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Evolution in the Faith Communities

Evolution in the Faith Communities

 

1) Evolution in the Catholic Church in 1945-1965

In this period of 20 years, the Catholic Church has really acted as forerunner in the remarkable evolution and the consequent changes which have occurred inside the Catholic Church and which have created for the attentive believers a new image of God and new ways of looking at the Church as teaching institution. It is a manifest fact that the attitude of the faithful to the leading authorities of their Church in the Catholic faith community has undergone radical changes in the past years especially since WWII.

a) New Bible interpretation

It all started with the new more scientifically founded interpretation of the Bible, Old as well as New Testament, which application was put into practice in the theological studies at the diocese seminaries  and monasteries from the time of the war years 1940-45.

b) Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

This was a second important step in the recognition of the values of other faith communities and of the individual believer, with as one of the first concrete results the worldwide switch from the Latin language to the vernacular languages.

The revolution in the biblical exegesis from the literal interpretation to a describing and relating interpretation, and the switching to the local languages has been the most valuable evolution and development of the past 60 years towards interfaith dialogue, real inculturation and a multicultural/multireligious society. Next to the ecumenical meetings towards unity between the Christian Faith Communities, the above changes have created the necessary basis for the globalization of interfaith dialogue encounters worldwide. One of its main results has been the now rather global acceptance of and respect for the values in other cultures and religions.

My Interfaith Dialogue Guidelines state in point 4: The tenets of world religions and other faith traditions have their roots in their native culture, have developed on the basis of their culture’s philosophical and moral concepts, and have approached and proclaimed the Ultimate Spiritual Reality in transient expressions and in culturally appropriate ceremonies. As pilgrims always on their way to new discoveries and subject to change, no faith community should claim exclusive representation of the Truth.

c) ‘Disobeying’ of former precepts or prohibitions

In the past 60 years, we have seen still more changes in particular inside the Catholic Church in the widely spread, ‘disobeying’ or maybe better ‘ignoring’ of former precepts or prohibitions such as e.g. Sunday worship, renouncing meat on Fridays, regular or yearly confessing of sins, prohibition of the use of mechanical contraceptives, changing of the 40 days of fasting into a more immaterial renunciation of personal attachments, and so many others. From nowadays’ pulpits in the churches, there is no talk anymore of sins in their different forms and of the former terrifying punishments of hell and purgatory.

d) Less belief in dogmas

Among the faithful and even among priests/clergymen and theologians, there is less, if still maybe uncomfortable, belief in many of the human-made dogmas of the Christian tenets of belief, such as: the infallibility of the Pope, the exclusive belief in Christ as the ‘only’ savior of humankind, the immaculate conception of Mary, Mary’s and Christ’s bodily Ascension, the celibacy as obligatory condition for the priesthood, the non-participation of women in the hierarchical structure of the Church institute, and so many others.

     These extraordinary changes which are now finding their way at least all over the western world have their origin in the new postmodern vision of catholic and protestant theologians as Edward Schillebeeckx, dominican, Jacques Dupuis, jesuït, Hans Küng, jesuït, Roger Leenaers jesuït (for the time being only in Dutch: “De droom van Nebukadnezar’ (The dream of Nebukadnezar), 2001 en ‘Uittocht uit oudchristelijke mythen’ (Exodus from old christian myths), 2003, the Anglican theologian John Hick, and many others, and last but not least the writings of the theologians of the liberation theology in particular in South-America. All the changes in the Catholic Church and the new postwar movements such as the re-evaluation of nature, the new evaluation and acceptance of the values of other cultures and religions, the rise of the “Greens”, the efforts towards a healthier environment, the ecological vision on our planet as the property of us all, a new positive approach between religion and science, a growing collaboration between the political world and the leaders of the faith communities are all without doubt interrelated and interconnected with each other. Each of them is undergoing the influence of the others in this evolution on its way of no return.

Another not less important change is occurring in the image of God, of the Divine, as conceived by many of the faithful, by which the monotheistic vision in Christianity has attained now a pantheistic bias and by which we see now a new belief in and consciousness of the omnipresence of the divine Spiritual Reality not only in sentient beings but also in all created matter as their origin and their final destiny. In the Catholic Faith community, the human body and its sexuality are no more considered as sinful, like it has been the case for so many centuries.

     An example of the changing attitude to and belief in the Christian fundamental doctrine on original sin may be enlightening:

Original Sin and its Consequences

As information about the Catholic doctrine on original sin, I quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet:

I. MEANING

Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.

From the earliest times the latter sense of the word was more common, as may be seen by St. Augustine's statement: "the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin" (De nupt. et concup., II, xxvi, 43). It is the hereditary stain that is dealt with here. As to the sin of Adam we have not to examine the circumstances in which it was committed nor make the exegesis of the third chapter of Genesis.

VI. NATURE OF ORIGINAL SIN

This is a difficult point and many systems have been invented to explain it: it will suffice to give the theological explanation now commonly received. Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam. This solution, which is that of St. Thomas, goes back to St. Anselm and even to the traditions of the early Church, as we see by the declaration of the Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529,) one man has transmitted to the whole human race not only the death of the body, which is the punishment of sin, but even sin itself, which is the death of the soul [cf. Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 175 (145)]. As death is the privation of the principle of life, the death of the soul is the privation of sanctifying grace which according to all theologians is the principle of supernatural life. Therefore, if original sin is "the death of the soul ", it is the privation of sanctifying grace.

A/N: Orange is a town in the present department of Vaucluse in southern France

     Human beings are part of the evolution of the universe from the first existence of seemingly pure material matter to the present higher and higher spiritualization of human beings, as it has been  projected by Teilhard de Chardin. All existing matter is inherently linked to a condition of permanent changing from less to more, from less good to better, from less perfect to more perfect. Suffering in all its forms can be explained as a consequence of the imperfectness of sentient beings in their struggle for life, for a better life.

     Evil, or sin in theological terms, can be explained as everything that runs against this evolution of the ever higher spiritualization and is possible because of a free choice by intelligent beings. Good and evil are inherently linked to intelligence, to the knowing of what is good and what is bad. Humans have by their free will the capability of being able to choose between good and evil.

More and more people are in their search for a moral basis of this possibility of choosing turning to the Golden Rule of Conduct, which has been accepted by all faith communities. In human society good should be remunerated and evil/sin be punished as a guidance by society authorities towards a better social human community life.

     In the definition of original sin by Trent Council it is stated that sin is transmitted to all by generation (propagatione), not by imitation (imitatione) [Denz., n. 790 (672)]. According to Catholic doctrine all human beings are from their coming into this world hereditary stained on account of their origin from our first parents Adam and Eve. I am wondering more and more what could be the reason for this being stained by an original sin by human beings of 4 million years ago who are supposed to have still been then in a mental condition of very low intelligence and in a less capability of choosing for the good. The opinion that human beings are more inclined to the bad is difficult to accept, although it can be said that choosing for the good requires more willpower than the choice for the less good or the bad. This can be the reason why the opinion that people are more inclined to choose for the bad is more widely spread.

     A new fundamental way of looking at God, the Ultimate Spiritual Reality, is that God is present in all matter, in all animals, and in a very special way in human beings with the possibility of mutual love.

     The problem of original sin can be called a problem of utmost importance to Christian believers because Christian doctrine on sin as a state of privation of sanctifying grace and the doctrine of salvation, by animal offers in the Old Testament and by the death on the cross of Jesus Christ, as well as the administer of baptism, are based on this original state of sin of all human beings. The whole life and the preaching of Jesus Christ can then and should be re-interpreted as the life and teaching by a Person filled to an exceptional degree by the Divine, which teaching and example had as fundamental theme, active love to God and active love to all human brothers and sisters of the same human family, even to one’s enemies.

     For centuries one of the main subjects in sermons in Christian churches has been about sin, its origin and its consequences. A tremendous change has occurred since around WWII by the fact that preaching about sin has almost totally disappeared in Christian churches. Might this have something to do with the lessening and even disappearance of the belief in original sin by post-modern church attendants? Belief in the original goodness of human beings has lead the Buddha to limit his instructions to moral guidance, without trying to and even refusing to explain the Unspeakable by theological explanations and still less by the declaring of infallible dogmas. One example that the good finally triumphs over the bad is the disappearance of centuries long conflicts and war misery in the peaceful democratic Europe of today.

     What can be the meaning of sanctifying grace? Is it not simply the condition of the human mind, human heart, human conscience and human conduct in union with the Divine. The belief that God, the infinite, unspeakable spiritual Reality is present as a loving Father in all matters and surely in a very special humanlike way of mutual love in human beings, means that all human beings from the time of their coming into existence are born in a state of grace as children of God. This state of grace in a mutual exchange of love with the Divine is a characteristic proper to all human beings, believers or non-believers.

     The question whether the doctrine of salvation in the way it has been interpreted on the basis of texts in Holy Scriptures has still a meaning. Human beings must not be saved from something which is not there but must be sustained and assisted in the choosing for the good. Tradition in the teachings of the church is important in the progressing knowledge about the Divine. Therefore the traditional interpretation should not been abandoned or deleted, but should be re-interpreted, re-worded in a way acceptable and understandable by post-modern people into a teaching of moral and social support by the Christian faith communities. This is work  for theologians.

     Is being conscious at all times of this dwelling in oneself of the Divine, of the replacing of the personal self by the Divine Self as it is the goal of life in Buddhism, not the highest human way of living and does this not lead to a permanent consciousness of being a member of the global human family, in union also with one’s ancestors in the past, and with one’s offspring in the future? Assisting in the deepening of this kind of consciousness in as many people as possible, should this not be the reason of existence of all faith communities?

2) Evolution in the Faith Communities in general

The main undercurrent which has influenced the radical changes, which have occurred and which continue to progress on their way of no return, is that the common people in most industrialized  Western nations have reached an intellectual level by which they wish to be free, as individuals and sometimes as group, in deciding on the basis of their conscience and overall knowledge what they consider to be morally right or morally wrong.

a) The remarkable changes inside the Catholic faith community can be expected to take place without doubt also in other Christian Churches and other faith communities. A similar evolution inside the different schools of Islam would be a most welcome and most important contribution to real interreligious dialogue in better understanding and accepting of the values and identity of the others, and surely also an important step towards global world peace.

     The former stability of belief which has reigned inside and around Christianity for so many centuries has turned since WWII into an overall feeling of instability and uneasiness, under which reign the masses of the faithful are now looking around for new ways of believing. The belief in a God with all too many humanlike attributes is being questioned, while the conviction is gaining ground that there exists somehow and somewhere an Ultimate Spiritual Reality in which all material beings must find their origin and their final destiny in a onetime unification with it or through a maybe endless cycle of rebirths or reincarnations.  Against the unease with and loss of trust in the church institutions, which has become a rather common phenomenon in the past decades in particular in Western countries, it can be said as a matter of course that the Churches should be upheld as irreplaceable institutions by whatever other organizations. Their role remains a matter of necessity in the holding up of the essence of the teachings of Christ and also from now on of a globally acceptable ethic for the whole of humankind, as pronounced already since many years by the German Catholic theologian Hans Küng. The declaration of this global ethic was acclaimed, on occasion of the second Parliament of World’s Religions in 1993 in Chicago, as a valuable means for coming to a union in collaboration between the faith communities and as a most recommendable global basis for human conduct, by a majority of the 7.000 participants.

     In both the world of science as well as the religious and philosophical world there is a growing tendency towards a new recognition of each other’s values and in the need of collaboration instead of confrontation in the common search for Truth. A close following of the media clearly shows that the efforts towards this kind of collaboration between science and religion is a manifest trend in the US, the EU and probably also in other parts of the world.

d)  Christian inspired activities by enterprises

Another most interesting evolution is happening in the industrial world. In the past ten years, hundreds of enterprises in Holland, Belgium and maybe other European countries have joined hands in regular meetings to do something about the north-south gap by arranging for financial bank loans and by the dispatching of technical people, no strings attached, to give aid assistance to local smaller enterprises in the poorer countries mainly in Africa and South America. From a Christian inspired look at the world and its problems, they are now carrying out what for centuries has been a task reserved to monasteries and other church institutions of Christian faith communities.

e) Faith communities without prescriptions and prohibitions

From Buddhism, we learn that a faith community without prescriptions and prohibitions is a real way of life for Buddhist believers the world over. Buddhism has a wealth of teaching but has no dogma nor strict commandments. It is a mystical religion, which leads beyond words and thinking and reasoning to the silence of “transcendental wisdom”. The Dalai Lama, who is admired and even venerated by so many all over the world, never speaks from a pulpit or teaching attitude, he never commands or prohibits. In stead, his advices and counsels are being admired and accepted as emanations of universal profound mystical wisdom. Most of the spiritual movements, like e.g. the Brahma Kumaris, most of the indigenous faith communities and the humanist faith community have already this non-commanding but guiding approach as a basic attitude towards their followers and sympathizers.

     Might it be possible that the interfaith encounter and dialogue between Christian and Buddhist faith communities could lead, admittedly in a rather far away future, to religions without commands and prescriptions? Could this be in the future the true way of all the faith communities of our world? Could the Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches without this “Go and Teach” attitude uphold their authority in the moral and spiritual guidance of their faithful and as such in the guidance of humanity as a whole? In this context, the image of the Catholic and other Christian Churches as institutions is undergoing a radical change in many aspects of what until now has been considered and believed in as unchangeable tenets of belief. One sees a pronounced change from an attitude of  “Go and Teach” to an attitude of “Go and Learn”, of guidance instead of commanding and of testifying instead of proselytizing.

f)  Another image of what we call God

Dionysius de Areopagit (First Century CE) is being called the founder of the so-called negative theology and was of great significance tot the mystici. He stressed that God is always infinitely greater than all what we can say or think about Him.

     Another evolution which is going on in the background of this above discussed commendable evolution from commanding and prohibiting towards guidance, is the growing acceptance of the incapacity of the human intellect in its actual dimension to grasp, and still less to understand the Ultimate Spiritual Reality, while it is also more and more accepted that all human words to explain this Reality remains very limited and subject to necessary periodic adaptations in accordance with deeper scientific and even mystic insights in the characteristics of the material and the spiritual world. It means that each of the faith communities does not share the whole final truth but only part of it. This involves also that the ‘revelations’ by the founders of the world faith communities should not be proclaimed anymore as infallible dogmas, because each of them, reveal in limited human words, influenced and formed by the cultural environment of their time, only part of the Ultimate Spiritual Reality. It is now becoming more and more commonly accepted that the ‘revelations’ as proclaimed by the founders of the world faith communities and all the holy scriptures concern the same unique divine spiritual reality. The dividing of the religions in monotheistic and pantheistic or whatever else is losing its meaning into a combination of monotheistic as well as pantheistic characteristics of the same Divine Reality. The acceptance of this new way of thinking should bring the faith communities and also all organizations committed to interfaith dialogue nearer to each other not in a unity yet but in a union of collaboration.

     It has been said that "Diversity is God's gift to humanity”. In my humble opinion, I don't know whether, as such, it is really a gift from God. The human diversity in everything and in particular the diversity in the different faith communities of our world seems to me to be a result of the free will of all human beings. This free will is without any doubt a gift from God.

Diversity, just like the whole of humanity, through centuries of evolution of the human mind and of the quest of humanity to learn more about the meaning of life and death, is on a way not of ‘clash’ but of convergence towards a gradual better understanding of its final destination, viz. unification with the ultimate spiritual reality.

     The road of diversity is a road of centuries of totally separated diversities from the beginning of the human existence until around 1940, followed now by a new age of dialogue in mutual acquaintance, mutual study, mutual understanding, mutual acceptation of the others, which will automatically be followed by an evolution towards a still deeper global knowledge of the one spiritual entity which we Christians call God and of further unification of the religious human diversities into a unified humanity.

     Double Belonging, belonging to more than one religion, is a rather new concept practicing one’s belief, like e.g. Catholics who practice Zen Buddhism meditation is a widely spread way of meditation in the religious world of the European Union and in the USA. Some Catholics call themselves Buddhist-Catholics. Catholics are now allowed to go and pray at Protestant churches or Buddhist temples, a Catholic priest gives a sermon at a Protestant service while a Protestant clergyman/woman presents a religious talk in a Catholic church. A most advisable booklet on the subject is ‘Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity’ authored by  Catherine Corneille, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2002, in which articles by the author, and by Jan Van Bragt cicm, John B. Cobb Jr., Joseph S. O'Leary, Francis Clooney sj., Jacques Dupuis sj., Elisabeth J. Harris, Claude Gefré op., Werner G. Jeanrond and Ramon Panikkar.

3) The Future: collaboration between the political and the religious world

Another remarkable and most commendable evolution is the apparent signs of interest in an up-to-now unique quest towards collaboration between the political and the religious world. The United Kingdom can be considered as an example in this quest for collaboration, for which testify the multiple and regular contacts and meetings on local, regional and national levels between political and religious leaders in that country. The same quest is going on since more than ten years now in the European Union and more specifically through the activities of the Forward Studies Unit inside the EU Commission, still an initiative of Jacques Delors, and which since 2001 is working under the name of Group of Policy Advisors. One of their four fields of concentration is ‘Dialogue with Religions and Humanisms’.

     More and more political and also industrial leaders are sharing the conviction that only a joining of hands with the leaders of the faith communities can lead to a world in more peace and justice for all. A change in the socio-economic structures which are for a great part at the origin of poverty and illiteracy of hundreds of millions of people in India, in South America and in so many countries on the African continent can only be achieved by political pressure from inside and from outside. This kind of needed pressure on the political world for more peace and social justice can only be produced by a global union in collaboration of the faith communities of the world.

     A union of the world is in progress by the creation and activities of the United Nations Organization with its now 192 member-states, and by the creation in the past 60 years of international organizations and universal declarations as hereunder:

  • World Bank in 1944 with 184 member countries, 7.000 employees in Washington headoffices and over 3.000 in offices in other countries.

  • United Nations Organisation created on 24.10.1945 with now 191 member states. Preceded by the first international organization in our world, called the League of Nations, signed in Paris in 1919, at the Peace Conference after WWI., joined by sixty one nations but without the United States

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF), established in 1945 as an international organisation with now 184 member countries.

  • North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1949 consisting of 19 country members.

  • International Court of Justice established as a judicial organ of the United Nations which began work in 1946 in the Peace Palace in The Hague in the Netherlands, when it replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice which had functioned there since 1922.

  • World Trade Organisation (WTO) which came into being in 1995 as successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established in the wake of the Second World War.

  • European Union, becoming a reality by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, followed by the implementing of the Euro as common currency on January 1, 2002, uniting now 25 countries since 2004 with a population of 455 million.

  • African Union of 53 African nations, established on July 9, 2002, Union of South American Nations (USAN), signed on May 23, 2008, and a similar move in Asia with ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) established on 8 August 1967 consisting now of 10 nations.

  • Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000 attended by more than thousand religious leaders from all world faith communities, a global gathering of religious leaders that was held in the UN Assembly Hall, and that involved UN officials, but which was not officially endorsed by the UN.

  • World Social Forum which took place in 2003 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which was attended by more than 100.000 people from all over the world.

  • Towards a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The SEPA implies that customers will be enabled to make payments throughout the whole euro area as efficiently and safely as in the national context today. In the White Paper of May 2002, 42 European Banks and the European credit sector associations declared that a full migration to the SEPA would be achieved by the end of 2010. This can be considered as one of the steps leading in the future to a global worldwide payment system.

  • Universal Declarations of Human Rights in 1948, of Non-Violence in 1990, of a Global Ethic in 1993, and of Human Responsibilities in 1995.

A global union in collaboration between the faith communities of our world should result in the creation of a global one-voice forum, a kind of United Religions Organization, as a worthy discussion partner to the United Nations Organization, which idea has been launched by the Episcopal bishop of California, the Right Rev. William Swing, in 1993, and which idea should be sustained and supported by all interfaith organizations worldwide.

     One of the main handicaps on this road of “uniting” towards the creation of a global one-voice forum is the problem of coming forward with people who can be accepted by their communities  as real representatives. The need for a representative authoritative body is now acutely being felt in the Islamic communities, in Buddhism and Hinduism, and also in the Orthodox and non-catholic Christian communities. Only the Catholic Church disposes of the Vatican as a guiding and representative authority, represented on each continent by the Conference of Catholic Bishops. The efforts by the EU-Commission in the past ten years to come to a dialogue with the faith communities clearly show this problem of not finding yet real representative organisations or institutes which are acceptable as discussion partners to the leaders of the political world.

     It should be clear that the aim of creating a union of the faith communities is not the creating of one religion but of a union in collaboration and in joining hands and forces, by the different world faith communities (religions, indigenous traditions, and other convictions of humanists, freemasons, etc.), each keeping to its own identity and values. Interfaith dialogue should also result in a mutual enrichment of the own religious and cultural identity. The words which the Dalai Lama keeps repeating to his Christian admirers is the way to follow: “By the study of Buddhism, Christians should become better Christians, and Buddhists should become better Buddhists by the study of Christianity.”!

     In order to really influence the political, industrial and financial world, the world of the faith communities needs the unified power of their billions of believers. At the actual stage of growing rapprochement, this can only be realised by a joining of hands towards the creation of umbrella interfaith dialogue organisations on the national and continental levels. The joining of forces then of these national and continental umbrella organisations will act as so many stepping stones towards the creation of a powerful one-voice forum of the world faith communities as a supranational body and as a worthy partner to the UN. This will be an important further step in the evolution of the growing unifying religious/political globalisation of our world.

     While the industrial and financial world is undergoing a process of joining hands, of uniting, by the ever increasing merging of enterprises and financial institutes, it is apparent that this kind of uniting is still not being accepted and still less being aspired at in the world of faith communities and interfaith dialogue organisations. Each one of the hundreds of interfaith organisations in the west and in the east (see the two lists on my website) remains bound to its own local, regional or national interests. The words of uniting in the preambles and intentions of their charters are not sufficiently being followed up by deeds of real collaboration and even still less of merging, which by itself would mean a giving of priority to the common good above the interests of the community, group or organisation.

Two other new important concepts:

The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

This declaration, announced to the public on September 1, 1997, by the InterAction Council, Tokyo, can be considered as an emanation of the Japanese and Eastern way of life, reflecting the cultural values of Eastern civilizations, giving priority to responsibilities and duties above rights, in other words a giving of priority to the common good. The Japanese way of life, based on this priority of the common good, should be an example to the other countries of the world. (See ‘For a more genuine Image of Japan’ on my website). This declaration also means a most opportune and necessary supplement and even a culmination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, giving priority to the individual person, which however has not been accepted by the undersigning nations of the ‘Human Rights Declaration’. This declaration could also be considered as another moral basis for the economic globalization process. For the whole text of this declaration, see my website or theirs < www.interactioncouncil.org>.

A monotheistic interpretation of Buddhism and Hinduism

From the studies of the Indian ‘holy’ scriptures, it is now evident that one can find in them a general acceptance of the existence of an Ultimate Spiritual Reality in a kind of Holy Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Krishna, and of which the other multitude of Saints (gods) are an expression or emanation of the Ultimate Reality in their different forms and expressions. This means that Hinduism, next to Sikhism, which is already considered as a monotheistic religion, should be considered not so much as a pantheistic religion but can be brought under the umbrella of what have been called up to now “monotheistic” religions. The same can be said of Buddhism where there is also an overall acceptance of a Spiritual Ultimate Reality as the origin and the final destination of all human beings as well as of all living and other material things, of which the Buddha has been the main prophet. Also here the gods and bodhisattvas are representations of historical deeply religious human beings who are being revered more as Saints than as ‘gods’. This means that also Buddhism can be brought into the realm of monotheistic religions. This means, as said already above, that the new image of the Divine in the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist world is developing into a mixture of monotheism and pantheism, God is ONE and OMNIPRESENT in the whole of creation.

     I quote a text from  “In Search of the Cradle of Civilization” by George  Feuerstein, Subbash KAK and David Frawley, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1995, p. 31:  “Max Müller,(the well known interpreter and translator of Hindu Sanskrit texts) even coined a new term – henotheism, in order to explain the tendency of the Vedas to ascribe supremacy now to one deity and later to another, as if they were perfectly interchangeable, and saw this as a form of religiosity hovering between polytheism and monotheism. However the teaching of many deities who are simultaneously one is the same idea found in later Hinduism, where deities like Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their consorts are all deemed aspects of the same supreme reality, the Godhead.”.

     This including of Hinduism and Buddhism in the group of the three so-called monotheistic faith communities would be a most commendable way towards a closer relationship and easier communication between the up-to-now exclusive 3 monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Hindu and Buddhist faith communities. It might also be an incentive to expand the Christian-centred ecumenical movement towards a union between the Christian faith communities into a larger concept of global interfaith dialogue.

(For further corroborative quotations from the Scriptures, see “Buddhism and Hinduism monotheistic” on my website)


Finally a quotation from Leonard Swidler in his Toward a Universal Declaration of a Global Ethic (see website  http://astro.temple.edu/-dialogue/ for the whole text):

“At the same time the world has been slowly, painfully emerging from the millennia-long Age of Monologue into the Age of Dialogue. As noted above, until the beginning of a century or so ago, each religion, and then ideology--each culture--tended to be very certain that it alone had the complete "explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly." Then through the series of revolutions in understanding, which began in the West but ultimately spread more and more throughout the whole world, the limitedness of all statements about the meaning of things began to dawn on isolated thinkers, and then increasingly on the middle and even grass-roots levels of humankind: the epistemological revolutions of historicism, pragmatism, sociology of knowledge, language analysis, hermeneutics, and finally dialogue.

Now that it is more and more understood that the Muslim, Christian, secularist, Buddhist, etc. perception of the meaning of things is necessarily limited, the Muslim, Christian, secularist, etc. increasingly feels not only no longer driven to replace, or at least dominate, all other religions, ideologies, cultures, but even drawn to enter into dialogue with them, so as to expand, deepen, enrich each of their necessarily limited perceptions of the meaning of things. Thus, often with squinting, blurry eyes, humankind is emerging from the relative darkness of the "Age of Monologue" into the dawning "Age of Dialogue"--dialogue understood as a conversation with someone who differs from us primarily so we can learn, because of course since we now growingly realize that our understanding of the meaning of reality is necessarily limited, we might learn more about reality's meaning through someone else's perception of it.”


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Lucien F. Cosijns, Binnensteenweg 240/A26, 2530 Boechout, Belgium

Tel. +32 3 455.6880            lfc.cosijns@gmail.com 

www.interfaithdialoguebasics.info

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