Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat

A reader with the diminutive name of Michael the Lesser asks:

Dear Mr. Wright,

I recently read your conversion story as you posted last year and some of the comments that followed. I was intrigued that you expressed the conviction that Christianity was more mature and philosophically advanced than the Eastern religions.

I have a friend, who is a Catholic convert, but struggles with letting go to of her attachment to Hinduism and specifically Hare Krishna.

So, in what ways do you see that Christianity is more mature and philosophically advanced than Eastern religions?

An excellent question, and I tremble to think I now must make good on my rash words, for I fear my powers are inadequate.

As with all philosophical conversations, we must begin with definitions, lest we be misled into thinking some claim not present is being made.

I say that Christianity is more mature and philosophically advanced than the Eastern religions.

By Christianity, I mean both Orthodox and Catholic, Nestorian, Coptic, Monophysite, Melkite, Protestant and so on. Middle Eastern and Russian and Greek sects of Christianity tend to be ignored by modern historians: I am confining my comment to the mainstream that all branches that the river of life we call the Church have in common.

By Eastern religion, I mean Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto. Of other Oriental creeds I make no claim. My claim is further restricted only to those aspects of the creeds known to me by hearsay through casual reading or conversation. I have never been a member of any of them, and therefore speak as an outsider. I do not include Sikh, Jain, or other creeds with which I am unfamiliar, nor tribal legends and lore from Siberia to Indochina. I do not include Mohammedanism here as an Oriental religion: it is a Christian heresy, albeit a successful one, which has committed successful matricide against its Church in the lands of Africa and Asia which formerly were orthodox.

“More mature” does not mean “more true. “More advanced” does not mean “better” or even “I like it more.” Those claims, if made, would be defended by other arguments.  While I personally happen at this stage of my life to think that the Christian creed is more true than Indian or Chinese creeds, this does not enter into the argument, which must stand or fall on its own merits.

We live in the midst of a Dark Age, that is, an age when intellectual and literate things are despised by the intellectuals and the literati. A Dark Age approves of emotional rather than intellectual response, the emotions judged and ranked according to purity and glitter, like precious stones.

In the case of a claim like the one here being made, where no particular emotion is provoked, it is necessary for the Dark Age to substitute a different and more emotional claim, in order for its mechanisms of thought-free emotional reaction to operate. Intellectuals will interpret the claim that one thing is more developed than a second to be a claim that the first is to be preferred in all ways than the second, and that this preference is arbitrary if not bigotry, vaunting, mere trumpet-blowing.

All readers are cautioned to be on guard against this reaction, which is so prevalent in these days of political correctness as to be as invisible to us as water is invisible to fish.

I am not arguing that Christianity is great and heathenism is wretched: I am arguing that the relation of Christianity to the other great religions of the world is that of a later development implied in a prior stage, as a youth stands to a boy, or a butterfly to caterpillar. (I write the foregoing qualification with the confident prediction that it will be ignored, and in full knowledge that it was words wasted. Those armored in invincible ignorance cannot be overcome by feeble arms of reason.)

To claim one thing is more mature or more advanced than another assumes two things, and these are both assumptions that present Dark Age will not grant:

The first assumption made by the claim is  that there is an organic and natural process of philosophical development of creeds, or, in other words, that the thoughts of men are deliberate and not arbitrary, and that all men’s creeds and philosophies tend (when in keeping with nature) toward a convergent end.

Moderns assume this is true for the physical sciences only: to claim it is true of philosophical or religious creeds does not match modern ideas of empiricism. Since only the physical sciences can reach their conclusion by means of the tool of empiricism, moderns assume that there is nothing outside the physical sciences, and that all metaphysical or intellectual disciplines aside from physics are mere opinion or mere nonsense. (This modern assumption is indefensible, and its partisans, to my knowledge, have never attempted a defense of it.)  The claim here is that philosophies and creeds develop from primitive to mature forms, and are not merely arbitrary conglomerations of assertions and opinions.

What is development? Development is a natural, normal, non-arbitrary and non-subjective process of maturation. A development is not mere change. A prince being turned by a witch into a frog is a mere change. There is nothing about froggyness which grows naturally out of princeliness. A caterpillar being turned by process of growth into a butterfly, or a boy into a young man, is a development. One differences is that the element present, if inchoate, in the earlier stages, even if altered, are present in the later .

A development is also not decay. When ape-man changes by Darwinian process into a man, that is a growth. When a man changes by Darwinian process into the Morlock of HG Wells, that is a decay. When a wounded limb turns gangrenous by natural process, that is also a decay. The mere fact that something comes later in time than something else does not necessarily mean it is a maturation or a development in the sense that the word development is being used here. A decayed or decadent change occurs when the end served by the development is frustrated.

The second assumption made by the claim is that the men of the Eastern Hemisphere are not inferior, or even particularly different, than the men of the Western.

By way of contrast, multiculturalism assumes implicitly that there is an innate inferiority of the colored races to the Aryans, and proposes that it would be impolite to mention this when the inferiors are within earshot. The bitterness and frequency with which the moderns accuse the innocent of being racist can be weighed as evidence or their own unadmitted racism; it is what psychologists call projection. Hence, a multiculturalist makes a great outward show of modestly downplaying the great accomplishments of the West and boosting the modest accomplishments of the East, to the point where scathing denunciations are heaped on any who even speak of the accomplishments as ‘accomplishments’ (which implies an objective goal being reached) rather than as mere arbitrary changes, no one of which is better nor different than the other (which implies no goal).

One method of boosting Eastern accomplishments is to propose that their religions and creeds are radically different from Western religions and creeds, based on mystical insights invisible to Western minds. Much ado is made of how mysterious and incomprehensible the East is to the West, and, indeed, the multiculturalist hints with supercilious eyebrow or says outright with a sneer that Oriental peoples or aboriginal tribes have insights lost to the West due to the crippling blindness of our logical and scientific and materialist world view, or perhaps due to the intolerance and rigidity of our Judeo-Christian mind-set.

So, then, what is being claimed here is that elements present in Eastern religions are also present in Western paganism, and that these elements are present in a mature form in Christianity, but not as a decay.

In other words, in order for this argument to prevail, or even to seem persuasive, we must justify the assumptions on which the claim is based: first, to show that creeds develop naturally toward a a given end rather than change arbitrarily by accident, and second, to we must show that Eastern creeds and Western are not different in any radical or fundamental way.

Let me dispose of the second question first, since it is both easier to answer and less worthy of our attention.

Pythagoreans, like Hindus, preach reincarnation; Stoics, like Confucians, make a religion out of reason and virtue; Neoplatonists, like Buddhists, seek transcendental truth; the ecstatic mystics of the East do not do anything the ecstatic Maenads of Dionysus did not do, or the shamans who swallow peyote in spirit quests; magic was openly practiced in West and East, except only where Western, that is, Judo-Christian strictures have dismissed it as unscientific or irrational; and black magic to the point of human sacrifice was practiced openly in Carthage, and Tenochtitlan as it was among Kali thugs, until invaders put down the practice; and in both East and West popular feasts and festivals were solemnized by priestly castes or classes, Levites or Magi or Brahmins. Neither temples, nor incense, nor sacred music, no animal sacrifice, nor any other aspect of rite or ritual or religion is found to be unique.

Such cases could be multiplied. There seems to be no particular spirit animating the East which was not also present in the West.

And, not to place too great an emphasis on the point, the only spirit present in the West absent in the East, was that Holy Spirit who moved among the prophets of Jewry, and named them a Chosen People of a jealous God who fiercely loved them, whereas the gods of the surrounding heathens loved perhaps Io and Europa and Callisto and even young and beardless Ganymede, but love for mankind seemed to be the prerogative of the one titan who defied the gods, and was nailed to a mountain in the Caucasus for his compassion.

Now, it may seem impossible for the agnostic to see why one race of people should be blessed with a particular spiritual insight in Monotheism which eventually became the dominant view of the West: but I will point out that in other fields, we have other clusters of geniuses, as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle in Philosophy, or Maxwell, Watt, Bell, and Fleming in inventions, who appeared within one race in a short span of time.

So, the religious sentiments of man in both hemispheres seem to have marked similarities, or, at least, nothing which would lead us to heed that there is some genetic difference in psychology or intelligence, nor some vast accident of history, which makes classical Mediterranean peoples superior to or inferior to the peoples of Near and Far East in matters of religion.

Whether one is theist or atheist, I hope all can agree that there is a development going on through history, rather than mere change. Whether the goal at which all religious thought and revelation aims was designed by God to draw all men to Himself, or whether religion is nothing more than the manifestation of psychological flaws universal to mankind which naturally fall into ever more elaborate and complete forms, is not the question here. The sole question is whether this evolution is an evolution, that is, a maturation process toward an end, or whether it is merely mutation and change not directed to any particular end.

As a Christian, I hold that all men, created by God and with minds and spirits shaped by Him, were given a drive as instinctive and innate as the drive of parent to love child, or man to seek his mate. Those few men who seem not to have this drive, I hold have perverted it to other ends, seeking the satisfaction that only unity with God provides either in philosophy or politics or in some base and vain pleasure-seeking.

When I was an atheist, I held that all men, evolved, not created, by inherently orderly natural processes, were inevitably instilled with basic survival drives and with a reason which enabled them to perceive the moral order of the universe (morality being little more than logic, that is to say, self-consistency, applied to moral questions), and that the vanity of the natural human desire for life and justice not found in this world prompted the gullible to envision another world, like fairyland, where life was eternal and injustice nonexistent. Those few men who seem not to have this drive, I held were superior beings, bold and enlightened yet lonely Prometheans in the degrading swamp of a superstition-addicted world. That men smarter than I were not atheists was a source of wonder and puzzlement, and left one shaking one’s head at the persistence of the “meme” or psychological viral weakness that softened the skulls of so many fine men: atheism is not a philosophy that inclines one to humility.

From either theist or atheist viewpoint, one can derive the basic drives that pull men toward religion.

These include

(1) RITUALISM — an appetite for ceremony and ritual, including supplication and sacrifice, purification, thanksgiving, and meditation or contemplation;

(2) PHILOSOPHY — the inevitable need for a coherent worldview;

(3) MORALITY– the craving for the justice not found on Earth;

(4) IMMORTALITY — the fear of pain, suffering, and death;

(5) TRANSCENDENCE — the longing for a higher type of life, glimpsed by mystics, but otherwise indescribable, of a union with God, and peace and joy transcendent.

These five ends or goals of the religious end in man I list here from most universal to least. Every human society whatsoever has rites and rituals; but not every society  seeks mystical union with the divine, or deems it possible.

Atheists seem not to have the first and fifth appetites or longings, and resign themselves stoically to living without the seeking to sate the third and fourth. The second is fulfilled among atheists either by Philosophy, which we can define as the attempt to understand the meaning of life by skeptical reasoning without the aid of revelation and without taking the conclusions of authorities as granted; or it is fulfilled by Sophophobia, which we can define as taking as granted the conclusions of authorities unskeptically and unreasonably, provided those authorities just so happen to say what flatters the popular fashion at the time, or offers cheap excuse for contemplated crime.

The first type of atheist does not believe in God because no compelling evidence of the proposition has been presented to him, no special reason is evident to prefer one religion or one sect over the other, and because the mysteries of the religion seem self-contradictory if not sinister; the second type does not believe in God because his deeds are evil and yearns for darkness, for he wants to riot, and to steal the goods of others, and to arrogate to himself unearned honors as an intellectually advanced and morally scrupulous person meanwhile indulging in various perversions and vices, falsehood, envy, backbiting, and fury.  All atheists of the second type camouflage themselves atheists of the first type. Atheists of the first type tend to be Libertarians or Objectivists, and atheists of the second type tend to be Socialists. There are perhaps atheists who combine these two motivations in different proportions, but my unhappy experience tends to introduce me to folk who are wholly the one or wholly the other.

All this to one side, for the purposes of this essay, a religion is said to develop or mature when it satisfies it changes from satisfying fewer to satisfying more of these five ends or drives.

In religion, the common property is ritualism, that is, the ceremonies of supplication, purification, propitiation, thanksgiving, and sacrifice. As best we can tell, this property holds true in all races, nations, tribes, and bands of men, literate and illiterate, civilized and barbarian.

The most primitive stage of religion consists (so primitive that I doubt it exists in nature but must be achieved by a fall from a more developed stage) is witchcraft, which consists solely of rite or ritual meant to supplicate or conjure or compel the unseen world to achieve particular effects in this one. Even modern Wicca are above this level, and their rites are also for purification or thanksgiving, and have a rudimentary moral code, the belief that one’s evil return tenfold, and that one should harm none.

That the basic moral laws of the universe are objective, and can be perceived by any healthy conscience is both too obvious a point to argue here, and is futile to argue with those whose consciences, by accident or design, are blind or have been blinded. Instead, we need only give examples of the general observation that all creeds, philosophies, and religions, save only those notoriously and deliberately unhealthy, occult, or sick (as the practices of the Aztecs or Carthaginians, or the philosophy of Nietzsche or Marx) agree on all the basics. Even those who do not agree on the basics, do not agree only because they take one basic principle, and exaggerate it to grotesque proportions, so that it might be used to truncheon the other basic principles: as when the principle of sacrifice is exaggerated by the Aztecs, strength by Nietzsche, or charity to the poor by Marx.

C.S. Lewis provides a list of basic moral precepts perceived by men of all literate nations in his Appendix to THE ABOLITION OF MAN  called ‘Illustrations of the Tao‘ of which I here quote only the opening few. For the rest, see http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/lewis/abolition4.htm

‘I have not slain men.’ (Ancient Egyptian. From the Confession of the Righteous Soul, ‘Book of the Dead’, v. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics [= ERE], vol. v, p. 478)

‘Do not murder.’ (Ancient Jewish. Exodus 20:13)

‘Terrify not men or God will terrify thee.’ (Ancient Egyptian. Precepts of Ptahhetep. H. R. Hall, Ancient History of the Near East.)

‘In Nastrond I saw… murderers.’ (Old Norse. Volospá 38, 39) Nastrond is the Norse hell.

‘I have not brought misery upon my fellows. I have not made the beginning of every day laborious in the sight of him who worked for me.’ (Ancient Egyptian. Confession of the Righteous Soul. ERE v. 478)

‘I have not been grasping.’ (Ancient Egyptian. Ibid.)

‘Who meditates oppression, his dwelling is overturned.’ (Babylonian. Hymn to Samas. ERE v. 445)

‘He who is cruel and calumnious has the character of a cat.’ (Hindu. Laws of Manu. Janet, Histoire de la Science Politique, vol. i, p. 6)

‘Slander not.’ (Babylonian. Hymn to Samas. ERE v. 445)

‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ (Ancient Jewish. Exodus 20:16)

‘Utter not a word by which anyone could be wounded.’ (Hindu. Janet, p. 7)

‘Has he … driven an honest man from his family? broken up a well-cemented clan?’ (Babylonian. List of Sins from incantation tablets. ERE v. 446)

‘I have not caused hunger. I have not caused weeping.’ (Ancient Egyptian. ERE v. 478)

‘Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.’ (Ancient Chinese. Analects of Confucius, trans. A. Waley, xv. 23; cf. xii. 2)

‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.’ (Ancient Jewish. Leviticus 19:17)

‘He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon goodness will dislike no one.’ (Ancient Chinese. Analects, iv. 4)

It is a maturation, and not a mere change, when ritualism is wedded to a moral precepts, and the spirits and gods are deduced to be the guardians and enforcers of moral righteousness, or even the authors.

Before this happens, religion is indistinguishable from witchcraft, a mere abortive technology for manipulating the unseen order of the cosmos as mechanics manipulates the seen order. It is a development in that the ritual character of the rite is still present, but the moral character increases a latent beauty, depth, and power. The moral precepts take on the character of taboos, the violation of which has a religious sanction. Not just changing the world, but cleansing the soul, become part of the more advanced version of the rite.

Shintoism is at this stage: it is as close to a merely ritualized ceremonial religion as it is possible for a religion to be. It concern is with ritual purity, mostly external. The public practices of the pre-Constantine Romans had this character. It was more a civic rite than a sacred one.

Again, it is a maturation and not a change when  a moral code is made systematic, that is, when some sage or prophet or philosopher will take a group of moral precepts to which all non-sociopathic men agree and discover or derive the concept or rule behind them, as when the Buddha derives the Eightfold Path from the Four Noble Truths, or the prophets derive the Golden Rule from the Ten Commandments. At this point the religion becomes philosophical, or the philosophy becomes religious.

Neoplatonism reached this stage, particularly under the pen of Plotinus, as did Confucius and Lao Tzu and Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Whether one considers Stoicism, Taoism and Confucianism a philosophy as opposed to a religion is a matter of definitional debate too delicate to discuss here: if we call them philosophies, we must acknowledge certain metaphysical beliefs about the world-system, worship of the stars as divine or ancestors as divine, and so on, including disciplines meant to achieve inner peace, have something of the character and flavor of religion. If we call them religions, we must acknowledge them to be rather philosophical and elite religions, possessing no dogma innate to them.

It matters not for the purposes of this essay whether we call them religious philosophies or philosophical religions.

When the philosophical system becomes wedded to the rites and ceremonies of popular cult and clarifies its moral character, then and only then is the religion worthy of the name. We in the West are so familiar with this, that we automatically assume religion has both a moral and a philosophical character. To use a trivial example, when fantasy writers invent make-believe religions for their make-believe worlds, the overwhelming tendency is to ascribe to them ritual hierarchies as in a church, a set of beliefs about the world and the afterworld, and a moral code (for the purposes of drama, this moral code is usually absurd or insupportable). The point is not to be missed that all these things are developments out of more primitive models, indeed, that priests and prophets and sages come from different starting points and only combine their mental features into an organized world-view when they have evolved.

Hinduism involves a unification of moral conceptions with ceremonial. The moral conceptions in the Bhagavad Gita involve profundities as sublime as the Enchiridion of Epictetus or the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu. The central core of the Hindu worldview is moral law: the Rta that establishes divine order and the Karma that establishes one’s position in the hierarchy of reincarnation. Rta is akin to the Maat or Me of the Egyptians or Babylonians, the Asha of the Zoroastrians,  the Te and Toa of China, not to mention the Way, the Truth, and the Life of the Christians.

That the ‘Way’ spoken of (or not spoken of) by Lao Tzu and the ‘Way’ Christ claimed to be are both called Way, is not coincidence. A I said above, West and East are not so different: the characteristics of the Way of Lao Tzu include an ineffable and transcendent and imminent character, and also to be and to embody the moral order of the cosmos: it is humble and longsuffering, and strongest when it seems weakest, for it overcomes all opposition by yielding to it.  These characteristics are embodied in Christ in a fashion no other character, real or imaginary, embodies. It is almost as if Christ is an incarnation of the divine and ineffable nature Lao Tzu contemplates.

Hinduism acknowledges a supreme source of Rta (the ‘Way’ or divine order) as Brahman the Creator-God, but with countless godheads and deities and spirits flowing from him, that to call the system monotheist or polytheist or pantheistic is a matter of semantics. It is halfway between the polytheism of the Olympian gods and the monotheistic Wise Lord of the Zoroastrians.

Comparing Hinduism with Greek polytheism we see the difference between developed and undeveloped in at least two areas:

First, the Greek conception was that Zeus arose to become king of the Gods through the deceit of his mother Rhea, and the castration of his father Chronos, and the overthrow of the Titans, who in turn arose from Chaos and Old Night. The sublime Hindu concept is that time is a wheel, and periodically Brahma slumbers and dreams the dream we call the world, which then decays, and dies, and Brahma wakes, and when he opens his serene and deathless eyes all the myriad worlds and myriad gods return to nothing. He sleeps again and creates again and it all happens again, eternally and without end. Zeus has as his titles that he is the upholder of law, the enforcer of oaths, and the power that visits curses and blessings on men, this role is awkwardly held in hands stained with paternal ichor.

Independent of the question of which, if either, is closer to the truth of things, the Hindu worldview identifies a central organizing principle to the cosmos which the Hellenic, at least in their myths, does not.

We can see ideas parallel to the Hindu in Pythagoras, or Plato’s Myth of Er, or in the eternal return or Ecpyrosis of the Stoics: but Hinduism has these various concepts, which are separated between philosophers and poets in the Helene, combined into a coherent whole in the Hindu.

Second, the Greek idea of divine punishment or reward after death was not well articulated or dogmatic, whereas the incarnation system of the Hindu is articulated to an almost mesmeric degree, with its graduated levels of heavens and hells circling Mount Sumaru. Again, this seems a matter of development rather than merely matter of difference.

Buddhism is a particular case, since, from all appearances, Buddhism was originally an attempt purely at moral and spiritual discipline like Stoicism, and having a particular scorn of metaphysical dogma. Let us recite the parable of the poisoned arrow from Majjhima-nikaya, Sutta 63:

The Buddha was sitting in the park when his disciple Malunkyaputta approached him. Malunkyaputta had recently retired from the world and he was concerned that so many things remained unexplained by the Buddha. Was the world eternal or not eternal? Was the soul different from the body? Did the enlightened exist after death or not? He thought, ‘If the Buddha does not explain these things to me, I will give up this training and return to worldly life’.

Thus, he approached the Buddha with this question, who replied:

“Suppose, Maunkyaputa, a man were wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and companions brought a surgeon to treat him.  The man would say: “I will not let the surgeon pull out the arrow until I know the name and clan of the man who wounded me; whether the bow that wounded me was long bow or crossbow; whether the arrow that wounded me was hoof-tipped or curved or barbed.

All this would still not be known to that man and meanwhile he would die.  So too, Malunkyaputta, if anyone should say: “I will not lead the noble life under the Buddha until the Buddha declares to me whether the world is eternal or not eternal, finite or infinite; whether the soul is the same as or different from the body; whether an awakened one ceases to exist after death or not,” that would still remain undeclared by the Buddha and meanwhile that person would die.

Whether the view is held that the world is eternal or not, Malunkyaputta, there is still birth, old age, death, grief, suffering, sorrow and despair – and these can be destroyed in this life! I have not explained these other things because they are not useful, they are not conducive to tranquility and Nirvana. What I have explained is suffering, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering and the path that leads to the destruction of suffering. This is useful, leading to non-attachment, the absence of passion, perfect knowledge.”

Certain schools, as Zen Buddhism, follow a path of eschewing not merely metaphysical speculation, but the limitations of reasoning and self-awareness altogether in the attempt to achieve the serenity of the Enlightened One.

Others, as Tibetan Buddhism, have elaborate and well articulated philosophies concerned with reincarnation, the nature and parts of the soul, the cyclic system of the world, not to mention sacral hierarchy as complete and complex as anything devised by Levites or Brahmins or Archbishops and Metropolitans of the Christian Church.

As with Confucianism, we will leave to one side the question of whether Zen is a philosophy or a religion; the institutional Buddhism of India and Tibet,Indochina, China, and Japan we can call a religion without fear of contradiction.

Now, the question arises whether Buddhism is a development of Hinduism, rather than a heresy or decay, or merely an arbitrary change?

At least from an outsider’s point of view, it looks as if there is nothing in Hinduism not also present in Buddhism, whereas there is a central conception in Buddhism not present in Hinduism: Hinduism preaches that all lives and all worlds are as if on a wheel of eternal return, whereas Buddhism preaches a means to get off that wheel, to cease the cycle of reincarnation, to reach the abyss of nonbeing called Nirvana, and achieve not merely rest, but union with the divine.

The Hindu conception that heroes might be reincarnated as lesser gods promises less than this, and seems not to have drawn together, as Buddha does, some of the threads of thought present implicitly in writings such as the Gita. Buddhism, at least in some schools, preaches an Eschaton, when all beings will be enlightened and all life returns to the godhead.

In a similar vein, the relation of Christianity to Judaism certainly seems to be a development to the Christian (indeed, this is one of the central claims of Christianity), even if the faithful Jew calls it a heresy. The Old Testament, for example, seems unclear on the afterlife, so much so that faithful Sadducees dismissed the idea of the Resurrection as  metaphorical, or absurd. The legalism of the Pharisees was something the Jewish scriptures themselves denounced, as where Psalm 51 says of God:

16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Christianity also has a more articulated vision of the Four Last Things and of the End of the Age than Judaism: but I call this a development rather than a mere change, since the vision of Saint John builds upon and draws together the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel and other apocalyptic literature.  Whether the claim is true or false, Christians claim Christ is the Messiah of the Jews, and that his earthly ministry fulfilled the prophecies concerning him, and moreso.

In sum, witchcraft addresses fewer of the ends of religion than paganism, and classical paganism fewer than the philosophical religions of antiquity or the East, and these fewer again than organized worldview of Hinduism and Judaism; and again, Buddhism addresses more than Hinduism, Christianity than Judaism. What then is the relation of Christianity to Buddhism, a faith more ancient, wider spread, and vaster in nearly every way?

The question turns on the basic differences between the claims of the two worldviews. Again, I am not arguing whether one is true or false, I am only arguing which addresses more completely the five ends I identified as the source of religious impulses in man.

The core argument can be stated briefly.The basic differences are the vision of the afterlife, reincarnation versus last judgment, and the vision of the union with the divine, whether negative, an infinite absence of pain, an abolition of nature, versus a positive vision of union, an infinite presence of joy, and a perfection of nature.

If all men fear pain, suffering and death, and they all perceive (if it is true) or imagine (if it is not true) that there is a life after this one and an unseen world governing the seen world, the perception or imagination of reincarnation as preached by Pythagoreans and Hindus is a less developed concept than the reincarnation as preached by Buddhists, and the transcendence of all earthly suffering as taught by Neoplatonism and Buddhism, on the grounds that the latter satisfies more of the five ends of the spiritual impulse in man than the former.

In other words, endless reincarnation which leads nowhere but to the destruction and recreation of the world for mind-numbingly countless eons sooths the fear of death, since if we all reincarnate none of us really die or pass into nonbeing, but it make no promise of the end of pain. As the bumper sticker says, “Life is a bitch, and then you die.” A Brahmin wag might add: “Again, and again, and again.”

I submit that the belief in reincarnation, whether true or false, is more primitive than a belief in a Last Judgment, on that grounds that reincarnation is merely one life of pain after another. Not even the gods are free from disquiet.

The atheist can say that all men have an unrealistic craving to escape death; the theist can say that the divine subtly informs all men that this material life is not and cannot be all there is to existence. Whichever the reason, in either case the simplest and first idea that must appear to all men, even among the most primitive, is that the dead continue their existence: it is a natural belief to say that this existence is much like ours, or even that it is ours. Natural, but a little unimaginative. Simple ancestor worship has something of this idea implied in it. The Hindu concept of Karma, that the suffering or pleasure of the next life depends on merit earned in this, ties in the moral conception that is more advanced, but the question of the escape from pain and suffering is not addressed even if the question of the fear of death drops out of the equation.

Belief in a Last Judgment and a world-eschaton is more advanced because the ends satisfied or addressed by the belief in reincarnation are more complete.

Since the Hindu wheel of life is never-ending, it is meaningless. Yes, your great acts of heroism may have you reincarnated as a lesser god this go-round, but when you are torn to bits by the demon-king Ravana of Lanka, you might be reincarnated next as a titan, or a naga, or a peasant, or a dog. If you are a bad dog, you will be reincarnated as a hungry ghost or demonic spirit. Then you might work your way through a thousand lifetime back to godhood. And over and over again. After the ten trillionth repetition, it would be meaningless. If you cannot remember your former lives, and do not know for what acts you are being rewarded or punished, it is meaningless now.

The vision of Buddha amends and, indeed, improves this, by promising an escape from the wheel of reincarnation. The more philosophical schools of Buddhism promise only that a detachment akin to Stoic ‘ataraxia’ or serenity will enable a man to suffer endless reincarnations without pain; the more mystical schools speak of a ‘Pure Land’ in the West, or a windless and formless heaven three or four levels above the highest heaven, where pain is extinguished because selfhood is extinguished, and thought and non-thought become one, and all is at rest in Nirvana.

The final judgment is successive, over many lives, and the eschaton is remote, but eventually the wheel of suffering will be escaped by all living souls, and the illusion of the world, Maya, will be gone.

I submit that Buddhism is more mature a conception than Shinto, or Taoism, or Confucianism, which are either ritualized religions or philosophical religions, vague on the afterlife, fulfilling fewer of the end of religious sentiment than Buddhism. I suggest the prevalence of Buddhism in the East is a tacit recognition among Oriental peoples that this is so, in the same way I suggestion the peaceful and rapid spread of Christianity in the classical world was recognition of its maturity above the simpler and less coherent and less satisfying pagan beliefs.

I suggest, however, that Buddhism is ultimately negative, indistinguishable from despair on a metaphysical level. It satisfies four of the ends of religion but the fifth, the desire for transcendence, unity with God and infinite joy and peace, it addresses more imperfectly than the Christian idea.

Peace is promised in Nirvana, but the unity and transcendence of self is promised at the expense of the annihilation of selfhood, as a drop of water is quenched in the ocean. Bliss this might be, but not joy.

Independent of the truth or falsehood of the claim, we are here only examining the sophistication of the claim being made, and whether one incorporates the other. I submit that there is nothing in Nirvana which is not also in Heaven, that is, the peace that surpasseth understanding; but Nirvana requires the extinction of selfhood and self, and Heaven promises the apotheosis and glorification of the self. The Buddhist conception is that creation is a mistake that creates pain and suffering, and that by renunciation the mistake can be nullified, and all suffering for all beings ended. The Christian conception likewise promises the end of all suffering, and that all tears will be wiped away, but identifies the primordial catastrophe of the Fall of Man is the only mistake to be rectified. The Platonic hatred of the physical body which is so prominent in Buddhism and similar worldviews is muted or absent in Christianity: instead of a void of Nirvana, the faithful Christian is promised a new heaven and a new earth, cleaned of sin and stain.

Buddhism is serenity and painlessness. Christianity is serenity and joy and the embrace of love by the divine being who himself is love, and who cherishes rather than abolishes your unique and infinitely precious personality.

Again, I am not arguing whether one view or the other is true or false. I am saying that the devout Buddhist can say the promises of Christ are extravagant, or unrealistic, or misleading, or self-indulgent, but he cannot say that they are merely different from the promises of Buddha, and cannot say they are merely an undeveloped form.

Consider this: after eons of meditation and reincarnation, your soul achieves enlightenment, and need never again suffer reincarnation. You drift away from the dark shores of life in the material world into a vastness of peace. But suppose that while afloat in the featureless ocean of serenity of Nirvana you caught sight of a further shore, a shining and pure land whose rivers run with the waters of life, and whose trees heal all sorrows, a paradise where there is no suffering, but there is also joy ineffable, would you not land? There is no motive in the Buddhist philosophy which would urge the soul to stay in the sea of bliss and not to come to shore in paradise.

Then consider the opposite case: Buddha, hearing the lamentations of the saints for the folly of Earth, emerges from his lotus and travels to the New Jerusalem, where he finds the Virgin Mary and her son, the Lamb of God. The Enlightened One tells the two that by renunciation of all desires, the swords that pierce her heart will no longer trouble her, and the five wounds of His passion may be sponged away. According to Christian theology, the suffering of Christ was necessary for the salvation of the world. Enthroned in paradise with his saints and angels, neither Christ nor his virgin Mother has any need for the wisdom of the Buddha, since they do not suffer the problem of dukkha, suffering. And if the offer had been made in the eternity before creation, the blood and tears shed by Christ for our salvation would have produced a world condemned to wrath, and a Messiah of serene indifference.

To be sure, there are, in Buddhist lore, said to be spirits so enlightened and filled with such compassion that they vow to return to Earth from happier realms lower than their final rest in Nirvana, in order to teach and instruct mankind. This seems to the Christian eye to be a type or shadow of the Christ, an imperfect image of what He perfectly accomplished, not just to teach, but also to save.

But even to any man’s eye, the conception of unity with the divine in the negative sense of self-annihilation and the annihilation of the world is lesser than and included in the conception of unity with the divine through the annihilation of sin and the restoration of the world, the making of all creation anew.

The Buddha could enter New Jerusalem if indeed he is without sin, and he has no reason not to, since the pleasures there are not snares, not illusions; contrariwise, for the Messiah, while he could enter Nirvana, were He willing to remain in the motionless bliss of God before the act of creation, He will not, for He is too full of a superabundance of love to do so.

Buddha cannot enlighten Christ, but Christ can save Buddha.



  1. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    This was a VERY interesting essay, giving me much food for thought. I will need to reread it again. I especially noted with interest the contrast you made between Buddhism and Christianity.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  2. Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

    I agree with everything Sean Michael said in his first post, and then some! Superb essay!

    But I do have to say this though. Maybe ‘fulfilled’ rather than ‘developed’ would have been a better word choice. Buddhism if just pushed a little or allowed to grow/mature/develop more would not end up a Christianity, it’s vision of the afterlife would stil be found wanting. It could never ‘develop’ more (to the level of Christianity) without betraying some of it’s fundamental teachings. So maybe ‘fulfilled’ works better, like: Christianity is a more fulfilled religion than the eastern ones. Or maybe, it fulfills them (which according to it’s own teachings, it does). Or am I wrong here? Did I missread what you wrote, or assume something you did not say?

    In either case, you saved the best line for last:
    “Buddha cannot enlighten Christ, but Christ can save Buddha.”
    Profound and true, I will not forget that line.

  3. Comment by Fr. Josh Miller:

    “We live in the midst of a Dark Age, that is, an age when intellectual and literate things are despised by the intellectuals and the literati…”

    I stopped right there, and was able to polish off my homily for the week. Thanks for the assist, Mr. Wright!

  4. Comment by Mrmandias:

    Atheists seem not to have the first and fifth appetites or longings.

    Atheists don’t recycle?

    • Comment by kmai:

      :) I don’t know if this is what you meant by that comment, but I have sometimes said veganism (or sometimes rawfoodism or other food fads) is kosher for atheists. They have all the pointless rules and strictures of religious ritual, to the point that some won’t be content to just pick at their food or be served a meatless portion, but won’t eat on plates that had meat, or on pans where meat was cooked. And some rules border on arbitrary, like not eating honey (an activity which although involves animals, cannot be said to harm or affect animals, or harm the environment).

  5. Comment by deiseach:

    Regarding the person who has attachment to her former Hare Krishna devotion, I would say that it does have merit in that it teaches the benefit of bhakti/devotion, but that we can see the difference between Christianity and Hinduism by comparison of two source documents.

    First, from the 1883-1896 English translation of the “Mahabharata” by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, the great tale in which the “Bhagavad Gita” is embedded, here is a sample of the instructions of the duties of the four castes (Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisya and Sudra) where the righteous king, Yudhisthira, is seeking knowledge of how best he should reign for the maximum happiness of his subjects, and one of his questions regards should the lowest caste be instructed:

    “In this way, O best of monarchs, that regenerate Rishi fell into great distress. Unto Sudras, therefore, the Brahmanas should never give instructions. Hence, O king, the Brahmana should avoid imparting instructions (to such as are low-born), for it was by imparting instruction to a low-born person a Brahmana came to grief. O best of kings, the Brahmana should never desire to obtain instruction from, or impart instruction to, a person that belongs to the lowest order. Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas, the three orders, are regarded as twice-born. By imparting instruction unto these, a Brahmana does not incur any fault. They, therefore, that are good, should never discourse on any subject, for imparting any instruction, before persons of the inferior order.”

    Although all virtues and hopes for improvement in the next life, either in the heavens or in the wheel of re-incarnation, depend on religious duties, the Sudra caste is cut off from this and cannot even be taught how to perform sacrifices or given any knowledge of the Vedas, no matter how devout or worthy the individual Sudra is, without the person who gives them that knowledge incurring fault and being degraded in their next life for it.

    Now compare the Epistles of St. Paul:

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    How should Philemon receive his runaway slave, Onesimus, who robbed him before running away and being converted by Paul?

    “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; 16Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

    17If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. 18If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; 19I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. 20Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.”

    A Sudra, no matter how worthy, cannot even be permitted to hear the words of the Vedas. A runaway slave and thief can go to the altar with his master on terms of perfect equality, with no word of the Gospel to be hidden from his ears and no sacrifice that he cannot assist at and receive.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      That the Christian worldview also includes an impulse toward radical egalitarianism unknown otherwise to history, toward charity rather than cruelty for the poor, romance toward the female, and rational investigation of the cosmos both by physics and by theology (systematic disciplines not native to the East) would lend support to the view that Christianity is more philosophically mature and advanced.

      Again, the dynamism and restlessness of the character of Christendom as opposed to the slumbering resignation to slavery, caste-system, and the remarkable cruelties for which China and Japan are famous, the glorification of suicide, the polygamous oppression of women, even to the burning of widows, the mere fact that the West investigated and conquered the East and not visa versa, once we dismiss the dogmatic insistence of the multiculturalist that all such things happened either for no reason, or because of a lucky accident of geography, must be based on the worldview of the two worlds of West and East, not due to any innate difference in the men inhabiting those worlds.

      This would have to be a discussion for another day, however. I think these truths are superior to the Eastern religious conceptions not because of the development of men toward the ends of religion, but because these are supernatural, and the earthly mind cannot account for them.

      • Comment by Mrmandias:

        To give the benighted heathen their due, the impulse towards radical egalitarianism has been something of a poisoned chalice.

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

          If I read you correctly, no. There has been no impulse towards “radical egalitarianism”. Rather, the Left, in their attempt to turn back the clock to a time they can deal with, have pushed their agenda of re-enslaving humanity by a false flag operation. They believe themselves manor born, but freedom has made too much “New Money” people, and they burn with Envy over it. Thus the clarion call “At some point you have enough money”! Note these people never say “At some point you have enough power!”. A simple test. Has anyone pushing “radical egalitarianism” ever volunteered to be the guy cleaning out the sewers? Ha! It is to laugh!

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        If we were to invalidate all of Western philosophy as inferior because of the excesses and abuses of the dominant culture, we should not be able to put any stock in Christianity, either. Many times the religious or scriptural teachings of Eastern cultures are in no way followed within the normal culture which is as consumed with its various desires for power, control, and sense gratification, as the Western culture has been. Those who truly wish to follow God in any culture, in this age, are remarkably few. And questions of who has the more philosophically advanced or mature CULTURE amount to little more than comparisons of subjective preference, whether for individualism (as in Western culture) or the good of the group (as in Eastern culture).

        As regards the instructions in the Mahabarata, that took place in a previous age, where the rules of human life are different than in this present age (Kali-yuga). Those instructions are not (to my knowledge) proscribed for this age. Perhaps this could be called a “development” as many things fluxed and changed especially after Buddha and the spread of Buddhism. Hinduism explains major developments back to original teaching as often being the work of an incarnation of God, however–continuous with this idea that God incarnates whenever knowledge is lost or degenerates, to give it anew.

        So this is our big difference–can men by reason achieve development of philosophy and theology, or will whatever he changes based on his own ideas, whims, or limited understanding be only ever a decay because of the limited nature of our ability to perceive and to know? Of course we can develop things or reach continued understanding of them, but how will we know if those things are closer or farther to Truth?

        • Comment by Patrick:

          “So this is our big difference–can men by reason achieve development of philosophy and theology, or will whatever he changes based on his own ideas, whims, or limited understanding be only ever a decay because of the limited nature of our ability to perceive and to know?”

          Are you sure this is a well-formed question?

    • Comment by joetexx:

      @ deiseach

      And don’t forget the admonition of the Code of Manu:

      “for a woman to study the Vedas indicates confusion in the realm”

    • Comment by Mishtical:

      I asked one of my friends about this and he gave this reply:


      First of all, one can change their so-called caste by acquiring the proper qualifications. Birth is not the indicator of caste: character and quality of work are. If one chooses to remain in the çüdra status then they will remain unable to understand the Vedic knowledge and thus they will misinterpret a good instruction. To give good instruction to a person in the mode of ignorance always backfires. The qualification of a shudra is living by the mode of ignorance.

      “That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness, and strives always in the wrong direction, O Pärtha, is in the mode of ignorance.” Bhagavad-Gita 18.32

      The fact is that one cuts himself off from knowledge by staying in the mode of ignorance. Therefore, if one is determined to stick to the mode of ignorance, it is contaminating for a Brahmana to instruct them. However, the mission of the true Brahmana and the Vaisnava – one who has transcended the level of a Brahmana – is to elevate everyone to the highest platform. Furthermore, knowledge is not the only way to elevate the consciousness, can you say prasadam!

      “… In this verse the word dvi janmanam means “of the twice-born.” Anyone can join the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and be initiated to become twice-born. As recommended by Sanätana Goswami, by the process of initiation and authorized training, any man can become twice-born. The first birth is made possible by the parents, and the second birth is made possible by the spiritual father and Vedic knowledge. Unless one is twice-born one cannot understand the transcendental characteristics of the Lord and His devotees. Study of the Vedas is therefore forbidden for çüdras. Simply by academic qualifications a çüdra cannot understand the transcendental science. At the present moment, throughout the entire world the educational system is geared to produce shudras. A big technologist is no more than a big çüdra. Kalau shudra-sambhavaù: in the age of Kali, everyone is a çüdra. Because the whole population of the world consists only of shudras, there is a decline of spiritual knowledge, and people are unhappy. The Krishna consciousness movement has been started especially to create qualified brahmanas to broadcast spiritual knowledge all over the world, for thus people may become very happy.”
      Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.12.48 PURPORT

      Typically the criticisms of Vedic culture are based on false premises. This is one of the classic criticisms of the caste system (and thus Vedic culture) that is based on a totally false premise. Even the Hindus get this one wrong. The false premise is that your place in the caste system is depicted by which caste you take birth in. This is totally false and has been proven false up to 5,000 yrs ago by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-Gita 4.13 as quoted below.

      “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.”

      Notice how the verse never mentions janma or birth as the basis for the varna (caste) system (see your Gita for the word-for-word translation). This falsity is simply a trick by the so-called Brahmin class to maintain their social status without possessing the actual qualifications of a Brahman. This has played havoc on everyone’s faith in the Vedic culture. Actually, everyone is born a sudra in this age, kalau shudra-sambhavam. Thus birth is not the qualification of a Brahman. One has to develop the quality of a Brahman and then be initiated to actually be considered a Brahman. What are the qualifications of a Brahman?

      “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.” BG 18.42

      The same is with the “widow burning”. Previously it was voluntary; the widow was so attached in loving affection to the husband that she wished to follow him to the next life. Thus, she would voluntarily climb on the burning pyre. Later on this practice was forced on the widow and so was made illegal – it’s called the sati rite. It is not written in the Vedic literature as compulsory that every widow must burn with the dead body of the husband. Again, this is from the so-called Brahman class misinterpreting the Vedas or in other words, shudras reading the Vedas.

  6. Ping from Saving the Buddha | Junior Ganymede:

    […] excellent essay categorizes the types of needs that religion fills and then ranks the faiths of the world by how […]

  7. Comment by Sean Michael:

    I think we need to be a bit more careful about defining “radical egalitarianism.” Human beings are equal in their NATURE, not their abilities, talents, individual merits, etc. Christianity rejects the kind of grotesque, leveling “false equality” we see so fanatically advocated by many liberals. In Christianity, the king is still a king, but he is neither a god nor superior in his human nature to the peasant. Man and woman share the same human nature but they are not interchangeably the same as each other. They are DIFFERENT from each other.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Radical” here is being used in its original meaning of fundamental or foundational — all men being created equal, not equal in the various gifts and talents bestowed on them.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Wright:

        Your explanation of what you meant by “radical” makes sense. And one I agree with. The problem is, however, that many many liberals would not agree. They find it outrageous that human being differ so widely and unequally in the “various gifts and talents bestowed on them.” Hence we see grotesqueries like trying to force little boys to play with Barbie dolls when they would rather play with toy soldiers.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  8. Comment by Mishtical:

    Very nicely put arguments. All of your points seem good, especially that of the similarity between man whether east or west. However, I have a couple of questions.

    Where does the assumption come from that religions and philosophies may improve themselves and mature, rather than decay? If we accept the necessity of revelation, it is because we are NOT capable of discovering truth and going to God by ourselves. We are not capable of transcendence on our own.

    This is the reason why God incarnates, and this is the case not only in Christianity but also in Hinduism… it is accepted that the knowledge and teachings God comes (in person) to hand down to people is perfect as it is, because God is perfect. Therefore, His knowledge is perfect. Anything further ‘speculated’ or decided upon by the souls conditioned by material energy, sin, karma, and illusion, is going to be a decay. There is no improvement upon God.

    This is the Vedic (Hindu) view. I would tend to assume that Christianity teaches the same thing, because of also preaching direct revelation in the person/incarnation of God Himself. However, it seems that the Catholic church at least allows some measure of speculation and ‘development’ because (I think?) of the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit, which shall not allow God’s people to speculate in error.

    However, to a great extent, Catholicism is, like Hinduism, very “top down”. Which brings me to the point of your discussion of Vedic religion comparing it to Greek polytheism, with the cycles of time and reincarnation, and the days and nights of Brahma. What you presented about Hinduism is accurate of the Vedic teachings about the nature of MATERIAL reality.

    However, Buddhism’s brilliant idea to get off of the cycle is not new to Buddhism but is contained essentially in Hinduism. The entire thrust of the Vedas (and of most of the disciplic lines within Hinduism), is that of realization of and surrender to the Supreme Lord/God/Creator (Vishnu/Krishna). While the material nature is explained in its entirety in great detail, all the details of the demigods, planets, worlds, karma, reincarnation, etc…. it is recognized that there is a reality BEYOND all of this, a transcendent reality, and that reality is the Supreme Person, who made all of it, and His transcendental abode where souls, when at last liberated from the endless cycle of creation, destruction, enjoyment, and suffering, go home to live in bliss with Him. God Himself, named Vishnu, or Krishna, or many other hundreds of Sanskrit names, expands Himself to create the material universe, and to incarnate within it (which He has done 12 or so times according the Vedas. The Srimad Bhagavatam is a commentary on the Vedanta sutra specifically dealing with describing the pastimes of the Supreme Lord within this universe).

    Brahma is the creator and overseer of the elements within one material universe (there are thousands), but he himself is a created being, appointed by Vishnu. He is NOT eternal or immortal. He just lives a very very very long time… 311.04 trillion years, which equal 36,000 each of his days and nights. Each day of Brahma (and night of Brahma where he closes his eyes and everything in that particular universe unmanifests), lasts 4.32 billion years. When Brahma eventually dies, that universe is extinguished. But more material universes are always becoming manifest. This does not, however, affect the transcendental realms and the abode of the Lord. The material universe that we are in (and all the other universes) make up only about a quarter of what exists.

    So Vedic religion is basically, under all of its copious descriptions of material reality, all trying to point the soul towards the realization of transcendental reality.

    However, the nature of Hinduism and the Vedas is that they are reaching out far trying to give some regulation and helpful rule-following for whatever one’s goals are within the material world. It is recognized as a goal that many have to stay in the cycle, and so the cycle and its parts are painstakingly described, that people may, in whatever walk they find themselves, not degenerate themselves TOO badly. So much of what we see of Hinduism is formulated or developed or decayed from these original principles. (For example, sacrifice of goats to Kali. The Vedic proscriptions for eating meat require this sacrifice and instruct that it is to be performed only on the new moon. However, in its modern iteration, goats are sacrificed all the time, not just on the new moon. So more meat-eating occurs than is actually proscribed.)

    With this point in mind, we can consider again this idea of transcendence of all of this material nature. This is very clearly stated in the Bhagavad Gita:

    Krishna states: “For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.

    But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pritha — for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
    Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.”

    So the attempts of Buddhism to detach and to realize an impersonal transcendence are but small pieces of an entire philosophy. Buddhism is basically a heresy–not only does it overemphasize a specifically UNemphasized feature of the Supreme in Hinduism, it denies the other features, especially the loving, personal feature, and the mercifulness of God, as well as denying the authority of the Vedic scriptures. So essentially, it’s a heresy.

    The Bhagavad Gita, while a thorough explanation of “the way things work”, it is clearly pointed out by Krishna that surrender to Him through devotional service and love is the most efficacious way of dealing with, and getting out of, the whole mess of material nature.

    “My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.
    My dear Arjuna, he who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation, he who works for Me, who makes Me the supreme goal of his life, and who is friendly to every living being — he certainly comes to Me.”

    You come to Buddhism as the finality of development in Eastern religion (fulfilling the five points), but this seems to me to be an error. Because Buddhism does lack, as you say, in its negativity and its essential atheism. It contains an idea of transcendence, but this idea lacks the Person of God–the eternal relationship of the soul and its Creator. This idea, however, is contained and expressed in the Vaishnava Hindu traditions (which make up about 80% of all Hindus). I put forward that Buddhism was only a decay.

    So let’s bring the question around again. You made a great discussion on this point, but some of your information was lacking… can we still say that Christianity is more mature and advanced than Eastern religions? Or, how would you address these new points in face of the fact that the real whole thrust of the Vedas is to realize God, surrender to Him, and be freed from that meaningless (and stated to be so in the Vedas) unending wheel of life of material suffering…

    • Comment by Mary:

      Where does the assumption come from that religions and philosophies may improve themselves and mature, rather than decay?

      May? Of course they may. The question of how far they can improve is another matter, but refraining from human sacrifice is definitely an improvement.

      If not, they could not possibly decay, because they would have hit rock-bottom a long time ago.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Hi, Mary!

        I would think the human sacrifices and cannibalism of the Aztecs as close to hitting rock bottom as it was possible before our own depraved times. “Legalized” abortion being simply the single worse outrage.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

          Yes, I think the barbarity of the modern era has surpassed the barbarism of all previous eras.
          Mass Genocides

          Yeah I think those are enough examples.

          • Comment by Sean Michael:

            Reverent greetings, Lord Manwe! (Smiles)

            Considering how corrupt and depraved our times are, I would be seriously tempted to leave EARTH if it was possible to emigrate to new colonies or societies on the Moon, O’Neill colonies, Mars, or the asteroid belt. It would have been my hope that these new societies would be the beginnings of new, more soundly based, HOPEFUL nations.

            Alas, we have nothing REAL off Earth. I think it’s a sign of our decadence that our times are so unwilling to think and do bold and great things of the sort I listed in my previous paragraph. Which reminded me of Poul Anderson’s THE FLYING MOUNTAINS.

            Let me correct myself a bit. I see reports of new and hopeful work vis a vis space being done at the CENTAURI DREAMS website.

            Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Agreed. Not to defend the Aztecs, but their human sacrifices were performed in order to placate the gods and keep the sun alight, bring the rains in due seasons, and generally preserve the city from destruction — and no mother held the knife over her own son, and not for nothing more than her own selfish convenience.

          As best I can tell, in the grand scale of things, the Aztecs are above the Americans.

        • Comment by Mary:

          Ah, but do you claim that any culture having hit that level could only continue downhill?

          This appears to be contradicted in Europe, where the pagan Romans suppressed the child sacrifices of Carthage and the human sacrifices of the Druids.

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        Perhaps it is not necessarily linear–various understandings and developments can be closer or farther from the truth, some coming very close, some falling very far away, if all of them falling short by necessity because of the plain fact of our limited nature. Rather than the idea that philosophies that are more advanced developed out of those that are less advanced… it seems to me that they have nothing at all really to do with one another.

        Perhaps that is the issue we’re getting at–I do not see how there can be any sort of linear progression in these things. Obviously there are different degrees of truth, but as to how these degrees of truth appear or are maintained or increased, it does not seem to happen in terms of a linear evolution from less to more.

        • Comment by Patrick:

          “Rather than the idea that philosophies that are more advanced developed out of those that are less advanced… it seems to me that they have nothing at all really to do with one another.”

          Do you realize that this packet of assumption and metaphor you’re advocating has a name, an origin, a relationship with history…? And that right now, you are developing a version of it (not, to be sure, a full recital, which you and I leave for professional philosophers to attempt) and, in so far as your version has merit, advancing that version towards universality among peers and strangers?

          The linearity seems implicit to me. How am I misreading you?

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      Where does the assumption come from that religions and philosophies may improve themselves and mature, rather than decay? If we accept the necessity of revelation, it is because we are NOT capable of discovering truth and going to God by ourselves. We are not capable of transcendence on our own.

      This is the reason why God incarnates, and this is the case not only in Christianity but also in Hinduism… it is accepted that the knowledge and teachings God comes (in person) to hand down to people is perfect as it is, because God is perfect. Therefore, His knowledge is perfect. Anything further ‘speculated’ or decided upon by the souls conditioned by material energy, sin, karma, and illusion, is going to be a decay. There is no improvement upon God.

      There are a few things that you are missing about that majority of Christianity that follows creeds. First, it isn’t based solely on the revelations of God found in the Christian scriptures but instead also includes large portions of Greek Philosophy. Second, it is believed in this creedal Christianity that all public revelation from God has stopped and that there will no longer be any new revelation from God that is for everyone. It is from these two points that the assumption that philosophies and religions may mature rather than decay and that revelation is not needed for this to occur comes from. The majority of Christianity that follows this view finds these things to be improvements over the prophetic revelatory model, a maturation towards instead of a falling away from truth.

      I am of a heretical sect that rejects the creeds and recognizes the need for revelation. Hopefully I have accurately explained the situation without too much bias.

      • Comment by Mary:

        I’d hate to see what you’d call a biased explanation.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          For reference then where am I wrong?

          • Comment by Patrick:

            Here’s the Nicene Creed.


            Where’s the Greek Philosophy?

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Where is the revelation, as what Peter had at the council of Jerusalem, in the debate that occurred? Where does Consubstantial come from? The idea of the Holy Ghost proceeding from God?

              • Comment by Patrick:

                The idea that the Spirit comes from the father to specifically rebut this line of thinking, proceeds, as it were, from Scripture:


                “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

                HE WILL TEACH YOU EVERYTHING and WILL REMIND YOU OF EVERYTHING I HAVE TOLD YOU, says Jesus. The ancient church observed this event, and we remind ourselves of it each year at Pentecost. And also of the fact that Jesus Christ says that “everything” worth knowing has been taught, and the substance of “everything” our Savior said can be recalled, through the intercession of this Advocate. If Jesus is who he says he is, this Advocate is the most important thing He left us with.

                Jesus thought pretty highly of this Advovate fellow – certainly, he views his role on Earth and this Spirit’s as con-substantial, as if, in God, they were of the same Will.

                “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”


                Of the same Will – like employees doing the same job, maybe? Well, no actually:


                “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”

                Jesus thought this was such a big deal that he made a Scripture about it, or somesuch:


                “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

                And when they got this promised gift that the resurrected Jesus Christ – who they now hung out with on a regular basis, it would seem – it certainly struck these soon-to-be apostles of Jesus as everything he said it would be: comprehensive, pacific, and holy as God is. When they were finally sent forth, they recalled the experience and that Advocate’s presence as the summit of their discipleship under Jesus.

                And look! Here’s the same Church, consoling itself that it knows everything it needs to know in order to do the work of God:

                “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in Him.”

                What did I miss?

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  Comma Johanneum for one. Proceeding seems different than being sent but that might just be a technicality (or perhaps not I am under the impression that emanates is what is being talked about). I am not sure where you are covering revelation in the council at all either. You seem to have read a whole lot more into what I was saying then what I wrote.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              The ‘consubstantiality’ is a technical term of Greek philosophy. The idea that the Son is Him through which the world was made is from Greek speculation about the relation of the demiurge to the divine being. Trinitarianism itself is an outgrowth of Greek philosophy, albeit there are reflects and hints of it in scripture.

          • Comment by Mary:

            The truth was revealed once and for all.

            That’s in the Bible. It therefore does not need to be revealed again.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Obviously my previous responses (I believe this is the third time or so) to that assertion as to what that scripture is saying were not convincing to you, and vice versa.

              Therefore ignoring what I believe that scripture is actually saying (and so forth as detailed in the previous response) it is very interesting that Jude says that the truth was once delivered to them and that you claim this means that nothing more was ever going to be needed. I suppose then we should throw out (at minimum) the book of Jude itself (since the truth was previously delivered so why do we need the book of Jude?) as well as the Gospel of Saint John, The Revelation of Saint John, and all the Epistles of John. Also, I think that rules out completely all of the Church Councils (obviously other than Jerusalem). It might also mean that Luke, Acts, and 2 Peter are false, better dating of everything would be helpful.

              Perhaps you might want to reconsider that interpretation as it seems to lead to a contradiction of whether or not it is authoritative. Or perhaps we should likewise apply that same interpretation to the claims of 1 Peter and throw out the entire New Testament as they had already testified of the sufferings of Christ and the salvation and grace that Jesus would bring.

              • Comment by Patrick:

                “is very interesting that Jude says that the truth was once delivered to them and that you claim this means that nothing more was ever going to be needed. I suppose then we should throw out (at minimum) the book of Jude itself (since the truth was previously delivered so why do we need the book of Jude?)”

                Who buys a dictionary to replace their library?

                This guy would.

                Silly joke aside, Jude, John, the Epistles, etc. illuminate things that happened in the life of Jesus – they exist to prove to you why He was important, and justify their existence by demonstrating His excellence as a subject. Of course they’re cherished; they teach us who He is, who his Spirit is, and how to live according to His will. If Christians threw out the Scriptures or exchanged them for other scriptures in pursuit of the truth they contain, we wouldn’t be Christians – we’d be something else.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  I neither throw out those scriptures nor replace them. However, just as the truth had been previously delivered, even as Peter says the prophets of old had been given the truth, yet more scripture was given and more revelation was had so too is there more scripture to be had and even to today is more revelation given.

                  • Comment by Patrick:

                    I don’t know that you can say that “more was given” – the prophets of the old Testament looked forward to the promises of God to be fulfilled in the Son of Man, and Christians look back on those promises as the thing completed in the life and resurrection of Jesus. Like a five course meal or a classical sonata, you aren’t being deprived of lamb if you’ve just been given a salad; the prophets and the apostles heard the music God made for His people at the time, preparing them for an end which has come already.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      The Revelation of John does not count as more?

                    • Comment by Patrick:

                      I wouldn’t think so, no.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      I am completely confused as to how you can possibly claim that the Revelation of John does not include any new or important information (in other-words more).

                      Since some appear willing to spout nonsense rather than admit to anything, here is some:

                      I can find absolutely no evidence that God has changed His pattern in the scriptures (See Amos 3:7 for instance). Therefore, the being of Pure Act must have ceased to Act and is therefore dead as He cannot lie and cannot do anything except He tells His prophets. Of course, being Pure Act He is also unchangeable so even if He had changed His pattern of calling prophets to something else this would mean that He was not a being of Pure Act and therefore still doesn’t meet that definition of being God. You have thus successfully made me believe through philosophy and logic that either the being that meets the Thomasian view of God must be dead or some sort of demiurge and not God.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      God does not change. We do. Therefore we can be treated differently at different times.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Unfortunately, the change of people has been accounted for: Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Joel 2:28-32.

                      It says nothing about the lack of revelation but that everyone will do so.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Is there a particular reason why you have altered what change we are talking about?

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      You altered the change with the statement that “God does not change, We do”, I was just pointing out that any change in us has already been accounted for.

                • Comment by Mary:

                  it is very interesting that Jude says that the truth was once delivered to them and that you claim this means that nothing more was ever going to be needed.

                  It is somewhat less interesting to see you carefully omit the words “and for all” from the phrase. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it was sophistry — which is, come to think of it, Greek philosophy.

                  I suppose then we should throw out (at minimum) the book of Jude itself (since the truth was previously delivered so why do we need the book of Jude?) as well as the Gospel of Saint John, The Revelation of Saint John, and all the Epistles of John.


                  It was delivered once and for all to the apostles, who wrote it down and entrusted it, orally, to men who could teach it after them.

                  • Comment by John Hutchins:

                    I am sure that the Apostles resolved the Aryan debate orally.

                    Why? because the Truth was delivered to them once and for all, therefore they already had the truth and therefore by your own reasoning there was no need for the Revelation of John, for an example of a revelation that occurred after Jude, or even the epistle of Jude.

                    How is it Sophistry? I am merely using your own interpretation of the scripture to show that it is flawed beyond reason if taken as literally as you seem to wish it to be.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Because you are sophisticly claiming that the revelation of the truth means it is impossible to write down.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      I am claiming that if your interpretation of the scripture (that there can be no more revelation as the truth was delivered to us “once and for all”) means that we must at minimum reject the Revelation of John as the revelation itself was not had until John’s exile to Patmos which was later then the epistle of Jude. Also, since the truth was already delivered “once and for all” then no further truth must be necessary, so there is no need of anything that was written after that statement. Writing down truth that had been received means that it hadn’t been received by those that Jude was writing to and would thus be, in some sense, new to them.

                      You are free to amend your interpretation of that scripture to be something that doesn’t lead to a contradiction but that does not, of necessity, force you to accept my position but does allow the possibility, however small, that God could deliver new revelation assuming (as with all revelation) it agrees with the old.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Also, since the truth was already delivered “once and for all” then no further truth must be necessary, so there is no need of anything that was written after that statement.

                      I’ve already explained to you the obvious contradiction in what you are asserting, but you haven’t even addressed it.

                      Writing down truth that had been received means that it hadn’t been received by those that Jude was writing to and would thus be, in some sense, new to them.

                      So what? The truth, having been revealed, must be spread.

                      You are free to amend your interpretation of that scripture to be something that doesn’t lead to a contradiction but that does not, of necessity, force you to accept my position but does allow the possibility, however small, that God could deliver new revelation assuming (as with all revelation) it agrees with the old.

                      I am also free to stick to the Bible and what it says instead of your repeated, unsupported statements that it is somehow a contradiction, without addressing the flaw in your argument that has been pointed out to you.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Are you talking about writing down the truth? I thought I pointed it out that Jude is talking in the past tense, they had once and for all received the truth (I would like to note that it doesn’t actually say that in KJV or, as far as my limited understanding of Latin allows me to understand, in the Vulgate). You claim that this means that no more truth could be had. Therefore those that were to receive the epistle already had all the truth that was possible and anything afterwards must be false. If those that were to receive the epistle already had everything in Jude given to them then why was Jude writing an epistle to them?

                      Regardless, The Revelation of John was clearly received after the Epistle of Jude and is a revelation, meaning new truths were revealed. It wasn’t something that was already had orally that needed to be written down but was an actual revelation given after the statement that you claim to mean no revelation was possible. Therefore by, your assertions, it must be false.

              • Comment by Mary:

                Obviously my previous responses (I believe this is the third time or so) to that assertion as to what that scripture is saying were not convincing to you,

                BTW, in those previous responses, you asserted that God could not preserve the Church in the face of human sin, which is why His promises to remain with us always is null and void. In counter:

                But what is God’s response to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.”

                Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a scanty remnant, We had become as Sodom, we should be like Gomorrah.

                So God is capable of preserving His people.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  I get the feeling from you, Mary, that if I asserted that the sky was blue you would find someway to try and turn that against me.

                  What was the state of Judaism when John the Baptist was called? See Amos 8:11-12 for reference.

                  • Comment by Mary:

                    I think that you find it astounding that water wets you and fire burns. What could be less astounding that you post conversersies and find yourself converted?

                    And that passage in Amos doesn’t say that all Israel had fallen away. We know that both because it does not explicitly say so, and because in the very next chapter we read,

                    See, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on this sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth– But I will not destroy the house of Jacob completely–oracle of the LORD. For see, I have given the command to sift the house of Israel among all the nations, As one sifts with a sieve, letting no pebble fall to the ground. All sinners among my people shall die by the sword, those who say, “Disaster will not reach or overtake us.”

                    And this applies also to the Church, because it does not skip any generation:

                    Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Last I checked the house of Jacob has never disappeared. In fact one of the claims that is foundational to my church is that the house of Israel was sifted and that as Oracles they bore record of that sifting and God’s dealings with them. That does not mean however that as a religion, regardless of whatever other groups or individuals were doing, they had lost authority and turned away from God. Sure there were individuals in the land of Israel that were still righteous but as a religion they were not doing what was right. The loss of authority in the church does not mean that every individual has stopped believing and doing what is correct.

                      I own the Bible in three languages (four translations) and none of them match that translation (not even my Catholic Bible that is in Portuguese). I did check the Vulgate which is usually readable from Portuguese and the Vulgate does match that translation, why neither of the Portuguese translators used generations, I have no idea. I don’t read Greek so I can’t say what the original actually has there, but that is, perhaps, besides the point. For point of reference, KJV is what I use in English and I have no clue what your preferred version is.

                      The saints at Ephesus were in the church and the organization of the church is eternal in nature, just because the earthly organization of the church was removed does not mean that there were not good people on the earth and it also does not mean that those that were in the church did not remain, in death, in the church. The authority by mortal men to act in God’s name was lost but there are those that are translated that retained that authority (John, Moses, Elijah, some others). Furthermore all generations of time will have the gospel and the church offered to them and those that would have accepted the gospel, or did accept and lived according to the best of their ability without the authorized ordinances, will have it with no loss of anything (and this must happen as Malachi says or the earth will be smitten with a curse). It is therefore completely acceptable to pray that glory may be had in the church by Christ Jesus through all generations for all eternity (for ever and ever, worlds without end, world of worlds, age of ages (to infinity and beyond!)).

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      That’s an awful long passage to avoid the point that you do indeed think that the Church was not for all generations, whatever the Bible said. (The things you conceded did last, you also claim are not the Church.)

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      I thought I was very clear that the church is for all generations and all people, even if they do not receive it while alive on earth and even if the earthly organization of the church is not present while they are alive.

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        In that passage you quoted, I was describing how it is viewed in Hinduism. I assumed that Christianity (at least orthodox Christianity) had a similar stance, which your comment seems to indicate that it does (no more public revelation). However, I don’t really see how that stance leads to the conclusion that philosophies and religions may mature? I understand how yours does (with the continuing need for revelation) but not for one that claims that we have received revelation already and there will not be more.

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          The idea seems to be that one takes the revealed word of God as well as Reason and combines the two in order to obtain a better understanding of the divine. Therefore religion can progress by better adhering to right reason, regardless of any revelation. That is what theology is, reasoning on the divine or the philosophy of religion.

          The way Orthodox Christianity works is that if some question arises theologians debate the subject and when it becomes an important enough issue it gets decided by a council where bishops vote on the subject with the majority winning. The justification for this is that the promise of the Holy Ghost is taken to be to the church as a whole and not to individuals, therefore it is assumed that the majority will choose based on right reason the thing that is actually true. It is in this way that many of the Protestant sects have allowed for the ordaining of homosexuals to the priesthood, as a current example.

          Obviously, try as I might to get everything right, I am not going to so I am sure people will correct me.

          • Comment by Mary:

            The justification for this is that the promise of the Holy Ghost is taken to be to the church as a whole and not to individuals,

            Given that the Bible explicitly declares that Scripture is not subject to personal interpretation, it would seem that the opposite view is the one that needs justification.

            • Comment by Mishtical:

              If we’re taking the Bible as our starting point, maybe. However, I am not taking the Bible as my starting point, neither do I wish to trade snide insults or deprecations about where we are starting from (or “should” be starting from). I would like to have a discussion based on reason and the observable, things that we as human beings can all encounter; observable facts, history, and experiences about the Bible and also about other religions. It is fine (even necessary) to believe that one revelation or philosophy contains more truth than others. That is no excuse to refuse to engage humbly and reasonably in discussion, without insisting that discussions do not need to be had. That is unrealistic. Not everyone is convinced yet, and no one WILL be convinced by closed-ended statements that are not backed up. And, on the internet, all we can really back ourselves up with is reason and observable facts, or our own experiences–since our actions and our lives are not, in this medium, generally up for scrutiny as to the fruit they bear.

              People are different. Our cultures are different, our words are different. In the pursuit of truly loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, we would be remiss in failing to carefully, reasonably, and prayerfully engage with our brothers and sisters who have no experience of taking the Bible (or the Magisterium) as a “first principle”, and know of no reason to.

              Truth will be the only thing that stands in the end, and I have total faith in that, even if it is a long and winding road to that end.

              • Comment by Patrick:

                “However, I am not taking the Bible as my starting point, neither do I wish to trade snide insults or deprecations about where we are starting from (or “should” be starting from).”

                This would seem to be the wrong way to join a conversation about Christian theology – which, by definition, treats the Incarnation as a real event and its deposit of doctrine, philosophy and miracles as “reason and observable facts, [and] our own experiences”.

                Every Christian is converted from somewhere, Mishtical. You don’t get to trusting the Magesterium until you’ve sinned your way from consequence to shame on your own reasoning power – an experience that every Christian, regardless of culture or communication style, understands. It can’t really be a “snide insult” to proceed from Christian theology to Christian philosophy and expect your audience to accept the key change without hand-holding them, can it?

                • Comment by Mishtical:

                  It can be, depending on who you are talking to and how you approach it. Closed-ended statements tend to end the conversation. Rarely do I get to come to any actual dissenting point in an argument with Christians, because many of them tend not to talk reasonably, but just assert things. I understand the value of asserting things and leaving it at that in most situations (because I do it too, obviously; it’s a very constructive way to approach a fallen world and one’s own concupiscence), but not in the context of a discussion that is trying to rationally show which religion of two or three is the best way to surrender to God and approach truth. Which, I assumed, from the article above, this discussion was.

              • Comment by Mary:

                If we’re taking the Bible as our starting point, maybe.

                How in blue blazes do you have a discussion on Christianity without granting the Bible as a starting point?

              • Comment by Mary:

                However, I am not taking the Bible as my starting point, neither do I wish to trade snide insults or deprecations about where we are starting from (or “should” be starting from)

                Is there a particular reason why you said this in response to a post that wasn’t replying to you, but to someone else who was arguing from the Bible as a starting point?

          • Comment by Mishtical:

            This is one of those issues that I don’t really understand. The Catholic Church teaches that the Magisterium will be preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. Individuals have no such insurance (and that can be observed). What is less clear is what our observations tell us about how the Magisterium has supposedly been preserved. We do still have a thriving Church with a solid philosophy and many saints under its belt. This is a good thing. Does it, however, necessarily mean that it is not in error about ANYTHING, though, or just not about most things, or about the important things?

            As for the idea that religion can progress by adhering to right reason, I’m not convinced of that either. One of the things that Christianity teaches is that our reason is not uncontaminated–nothing of us is unconditioned by sin, until God Himself free and transform us. Beyond that belief, it is observable that our senses and our knowledge are inherently limited–without a source of perfect knowledge, a source that is NOT limited by the inevitable illusion of the senses (for example, we may perceive that the sun is gone when it is covered by clouds, and be affected by the lack of sunshine in our mood and health… even though the sun shines as brightly above the clouds, our experience and our state is of necessity limited), how close can we really hope to get, or progress, towards REAL knowledge? Towards Truth? We can get somewhere, yes. The world is an ordered and observable place. But there are a thousand intimations within it (and within ourselves) that this world is not where reality ends, or where knowledge ends. How then can we gain knowledge of that which is transcendent to this world? Can we assume that those intimations we have in our souls are the same as complete knowledge? It doesn’t seem so, based on the progression (or lack of it), schisms, confusions, and disagreements that are rampant about such things.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              I pretty much completely agree with you on this point. As I noted I am not Catholic or any sort of semi-orthodox that is schismatic to the Catholic Church. I would answer some questions in other parts of this discussion but, being a heretic, I don’t think it is necessarily appropriate for me to do so.

              • Comment by Mary:

                I pretty much completely agree with you on this point.

                Then you do so in defiance of the Bible, which explicitly teaches that people are capable of deducing the existence of God from His creation on their own.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  All things denote there is a God, but where does it claim that any knowledge other than existence can be deduced? Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Romans 10:14, or Acts 8:31 as some examples.

                  • Comment by Mary:

                    All things denote there is a God, but where does it claim that any knowledge other than existence can be deduced?

                    More sophistry aka Greek philosophy! What would it matter, if true? It is a counterexample to the claim about the impossibility of REAL KNOWLEDGE that you agreed with.

                    And it’s false because Paul observes that the law is also written on men’s hearts.

                  • Comment by Mary:

                    Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Romans 10:14, or Acts 8:31 as some examples.


                    Romans 10:14 is not an example. As the rest of Romans makes clear, they can’t believe without hearing because they have neglected their duty to discern the Creator from His creation.

                    And Acts 8:31 is certainly not an example. The claim that right reason can discern God, and that it can deduce things from Scripture, does not require it to be able to deduce everything. Indeed, I’m surprised you cite it, since you certainly base your claims on your ability to understand Scripture without explanation.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      You certianly seem to have a firm grasp on what you think I believe or don’t believe and what I base my belief on. It seems I should also start consulting you on what I mean when I write something.

                      Those examples stand as examples for what my intention in agreeing with the post was along with the other example I gave. If you thought I intended something different then you are arguing with a sock puppet.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      I have a very firm grasp on what you base your belief on because you have consistently and repeatedly told us. And it has contradicted the passage you cited form Acts.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Please look up the reference in 1 Corinthians that I posted, pay particular attention to v. 13-14. You might also want to go over things I have previously wrote in other comment threads. I don’t think you have grasped the basis for my belief very well at all. I am sure that is my fault for not explaining well enough, for which I am sorry.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “Where does the assumption come from that religions and philosophies may improve themselves and mature, rather than decay?”

        Compare the practices of the Phoenicians with the Romans. Compare the faiths which have no theology, such as voodoo or shamanism, with those that do. I would hardly call it an assumption to observe that the latter have something the former lack.

        • Comment by Mishtical:

          It is not an assumption to say that the latter have something the former lack, but it IS an assumption to say that the latter “progressed” or “developed” from the former.

          • Comment by Patrick:

            John QED’d what he meant by ‘progress’ in the article above. Did you miss it?

            • Comment by Mishtical:

              It seemed as though he was speaking somewhat abstractly. What I meant by my question was that if a change happens linearly within a particular philosophy or mode of thought, can that change, if it is something decided upon by someone and then followed by others, be a development and not a decay? I’m sure it can if we are starting from the premise that we are finding these things only by human exploration and reason, but if we start from the premise that there is revealed truth, that has been revealed by God, who is all-knowledgeable and perfect, and cannot be improved or developed upon, because His truth IS the end towards which all this converges–anything changed from that revelation MUST be a decay.

              Anyway, I think this whole train of discussion has gotten wildly off topic, so I am not going to continue these particular threads.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                “if a change happens linearly within a particular philosophy or mode of thought, can that change, if it is something decided upon by someone and then followed by others, be a development and not a decay?”

                The argument in the original post was that decadence is when the change is alien to the end (the goal, the purpose, the essence) of the object, development is when the change is harmonious with the end, and either accomplishes some additional end, or achieves the end more completely or efficiently. Hence, the growth of a muscle through exercise is a development, because a strong arm can do everything a weak arm can do, only better; whereas gangrene is a decadence, because the rotting of the muscle prevents the arm from doing what arms do and were meant to do.

                “I’m sure it can if we are starting from the premise that we are finding these things only by human exploration and reason, but if we start from the premise that there is revealed truth, that has been revealed by God, who is all-knowledgeable and perfect, and cannot be improved or developed upon, because His truth IS the end towards which all this converges–anything changed from that revelation MUST be a decay.”

                The article addressed this point, and was careful to limit its conclusions to observing the effects of development and not identifying the causes. Case in point: Christians believe God revealed himself to mankind through a series of covenants, first to the Jews, and then, after Christ, to the gentiles. And Christians also believe that public revelation is closed, that no further prophets or messiahs can arise. Non-Christians observing the difference between early and later Judaism and Christianity should nevertheless be able to trace a development of doctrine, even if the Non-Christians toy with the theory that the revelations were merely human inventions. No matter which theory of the cause of the development is true, the fact of the development is plain enough to discuss without discussing the cause.

                Because, as was said and repeated, the question was whether the statement ‘Christianity is more philosophically mature than any Eastern religion’ is true or false. The contrast between East and West is either to be judged from a point of view neutral and nonpartisan between the two, or is to be made as a partisan judgment. This means that the idea of ‘development’ has to be addressed, if it all, as a nonpartisan or agnostic concept — because I am arguing that Christianity is more mature than Buddhism even if Buddhism is true and Christianity is false.

                I would suggest that if we all agree that one religion is the complete and perfect revelation from an unchanging God, then we can agree on the truth of that religion and the question of its maturity or stage of development compared to other religions falls by the wayside.

    • Comment by Sean Michael:

      I thought “Mishtical” made some very interesting and useful points. So much so that I hesitated a bit about the reservations and doubts I’ll offer here.

      It still seems to me that the Hindu philosophers were trying to reshape or infuse higher or better meanings into what was ORIGINALLY polytheist pantheons as crude and childish as the Olympian deities of the Greeks. Also, what makes Christianity so unique from Hinduism is that we Catholics and Orthdoox (and most “mainstream” Protestants)believe that God LITERALLY became incarnate as man. I simply don’t see the Hindu idea of God, Vishnu, doing that. And I don’t see anything to indicate that “high” Hindus believe Vishnu so loved mankind that he allowed himself to be killed in excruciating agony and then rose from the dead for the salvation of mankind. Yet another difference orthodox Christianity has from Hinduism is that we don’t believe in reincarnation or the pre existence in any sense of human souls.

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        Hi Sean!

        Okay, your first point, I sort of addressed below regarding the Vedic scriptures and what they teach. They are not in the least crude or polytheistic–their entire intention and focus is the soul’s journey to surrender to the Supreme Lord. One can look at the complex explanations of material nature, the soul, karma, the demigods, etc, that are in the scriptures, can look at all the colors and smells and rituals, and make assumptions about it, but again remember that we are dealing with a culture that is very different from our own, and we cannot assume that our Western perversions of it, or interpretations of it, are going to be accurate. When the British conquered India, I heard, this was responsible for a lot of the deprecating commentary, such as comparing the Vedic “pantheon” to the Greek one. There are many similarities. It must also be remembered that many postulate that much as many languages and mathematical concepts came out of India, so perhaps too did remnants of their religion, adopted in a more crude form by the Greeks and Romans. One finds strange but exciting similarities between Vedic and Celtic culture–even in the language. One of the names for God in Sanskrit is “Govinda”, and there is a Celtic god named in Gaelic, gouh-vinda (not sure if I’m spelling that quite right). There are many other similarities–such as the importance of cows, and practices of fire and water sacrifice. There are also a lot of similarities between Vedic culture and Jewish culture–my favorite being (if you will forgive me pulling my knowledge from Fiddler on the Roof) that men and women do not dance together. That’s a tangent (but a fun one)… anyway, my point is that what was originally taught in the Vedic scriptures was not in the least crude, with higher points only added upon later… colonialists do a lot of damage… we could revisit this point in terms of how colonialism has destroyed pagan cultures around the world and disseminated Christianity, and what that means, plus the missionary focus and the fact that a third of the world is Christian now… but that’s another topic altogether.

        For your second point, you would have to define what you mean by God becoming man LITERALLY. But, I think I know what you are referring to (correct me if I’m wrong). Vedas teaches that when God incarnates, when He appears, He does not take on a material body composed of material elements subject to the reactions of sin and karma. He (and His form) are transcendent to the material world always. Christianity teaches that when God incarnated He DID take on a material body, as fully man, and this body was as subject to material elements as any other human body–up and UNTIL the Resurrection, when it seems to me that He is no longer subject.

        But Vishnu/Krishna does very much come literally. He does not have a material body, but He actually and truly comes, and affects the material world and the people in it. He comes to please His devotees, kill demons, and restore right religion and relationship to God. The echoes of His footsteps on the Earth are sung for thousands of years hence. In each incarnation He brings teachings by which men can approach God, serve Him, and achieve freedom from the material bondage of sin and karma. These methods vary from age to age. In Vedic teaching there are also sent representatives of God, who possess the potency of God due to their complete devotion and service to His will, who are in material bodies, but they are individual souls, invested and surrendered, not the same thing as God coming Himself. They come not because of their own karma, but to help people to realize God.

        For your third point, the distinction here is not that Krishna or Vishnu (as God) loves mankind LESS, for He works tirelessly and with ceaseless mercy to care for all souls, to destroy evil, and to bring people back to Him. HOW he does this is the distinction. Vedic scriptures do not teach that an excruciating bloody sacrifice full of suffering is necessary to achieve salvation. God by His mercy helps us to perfect ourselves in devotional service and become purified and transformed. Sacrifice is a huge part of Vedic culture and sacrifice of many forms is seen as necessary to continually work on this purification (similar again to old Jewish culture). This is part of the teaching of Bhagavad Gita–action is always required by a living entity, so taking actions that remind the sinful soul that God is higher and that it is not indeed in control of the world, that its salvation lies in total surrender and service to the Lord, is beneficial and is action in the material mode of goodness.

        This is another major difference–the “need” for Jesus’ pure sacrifice. There are echoes of this idea also in Vedic religion–for example, the initiation process by which the spiritual master or guru takes on the sins of the initiate (expressed very similarly as to what Jesus did), thus freeing him to practice spiritual life, is a similar idea to the baptism taught by Jesus.

        The different claim of Christianity then is the uniqueness and necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice and taking on of sins, which has no direct parallel in Vedic thought.

        And for your fourth point, yes, reincarnation is one of the essential points of the Vedic description of how material nature works, how the soul interacts within it, and ultimately how the soul is freed from it by the Lord. I’m not sure that the absence of presence of reincarnation relates to the five points of mature/advanced philosophy.

        • Comment by Sean Michael:

          Hi, Mishtical!

          Many thanks for the long reply or response you gave me. However, I was puzzled by your first point in reply to my first point. I tried to distinguish learned and philosophic minded Hindus from uneducated, ordinary, non philosophhic Hindus. More briefly, I still remained unconvinced. To ME, the gods, goddesses, demigods, etc., ordinary Hindus worship looks like plain old polytheism to me. And a polytheisn the pagan Greeks would understand. It still looks to me that LATER Hindu philosophers tried to replace the old polytheist understanding of the Hindu gods with their own.

          You are basically correct in your second point, about the Incarnation of Christ. Orthodox Christianity (along with “high church” Protestants)teaches that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, assumed a human nature and body to His godhead. Without confusion or admixture. We Catholics say Christ is both TRULY God and Man. As man, He is like us in all things, body and soul, except for being sinless.

          Apologies, I still remain unconvinced by your comments on how Vishnu “comes.” You offered only a “spiritual” example of how Visnu/Krishna comes. We Catholics say Jesus Christ, being God Incarnate was as literally and physically present in the world of his Earthly life as the Emperor Tiberius. To me, whether or not you believe in it, that remains a crucial difference Christianity has compared with Hinduism.

          And the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is another crucial difference distinguishing Christianity from Hinduism. We say the sinfulness and wretchedness of man created so vast a gulf between man and God that it could be bridged only by the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. NOTHING man could do on his own would suffice to atone for the wickedness of mankind. God could, of his own gratuitous mercy, have simply chosen to cancel burden of his by an act of his divine power. BUT, in his inscrutable mercy, God sent his Son to become man because, as both God and Man, Christ could offer the infinitely sufficent sacrifice needed to redeem mankind. That was Christ accepted his agony on the cross.

          I mentioned reincarnation because orthodox Christians don’t believe human souls existed from all eternity. We say God created a new soul at the moment of conception for every human being. I was simply pointing out another disagreement Christianity has with Hinduism.

          Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

          • Comment by Mishtical:

            Hi Sean,

            I’m not sure what you are looking at. Scholars’ opinions? The Vedic Scriptures themselves? Hindus that you know? I’m not sure what you’re basing this idea you have of what Hinduism “seems” to be on.

            Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “spiritual coming”. Vedic teaching is that God has really appeared a number of times. This doesn’t mean He comes as a ghost or as a feeling in someone’s heart. He is already in our hearts and present to us always–the incarnations discussed in the scriptures are actual, physical appearances. Buddha is considered to be an incarnation, actually, in response to the abuses of the Vedic injunctions. In the Gaudiya line Lord Caitanya is also considered to be an incarnation of God. He came around the 16th century. These are the two I know within this age; prior to that, Krishna’s appearance was over 5,000 years ago, so there is not really a record of the world at that time, except for the Vedic scriptures themselves. Lord Rama, the incarnation just previous, came about 1.7 million years ago, and built the bridge to Lanka (known as Adam’s Bridge today.. it’s still there). Does that make more sense?

            The big difference, as you stated, is what each tradition considers ‘necessary’ for God to have done to achieve the salvation of mankind. This will probably always be a big departure point between them.

  9. Comment by Sith Master Sean:

    I’m always a bit mystified by Christians who whine about “the Left,” Marxism, etc. when it seems so obvious that leftist ideology is a direct outgrowth of Christianity. The vilification of the strong and the glorification of the weak was the great moral revolution of Christian slave religion — one which has spread like a cancer across the modern world. The Nazarene’s philosophical poison has degenerated even further in our time into the weakest and most pathetic ideology ever embraced by human civilization: secular liberalism. The antidote to all of this is of course Nietzsche, the closest thing to a prophet we have in the modern world. I don’t blame you for being so pessimistic though; anyone with their eyes open can see that the Christian era is nearly over.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Amusing. Not a single sentence contains a neutral nor arguably honest word here: Christians ‘whine’ rather than complain or observe, the matter is not obvious but ‘so obvious’, Christianity is a ‘slave religion’ (even though, as best we know, it was spread among the Romans through the military — recall all that ‘In hoc signo vinces’ jazz?).

      When he says it is ‘slave religion’ he does not mean that it is the only religion or philosophy to free slaves in history, he means that barbarism and cruelty is glorious, and civilization and compassion is contemptible.

      Compassion for the weak, and the desire to manumit slaves, is described as a poison, of which the antidote is (wait for it) … Nietzsche.

      … who, here, is depicted as not the father, but the antithesis of modern liberalism.

      Sin not only darkens the intellect, it seems to rewrite history.

      • Comment by joetexx:

        on Shaw’s discovery of Nietzsche. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW GK Chesterton

        This eloquent sophist has an influence upon Shaw and his school which it would require a separate book adequately to study. By descent Nietzsche was a Pole, and probably a Polish noble; and to say that he was a Polish noble is to say that he was a frail, fastidious,and entirely useless anarchist. He had a wonderful poetic wit; and is one of the best rhetoricians of the modern world. He had a remarkable power of saying things that master the reason for a moment by their gigantic unreasonableness; as, for instance, “Your life is intolerable without immortality; but why should not your life be intolerable?”…

        All that was true in his teaching was this: that if a man looks fine on a horse it is so far irrelevant to tell him that he would be more economical on a donkey or more humane on a tricycle. In other words, the mere achievement of dignity, beauty, or triumph is strictly to be called a good thing. I do not know if Nietzsche ever used the illustration; but it seems to me that all that is creditable or sound in Nietzsche could be stated in the derivation of one word, the word “valour.” Valour means _valeur_; it means a value; courage is itself a solid good; it is an ultimate virtue; valour is in itself ‘valid’.

        In so far as he maintained this Nietzsche was only taking part in that great Protestant game of see-saw which has been the amusement of northern Europe since the sixteenth century. Nietzsche imagined he was rebelling against ancient
        morality; as a matter of fact he was only rebelling against recent morality, against the half-baked impudence of the utilitarians and the materialists. He thought he was rebelling against Christianity; curiously enough he was rebelling solely against the special enemies of Christianity, against Herbert Spencer and Mr. Edward Clodd. Historic Christianity has always believed in the valour of St. Michael riding in front of the Church Militant; and in an ultimate and absolute pleasure, not indirect or utilitarian, the intoxication of the spirit, the wine of the blood of God..

        There are indeed doctrines of Nietzsche that are not Christian, but then, by an entertaining coincidence, they are also not true. His hatred of pity is not Christian, but that was not his doctrine but his disease. Invalids are often hard on invalids. …

        In one of his least convincing phrases, Nietzsche had said that just as the ape ultimately produced the man, so should we ultimately produce something higher than the man. The immediate answer, of course, is sufficiently obvious: the ape did not worry about the man, so why should we worry about the Superman? If the Superman will come by natural selection, may we leave it to natural selection? If the Superman will come by human selection, what sort of Superman are we to select? If he is simply to be more just, more brave, or more merciful, then Zarathustra sinks into a Sunday-school teacher; the only way we can work for it is to be more just, more brave, and more merciful; sensible advice, but hardly startling. If he is to be anything else than this, why should we desire him, or what else are we to desire? These questions have been many times asked of the Nietzscheites, and none of the Nietzscheites have even attempted to answer them.

        As they say, READ THE WHOLE THING. On Gutenberg

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Let me swap my favorite Chesterton quote about Nietzsche with you:

          “Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms.

          “Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought.

          “We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow.

          “Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

          “It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost. And with that thought came a larger one, and the colossal figure of her Master had also crossed the theatre of my thoughts.”

          • Comment by joetexx:

            Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads…

            Mr Wright, that is one Hell of a Nietzsche quote, and I say it as something of a minor collector.
            Where’s it from?

            I first read GBS because I was a rabid Shavian as a teen, and was so because I saw a campus stage production of Saint Joan in 1967, and Shaw wrote Saint Joan because GKC got him interested in Catholic saints during WWI.. . funny old thing, life.

            Here is a Kipling quote from GBS (1910) which BTW is a good general introduction to Edwardian literary culture. I am told the French so regard Kipling to this day.

            A great part of the English energy in fiction arises from the very fact that their fiction half
            deceives them. If Rudyard Kipling, for instance, had written his short stories in France, they would have been praised as cool, clever little works of art, rather cruel, and very nervous and feminine; Kipling’s short stories would have been appreciated like Maupassant’s short stories. In England they were not appreciated but believed. They were taken seriously by a startled nation as a true picture of the empire and the universe. The English people made haste to abandon England in favour of Mr. Kipling and his imaginary colonies; they made haste to abandon Christianity in favour of Mr. Kipling’s rather morbid version of Judaism.

      • Comment by Gian:

        There is a kernel of truth here–socialism did grew out of Christianity and it is a foreign implant on Muslim, Hindu and Confucian lands.
        Socialism is in fact a bundle of Christian heresies. One can read the The Socialist Phenomenon by Igor Shafarevich on this. Socialist ideas–commonality of property and wives were recurrent in generally all heretical sects in medieval period. And you will never find a non-Christian sect that ever had this feature.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          That aspect of the Sith’s comment I did not think was worth commenting on, because it was both obvious and trivial, and, for the purpose for which introduced the comment, obviously illogical.

          Socialism is a Christian heresy because all European philosophy is either Christian orthodoxy or Christian heterodoxy. Christendom is Europe: even Neitszche himself, so proud of being an antichrist, did nothing more than take certain Christian ideas and ideals and exaggerate their significance to use them to demean other Christian ideas and ideals. The Christian idea of the supreme importance of the individual (an idea unknown in the East, and unique to Christendom) is exaggerated in Nietzsche to the point where Nietzsche would have each individual, ex nihilo, construct his own Ten Commandments. This is the ideal of Luther, where each individual conscience is paramount, exaggerated to a point of logical absurdity. Likewise Socialism is little more than the Christian ideal of charity to the poor exaggerated to the point where mass expropriation and mass murder and mass deception is called acceptable and necessary: the Marxist promises of Utopia, the New Eden, would have no place in an orthodox Confucian or Buddhist worldview.

          The argument being made was that since Socialism is a Christian heresy, ergo Christianity orthodoxy was somehow dishonored or disproved. The argument next mentioned Nietzsche (and the Nietzschean worship of barbarism and of intellectual vacuity) as the solution for the weaknesses of Socialism as if Nietzsche differed in any significant respect from other Christian heretics, or held a world view markedly different from socialism: certainly he shared the contempt of socialists and Hegel for the middle class, and middle class morality.

          Nietzsche was also the guiding inspiration the National Socialist Worker’s Party of Germany, aka the Nazis, to the degree that any philosopher can be said to be the inspiration for mere thuggery. They were, despite the enmity that exists to this day between Marxists and Nazis, both socialist movement, identical goals and means, differing only in rhetoric. As far as I know, Nietzsche did not hold forth an economic theory (I have read no more Nietzsche than what was required of me in school, and that shuddering) but then again, on consideration of the matter, neither did Marx.

          “Socialist ideas–commonality of property and wives were recurrent in generally all heretical sects in medieval period. And you will never find a non-Christian sect that ever had this feature.”

          Interesting. I would have thought it was the Spartans, and their communal features, their hatred of wealth and luxury, that Plato and all intellectuals in his camp were following.

          • Comment by Gian:

            Did Spartans hold wives in common?
            This curious feature was often present in Christian heresies as the Socialist Phenomenon shows. And entirely absent from any non-Christian sect.

            “all European philosophy is either Christian orthodoxy or Christian heterodoxy.”

            It is not wrong,precisely, to put it this way yet I would make distinction between a Christian heresy and non-Christian elements. Thus eternal recurrence and reincarnation is non-Christian even when it appears in European philosophers.

    • Comment by Patrick:

      His blog(s!) are hilarious though.

      “I no longer dread the Apocalypse, but see in it a deep truth and a powerful avatar of progress.”

      Dude, delete this nonsense now – job interviewers have Google too.

    • Comment by lotdw:

      Your blog is a satire, right?

      In any case, the Nietzschean age is over too. I think it was the whole Holocaust thing that put the nail in that coffin.

    • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

      Enjoy Trolling much, do we?

      Not only was your entire comment a pointless tirade, but it was also factually wrong on many points. Let me give you just a few:

      Your comment that Christianity was a slave religion: drop the 19th century history books and pick up a modern one, that theory by KARL MARX was disproven already. Modern research indicates that early Christianity was spread not by slaves, by what would have then been the equivalent of our middle class, the workers, artisans, teachers, ect. Modern research indicates that the poor/slaves are usually rather ill suited for those kinds of tasks.

      Your comment about the Christian era being over- drop that lame tagline, it is more than a little false. With over 2 billion Christians world wide and growing fast, I very much doubt that the Christian era is over. Most of the new converts are in the south or the east (China now has over 100 million Christians and counting for example), so even if the Christian West comes to an end, certainly the Christian South and East will continue. And as for the west, yes there is the problem. But it’s a joke to say that just the era of the Christian west is coming to an end, let’s be honest now, the era of the West is coming to an end, destroyed from the inside out over many centuries. It’s slow and tragic end is in no small part do to it’s departure from the very Christianity you condemn, the very thing that built western civilization to begin with.

  10. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Dear Mr. Wright,
    In the post to which your (very interesting) essay here is an answer, Michael the Lesser alludes to your conversion story. I looked for it on your site but didn’t find it. I’m a cradle Catholic who was away from the faith long enough to experience a conversion from agnosticism and I love reading conversion stories. Could you light up the path for me?
    Thank you in advance.

  11. Comment by Gian:

    Mr Wright,
    Very interesting post. However, re: Hinduism and Buddhism, one sees that you are hampered by a bookish learning and having no lived experience.
    Far from Buddhism being a development or fulfillment of Hinduism, the highest level of Hinduism that is found in Krishna worship nearly approximates the Christian doctrines of Incarnation of God and the Love that is between Man and God.
    The Krishna Bhakti preached by the Saints in late medieval period also makes no distinction between the castes. You must let go of the Vedas and Manu smiritis. They were irrelevant and almost forgotten by Hindus till the revival of Old Learning under British interest.
    There is in fact a big theoretical break between Hindus and Buddhists–the Hindus believe in Self or soul but Buddhists regard self as an illusion. Only the Advaitist Hindus hold similar ideas and for long they were regarded as crypto-Buddhists and atheists. They gained prestige in modern era when the Westerners grew interested in their ideas.
    For some reasons, the Westerners were not fascinated by the Vaishanav ideas of Krishna Bhakti- it did not have much basis in ancient books, was more of popular and vernacular and to me, rather close to the Christian ideas for anti-Christian European professors like Max Mueller or Schopenhauer to promote.

    • Comment by Mishtical:

      That is kind of what I was trying to say. Although, I am under the impression that the Krishna bhaktas pull very much from the Vedic scriptures and do not at all disregard them, but take them as original knowledge that was strayed from or corrupted in various ways.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      As I said in the post, I am not making a judgment that one is better or truer than the other, merely that one is more mature or developed than the other. Whether or not one sect of Krisna worship approximates Christian doctrines of love between Man and God has no bearing on the question of whether Buddhism was a development to correct a logical difficulty with the doctrine of the eternal return, which is, namely, that suffering is eternal hence incurable. The doctrine of avatars is unrelated to the doctrine of incarnation, despite a surface resemblance.

      But, I accept with humility your comment that my learning is bookish and limited. I have never lived in a Hindu community nor followed its practices: I said as much at the outset. Mine is the opinion of an outsider and a layman.

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        The discrepancy I think to have here seems to be what is actually taught by the original Vedic scriptures and thus original Hinduism.

        Vaishnava lines and Krishna bhakti are generally heavy on use and authority of the Vedic scriptures–over 5,000 years old. It is not just one sect nor is a it a recent development. While the Bhagavad Gita describes the fact that religion according to the three modes of material nature will always exist (meaning: religion that does not actually bring one to God or to His service but fulfills some material purpose), that does not invalidate the fact that a truer religion and intention for the Vedic practices exists and has always existed. Buddha made a set of radical deviations from the conditioned/material approaches to religion that had become dominant, although in the process he denied the Vedic scriptures. I have heard it said that this was because of the abuses going on.

        All of the impersonalist schools of Vedic thought developed in the wake of Buddhism. They did not exist prior. There was no logical difficulty because there was no doctrine of eternal return–the process of transcending that platform and going home to the Lord was always present in the Vedic scriptures. However, I have heard it said that these Vedic teachings became forgotten or strayed from at various points, and so Buddha’s objections to the current practice were not entirely a decay in that sense (because the philosophy had, in practice, decayed to some extent).

        This is my understanding of it from the Vedic perspective. To me it seems a recognizable pattern in the world that transcendence of this world to truly approach God in loving service has for ever been a very unpopular thing with the princes of this world–so we should expect, in that sense, to see decay. There are forces working for it. The idea of avatars is that God incarnates to continue this battle against those forces, to correct teachings, bring joy to His followers, and destroy the power of demons. He does this as needed–where there is decay. God continually comes when there is trouble–He does not leave the world abandoned in any sense.

        So yes, while the idea is similar, there is a difference between that and the Christian incarnation, which claims to be much more final and complete–one Incarnation, one Sacrifice, and nothing more was or is necessary. Hinduism does style it differently, and so the idea that each religion has of “how God does things” (because of course we accept that God can do whatever He wants, and can, and has, accomplished things whatever way He chooses), is quite different, even if they see the purpose of God and man and this world to be ultimately similar.

        • Comment by Gian:

          There is no Krishna in Vedas. The Vedic gods were Indra (Thunder), Agni (Fire), Varuna (Sea), Marut (Wind) and so on.

          I hold the heterodox view that the Krishna movement had its roots in Christ. The Krishna movement is very late. The great Vaishnava Saints are 14th C (Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu), Surdas 15C and so on.

          • Comment by Mishtical:

            Bhagavad Gita from the Mahabharata is spoken by Krishna and Krishna (and the other incarnations) are described in detail in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam is commentary on Vedanta-sutra which is more succint, direct–Bhagavatam is tailored to awaken love for the Supreme in the conditioned soul. Krishna was not a later invention although yes, the major emphasis on him as the original form of Lord Vishnu in the sampradayas was in the 16th century by Caitanya and others. Krishna was one of Vishnu’s incarnations, and both of them are described in scriptures over 5,000 years old.

            • Comment by Gian:

              But not in Vedas.
              Vishnu I believe first makes his appearance in Puranas, a much later composition.
              The 5000 year dates, Hindus are much fond of. It is all same to them 5000, 50000, or 5 million.

              • Comment by Mishtical:

                The original Vedas speak of the Supreme Lord, however. I don’t know if they name Him Vishnu, but they certainly speak of Him and describe His absolute nature. There are two types of Vedic scriptures: shruti, which is what you are talking about (the original texts, the ones that have always been there), and smriti, which are more like commentaries by enlightened sages to explain and expand upon the shruti. From what I understand there is debate about how old the smriti is. The books that talk about Krishna (even Bhagavad Gita, supposedly spoken by Him) are considered smriti.

                • Comment by Mishtical:

                  For example, from the Upanishads, part of the shruti, it is said,
                  nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13)
                  “That Supreme Personality of Godhead is one, and the living creatures are many, many, without any number.”

  12. Comment by Michael the Lesser:

    Dear Mr. Wright,

    If I may be so inclined. From the reading of Mishtical’s first post, it seems that the majority of it suggests that Hinduism (in its most orthodox form?) achieves all five of the goals that you listed in your essay. Originally, you had claimed that Hinduism was unable to answer the call of transcendence and an eschaton, which exist in Buddhism. However, it appears from Mishtical’s citations that it does and more closely approaches the Christian conception of eschaton, God, and Heaven, than you grant in your essay, though it does appear that the creative act of God is emanationist rather than theistic creation.
    Do you consider Hinduism to still be less mature and in what ways?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The jury is still out. I freely confess I am not familiar with his claims, and it seems (at least at first blush) to contradict what I have heard or read elsewhere.

      Based solely on what he here has said, it sounds as if he is discussing something akin to the neoplatonic concept of reabsorption or re-immersion into the Godhead, or re-union with God, which I take to be a universal impulse in the human soul. If so, it is one of those things all religions advanced to a mature stage have. Again, if so, the difference between the two faiths would be a rather fine distinction rather than a gross one — but again, I hesitate to be too conclusive, when there is much here I do not understand.

      I was given to believe Hinduism was polytheistic, as well as pantheistic or panentheistic, seeing God both in the evil and the good of life, both as chick and snake who eats the chick.

      I still consider the doctrine of an eternal return or reincarnation to be cruder and more obvious than the doctrine of a general resurrection and a last judgment, because the point at which multi-quadrillions of previous lives becomes meaningless and insupportable is whenever they exceed all imaginable numbers of sinful or saintly lives: if I was both Saint Francis of Assisi and the Marquis de Sade in my prior lives, and multi-billion lives before both better and worse, and if in countless years to come I shall be both Baron Harkonen of Geidi Prime and Severian of Old Urth, what point is there in contemplating the state of my soul or its progress? How can there be progress?

      • Comment by Mishtical:

        I have known for some years a pair of good friends who are Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I learned what I know from them and from their associates. Most Hindu stuff in the West is impersonalist or is seen through a distorted sort of New Age lens. After all, yoga and meditation and mystic powers are very popular in our culture. Monotheism, surrender, sacrifice, and judgment–not so much. In Vedic tradition, you do not have one without the other.

        I will try to further explain the points…

        The whole topic of reincarnation and karma is a complex one. And often (as you discussed) there is no progress. Souls make progress, then they fall down, start from the bottom, raise up again, run around for a few thousand years among the three worlds, fall down to animal life again, etc… many souls stay in human bodies, gain pious credits on Earth, spend a few lifetimes on the heavenly planets, and back again. Humans who abuse their intelligence and potential for realization or who live like animals or at the expense of others are sent to the hellish planets (descriptions of which in the Srimad Bhagavatam read exactly like Dante’s Inferno..), and eventually return in a low form of life to crawl their way back up again.

        Having human form of life is rare, a great blessing, and comes with the worst punishment if one misuses that human life. Animal life only progresses–an animal cannot go to hell or to heaven because its consciousness cannot choose anything different. When a soul gains the privilege of human form much more becomes possible.

        The only achievement that is kept from life to life is one’s spiritual advancement. Material achievements pass out of your stewardship when you leave your body. This whole process is also described in the Bhagavad Gita in some detail.

        It is also described that the whole process is endlessly cyclical and, for the soul who goes from body to body, full of suffering. One does not escape by all of that nonsense of gaining and spending karma credits and cycling through all the 8,400,000 forms of life. It is a material process, created by God for the conditioned souls who wanted to be God and control and enjoy material nature. By its nature it is not built for progress. All progress made is between the soul and God–it is transcendental. And surrendering to Him, learning how to love Him and be purified from one’s material conditioning, one is freed from sin and karma and the soul’s consciousness is thus not drawn back into the cycle at death, to yet another body, but goes home to the Lord’s abode. So yes, it IS meaningless and pointless–and that kind of is the point. We aren’t meant to be here. We’re not happy here. It is not our home.

        Neither the chick or snake is God–but God’s energy is still what makes up creation, and He is present within all living beings. This does not equate the living being to being equal to Him, though. One image used to describe this is that the body is a tree, and the soul is a bird, eating the fruit of the tree. God, described in this capacity as Paramatma or the Supersoul, is like another bird sitting in the tree, watching the first bird eat the fruit. Always He is in our hearts and watching us. He is not us, but He is present with us.

        But there are plenty of demons and rascals and many who fight against God. There is plenty of evil. Also there are plenty of other beings who ARE in service to God and not trying to kill or supplant Him, such as the demigods. Sometimes they get caught up with themselves and then they get cursed or there is other trouble. Sometimes they do stupid things and run to beg His help. In this way they remind me a little of the Greek gods. But the Supreme Lord takes care of everyone, in His causeless mercy.

        The proper relationship between the soul and God is loving relationship. They are separate, but relate in love and devotion eternally. Love, of course, gives the soul the desire to serve the beloved–the Lord. And love results in a kind of absorption or immersion–it is the full attention and senses and actions of the soul being absorbed completely in love and service to God. So yes, an immersion, but in the sense of action, not of passively being absorbed.

        Oh yes, and just for future reference I am a lady, not a man. :)

        • Comment by Gian:

          “The proper relationship between the soul and God is loving relationship.”

          Krishna does not love man. He is actually indifferent (impassible) to a soul’s progress or regress or fall. In fact the Hare Krishna books plainly declare that they do not know why souls fell from Heaven at the begin of the cycle.

          There is God that creates the physical world but the souls are supposed to be eternal and co-exist with God who is actually called Ultimate Soul. Thus Vaishnava God is not precisely the same as the God of classical Theism.

          • Comment by Mishtical:

            Brahma is the one who creates the physical world. He is not immortal nor is he God.

            As for what you say about indifference, that is not anything I have heard from the Vaishnavas I know. Loving relationship in devotion and service between the soul and the Supreme is the original constitutional position of the soul.

            Part of Caitanya’s teaching was the emphasis on the loving relationship between Krishna and His devotees–the loving relationship. The types of relationships are described to be like relating to God as a servant, as a friend, as a parent, as a child, as a lover. These are not unloving or indifferent relationships. God is all merciful to the fallen souls, and reciprocates immediately to sincerity–“the sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit”… this is taught very clearly in the ‘Hare Krishna books’. I don’t know where you are getting your ideas.

            Souls do co-exist eternally, but was there a disagreement on this point? I believe Christianity also teaches that the soul is eternal…

            • Comment by Gian:

              Devotion is not the same as (two-sided) love. As souls we are supposed to surrender ourselves and be devoted to Krishna but he does not love individual souls, he does not sacrifice himself or suffer for them.
              I am sure Prabhupada somewhere says it explicitly.
              Will try to let you know shortly.

              • Comment by Mishtical:

                It’s two ways. It has been clearly stated to me more than once that the only thing that has any power over God is the devotees who love Him and are completely surrendered to Him. He always acts to protect them and take care of them. This is not because He needs anything from them, because He is self-sufficient… I don’t see how this is not love.

            • Comment by Gian:

              Souls are not co-eternal in Christianity but each soul is created by God at the time of conception.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Does orthodox Hindi contain a theory of what (if anything) caused the separation from God and how it can be mended?

          • Comment by Mishtical:

            My understanding of it is that there were individual souls, at some point, that decided they didn’t want to be endlessly serving God–they envied His position and they wanted to be God. One of the points stated in the Vedic cosmology is that God controls everything except the free will of the living entities. So, when they wanted this, He mercifully fulfilled their desires, in a way, by creating the material world, with its ensuing cycles of karma, birth and death. This is unlike Christianity because the “fall” happens here before the creation of the material world, indeed the world is created because of the fall. I don’t know what the specific event was, or if there was one or many events. This is a point I don’t know a whole lot about. But it must be remembered that the point of the material world is to make it possible for the soul to forget that there is a Supreme Lord and Controller, though the soul must suffer for this and endure a state of being that is not natural to her original position.

            The souls themselves, being thus fallen and conditioned by contact with material nature, cannot free themselves. Though they envy His position, God is merciful and wants them to stop suffering and come home. That is why He incarnates and passes teachings down, so that souls may realize their original position in relationship to Him, and, as that is awakened and they offer Him a little bit of service, or love or devotion, with sincerity, He reciprocates immediately and perfectly. Having given proscribed laws and practices by which human beings can be purified, as well as coming Himself whenever need to renew these teachings and to show His face that souls may remember Him, both in the time He appears and following as His pastimes are described–for everything about God is transcendental, and even just saying His names or hearing of His activities has a purifying effect–living water to a parched spirit–He will remove the sin from a soul–a soul surrendered to God is no longer subject to karma or the cycle of birth and death.

            So, there is no great sacrifice or one big event that allows souls to return to God. Rather this is a continuous process that has been going on for millenia, through the creation and destruction of all sorts of universes, on an unimaginable scale. Souls fall down and are born in the material world, souls are saved from it. I think that it can go both ways, but it tends not to. So, while the Lord, His abode, and the souls are eternal, the material universe is not, but new material universes are always being created. This is all on a very vast chronological scale, and the incarnations of God, the end of the world, the ultimate destruction, and the events of atonement, purification, salvation, all of these are going on… in an eternal kind of way. It is very big. In this sense it is nothing like the small and localized but eternal claims of Christianity.

            • Comment by Mishtical:

              How it can be mended: this I know mostly about the proscriptions taught by Caitanya in the 16th century. In this age, the methods for purification are different than in previous ages, when people were more intelligent and lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. Back then, salvation could be achieved more easily by yogic processes–sacrifices, meditation, etc. In this age, the only effective method is devotional service. Caitanya prescribed chanting the names of the Lord as the primary way to purify consciousness and allow the soul to be purified from sin and to realize its original position in love of God. Vaishnas are instructed to avoid impersonalist philosophies like Buddhism and also to avoid the strenuous meditation and yogic practices, which are really not at all useful. Devotional service to God is what is useful. Bhagavad Gita talks about this a lot.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Based on this description, I would say, in answer to a previous question, that the faith described here fulfills all five of my suggested criteria for a fully mature religion: if it is in any way inferior to Christianity, that distinction is based on nuances of theology too fine for my method of analysis to detect.

                Again, I am limiting my comments to the degree of development of the theology, and made no comments about the truth or falsehood of the doctrinal claims.

                • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                  Does that change your essay then Mr. Wright? Now, what do you feel is more developed, Mishtical’s Hindusim or Buddhism? While I don’t think that Mishtical’s Hinduism is the historic religion, or one of the historic religions of India (I see it as a later invention), let’s say it does not matter regardless: If you could rewrite this (knowing what you do now) would the essay still end in a prize fight between Christianiy and Buddhism? Or now would it be Christianity and Hindusim thhat go toe to toe?

          • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

            Well I have been holding my two cents for awhile now, reading this long conversation about Hinduism, but thanks to some recent comments made, I think I can say my piece.

            I have to agree with Wright on this one when he said that he was given to believe “Hinduism was polytheistic, as well as pantheistic or panentheistic, seeing God both in the evil and the good of life, both as chick and snake who eats the chick.”
            Indeed everything I know of historic Hinduism would coincide with this far more than with what others like Mishtical have been stating here. Indeed there seems to be an alarming difference between the two. I have to admit being puzzled by much of what Mishtical has said, not because I can’t understand it, but because, like I said, it is so very different from all the recieved knowledge of hinduism that I have been taught. Indeed, it is not so much as though I disbelieve Mishtical, as it is that her words stand in contrast to, well, I think much of what we westerners know of Hinduism.
            This is what I was thinking untill I read some later comments here, which reminded me of something from the past. Years back, when I would sometimes surf the channels late at night, I would see indian realted things on tv. Some of the things I would hear from them (at least the Indians over here in America, not so much from Indians still residing in their motherland) gave me pause. What a few of them said, reminded me of the things Mishtical was saying. Back then I knew a couple who were well versed in religion, with a special interest in eastern belief systems. I’m not sure what their actually beliefs were themselves, but I decided to ask them about the things I had heard. We had already at this point discussed certain aspects of eastern religion, and so I told them of the things I heard (after all, it contradicted some of the things they had told me), and this is basically what I gathered from them.
            The Hinduism that I saw on the tv and what Mishtical spoke of were not the historic Hinduism (which was much closer to how Wright and I had previously percieved it) but was rather a more modern approach (or more recent invention) of some Hindus in reaction to the monotheistic world we live in today. To be more specific, it was a reinvention of the faith in reaction to, or even in light of the Christian and Islamic world that both surrounded it and (in the case of Islam) penetrated it (the Hindu world). This would not be the first time Hindus have accepted other religion’s ideas/gods into their own pantheon (at least that is what they informed me of). They also told me this newer approach is more popular outside of India then it is in India itself (especially here in the west).
            Why I didn’t make the connection at first, this strike me as what is going on here. I do believe that Mistical is telling us the truth about the Hinduism she knows of (as taught to her by the Gaudiya Vaishnavas she is friends with), I think the historic Hinduism is a different thing. At least this seems to make more sense where I am coming from, as the alternative would at least seem to be the that the west’s received knowledge about Hinduism is dreadfully wrong! Why this is possible, I mean look at some of the ideas people think Chrisitians beleive or what is assumed to be elements of Christain history (however this is a motive for this, vilification, something I don’t think the Post-Christian west had in mind for Hinduism), I don’t believe it’s the case. Granted I’m know expert on Hinduism, and don’t claim to be, but even the Indian friends I had growing up (the area I grew up in is filled with Indians, they owned all the Subways, 7-11s, Dunkin Donuts, ect around our area, hehe yes stereotypes are sometimes true), the Hinduism they practiced (at least what their immigrant parents did) seemed to be different from this ‘other’ Hindusim Mishtical speaks of. In fact, of all the times I have ever heard this, it only ever came from those who were trying to win converts over here, in the (once)Christian west.
            Well there is my two cents, make of it what you will, just don’t judge me too harshly, I am only repeating what I have been told/taught, as Mishtical seems to be doing. :)

            • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

              And speaking of her, may I inquire as to what your own beliefs are? Do you yourself believe in the religion you seem to be very well versed in? I ask only becasue I am curious, I find that kind of thing intersting to know (long ago I had the habit of looking up lists of famous people’s religious beliefs). I myself am a recent convert to the Catholic faith (though I had been researching/contemplating said faith for years before finally crossing the tiber)

              • Comment by Mishtical:

                My beliefs: in the way I have discussed in my other comment, I am not comfortable to truly judge a tradition from without. How can I visit these things, forever too high for me?

                I have some beliefs that are very solid. God exists, and our relationship to Him matters more than anything else. I believe in the importance of real knowledge, of the real presence of God and His action to bring us back to Himself, of austerity, of love for God and service to Him, of turning everything in our lives over to Him and being transformed and purified by the living transcendent flame. Our actions and our choices are important, and have real consequences. Sobering consequences. The most important thing is that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

                But I am not sure how else to style my explorations. Obviously I admire Vedic tradition very much. I am very impressed with it, if my love for it does not quite match my attachment to Christianity. Do I believe the things it teaches? Hard to say. I love it. I love Christianity, and the Catholic Church, too. More than that, I love God. I love all of these wonderful gifts He has given us in reaching out to us in so many ways, in so many different cultures. I practice all my devotionals and austerities pretty hard. I am always wanting to learn. Devotional monotheistic traditions struck me hard. I know there is truth in both, especially where they match so closely. On the points where they differ, the jury is still out for me, because many of the places where they differ are the places that I do not understand in either tradition. More importantly than that, I am working out my own salvation in putting first things first. God will lead me (IS leading me), I am quite confident, to where He wishes me to be to best serve Him.

            • Comment by Mishtical:

              On this I cannot speak. My understanding of Western colonialism is that it has very much villified and degraded the foreign cultures it has come in contact with, and there was much of this visited upon India by the British–but beyond that, I cannot speak about the teaching I know of being the same (or different) as historic Hinduism. It is heavily based in the Vedic scriptures, which are ancient. How those scriptures have been interpreted and lived out in the past few thousand years have certainly taken different, fluctuating forms–Buddha for example, I mentioned before the wakes that that caused, and the developments that came after it–it seems to me that this devotional and monotheistic Vaishnava focus is very much present in the scriptures that I am familiar with. But there are many more Vedic scriptures.

              I would tend to trust those in a disciplic line in an actual tradition, rather than scholars, about the tradition. Similarly you imply that what is said about Christianity by people who are not Christians, is probably not going to have a whole lot of real truth to it. We are not dealing with material things here–observable bits of matter that always interact in the same way–we are dealing with God, we are dealing with the awesome and fantastic realm of the transcendent, we are dealing with the soul that cries out to its Creator, its life-giving Father, and the response of that Father. We are dealing with things, in whatever material shape and form, and however we may agree and disagree about which of them have the most details correct, that are higher than our understanding. We can present facts and have these debates, but to enter into such a thing–to any relationship to the Supreme–we can do nothing but humble ourselves and know that this is a thing that cannot be understood. There is no sense that can perceive it or understand it, and yet we hold all the potential of this original Love song we were made to share with God… the distant echo of that music will forever be the rhythm that keeps our hearts beating, in every sense.

              • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                “My understanding of Western colonialism is that it has very much villified and degraded the foreign cultures it has come in contact with”
                That is true in some cases, but not all. White Guilt plays alot into that theory. But regardless, there has been a major push in the opposite direction in recent centuries, where foreign cultures have been elevated to ridiculous heights they did not achieve, while the west (ala Christianity) has been vilified to the point of comedy, all done by westerners themselves.

                “I would tend to trust those in a disciplic line in an actual tradition, rather than scholars, about the tradition. Similarly you imply that what is said about Christianity by people who are not Christians, is probably not going to have a whole lot of real truth to it.”
                Yes, I agree with what your saying, which is why I tried to imply that myself in my earlier comements. But this is to a point, as I should have been more clear. What I meant was that there is alot, ALOT of missconceptions about Christianity going around these days, but that is both because of the ignorance, and general theological illiteracy that clouds the modern west. And also there is the contempt for it, and vilification of Christianity by the modern day antichristians (the itelligentsia for one). But I don’t think this applies to Hiduism. There is no antipathy towards it emmanating from the intellectuals, nor from the common folk, so I can’t see them lying about it. It would have to be through ignorance. Which is possible. And yes I would usually take the word of someone who was actually in the tradition rather than outiside it, but this is one of those special cases. If I went to India today, would I find the Hinduism you speak of there, what about 500 years ago, how about a thousand? See this is where I am not sure. Again I am not implying that either you or your teacher friends are liars, rather I believe what you say. My question is whether or not that is the historic Hinduism of the past, or as Sean Michael put it so well in an earlier reply:
                “It still looks to me that LATER Hindu philosophers tried to replace the old polytheist understanding of the Hindu gods with their own.” I guess that is what I am trying to say.

                • Comment by Mishtical:

                  The specific type of Hinduism I am talking about is found in India today, and would have been found at least up to 500 years ago. That much I am sure of. I’m not sure what form it was before Caitanya, although the various sampradayas have always been there from what I understand.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Hinduism isn’t exactly a unified religion. There are lots of schools of thought and lots of regional and local variations (including large differences in the names of things). Talking about Hinduism as a whole is sort of similar to talking about the Abrahamic Religions as a unified whole (including Gnosticism and every other possible variation).

              • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                I see that Hindusim is not a totally united front. But the difference between the Hindusim that Wright, Sean Michael, and myself are aware of are is so very different than what Mishtical is proposing, that they would seem like two different religions entirely (while using the same names).

                “Talking about Hinduism as a whole is sort of similar to talking about the Abrahamic Religions as a unified whole (including Gnosticism and every other possible variation).”
                If that is the case, then there are many religions present in India, and what we call Hinduism does really exist (at least as a whole), but is rather a reference to the many different faiths of the Indian people. Then we really should not be calling them Hindus (just as no one calls us Abrahamics), but rather the specific name of their faith.

                • Comment by Mishtical:

                  This is true. ‘Hinduism’ is kind of a misnomer, and if it applies to anything, it applies to a region more so than a religion. The one unifying factor of all the different faiths and practices under that heading is that they take the Vedic scriptures (or some part of them) as authoritative.

  13. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Thanks. I enjoyed reading your conversion story.
    I understand you read a good bit of St. Thomas Aquinas, but do you know the works of that great modern thomist, Jacques Maritain? Most of his books are translated in English. As a Catholic convert from Protestantism/agnosticism he explains clearly the relation between faith and reason from a philosophical point of view. My other favorite masterpiece on this subject is John Paul II’s encyclical letter “Fides et Ratio”. The first sentence is truly a jewel and the rest is like a flow of light.

  14. Comment by John Hutchins:

    The similarities between Celtic and Indian language, gods, and culture are from a shared ancestry of being Indo-European. Besides spreading the language (which is now a language family that the vast majority of the world speaks) they also spread their religion. The Indo-European religion is why there are so many similarities between most pantheons in Europe, Eastern and Central Asia, and India. The starting place for the language and religion is not India but in Central Asia. There is clear evidence in the archeological record of the Aryans (a term for the Indo-Europeans) conquering and exterminating, for much of India, the Dravidian civilization.

    The Jews are part of a different language family, the similarities likely come from one of two ways, both involving the Babylonian Exile. Large groups of Jews (and quite possibly more so Israelites) migrated to India during that time (approx. 600 B.C.), some have retained parts of their Jewish heritage while others have mostly assimilated (meaning there were likely others that have completely assimilated). Some people hypothesize that the Pashtuns are Israelites. The other way is that Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism which has some influences from (and some on) Hinduism.

    • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

      “The Jews are part of a different language family, the similarities likely come from one of two ways, both involving the Babylonian Exile. Large groups of Jews (and quite possibly more so Israelites) migrated to India during that time (approx. 600 B.C.), some have retained parts of their Jewish heritage while others have mostly assimilated (meaning there were likely others that have completely assimilated).”
      I have never heard of that one before, and therefore cannont really comment on it.

      “Some people hypothesize that the Pashtuns are Israelites”
      Really? Very interesting indeed.

      “The other way is that Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism which has some influences from (and some on) Hinduism.”
      If it comes down to the two theories you proposed, then I’m inclined to believe the first one over the second. I have heard this one before, amd found it very unconvincing. It is a pet theory of some Scholars and nothing more, with little to support it other than hypothoses. It also harkens back to that grand old tradition of linking Christianity/Judaism with every other pagan religion on the planet.

      I should mention this though John, don’t forget about the Genetic fallacy. Just because things are simaliar does not mean that the one came from the other and vice-versa. That was a major fallacy of scholars back in the 19th and 20th centuries. Remember we are all human and feel and think alike. Not to mention that we have the same Creator, so in the pursuit of truth, we should be able to find at least some things similiar here and there.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Pashtun_descent_from_Israelites – see Wikipedia for an introduction on the Pashtun as Israelites. There should be related links to the Bene Israel groups in India, one of which has gained the right to citizenship in Israel. There is, at least according to the articles cited on the Wiki, genetic evidence of the relations.

        I wonder what part of the relation with Zoroastrianism and Judaism you don’t agree with.

        • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

          Now that certainly is an interesting theory! The Pashtun descent from Israelites I mean.

          “I wonder what part of the relation with Zoroastrianism and Judaism you don’t agree with.”
          First let me say again, the genetic fallacy. That is what this theory commits. And why do I suspect the usual attempt (to link Judaism/Christianity to every other pagan religion out there) behind this. You ask me what I disagree with, so let me ask you what you find so agreeable about it? Do you believe the theory yourself, or are you just postulating? Let me just say up front that we may be talking about different things here. The theory I have heard basically says the Jews swiped alot from the Zoroastrians, namely things like Satan and Angels (which is strange given that these things were known to have existed in the Jewish tradition centuries before Zoroastrianism ever came about). Angels however were apart of the oldest Hebrew stories, and Satan, even if not revealed to the Jews by revelation, would be an inevitable result of Jewish theology (the whole nature of evil as relates to God I mean).

          But before I go further, I would like to ask our host what he thinks of all this. Mr. Wright has a keen and well trained mind.
          So John C. Wright, do you believe there is a connection between the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism and the Abrahamic religion Judaism (and thereby also Christianity and Islam)?

          I would be very interested to here his take on it!

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            My knowledge of Zoroastrianism extends no further than light reading on some of their myths. I am hardly qualified to have an opinion in the question of which influenced which and to what degree when.

            To me, however, the whole conversation seems based on an unspoken and false idea: namely, that whoever came up with an idea first is the inventor, and whoever is second is an impersonator.

            Let me suggest that the Zoroastrians and Jews, occupying the same universe which is run the same way by the same metaphysical principles and physical laws, were perfectly capable either (1) of independently recognizing the truth of monotheism, and the subsidiary principle which implied angelic beings must exist, and the principle that evil is a dependent on good, a parasite, and therefore any evil angels must be rebel; or (2) if the discovery was not independent, whoever received the idea from the other was wise and insightful enough to recognize the truth of things, even if they called those things by different names.

            What always baffles me is that every paganism I can bring to mind which I read about always has a Uranus figure somewhere in the background, a high and holy and remote figure who seems to be older than the gods and the father of them, or the father of the universe, or both — and the word Uranus just means ‘Heaven.’

            Brahma in the Vedic pantheon has an analogous heavenly remoteness, as does Bor, father of Odin, Ve and Will in the Norse, Atum of the Egyptian, Ometecuhtli of the Aztecs: examples could be multiplied.

            This hints that the pagans knew the idea of monotheism, knew the truth, but were bedeviled into bowing to local and lesser sprites and ancestors, or when incorporating the other names of god into their own pantheon from conquered or conquering neighbors, or paid divine honors to founders of their city or grandfathers of their kings, and lost sight of the Heaven of Uranus.

            So if Zoroaster got the inspiration from Abraham or Abraham from Zoroaster, each man still deserves praise, because their neighbors where given the same inspiration and could have copies the same true idea, and they ignored it.

            • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

              You made some very good points Mr. Wright, just like I knew you would (that’s why I asked you to comment)!

              “To me, however, the whole conversation seems based on an unspoken and false idea: namely, that whoever came up with an idea first is the inventor, and whoever is second is an impersonator.”

              Why isn’t this point brought up more, especially by scholars?

              “This hints that the pagans knew the idea of monotheism, knew the truth, but were bedeviled into bowing to local and lesser sprites and ancestors, or when incorporating the other names of god into their own pantheon from conquered or conquering neighbors, or paid divine honors to founders of their city or grandfathers of their kings, and lost sight of the Heaven of Uranus.”

              I like that idea, and it sounds plausible. I wonder if any other Christians throughout history have ever ruminated on this?

              “So if Zoroaster got the inspiration from Abraham or Abraham from Zoroaster, each man still deserves praise, because their neighbors where given the same inspiration and could have copies the same true idea, and they ignored it.”

              That is true (though I don’t think monotheism was in play, Abraham lived long before Zoroaster). But this brings up another question. If indeed one influenced the other, does that change things, or at least how we view them? Put it this way: If Judaism influenced Zoroastrianism, does that change the way we look at the ancient Persian faith (after all the Muslims thought Zoroaster was a true prophet, and thus added Zoroastrianism to it’s list of “people of the book” along with Judaism and Christianity). Or more importantly, what about vice-versa. If Zoroastrianism was the influencer of Judaism, does that change how we view Judaism (and it’s subsequent offspring, Christianity)? Does it cast a shadow on it? Does it take away from it? Or worse, does it somehow impair it?

              The answers to these questions I do not know, maybe you have an idea Mr. Wright, because I sure don’t!

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                “I like that idea, and it sounds plausible. I wonder if any other Christians throughout history have ever ruminated on this?”

                Yes, this is one of the basic beliefs of my church.

                To me, it seems very likely that Zoroaster was a prophet, like Melchizedek, or Jethro, or a few others that weren’t of the house of Israel. For me, that doesn’t change anything about Judaism or Christianity.

                If Zoroastrianism is based on something that once had the truth and was founded by a prophet then it isn’t that different than Judaism, with the exception of the Jews having the special position of being the covenant people from Abraham. One would hope that when two nations that had received God’s word got together they would share what they had received and both rejoice in having obtained more. If the knowledge of angels and demons is true then even if the Zoroastrianism received more knowledge on that subject then what the Jews had received there should be no problem with the Jews adding to their knowledge.

                I think that is all I can say without getting too much into “conversersies” which I have been avoiding (except in defense).

                • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                  Well that is interesting! But I would sooner take Zoroaster as a relgious philosopher (as the Greeks did) than as a true God-inspired prophet, but maybe that just comes down to our religious differences (you as a Mormon, me as a Catholic).

                  “If the knowledge of angels and demons is true then even if the Zoroastrianism received more knowledge on that subject then what the Jews had received there should be no problem with the Jews adding to their knowledge.”

                  That may be so, but I doubt they got the idea of Angels from them, seeing as how much older Judaism is than Zorastrianism, and the fact the Angels were a part of the Jews oldest stories. Plus most religions/cultures around the world had spirits and/or messangers in the myths.

                  • Comment by John Hutchins:

                    The old idea of angels was “Messengers of God” or “Sons of God”. The hierarchy of angels and many of the ideas about angels are more recent developments then the mere existence of heavenly messengers.

                    “maybe that just comes down to our religious differences (you as a Mormon, me as a Catholic).”

                    Almost certainly.

            • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

              I think you are exactly right. It is like what St. Paul said about the pagans that are unforgivable not to have recognized the Creator through the Creation. In theology, this is called the general Revelation, as opposed to the specific and public Revelation of the Old and New Testaments. Maritain speaks in his Introduction to Philosophy of a primitive, or adamic, tradition by which the eternal truths as well as the natural moral principles were transmitted and, of course, corrupted through the generations of sinners following the first humans. He affirms also that the religions and worldviews of Egypt, Persia, India, China, were purer and nearer to the truth of monotheism in very ancient times than in their more recent forms. It seems a perfectly logical explanation.

              • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                Please forgive me for such bad English style. If I had reread this post 10 times I would have removed 10 THE’s. It’s awful. You may remove it or correct it, if it is not too much to ask.

              • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                “Maritain speaks in his Introduction to Philosophy of a primitive, or adamic, tradition by which the eternal truths as well as the natural moral principles were transmitted and, of course, corrupted through the generations of sinners following the first humans. He affirms also that the religions and worldviews of Egypt, Persia, India, China, were purer and nearer to the truth of monotheism in very ancient times than in their more recent forms. It seems a perfectly logical explanation.”

                That is very interesting! I will have to check Maritain’s book out, thanks for the info! Also I was not aware that in the very ancient times those specific religions were closer to monotheism. Does he give a specific explanation as to why this decayed overtime?

                • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                  Maritain does not give a specific explanation except the fallen human nature. However, he states his thoughts come from theologians and historians without specifying his sources. I suppose you would be able to find something on the subject in historian Christopher Dawson’s works but it is only a guess: I have read but a few lines by Dawson. The text to which I refer is an introductory chapter and a very short summary of the history of philosophic thought and the book is intended for students in liberal arts philosophy programs. Maritain outlines very briefly the cultures in which philosophy did or didn’t develop and offers this explanation as to why it was so.

                  John, I am relieved you didn’t find anything wrong with that post. I thought it sounded too much like French with all those THE’s. Thank you for your kind answer.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:


                  The oldest religion in China is a Monotheistic heaven (or lord of heaven) worship.

                  • Comment by Manwe King of the Valar:

                    Now that you mention it, I do recall hearing about the “Lord of Heaven” stuff. It is a shame it faded out. Actually I think the Chinese also refer to Christianity as the ‘Lord of Heaven’ religion, or was is the ‘Son of Heaven’?

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