AllFaith: Aum Truth

The Fourth Great Awakening

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion: Part Three

By John of AllFaith © 1989 (updated Sept. 7, 2006)

Awakening The Fourth Great Awakening
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I date this Fourth Great Awakening from 1960 through September11, 2001. September 11 changed everything. Just as World War I ended the Third Great Awakening, so too I believe the onset of World War III has ended the Fourth. I will discuss these changes below.

I would roughly divide the period of this Awakening into two parts. 1960-1975 reflected the gaining of knowledge and experience as 'dharma bums' and 'hippies' roamed the earth in search of truth and meaningful experience. The years immediately preceding the 1960s I see as preparatory. For instance, the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea). Although the roughly 825-870 documents (thus far released), including many texts from the Tanakh, didn't significantly alter our understandings of Judaism or early Christianity, they did excite the hope that other finds might turn up in the future, discoveries that might answer many of the difficult questions posed by these historic faiths. The works of Elaine Pagels (P) arose from this hope and added much to our quest of rediscovering the early faith of Jesus of Nazareth and the Gnostics.

In 1957 Paul Edwards' edition of Bertrand Russell's book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays introduced a new generation of skeptics to his humanist ideas. A bit later on in the sixties and seventies books like The Flowering of Mysticism in the Fourteenth Century (FoM) introduced this generation to other views of Christianity, such as those of Meister Eckhart (cir 1260 - 1327/8), Julian of Norwich (1342 -1416), Saint John of the Cross (1542-1592).

Baba Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert, born April 6, 1931) wrote, Be Here Now! and the new Awakeners heeded the call enthusiastically. People dropped out of society in order to experience life, love and new meaning.

Archeological research produced new information and the biblical texts themselves were now being called in question as never before, not merely by religious dissenters like Bertrand Russell, but by sympathetic scholars as well. New versions of the Bible, mainly editorialized paraphrases like the New International Version all but replaced the Authorized King James Version, the English standard since 1611. As a result, Christianity is undergoing major doctrinal changes. Confidence in the Bible as a historically reliable text is at an all-time low.

By 1975, the initial drive of this Awakening had faded and people began evaluating their experiences and applying what they had learned. The result of this were more eclectic religious perspectives. During the protestant Reformation a major concern of the Roman Church was Christian and social unity of belief. With the rise of the various Protestant sects, the Church fragmented into competing beliefs. If the doctrine was fragmented by the reformers of the 16th century, the reformers of the 20th century pulverized them! Debates no longer centered on issues like Sabbath observance, now seekers debated the need for any structured doctrine. Belief had always been a personal matter, but certain foundational authority was generally accepted over it, no longer! In the world of the Fourth Great Awakening, there were no accepted authorities. Even the Bible was regarded as, at best, a guide, its commandments as suggestions.

As the seventies, eighties and nineties gave way to the twenty first century, the vast majority of people faded back into structured society, but everyone was forever altered by this period of seeking and enlightenment. Through the experiences and realizations of the sixties and early seventies, the entire planet was forever changed in very tangible ways for the better.

For instance, due to the world's collective desire for universal peace and freedom, the Soviet Union simply ceased to exist - an amazing thing which we already take for granted today. Think of it however, one of the two most powerful nations in the history of the planet simply disbanded! Meanwhile in the United States, despite the occasional atrocities (such as the government murders of its citizens at Wounded Knee and at the MOVE compound in Philadelphia, the Waco massacre of innocent Christians, the Ruby Ridge government executions, the [first] Persian Gulf War, etc.) the desire for peace and freedom is alive and growing ever brighter in the nation.

[Note: This is one of those places where the post 9-11 world is a very different place from that described in the previous two paragraphs. I'll discuss this in more detail below, but I'm leaving these paragraphs in place because they reflect the common perception of the day. That light spoken of has now been darkened if not extinguished.]

Sydney E. Ahlstrom, in his a Religious History of the American People, described the 1960s as the end of the Puritan epoch in America (NRC 295). The result (or cause?) of this transition was the counterculture movements of the 1960s and early 70s. This Awakening produced a generation that, in its hay-day, fostered unprecedented discussion and debate over the nature of reality and the role of individuals and nations therein. While there is still a lot to be learned from the Fourth Great Awakening, because of 9-11 both Sydney E. Ahlstrom and myself have been proven wrong on this point. With the onset of World War III, the global crusade between the west and the armies of Islam, I don't believe the 'Puritan epoch' is over. In times of great stress and turmoil, people tend to return to their spiritual roots. For many in the west, and especially in the US, this means neo-fundamentalist Christianity, and it is growing both in numbers and in clout.

The United States is currently locked into a schizophrenic condition wherein it continues waging war on religious freedom on behalf of its official religion, Secular Humanism. The US courts continue to outlaw public displays of religious faith and to discourage belief in any god in the name of secular science and reason. Yet at the same time, certain of America's leaders publicly beseech the Christian deity for divine protection and intervention. Leaders such as President George Bush Jr., an allegedly sincere Baptist, declares religious fatwas against what he calls "radical Islam," which is to say, against those Muslims who are fighting to defend their ways of life and their religion and resist the ever-encroaching American Empire. As Sheik Osama ben Laden frankly explained.

Q: Al Qaeda is facing now a country that leads the world militarily, politically, technologically. Surely, the al Qaeda organization does not have the economic means that the United States has. How can al Qaeda defeat America militarily?

BIN LADEN: This battle is not between al Qaeda and the U.S. This is a battle of Muslims against the global crusaders. In the past when al Qaeda fought with the mujahedeen, we were told, "Wow, can you defeat the Soviet Union?" The Soviet Union scared the whole world then. NATO used to tremble of fear of the Soviet Union. Where is that power now? We barely remember it. It broke down into many small states and Russia remained.

God, who provided us with his support and kept us steadfast until the Soviet Union was defeated, is able to provide us once more with his support to defeat America on the same land and with the same people. We believe that the defeat of America is possible, with the help of God, and is even easier for us, God permitting, than the defeat of the Soviet Union was before…

… Just as they're killing us, we have to kill them so that there will be a balance of terror. This is the first time the balance of terror has been close between the two parties, between Muslims and Americans, in the modern age. American politicians used to do whatever they wanted with us. The victim was forbidden to scream or to moan. [unintelligible] source

My point here is not to point fingers, but to show the religious and social implications involved in World War III. The United States is fighting a crusade or holy war against the Islamic Ummah or nation, a people for whom submission to the will of God is the supreme authority. How can a nation as spiritually divided as the US honestly hope to win from a religious perspective? Why on earth would the God the US has all but outlawed now come to its aid? The US rejects God while our enemies uphold their faith in God at every turn.

So in the face of such global uncertainty, many Americans are returning to the religious traditions they once abandoned, hopping God will again grant favor to the spiritually destitute US. Even amidst the unparalleled social hedonism of our day, in response to their constituents, the US courts pass hypocritical puritanical rulings in an effort to enforce religious ideals the American people no longer hold and other branches of the government are working hard to destroy. It is legal in the United States for instance to practice infanticide, but illegal to use the stem cells of the aborted babies for research. It is legal to show blatant sex acts in the theatres or to have scantily clad women sell cars and other commodities, yet it is illegal to sunbath nude in public. It is legal to study Atheism and Secular Humanism in the schools, but it is illegal to read from the Bible during a break, or to silently give God thanks before eating lunch.

But during the post 1960's and pre-9-11 period, groups and teachers arose to offer insight. The research of the Theosophical Society re-emerged in the late sixties. Not only did Theosophy receive new life for itself, it also helped to foster this Fourth Awakening that permeated the sixties and seventies. The importance of Madame Blavatsky's successors to the Fourth Great Awakening, is too often minimized, it seems to me. Her influence, directly or indirectly, on western religion and thereby society is immense. Largely because of her work, the west was ready to accept the eastern teachings that typified so much of the Fourth Great Awakening.

A few Indian masters, such as Paramahamsa Yogananda (1893 - 1952) and Meher Baba (1894 - 1969), had made inroads in the west prior to the sixties, yet their influence during the Fourth Great Awakening was nonetheless profound note 36. . As in earlier Awakenings a plethora of influential groups were founded during this period.

For instance, in 1969 Yogi Bhajan (Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji, 1929 - 2004), came to the U.S. He was accomplished in many different forms of yoga, but was primarily a member of the Sikh Khalsa (or Guru Panth) note 37 . His teachings were customized for westerners and excluded many of the cultural aspects that in Sikhism are often considered a hindrances for non-Punjabis. His organization is known as 3HO. This unusual nomenclature refers to the essential teachings and aspirations of Yogi Bhajan and his followers, 3 H's and an O: the Healthy-Happy-Holy Organization note 38 . In the late 1970's I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer (perform seva) at one of Yogi Bhajan's restaurants (The Golden Lotus in Atlanta, Georgia). It was explained to me that the original reason for the creation of 3HO was that Americans were expressing an interest in Sikhism, but were not qualified to join the Khalsa or Sikh community note 39 . The assumption was that soft Americans would be unwilling to undertake the strict spiritual disciplines required by the Sikh Gurus. As a result, Yogi Bhajan was approved as a sort middle-ground teacher. He could deal with the counter-culture and train its people in Sikh tradition without requiring the strict observances. His was a mission of kindness. In this way, sincere people could learn and develop spiritually without direct contact with the holy Sant Mat. What resulted from his labors was the creation of a large movement, established in America rather than the Punjab.

Its adherents, much to the surprise of the Sant Mat, were enthusiastic and, in many cases, adopted vows even more formidable than those required of Singhs note 40 . As time passed, most members of the 3HO underwent formal initiation into Sikhism as well. Perhaps surprisingly, after doing so most remained within the 3HO, maintaining that Yogi Bajan is equal to, if not greater than, Guru Nanak himself note 41 . Of course, it is appropriate for students to feel such loyalty towards a master of his caliber. 3HO has therefore become a growing movement in its own right.

Another Indian teacher who had a profound impact on the west was His Divine A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896-1977). In 1922, his spiritual preceptor, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (founder of the Gaudiya Math), ordered him to go to the west and spread the bhakti marga (Path of Devotion) of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradeya note 42. . After a lifetime of preparation, a thirty-five day ocean journey from Calcutta (on the Jaladuta steam ship) during which he apparently suffered a mild heart attack, Srila Prabhupada, as his followers called him, arrived in Boston September 17, 1965. He was 69 years old and possessed only forty rupees cash, which even he considered only a few hours spending in New York. What made this Indian teacher unique among those who had come before was that Prabhupada was a strict Personalist who held to the teachings of acintya bheda-bheda tattva (the Vedanta doctrine of inconceivable oneness and difference). This is to say, that as most Christians, Srila Prabhupada taught the ultimate form of God was personal rather than impersonal, as believed by many other Hindus. His Hindu predecessors in the West had all espoused variations of advaita-vedanta (the monistic doctrine championed by Srila Shankara {788-822} and popularized by Swami Vivekananda {1863-1902}, Swami Shivananda {1887-1963}, Swami Muktananda {1908-1983} and others. Srila Prabhupada introduced deity worship note 43 and traditional Hindu puja or worship methodologies to the West. Srila Prabhupada also translated more than sixty important Hindu Scriptures and teachings, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, the first ten cantos (or books, in 28 volumes) of the Srimad Bhagavatam, a seventeen volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, the Sri Upadeshamrita, the Sri Brahma-samhita, the Raja-Vidya and many others. Well over one hundred million copies of his works have been distributed in more than thirty languages worldwide. He has also established over a hundred and eight temples, ashrams, farms and schools around the world (LC 2,3).

No continent is without a Krishna temple now, other than Antarctica, there's even one in Moscow (NR 210). His International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), into which I was initiated in 1973, introduced the west to mantra-yoga, particularly the chanting the of the Vaishnava maha mantra note 44 . This mantra was incorporated into George Harrison's top ten single, My Sweet Lord, that favorably contrasts Christianity ("Hallelujah") with Vaishnavism ("Hare Krishna"). George's 1969 hit single Hare Krishna Mantra topped the 10 best-selling record charts throughout the UK, Europe, and Asia. During the early stages of the Fourth Great Awakening, the Hare Krishna Movement had far more impact than is normally conceded. Through it, millions of westerners were introduced to eastern spirituality and several thousand became Vaishnava monks and nuns. Today alas only a few hundred people remain within ISKCON as full time monks. A few thousand more remain as householder devotees (grahastha) who live outside the ISKCON ashram system but who regularly visit and support the temples (mandir) while others, in the end the vast majority, went on to join other groups or simply had their lived improved due to his teachings and then, for various reasons, left the Movement.

November 14, 1977, at 7:30 P.M. Srila Prabhupada attained Maha-samadhi (died). Since that time, ISKCON has abandoned many of his teachings and has altered many more. Without his hands-on leadership, the movement has been plagued with countless scandals, including grand theft, child abuse, arms smuggling, and murders. It has become a small organization with little influence outside its own religious society (MoS). This is very sad. I discuss this in more depth at MyStory.

Guru Prem Pal Singh Rawat's (Guru Maharaj Ji, born 12.10.1957) Divine Light Mission was also influential for a while. I attended many of its darshans or meetings in the mid to late seventies. This group, like the Hare Krishna Movement, espoused a bhakti (devotion) based philosophy. Unlike ISKCON, devotion was directed exclusively to the Guru rather than to him as a representative of God, Maharaji was God, not just His representative. The DLM stressed the importance of personal realization over ritual. Through it's somewhat bazaar techniques I saw the 'divine light' and tasted the 'celestial nectar'. Space forbids an adequate discussion of the techniques employed to this end, but the movement, while it lasted, was exhilarating note 45 . Although his mother ousted him from the Divine Light Mission, the Maharaji continues to teach his message of universal love and light.

There was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his transcendental meditation, Swami Muktananda (who named me Gagadhar) and his Siddha Yoga foundation, Swami Brahmananda (who named me Om Prakasa), Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and so many others masters and teachers. The sixties and seventies were a time when spiritual masters were easily found and they deeply impacted us all.

Of course not all of the groups that impacted this Awakening were religious. Follow are a few of the other influential groups that must be mentioned here as they had a profound influence on the Awakening. These include the highly eclectic Freedom of Speech Movement, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Weathermen Underground, the Students for a Democratic Society, the Berkeley Free Church (and the related free movements such as free clinics, free food pantries, etc.). The Black Panther Party, the Venceremos, the Zen Center, the Christian World Liberation Movement, the Women's Movement (NOW), the Wiccan resurgence note 46 the Church of Satan, the Human Potential movements note 47 Synanon, Esalen, Jesus People USA (who to my surprise, and disappointment, evolved into a traditional Christian ministry) note 48 , Jews For Jesus, Jews for Judaism, Catholic Charismatic Renewal (as well as the still growing Charismatic Protestant Churches), The Children of God (now known as the Family International) note 49 Campus Crusade For Christ, Scientology, Stephen Gaskin's The Farm, the Family of Perpetual Love (not to mention the Sisters of perpetual Indulgence!) etc. etc. Through groups such as these, not to mention the direct experiences gathered through drug use, especially LSD, people expanded their consciousness and tasted the diversity and potentiality of religious and personal realization.

Most of the people who experienced the various social alternatives eventually left them and retuned to more traditional views and lifestyles. By the mid to late seventies, this portion of the Fourth Great Awakening was over. What followed was a direct response to these experiences.

The Later Fourth Great Awakening

This response has taken two basic forms: the rise of Christian neo-fundamentalism and New Age Spirituality. As in the days of D.L. Moody, modern Christian fundamentalists sincerely believe the U.S. has turned its back on God, that this once "one nation under God" has lost it way. The way to reclaim our lost Christian glory, they insist, is to return to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. In order to achieve this objective, many Christian fundamentalist leaders are actively working to curb civil rights. They wish to enforce their version of Christian morality on the nation through legislation if not conversion. It is largely for this reason that they attack gay and lesbian rights and dignity; why they condemn people of other religions, and despise all things New Age. These fundamentalists seem to consider religions that were already ancient at the time Jesus walked out of Nazareth to be New Age for some odd reason. Their critics suggest that their goal is nothing less than the establishment of a new Christian theocracy in America. I tend to agree and am somewhat concerned that society-at-large is not taking this potential threat more seriously. In light of current events, a rational response to the Muslim Ummah's offensive against the west would seem to be the establishment of a competing Christian national retaliation. A problem with this is that Muslims are supporting the Jihad out of religious conviction, while Christian leaders are tying to force obedience and discipline from people who do not accept their theology or their dogmas. The only I could see this changing would be for a figure like DL Moody or Martin Luther to appear and present the Christian Gospel is such a compelling way that people would flock to the word.

I don't see this happening.

One of the major enemies of fundamentalism is modern literary criticism. It is considered the enemy, and I use the term advisedly, because through it, the religion and its sacred writings are defined by unbelievers, that is to say, by persons who reject the basic premises of the text they seek to evaluate. For instance, according to a literalist interpretation of the Bible, sinners are destined for Hell and eternal torment. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matt. 5:29). Christian Fundamentalists, based on this and similar scriptures, sincerely believe in the literal existence of a place called Hell, where the 'worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched' (Mark 9:44).

A non-fundamentalist scholar might well point out that the word hell in such verses does not refer to a place of eternal torment. "Hell [Strong's 1067]: geena, gheh'-en-nah: of Heb...; valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerus., used (fig.) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment; hell" (GD).

The use of this word is incredibly informative. The word geena (gheh-en-nah) only appears twelve times in the Christian New Testament, yet the most fearsome of all Christian doctrines is based upon it note 50 . According to II Kings 23:10 the Valley of the Son of Hinnom is also known as (or contains) to'phet. From this we understand that the man Hinnom, whom the infamous valley was named after, was a Jebusite worshipper of the astral God Mo'lech (or Malcham/Milcom), chief deity of the Ammonites (HD 4432, 4445; Egg 110). This is clear from the statement that the valley was 'defiled' "… that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Mo'lech." This Mo'lech was none other than Chemosh, the God of Moab, which is to say, the Great and Mighty Ba'al, chief rival, along with the Goddess Asherah, of YHVH Elohym, the Hebrew God (HG). The word Jebusite, refers generally to Hennom as an inhabitant of Jebus (which was the aboriginal name of Jerus), but as the root of Jebus (Yebuwc) is buuwc, meaning to 'trample', 'loath' or 'be polluted', the use of the name, in context therefore implies that the polluted acts of Hennom causing (or more likely allowing), his sons and daughters "to pass through the fires to Mo'lech" (HD 2982, 2983, 947).

Passing through the fire, or fire-walking note 51 , as it is currently known, is of uncertain origin, however around 1450 B.C.E. Moses condemned his followers for imitating such detestable practices of the natives. "There must never be anyone found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through fire" (Deut. 18:9, 10 J.B.). The practice was commonly associated with Mo'lech (a.k.a. Moloch) and was referred to by Virgil, Strabo and Pliny as being practiced in Cappadocia over two thousand years ago (I 292).

The Valley of the Sons of Hinnom is located just outside of Jerusalem (Jos. 15:8). Part of the curse of this valley is recorded in Isaiah. It was filled with wood and brimstone (sulfur) and it became the great garbage dump for the city. This is confirmed in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, volume one: It [the valley] became the common lay-stall [garbage dump] of the city, where the dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals, and every other kind of filth was cast (quoted in T 43).

Now, having explained all this, we can better understand the Biblical references to Hell. What, then, did Jesus mean when he said the unrepentant would be thrown into Gehenna? We know that Jesus was considered a master of parables (Mat 13:34; Mat 21:33 etc.), the non-fundamentalist scholar might therefore reply, and so he was using the utter destruction of the city garbage dump as an analogy for the helplessness of the spiritually bankrupt. Moreover, he was drawing a parallel between rejecting his teachings and the ancient history of the dump, "You see what became of the valley, how about your soul?" In support of this thesis, such scholars might continue, is the fact that he only used this analogy when he was around the city. When at sea, for instance, Jesus referred to the state of the lost as being comparable to one having a mill stone tied about the neck and being cast into the sea (Matt. 18:6). Here his warning would be as clear to an angler, as his allusion to the fiery dump would be to those of Jerusalem.

Perhaps the scholar might add that as for the other usages of the word, English translations render three words as hell: sheol, hades, and geena or gehenna. We have already discussed gehenna, as for the other two words, sheol is Hebrew and simply means the 'grave'. This word is found 65 times in the Hebrew Bible. In the Authorized King James Version, it is translated 31 times as grave, 31 times as hell and 3 times as pit. The other word, hades, appears ten times and is always, in the King James (and Douay), translated as hell. That sheol and hades refer to the same thing, the grave, is witnessed by the fact that at Acts 2:31 the Apostle Peter quotes Psalms 16:10 (15:10 in the Douay): He [God], seeing this [Jesus' death] before [by His Omniscience], spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in [hades], neither did his flesh see corruption. Here the Greek word hades is used as the translation of the Hebrew sheol'. This is the same sheol desired by Job as an escape from his many sufferings (Job 14:13). Certainly, Job would not want to die and go to Hell, which would has been even worse than what had befallen him, but to the grave.

I have spent a great deal of time on this example, however it is indicative of a few good points and therefore worthwhile. In order to understand the Bible (or any other ancient text) serious study is required. Fundamentalists do study the Bible of course but generally, not with the critical mind required to understand it objectively. They already know their doctrines and they study the texts they find agreement on all scores. Non-fundamentalist scholars generally care little about religion, especially the traditional fundamentals of conservative religions. Scholars such as Mark Smith therefore find little difficulty in discrediting traditional beliefs and embracing contrary views. This does not make them correct of course. Such scholars lose nothing if they "prove" that Yahweh is an amalgamation of ancient and diverse Canaanite deities rather than the one, eternal divinity of the Torah. For fundamentalists however, such would be devastating, were it true (EHG). Likewise, when these scholars credit different dates and authorships to the Bible or deny the legitimacy of the biblical miracles, especially those performed by Jesus, they seem unconcerned about the mental and spiritual anguish their words can cause the true believers. Is it any wonder therefore that fundamentalist Christians unite in condemnation of such researchers and their findings? What people would willing turn over their sacred doctrines, traditions and beliefs to people who do not share their faith and convictions? This is explained succinctly by fundamentalist Christian professor Richard Belcher note 52 :
...When one's confidence in Scripture begins to blur, then so does the historical Jesus, as proved by the critical scholar's views. In turn, when the historical Jesus blurs, so does the only plan of salvation. There is only one way the real person and work of Christ can emerge, rise, and stand, and that is through a divinely-inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. One might just as well sing about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or Pink Marmalade ... as to search for the historical Jesus and Christ with scholars who reject the inerrancy of Scripture. That is why the present discussion among evangelicals concerning the nature of Scripture must continue. The nature of Scripture is linked vitally to one's view of the person and work of Christ. Only as evangelicals hold to inerrancy and infallibility can they know that they are preaching the real, historical, and saving Jesus Christ (ID 79).

And yet, does not such assumptions limit one's ability to discover truths that run contrary to one's doctrinal beliefs? This is difficulty. Both points of view are dependant on preconceived ideologies.

Fundamentalist Christianity was still alive and well in the Fourth Great Awakening, even though the percentage of those who accepted it had declined. Despite the public scandals involving people like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and despite the thousands of children who were molested by Catholic priests and others in spiritual authority, devout ministers in all denominations abounded. Men such as W.A. Criswell (1909-2002), Billy Graham (born November 7, 1918) and Arthur Bessitt are generally known to millions, however there are also thousands of devout ministers and church workers who persist in living and sharing the Christian message.

While I have focused herein on fundamentalist Christianity, I fully realize, acknowledge and celebrate the devoted lives of the many progressive, liberal, orthodox and others who are just as devoted to the Christian faith as they understand it. People the Reverend martin Luther King Jr. who liberal Baptist faith empowered to amazing achieving accomplishments not only for people of African decent, for all Americans and indeed for people around the world. People like Reverend Troy Perry, the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches who utilized his Christian faith to reach gays, lesbians, and other outcasts with God's love. There were also many Roman and Orthodox Catholics who accomplished wonderful things during this period, people like Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul, as well as the vast array of Christian sects and those who practice their faith outside the confines of any organizational structures. Christianity remains the most diverse of the world's religious systems as well as the largest. As discussed above, in our post 9-11 world, there is a renewed zeal building among many Christians, a rededication of traditional faith and beliefs. Where this will go remains to be seen.

As for the umbrella-like New Age Movement, it continues to grow by leaps and bounds. One thing that makes this movement so exciting is its diversity. Within the various traditions it encompasses one finds various types of Christians who do not fit into the more traditional framework of the organized Church. Many New Age Christians, for instance, embrace such doctrines as reincarnation and meditation. Other groups, which might be better known as neo-Christian, have also maintained some popularity. These include groups such as the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the A Course in Miracles study groups etc.

The Eastern religions and their offshoots continue to be wrongly placed in the New Age category. Despite its many problems, ISKCON continues, as does 3HO, the Siddha Foundation of Swami Muktananda, Self Realization Fellowship, etc. Eastern teachers continue to offer their darshan or teachings. These include Swami Shuddhananda Brahmachari (Divine Life Fellowship), Amritanandamayi, Swami Kriyananda (Ananda Fellowship), Swami Satyananda and Shree Ma (Devi Mandir- Napa CA.), Swami Prakashananda Saraswati (International Society of Divine Love), Brahmananda Saraswati (Cultural Integration Fellowship), etc. etc.

Waking up the Post-9-11 World

As discussed above, the United States, the national focus of this study, is in a state of spiritual chaos. Islam is growing by leaps and bounds throughout the world. Millions of people are adopting this faith and committing their lives to its teachings. Prior to for a short time after 9-11, I was among them, a practitioner of Wahabi Islam. As a Muslim, I enter into a deeper understanding and appreciation of this faith tradition.

I believe that it is vital that west correctly understand Islam and much of what is being presented is not factual. Islam is not Christianity with Prophet Muhammad instead of Prophet Jesus as so many seem to believe.

Unlike Christianity, there are no 'liberal', 'conservative' and 'fundamentalist' versions Islam. There are divisions (not unlike denominations within Christianity or movements within Judaism), such as the Sunni, Shi'a and Sufism. There are also lesser-known movements such as the Ibadi Muslims etc., but all Muslims are called to follow the teachings of the Quran and the Al Hadith fully and literally. There are observant and non-observant Muslims only.

"As for fearing for one's life, it is difficult to explain to you how we think of ourselves, unless you have full belief. We believe that no one could take out one breath of our written life as ordained by Allah. We see that we see that getting killed in the cause of Allah is a great honor wished for by our Prophet (PBUH). He said in his Hadith: "I swear to Allah, I wish to fight for Allah's cause and be killed, I'll do it again and be killed, and I'll do it again and be killed". Being killed for Allah's cause is a great honor achieved by only those who are the elite of the nation. We love this kind of death for Allah's cause as much as you like to live. We have nothing to fear for. It is something we wish for" – Sheik Osama bin Ladin.

The Salafis or Wahabi sect of Sunni Islam largely controls religious life in Saudi Arabia and it's holiest of holy places Mecca and Medina. Sheik Osama ben Ladin is an ahl-us Sunnah Wa Jama'ah or a member of the congregation of the followers of Sunnah, a Wahabi. This sect is fully committed and probably capable of uniting the various Muslim sects under the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad, the Quran and the Al-Hadith. They care nothing of other sectarian matters. The Wahabi understandably views the west as a threat to their religion and their lands, and they are determined to oppose that threat by any means at their disposal, including their lives. While as a sect, the Wahabi are not so old, dating back to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab in the 18th century, they hold firmly to traditional Islam as taught in the Quran and Al-Hadith and their revivalist movement is quickly gaining the respect of all Muslims. Those Muslims who have accepted their call of jihad against the west have done so not out of fanaticism, as the US leadership would like people to believe, but out religious piety and a desire to maintain their religious and political freedom from the occupying west and the New World Order being created. There is no such thing as "radical Islam."

Personally, Islam is not the religion I choose. I believe that the Holy One has granted freedom to the creation. While submission to the Will of God is desirable, if it is not done by choise I don't see how it brings any glory to God nor spiritual development to the individual. In harmony with their Prophet and their scriptures, Islam does not honor free will. For Muslims the choise is submit to the will of Allah Subhanna ta'alla or face the consequeneces, nor or in the hereafter. For westerners to believe otherwise is to dishonor Islam. Islam means submission (peace is a secondary meaning and is only applicable to those who are under submission to Allah. Likewise, even if the Jews are not the Chosen People I believe them to be, they are nonetheless human beings and hence deserving of respect, life and their ancestral homeland. The teachings of Islam are clear, those who kill Jews do a good thing. I cannot accept this as true. Had 9-11 not happened I still would have left Islam, although I would have waited until later to do so. I was learning a lot and making good friends.

In my sincere opinon, Islam is a facinating religion that needs to be correctly understood if for no other reason than it may become the dominant religion on earth within the next few years. Those who believe peace with Islam can be achieved through compromise are mistaken. Those who believe peace with Islam can be forced through battle are even more mistaken. In World War II the Japenese surrendered once they saw the power of the A bomb. The Muslim Ummah would have continued the fight. Individual Muslims were hoping stoke the fires of jihad before 9-11, however the majority of them rejected their call. On the day that US President George Bush declared a jihad (or crusade) against Islam, the Muslim world united. Now there is no turning back (unless the Messiah comes). This crusade will be fought until one side looses. Whichever side wins, the world will lose. My general sense of optomism that existed before 9-11 is now gone. I see truly dark days ahead.

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  • Note 36: Yoganandaji founded Self-Realization Fellowship 1920 (AoY xiii). He attained mahasamadhi (died) on March7, 1952. Meher Baba claimed to be the incarnation of every Divine Being one could imagine. In 1925 he took the vow of silence and never spoke again. In 1956 he gave up his chalk board (which he had used for communication), and on January 31, 1969 he dropped the body (NR 83,84). return
  • Note 37: Yoga, as used here, refers to any method of Self-realization employed within the Indian religio/spiritual systems. Sikhism (or Sant Mat) is the Indian (Punjabi) religion which developed around the teachings of Guru Nanak and his nine successors. The khalsa is the recognized body of Sikhs, coming through the lineage of the ten Gurus which ended with Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Panth has the same implications and means, literally, community of the pure ones (GiS 68; SR 263,264). return
  • Note 38: Take this with the proverbial grain of salt, but I was told that another reason for this name is that the Sacred monosyllable Om looks like 3HO when written in devanagari (Sanskrit) chartacters. return
  • Note 39: It was also admitted that the Punjabi Sikhs did not want to associate with the American counter-culture although they sensed great sincerity among its numbers. return
  • Note 40: Since, in India, last names are indicative of one's caste, it was not enough to personally renounce one's place in the system because one was still judged on that basis. Therefore Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, renamed his followers in a way which would acknowledge no caste distinctions. All Sikhs adopted the surname Singh (Lion). This name disavowed any reference to caste and implied that one was a lion for God, or fierce in determination to attain liberation (P). As with any people, not all Sikhs are fully observant of their religion. Everyone who is born in a Sikh family is named Singh, but since the time of Guru Gobind Singh, only those who are devout, those who are indeed lions for God, employ this name. To qualify as a Singh one must be sincere in religion, above social reproach, and observe five cultural practices known as the five Ks:
    * kesh: uncut hair. From birth onward devout Sikhs never cut their hair, including their beards. This is indicative of their desire to transcend material nature and attain spiritual realization. The body is not important beyond its role as a vehicle for enlightenment.
    * kangha: comb used to keep the hair clean. This comb is kept under one's turban. The practice of kesh should not be taken as neglect for the body, it is cared for as one might care for an automobile, hence the kangha.
    * kara: metal bracelet or bangle worn on the right wrist. Since the Sikhs reject all forms of asceticism, they are actively engaged in life. Indeed, unless a man works and supports his family he can't be considered a Singh. When one reaches out his (right) hand to work, the bracelet reminds him of God. By this he is always careful to deal honestly with all men.
    * kaccha: knee-length underwear.
    * kirpan: dagger. Sikhs reject the doctrine of ahiµ§a (non-violence). They see it as a moral weakness and betrayal of religious requirements. If a Sikh sees a wrong being committed he is duty bound to stop it. Sometimes such righteous intervention requires force. The dagger is not therefore merely a religious symbol, it is a tool, even a weapon, for righteous intervention or self-defense. There is also of course the spiritual symbolism.
  • Note 41: Some say he is Guru Nanak returned. return
  • Note 42: Bhakti-marga means the Path of Devotion. The Brahma-Madhva-Sampradaya refers to the school (sampradaya) of Vaishavism (worshippers of the Sustainer God Vishnu) which, according to tradition, passed from Shree Vishnu through Brahma, the Creator God, via the religious philosopher Madhva (1199-1278) and was then restored by Shree Krishna-Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533). It was then disseminated throughout Bengal (hence Gaudiya from Gauda-desh) and now throughout the world through Srila Prabhupada and his disciples (LC 3). return
  • Note 43: The worship of murtis or physical Deity Forms. return
  • Note 44:Mantra-yoga refers to the use of sacred chants for enlightenment. The Maha Mantra (Supreme Chant) for Vaishnavas is Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. return
  • Note 45: After their publicized experiences with Guru Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, George Harrison and John Lennon studied with Prabhupada and Harrison became a devotee (CBH). He remains such today. In 1969 he produced the Hare Krishna Mantra as a favor to Shrila Prabhupada. This recording of the mantra became a best seller throughout Europe and Asia. Harrison also donated a seventeen acre estate outside London to ISKCON. Today it is a Temple and ashrama known as Bhaktivedanta Manor (Back to Godhead magazine, January 1983). return
  • Note 45: According to rumor, Guru Maharaji impregnated one of his disciples and his mother ordered him to discontinue his movement and return to India. return
  • Note 46: Wicca, in this case, is used to indicate the various Witchcraft groups, as well as the larger Neo-Pagan communities popular at the time. return
  • Note 47: From 1970 to 1974 twenty thousand people have been involved in Arica, thirty thousand with EST, nearly a thousand with Psycho-synthesis. Transcendental Meditation [Maharishi Mahesh Yogi] and Silva Mind Control together have involved over a million persons (NRC 100). return
  • Note 48: In Chicago, Jesus People U.S.A. operated a dozen houses with nearly a thousand members. In the mid-seventies I spent a month in Jepusalem and found them very sincere Christian people who sought to incorporate the fundamentals of the counter culture into a liberal Christian context. Today they have discarded any semblence of their hippy past. They have become a mildly fundamentalist group of dedicated Christian workers. return
  • Note 49: The COG threw great parties! They took the command to love thy neighbor literally. One-on-one sex, as well as orgies, was an important component of their spiritual practice. COG's founder, Moses David, fled the U.S. to escape sex charges involving minors. I have heard that the COG is presently re-emerging as the Family. At this time I have no other information on their activities (any information is requested). return
  • Note 50: The word hell is found in most translations much more than twelve times of course. I will discuss the other occurances shortly. return
  • Note 51: I have Firewalked and find the practice spiritually uplifting. This ancient technique continues to be practiced around the world (Body 67; I 292; Mind 90). The coals average 806 degrees F. (while the body of the fire is around 2552 degrees). For more info on Firewalking, see Dying; Egg; or F.I.R.E. These resources are referenced below. return
  • Note 52: Dr. Belcher (Th.D., Concordia Theological Seminary) teaches theology, Bible, and Greek at Columbia Bible College.