in the west, had become untenable (PN 95).

Having lost faith in traditional western religion, many found themselves spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Without a spiritual context, their lives seemed meaningless, without direction. As Nietzsche predicted in his The Gay Science, this loss of faith by the monstrous logic of terror came as a prophet of gloom, as a solar eclipse whose like has never before been seen (PN 447) ( note 34 . ). This was largely the situation the United States found itself in as the fifties dawned. The nation became a society of secular consumers. Television replaced Bible study, and science supplanted religion. Religion became something one "did" once or twice a week (at most), instead of being an integral part of what one "was." Even those who continued to confess religious convictions often had those beliefs reinterpreted by the new relativist religion of Secular Humanism. The beliefs and experiences that had once united Americans during the previous Awakenings were now losing their strength. Our sense of nationhood, our beloved e pluribus unum, was being supplanted by competitiveness, consumerism and, in all things, greed. "Loving one's neighbor as oneself seemed nave in this brave new world. It was a dog-eat-dog world after all! One had to look out for number one! Instead of being defined by ones spiritual and moral qualities, people were now judged based upon what they did, not upon who they were. Ask someone, "Who are you?" They will usually reply, I'm a doctor, a cook, unemployed, etc. As the west lost its God, it also lost it soul. Humans were redefined in Secular Humanist terms as little more than just another species of mammal, no better than the rest, though quite likely worse! The Honolulu Zoo had an exhibit: A sign before a solid cage wall read, See the fiercest animal on earth! Walking to the other side of the cave to behold this terrifying creature, one found only an empty cage with a mirror on it far side. Witty? Perhaps, but while there certainly is some truth in the point the exhibit makes, according to both the Bible and western tradition, human beings are not animals. We are made in the image of the almighty God. Beasts have no need to observe moral codes and so as this view became more accepted, violence, hatred and crime increase dramatically. Today the US imprisons more of it's 'free citizens than any other nation on earth. We are all the poorer for the 'death of God.'

Gurdjieff's fascinating views aside, stark materialism has never been sufficient to satisfy our inner needs. I submit it never will be. Despite this, western society, with few exceptions, devoted itself to crude scientific theories and cut itself off from spiritual experience and beliefs, sneering contemptuously at the superstition of believing in God. While many common people clung to their religious beliefs, the scientific community was being transformed into an infallible priesthood by the media fed masses who considered them healers, teachers and saviors. Despite this misplaced confidence, traditional western science had become so theory-laden by its own belief systems that it was incapable of developing anything that violated its basic Humanist assumptions and science so-called became the standard of the current national religion of the Secular Humanism, and of course, in Europe it is even worse. In an effort to resist the rising Humanist tide, innumerable new religions and philosophies emerged and yet none of them could stem the rising tide of despair and meaningless. Religious faith appeared as a beaver's dam before a billowing typhoon.

The Fourth Great Awakening Begins

And then, in the 1960's, the world exploded! People everywhere began to question everything. Blind faith in material science became as unacceptable to the youth of the nation as groundless religious faith had once been ( note 35. ). The people again began to speak of the dawning of the new era, of a utopian Age of Aquarius. This time however, its entry was not dependent upon religious conventions. The Beetles summed up the mood of the day well, "Love is all you need." It was not at all clear however, what this popular word love meant however!

Thousands of young people dropped out of society in order to find themselves. Some of these people went to the Height-Ashbury district of San Francisco, to Greenwich Village in New York, or similar places where self-discovery was possible, while others traveled to India in the hope of finding their guru or to the mountains of Peru. About this time, Ram Das spoke those immortal words, "Bite your fingernail and you're eating your guru alive!" "Just be here now!"

In the years following the end of the Viet Nam War, after Woodstock and Altamont, after the Weathermen had disbanded and Timothy Leary had become the subject of university history classes, the Fourth Great Awakening seemed to fade away like it's predecessors. And yet today, there seems to be a radical transformation in consciousness underway such as has not been seen for millennia (TP 33). Today any viable system of knowledge, whether science, religion, philosophy, or what have you, must have, at its basis, an understanding of the relative nature of human perception and our roles as co-creators of reality (SW 33). Rather than ending, the Fourth Great Awakening has only now dawned.

End Page Two

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  • Note 18:Gray, at the time, was at the Grande Chartreuse (the mother house of the Carthusians, near Grenoble, France, DRP 219). return
  • Note 19: The dates given for the Four Awakenings are approximations only. As we are referring to diverse areas and experiences scholars of course vary somewhat on the specifics. return
  • Note 20: Strict Calvinism maintains that certain people are predestined to be saved while others, the vast majority of humankind, are foreordained to spend eternity in Hell. return
  • Note 21: The millennial reign of Christ is the predicted thousand year earthly kingdom referred to at Revelation 20:1-3. return
  • Note 22: This period produced such uncertainty that a still popular jingle emerged from it: You can and you can't, you shall and you shan't, you will and you won't, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't (RAR 101). return
  • Note 23: The Mormons brought forth new scriptures, The Book of Mormon, which was allegedly another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants of the LDS, and The Pearl of Great Price, a selection from the revelations, translations and narrations Joseph Smith, first Prophet, Seer and Revelator to the LDS (D/P; BoM). return
  • Note 24: According to McLoughlin, this Awakening began in the trans-Appalachian valleys of Kentucky and Tennessee, but he adds that it is easier to look first to the New England camp meetings of 1798-1808 for it origins. return
  • Note 25: This does not mean that it left no fruits, only that the creation of new ones ceased. This does not mean that it left no fruits, only that the creation of new ones ceased. return
  • Note 26:Today known as The Watchtower. A companion magazine called Awake! is also published. return
  • Note 27: By the insistence of the Society's second president, Judge Rutherford. return
  • Note 28: Larkin's system is based on the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the reestablishment of the nation of Israel. By interpretations based on Daniel 9:24-27, he predicted the Belfor Treaty (of 1918) and the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Christ is to return within one generation of 1948 (based on Matt. 24:34, DT). return
  • Note 29: In the fifth month (Ab), on the tenth day of the month, that is, in the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar [sic], the king of Babylon, Nebuzar-adan the chief of the bodyguard ... proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah (BF 159). return
  • Note 30: The dates are subtracted because they occurred before the common era. return
  • Note 31: Present day Witnesses sometimes deny the Society ever issued the 1975 date, however I was a Pioneer Witness in 1975, which means a full-time evangelist, and I heard this date repeatedly from the Elders. In 1976 ten percent of the Witnesses left due to this. return
  • Note 32: For Thoreau any comparison between Indian and Western philosophy revealed that ...our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial... (S 55). return
  • Note 33: A child once offered sand to Buddha and so became Ashoka in a later life. He was ruler of the Mauryan Empire of northern India in the 3rd c. BCE. His conversion to Buddhism and work to propagate its teachings make him highly venerated to this day. return
  • Note 34: This German philosopher lived during the Third Great Awakening. return
  • Note 35: O.K., so we still have a way to go on this one! return