What Is My Religion?
It has been my fortune, and hopefully not my misfortune, to have had certain truths revealed to me. In various places in this Web Site, I have made mention of as many of them as I could.
It may seem, at this point, that I "believe in all religions", or that I am trying to force them to fit into a single mold. This is not the case. I simply refuse to disown the truth, regardless of where it may be found, and regardless of how inconvenient it may be to find it there.
And the truth, as I see it, is best described by the following diagram:
This diagram shows a Jewish star, pointing toward a Christian cross, pointing toward an Islamic crescent moon. (Click here for the meanings of these symbols).
It is easy to understand this diagram as a trivial time-line, since these three religions arose historically in that order.
But note that there is also an arrow pointing from Islam to Judaism, which completes a circle. A circle is a perfect form of geometrical shape, having no beginning or end. What does this mean?
Why is there an arrow pointing from Judaism to Christianity?
The Jewish religion is incomplete. It cannot be completed until the messianic, or "End-Times" prophecies are fulfilled. No orthodox rabbi will dispute that.
For reasons beyond my grasp, God chose to spread word of Himself in a most singular way. He sent a Jewish Messianic messenger who would be rejected by his own people. An essential biography of this messenger was revealed to the prophet Isaiah, and was recorded in Chapter 53 of the book bearing his name.
When the messenger came, he was, in accordance with the prophecy, rejected. Incredibly, the gentile world took note.
The sight of Jesus curing innumerable people of illness and then being himself arrested and imprisoned, touched them.
The sight of Jesus wholeheartedly preaching the word of God and then being himself condemned to death for blasphemy, touched them.
The sight of Jesus, who had asked for nothing himself, and who had done no harm to anyone, being himself scourged and crucified, touched them.
Isaiah, in the beginning of Chapter 53, asked:
"Who hath believed our report?"
The answer is: "the gentiles". Isaiah then asked further:
"To whom is the arm of the lord revealed?"
Again, the answer is: "the gentiles".
The Jewish high priests of that time were corrupt beyond redemption, and the people were torn between blind allegiance to their leaders, and allegiance to the scriptures, whose fulfillment in Jesus was obvious to many.
For the individual, the decision must have been a difficult one. There is a saying which is well-known to all: "Our fathers, right or wrong". Should the Jews follow the priestly fathers of the nation, on whom most of the people had become utterly dependent for authoritative interpretation of the scriptures? Or should they follow "our Father in Heaven", whose Word seemed to be on the lips of a man whom the highest of priests had condemned as a criminal?
Many chose Jesus, and there was, at one time, an authentic Jewish-Christian church which would have obviated this difficulty.
But we are sinners, and that would have been too easy for us. God sent a Roman scourge to destroy Israel and scatter the nation, killing the fledgling Jewish-Christian church in the process. The Jewish religion froze solid, like ice, at that moment in time. In exile, it became a towering monument to the Word of God up to that time, which was only two-thirds of Biblical history. Everything which has happened subsequently has been profoundly ignored by Jews.
To gain any understanding of the subsequent activities of the Holy Spirit of God on earth, one must turn to the Christian scriptures. That is why there is an arrow pointing from Judaism to Christianity in our diagram.
Why is there an arrow pointing from Christianity to Islam?
Had God put His Word entirely in the hands of the gentiles, then there would be no legitimate Jewish religion now. But then, how could the House of David ever rise up? And why should it?
So God sent Paul, a difficult man to say the least. Paul "sold" the idea of God to the gentiles by "trading it in" for the Law of Moses. Thus, Jesus, who represented the ultimate fulfillment of the Law, was dissected out from it and distributed as a free-standing commodity. The Law was no longer necessary, proclaimed Paul.
This idea "sold".
In retrospect, it is obvious that this approach could never have worked. There is no ocean of commentary, exegesis, or out-and-out contrivance which is large enough to submerge the glaring discrepancy between Jesus saying ...
"one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled",
"one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled",
... and Paul saying ...
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law" (Galatians 3:13).
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law" (Galatians 3:13).
Yet, considering the fact that the Word of God, in the hands of the Jews, never spread significantly beyond the borders of Israel, and that that same Word, in the hands of Paul, spread throughout the length and breadth of the Roman Empire, it cannot be said that Paul's ministry was a mistake. Besides, regardless of what anyone thinks, the fact remains that it was the will of God that his Word, for a time, should reside with Paul. It is hopeless to attempt to impose retrospective judgment on something which has come to pass so resoundingly.
Whereas it took 2000 years for Judaism to freeze solid, it took Christianity barely over 200 years to get to the same point. By the 3rd century AD, Church dogma was so well-established that "heretics" were being actively persecuted, and by the 4th century, the Christian councils fully crystallized the religion into its current form, with Christ as God Himself, on earth as part of a Holy Trinity. Jesus was declared to be God; God-on-earth; the Son of God; all-God and all-man at the same time. These aspects were all fully integrated into a single, utterly incomprehensible whole, and all by the order of the Church.
We have seen, elsewhere, the scriptural basis for these dogmatic assertions. It cannot truthfully be said that they are lacking in justification, and yet the absolutely rigid and dogmatic stance of the Church was, in retrospect, obviously untenable. If the argument that Christ was God had justification, so did the argument that Christ was man. Besides, both camps had completely forgotten about the Law of Moses, concerning which Christ had said "one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass ...till all be fulfilled". What difference does it make who Christ is, or how many parts God has, when God's Law has been abrogated?
God could not allow this absolutely crystalline, motionless dogmatic stance go unchallenged. So he sent another scourge, a permanent thorn-in-the-side to Christianity. He sent Islam.
Why is there an arrow pointing from Islam to Judaism?
Nothing less than the Word of God Himself could have overcome the power of the Roman-Empire-turned-Christian. This Word came to the illiterate prophet, Muhammad. It is evident, in retrospect, that the outcasts of the Christian councils would find a voice, and this was it.
In Islam, God is a single, solitary, supreme, and supremely indivisible unity. He is not a trinity. Christ is a man. He is neither God, God-on-earth, Son of God ("He has no son!"), all-God and all-man conjoined or otherwise, or even part-God. He is a man, and he will be revered as such until the End Time. His second coming, with great power, is acknowledged. But whether Christ himself will be the ultimate Messiah ("Madhi"), or whether he will herald the imminent coming of the Madhi immediately after himself, is not explicitly stated.
Islam and Christianity represent the extremes of polarization of opinion concerning the "nature of Christ". Neither one could exist without the other. Since the truth is that the "nature of Christ" is unknown, we can only have opinions. All opinions about Christ may be meritorious, because Christ himself is meritorious. But they still remain opinions.
Like the colors of a rainbow, the opinions about the "nature of Christ" all lie within a spectrum. Christianity and Islam define the extreme limits of the spectrum, and all other opinions lie somewhere in between.
Islam is necessary, from one point of view, because it completes this spectrum of opinion. The human mind cannot comprehend Christ, because he was of God, and the entire spectrum of opinion itself constitutes the true "nature of Christ". Like God Himself, he was a multiplicity of things, and he will forever be described in as many different ways as there are people to describe him.
Islam is also necessary because it puts Christ back into the framework of the Jewish religion, where he belongs. Muhammad was right to call Islam the "religion of Abraham", and the "religion of Moses", and the "religion of Jesus". If there is only one God, then His prophets must have taught the same religion.
If Judaism froze solid after 2000 years, and Christianity after 200 years, then Islam did the same after less than 2 years. In fact, no sooner had the Prophet died, then his followers began to compile his sayings into the Qur'an and religion, as embodied solely in this volume, was shortly declared to be "complete".
But the followers of Muhammad, who deceived their audiences into believing that the Bible had become corrupted and should be rejected, were greatly in error. There is no evidence that the Bible has ever existed in any form other than itself. To take the Qur'anic exegeses of Muhammad as a substitute for the Bible itself is a serious mistake.
This mistake, we have seen, was not the work of the Prophet himself, but of his followers, who, after his death, suppressed the Old and New Testaments for political reasons.
Ultimately, the rejection of the Bible by Islam was exactly the same error as the rejection of the Law of Moses by Paul. It may be seen, in retrospect, to have been a method of quickly spreading the religion of God by sacrificing a vital part of the religion itself.
But there is another way to see it. If Islam had been "perfect", as its political spokesmen alleged it to be, then the House of David could never rise up again. Therefore, God had to send Islam as an incomplete religion.
Thus, neither Judaism, Christianity, nor Islam is "complete", but each represent true religion frozen and crystallized at different times.
It is evident that the introduction of Islamic and Christian ideas into the body of the Law of Moses will bring about the needed thaw. The Prophet Muhammad repeatedly confirmed the validity of the Jewish scriptures, but lamented the fact that the Jews themselves did not adhere to them. It may perhaps be true that the majority of Jews, in Muhammad's day, were hypocrites. Surely, however, if he were alive today, he would agree with me when I say that in our own time, the majority of Muslims, likewise, are hypocrites also.
When Muslims pick up the Bible (that is, the Old and New Testaments), and begin reading about their own religion, then the circle in the diagram is complete. We have gone from Judaism through Christianity and Islam, and are back to Judaism. But we don't stay there, because the Jewish scriptures still lead to Christ, and the Christian scriptures still do not describe the full spectrum of opinion about him. Nor do they properly place Christ into the context of the Law of Moses. The Qur'an comes close to doing that, but the Qur'an does not contain the complete history of the religion of God, and Islam cannot be a whole religion without the Bible.
Thus, my religion is the entire circle depicted previously on this Web page. I revolve continuously about it, never becoming attached to any single part of it, but only to the whole.
Where is God in this Diagram?
I have my own way of thinking about this, and I present it for your consideration, not as a "dogma" with any philosophical weight, or other weight. I think of the outside of the circle as being the world, and the point at the very center of the circle as being God.
Now, God is everything and everywhere, and therefore He cannot be depicted graphically. However, since a point is dimensionless, it cannot be said that I have attempted to depict God anywhere in the diagram. This, then, is merely a graphically expedient way to picture things.
From our own selfish points of view, we generally think of ourselves as being at the center of the universe, with the vastness of space around us, and with God somewhere up in the sky, far, far, away. He is usually thought of as sitting beyond the limits of the visible universe, enveloping the whole of it within his immense body.
This diagram is the opposite. It suggests -- solely for the sake of comprehending the problem at hand -- that God be thought of as being at the center, with the phenomenal universe emanating outward. Believing human souls lie in between, within the circumference of the circle (I would not want to venture a guess as to where the others are). We may look inward to contemplate God, but we are not Him. We may look outward to contemplate the world, but we are not dust either. What are we? Who among us can say? Just as "He is what He is" (Exodus 3:14), so we are what we are.
What lies within the circle, between God and man?
I have depicted the inside of the circle as being empty. This is not the whole story, however.
When a human being wishes to seek God within himself, he generally turns to one of numerous paths which have been defined and described by the prophets. Each of the monotheistic faiths has a counterpart which exists within the circle, called a "mystical" part.
In the case of Judaism, the mystical part is called "Kabbalah". This esoteric branch of Judaism is usually traced back to Simeon ben Yohai, an ascetic of the 2nd century AD. This was the period when the Rabbis were finishing the final compilation of the Old Testament, and declaring religion to be "complete".
Simeon rebelled against this rigid formalism. He spent 13 years meditating in a cave, emerging in a terrible-looking physical state, covered with sores, but allegedly glowing with a spiritual light of great intensity. His teachings are said to be contained in a book called the Zohar (although modern scholars believe that much of this huge work was written by Moses de León [1250-1305], a Jewish mystic living in Spain under the Moors).
The essential teaching of Kabbalah is that the whole of the Torah, revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, is a huge parable with a deeper underlying meaning. That meaning was known to Moses, but for others it was hidden until the work of the Kabbalists. To them was revealed, for the first time since the days of Moses, a means of establishing a personal relationship with the Creator.
Although many Kabbalah centers exist in the world today, no one seems to be emanating visible light anymore. Kabbalah has apparently become relatively undemanding, compared to ben Yohai's 13-year cave ordeal.
In the case of Christianity, there is no formal name for the mystical branch of that religion, but it is contained in the practices of the Christian monasteries. The monastic movement began early in the Christian era; that is, during roughly the same historical period as Simeon ben Yohai lived. Again, this was a period when religion, in this instance the New Testament, had been formalized and declared "complete".
The original goal of the first Christian mystics, such as St. Anthony of Korma in Egypt (251-356 AD), was to go into the desert, as Jesus had done, and to somehow receive the Holy Spirit. Anthony soon attracted followers, but many of the ascetic monks who went into the desert to practice solitary meditation received demons rather than the Holy Spirit, and went mad. Clearly some sort of support system would be needed.
Monasteries, such as that of the Egyptian Coptic Christian, St. Pachomius (290-346 AD), were created in which a program of balanced work and meditation could be practiced under the supervision of an abbot.
As in the case of the Kabbalah centers, there are few examples, these days, of people who emerge from monasteries physically emanating the light of the Holy Spirit. The monasteries themselves, however, can hardly be faulted, since they are vital centers of Christian charity and other good works.
The mystical branch of Islam is called Tasawwuf in Arabic. In America and Europe it is called Sufism. The Sufis are the "whirling dervishes" of legend, whose activities, ridiculous-looking as they may seem to Americans, are actually methods of obtaining direct personal experience of God.
Like its Jewish and Christian counterparts, Sufism began almost immediately after the "finalization" of Islam into a fixed legalistic and world-oriented way of life, i.e. at the end of the 7th century. The relationship between Sufism and traditional Sunni and Shiite Islam has been uneven, vacillating between acceptance and persecution.
The greatest of the Sufi writers was al-Ghazali (1058-1111) who, in the midst of a brilliant academic career, disposed of all his wealth and took up a life of poverty. He established a monastic commune where many disciples joined him. Eventually, however, he returned to academic life, at the urging of his colleagues. Having in their minds an Islamic tradition, that every century a so-called "renewer of the life of Islam" would arise, his colleagues persuaded him that for the century which was about to begin, he, al-Ghazali, was that renewer.
Subsequently, he produced a large quantity of literature. His greatest work, "The Revival of the Religious Sciences", achieved wide acceptance, and brought Sufism into the mainstream of Islamic thought.
Although al-Ghazali taught that theology was inferior to mystical experience, there is little evidence to suggest that the Sufis fared any better in developing a well-defined pathway to Enlightenment than did their counterparts in Kabbalah or Christian monasticism.
Our original diagram may now be modified, to show where the mystical branches of each religion lie:
Where is Buddha in this diagram?
In Buddhism, the mystical aspects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam become the focus of the entire religion. In some forms of Buddhism, this is true almost to the complete exclusion of theology. Thus, the entire inside of the circle is Buddhism:
The yin-yang symbol is not a symbol of theological "dualism", but merely of the dual nature of the physical, incarnate universe. The purpose of Buddhist practice is explicitly stated as being to go beyond the "opposites" of the world, into the unity of Enlightenment.
This yin-yang sign is not really a symbol of Buddhism, but is merely another graphic expedient, because I know of no symbol which uniquely identifies the Buddhist religion.
Nor is the yin-yang, as used here, solely limited to Buddhism, but is meant to symbolize the whole of "Eastern Religion", encompassing Buddhism, Hinduism (in its mystical aspects), Taoism, and other forms of Enlightenment-seeking practice. It also encompasses Kabbalah, Christian mysticism, and Sufism.
Of all of these, however, only Buddha has shown a "Middle Path" to Enlightenment which has uplifted and sustained countless millions of people through the millennia, cutting completely across cultural and racial barriers to achieve acceptance in every country in the Eastern World, and in many places in the West as well.
When the day comes, if it ever does, that Jews, Christians, and Muslims begin to understand the importance of the Buddhist pathway to Enlightenment, then Western mysticism will benefit, and will not be harmed in the slightest.
Conversely, when Buddhists begin to read the Bible, their theology will likewise be immeasurably enhanced. Although it cannot be said that Buddhists lack a theology, it surely can be said that there is no Buddhist theology which is not controversial, even within Buddhism itself. A consideration of the God of Abraham would go far toward resolving these discrepancies.
This completes my own description of my own religion. I did not invent it, I "discovered" it. The bewildering array of religious beliefs on earth were a torment to me, and I needed to find a solution. I found it. It was like a precious jewel, soiled slightly so that although it was lying on the ground in broad daylight, no one noticed, and no one wanted to pick it up. I saw it, and I picked it up.
The are 6,000,000,000+ people in this world, and I don't know 99.999999% of them. However, among the several thousands that I have met, I cannot find one who knows what I know (and when I try to explain it, I am almost always badly received). Therefore, even if -- as is likely the case -- there are thousands, or millions of others who do know these truths, we collectively constitute a mere drop in the bucket of mankind. Evidently, there are blinders on -- perhaps the very blinders spoken of in Isaiah 6:9-10.
Concerning the relationships between religions, my blinders were removed. I do not know why, but I'm sure we shall all find out, and soon.
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Meanings of the Symbols of the 3 Religions
Members of each of the 3 religions have frequently gone "on the record" to criticize and insult the symbols of the other two. Certain Christians, for example, are passionately fond of calling the Islamic crescent moon a symbol of "the devil". They come "armed" with scriptural references to "prove" that it was an ancient pagan symbol hailing to the pre-Muhammadan days of idolatry in Arabia.
Well, that's probably true. Unfortunately for these deluded individuals, they have neglected the obvious fact that their symbol, the cross, is the same. The cross is obviously the remnant of the Ankh, or cross of Isis-Osiris, found in numerous places in the ruins of ancient Egypt, including the tomb of Tutankhamun ("King Tut"). In the early days of Christianity, memories of the crucifixion were painful, and it was not the thing which people desired to remember. It wasn't until the days of Constantine, the sun-worshiping pseudo-Christian, that this ancient idolatrous symbol was "resurrected" as a symbol of modern religion.
And so it goes also for the "Mogen David", or "Star of David". There is no substantial evidence that David ever heard of it. It did not appear as a religious symbol until the writing of certain Kabbalistic works of the Middle Ages. Critics of the symbol accuse it of being one of the class of Satanic symbols which includes the better-known Pentagram, and I wouldn't doubt it. But whatever it is, it's certainly not Biblical.
So, if I can be criticized for using the symbols of other religions, then maybe we ought to just get rid of them all. They're all suspect!
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