'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

11 February 2011


In no way do I intend to discuss the merits of the major religious beliefs or compare one with another. My intention is to record some details/myths/legends that have come to interest me. I am an authority on none, but I seek to understand what I can and hopefully I offend no one, but that is not always certain. I was educated a Catholic and in my years I have had friends who have followed various Christian faiths, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other beliefs like the Hare Krishna and even The Children of God. Once I collected books on Catholicism, the saints and their writings, but over the years I have read a little of everything from the Book of Mormon, the Qur'an, the stories of the Greek, Roman and other gods, to two versions of the Egyptian book of the Dead. So many similarities flow through man's interpretation of the unknown and the spiritual and it is obvious that all cultures and times have had the need to have something in their lives other then the material world that we can see, smell, taste and touch. Many today follow a belief in the One God. The earliest Egyptian civilisation believed in a single supreme god, who had no name, but was described as the source of light, the creator of all. He brought fourth rules or natural laws and in their diagrammatic literature these were personified in what we see as the gods and goddesses. Briefly around 1350 BCE flourished the worship proclaimed by Akhenaton, at Amarna (Akhetaten) in Egypt, of the Aten/Aton as the one and only manifestation of god, in the near east Zoroaster saw the revelation of one supreme being in the eternal flame around 600 BCE and some hundred years later in the Middle East appeared the historical writings from the 'descendants' of Abraham, out of whose customs grew Judaism, Christianity and indirectly Islam.

When Abraham was held back by God from sacrificing Isaac (on the rock above situated inside The Dome Of The Rock) around 2000 BCE, his God which became the God of the Israelites was seen as but one of many. From the days of Abraham to the days of Moses and beyond, a pantheon of local gods still existed. When we talk about Akhenaton having but one god, to many others He too was but one of many. Even Allah was originally one of many a local god. The God of Abraham and Israel was their God, their chief god, whom they believed proved himself over and over to be greater than the gods of other lands and peoples. Even the first of the Ten Commandments recognises  'other gods'. However the other gods were often no more than the local interpretation of a single or at least chief god under a local name. The expression of mythology has common threads and cultural adaptation. Compromise and absorption reinterpret stories and places to suite the needs of a particular people or tribe or more often the power behind a system of civilisation. The sacredness of the place (rock) above is variously seen as related to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, but instead of being recognised and accepted as a source of commonality it and many other things are often a source of bitter argument. Instead of being a symbol of enlightenment and history it is possessively fought over. Instead of being inclusive it is seen as exclusive. To me it is such arrogance to believe that God is on your side to the exclusion of everyone else. If, as many believe, He is the creator, did He not create all. No one was born to be lesser to or slave to another. The revelations and knowledge of the world and nature are for all. No one has a presumptuous monopoly on truth or the best way of seeking it. Monotheism was a gradual process and it was not until around 500 BCE that the idea that for one Middle Eastern group the God of Israel was the one and only God and always was. Christianity, at first a Jewish sect, confused the issue by developing the idea of a Trinity which took 400 years to define, and even then as a mystery. This Trinity along with the Holy Family, seems to have roots in the three names of the Egyptian God and their fondness for triads, (usually parents and son). Iconography has been adapted from many sources of the past. 

The Star of Macedon, which impacted on the world because of the conquering exploits of Alexander the Great, was soon adopted by the artists of the church to represent great spiritual power e.g. the halo of Christ, Mary and the saints. The rays of the sun (from the star) similar to the rays of the Egyptian Aton are seen blazing from the head of Christ and the virtuous saints.  When we look at the history of Islam, Allah was but the chief amongst a pantheon of Arab gods until they recognised that He was the same God as the God of the Israelites and of the Christians, but was seen as speaking to the Arab world. Just as the Jews had eventually got rid of all other gods, so did the Moslems. Perhaps it was a lack of understanding of the beliefs of others, the need to have ownership of belief and thoughts moulded by cultural differences, as exists today. One region's understanding may not be different to another's, but they all struggled to understand the indefinable unknown and eternal with greater or lesser success. As philosophy is always subject to the frailties of man, it can often go astray. Some claim divine revelation which I see as logical if god exists and wishes us to understand, but revelation can not be certain. The truth of creation or the law of nature must eventually reveal itself simply because it is the truth, it is how things are. You may wish to call the natural part scientific fact. I am not one who dismisses religion because of recent scientific discoveries, because we can adapt and improve explanations according to an increase in knowledge, unless we wish to be fixed in tradition, which ignores the developing human mind. Never forget we are on a journey. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive as to how the universe operates. The only difference would be the possible elimination of miraculous intervention, which goes against the natural order of things, but I am enough of an agnostic to allow for any possibilities, even if I have severe doubts. I will not presume to know all. The great question posed by Pontius Pilot  'What is truth' is one of the eternal quandaries and at the beginning of all, in our earliest western civilisation lies the guidance of truth (the Egyptian god and ideal of Ma'at), from which all else flows.
" In the eyes of man, God has many faces and each swears he has seen the true and only God. Yet it is not so, for all of these faces are merely the face of God. Our Ka, which is our double, reveals them to us in different ways. By drawing from the bottomless well of wisdom, which is hidden in the essence of every man, we perceive grains of truth, which give those of us with knowledge the power to perform marvellous things."
This quote is from 'The Egyptian Book of the Dead' or 'The Book of Coming Forth by Day' which legend says was written by Tehuty (claimed as 50,000 years ago) who was the father of all knowledge and one offspring of the eight primordial beings who came from the lost island (Atlantis story perhaps?) to settle Asia Africa Europe and Egypt.
The inspiring sight of the hajj. Enshrined in the Kabala, the black curtained block, is the altar of Allah. A meteorite fallen to earth in pre-history, which legend says was originally fashioned as an altar by Adam and later restored by Abraham and Ishmael, it had been an altar of pilgrimage for early cultures many centuries before Mohammed inspired the faith of Islam.
Where do I stand?  I would not presume to dictate to anyone. I do believe however that religion or the spiritual is part of each of us whether we like it or not. One can easily see various religions, differing sects within a belief and the supposed opposition of science in some people’s ideas. Even those who dismiss the spiritual completely are often brought into the argument and they do ponder and have to defend to themselves if not others. Generally from the beginning of humanity it seems that the struggle to understand ourselves and the world has pointed to the heavens and it’s stars, nature around us and the supposition of the divine. The divine has taken many names and shapes and even no name and no shape, but still the quest continues. Each man's inner understanding is unique: unique to his own experience, his family, race and background, his position in his life’s journey and of course his place in the history of time.  
            Perhaps there is a truth, but the act of wondering, searching and understanding IS the religious experience. Many religions claim revelations which happen over time. If that is so it seems terribly unfair to those who have passed on before a new ‘ truth’ is awakened. That is why I believe that in fairness it is the struggle which is important. Enlightenment can not be in the answer, as so many beliefs also claim that answers are yet to come or true knowledge is unattainable by we mere mortals. Faith in what someone has told you? Blind acceptance of evolving and changing man made rules? Continuing to be ruled by a tradition that often has its foundation in a society and a time that no longer exists? Are these important or even good? Our journey is our own and if we wish to go down that path of unquestioning adherence it is easier, but beware. Putting little personal effort into a belief hardly seems the right path to me. Even discovering if you have a belief is difficult enough, but accepting imposed certainty is a lie unless we have each examined it. The great saints, sages and prophets had doubts. We are told that Jesus Christ asked in the garden to have his suffering taken away, and on the Cross he asked why God had abandoned him. Uncertainty is not a problem, it is more likely a recurring element of the search. Questions have to be defined before an answer can be seen or even sought. Sometimes we may feel on the verge of realising an answer but are unsure of the question. Today we often hear of interfaith ceremonies, we hear of some general acceptance of the faith of others. Is is true? Belonging to a particular religious group is not necessarily right or wrong. It may be just right for one individual at that moment in time and at that place in their search. Religions as organisations may be just a stepping stone to understanding ourselves and our place in this universe. I see a separation between god and religion. One may exist of itself the other was created by man. As for Religion and the State - how can any group dictate the individuals personal progress. You are not told how tall to grow and just the same you can not be told in which direction your contemplation should head. No one has the answer, the truth, and therefore can not impose it on others. It is a journey just as living in the material world is a journey of change and we are responsible for our own steps.

There is no possibility of defining my thoughts in a brief note on a web site. It is far too complex and it is a living process and encapsulating it in one moment of time is therefore of necessity a mistake. All I can say is that I do contemplate, change and my thoughts come and go like the tides of my life. Therefore it would also be wrong to comment on the ideas of another. One just hopes that the journey is in the overall picture a forward one and we accept that there are many sidetracks explored and perhaps rejected. This is not to say that we do not return to a sidetrack for further examination from time to time. So as I said, where do I stand? - uncertainly on the fence wondering and searching, and I expect to stay there for the remainder of my life. God may just exist, in spite of the religions of the world and their need to often redefine him as a warrior. Under no circumstances can I see that if a creator is responsible for this world and this universe, was it created to have some people preferred because of their gender, their personality, their race, their contribution to the superficial or the time in which they lived. The persecutions that have taken place throughout history in the name of a preferred man made description of a supreme being are testament to how much man's frail imagination, selfishness, bigotry and lust for superiority or power are involved in the image we have of God.

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