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Thursday, August 28, 2014

ONE HEART


St. Augustine was an Algerian-born Christian theologian living in the 4th and 5th centuries, AD, whose works including City of God and Confessions influenced scores of thinkers and seekers. I have not read a word of his original writings but I did study him in 8th grade religion class when we read about the lives of the saints and learned enough to pass. I remember little. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

The fact that a Christian, and such an influential one at that, could arise from a country whose total population is now dominated by Islam is a reflection on how much times have changed. As I see it, it shows that religious diversity is not humanity's destiny. Indeed many thinkers have likened different religions to rivers, all of which lead to the same ocean of God (call God what you will - Awareness, Reality, Consciousness, Self, etc.). To the extent that religion helps one along the path to enlightenment or liberation, its purpose is served, but too often religion is divisive and differences beget hate mongering, warfare and strife. Not too holy these cruel signs of our times.

The Old Testament (which I also made to memorize in grade school) is sure chock-full of accounts of battles and bloodshed. Although there are authors like Erich von Däniken who say that many scriptural accounts of God are really narratives of alien exploration of the planet and genetic modifications of humans, and that if everywhere you read God in the OT you substitute ET as in extraterrestrial, or spaceship, the mayhem that is much of the Old Testament makes an awful lot more sense. I won't go into it more, since that's not the point of this post. But I did recently read Daniken's book Gods from Outer Space, a sequel to his Chariots of the Gods. It was quite entertaining.

My point in bringing up this Christian saint born in a country that is now 100% Muslim is to touch on the unity that underlies all duality, in this case the self striving for Self, whether the person in question is Christian, Muslim, or other. In the time of Augustine there was a universal conviction among philosophers that there was a single true rational account of man and the universe and of an omnipotent and provident God. This is different from the one true God various religions posit as their own. What these great thinkers of the past were striving for was the reality of God, beyond name and form. Beyond conceptualizing. Beyond religion. And if we look closely, we see that even in seemingly different religions (and there are many parallels in the Koran and the Bible), between very disparate philosophies, striking dissimilarities can actually point to an underlying sameness, the One.


For example. Ask most people and they will say, "I exist." This posits the existence of a soul, or a consciousness, an identity, something that calls itself I. This I is really the only thing you can be sure of, since you carry it with you wherever you go, it has been around as long as you have, and through this I-ness you enjoy things like friends, family, good food, etc. - objects that would have no value if not for the enjoyer, the subject. Notions of this I's nature and purpose vary, and from this arises the question of the soul's journey.

Let's consider the soul's journey. There are those who see the individual soul as evolving on Earth through trial and experience to achieve perfection, ascending as it were to the divine.

And then there is the view that the soul, being itself divine, is already perfect. That nothing can be added to it, nothing learned which was not already known (though perhaps not remembered). And what we take for the soul's journey is really only a turning in on the Self - in other words that the soul is its own destination and by gradually shedding the illusion of imperfection, and ceasing to identify with the one who strives, learns and grows (the individual personality) the soul's perfection is revealed in its true splendor.

So as you can see these two philosophies are really two ways of saying the same thing. Our nature is perfection.

I think you're perfect.

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