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Chapter 4
Tao, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism and
Mohammedanism
TO understand the religion of China as set forth in their literature as far back as there
are records of the Chinese people, is to understand their religion today. It is true that
today in China there are three chief religions: Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
Taoism is the older form of belief. Confucianism is merely a classical and orthodox
interpretation of Taoism. And Buddhism in China is a belief grafted on the older
stock without impairing the latter.
It seems to me there has never been a more scientific approach to religion than the
fundamental tenets of Taoism. The weakness of the religion lies not in its
fundamentals, but in the fact that as time elapsed everything connected with it was
based on ancient authority. The Chinese came to assume that everything of value was
already known about the universe and its manifestations. This led to crystallization
and prevented growth. Instead of critical investigation, blind belief in the statements
of those more ancient were accepted without question.
Taoism, even as does The Religion of the Stars, holds that the universe has
intelligence, and that this cosmic intelligence is expressed through the movements
that take place in the universe. If mankind acts against the will of the universe he
meets disaster,
but if he conforms his actions to the universal will he prospers and is
happy. Man is considered a microcosm, a miniature universe; and the various
movements of the macrocosm, including the planets in their orbits, have an influence
upon man. Man, therefore, should intently study all the phenomena of nature, that he
may by his actions cooperate with the intent of the universal consciousness.
Tao means Road, or Way, signifying the way the universe moves, Jen Tao being the
manner of life man should live to conform with such movements. Tao is divided into
T'ien Tao, the Tao of Heaven, and T'i Tao, the Tao of Earth. In fact, the whole system
is based upon the thought which in Egypt was formulated, "As it is below, so it is
above; as on the earth, so in the sky." Thus does the doctrine of correspondences lie at
the base of Chinese religion.
Furthermore, the occult doctrine of polarity is clearly set forth: Heaven, or Yang,
being positive to Earth, or Yin; there being souls having affinity with each. The soul
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of man is dual, consisting of a shen, or heavenly soul, and a kwei, or earthly soul. At
the death of the body only the shen, or as we would call it the divine soul, returns to its
heavenly source. Other spirits that have an affinity for the spiritual side of the
universe also are called shen, and those that have an affinity for the grosser side of
nature, or as we would call them the animal souls, are called kwei. The universe is
supposed to be crowded with shen and kwei, gods and demons, which are
antagonistic to each other, the former to be propitiated that they may prevent the
action of the latter.
We are apt thus to render as "gods and demons," whatever helpful and harmful spirits
are believed in by other people without considering that they would place our saints,
angels, and evil spirits in the same classification. In Cosmopolitan Magazine for
February, 1926, Henry Ford, the first great automobile magnate, is quoted as
follows:
"I believe that there are entities or little auxiliary life atoms, or whatever you want to
call them, flying about and when a person is doing something to help people--doing
something for people and not for himself--that these entities fly to him and help him.
The vital stuff we need is all about us--it feeds and strengthens our spirit. All we
need is to keep our lives pointed in the right direction and what we need will come to
us."
I am sure no religious Chinese would find fault with such a statement, nor would the
educated occultist of any land. The terminology is somewhat unique, but the facts
coincide with observation in all lands and ages. And in China the belief, which I
consider well founded, that evil actions attract evil unseen influences--what really
happens is that through extrasensory perception one tunes in on intelligences of
propensities similar to one's thoughts--has been one of the strongest forces in behalf
of morality.
The Chinese believe in a life of strict honesty, virtue, and beneficence, because they
conceive the universal intelligence to possess these qualities. To be more specific,
the four cardinal virtues are:
Benevolence, righteousness, laws and rites of social life, and correctness, or
knowledge.
The doctrine of Tao is held to have been handed down from the earliest ancestors,
who were perfect or holy men and knew better than any other creatures what Tao is
because they lived while it was being established among mankind. All that has been
done subsequently, therefore, has been to transcribe and interpret this ancient
doctrine. In this work four names stand out: Confucius, Lao, Chwang, and Kwan.
The best known of the Taoist works to Western students is the Tao the king, by
Lao-Tse. Lao admitted that information gained through the use of the five senses can
be useful, and that reason can be employed to solve the less important problems, but
that neither can lead man to spiritual knowledge. He held, more than 500 years
BC--and people may well heed his advice today--that the first step in spiritual
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progress requires the unlearning of much that civilization holds to be true, otherwise
the mind is unable to act as a mirror of Tao.
This old philosopher who wrote the Bible of Tao understood very well the technique
of extrasensory perception as employed today; for in contemplation as advised by
him, he taught that in its practice all preconceived opinions should be dismissed, and
that there should be a deliberate inhibition of cerebral activity.
Confucianism
--With the coming of the Han dynasty, two centuries BC, the interpretation of Tao
given by Confucius was declared the official religion of China. His works became
the orthodox Bible, while the works of the other three constituted the Bibles of the
other Taoists who did not hold to Confucianism.
Confucius lived 551-478 BC. His code of morals, based upon Tao, has only been
surpassed in that he gave the Golden Rule a less positive turn than it was later
formulated by Jesus. He taught, "Do not unto others what you would not have them
do unto you." To give his code, and his doctrine of "The Perfect Man," more in detail
would be merely to state what is at present among all civilized people regarded as of
highest virtue. Both the Taoists and Confucius taught the necessity of virtue and right
action; but Confucius held rather to the opinion that the rules of right conduct may be
learned through intellectual effort, while the Taoists held to the more mystical view
that information comes from within when the intellect is Wu-Wei (quiet).
So thoroughly is it believed in China that death does not sever affectional ties, and
that those who have passed to the next sphere may advise and assist those yet on
earth, that it gave rise to ancestor worship. And so thoroughly are the Chinese
convinced of the truth of astrology that its study and practice are deemed essential as
an official part of the government. Almanacs were published officially as far back as
the 24th century before our era. Magic, both white and black, is believed in, and
various forms of divination are practiced. The most prevalent form
of divination is
called fung shui. It is a mixture of geomancy, symbol interpretation, and astrology,
applied to selecting the proper location in every respect for the construction of
houses, graves, and temples. (For further information consult especially, Religion in
China
, by Professor J. J. de Groot).
That man should study the universe that he might conform his actions to the universal
will is as solid a foundation for religion as can be found. But when the state took over
the religion, as it did in the age of Han, and declared that what had been taught about
the universe in the past must be true, and from thence on permitted no new ideas to be
taught, and vigorously and cruelly persecuted any infringement of this law, China
crystallized. Then, as now, when any people become convinced they know all that
can be known about the operation of nature, progress ceases and decay sets in.
Considering Confucianism and Taoism as one religion--and they are really the
orthodox and less orthodox conception of essentially the same religion--with its 310
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million followers, it is second only to Christianity in having the most numerous
adherents of any religion in the world.
Zoroastrianism
--Somewhere in Persia about 1,000 BC was born Zarathustra, later known as
Zoroaster. In type he was much like the old Jewish prophets, although he probably
was an Aryan, and most certainly propounded a religion which, aside from his
visions, was derived from older Aryan sources and modified to suit his needs.
When he was thirty years of age he had a series of seven visions. The first vision was
of Mazdah (the supreme Being) at the Last Judgment, and the second was of Mazdah
at the Creation. The other five visions were of the archangel Good Thought, asking if
he belonged to good or evil, teaching him the ways of Mazdah, observing his zeal in
the cause of good, and finally sending him on his mission as a preacher.
Henceforth, in the face of relentless persecution and in spite of many obstacles, he
taught his doctrines both by word of mouth and in writing. These sacred writings of
Zoroaster were reputed to have contained over two million verses, written in golden
letters on twelve thousand cow hides tied together with golden bands. At the age of
77 Zoroaster was slain by his enemies as he stood by the Sacred Fire in ministration.
When Alexander invaded Persia it is said that about 333 BC, he destroyed the official
copy of the Avesta, as the writings of Zoroaster are known. The religion then sank
almost into oblivion for nearly 600 years. But at the end of this period the first of the
Sassanian kings--226-240 AD--ordered whatever fragments had been preserved,
and such portions as were remembered by the priests, to be collected. This was
finally accomplished and constitutes the five books of the Avesta of today, although,
of course, this is but a small portion of the original work.
The first book, the Yasna, contains the metrical hymns of Zoroaster and gives the
main tenets of his
teachings. The other books contain the litany, the priestly code,
accounts of creation, accounts of the golden age, accounts of the first destructive
winter, or age of horrors, songs, invocations to different angels, etc. Because the
language spoken in the time of the restoration of the Avesta was so different from the
language in which it was originally written, the latter was intelligible only to the
priests who had preserved its significance in oral tradition It was therefore translated
into Pahlavi, and this came to be known as the Zend translation, also erroneously
termed Zendavesta.
Zoroastrianism flourished in Persia from the time of the Sassanian kings until the
country was conquered in 652 by Mohammedan invaders. From that time to the
present, although there are supposed to be some ten thousand surreptitious believers
yet in Persia, its adherents have been frightfully persecuted. Most of them fled, and
after some wandering gained a foothold in India, where about 100,000 of them,
known as Parsis, today are much respected. The Avesta is the sacred book of the
Parsis. But Persia (Iran) remains a Mohammedan country.
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According to Zoroaster, Mazdah, later called Ahuramazda, also Ormuzd, is the
creator of the universe. Mazdah, however, has an enemy, and Evil Spirit, almost as
powerful as himself, but who eventually, with the help of man, he will overcome.
Perhaps the most characteristic teaching of Zoroaster is that every good has its evil
counterpart, and that in all realms and conditions there is a struggle between the two
influences. There are good spirits that inspire man toward righteousness and evil
spirits that impress him to acts of iniquity, and throughout there is warfare between
these two. Both strive for man's soul; for after death the soul is judged by Mazdah
and if the good predominates it goes to a region of bliss and enjoyment, but if the evil
predominates it goes to a region of eternal torment. Here we have, about a thousand
years before the commencement of Christianity, a very clear picture of the
Calvanistic heaven and hell. In the final judgment, if there is an equal balance
between the good and evil, there is a middle realm--the prototype of
purgatory--somewhere between heaven and hell, to which the soul goes.
Zoroaster, whose birth was announced by miraculous happenings, by the mercy of
Mazdah was sent as a Savior to convert men from a life of wickedness to a life of
doing good. And at the time of judgment in the after life he stands with the soul, that
no good deed may be overlooked. In this judgment good thoughts, good words, and
good deeds are the three kinds of merit, and these three are continually emphasized in
the Zoroastrian teachings. It is also taught, and looked forward to, that a time will
come when the Evil One will be completely overthrown and the world purged of sin.
This latter will be accomplished by a flood of molten metal which will be but a
pleasant bath to the righteous, but will destroy the wicked.
Ranged about the Supreme Creator, Mazdah, are seven archangels, called
Amshaspands, or Cpenta
Mainu. Each of these archangels has well defined
attributes, and assists in the government of the universe. There are also seven
archdemons surrounding the Evil One.
The main theme of Zoroaster's teachings is a zealous endeavor to convert people to
right thought, right speech and right action. He continually holds before them the
bliss of paradise for those who follow his precepts, and the torments of hell for those
who permit evil to influence them. His followers, however, have added some
important features to the faith. This is after the manner of followers; for more often
than not the things that form the conspicuous phases of a religion were not taught by
its first leader, and may even have been denounced by him. Thus did Zoroaster
heartily and repeatedly denounce the ritual of haoma, which today is the most
conspicuous feature of the Parsi ritual.
This haoma, or hom-juice, is the same as the Soma of the Veda, and the religious
ceremony accompanying its preparation and its drinking probably dates back to a
time before the Aryans had reached either Persia or India. Zoroaster tried to
discourage the practice (it survives in an altered state in the wine of communion of
Christian sects), but in spite of his efforts the old Aryan ritual is at present a dominant
factor in Zoroastrianism.
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Another conspicuous part of the modern Parsi practice certainly was not derived
from Zoroaster's teachings, but from an earlier religion. This is their method of
disposing of the dead. They build Towers of Silence, open to the sky, with a metal
grating near the top on which the dead are placed. The vultures devour the flesh, and
the bones drop through the grating to be caught by a special receptacle beneath.
he Parsis hold that earth, water, and fire are holy and that bodies, which would pollute
these elements should not be buried, left in the water, or cremated.
The third unique religious practice of the Parsis is the so-called fire-worship. The fire
is really not worshiped, at least no more so than the cross is worshiped by Christians,
but is venerated as the symbol of Mazdah. This important ritual is performed
privately by the priests in special Fire-temples. The sacred fire in these temples is fed
with holy fuel, such as aromatic sandlewood, and is never permitted to be
extinguished. The priests who attend to this must be sons of priests, although such
sons may reject the priesthood if they so elect.
Mohammedanism
--Jesus did not deny the value of the religion of the Jews, but added to it a message of
hope and a teaching of love Neither did Mohammed deny, or try to destroy, the
teachings of the Bible or those of Jesus. He brought to his people a doctrine of life.
Mohammed believed in the Jewish prophets of old, and that they were inspired,
particularly stressing the doctrine that Moses, Abraham and Jesus were divine
teachers.
Mohammed was an Arab, bringing his message to the Arabian people. This people,
as well as the Jews, were a Semitic race. Their traditions, extending into the dim
vistas of the past, tend to a belief
in wise patriarchs and inspired prophets.
Mohammed believed his mission was to crown and complete the teachings of Jesus
and the older Jewish prophets.
He was born 570 AD, at the age of twenty-five married a rich widow, and later raised
a family. He did not receive his call to act as the messenger of God until he was forty
years old. At that time the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him instructions,
and he spent the remainder of his life in preaching and spreading his gospel.
At that time, in addition to other forms of Animism, there were worshiped
throughout Arabia something over 300 tribal gods. Of even greater power than these
tribal deities, and acting as a protector over them, was a black stone at Mecca. This
was a meteor which, some hundreds of years before Mohammed's time, had been
used as a corner stone about which a small square temple of black stones had been
built. Certain months of truce had been established among the warring Arabian
tribes, in which they made pilgrimage to this Kaaba, marched about it, bowed
themselves, kissed the stone, and then went their way.
Mohammed, living in Mecca, observed this; and also that idolatry was prevalent.
Mecca, as a religious center, was making much money from its various gods. But
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Mohammed's first revelation convinced him that there is but One God, and that the
worship of various forces and objects is sinful. He began to talk about this, and of
course the inhabitants of the town, with whose money making he was interfering,
began to persecute him. He made converts slowly, and on June 16, 622--a date
which fixes the commencement of the Mohammedan era--when he was fifty-two
years old, he was forced to flee from Mecca and take shelter in the neighboring town
of Medina. This flight, called the Hegira, marks also the beginning of Mohammed's
success. The inhabitants of Mecca attacked Medina, where Mohammed was
sheltered, but were unsuccessful; and at a later date Mohammed returned in triumph
to Mecca as its master, and finally became the master of all Arabia. He died at the age
of sixty-two.
Whatever other mistakes Mohammed may have made, he was not insincere and not
dishonest. He claimed no infallibility, and on occasions admitted that he had made
mistakes, and took pains to rectify them. Christianity at this time was particularly
corrupt, which explains why so many of its followers were converted to the faith of
Islam. Mazdaism, the cult of the Zoroastrian Magi of that day, also had fallen into a
state of decay, and its followers readily adopted the more vital religion of
Mohammed. Thus the Moslem Empire, under Mohammed and his successors,
carried forward by successful warfare, by 750 extended along the south
Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic Ocean and into Spain, and from the
Mediterranean eastward to beyond the Indus in India. Had it not been for family
quarrels over who was Mohammed's rightful successor, which split the Empire into
warring factions, it is probable the whole world would have been conquered.
Now let us see what these doctrines are which have such a hold on 230 million people
and give Mohammedanism the third largest following of any religion in the world.
In the first place to Mohammed the idea of three gods reigning over the world seemed
illogical. His intellect demanded the worship of One Supreme Deity termed in
Arabian, Allah. The Christians, according to Mohammed's idea, worshiped three
gods--the Father, Jesus, and Mary--and certainly in his day the Christians were
endlessly wrangling about trinities and various other obscure points. But
Mohammed insisted, as the basis of his doctrine, that there was only One God. He did
not believe in godlings, and while he believed in angels and jinns, these were not to
be worshiped. Furthermore, the Jews claimed to be the special favorites of their god,
Jehovah. But the One God, Allah, was alike and impartially the God of all the people
of the world.
In the beginning Mohammed and his followers faced Jerusalem to pray. But meeting
with great rebuffs from Christians and Jews whom he tried to convert, he finally
permitted his followers their ancient custom of looking to Mecca for religious
inspiration. The Kaaba had been a place of worship and religious pilgrimage for
centuries, and Mohammed compromised enough in his denunciation of images to
permit his people to use the venerable meteor stone at Mecca as a symbol of their
faith, in the same sense that Christians adore the cross.
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But while he permitted and encouraged the holy pilgrimages to Mecca, he strictly
forbade mysterious symbolism, rites, chants, and such outward forms as encumber
so many religions. And, moreover, there were to be no priests. To the devout
Mohammedan Allah is near and hears his prayers without need of intercession on the
part of any other.
The picture of a hell of torture for the wicked was made vivid. And for the faithful,
who had lived charitable lives, he did not build a picture of heaven in which there
would be saints, and priests, and kings, and ceaseless praise and worship and
devotional music. A great city like heavenly Jerusalem, paved with gold, adorned
with precious stones, and a great white throne occupied by a splendid ruler, about
whom angels played on harps, with the elect close at hand to share the pomp, power,
and glory, were well calculated to enthuse the Jews of those days. But to
Mohammed's people such an environment offered little attraction.
They were a desert people, to whom a city paved with gold made no appeal. But after
their hot dusty treks across the desert they longed for shade, and rest, and cooling
drink, and the company of fair women. Therefore, in the heaven of Mohammed, all
are brothers on equal footing, and the surroundings are just as these children of the
desert crave.
In the Moslem paradise, the faithful are led to a garden of bliss, dressed in fine
clothes, and permitted to repose on green cushioned couches, facing others similarly
fortunate and enjoying "fruit and forgiveness." They eat fruit without indigestion,
drink milk
and honey and wine without headache; these draughts seasoned with
various spices being carried about in silver goblets by comely youths. There are also
present well-grown, chaste, large-eyed maids of the same age as the faithful. No
deceit or folly comes into this blessed place. According to the Koran, which is the
collected utterances of Mohammed and thus constitutes the Mohammedan Bible,
these maids of paradise are very modest and well behaved, and the wine does not
intoxicate. The picture is one that while appealing to the senses, has a refined and
elegant turn rather than being of grosser mold.
As to hell, the condemned are said to be neither dead nor alive in hell fire, but greatly
yet vainly desiring to end their eternal suffering.
In Mohammed's day, and for a long time afterward, women were believed to have no
place in paradise. But in more recent times the women, now feeling less servile than
then, also had need of a heaven to reward them for goodly lives. So it has come to pass
that Mohammedan women have a paradise also, in which they rest at ease, and are
waited on by comely young men, who bring them cooling draughts and provide for
their comfort.
It would seem that expediency forced Mohammed, against his convictions, to
modify his doctrines sufficiently to allow homage to be paid to the ancient Kaaba
stone at Mecca; for there seems little doubt in view of his earlier denunciations, that
he looked upon this veneration of the Kaaba as something evil.
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But so strong was the custom that it seems evident that he felt that to continue to
oppose it would weaken his power. It would seem that he came to believe that the
pilgrimage to the Kaaba at Mecca was a unifying element among his people, and was
to be endured as a necessary evil. And with the passing of Mohammed, and the rise of
other Caliphs, one after another of the customs and ceremonies that had been in use
before the advent of Mohammedanism crept back and became a part of the religion.
But Mohammed himself taught against offering sacrifices, and continually stressed
the importance of good deeds. To quote passages from the Koran:
"Paradise is prepared for those who expend alms, for those who repress their rage and
pardon men; God loves the kind." "Free the captive, feed the orphan and poor,
believe, encourage others in patience and mercy." "Righteousness is not that one
turns his face to East or West, but that one believes in God and the last day and the
angels and the Book and the prophets and gives one's wealth for the love of God to
kindred and the orphans and the poor and the sons of the road and beggars and
captives, that one is steadfast in prayer and gives alms, and abides by one's covenant
and is patient in poverty and distress and in times of violence; these are they who are
faithful believers."
One of the outstanding features of Mohammedanism is the strong insistence on
kindliness and consideration for others in everyday life.
Originally the profession of faith was: "There is no God but Allah." Later this was
modified into, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his apostle." The
faithful are also expected five times a day to repeat a formula of prayer while bowing
and facing Mecca.
After the time of Mohammed, in the eighth century, the Christian church split into the
Eastern Church and the Western Church, the latter holding to the old title "Catholic,"
borrowed from the New Testament, and the Eastern Church being content with the
title "Orthodox." They are sometimes called the Roman Catholic Church and the
Greek Catholic Church, the latter being the dominant one in Russia before the
revolution in 1917. Then in the sixteenth century, led by Martin Luther, the
Protestants separated from the Roman Catholic Church. Thus in America the most
influential religions are those of the (Roman) Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
These at this time, however, are divided into 259 different creeds, each of which
bases its religion on the Bible, but gives the writings there found a somewhat
different interpretation. And a leader of any of these 259 creeds usually will hold that
only his interpretation is correct. And each demands that the view of his creed shall
be accepted, not because it coincides with observed facts in nature, but on faith. Yet if
people are educated to take the word of such leaders without question, and to refrain
from demanding any proof that what the leader says is correct, not only do they
become conditioned to
accept erroneous religious ideas--for if one of these creeds is
correct the other 258 must embrace some error--but they become conditioned to
accept the ideas of their leaders without proof, and thus become easily exploited
politically and economically.
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The Christian religion is here mentioned because parallel conditions developed in
the Mohammedan religion. The Sunnites hold that the Omayyads were the rightful
successors to Mohammed, while the Shiites hold that his successor should have been
Ali. The Sunnites are more numerous in and dominate Turkey and Arabia, while the
Shiites prevail in Iran (Persia) and India, although like Protestants and Catholics they
frequently live in the same country side by side. The Sunnites believe not only in the
Koran, but also in the very extensive orthodox tradition (Sunna) surrounding
Mohammed, as the word of God. The Shiites accept the Koran implicitly, but reject
the tradition, and hold as an article of faith that Ali is the vicegerent of Deity.
Other disputes arose, such as whether the Koran was and always had been coexist
with God. The question of free will and predestination was also a source of argument.
In the course of time, also apparently following the invariable rule in such matters,
Mohammed, who undoubtedly had both good qualities and grievous faults, was
made by his followers into a sinless being who performed miracles. The old Hero
Cult trend, both then and at the present day, is difficult to avoid. But even more
strange, for Mohammed denounced all such practices, a host of saints has risen,
patron saints of villages to whom the Mohammedan prays for protection or for other
boons. Nor, at the present day, is the religion which was to have no priests entirely
free from them in some of its sects.
Mohammed apparently accepted the teachings of the Bible with one exception. He
refused to believe in the work of creation, as related in Genesis, that God had rested
on the Seventh day. Instead of Saturday, as with the Jews, the Mohammedan day of
congregation is Friday. Preceding prayer, ablutions are customary; for it is strongly
emphasized that godliness and cleanliness are closely akin.
Mohammedanism came to be called Islam, an Arabic word signifying "entire
submission to the will of God." From this word also came the words Moslem and
Musselman, meaning those who profess the religion of Mohammed. But due to
incorporating various elements of older and adjacent religions, the Islam of today is
as little like the religion of Mohammed as most Buddhism today is like the religion of
Buddha, or for that matter, as the teachings in many present-day Christian Churches
are like the humble teachings of Jesus.
Bahaism
--This is a heresy of Mohammedanism which endeavors to reconcile all religions,
and especially Buddhism, Christianity and Mohammedanism. It had its origin in
Persia (Iran) and is based upon divine revelations. The first of the Bahai revealators,
Ali Muhammad, announced himself on May 23, 1844. He declared himself to be the
Bab, or
forerunner, of a still greater prophet. He suffered martyrdom at the hands of
the Mohammedans. In fact, as late as 1901 there were at one time 170 persons
martyred rather than deny the faith.
After the martyrdom of Ali Muhammad, an enthusiast, born in 1817, by the name of
Baha Ullah, became the leader and revealator of the movement. He was imprisoned,
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due to his effort to spread his religion in Bagdad, Constantinople, Adrianople and
Acre. He died in 1892, but his son, Sir Abdul Baha Bahai, born on the same day Ali
Muhammad made his first announcement, then took over the movement and became
its inspired leader. Founding Bahaism, he taught that heaven and hell are conditions
of the soul. He died in 1921.
The Bahaists during the past decade have finished a large temple of remarkable
architecture at Wilmette, Illinois, on the spot which they claim is the center of the
world. They hold that tolerance for the ideas of other people is to be cultivated, and
certain special reforms are to be inaugurated, one of which embraces the adoption of
a universal language Monogamy is taught, asceticism discouraged, drugs and
intoxicating liquors are prohibited, and love rather than harshness is emphasized.
There are temples and teachers, but no clergy apart from the laity. The movement
stands for liberal education for both men and women, and emphasizes the importance
of securing world peace.
The Two Great Weaknesses of
Mohammedanism
--The greatest weakness of Mohammedanism is also the greatest weakness of the
Christian Fundamentalists. The Koran and the voluminous orthodox tradition, as
does the Bible, frequently makes contradictory and irreconcilable statements. But
the devout Moslem is not permitted to inquire how or why. He must take everything
on faith.
Islam, as well as orthodox Christianity, has had its iron curtain by which it has
succeeded in hiding any information inconsistent with the Koran. It has successfully
stifled thought; for numerous things are taught which are contrary to things proved
by modern science. But education has been entirely in the hands of the ulema. The
ulema corresponds to our clergy. They do not stand between the worshiper and Deity,
but they act in the capacity of spiritual advisers; and a devout Mohammedan takes no
important action of any kind without consulting his ulema.
Thus is it that the education of the people, or even the education of those who make a
profession of scholastic attainment, cannot go beyond that which is compatible with
the Koran. Christianity in the United States, at the present time, has succeeded in
three states in passing laws making it illegal to teach evolution in public schools. And
a few hundred years ago Christianity made teaching that the world was round
punishable by death. In a similar manner, in the Moslem world, to teach anything that
seems to be at variance with the ideas set forth in the Koran is punishable.
Yet any religious, political or economic doctrine that limits investigation of the facts,
and prevents those facts from being given public discussion, by such actions
confesses its fear that the doctrine thus protected is unsound; for if it is sound,
investigation and unbiased discussion will only strengthen its acceptance.
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To the devout Mohammedan, or to the Christian Fundamentalist, a thing may be
entirely black and entirely white at the same time. Sacred writings must be believed,
in spite of the logical impossibility of some of their statements. Thus the Koran
affirms that there is reward and punishment in another life such as presumes moral
responsibility and free will in man. Yet it also affirms predestination, a common
Moslem teaching being that man from the very beginning is predestined by the will
of Allah to live just such a life in every particular as he does live. Yet in spite of this
teaching that he cannot change his life in the smallest degree from that which Allah
decreed, he is asked to believe that he will be judged upon his merits, and sentenced
to everlasting joy in heaven, or everlasting torment in hell.
This is parallel to the belief of Christian sects that only those will be saved who
embrace the beliefs of the particular sect, but that God is responsible for the
environment into which each person is born. As the environment commonly is
responsible for the individual's belief, and millions of people never even hear of the
particular sect in whose creed there must be belief to be saved, the reward of heaven
or hell is entirely beyond their responsibility. As in the Mohammedan belief, God
alone is responsible for the suffering of those in hell.
Aside from the absurdity of such ideas, the fatalism believed in by the
Mohammedans is psychologically detrimental. And this Mohammedan fatalism is
paralleled by the fatalism of astrologers of certain schools. These astrologers hold
that instead of being the energies of the inner-plane weather, astrology fixes a pattern
for the individual to follow from which he cannot deviate. Instead of teaching that
astrology maps energies the impact of which enables the thought-cells to exercise
their psychokinetic power to bring events into the life, and that it is possible to
recondition these thought-cells and thus get them to work not for the things otherwise
indicated, they teach that whatever is indicated by astrology is bound to come to pass,
and there is nothing the individual can do to prevent it.
Yet experience refutes this view. Intelligence and initiative are, within reasonable
limits, limits which will expand with more knowledge, able to overcome the
influence of planetary energies and other forces of nature. The history of the human
race is a record of difficulties that seemed to be the obstructing hand of fate that were
surmounted and pushed aside. And any doctrine of predestination or of the fatality of
astrology not only is unsound, but it is detrimental to humanity because it
discourages the use of initiative and intelligently directed effort.
Conversion and Confession
--While it must be admitted that those converted at religious revivals by emotional
evangelists in quite a large percentage of cases backslide within a few weeks to much
the same kind of lives they lived before, yet the experience of conversion is a valid,
and often useful, psychological experience. It is not confined to those who become
converted to any particular religion. Mohammedanism and Buddhism, as well as the
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various Christian sects, have devotees who have had this experience, as also have
some who follow The Religion of the Stars.
For a further study of religious conversion, Variety of Religious Experiences, by
Wm. James is a useful book. There are many cases on record, and not confined to any
one or two religions, in which the life after conversion has taken on a radically
different and markedly more constructive quality dating from the time of conversion.
Furthermore, confession, when it is believed the sins are thus absolved, has often
served a useful purpose.
From ample data collected on this subject, it would seem that people can be divided
into two broad psychological types. One of them has few repressions, few conflicts
between different sections of the unconscious, a general feeling that all is well with
the world and that in the end everything will work out satisfactorily. A person of this
type has few violent struggles with himself, and such adjustments to life as must be
made are taken in well ordered steps. In the course of time he may join some church,
Christian, Stellarian, or what-not. Or if he is a freethinker he may merely enter into a
state of consciousness in which, like Walt Whitman, he feels all is well.
But though such a person joins a church or religious organization as a natural step in
the development of his ideas and feelings, he never experiences the sudden
psychological change which overtakes those who experience conversion. His
psychology is such that he does not feel the need of being saved, does not feel
inadequate to meet the requirements of life here and hereafter, does not require a
revolutionary psychological process in which he is spiritually born again. And he is
inclined to regard those who experience the more violent emotional form of
conversion as nervously unstable and somewhat hysterical.
The other type has repressions and violent inner conflicts. Such a person has been
taught in his early years that the feeling of animal desire is sinful, and he has crowded
back down into his unconscious and refused to recognize these natural biological
impulses. Or he has been given such a vivid picture of hell in his childhood that it has
resulted in an inner chronic state of anxiety. Or he has tried to live up to certain high
standards of conduct, and as a result of failing to live his ideals he has built into
himself a guilt complex.
Still others of this type develop a fear complex because they feel so helpless in the
midst of environmental forces over which apparently they have no control. They feel
unable to meet and cope with the future. There is constantly present in the
background of their minds a stratum of worry and anxiety The teaching that man is
conceived in sin, is born in sin, and lives in sin, when accepted, develops an
inferiority complex closely linked with fear.
There are many factors which may contribute to this type of personality, but
whatever they may be there is a split in his unconscious that causes him to feel that
there are two lives; that the life he is leading is evil, or is unsatisfactory, and that there
is another type of life which would bring him happiness and spiritual satisfaction.
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What this type of person needs, unless he learns to employ mental alchemy (Course
IX) is psychoanalytical treatment. He needs to have his repressions released through
recognizing them for what they are, and he needs to have his conflicts reconciled And
that is what conversion does. It reconciles the conflicts and releases the repressions,
giving a harmonious unity to the previously conflicting factors within the
unconscious mind.
The devout church member who strives to live according to the tenets of his religion,
whatever they may be, when he does something contrary to the teaching of his
religion, feels guilty. He feels he has done wrong, and this sets up an inner conflict.
And if he fears he will be punished for the deed in the hereafter, or lose some
advantage in the life after death because of it, he develops anxiety. But if he is
convinced a priest has the power to absolve him, and he makes a confession and fully
believes his transgression has been completely forgiven by God, the inward anxiety
is banished. He has had a very effective psychoanalytical treatment.
To many people who have few repressions and no inward sense of guilt, there is an
intense desire to know the meaning of life so they can make something out of it. Yet
to them the mad scramble for material wealth and position seems unattractive. They
feel that life should have some better purpose, and that if material possessions and
belief in some illogical creed is all it holds, that it is not worth while.
On many, many occasions those who have for the first time contacted Brotherhood of
Light lessons and read some of them have said that the Stellarian teachings were just
what they had been looking for all their lives. Furthermore, such conversion to the
Stellarian Religion, and the release of the feeling of uncertainty as to the purpose of
life, perhaps with a reconciliation of other inner factors, has often resulted in the
convert permanently giving up the habit of becoming intoxicated, or the habit of
sharp practice in business, or other bad habits, thenceforth to the end of his physical
life living happier than ever before, and contributing far more than previously to
universal welfare.