A friend and colleague recently asked me about Monotheism. Here are my reflections:
The one thing Monotheism has going for it is that it is true. There is, and can only be, one Divine Source of All Being of the Multiverse and all planes of existence. This is illustrated in a poem I wrote for the Mithraic issue of the Rosicrucian Digest:
Mithra sacrifiant le Taureau (100-200 après J-C) collection Borghése achat en 1807 par le Louvre , exposition dans la galerie du temps au Louvre-Lens
by Serge Ottaviani
Sun, Word and Wisdom
Your name on the winds of ages
Conjures Legions of Grizzled Soldiers
United in your twilight grottos,
Rivals to the Galilean’s Fishermen.
But is this true?
Perhaps plucked from a Persian Pen,
concealed your true nature from us
for centuries upon centuries.
Hierophant of both Rose and Cross
received a sliver of light from
the ancient Torches
concealed within your Caves:
“That than which Nothing Greater can be
he called you,
whom ancient adepts knew
as the One above all Fate,
All Gods and Goddesses,
All the Spheres and Heavens.
The One who turns
the very globe of the Heavens
and more beyond,
the goal of Thrice Great Hermes and his kin.
But rival to the Essene Master, the Repairer and Restorer?
Nothing could be further from the Truth.
You taught us not to settle for any but the Source of All,
Communion with the One,
whose Icon wise Nefertiti and Akhenaten
revealed to us
in the blazing sun,
Your twin and symbol, and our true nature.
While Mary’s son, the self same Source as you,
came to walk among us,
manifesting how to live, and love, and be
nothing here below that is not Divine in essence,
awakening to full transcendence in the One.
Two thousand years have passed since those times,
and the ages turn again, from Pisces to the Water Bearer.
In this time when our world and universe
are known to ride the cosmic waves
on vibrating membranes, part of a vast expanding Multiverse,
we need you both, Mithras-spirit and Christ-spirit,
and Isis too, Divine Sophia:
Sun, Word, and Mother Wisdom,
Compassion of the Buddha:
The totally beyond and the totally here, within,
in all the forms you manifest throughout the world.
Lead us in love, compassion, and transfiguration,
Unite us in the Marriage of the Heart:
Lead us to realization in the One.
Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. 1511
Now, if you are thinking of this Monotheistic Source as a white-robed old man with a long white beard, sitting on the clouds directing the Cosmos, I reject that image categorically. Like Socrates, in regard to that image, I am an atheist. I am talking about (and deep in their hearts, all Monotheisms speak of) the One, the Unmoved Mover, the Ground of Being, the Source of All, etc. Although the anthropomorphic God image makes nice Western Art, it was actually condemned by the 7th Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II–787).
C.S. Lewis acknowledged this in one of his poems which is a favorite of mine:
Footnote to All Prayers
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, muttering Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.
So Monotheism is true in the absolute sense; however, the way that most monotheisms have been practiced is not pretty. Unfortunately the usual approach is “My Way, or the Highway!” And this is then enforced by force.
Darius_I_the_Great’s_inscription. The Behistun Inscription contains many references to Ahura Mazda.
I would be hard pressed to find any true polytheism in history. That is, a religion, spirituality or culture which believes that the many gods are actually independent eternal entities, not coming from any other one original source. The debate is open as to whether Zoroastrianism is actually dualist or monotheistic. On the one hand, the most ancient of their Scriptures describe Ahura Mazda as the One, Transcendent Source of all, and Ahriman as a non-personal “tendency to disorder or chaos.” However, popular piety and some modern scholars contend that Zoroastrian Cosmology really posits the two as dualistic gods.
In most cases, such as the Egyptians, the Mystery Schools, The Celts, and modern Hindus, they all know that the gods, and in fact all things, are Manifestations of the One, just different aspects.
This can be illustrated by the two Egyptian words, Netr (The Divine) and Neteru (The Gods). The One Source is Netr. The Neteru manifest aspects of Divinity, as do all created/manifested things and beings. Hindus teach that “All is Atman, which is Brahman.”
Sophisticated practitioners of Greco-Roman Religion knew this too, as modern scholarship has well demonstrated:
Polymnia Athanassiadi; Michael Frede. Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. http://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Monotheism-Antiquity-Polymnia-Athanassiadi/dp/019924801X
Stephen Mitchell; Peter van Nuffelen. One God: Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. http://www.amazon.com/One-God-Pagan-Monotheism-Empire/dp/0521194164/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400027374&sr=1-3&keywords=Pagan+monotheism
Stephen Mitchell; Peter van Nuffelen. Monotheism Between Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity. Leuven; Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010. http://www.amazon.com/Monotheism-Christians-Antiquity-Interdisciplinary-Religion/dp/9042922427/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400027374&sr=1-2&keywords=Pagan+monotheism
Greco-Roman Monotheism was actually nothing new. The Greek Mystery Schools, beginning with the Orphic Mysteries and continuing through the Pythagoreans, the Mysteries of Eleusis and Delphi, etc. All taught that the classical stories of the gods were symbolic narratives meant to teach deeper realities. The Mystery Schools sought to realize the unity of each of us with the Transcendent Divine Source. As the Orphics put is “Through being Mortal, you have become God.”
Alexander the Great spread this kind of thought across much of the world, as he planted Hellenism wherever he went. Plato and Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists were certainly monotheists of this type. Cicero, Seneca and most Roman philosophers were also Classical Monotheists. They saw no contradiction of speaking of God and the gods, just as the Egyptians did.
What was remarkable about the changes in Late Antiquity (2nd-8th centuries CE) in this Classical Pagan monotheism was that, with the threat from Christianity, philosophers and spokespersons for Greco-Roman religion began to be more explicit about this, like The Emperor Julian II (the Apostate or the Restorer, depending on your position) (331–363).
To be sure, there were different schools of philosophical thought, but you did not see Stoics killing Epicureans, for example. They debated and compared systems.
There are two outstanding characteristics of these kinds of Monotheism, distinguishing them from the Big Four “standard” Monotheisms (Atenism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is their use of two methods:
First, they understood that the gods (and indeed, everything) were manifestation of the One Source—God.
Second, they were liberally syncretistic. As cultures encountered one another, they found similarities in their gods. Thoth=Hermes=Mercury=Odin≈Samara, for example. They were universalists in that they understood that each culture experienced the one Divine in their own ways, but that does not affect the Unity of the One Source.
St. Patrick lighting the Bealteinne Fire, associating himself with Druidry.
Christianity almost went in this direction. Early Christianity was very diverse, and the ancient Mysteries in each location were encoded into the type of Christianity there, such as Coptic Christianity, Byzantine Christianity, Roman Christianity, Celtic (Druid) Christianity, Persian Christianity, etc. Each shows the distinct traits of their respective Mystery Schools.
For many reasons, mostly social, economic and political, but also due to its inheritance from Atenism and Judaism, Christianity closed ranks. Both Atenism and Judaism were radically Monotheistic, and antagonistic to any syncretism. Akhenaten closed all of the other Temples in Egypt. We can also see this in the Maccabean Revolt sparked by the erection of a Zeus statue in the Jerusalem Temple’s sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
A 2nd century Christian teacher shows how it could have been different. St. Justin the Philosopher (Justin
St. Justin the Philosopher
Martyr) taught that the Logos had implanted truth in all cultures (the Spermatic Logos) and it was the Christian’s job to find these truths planted everywhere, according to culture. There are other examples, such as Celtic Christianity and Native Alaskan Orthodox Christianity. Then too, there are three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and many Saints and Angels with roles much like the old gods.
In Bernstein’s Mass, the celebrant sings: “I believe in One God, I believe in Three. I’ll believe in any God who believes in me.”
Now the less educated Pagans might have thought of Zeus and Hermes as actually separate entities, just as some undereducated Christians mIght think that Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe are different persons, but others know better.
Islam claims to be, and is often regarded as radically monotheistic; however, it certainly does borrow from other traditions, and is heavily influenced by Neo-Platonism. Ismailis may also have Zoroastrian influences.
Therefore, we can see that “monotheism” in itself may not be the problem. Rather, it is how a religion is administered that is the issue.
Before we go further, we need to define a few terms.
A religion is a body of people who share common spiritual beliefs and lifestyles and almost always have some form of leadership, whether it be elders, priests, shamans, rabbis, imams, teachers, etc. Religions have teachings (doctrines) and vary in the degree to which these are considered to be binding on all members. In most religions, monotheistic or “polytheistic,” the leaders play some kind of mediating role between the people and the Divine. This is most evident in religions that have priests. Almost all ancient pre-Judeo-Christian religions had priests.
Spirituality is not well defined. It is usually used to describe a corpus of approaches to the spiritual life. In Catholic Christianity, it designates the particular charism of one of the schools of Christianity, for example, Carmelite Spirituality or Jesuit Spirituality. These are seen as complementary, not conflicting.
St. Gregory Palamas
Another current usage considers Spirituality as opposed to Religion. Someone might say “I’m not religious, I’m Spiritual.” They mean that they do not adhere to any organized religion, but have a generally spiritual outlook and philosophy of life.
Mysticism is the practice of deep meditative prayer to attain union with The Divine without mediation of “priests or kings.” Virtually all religions include Mysticism in their practice, and Mystics exist outside of religion, such as Rosicrucians and Martinists,
With these definitions, the real contrast is between a personally explored and experienced spirituality, usually including some form of Mysticism, with belonging to an organized religion. Of course, a member of a religion might also have this kind of independent approach as well, privately disregarding the parts of their religion they do not find useful or true.
Some religions permit this kind of private choice approach and are “latitudinarian.” This term is favorable by those who like this approach, and a heresy for those who don’t (Pope Pius IX, nicknamed “Pio No-No” condemned it in the 19th Century), and such practitioners are derided by Conservative Catholics as “Cafeteria Catholics.” This is a fine example of “My way or the highway.”
Pio No-No, by the way, is the infamous Pontiff who presided at Vatican I when the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was propagated. Quite a few
Gregory II Youssef, Patriarch of Antioch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 1864 to 1897.
Bishops left the Council rather than publicly vote against it. When Melkite Patriarch Gregory II Youssef (October 17, 1823 – July 13, 1897) spoke against it, and then left the Council:
“The Eastern Church attributes to the pope the most complete and highest power, however in a manner where the fullness and primacy are in harmony with the rights of the patriarchal sees. This is why, in virtue of and ancient right founded on customs, the Roman Pontiffs did not, except in very significant cases, exercise over these sees the ordinary and immediate jurisdiction that we are asked now to define without any exception. This definition would completely destroy the constitution of the entire Greek church. That is why my conscious as a pastor refuses to accept this constitution.”
All of the opponents of the doctrine left the Council except for the Bishop of Little Rock, Edward M. Fitzgerald, who cast the sole vote against it . The next time Melkite Patriarch Gregory visited the Vatican, the Papal Guards seized the Patriarch and threw him at the Pope’s Feet. Pius IX put his foot on his head to demonstrate his power. A far cry from the Master Jesus washing the feet of his disciples! This certainly is a dark side of Monotheism.
When religion moves from the private sphere to the public, on the larger level in society, we have the phenomenon of religions that seek to enforce their views in public life controlling how everyone behaves. This is very widespread on the planet and not exclusive to monotheism. Very often, politicians who have no genuine religious feelings simply use the religious views of their constituents to manipulate them into supporting what the politician wants. Whatever one’s symbolic system uses as images for Hell, or Karmic Balance, such manipulative leaders are condemning themselves to a very painful next stage of existence.
Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD) and members of the Imperial family offer sacrifice in gratitude for success against Germanic tribes. In the backgrounds stands the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitolium (this is the only extant portrayal of this roman temple). Bas-relief from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, Rome, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
Contrasting this with classical times, we see something of a difference. In classical Rome, for example, as long as you were willing to burn incense and offer sacrifices to the State Gods, you could practice pretty much any religion you wanted. The Official Cult kept the world in balance. This was similar to how Egyptians viewed the externals of official religion, it preserved Ma’at and so was necessary.
What got Jews and Christians in trouble was that, with their radical exclusivist monotheistic inheritance from Atenism, they would not make these Official gestures. This made them enemies of the State.
Most of us are torn in our views of this situation. On the one hand, we applaud the assertion of individual rights by the ancient Jewish and Christian individuals and condemn the State for trying to enforce a religious practice. On the other hand, we are not comfortable with the intolerant exclusivist approach of the radical monotheists. Something to meditate on!
So what good is religion anyway?
Religio comes from the Latin for Gather Together, with old Proto-Indo-European roots. It binds us together. Many see this as a burden, but consider that one Ox can pull only so much weight, while a yoked team can do much more. Together we are stronger, better.
I see the “being tied together-ness” as in the 1906 poem (and later hymn) by G.K. Chesterton:
O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!
Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.
Listen to it here:
Believe it or not, the hymn is so well known in Britain that Iron Maiden did a riff on it, with some updated additions:
But it does more than that, when religion works well. First, it keeps the symbols of mysticism and the sacred before us, and implants them in us, in a culturally appropriate way so that they are there when we are ready to move more deeply into mysticism.
Also, well-integrated religion offers culturally specific first steps on the journey toward reintegration with the Source of All (God, as you conceive God to be). If one goes to the heart of each tradition, as the mystics of each tradition do, one meets all the other initiates, since there is a fundamental, and dynamic Oneness at the base of it all.
The journey toward reintegration with our Source, represented in most world religions and spiritualities, is the ultimate goal. It is the journey of involution and evolution imaged by the Fool’s Journey in the major trumps of the Tarot from the Fool to The World. Properly handled, religion is the beginning of this ladder, and a support on the journey.
J.R.R. Tolkien. The Tree of Amalion.
On the journey of Reintegration, we discover our own role, as those who have a Divine birthright, and a priestly role of reintegrating the whole Cosmos with its source. We take up our inheritance as Creators:
Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons- ’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.
Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”
This certainly sounds like Humans in their First Estate of Martinès de Pasqually and Louis-Claude de Saint Martin.
Religions can provide a great deal of social support for their adherents, and are responsible for a great deal of charitable activity in the world. For example, St. Ignatius of Antoich (1st/2nd Century) calls the Roman Church: “The one which excels in charity,” (philanthropia—practical love manifested in deeds) because of its outstanding care for the poor.
Julian II presiding at a conference of sectarians
Roman Emperor Julian II (the Apostate/ the Restorer—chose one) knew this and admonished his Pagan priests to return to promoting the ancient Greco-Roman practice of Philanthropia. This selection from his Letter to a Priest is a remarkable example of Late Antique Pagan Monotheism. It certainly sounds “Christian” to us today, and includes remarkable insight on society. Note that he also propounds the Law of AMRA, and echoes 1 John 4:20. The modern nature of Julian’s approach is truly stunning, and therefore I cite it at length:
You must above all exercise philanthropy, for from it result many other blessings, and moreover that choicest and greatest blessing of all, the good will of the gods. For just as those who are in agreement with their masters about their friendships and ambitions and loves are more kindly treated than their fellow slaves, so we must suppose that God, who naturally loves human beings, has more kindness for those men who love their fellows. Now philanthropy has many divisions and is of many kinds. For instance it is shown when men are punished in moderation with a view to the betterment of those punished, as schoolmasters punish children; and again in ministering to men’s needs, even as the gods minister to our own. You see all the blessings of the earth that they have granted to us, food of all sorts, and in an abundance that they have not granted to all other creatures put together.
And since we were born naked they covered us with the hair of animals, and with things that grow in the ground and on trees. Nor were they content to do this simply or off-hand, as Moses bade men take coats of skins, but you see how numerous are the gifts of Athene the Craftswoman. What other animals use wine, or olive oil? Except indeed in cases where we let them share in these things, even though we do not share them with our fellowmen.
What creature of the sea uses corn, what land animal uses things that grow in the sea? And I have not yet mentioned gold and bronze and iron, though in all these the gods have made us very rich; yet not to the end that we may bring reproach on them by disregarding the poor who go about in our midst, especially when they happen to be of good character— men for instance who have inherited no paternal estate, and are poor because in the greatness of their souls they have no desire for money.
Now the crowd when they see such men blame the gods. However it is not the gods who are to blame for their poverty, but rather the insatiate greed of us men of property becomes the cause of this false conception of the gods among men, and besides of unjust blame of the gods. Of what use, I ask, is it for us to pray that God will rain gold on the poor as he did on the people of Rhodes? For even though this should come to pass, we should forthwith set our slaves underneath to catch it, and put out vessels everywhere, and drive off all comers so that we alone might seize upon the gifts of the gods meant for all in common.
And anyone would naturally think it strange if we should ask for this, which is not in the nature of things, and is in every way unprofitable, while we do not do what is in our power. Who, I ask, ever became poor by giving to his neighbors? Indeed I myself, who have often given lavishly to those in need, have recovered my gifts again many times over at the hands of the gods, though I am a poor man of business; nor have I ever repented of that lavish giving. And of the present time I will say nothing, for it would be altogether irrational of me to compare the expenditure of private persons with that of an Emperor; but when I was myself still a private person I know that this happened to me many times. My grandmother’s estate for instance was kept for me untouched, though others had taken possession of it by violence, because from the little that I had I spent money on those in need and gave them a share.
Portrait of Julian II on a bronze coin from Antiochië, 360-363. Photo courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. (CNG)
We ought then to share our money with all men, but more generously with the good, and with the helpless and poor so as to suffice for their need. And I will assert, even though it be paradoxical to say so, that it would be a pious act to share our clothes and food even with the wicked. For it is to the humanity in a man that we give, and not to his moral character. Hence I think that even those who are shut up in prison have a right to the same sort of care; since this kind of philanthropy will not hinder justice. For when many have been shut up in prison to await trial, of whom some will be found guilty, while others will prove to be innocent, it would be harsh indeed if out of regard for the guiltless we should not bestow some pity on the guilty also, or again, if on account of the guilty we should behave ruthlessly and inhumanly to those also who have done no wrong.
This too, when I consider it, seems to me altogether wrong; I mean that we call Zeus by the title ‘God of Strangers,’ while we show ourselves more inhospitable to strangers than are the very Scythians. How, I ask, can one who wishes to sacrifice to Zeus, the God of Strangers, even approach his temple? With what conscience can he do so, when he has forgotten the saying “From Zeus come all beggars and strangers; and a gift is precious though small”?
Again, the man who worships Zeus the God of Comrades, and who, though he sees his neighbors in need of money, does not give them even so much as a drachma, how, I say, can he think that he is worshipping Zeus aright? When I observe this I am wholly amazed, since I see that these titles of the gods are from the beginning of the world their express images, yet in our practice we pay no attention to anything of the sort. The gods are called by us ‘gods of kindred,’ and Zeus the ‘God of Kindred,’ but we treat our kinsmen as though they were strangers. I say ‘kinsmen’ because every man, whether he will or no, is akin to every other man, whether it be true, as some say, that we are all descended from one man and one woman, or whether it came about in some other way, and the gods created us all together, at the first when the world began, not one man and one woman only, but many men and many women at once. For they who had the power to create one man and one woman, were able to create many men and women at once; since the manner of creating one man and one woman is the same as that of creating many men and many women.
In the 4th and 5th Rosicrucian Manifestos, a Universal Religion (or Universal Spirituality) is envisioned. I’m all for it, in the mode of Diversity.
Positio Fraternitatis, the historic 4th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2001).
Appellatio Fraternitatis, the historic 5th Rosicrucian Manifesto (2014).
Consider this: would you want to eat filet mignon day in and day out? Or spaghetti, or Kung Pao Chicken, or any type of cuisine all the time? Should there be a Universally Uniform Cuisine? I certainly would say no. Diversity of cuisines is one of the great delights of the world.
In fact, diversity is so fundamental to the nature of being that some traditions, like Christianity, enshrine this in their doctrine. The Unitary Godhead is diverse within itself: the Three Persons, One God. Other traditions speak of the mystery of the One and the Many.
I take a Gnostic reading (that is, topsy-turvy) of the story in the Hebrew Scripture’s Book of Genesis 11: 1-9—the Tower of Babel. I see in this symbolic story the following:
God originally created everything diverse, and that includes the natural evolution of diverse cultures and languages. At the Tower of Babel, people had done away with the diversity of languages and culture, and formed one monolithic path, symbolized by the tower. Uniformity crushing diversity.
The Falling Tower, Colored by (c) 2010 Torquil MacNeil.
God broke the Tower, the model for the Falling Tower of the Tarot, because the Divine Will (and its
The Icon of Pentecost
manifestation, Cosmic Law) demand diversity.
In the Christian New Testament, the wound of Babel is healed at the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-6). Through the realization of the Holy Spirit in the Theotokos, the Apostles and the Disciples, they began to preach in their own language (Aramaic), and all the diverse peoples who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost understood them in their own languages. Unity does not require uniformity. Unity and Diversity are complementary, not in opposition.
Why is diversity so important? To answer this, we must go back to the Hermetic axiom, “As Above, So Below; As Below, So Above.” There is a natural and iconic correspondence between all levels of existence. Each thing in all of the manifested Cosmos/Multiverse and all the planes of existence are symbols or Icons of their ultimate Source, the ultimately diverse and ultimately One.
In the Tarot, one of the major meanings of Trump 16 is the breaking of illusions imaged by the preceding card, 15–The Devil. It is a necessary step in the final journey of enlightenment. It corresponds to the North, Winter, the Winter Solstice, the Earth, The Nativity, Death and Rebirth, Assiah: World of Action, Mars and Tuesday. The Walls of the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, fell on Tuesday May 29, 1453 at about 2pm in the afternoon. You put it together.
Alfred North Whitehead
(Thank you Alfred North Whitehead for bringing these concepts together. Whitehead in the 20th century argued that we needed to go back to Plato and start Philosophy over. While the Greeks held immutability as a perfection and therefore predicated it of the Divine, we now hold responsiveness as the highest value. Therefore for Whitehead the Deity is immutable in its ultimate responsiveness/potentiality/mutability. This also gives us a bridge between the general Western conception of the One, and the Buddhist conception of the Pregnant No-Thing-ness.)
Now how can finite things (as everything appears to be here below) image the Infinite? Through Diversity. The Cosmos must be diverse to even begin to point toward its Source. Therefore, our religions must be diverse, both within traditions (as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Earth-Based spirituality and virtually all other spiritualities are), but also through the panoply of human faiths. I can think of no better example of this than a wonderful scene from Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 (note: Babylon…Babel… hmmm!?)
On the space station, the annual festival of religions is taking place. Each of races from the many planets give a demonstration of their world’s religion. When it comes time for humanity, Commander Sinclair ushers the delegates into a large room. Here is the result:
I will leave it to those who know Commander Sinclair’s ultimate role in the story to link his name with the Templar Sinclair’s of Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel, etc. With Michael Straczynski, nothing is ever accidental!
The genius of humanity is to know that no one approach to spirituality can answer it all. We need them all to be healthy, to be human, to be divine.
Just like with cuisine, I may primarily cook Mexican food at home, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t make forays into other cuisines and other restaurants! So too with Religion.
Cocina de un restaurante en San Pedro Atocpan, Distrito Federal, México, en la que se está preparando mole. Photo by GABIEGUIN
(A whole other discussion is the diversity of culinary approaches. Broadly speaking, the Western cuisine that developed during the Middle Ages seeks to enhance and display the flavors of the ingredients themselves. Many other culinary traditions, including ancient cuisines, and many African, Middle-Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, seek to transform the ingredients in a kind of Alchemy to produce something that transcends to sum total of the parts. But that is another story altogether.)
Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, the Unknown Philosopher, the inspiration for Martinism.
How does this square with the Rosicrucian Utopia’s call for a Universal Religion? The Martinist Tradition provides the answer. We work for the day when Initiates of every Path recognize the Initiates of all other Paths. The Universal Religion should not, and must not mistake uniformity for unity. Rather, each values her or his own way of approaching spirituality, and rejoices in others’ ways of doing the same.
A great image of this is in the film, Van Helsing. In the underground laboratories of the Vatican, the true Illuminati, from every race and creed work together for the common good. This is how it should be.
So there are my thoughts on this, and I understand what the manifestos are saying. The world’s religions must end their sectarianism, or risk extinction. I envision them doing to create Babylon 5’s vision of human religion. So Mote It Be!
Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant