Vigilance in the Interfaith Arena

By Charles Upton

[NOTE: This post is composed of two sections. This piece, the first, is an warning of the dangers of the Interfaith Movement; the second, An Interfaith Initiative to Deal with Islamophobia, is a proposal for a kind of concrete interfaith action that would hopefully avoid these dangers.]

Part I

In this essay I will do my best to demonstrate that the Interfaith Movement, while capable of doing real good in bringing greater peace and understanding between the religions, is also fraught with dangers, especially for those committed to one of the traditional wisdom traditions or world religions. When traditional believers enter the Interfaith arena, they may find themselves required, at least by default, to except the legitimacy of the New Age, Theosophy, occultism, witchcraft and/or Neo-Paganism, many of whose members make no secret of their hatred of Christianity and/or Islam. Neo-Pagans certainly have no love for the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who destroyed Pagan worship in Arabia, and they often represent Paganism as the secret or esoteric core of Christianity, thus denying the validity of the Christian revelation. And Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society (who was also a Fabian Socialist) openly declared that it was the goal of her organization to “chase God from the skies”. A live-and-let-live attitude toward such “spiritualities” is usually the best course in our pluralistic society; mutual recrimination serves no useful purpose, though the traditional religions certainly have both the right and the duty to defend themselves when attacked. But if traditional believers allow themselves to be drawn into making common cause with groups that, all surface courtesies aside, are inherently inimical to them, then they will end either by compromising themselves, or by being forced to come into conflict with those groups simply to restore their own integrity—a conflict that would never have been necessary if both sides had simply maintained proper discretion and kept to their own sides of the fence.

But there is a greater danger which those entering the Interfaith arena may be exposed to—the danger of social control. In a recent e-mail to me, Prof. Rodney Blackhirst of LaTrobe University in Bendigo, Australia, [author of Primordial Alchemy, Sophia Perennis, 2008], put his finger on the problem of the use of the Interfaith Movement to extend control over the world’s religions by placing them under secular authority:

“I am….concerned about secularizing “inter-faith” movements. I might have told you that here in Bendigo I was invited onto an inter-faith council, supported by the local government. But then I found they wanted to start a series of “inter-faith services”— prayer services that cater to everyone at once. I objected to this but was told that government funding had such strings attached. The government, that is, has a policy of discouraging the various religions from conducting “exclusive” religious services. I can foresee a time when it will be illegal (under anti-discrimination laws) for Muslims to conduct a prayer service that doesn’t cater to Christians or Buddhists. That is where we are heading.”

And of course exclusive services for Christians or Buddhists or anyone else would be prohibited as well under such rules, or at least serious curtailed. Lee Penn, for one, has documented, in False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism and the Quest for a One-World Religion [Sophia Perennis, 2005; available through Amazon.com], the stated desire of certain figures in the Interfaith Movement to prohibit religious proselytization as representing a kind of religions “imperialism” in the doctrinal sphere [see below]. In any case, Prof. Blackhirst’s experience is evidence of a governmental intent—or perhaps it is only a trend, the potential consequences of which the governments in question are not always clear on—to homogenize the religions and destroy their autonomy. [NOTE: I refer anyone wishing to further research the globalist agenda to co-opt and control the traditional faiths to False Dawn, available at on the web at www.falsedawn.us—as well as to Lee Penn’s recent report “The Religious Face of the New World Order: From the Vatican to the White House to the United Religions Initiative”, which contains a detailed analysis of Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, where the pope openly calls for a One World Government. It is available at: www.usasurvival.org/docs/Global_Religion.pdf

My own personal experience with the Interfaith Movement as sponsored by the rich and powerful is as follows: My wife and I were invited to an interfaith banquet at the University of Kentucky, sponsored in part by the Rumi Forum based in Washington, D.C., on whose website statements by and “photo op” images of ambassadors and State Department heads routinely appear. (The Rumi Forum is a branch of the movement headed by Turkish Muslim Fethullah Gülen, which presents a “liberal” face while having among its goals the restoration of the Caliphate—possibly, given the interest the Federal Government has shown in the Rumi Forum, a puppet Caliphate beholden to the West.) The mayor was there; the chief of police was there; a representative of the governor was there. The organization in question had nothing to do with Islam, with Sufism, with questions relating to the spiritual path; it was not even an art organization interested in poetry. No: It’s sole function was to present Rumi as the patron of interfaith unity and global peace. (It was also sponsored by a Turkish interfaith group at the University; many more or less secularized Turks want to use the western interest in Rumi in the service of Turkey’s entry into the European Union.) Suspecting that this would be the general drift of things, I prepared a page with a couple of quotes from the Mevlana; after the event was over I approached the woman who had spoken on behalf of the Rumi Forum, and showed her the page, which contained the following texts:

When has religion ever been one? It has always been two or three, and war has always raged among coreligionists. How are you going to unify religion? On the Day of Resurrection it will be unified, but here in this world that is impossible because everybody has a different desire and want. Unification is not possible here. At the Resurrection, however, when all will be united, everyone will look to one thing, everyone will hear and speak one thing. [Jalalluddin Rumi, Signs of the Unseen (Fihi ma-Fihi),Threshold Books edition, p. 29].

I am the servant of the Noble Qur’an as long as I draw breath;
I am dust on the path of Muhammad, the chosen of God.
If any man claims he’s found something else in what I have written
I am disgusted with him—and finished with him.

She was deeply shocked. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and when she was finally able to stammer a few words, she said: “I guess that even Rumi could have a bad day!” [NOTE: The above is my “poetic” version of Quatrain No. 6: F-1173, based on the new English translation by Ibrahim Gamard and A. G. Rawan Farhadi of the complete Quatrains, entitled The Quatrains of Rumi: Ruba ‘iyat-é Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, Sophia Perennis, 2008]

People interested in Interfaith dialogue do not always ask themselves who may be involved in setting the agenda for such dialogue. Blinded by their good will, which they unthinkingly attribute to all concerned, they find it hard to conceive that they might be used by forces with unstated agendas, that what appears on the surface to be the willing cooperation of independent religious institutions and individuals may actually be a scenario orchestrated by people whose names appear nowhere on the program. When approaching the Interfaith arena one should always ask: “Who are the sponsors of this event? Who is funding it? What are their connections? Based on their history and their associations, what might their dominant agenda be? Is it stated or unstated? And is it really compatible with my own hopes for the outcome of this dialogue?” Public actions and publicly expressed positions are clearly visible; the same cannot be said, however, for contexts—and it is in the setting and manipulation of contexts that real power resides.

Given the networks of international terrorism presently emanating from anti-Traditional, Wahhabi-influenced Islam (the Wahhabi takeover of Arabia was funded, we should remember, by the British Empire so as to open the Arabian peninsula to the hegemony of the oil companies), the world of traditional Sufism is especially vulnerable to co-optation, through the Interfaith Movement, by the globalist elites, as evidenced by the anecdote about the Rumi Forum above. Let anyone who still doubts the reality of this influence simply do a Google search on “Rumi”; he or she will see glowing endorsements of the Mevlana on a number of diplomatic, State Department-oriented and globalist/idealist websites—not the real Mevlana, of course, but a spurious figure cooked up by the social engineers to represent universal peace and religious unity—and thereby to co-opt tasawwuf. Rumi is being presented by these forces, in contradictory mode, both as the poster-boy of the Iranian opposition and as the standard-bearer of the kind of harmless, universalist, hardly-Islamic Islam now openly patronized by the forces of globalization because it is seen as more easily integrated into the New World Order than either the Islamicists or the traditional Muslims. As dar al-Islam is relentlessly pounded by military force from without, al-Din is being subtly undermined from within by the sentimental and degenerate falsification of Sufism, in part attributable simply to the negative side of promiscuous cultural diffusion, in part deliberately engineered. A shallow aestheticized Sufism cut off from its Islamic roots, one that defines the spiritual path as a kind of sentimental fantasy rather than as a hard-edged and acutely intelligent struggle against the passions of the lower self, a struggle the Prophet Muhammad called “the war against the soul” or “the greater jihad” because physical combat itself is tame by comparison—such emasculated pseudo-Sufism can only tempt Muslim youth, seeking the essence of Islamic manhood, to polarize against it in the direction of the Islamicists, those heartless betrayers of their religion and haters of the Prophet Muhammad and his sunnah who, when the Wahhabis conquered Medina in 1925, obliterated the tombs of the Prophet’s companions, and nearly destroyed that of the Prophet himself. Between an attraction to Islamicist militancy on the one hand and the growing co-optation by the globalists and/or the West on the other, the territory available to truly traditional and independent Sufism continues to shrink.

Such co-optation is in effect both an anti-Islamic insurgency that is hard to see, and a temptation to self-betrayal that is hard to resist. Sufis who have been marginalized vis-a-vis Islam as a whole, and who live in fear of the Islamicist militants—consciously in the Middle East, often unconsciously in the West—and who also worry about being put in the same class as those militants by Western governments, and consequently subjected at least to surveillance and at worse to persecution in the West as they have been in the East—are easily influenced by the blandishments of powerful national or globalist patrons, whose line often goes something like this: “We have been watching you closely and we fully support your message of tolerance, spirituality and high ideals; that’s why we want to do all we can to help you in your work. We are pleased to invite you to our interfaith conferences, to introduce you to wealthy and influential patrons willing help you in your efforts, to put you in touch with groups eager to ally with you, to put in a good word for you with funding sources happy to support your wonderful mission in the most substantive terms. Neither you nor we want to see the power of the Islamicists, our common enemy, expand any further— right? That’s why we are sure that you will be as happy to accept our support as we are happy to provide it. (And if we see that you are not in fact willing to accept that support, what can we conclude? Perhaps you are not as opposed to the Islamicists as we first assumed; if this turns out to be the case, we will have to revise our understanding of you and take the appropriate steps.)” What Sufi leader, no matter how solid his spiritual integrity, could count himself totally immune from the influence this kind of explicit-carrot-implicit-stick approach, or completely aware of all the hidden agendas that might lie behind it?

Part II

In order to exercise the necessary vigilance when approaching the Interfaith arena, especially when involving oneself with initiatives which are extra-national or global in scope, three basic theses should be taken into account:

  1. The global elites are committed to moving the world toward one or another form or degree of “global governance”. This thesis is easy to accept since it more-or-less goes without saying. In the face of the general trend toward globalization, firstly I would caution those approaching the Interfaith world against an uncritical acceptance of the idea of Unity, a word that is often employed as a rallying-cry, if not a kind of fetish, but is not always clearly defined. When encountering this concept in the Interfaith realm, one should ask two basic questions: 1) “Exactly what does the word Unity mean in the present context? Mutual respect and discretion? Mutual action toward common goals? Doctrinal unity? Political unity? All or none of the above?”, and 2) “Would the achievement of this or that particular sort of Unity really be a good thing? If so, why? If not, why not?” Global unity is often unthinkingly presented as if synonymous with global peace. Global imperialism and hegemony, however, are quite different forms of “unity” from that envisioned by the interfaith idealists, just as “pacification” is poles apart from real peace. Secondly, we must also avoid, like the plague, the often half-conscious idea that “if it is inevitable then it must be accepted; we may or may not like globalization, but this is essentially irrelevant; given that it is already here, we must make the best of it and do what we can to mitigate its evils”. And although some may actually be called (not simply tempted) to this kind of effort, we too often use a similar argument when it comes to dealing with our own passions: “I may not like sin, but since it is inevitable I guess I’ve have to make the best of it”. A pointed quote from Frithjof Schuon is relevant at this point: “There is no possible alliance between the principle of good and organized sin; what we mean is that the powers of the world, which are necessarily sinful powers, organize sin with a view to abolishing the effects of sin”. [Esoterism as Principle and as Way, Perennial Books edition, p. 161]
  2. The Interfaith Movement represents an important element in the push for global governance as envisioned by the elites, or at least by many influential individuals and institutions among them. This thesis can be demonstrated by examining the curriculum vitae of one Eboo Patel, chosen almost at random out of many possible examples; the following passage is taken from Lee Penn’s “The Religious Face of the New World Order: From the Vatican to the White House to the United Religions Initiative”, p. 69: “Eboo Patel was one of 25 people selected in March 2009 for one-year terms on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Patel is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), which is an ally of the United Religions Initiative. Patel holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, and was recently selected to join the Young Global Leaders network of the World Economic Forum. In April 2009, Patel’s IFYC worked jointly with Tony Blair’s Faith Foundation to select 12 young adults to lead interfaith efforts to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. It would be difficult for anyone to improve upon this…convergence of globalist, elite credentials and connections….” This sort of networking of organizations highly influential on a global scale provides much of the context in which today’s Interfaith Movement must operate.
  3. Through the Interfaith Movement and other venues, the global elites support ever-increasing secular control of the world religions; some elements at least loosely associated with these elites are concurrently doing “research and development” with a view to establishing a single, unified One World Religion. In order to evidence the truth of the first part of this thesis, one need only ask: Are the majority of those dedicated to “global governance” people of deep religious faith? Are they essentially traditional in their outlook? Some, certainly, are people of faith, but many are essentially secularists—and if this is the case, then why are they so interested in religion? Why do they so vigorously patronize and fund the Interfaith Movement? The obvious answer is: to further their own ends. And what are these ends? Have they anything to do with the salvation of souls, or with the deepening of metaphysical understanding on the part of those open to it, for the purpose of gaining final Liberation from the world of becoming? Obviously not. By and large the global elites see religion not as a doorway to the Transcendent, a path to God established by God, on His own initiative, by which we may return to Him, but as a socio-political control system or ensemble of such systems. They hope to influence the world religions as a way of extending their own influence over the various “sectors” these religions represent. In order to further this agenda they most often appeal—for obvious reasons—to religious “idealism” rather than to the separatist “tribal” identities that the religions also foster; they seek the “universalist” common denominator among the religions as a way of preventing interreligious violence and stabilizing the emerging global order. And this apparently benign agenda has put the minds of many religious leaders, even highly traditional if not “Traditionalist” ones, at ease regarding the Interfaith Movement as a whole. But what price “stability”? Patronage is inseparable from control, and to the degree that the religions accept patronage from essentially secular forces, and dialogue on ground provided and defined by these forces—on their “premises” in both the spacial and the logical senses of that word—they are abdicating their own jurisdictional, and in some cases even doctrinal, independence. For example, any Islamic nation that wishes to enter the European Union must accept homosexuality as a socially legitimate lifestyle, thus abrogating those parts of the shari’ah based on Q. 29:28-29.

As for the second part of the thesis, that some elements within or allied to the global elites are consciously trying to develop a One World Religion, such proposals mostly emanate, at least in the public sphere, from New Age organizations either patronized by or seeking patronage from these elites. [See the story of the Common Word Initiative and the Temple of Love, below.] Other groups, less radically centralist but probably even more influential, seek not so much to blend the world’s religions into one as to federate them under a single secular authority. The United Religions Initiative, for one, was launched in order to found a United Religions Organization somewhat on the model of the U.N., though at this writing it is more of a global network, though of extremely wide scope, than a centralized organization. But the line between this kind of networking and an actual move toward religious amalgamation not always clear. In 2000, when an interviewer asked New Age guru Neale Donald Walsch to “name a few enterprises in the world you believe are working toward goals which are similar to yours”, he replied: “Well, there is the United Religions Initiative out of San Francisco, undertaken by Bishop William Swing, the Episcopal Archbishop of California. He has had a vision of a one-world religion—not a single religion, but a united religions organization to which delegates from all the world’s religions would come, much as they do to the United Nations” [False Dawn, p. 135]. Walsch’s spirit guide, who claims to be Jesus, commented further: “The discussions at these important gatherings will not focus on eliminating the differences between religions, for it will be recognized that diversity of spiritual expression is a blessing, not a problem. Rather, the focus will be on finding ways to honor those differences, seeing what they can further reveal to humanity about the Totality of God, and looking to see whether the combination of all these different views might produce a Whole that is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts” [ibid., p. 136]. How respect for “diversity of spiritual expression”, which must also respect the boundaries between the faiths, is compatible with “the combination, and Sum, of all these views” is not immediately apparent. (Walsch also spoke highly of Hitler as someone who did the Jews a favor by killing them; see False Dawn, p. 330.)

Furthermore, as Lee Penn has shown, the United Religions Initiative harbors certain the URI, attitudes inimical to autonomy on the part of the world religions. “Many leaders of including Bishop Swing himself, habitually equate evangelism—preaching the Gospel—with conquest and manipulative proselytism. If these leaders have their way, the open proclamation of traditional Christian belief will be increasingly stigmatized as ‘hate speech’; legal repression could follow” [ibid., p, 176]. “At a public April 1997 URI forum at Grace Cathedral, Sri Ravi Peruman (who was on the URI board from 1997 through 2002) said that religions have ‘invaded and crusaded’, ‘subverted and converted’. Pacific Church News reported: ‘Calling statements about “authentic religious freedom” for everyone “the freedom to proselytize”, Peruman said that there should be a universal Declaration of Rights not to be converted to another religion’ ” [ibid., p. 180]. (In response to this statement, which Lee Penn alerted me to, I wrote a short manifesto declaring the right of every religion to proselytize as long as manipulative and coercive methods were not used. Prof. Huston Smith signed it, but withdrew his signature after a phone conversation with Bishop Swing.) Nor is the United Religions Initiative the only forum where “proselytization” is a bad word. At the World Millennium Peace Summit in the year 2000, sponsored by Ted Turner and the Ford Foundation among others, a Buddhist teacher who condemned all attempts at religious conversion received a standing ovation [see False Dawn, p. 52]—as if the Dalai Lama, for example, never does anything to propagate Buddhism!

However, we need not always characterize the agendas of the secularist sponsors of the Interfaith Movement as “cynical” or “conspiratorial” in order to understand the inherent drawbacks of their approach. Secularists, in sincerely pursuing their own ideal of the common good, will inevitably come into opposition at one point with the idea of the good held by the traditional religions, since the secularist sees his good only in terms of this world, while the religious believer sees his in terms of both this world and the next, with the next world taking precedence—as well as in terms of a Divine Reality that pervades, and transcends, both worlds. Such faith-based perspectives leave the highest secular idealism far behind—even if it clothes itself in “spiritual” garb, as New Age idealism always has insofar as it hopes to “tap spiritual energy” to further its own agenda (not God’s) for global unity and/or environmental regeneration. The perspectives of the traditional religions can only be damaged or obscured by any attempt to place them within a worldly context that is simply too narrow to contain them.

But we must also entertain the possibility that the dangers of the Interfaith Movement go beyond those created by well-meaning but narrow-minded idealists. In The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, René Guénon spoke of the various stages of “anti-Traditional action”. The first is “Anti-Tradition” per se, the general materialist or secular tendency to debunk religion. The second is “Pseudo-Initiation”, the development of various illegitimate groups and doctrines invented by well-meaning but deluded pseudo-esoterics. The third is “Counter-Tradition” or “Counter-Initiation”, the conscious and deliberate perversion of esoterism, and consequently of all true religion, by subversive groups and individuals in direct contact with the Powers of Darkness. Let us see what the Interfaith Movement might look like in terms of these three categories.

Anti-Tradition, in terms of the patronage of the Interfaith Movement by secularist individuals or institutions, has already been dealt with above. But what about Pseudo-Initiation? There is no question that pseudo-initiatic organizations play a large role in the world of the elites. I will never forget the day in the early 1990’s when I was invited to a hillside palace in Hillsboro, California, where the CEOs of the big Silicon Valley computer corporations, Hewlett-Packard and others, were pow-wowing with their psychics, mediums and New Age gurus, in the belief that they were forging the new Universal Paradigm. That experience taught me just how “counterculture” certain elements of the ruling elite can actually be. (And lest it be thought that such antics are limited to places like California, one Jamaluddin, a Naqshbandi dervish living in Austria, tells me that things look quite similar today from his perspective.) Such figures as Barbara Marx Hubbard and Robert Muller, firm supporters of the United Religions Initiative, are equally at home in the world of alternative “spiritualities” and that of the global elites, and both are deeply influenced by the Theosophical movement founded in 1875 by Mme. Blavatsky, which René Guénon exposed as “pseudo-initiatory” in his book Theosophy, the History of a Pseudo Religion [Sophia Perennis, 2003; available through Amazon.com]. The Theosophists, many of whom support the United Religions Initiative, have been associated with the Interfaith Movement at least since 1893, when they were prominently represented at the famous World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. According to Marcus Braybrooke, historian of the Interfaith Movement, “Theosophists can claim to have been amongst the first to suggest a unity of religions.”

Barbara Marx Hubbard, a New Age teacher and futurist who channels “the Christ voice”, was “one of the directors of the World Future Society along with Robert McNamara (formerly the U.S. Secretary of Defense and president of the World Bank), Maurice Strong (who was secretary general of the UN Conference on Environment and Development), and scholars from Georgetown University, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland” [False Dawn, p. 326]; she remains a member of their advisory board. Muller is a former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, whose World Core Curriculum earned a UNESCO prize in 1989. He later served as Chancellor of the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica. Muller is associated with two different branches of the Theosophical movement. The first is SHARE International, founded by Theosophical spin-off Benjamin Creme, a group that believes that “Maitreya” the “World Teacher” is about to return—and has in fact recently announced that return in the person of Raj Patel, an academic presently teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, late of the World Monetary Fund and the World Bank, though he now describes himself as an “anarchist”. Muller’s other Theosophical connection is the Lucis Trust (which grew out of the Lucifer Publishing Company), founded on the teachings of Alice Bailey—the same Alice Bailey who once spoke highly of Adolph Hitler as a person “who lifted a distressed people upon his shoulders” [ibid., pp. 275 and 300].

As for the true Counter-initiation—esoteric spirituality consciously counterfeited (insofar as those conversant with psychic realities but ignorant of spiritual ones may be termed “conscious”) by those dedicated to destroying true esoterism (and true religion along with it, esoterism being religion’s spiritual heart)—its existence and activities are very hard to document, since if the Counter-Initiation did exist it would be effectively Satanic, and real, radical Satanists (not “stage Satanists” like Anton LaVey, though they themselves serve Satan in another way) are necessarily quite secretive about their activities. René Guénon, however—who characterized even the Pseudo-Initiation as “unconscious Satanism”—accepted the existence of the Counter-Initiation, based in part on his extensive personal experience with the world of the occult in the first half of the 20th century. In The Reign of Quantity, p. 262, he says:

….the “counter-initiation”….cannot be regarded as a purely human invention, such as would in no way be distinguishable….from plain “pseudo-initiation”; in fact it is much more than that, and, in order that it may really be so, it must in a certain sense, so far as its actual origin is concerned, proceed from the unique source to which all initiation is attached, the very source from which….everything in our world that manifests a “non-human” element proceeds; but the “counter-initiation” proceeds from that source by a degeneration carried to its extreme limit, and that limit is represented by the “inversion” that constitutes “satanism” properly so called.

The Counter-Initiation would likely constitute a small but possibly very influential spectrum of cadres within the global elites—and unless we axiomatically disallow that true Satanism could exist, despite the mountain of “anecdotal” evidence supporting it, then a moment’s reflection will immediately inform us that a conscious Satanist would like nothing better than to place him- or herself in a position of global influence. Whether we think it likely that actual Satanists could rise to such positions of worldly power (leaving aside the quite suggestive example of Adolf Hitler), or see such a possibility as unlikely in the extreme, will depend largely upon whether we view Satanists exclusively as mentally disordered individuals occupying the world of “heavy metal bands” and fringe cults, or as also including within their number persons who are highly competent and motivated in worldly terms. Fr. Malachi Martin, for one, claimed that the “Luciferians” he encountered as an exorcist in New York City were almost always members of the professional, financial or political elites. Anyone who sees This World as an organized expression of the Good, who believes that the social, political and financial powers that be exist primarily for altruistic purpose, and that ruthless individual and corporate ambition is not a dominant factor in national and global dynamics, will find it hard to take seriously the existence of something like a Counter-Initiation. Any realist, however, who knows that no power elite is eager to make the general public privy to its goals and activities, and who is also cognizant of the role that religious forces, legitimate or otherwise, have played in human history, will be compelled to accept at least the possibility that Counter-Initiatory organizations and agendas might actually exist. And if this realist also believes in God and the supernatural order, as any true realist must, then the idea that Shaytan has his agents operating in this world, just as God has, will in no way be foreign to him; rather, it will be a foregone conclusion.

It is my belief that the global elites embrace elements that are not simply secular or Anti-traditional, but truly Counter-traditional and Counter-initiatory, elements seeking employ “the truths of the ages”, along with any false spiritual innovations that may also suit their purpose, to further their essentially worldly aims. Some within the elites, for example, have adopted various New Age doctrines and practices since these are “easily transportable” and not tied to the “backward” traditional cultures they often see as a break on progress and an impediment to full globalization. As the New Age loses force as a popular movement, certain of its ideas are being taken up by various elements within the global elites as a “meta-paradigm” which they hope will be of help to them in creating their One World Religion. (William Quinn’s The Only Tradition throws some light on these plans from the inside, as well as—from the outside—Lee Penn’s False Dawn.) A false “quintessential esoterism” for the elites, a popular Neo-Paganism for the masses, with the world religions neutralized and put firmly in their place by an increasingly powerful and well-funded Interfaith Movement falsely viewed as “the only alternative” to tribalist religious terrorism—this, as I see it, is a dominant strand in the religious agenda of the globalists.

I hasten to add that just as all well-meaning secularist/idealists are not really secret members of pseudo-initiatic organizations, so we should be careful not to identify all sincere but deluded pseudo-initiates, such as the members of the Theosophical or Anthroposophical Societies, as conscious agents of the Counter-Initiation. If counter-initiatory agents do in fact operate through such organizations, at least on occasion, it is likely that they make up only a small percentage of those organizations’ membership, and that their actual role is unknown to the rank and file. This, at least, was Guénon’s belief.

Unfortunately, many of René Guénon’s contemporary “followers”—members of what has come to be called the Traditionalist or Perennialist School—no longer share, or at least no longer emphasize, his view of the dangers of the Pseudo-Initiation and Counter-Initiation; in particular, they do not seem to clearly understand the wide divergence, if not opposition, between the doctrine of the Transcendent Unity of Religions as articulated by the last true master of the School, Frithjof Schuon (who passed away in 1998)—the principle that while every revealed religion ultimately springs from the same Primordial Truth, religions cannot be legitimately syncretized in this world because their respective paths unite only in the Transcendent— and the worldview of the secular ecumenists or the anti-traditional universalists with whom they have associated themselves. Schuon himself once granted an interview to Quest Magazine, a Theosophical Society publication; another prominent member of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, spoke some years ago at an interfaith conference sponsored by Benjamin Creme’s SHARE International; photographs of him have appeared on their website. (As to whether this represents real or potential co-optation, or a heroic intent to speak the truth in whatever forum and to whatever ears might be able to hear it, God alone knows: and God knows best.)

A contemporary example of the dangers of the Interfaith Movement recently cropped up in connection with the “A Common Word between Us and You” initiative, whose stated goals I heartily support. This initiative, headed by his Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad al-Talal of Jordan— based on a document drawn up in response to certain problematic statements made by Pope Benedict XVI at the Regensburg Conference in 2006 and signed by prominent Muslim authorities from around the world—is the best imaginable presentation of an Islam, based on orthodox Qur’anic norms, that is both entirely traditional and entirely open to and accepting of the other revealed faiths. This admirable effort, however, was not immune to certain toxic influences lurking in the interfaith domain. On the Common Word website [http://www.acommonword.com] appeared an article by one Karen Fish [http://www.acommonword.com/index.php? page=media&item=538], apparently a member (perhaps the sole member, since she is the only name I can find associated with it) of a universalist organization called the Temple of Love [http://www.thetempleoflove.com], which seems to have been founded by New Age Jews. Ms. Fish, in her article, characterizes the New Testament as “a plagiarized fairy tale” and also claims that the Common Initiative was itself spawned by the Temple of Love. Articles by the same author attacking Islam and the Qur’an appear on the world-wide web. (On its own website, the Temple of Love calls for the amalgamation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam into a single world religion to be called—the Temple of Love.) As of this writing, three signatories to the Common Word document are doing their best to have the offending article—which, not surprisingly, outraged some of my Christian friends—removed from the website; needless to say, I applaud their efforts. However, the offending article still appeared on the Common Word site months after I first blew the whistle; how is this to be explained? Since it appears in a section devoted to media response to the Common Word initiative, perhaps its patrons simply believe that “any publicity is good publicity”. It is also possible, however, that The Temple of Love is a front organization for a sector of the global elite to whom some of the patrons of A Common Word are beholden in some way; nothing else outside of a serious naivete in the area of public relations would explain the continued visibility of an article so damaging to all their stated aims, especially since it is unaccompanied by any attempt at refutation. 

To keep the piece posted, even if it makes them look foolish and self-sabotaging, may be their way of declaring their allegiance to whatever forces stand behind it, or giving a nod to the possibility of a One World Religion somewhere down the road. The Common Word website is copyrighted under the name of Prince Ghazi; another Jordanian prince, His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal, uncle of King Abdullah, is a co-chair of Mikhail Gorbachev’s State of the World Forum, a major player among elite globalist organizations and a firm supporter of the United Religions Initiative. (Gorbachev is an avowed atheist who claims to worship the earth.) Prince El-Hassan was also president of the Club of Rome between 1999 and 2007. He is associated (as is Ghazi Bin Talal) with the World Future Council; with Gold Mercury International, a think-tank dedicated to “global governance”; and he sits on the International Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. In light of this we certainly cannot assume, without clear proof, that A Common Word is an entirely independent effort initiated by traditional Muslims who simply want to live in peace with the Christian world. [NOTE: Since this was written, the offending article by Karen Fish has been replaced by a less offensive effort by the same writer—thanks (presumably) to the work of Reza Shah-kazemi and Prof. Alan Godlas. If so, thanks!]

I can do no better than to end this essay with a highly relevant quote from Seyyed Hossein Nasr:

….people search in these ecumenical movements for a common denominator which, in certain instances, sacrifices divinely ordained qualitative differences for the sake of a purely human and often quantitative egalitarianism. In such cases the so-called “ecumenical” forces in question are no more than a concealed form of the secularism and humanism which gripped the West at the time of the Renaissance and which in their own turn caused religious divisions within Christianity. This type of ecumenism, whose hidden motive is much more worldly than religious, goes hand in hand with the kind of charity that is willing to forego the love of God for the love of the neighbor and in fact insists upon the love of the neighbor in spite of a total lack of love for God and the Transcendent. The mentality which advocates this kind of “charity” affords one more example of the loss of the transcendent dimension and the reduction of all things to the purely worldly. It is yet another manifestation of the secular character of modernism which in this case has penetrated into the supreme Christian virtue of charity and, to the extent that it has been successful, has deprived this virtue of any spiritual significance…. It would be less harmful to oppose other religions, as has been done by so many religious authorities throughout history, than to be willing to destroy essential aspects of one’s own religion in order to reach a common denominator with another group of men who are asked to undergo the same losses. To say the least, a league of religions could not guarantee religious peace, any more than the League of Nations guaranteed political peace. [preface to Shi’ite Islam by ‘Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i: SUNY, 1977; pp. 5-6]

[*There is a great difference between gay-baiting, which is cruel and socially destructive —and under which I include job and health insurance discrimination—and opposition to gay “marriage”, which is itself a violation of the natural rights of heterosexuals. Marriage is an image of God’s spiritual union with the human soul or with His creation, which renews the life of that soul or that creation, just as heterosexual reproduction renews the life of the race; as such, heterosexual unions have always been considered to have a sacred dimension, in every society we know of. If gay relationship are defined as marriages, the sacred dimension of heterosexuality is called into question, with devastating results for any society which attempts it. In traditional Christianity, marriage is a sacrament; the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “marriage is half the religion”. And if homosexuals begin to call for equal “reproductive rights” with heterosexuals, this will only further the degradation of the human being to the level of an industrial product. Furthermore, the fact that homosexuality is prohibited in the Abrahamic religions—as it is among the higher castes in Hinduism—makes the more excessive demands of gay “rights” advocates of great use to the secular globalists in their campaign to undermine the authority of religious institutions and traditions. “Don’t ask don’t tell” is actually a rather civilized approach to the issue; it emphasizes the virtue of discretion and reminds us that morality has much more to do with the examination of our own consciences before God that with judging others. The alternative to “don’t ask don’t tell” is for society to be required to ask and homosexuals required to tell; can this really be called “liberation”? A society without privacy is a society without freedom. However, when I asked the ACLU for clarification of the recent repeal of don’t-ask-don’t-tell, they assured me that it does not require that military personnel now reveal their sexual orientation.]

6 Responses to “Vigilance in the Interfaith Arena”

  1. MR. UPTON OR TO WHOM IT CONCERN,

    The issue of traditionalism and the interfaith movement has re-opened some confusion I’ve had ever since I gravitated towards the Schuonian perspective. I was hoping you could offer some insight. When I recently introduced a fellow Christian to the Perennial Philosophy, his response was the following,” How can one be a universalist and affirm orthodoxy at the same time ?” I responded by explaining the exo/esoteric “schematic” of a given tradition and that form is transcended from within. He didn’t resonate with this view and suggested to carefully read the classic book “Orthodoxy” by the witty Christian exoteric GK Chesterton. Of course, I was familiar with Chesterton, but after this re- read, I went on to read several more of his apologetic works.

    Having started my spiritual journey as a materialist, and then on to skepticism, and then flirting with the New Age, and then on to Wilberian integralism, and then finally to the Traditionalists- I find it somewhat disconcerting to be drifting to a more exclusivist orientation. Lately, I’ve been questioning the Perennialist position because i’ve been dancing around the notion that the Traditionalists seem to , in a sense, subordinate doctrine . Dogma is indispensible, yes, but only insofar as it makes possible an effective spiritual method. The doctrines are Truth, but they don’t “exhaust the Truth.” I was questioned, “Doesn’t this jeopardize the meaning and significance of Orthodoxy if a given religion is not solely and pre-eminently true?” My friend said “It seems to me that the Traditionalists are saying that all of the world’s great religions are each like individual `Incarnations`, and if that is so, then there is a Koran Christ, and Buddha Christ, Confucius Christ etc . ”

    “So, the religions are not absolute, they are relative making the Traditionalists much more Theosophical than they’d like to admit. It would appear that they believe that dogma is merely a means to an end. ” Furthermore , said he, “I’m really having a tough time seeing the Christhood of a book as opposed to the living Word Made Flesh being on equal saving ground.” I responded by stating that the religions draw closer together from within, so his objection is misdirected. He answered by saying that the Traditionalists give doctrine a huge demotion by making it”provisional” for the sake of method., A religion is made null and void unless its dogma is ABSOLUTE. Speaking as a Christian, he declared “Jesus is IT, or he’s not. The Logos is one and indivisible, there aren’t multiple Christs. One God, One Revelation, One humanity!” Moreover, if there is more than one legitimate revelation, how can one discern and/or identify an authentic religion from a false one. It appears that the Traditionalist think that they can have their cake and eat it too by being Absolutist and Relativist at the same time- clearly a pejorative contradiction
    I retorted by saying that this corresponds with God as Infinite or All-Possibility. I was summarily dismissed . I answered with a quote from Coomaraswamy ” You might not be with us, but We are with you!” The worlds fell a little flat. Any advice or insight on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Dear Christopher,

    Now we’re getting to the heart of the issue. The fact is that other religions than Christianity (or Islam, which is my own path) have produced saints—and saints are the proof. As for dogma being true but not exhausting Truth, the same can be said for words in themselves. Everything true everyone has ever said about Christ does not exhaust Him, because Christ IS the Truth. As for the Schuonian doctrine that just as Christ is God-made-man, so the Qur’an is God-made-book, this formulation needs to be refined in my opinion: The Qur’an
    is not ALIVE as a book sitting on a shelf. If is only alive in the moment it is being
    recited by a human being, when the breath or spirit of man becomes the actual Word of God. In this it may be compared to the holy Eucharist. The difference is that the Eucharist becomes part of the living body of the communicant, in line with the fact that Christianity is an incarnational religion, whereas in the case of Islam, which is theophanic not incarnational, the Word of God is as it were reflected in the human form like an image in a mirror; in Sufi terms we could say that God, Who IS in His Essence, is reflected in the mirror of man, who is, in essence ” ‘adam,” “nothing”—who has a form of his own but no
    essence but HE. And I’ll admit that Schuon’s term “relatively absolute” that he uses to define the various revelations is awkward, to say the least. But what’s the alternative? It’s easy to tear down formulations like this with Aristotelian exclusionary logic, but the fact is it transcends that kind of logic. Yes the Logos is One, but it is also the origin of “the ten-thousand things”. A Word that is One in eternity is refracted in space and time into cats, rocks, stars, different religions, and you and me. If there were only one religion in the world, that religion would usurp the place of God; only God in His ipseity is truly and absolutely One.

    The idea that dogma is provisional for the sake of method is essentially Buddhist. The Buddhists see dogmas as upayas, elements of practice, not as abstract ideas that are absolutely true—because, practically speaking, you can hold as absolutely true any abstract idea you want and still be eaten up by passion and craving and ignorance. I agree with this, but I also would say that the clear expression of doctrinal truth is one of the greatest of upayas. It is certainly not all that a spiritual path requires, it is not virtue, it is not contemplative concentration, but it is an essential element. And OF COURSE doctrine is a means to an end, the end being the salvation of your soul. “Not everyone who says unto me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    One can recognize a true religion by the sense of the Absolute it enshrines, from which proceed the sense of the sacred, and the morality, and the ritual forms, and the contem-
    plative methods that direct the soul toward, and conform the soul to, that Absolute. Theosophy, for one thing, fails in all these categories. Madam Blavatsky said that her
    “occultism” does not teach the reality of a divine Creator of man or of anything outside the natural order.

    The basis of Traditionalism as a “school” is the Transcendent Unity of Religions, which teaches that the unity of the religions is not worldly but truly Transcendent: the paths meet only in God. Two things indicate this. The first is the fact that the doctrines of the religions draw ever closer together as the esoteric or mystical centers of those religions are approached, demonstrating that the religions are not simply closed, self-referential systems, as postmodernism would have it, but are all talking about the same objective Divine Reality. God is One; the idea that there is a “Christian God” and a “Muslim God” and a “Hindu God” is heterodox from the point of view of all the revealed faiths is nothing but Pagan polytheism. The second is that absolute unanimity on the nature of God and the divine order is never in fact reached; this indicates that this objective Divine Reality is truly Transcendent. The various revelations “triangulate” the reality of a Transcendent God, and for this they need to be diverse, just as the true distance of a star from earth can only be determined by taking measurements from two or more different points. Schuon himself said that the diversity of the revelations is as necessary and providential as their Transcendent Unity. The problem with today’s Interfaith Movement is that it tends—often in spite of itself—to posit a worldly unity of religions, not a Transcendent one; it has to repeatedly emphasize the need to “celebrate diversity” because it is in fact destroying that diversity. If religions, and individuals, could learn to leave each other alone and concentrate upon their various ways of drawing nearer to God, they would find themselves drawing nearer to each other in the right way. But if they divert the spiritual attention owed to God in the direction of obsessively “explaining themselves” to each other and “getting along” with each other, then God is cheated and many unconscious irritations develop. False unity leads ultimately to real conflict; as William Blake put it, “One law for the Lion and the Ox is oppression”. (And as for polytheism, it is based on a lack of differentiation between the psyche and Spirit. Last night you dreamt of an eagle, the night before that you dreamt of a snake, so these must represent two different deities. This is simply a naive literalism in spiritual matters. The psychic and physical manifestations of the One are multiple; God has many Names, which as Ibn al-‘Arabi says represent His many relations to different created entities. But a plurality of Absolutes is absurd: God in Himself can only be One.)

    And the Transcendent Unity of Religions is actually a fairly preliminary concept, for all the difficulty it seems to presents to religious exoterics. It simply teaches us how to live in a religiously pluralistic world without becoming fanatical exclusivists, or anti-Traditional universalists, or cynical secularists. It is not a spiritual Path in itself or any stage or element of such a Path. And when it is over-emphasized, when its nature as mere preliminary (though necessary) orientation is misunderstood, then the “perennial” temptation
    appears to treat it as a Path in itself; this may in fact be the reason why some people who were once Traditionalists are now calling themselves “Perennialists”. It is always a question in my mind whether some people in the Traditionalist world are beginning to see “quintessential esoterism” as a path in itself; this is always denied, yet the impression that things may be tending in this direction never goes away. My own struggle, now, is to become more of a Muslim, to stop habitually thinking of my spiritual life in terms of the doctrines of every religion under the sun, all day every day. Some Traditionalist/Perennial-
    ists may see this as a fall back into “confessionalism”. But my belief is, if someone can’t adopt, not only the practices, but the effective doctrine of a single religion without limiting his or her spiritual perspective, then that person is not an esoterist. What Blake said of the senses could also be said of the religions: “I question not [i.e., I don’t call into question] my Corporeal or Vegetative eye any more than I would question a window concerning sight: I look through it, not with it.” The esoterist does the same with his religion: he looks through it, not with it. Only those to whom religions doctrines are relatively opaque must try and compensate for this lack by collecting and attempting to understand doctrines from many different religions.

    To conclude: in this time when all the religious traditions are under attack from both within and without, and when the push for a One-World Religion, or the federation of the religions under a single secular authority, is gaining momentum, the need is not to articulate an intelligent universalism, as Schuon and Guenon were called upon to do in their own times, but to allow ourselves to be chosen by a single religion, and follow it more deeply, AS IF it were the only true Way. Ibn al-‘Arabi, the Shaykh al-Akbar, the “greatest Sufi shaykh”, talked about three classes of the faithful. The first is the simple believer, the exoteric. The second is the “Sufi”, who is subject to special spiritual states, to rare insights, to miraculous occurrences, etc. The third is the member of what he calls “The People of Blame”, who,
    once again, is indistinguishable from the simple believer; and this is the highest category. So the question arises, “who is doing the blaming?” Apparently it is the Sufis who blame the person-of-blame for, as far as they can see, giving up all his Sufi specialness and sinking back into what looks to them like mere exoterism again. But he knows better. Likewise some Traditionalists might blame someone who wants to be a “mere Christian” rather than a “quintessential esoterist”. What they may not understand is: One is all it takes—the corollary to this being, as the mother of Huey Lewis of the rock band Huey Lewis and the News liked to say, “too much is not enough”. The Transcendent Unity of Religions is not a meta-doctrine that supersedes the revealed faiths, one that requires only a minimum of acceptance of some traditional faith or other so as to provide the exoteric membership card that makes you eligible for the “higher grades” where the real juice comes from. Nor can you really preach it effectively to people who don’t need it. Rather, it is a way for us postmodern sophisticates to embrace and faithfully follow a single religion, in its depth, without getting smothered by it. The revealed religions are in terrible shape these days, but, God willing, with the help of an understanding of traditional metaphysics, and His Grace, we will be able to find the diamond buried in the mud. Only that diamond, that Pearl of Great Price—not boatloads of metaphysical understanding without it—can grant admission to the presence of the Absolute.

    ~~ Charles

  3. MR. Upton,

    A thousand thanks for your speedy and thorough response. Much gratitude! The above response was very helpful in clarifying some of the subtleties of the Transcendent Unity of Religions and how that relates to the reality of religious pluralism. Nevertheless, I still feel saddled with a practical two- part problem relating to identity and practice. As I migrated into the orbit of the Traditionalist perspective, I felt the genuine need to engage in an authentic spiritual way. As Frithjof Schuon has explained, the discernment of the Real from the unreal leads to a natural desire to assimilate it. OK, so I asked myself, “Which tradition?”
    Well, I come from a New York Italian American family that wasn’t particularly religious in any real sense; nevertheless, we were certainly culturally Catholic. My mother definitely instilled in me a love and joy for the the Christmas season and many of the Catholic observance days. My childhood was drenched with wonder and imagination- first the Japanese monster movies and anime and also the Ray Harryhausen films. Then came the momentous encounter with the Force and the modern myth of the Star Wars trilogy. Shortly after, my passion for history and mythology was kindled by the man who I refer to as the “Old Master”- JRR Tolkien . The Lord of the Rings was decisive – my personal Grail Quest had commenced. As so many folks have reported, the Professor’s mythopeia had something of an evangelizing effect on me without even being conscious of it. The Silmarillion impacted on me almost as if it were authentic sacred literature and had the effect of stoking my jnanic engines.

    Ultimately, it just seemed to make sense to attach myself to the Catholic faith and that’s where I have remained for the last two years. But, here’s the rub. How does a Traditionalist “feel at home” within a faith community that is either indifferent or openly hostile to other Traditions? The Perennial Philosophy is not exactly welcome among many of my fellow exoteric Catholic kinsfolk. I’ve been charged with all the errors that the Traditionalists themselves, ironically, have bitterly criticized ! The friend who I made reference to in my first comment refers to me affectionately as the “Happy Heretic.” In the summer, I attended the annual GK Chesterton conference in Emmitsburg, Maryland where I was repeatedly warned of the dangers of syncretism. I think Frithjof Schuon himself objected to the “calcified exclusivism” of the Catholic Church.. Whenever I’ve encountered the disparagement of other religions, the presentation of my Perennialist views has not gone very well . I feel like a man without a country. Do you think I should simply remain silent in these situations or continue to make the seemingly vain attempt to introduce traditional metaphysics ?

    On to the second part of my problem . As you said ,the revealed religions are in really bad shape these days. In the Catholic Church today, there seems to be not only a general lack of intellectuality, but even a lack of understanding of basic theological principles. Now, I know one should be wary of falling into the trap of gnostic pride and to remind oneself of the essential bhaktic character of the Christian Tradition. Nevertheless,, it seems to me that the majority of church goers think that faith means believing something that one doesn’t really believe: “belief in believing” . Others are simply practicing an ethnic cultural “tradiition” for the sake of tradition’s sake. The Sacred Mass and the Eucharist has been spiritually efficacious for me, but I sometimes think to myself during the liturgy that many people present would benefit more from hearing a rational argument against the incoherence of philosophical materialism. The problems run much deeper than that of course. Even though I’ve always regarded Rene Guenon’s diagnosis of the modern world to be ,well, rather morbid, the loss of Transcendence and the Sense of the Sacred seems to be an infection that’s spreading. I know this first hand when I accuse myself of a”phonyness” in my efforts at cultivating virtue and feeling “silly” in trying to be in the world, but not of it.
    Oh, one more unrelated question. Why do you think post-modern spirituality is so partial to Immanence and has an almost pathological antagonism to Theism and transcendence? – I’m sorry, it’s late and I’m moving all over the map now. I’ll sign off here.

    VINCIT OMNIA VERITAS

    Best,

    Chris

  4. Dear Christopher,

    I understand your impatience with Catholic exclusivism. On the one hand there is a narrow exclusivism in Christianity, but on the other there is an interfaith tendency that liberal Protestants in particular seem to gravitate toward that is worse than nothing. The Transcendent Unity of Religions implies that one has reached such a depth within his own tradition that he begins to feel an intimacy with other traditions. This doesn’t make him a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, but it does give him access to the essence of those traditions since he has gotten to this essence on his own. In other words, the way to go straight through the exclusivist/shallow universalist dichotomy is to see one’s one own tradition in
    depth. This unfortunately will likely alienate you more than anything else from most congregations. A tragedy of our times is that, particularly with Christianity, most people don’t recognize the need to go to the heart of the matter and really aren’t given ways to do that. Churches seem to want to accommodate themselves to the world more than anything else.

    If you decide not simply to remain silent, why not talk to them about traditional Christian metaphysics, not Schuon, Coomaraswamy, Guenon? Often this dimension is repressed even in the Catholic Church, but Catholics will have much less justification for opposing you if you talk about your growing interest in the depth of your own, and their own, tradition. The two greatest Christian jñanis, at least in the west, are Meister Eckhart and Dante; if your fellow believers are leery about Eckhart (some of whose propositions were declared heretical), they are much less likely to have problems with Dante — if they reject Dante, then give up, it’s hopeless! And the absolute best jñanic study of Dante is The Metaphysics of Dante’s Comedy by Christian Moevs, who is our contemporary. The Greek Fathers are invaluable as well: Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximos the Confessor, Gregory Palamas; a great introduction to the mysticism of the Greek Fathers is The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement. [And the other best book on Dante is Jenny’s Dark Way to Paradise: Dante’s Inferno in Light of the Spiritual Path — but she’s too modest to say that herself, so she had me do it. Maybe if you start talking about Eckhart and Dante and the Greek Fathers you could tell your friend who calls you the Happy Heretic that you’ve taken his admonishments to heart and decided to concentrate your studies on Christianity. Simply out-Christian him! ~ Charles]

    As for the second part of your question, a survey was recently done that determined that atheists and agnostics know more about religion nowadays than churchgoers. It’s sad that people often end up in churches for the wrongs reasons, such as superficial group identification; sometimes churchgoers are more materialistic than secularists. The truth is, to speak in traditional terms, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and, like His Kingdom, she is not of this world. Peter Coomaraswamy, Rama Coomaraswamy’s son, said that one needs to look past the corruption and worldliness we see around us, and realize that the Church, in its essence, is always pure. More than ever we need to look at the Church in
    that way, and this doesn’t simply mean that the true Church is invisible rather than visible (though an aspect of it is; the Church, remember, also includes the souls of the departed in Paradise and Purgatory). On the other hand, if you want an uncompromising analysis of the theological corruption of today’s Catholic Church, read Rama Coomaraswamy’s The Destruction of the Christian Tradition published by World Wisdom Books.

    When you say that people “believe what they don’t believe”, you’re saying that they think faith is totally a matter of the will, not of the intellect; but if you can’t begin to understand what you believe, you probably don’t really believe it. [Faith is not just the will to believe, but virtual jñana — in St. Paul’s words “the presence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Presence” and “evidence” are words of the intellect, not words of the will. As for Christianity as a bhaktic way, Dante shows both how Knowledge is a way to Love, and Love a way to Knowledge. ~ Charles]

    When you say that you sometimes feel phony in trying to be virtuous and silly when attempting to be detached, I hear in this the accusation of the world against anyone who tries to resist it; for instance, it will tell you you’re being hypocritical when you’re trying to be genuine; it always inverts true values. And it portrays Immanence as genuine and vital, and Transcendence as false and rigid, because Transcendence gives us access to an objectivity that Immanence alone cannot provide. Immanence in itself is real, but it can get so wrapped up in subjectivity that we lose it — whereas Transcendence can always stand apart like a bright sun and throw light on what the world actually is. It is the first principle of objectivity.

    Sincerely,
    Jenny Upton.

    [P.S. Remember also that the Christian tradition, according to Schuon, is exo-esoteric; it’s an esoteric path preached openly to the masses and consequently, as it were, hidden in its own manifestation; it doesn’t have the formal polarization between exoteric and esoteric domains that Judaism and Islam have, for example. So every baptized Christian is a virtual esoteric. According to Schuon, this virtual esoterism is actualized largely through sanctity; sanctity is the primary Christian way to jñana. ~ Charles]

  5. Jenny and Charles Upton,

    Excellent! I’m grateful for the thorough and detailed treatment you provided for each and every one of my questions. I must confess that I was concerned that the content of my comments may have exhibited a certain degree of ignorance and childishness on my part. After all, “One of the distinguishing marks of a true esoterist is his recognition that not everyone is, or should be,an esoterist.”-James Cutsinger.

    Nevertheless, your insights and advice were well taken. Of course, the Catholic Perennialist has a rich intellectual (as in gnosis) heritage in the Christian tradition to explore. And that’s precisely what I have been doing- of late, the Cappadocian Fathers have commanded my attention.

    As far my comment on being childish is concerned, I guess I’m saying that there’s a “waah, waah” sentiment in the fact that I often tend to like to engage with Theosophists, Wilberians and the like because my fellow Catholics always insist that there is only one valid mysticism, like doctrine. But I understand why they hold that position, and I’m getting used to it .

    Your comment of the world “inverting true values” was spot on. Thank you for the clarification- I needed that. I suspect that the modern psychologist would regard the sanctity of the saint as “unhealthy”. Alas for our times.

    Jenny, I hope you’ll be happy to know that I will be ordering your work on Dante!

    Mille Grazie!!

    Cristoforo Prisco

  6. I might also add, anecdotally, that from what I have seen activities like consulting psychics and such seem to be more of a feminine error. I do not know if I have ever met a man who told me he had been to see a psychic, but I think some of the women I have attended church with have done such things.

    Of course the above is just an anecdotal observation.

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