“Judge not, that ye not be judged.”
“At the center of all the world’s main religions lies a body of sacred writing, revered by believers. Scrupulous attention is paid to identifying or preserving the linguistic features of the original texts. Often, the texts are accompanied by a long tradition of commentary, which may itself take on special religious significance.
“Buddhism The Pali Canon, based on oral tradition, containing the teaching of the Buddha. Pali became the canonical language for Buddhists from many countries, but comparable texts came to exist in other languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, as the religion evolved.
“Christianity The Bible, consisting of the 39 books of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew, and the 27 books of the New Testament, written in Greek. Several other writings, known collectively as the Apocrypha, and preserved only in Greek, have controversial status. A Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, is prominent in the Roman Catholic tradition.
[Author’s note: by St. Jerome and adopted by the Council of Trent (Trento) during the 16th Century. The Eastern Orthodox tradition accepts the first seven councils and thus, along with the Catholic tradition, rejects other Churches from communion. The oldest established Christian churches include the Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian and Armenian. The Church of Alexandria, Egypt, was founded by St. Mark in 43 CE, one of the earliest denominations in continuous existence. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon established that Christ had separate natures, divine and human. These churches rejected Christ’s separate nature and declared that His nature was one; in so doing, they formed the Oriental Orthodox Church, which rejected the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as leader of the Church. This split occurred during the suppression of iconoclasm in Constantinople, which began with the canon of the Synod of Elvira (c. 305), the first to forbid images in church. See iconography, iconoclasm, idolatry—a work of mine in the future, perhaps (given our television idolatry). There have been many more Christian heresies, annihilated since; also the surviving Protestant offshoots: Calvinism, Methodism, Lutheranism, etc.; and the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints, with its own supplement to the Bible
See Chapter 47 of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire].
“Hinduism The Vedas, a wide range of texts written in Sanskrit and preserved largely through a meticulous oral tradition, which takes particular care over accuracy of pronunciation.
[Should be included, here, the Jain heresy that attempted to synthesize Hinduism with Buddhism; and the Sikh: the first two with Islam.]
“Islam The Qur’an, or Koran [Qran], which Muslims believe was dictated to the Prophet Mohammed by Allah, through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) beginning in the month Ramadan. The whole revelation took place during a period of over twenty years. It is written in classical Arabic, in a style which is considered miraculous, beyond ability to imitate. The memorization of the text in childhood acts simultaneously as an introduction to literacy.
[Author’s note: The succession of leaders of the Umma: the faithful of Islam and submitted to Allah, is a disputed between Shia and Sunni elites. Mohammed did not address this topic, period.
Just as the Jews’ sacred text described a succession of prophets, judges and kings to rule Israel in descending order of legitimacy (ending with Solomon and his acquisitive son, Rehoboam), Mohammed declared that he was the last prophet God would give to humanity, of a line of indeterminate count. It is up to us, increasingly corrupt judges, kings and mere warlords, to succeed him as best we can.
The Sunnis believe that the Caliphs of Islam: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman ibn-Affan, and Mu’awiyah, were legitimate. The Shia believe that Imams were meant to rule—the closest male relatives of Mohammed: Ali, his son-in-law, and Ali’s sons, Hassan and Hussein, plus eight more assassinated in succession by the Caliphs. Some Caliphs were also assassinated, but less often.
According to the Shia, or ‘twelvers,’ the twelfth Imam, Mohammed, will emerge to rule Islam. “He is the Hidden One, the Awaited One, whose emergence as Mahdi will herald the end of time,” per Karl E. Meyer’s fascinating little book, The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland, Public Affairs, The Century Foundation, New York, 2003, p. 56.
[Author’s note: I should include a list of World Saviors to come, promised by every religion – either lots of them or just the One described by every religion – but not here and now.
Any further subdivision of the Umma into separate schools or disciplines would be sterile from an Occidental point of view, since their monolithic adherence to Shari’a (the law of God as exposed in the Q’ran and its direct, hadith commentaries) is virtually unanimous. There have been several attempts to impose a logical analysis or mystical interpretation on Shari’a, especially by Sufi mystics, more or less successfully. If you are interested, I direct you to Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, (Warner Books edition, Hachette Book Group USA, New York, 1991). His delicate objectivity and monster scholarship reflect a long line of Muslim historians beginning with the incomparable Ibn Khaldun whose brilliant Muqadimma any history text – Muslim or other – would be flattered to be compared to.
We should include the Baha’i heresy, here: an attempt to synthesize and commingle the three faiths of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam – rejected by all three.] See
“Judaism The Bible in Hebrew or the Old Testament, especially as found in its first five books, traditionally said to have been written by Moses. Later varieties in Hebrew, and some in Aramaic, form the language of the large collection of oral and written commentaries on the Bible, known as the Talmud.
“[Mass] Literacy is often introduced into a community by the spread of a religion. As a result, the distribution of writing systems in the world today reflects the distribution of world religions far more clearly than it does the distribution of language families.” David Crystal, Editor, Cambridge Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Second Edition, Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, 1997, p. 388.
Organized religions demonstrate the weapon/peace antinomy quite clearly. Each preacher, priest, rabbi, mullah, imam, ulam, monk, etc., exposes to our observation the practical outcome of their belief. Every religious hierarchy shelters a few peace mentors: the early originators like Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed; and their lovers, today’s marginalized mystics. It also shelters many weapon mentors: secondary organizers like Paul, Augustine and the Caliphs; and their lovers among today’s religious bureaucrats.
Regardless of their religious creed, peace mentors hope that fearless love, truth and peace will triumph in time, under a watchful and loving God. They feel deep sympathy for other principled advocates of these hopes. This, regardless of ideological and theological disputes.
Weapon mentors use religion (and other cultural memes) to set themselves apart. They fight – often to the death of innocents entrusted to their care – even though they and their declared enemies may share the same creed and symbols. They reject the common bonds of Learning, which rejection fosters the conflict they crave.
Today’s political systems and ideologies are byproducts of blind human faith: the bastard children of our weapon religions. They illustrate quite aptly the weapon/peace antinomy. Just substitute the old religious verbiage with more recent ideological jargon and observe the same contradictions unfold, as weapon and peace mentors break up like oil and water. Note how the weapon/peace antinomy remains carefully unexamined and therefore intact.
For weapon technicians like us, religion is a group obligation rooted in social obedience. It is ceremonial, objective, conformist, reductive, repeatable, stolid, recognizable and rational. Madness is loathsome to it. Orthodox religions follow a well-worn script easily memorized and analyzed. They strive to overwrite the by imposing their own dogma, myths, and prejudices.
Only long-dead prophets have been authorized to taste of sacred wonder; the rest of us must be satisfied with mandatory religious formations or nothing. The more complete our submission to this pointless nonsense, the better as far as traditional religions are concerned.
Weapon managers rip off the most captivating and rich religious symbols—before which everyone must kowtow. Religious hierarchs reject the sacred in and of itself. Any real-world manifestation of it is dreadful to them since it evades their control and exposes them as clowns in fancy dress. Ceremonial religionists tend to be compulsive, censorious, time-bound, historical, archival, absolutist, simplistic, formulaic, linear, rigid, menacing and humorless. They emphasize form, structure and mode of transmission. “Our medium is the message.”
To the primal consciousness, everything is sacred. Rituals and ceremonies merely enhance the sacred wonder that a clear-sighted witness may glimpse during day- or night-time dreaming. Sacred worship is rooted in self-awareness; it is an individual gift: subjective, irreproducible, passionate, intimate, dramatic, chaotic, adaptive, situational, transcendent, dream-driven and drug accelerated. It borders on insanity: a narrow birth passage into the sacred, reserved for a select, tormented few (shamans). It is often conveyed wordlessly, through music, dance (as practiced by the Sufi, American Indians and some Africans), sensory and extrasensory clues. In general, sacred religions are obsessive, creative, naturalistic, timeless, cumulative, magical, pragmatic, anecdotal, spontaneous, holistic and playful—sometimes hurtfully. If possible, they strive to tap into the collective superconscience but not over-write it.
As far as they are concerned, who would dare impose such constraints on the limitless Sacred—except lifelong-regimented religionists? Unlike them, primal seekers emphasize content, meaning and outcomes. “The Message is.”
Human faith has endured a crushing entropy at the hands of faithless sociopaths. It has degenerated from a state of reverence and awe shared by everyone, into a traffic jam of elaborate inventions: each one incompatible, exclusive and mandatory—interchangeably ridiculous. The only justifications that remain for current mass religions are the weapon technologies they have spawned to safeguard their vacuity.
Their practitioners’ habits of anti-thought, gross simplification and rote repetition may be passively neutral or actively vicious, depending on the prevalence of ignorance and misery under their influence. Each new weapon dogma tries to become something more cruel, arbitrary and prejudicial than its competitors. It becomes deaf to its hypocrisy and immune to improvement. Its zealots merit contempt, disbelief, ridicule and pity in proportion to their fervor, numbers, political clout and firepower. Any religion that condones mass violence, automatically invalidates itself and its gullible adherents.
In truth, mass religions numb our awareness of the sacred. They can stifle sacred wonder and turn a majority away from God, but never replace them. No wonder so many people believe in nothing any longer, at least until total misery and death have drawn nigh! Current religions operate on the assumption that they can only flourish in the misery they foster among their believers, and could never do so as well amidst universal peace and abundance, which they reject.
The best religious rituals and formulae would amplify our unique perception of sacred wonder without doing it any harm. What we truly seek is a quest for times past, a remembrance of the sacred wonder from which we have disinherited our souls. What we really crave is an ancient awareness more profound than younger, merely ceremonious dogma. We require its complement, its fructifier and validator: an ancient, more profound awareness.
In the meantime, everyone should be free to witness to their God or not, wear and display religious symbols or reject them, neither be forbidden nor required to do so, as long as it is done with reverence in private, with respect for the beliefs of others in public settings, and quietly, without menace. This could only happen without resentment and violent payback in one place: PeaceWorld, where peace religion would be sacred in each of its manifestations and worldly ones would no longer subsist.
LEARNERS: On the Move from WeaponWorld to PeaceWorld