Posted by: lecubiste | May 3, 2018

Of Saviors and Prophets

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The oldest of the three Abrahamic religions is Judaism. Religious Jews are still waiting for the coming of a prophesied ‘messiah’, a savior of the Jewish people. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah. They believe that he will return in a Second Coming. Moslems, the third and youngest of the religions that came from the descendants of Abraham, believe that Muhammad was the last prophet of God, but that Jesus will return one day to save the earth. A Messiah or a Son of God is expected to return to save the world. Unfortunately, these three religions all believes that each is the only true faith.

Buddhism arose from Hinduism some 2,500 years ago in India. Hindus believe that there have been many Buddhas. While the Buddhist religion itself was founded around Siddhartha Gautama, ‘the Buddha”, in Hinduism one expects more Buddhas to come. Perhaps one could emerge in the anti-religious Communist society of China, or elsewhere in Asia.

The world’s major religions have been at each other’s throats off and on for millennia as each at one point or another has been used to spread empires. Christianity led the spread  of European empires to Africa, North and South America, Asia and Australia.  Islam spread with the first caliphates after Muhammad to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and even to Spain where it languished for centuries.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims have fought each other for many centuries. The Crusades, the pogroms, the Inquisitions and Jihads go on today as we see violence in the Middle East,  anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe and the United States, Buddhists fighting Muslims in Myanmar, Hindus against Muslims in Kashmir, the ancient rivalry between Hindus and Sikhs, Islamic extremists  in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, and more.

Communism, the anti-religion, was spread by revolution in Asia, Russia, and Cuba. Belief systems help empires to spread because they provide a common belief system for its members, and they bring together disparate ethnic groups into internally cohesive societies and armies. They give what the 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun called ‘Asabiyya’, the cooperative tendencies of social groups, a kind of team mentality.

Will Isis establish a single caliphate and unite all Muslims? At the moment it does not look probable. The Muslim world is largely divided into Sunnis and Shiites, different groups descended along two lines of Muhammad’s lineage:  the Sunnis following Muhammad’s intellectual lineage, his advisor Abu Bakr, while the Shiites follow Muhammad’s cousin and his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. As a result, these two groups have fought each other for centuries and are now fighting over control of Islamic nations, sometimes even bombing each other’s mosques, often during prayer.

In order for Isis to achieve its goal of a new caliphate, it must stop the fighting between Shiites and Sunnis.  This seems very difficult to bring about. If it could happen though, the different strains of Islam could perhaps unite and bloodshed between Muslims would stop. The major nations  centered now in this fight are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.

Christianity has its own schisms. How many would-be self-described reincarnations of Jesus have there been? By one count there are no less than 36 over the last three centuries. The return of a legitimate descendant of Jesus, whether in the abstract sense or as a literal descendant, if accepted by Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant sects, could perhaps unite Christianity.  The Jewish Messiah, a holy leader and a descendant of David and Solomon, was prophesied to unite the Jewish peoples. The Jews are a much smaller population of course, and Judaism is limited in its growth by its requirement that one must be born or married into Judaism, but the principle of the messiah, the holy uniting leader, is the same. Another Buddha could be expected by Hindus as historically inevitable, someone who would bring peace and harmony to society.

There are those who believe that the emergence of a prophet with spiritual powers is brought about by the awakening of the spiritual energy center said to lie at the base of the spinal column and known in India as kundalini. Kundalini is  described as wrapped around the base of the spine three and a half times, thus giving it the appearance of a serpent. The term kundalini comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘coiled’. When this spiritual center is activated spiritual energy is said to rise up to the brain as if it had wings. Thus in the Mayan cosmology is found the god Quetzalcoatl, a serpent with feathers, the dragon of Mexico and Central America, prophesied to return one day.

In China the dragon is also a symbol of heaven. While the Bible tends to portray dragons as evil figures, the New Testament has many references to spiritual rebirth that sound very much like the awakening of kundalini. Kundalini is the modern symbol of medicine, the snake(s) with wings on the caduceus, the healing staff. In ancient Egypt it was the serpent of wisdom. When a person experiences this awakening, the mind is said to enlarge and spiritual powers to develop.

The human race has grown beyond the simple confines of mythical polytheism, of superstitions and human sacrifices, into a modern world.  This growth has its benefits and its perils. Can the human race develop a species-wide asabiyya? Can we mature to our potential to manage our planet without destroying it? Can we become one people?

In theory, yes. We could transcend the wars, prejudices, and inter-tribal hatreds of the past and present. We could trade cooperatively and not overpopulate our planet. We could reduce our destructive impact on our soil, our bodies of water, and our polluted air, but it is the religions that now fundamentally divide us.

Can kundalini activation bring saviors to heal our planet, leaders with modern knowledge and scientific understanding, but who also embody the spiritual side of life? This is a tall order. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last prophet and that there cannot be another, though they also believe in the return of Jesus at a cataclysmic time when he saves the world.

Hindus and Buddhists can simply accept that another Buddha will come. All these prophecies are really the same. It seems that the religions of the world would accept holy leaders if those leaders come in the garb and ethnic identity that the world’s cultures recognize and are familiar with. But could one person or a group save this world with its overpopulation, resource depletion, global warming, and islands of plastic floating in the oceans? Like I said, it’s a tall order.

 

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