AllFaith: Aum Truth

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"You Will Know the Truth
And the Truth Shall Set You Free"
By John of AllFaith © 1991 (Updated Sept. 9, 2006)

In my study and practice of religion and spirituality I operate, as does everyone, under certain basic premises. One of these is the firm conviction that Truth transcends human knowledge. Or, as the Christian Apostle Paul explained, what we consider reality is merely a dim glimmer beheld in a darkened mirror. Primarily, we see our own reflections, our own preconceived and limited views (I Cor. 13:12).

This fact obviously limits our perception of reality, because if we are not careful, we will interpret what we behold according to what we already believe we know. I for instance believe that we are quickly approaching a major paradigm shift that will radically alter all of our perceptions, yet if we carry the baggage of our previous beliefs, we will doubtless taint this new reality. On the other hand, if we fail to remember the past we are condemned to repeat it.

As we enter what many have called the New Age or New Paradigm, our actual perceptions, and the consciousness which generates them, are, even now, being transformed. In this shift, we will be elevated to a higher level of reality, wherein we will behold, not the Truth, but a clearer reflection of it through the mirror of our mind's eye. A little less dust will cover the mirror and our group enlightenment will add new illuminations. As this process continues, many, if not most, of our previous conceptions will be recognized as outmoded, not wrong, just insufficient or limiting. New understandings, new philosophical assumptions and new religious and spiritual conceptions will be born. This process of transformation is slow, and at times painful. It requires nothing less than the complete renovation of what we currently deem to be reality. In this coming new era, spiritual and secular truths will merge in a type of spiritual symbiosis. Mysticism and personal spirituality will somewhat replace external religion as the method of transcendence, even though many of the older forms will remain to offer their particular emphasis. The current scientific methods of acquiring and evaluating knowledge will likewise be radically altered into more holistic methodologies.

As we prepare for the new era, in the study of religion, East or West, there are certain philosophical and methodological difficulties that must be addressed. Among these is the question: If Jesus was correct, if we can know the truth and thereby become free, then how do we do it (John 8:32)? There are many answers to this question of course, and herein I will present my own.

In the study of religious history (or any other aspect of religious tradition), our intention, I should think, is to not only understand the development of religion and spirituality, but also to gain personal insight into the truths that have been proclaimed. In other words, it is not enough to gain a degree of academic mastery with regards some subject; we will also naturally want to reflect upon the wisdom they have shown and apply such insights to our own lives where applicable. Why else would one embark upon this course of study if not for personal growth? As Plato said:
"If a person had all that sort of knowledge that ever was, that person would not be at all the wiser; but only able to play with people, tripping them up and oversetting them with distinctions of words. Such a person would be like someone who pulls away a stool from someone who is about to sit down, and then laughs and makes merry at the sight of her or his friend overturning and laid on his or her back" (TW 737).

Acquiring in-depth knowledge of the diverse religious traditions without applying what one learns to one's life seems senseless, as Plato says above. Implicit in the religious studies discipline, one would therefore assume, is the determination that through the acquired knowledge personal and/or social enlightenment will result. While I am aware that not everyone in the discipline shares this view, I cannot understand why they don't. But for those who do, the discipline makes it possible eclectically to accept those aspects of the various traditions that further one's own spiritual quest, as well as intellectually understand the traditions and beliefs of others. This knowledge will ignite the flame of a more personalized faith tradition.

For some people this means a more eclectic faith that harmonizes the diverse traditions into a single belief system. This approach may be described as Universalist (although not necessarily that of the denomination bearing that moniker). For others, this understanding results in an AllFaith belief wherein the diverse paths are viewed as facets of a transcendent indivisible gem, the petals of the Sacred Rose, or flames of the Holy Fire. Those who hold this view also seek to understand the underlying harmony of the various religious and spiritual paths. They uphold the uniqueness of each tradition however, instead of seeing to merge them. The results are similar. One might say that Universalism is a "ground level view" while AllFaith is a "bird's eye view." Attempts to uncover a single Truth by merging the diverse traditions are unacceptable to this AllFaith view.

As we study and learn, those aspects of whatever 'Petal' that we don't or can't personally accept, can be 'placed on a shelf' as gained knowledge. Later along the Path, these truths may be applicable to our own quest, as our realizations deepen. There is no question of right or wrong, only what is personally applicable to one's Path. In this way, we further our own understandings while honoring the various traditions of others. This Path may be referred to in various, as Universalist, as Eclectic, as AllFaith, etc. As Lao Tsu has taught, the name that can be named is not the true name. Being nameless, I call this Petal of the One Rose AllFaith.

Socially it seems to me, the religious studies discipline is likewise vitally important. As the world becomes a smaller place in which to live, its cultures and religions are losing their abilities to exist as in a vacuum. Far too often, violent confrontations erupt between good-hearted people simply because they do not understand one another's religious beliefs. Religious studies, as a discipline, can do much to remedy this situation by presenting information to the public that rightly reflects and honors the various traditions and encourages the faithful to pursue a spiritual perspective of tolerance and mutual respect, even when their beliefs differ. In this way all may see that "religion is fundamentally one, although the sages call it by different names," to paraphrase the Upanishad wisdom.

There are of course areas in which agreement simply is not possible. Those religions that teach there is only one way to achieve spiritual realization, enlightenment or salvation will not readily concede that others may also be on the Path of Light. Those who hold to beliefs that are more eclectic are able to understand such views arise from a place of sincerity. Although they do not personally accept this belief, they can honor the sincerity of those who do and see its benefits. To AllFaith sensibilities, statements such as, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life," refers to the teachings espoused, not to the deliverer of them. It is therefore incumbent on all Universalists to show respect and love toward those of the diverse traditions and seek to build bridges of harmony and mutual respect. In the absence of reciprocal respect, Eclectics show even more love. People of good will can agree to disagree and love is the Key that unites.

The question remains however: what is the most efficacious method of discerning Truth?

Of this question there are two primary schools of thought. There are those who approach religions and sacred texts critically, academically. This is the approach typically employed in universities and intellectual gatherings. Such critics call into question all doctrines and beliefs, demanding that spiritual truth be validated by contemporary scientific and philosophical methodologies. Such people seek to gauge the ancient traditions through contemporary conventions, maintaining that any belief that cannot be thus supported should be rejected as 'mere superstition'. In times past Atheists and Secular Humanists simply denied that the events recorded by the various traditions ever took place. Without evidence, only by faith could one disagree. "The walls of Jericho never really fell," they gloated, "It is not possible, so it is false." Then archeologists discovered the remains of the walls and found that they not only fell, they fell in a manner they should not have fallen, one harmonious with the biblical record! Now that the secular sciences themselves are confirming much of these traditions, the Secular Humanist approach has altered. We see this new approach commonly for instance on the History and National Geographic channels and in various academic journals. Now, such infotainment outlets claim to reveal the truth in pseudoscientific presentations. For instance, with charts and high tech graphics they explain how the Red Sea was parted: It was actually the Reed Sea and occurred during a draught as strong westerly winds blew the waters back, and so on. Such approaches seldom if ever acknowledge the Power behind the traditions, God. Such Secular Humanist views seek to discredit the supernatural aspects of all religious convictions. Yet without their supernatural elements, the various religions, with the possible exception of Buddhism and certain Hindu sects, lose their meaning and their power to transform lives for the better. As the Christian Apostle Paul himself is quoted as saying, disprove the resurrection of Jesus and Christianity becomes meaningless (I Cor 15:17). This pseudoscientific approach is one of destruction towards those seeking spiritual truth; it is a blatantly dishonest attempt to convert the hearts and minds of the world to the religion of Secular Humanism. These approaches offer nothing of merit to replace the denied beliefs.

The other view holds that the diverse traditions should be honored and not subjected to an excessive amount of critical analysis from another discipline. According to this view religious truth is based on entirely different premise than contemporary philosophy, archeology, science etc. Religious truth is only knowable by terms of faith and experience. If contemporary theories such as natural selection or determinism were subjected to these religious criteria, they would fail miserably. With the advent of the more enlightened new sciences such as chaos theory, it is quite likely that the accepted sciences will one day confirm the essential religious understandings and dispose of its own ( Note 1). This ability to change according to discovered truth is a strength secular science has that much of religion lacks. If enough scientists can free themselves from the shackles of Atheistic scientific theory, they in time they may discover truths they currently deem impossible.

There is both room and need for each method of inquiry. As noted Hindu Swami Vivekananda so aptly noted:
One thing should be especially remembered here, there is no connection between these historical researches and our real aim, which is, the knowledge that leads to the acquirement of Dharma. Even if the historicity of the whole thing [in this case the Mahabharata] is proved to be absolutely false today, it will not in the least be any loss. Then what is the use of so much historical research, you may ask? It has its use, because we have to get at the truth; it will not do for us to remain bound by wrong ideas due to ignorance. In this country [India], people think very little of the importance of such inquiries ... But our duty should be to convince ourselves of the truth, to believe the truth only (SV 101, 102)

What the Truth is however, is not so easily defined.

If, for instance, scholars could prove their theory of the multiple authorship of Isaiah or if they could produce the alleged Q Document ( Note 2), which they cannot and will not manage to do in my opinion, would this establish the Truth? I think not. Rebbe Yeshua's definition of truth is that it is that which sets people free. One might argue that such information would free people from ignorance, i.e. that they would no longer be fettered to the inaccurate understanding that under the direct inspiration of his God, the prophet Isaiah wrote all sixty-six chapters of the book bearing his name. Still such knowledge would be incomplete even if technically true, and offer nothing by which the soul could find liberation or Dharma. Such information, if true, would be interesting but would have little effect spiritually other than to undermine people's faith.

Unlike Hinduism, to which Vivekananda was referring above, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are historic religions. By that, I mean that they rely upon the historical accuracy of their beliefs. Again, if Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, as the Scripture states, then "..your faith is vain, and you are yet in your sins" said the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 15:17). This is very different from most Eastern religions. Swami Harshananda has pointed out that:
What is called Hinduism in the present day could not be destroyed as no invader or foreigner or practicing Hindu could explore Hinduism in depth. Its roots are embedded in mysterious sources. Its branches have invaded the space. Hinduism is all-pervasive, all-inclusive and penetrating into the depths ... Even if the three Prasthanas (Authorities) namely, the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagadvadgita did not exist, that could have hardly done any harm to Hinduism (HG x).

This strength is not present in the three great Semitic religions. Since the fact is that no one can conclusively prove who wrote the books of the Bible, apologist or critic, or even when they were written in most cases, we should seriously consider the effects of such 'scholarly deductions' on the religious faithful as well as on society at large. The vast majority of religious Jews and Christians firmly believe in the Divine authorship of the Hebrew Torah ( Note 3). Their faith, and in many cases their very lives, have been built upon the premise that in the Bible, God has revealed the Divine will and purpose for the earth. Moreover, they believe that therein God has proclaimed the way of salvation, even if they disagree about what that Way is. If the Book of Isaiah was not written by Prophet Isaiah, if there existed a First and Second Isaiah, as the book is often divided by some scholars, if the Q Documents were discovered, released and somehow verified as authentic, and if they contradicted the Gospels, or seriously called their authorship into question, then the entire Bible would be suspect. And not only as to which human instruments God employed to present the Word of Life, but more fundamentally, the Creator's very hand therein, nay, God's very existence! Scholarship can therefore be a very positive or a very negative force for the historically based religions.

After all, how does one know of God? For the three Abrahamic religions, the answer is primarily through the pages of Scripture. As Fundamentalist Christians often say, "God said it [in the Bible] I believe it, and that settles it." The same applies to many other areas of religious studies. This is, therefore, a most profound concern that scholarly investigations, with their oft-premature conclusions, should, but I think seldom do, take into consideration. The potential ramifications of their research conclusions are unimaginable. What would happen if Jews, Christians and Muslims all rejected their beliefs en masse, if the structures of the three religions suddenly collapsed? Before you say, there would be peace, think again! Countless hospitals, schools, orphanages and other charitable organizations would be abandoned; rejected religious strictures against violence and revenge would lead to rioting as ancestral hatred went unchecked... Religion is a powerful influence in our world, both for good and bad. Without a spiritual foundation there is no telling how the world be, although today we beginning to catch a glimpse.

It has been said that contemporary science and philosophy have replaced religion in the West. While this thesis may be a bit extreme, there is some truth to it. The scientist/philosopher Ludwig von Bertalanffy has concluded:
I think the fact that a theory [i.e. the theory of natural selection] so vague, so insufficiently verifiable and so far from the criteria otherwise applied in hard science has become a dogma, can only be explained on sociological grounds. Society and science have been so steeped in the ideas of mechanism, utilitarianism and the economic concept of free competition, that instead of God, [Natural] Selection was enthroned as ultimate reality (A 156).

For many people faith in traditional western religion is no longer deemed sufficient. Confused by the 'future shock' of the post-industrial (and post-modern) world, many are looking at the traditional religious and value systems and finding them wanting. Faith in the biblical accounts is being shattered by scientific reasoning and critical humanistic religious studies. Credulous faith in the Bible is no longer considered viable by the majority of people (LM 47-78). Belief in God as historically exercised in the West, is becoming untenable (PN 95).

People such as Bob Avakian, chairperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, believes that the destruction of religion is an important factor in freeing the masses, but let's consider the results of this more closely (LWG 34). What has been, and may further become, the result of what Nietzsche termed the death of God? Having lost faith in traditional religion, many people, especially in the West, find themselves spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. More and more they find meaning in their lives from their ability to acquire material objects. They are, first and foremost, Consumers. Without a spiritual context for their existence, they find life meaningless, without any direction. As Nietzsche explained in his "The Gay Science," this loss of faith by the "monstrous logic of terror" comes as a "prophet of gloom, as a solar eclipse whose like has never before been seen" (PN 447). As he predicted, a "long and all-encompassing period of ruin, destruction and cataclysm" seems to be descending upon our civilization, which was established upon religious convictions but which is now becoming devoid of that rubric.

We need look no further than the evening news caste to validate his statements. Murders, assaults, crimes of all types are skyrocketing in the spiritually impoverished United States and throughout the West. This "long and all-encompassing period of ruin, destruction and cataclysm" has never been more obvious than in this post 9-11 world as we watch the spiritually impotent West wage its unsuccessful crusade against the very religious Islamic Ummah. Two US buildings were destroyed on 9-11, as well as a portion of the US military headquarters, mainly because the US refuses to remove its unwanted troops from Saudi Arabia, a tragedy indeed and one not to be regarded lightly or minimized, yet this single attack has thrown much of the West into fear and chaos. What is emerging from the usurpation of Secular Humanist Scientism ( Note 4)? The religious belief in moderation is no more. We now have a nation and culture whose leadership is corrupt, and whose citizenry are irrevocably divided, where faith in a better tomorrow has largely been replaced by the greedy pillage of future generations, and where the technologies of greed threaten to destroy our very environment through global warning within 100 years.

Our situation is now critical. According to Joseph Campbell, we cannot maintain ourselves in the universe without some mythological belief context. Indeed, he says, the very fullness of our lives stands "in a direct ratio to the depth and range not of [our] rational thought but of [our] local mythology" (MoG 4). It is the importance of this local and individualized mythology science and much of the current scholarly approach to religious studies is undermining.

No one can deny the marvels of modern science or the insights offered by comparative religious studies. Without them, my life would certainly be very different. Despite this however, it must be admitted, as Erich Fromm has, that:
While we have created wonderful things, we have failed to make of ourselves beings for whom this tremendous effort would seem worthwhile. Ours is a life not of brotherliness, happiness, contentment but of spiritual chaos and bewilderment dangerously close to a state of madness - not the hysterical kind of madness which existed in the Middle Ages but a madness akin to schizophrenia in which the contact with inner reality is lost and thought is split from affect (PR 1,2).

In our pride, contemporary society believes itself the most advanced ever to have existed upon this planet. We hail our materialistic discoveries as absolute and boldly judge our predecessors by our own narrow ethnocentric standards. And yet, as Fromm has observed, the society we have created is woefully inadequate with regards to human development and potential. David Frawley has further argued that even our modern advancements may not be as enlightened as they appear to us. Modern technologies, as well as contemporary methods of religious studies, continue to be limited by our mechanistic proclivities and our concentration on the outer world that, alone, we deem to be reality. Little if any attention is given to the inner realities, where true realizations and innovations are to be found. Furthermore, he says, our interpretation of history is no more real or objective than those of earlier ages and civilizations, perhaps even less so. As people always have, we judge the past from our present understandings and temperaments (GSK 22). For this reason, as we seek deeper, alternative understandings, let us not forget that:
In every age people believe that their universe contains whatever is real and significant. In their temples, academies, monasteries, and universities they reject the rest as opinion and illusion. Forget the superstitions of the uneducated and the myths your parents taught you. For behold! Here is the true universe, awesome, vast and wondrous... The scene is timeless. Yesterday a false universe, today the true universe (SW 40).

As Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua has explained, unless theories have some universally acceptable evidence, which these do not, and aid in the awakening of one's buddha nature, or spiritual consciousness, there is no relevancy to them. All mechanistic theories are therefore groundless and may be likened to science fiction (A 111- 156; comp. PN 522). Knowledge of such theories is merely 'extra baggage' that should be discarded by those seeing to know the Truth (L 57).

Consistent with this view is the Christian Apostle Paul's warning that, "...It is written; I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? ... Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? ... Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger that men" (I Cor 1:19-25). Saint Augustine is even more concise. He says that, "One is miserable who knows all things, and does not know God; and one is happy who knows God, even though knowing nothing else…" (TW 737).

From such comments we find that, from a religious perspective, the important thing is the development of spiritual attunement, mukta, or salvation, not the accumulation of knowledge alone. The critical study of religions and their texts are, as stated above, very important, so long as they are kept in balance. No religion is knowable through intellectual study and speculation alone ( Note 5. Those scholars and academicians who approach religious studies from an 'objective perspective' simply cannot understand their subjects fully, for "Without faith it is impossible to please God." At most, they are able to describe the outer aspects, the 'dim reflections.' Or, as Samuel ben Kalonymus has said, "Among the heretical scholars there are a few who know of something like a reflection of the mysteries, though not of their substance (TW 418).

To truly understand religious topics requires, at the very least, a kindred spirit or personal longing for realization/salvation. To the degree that this element is present within the student, to that extent only will understanding be revealed. Conversely, those studies that have as their goal the destruction of people's faith and religious traditions, those that seek to disprove everything, yet offer nothing superior in return, such investigations can benefit no one. Such scholarship has been called intellectual masturbation, but I call it intellectual assault and rape because inevitably it destroys not only the faith of its practitioner, but also that of those who heed their teachings. Stated bluntly, if it doesn't free, it isn't Truth.

In every discipline, the practitioners honor and support their various fields and its principles. It is very strange then that in the religious studies discipline one is often respected for the ability to discredit religion and spiritual texts, the "Jesus Seminar" being merely one example among many. If religious scholars were as dedicated to their field as scientists are to theirs, religion would not be in the disreputable state it currently is. Unfortunately, many religious authorities have either embraced Secular Humanism or chosen to remain silent about its threats.

As stated above, there is room and need for both basic methods of religious studies. Those who choose the critical path need merely redirect their intentions to helping people grow rather than destroying their faith. Rather than attempt to demonstrate the falseness of the various traditions, we should seek to help them develop deeper wisdom. An example of how this type of scholarship can be implemented may be found in the book "the Life of Sri Ramanuja". Therein Hindu Swami Ramakrishnananda seeks to support his thesis that Sri Ramanuja was an incarnation of Sri Lakshmanna ( Note 6) by citing the Brhat Padmapurana, Naradapurana and Skandapurana. Swami Budhananda, his translator, points out that "We have tried our best to verify these traditional references. But unfortunately we have been unable to trace them in the published editions of those Puranas. Probably those were found in some versions available only in manuscript" (SR 74). In this way, the apparent weakness of the text is acknowledged, while a possible explanation is given. If one were to find that in a great many cases Sri Ramakrishnananda's references were fictitious, which is certainly not the case, then his authority might rightly be called into question, which it is not. Furthermore, due to Sri Budhananda's handling of the situation, both he and Sri Ramakrishnananda maintain our much-deserved respect.

This method will not undermine the discipline, rather it will enhance it by making it more informative to the subjects it considers, and more accurate in its depiction of the various traditions. The current system is based squarely upon the old reductionism model of study, a method that is currently being rejected by many authorities in other fields. Bringing the discipline more in line with the New Paradigm will enable it to investigate depths of consideration presently not dreamt. For instance, if one wished to examine a shamanic culture from the Old Paradigm perspective, one might critically reject its findings from the start, saying that as out-of-the-body experiences are not scientifically verifiable, they do not occur. This is the view taken by the Jesus Seminar. Because of such shoddy ethnocentric scholarship, such researchers confirm the skepticism skeptic and create doubt in the minds of others. Nothing of any spiritual value is attained by their work. While at JFKU, one of my professors was a member of the Jesus Seminar. He and I discussed the work of this committee on several occasions, though neither of us was convinced by the other. It was his opinion that Jesus was merely an irrelevant local holy man that later generations had turned into a god. Through his work with the Jesus Seminar, he hoped to demonstrate his point. How would this help anyone? He didn't care. With that lack of concern for what researchers uncover, little value can be found in such investigations. Under the New Paradigm however, students would learn the techniques of shamanic journey and undertake them in order to discover their potential validity and contributions first hand. By this open-minded experiential approach, such experiences can be verified and the discipline can examine them experientially.

By thus redirecting our assumptions, we honor the various traditions, while at the same time, uncovering their validity or lack of authenticity or applicability. This will not threaten the religious faithful, and they will therefore be more inclined to accept the results of such research and incorporate potential positive feedback. This will enhance people's willingness to accept both the strengths and the weaknesses of the various traditions and, as a result, they will grow in their understanding. With this, even in the West, people can learn to rejoice in the Truth, understanding, as Swami Vivekananda said above, that such researches will do nothing harmful and in fact will have a most beneficial role in society. This type of religious study, if done from an eclectic perspective, which I believe the discipline demands, will encourage inter-religious dialogue and a more eclectic spirituality that is based upon personal realizations rather than traditional dogma.

Under the current system of religious studies and those sciences with which it is associated, such as anthropology, archeology and the like, we are throwing the baby out with the bath water. For the most part, the only thing offered to replace the old religious systems is stark materialism, reliance on the limited understandings of science and the corrupt political systems of the world. Regardless of our current ethnocentric beliefs, such approaches have never been sufficient to satisfy our inner needs. I submit they never will be. Despite this obvious fact, much of western society has accepted the antiquated scientific notion that objective physical reality exists and that only through their limited methodologies is it knowable. We have thus transformed the scientific community into a nearly infallible, lab-coated priesthood. Conversely, the new sciences are now beginning to understand that there is no reality, no universe existing independent of our own experiences and perceptions (BS 181). Our myths and belief systems largely dictate our definition and understanding of 'reality.'

The world has changed in fundamental ways. As we enter into the new era, our antiquated understandings of religion and science must be reexamined. This will not be an easy task however, how will it be done? Who holds the authority to conduct not only this reevaluation but to determine its outcomes? How will these new reformers determine what is truth? It is essential if we hope to establish a world of peace and justice, and if we wish to continue developing as spiritual beings, that this Herculean task be undertaken, but again, how? What we do now will determine the world we leave to our children, and to theirs. For this reason, I see the need for a thorough reordering of the religious studies discipline. Its potential contributions to the emerging new world are immense, though they remain largely untapped.

When we seek to understand anything, religion, science, or what have you, it needs to be realized that as our perceptions are based upon personal observations; our views will be limited (BS 236,237; SW 113). In other words, we tend to find the answers we expect (BS 216). It is not, "I'll believe it when I see it," but rather, "I'll see it when I believe it." It is not only that the scientific method is unwilling to examine facts objectively. The problem is, as recent neurophysiologic studies have repeatedly shown, that even before consciousness is established, our sensory perception is modified by a complex series of experiences, expectations and purposes. Perception takes place in stages, yet requires only a finite time to occur. These stages include the initial perception, with some type of conceptual content; an emotional response to that content; a verbal meaning analysis, and then finally what is commonly called consciousness (SW 163). Before we are even aware of our perception therefore, we have undergone a thorough analysis and established the way in which we will respond (BS 187,188). The faint smell of perfume, for instance, may immediately evoke joy, sorrow, pleasure or pain through our associations with it (TP 295). Likewise, our assumptions regarding a particular people, the reality of gods, spirits, the afterlife, and similar topics, will have a direct bearing upon our interpretation of religious myths and traditions (ex. GSK 36).

Our religious, philosophic, scientific and mythological beliefs need no longer be a divisive and destabilizing agent however. With the advent of modern archeology, psychology, comparative religion and the cognitive sciences, we can at last establish a paradigm which unifies the world in a rational spiritual symbioses (MoG 4,5). In order to accomplish this however, we must continue to question and redefine our methods of knowing.

Traditional western science has become so theory-laden by its own belief systems that it is highly unlikely to develop anything that violates its basic assumptions. The notion of pure, unbiased observation, which science requires, is therefore unattainable by the methodologies of the old paradigm (SW 35,36). This is finally being recognized within the scientific community itself. The result is the emerging cognitive sciences. The discipline of religious studies however, continues to a large degree, to base itself upon reductionism and the old paradigm. With the advent of the New Age Movement and the rethinking of New Thought and the Mind Sciences, traditional religion is being coaxed into the New Age Paradigm. A case in point is 'contemporary Christian music.' This new worship music borrows heavily from the East with it's almost chant-like repetitive choruses and emphasis on key words and phrases.

Gone (or going) are the days when we naively believed in an objective reality which, step by step, science would eventually come to understand (SW 31). Our gullible faith in material science, along with our submissive credence in the Church, seems to be ending. This development is central to the emerging New Paradigm. The scientists, philosophers and religionists who are embracing this aspect of the New Age are in the forefront of this revolutionary movement.

With the dawning of the new era, something more is taking place than simply the adoption of new theories. Despite the current turn to conservatism and fundamentalism, 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 role as co-creators of reality (SW 33).

By examining and contrasting the various traditions, as they are, we gain deeper insight into ourselves and the world around us. Religion is the heartfelt contemplation of our role in the universes. It asks the question, why are we here? What are we to do during our short stay? Religion is our connection with existence. It is our relationship with our Creator, no matter how we conceive of this. Religion challenges us to be more than are, to reach deeply into the very core of our being in order to transcend our limitations. Religion has a power like nothing else to make us be all we can be. It is more than recited articles of faith it is who we are, at our most fundamental levels. The history of religion is the story of people reaching up towards the heavens for understanding. It is the record of those understandings passed on throughout generations. If we are to learn from the ancient systems, we must honor them and rightly reflect their teachings, their struggles with the fundamental questions of life. As with any other art form, before we can hope to transcend the rudimentary elements, we must understand and master them. Those who are drawn to this discipline from an AllFaith or Universalist perspective are people who wish to be the masters of their own spiritual destinies. They wish to stand upon the firm foundations of those who have come before and from there, to reach out ever further through the fog of unknowing. Before attempting to realize such an inclusive spiritual system, one that I believe is the message of all the masters, we must establish a foundation of right understanding. In religious texts, we have an abundant amount of information that is conducive to an eclectic spiritual belief system, but if we proceed in ignorance of the first level understandings, we will fail to perceive the deeper significances. Hence, it may be said that AllFaith Ministries is a school from which none graduate.

For example, consider Psalms 82:

1 A Psalm of Asaph. God [elohiym] standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods [elohiym].
2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
6 I have said, Ye are gods [elohiym]; and all of you are children of the most High ['elyown].
7 But ye shall die like men [adam], and fall like one of the princes.
8 Arise, O God [elohiym], judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

Here we find the teaching that each of us are innately divine, that like Jesus, we are all "gods, sons and daughters of the Most High". With this understanding (and it is confirmed throughout the religious texts of the world), our comprehension of Jesus' experiences and teachings take on much deeper meaning. His Way becomes utterly relevant to our own lives. As he is our "elder brother," Yeshua's teachings are seen to be profoundly relevant to our own experiences as we seek to arise as the elohiym we are. We have only to embrace our divine birthright. Certainly, says the traditionalist, he could heal the sick, raise the dead etc., but he was God. With the understanding that each of us are elohiym, we glimpse the truth that we also perform similar services to the glory of Elohiym. The Scripture itself says this at John 14:12.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats and gods produces gods, each created in the image of the Most High. Each of us can actualize our inner divinity; it is our birthright. By understanding how the world's religions reveal the Holy One, we can discover our own natural identities as children of the Most High. This is but a simple example of how knowledge of the world's religions can help our quest for Truth, but it serves to illustrate the point.

It has been said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. To this, I would add that those who remember the past thereby create a better future. For this reason, it behooves everyone, especially those of us who are pursuing the discipline of religious studies, to rightly understand the various traditions and the perspectives they bring. Such knowledge will lead us toward spiritual realization and the Truth that passes understanding.

Moses, Zarathustra, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Ramakrishna, Bahaullah, et al, all the masters had one thing in common; none of them were religious! Their teachings and examples reflect not religious belief and duty, but mystical realization and liberation. To identify with them is to transcend the realm of religious piety and enter the domain of mystical knowing. The more completely we understand the ways of the masters, the more we devote ourselves to spiritual realization, knowledge and wisdom, the more readily we will realize the Truth that sets us free. Those disciplines that aid in this process are beneficial, those that do not, are useless. This is my humble perspective, and based upon it I seek to establish my life. The goal is realization, the state is freedom and the fruit is Truth, the source is the ONE.

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Note 1. For more information on the New Sciences see: Algeny by Jeremy Riffkin (Viking Press New York, 1983) or The Turbulent Mirror by John Briggs & F. David Peat (Harper & Row, New York, 1989). Return

Note 2. The Q Document is supposed to be the source of the Gospels Matthew, Luke and perhaps Mark. It exists only in conjecture. Return

Note 3. Judaism, of course, does not accept the Christian Scriptures. Islam accepts them, with certain reservations and both Jews and Christians reject the Divine authorship of the Quran. All agree that the Hebrew Scriptures are inspired or God-breathed, though Islam sees some tampering. Return

Note 4. The religious acceptance of scientific theories. Return

Note 5. This is one of the very few times when any statement beginning with "Any religion..." or "Every religion..." is justifiable. On this point every single religion, past or present, is in agreement. Even Jnana-Yoga, the Hindu path of knowledge, requires much more than intellectual understanding alone (SR 64). Return

Note 6. Lakshmana was the brother of Lord Rama in the epic Ramayana. Return


A: Algeny, Jeremy Rifkin, Viking Press, New York 1983
BS: Beyond Supernature, Lyall Watson, Bantam Books, New York, 1988
GSK: Gods, Sages and Kings, David Frawley, Passage Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991
HG: Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Swami Harshananda, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore, India, 1981
L: Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over, Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, Talmage, Ca. 1983
LM: Life Magazine, Dec. 1990, Volume 13, number 15
LWG: Liberation Without Gods, Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, Chicago, 1988
MoG: The Masks of God, Vol. 1, Joseph Campbell, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1969
PN: The Portable Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufmann, Viking Press, New York, 1969
PR: Psychoanalyze and Religion, Erich From, Yale Paperbacks, Clinton, Mass. 1959
SR: Life of Sri Ramanuja, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras, India, 1885/1977
SV: The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 4, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India, 1948
SW: Shifting Worlds, Changing Minds, Jeremy W. Hayward, Shambala Books, Boston & London, 1987