Religious Pluralism and the Trinity Absolute
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Religious Pluralism and the Trinity Absolute
Religious Pluralism is a term used to designate more than just mutual acceptance and peaceful co-existence among different religions. The Pluralist worldview is that the major religions of the world probably are, to a large extent, just different ways of looking at the same God. Realistically, as the world becomes more and more religiously and culturally diverse, we will have no choice but to practice pluralism in order to avoid a “clash of civilizations” over what amounts to a possibly preventable and ultimately correctable misunderstanding.
Our world has a lamentable legacy of bloody wars in the name of religion and religious exclusivism. More recently, the demography of the world has changed and our ways of looking at world religious cultures and ethnic differences must now begin to catch up. With advancing globalization, the proximity and interpenetration of ever-larger civilizations and cultures will be the hallmark of the 21st century. The challenge of relations among peoples of different religions has been made very clear by the Twin Towers event of September 11, 2001 and its global aftermath. Nevertheless, as religious communities and as growing nations, our futures are inextricably linked, being joined at the hip so to speak. We must develop a truly multi-cultural, multi-religious society in order to get along.
Religious pluralism is an attitude which rejects a focus on immaterial differences, and instead emphasizes those beliefs held in common. But true religious pluralism goes beyond toleration and religious liberty, and gives respect to core principles rather than contradictions and marginal issues.
God seems to have manifested himself through several historic messengers. Pluralism claims that religious differences are best seen as the ways in which different cultures have received and experienced those messages. Pluralism leads to a less myopic view of one’s own religion. Other religions hold a piece of the puzzle called diversity.
No single point of view is the complete truth. However, there must be some metaphysical systematic unity, because ultimately all truth (including science) must be part of the explanation of One God.
Pluralism is not premised on biased “modalism” – other Gods are subordinate modes of our God. Pluralism is premised on the significance of real differences as a source of vibrancy and strength. Pluralism is not valueless relativism – everything is relative. Pluralism is the engagement not the abandonment of distinctions. Pluralism looks for the musical harmonics of distinct tones in a symphony of beliefs, not uniformity and sameness.
Religious pluralism means diversity, toleration, interfaith dialogue, and accepting other religions as valid/legitimate – not coercion, not compulsion, nor indiscriminate indifference to other truths. Religious variety provides a pleasant respite from the monotony of too much uniformity. Diversity is healthy and something to be celebrated. Pluralism also has the virtue of being a universal moral worldview.
Religious variety would be a wonderful source of cultural stimulus, if religious beliefs could be placed in some sort of comprehensive context which recognizes the differences, but integrates their best attitudes in one inclusive framework.
In the past, religious misunderstandings have caused immense grief, but civilization is rapidly approaching the point where the very survival of the world depends on overcoming anti-social religious conflicts, and the negative impacts of increasing population on the planet. The human race can no longer afford religious strife that divides people and disturbs urgent cooperation on mutual issues such as conservation and sharing of resources, combating climate change, stimulating healthy economic growth, etc.
Peace in the world requires peace among religions. Religious pluralism is a necessary paradigm shift whose time has come.
Mere toleration is too fragile a foundation for a world of religious differences in close proximity. It does nothing to unite people, and leaves in place the stereotypes and fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our elitism and ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly. If the interactions of society are to be at all a rational process, some set of principles must motivate the general participation of religious groups in the oneness of the community, without hindering the maintenance by each group of its own personal identity.
Despite apparent differences, the underlying similarities among religions suggest the possibility that they may all be merely different facets of some multi-dimensional reality. The diversity of world religions may be rooted in the diversity of the divine life itself. Then, by the principle of the unity of truth, all the diverse parts of truth must fit into a compatible whole. There must be some form of creative pluralism or constructive interpretation that will allow all groups to agree to a “minimal consensus” of shared beliefs in a systematic unity.
Recently, a number of theologians have suggested that the Trinity may provide the key to an inclusive theology of religions, and a new understanding of religious diversity. The doctrine of the Trinity can function as a metaphysical “architectonic principle” to unlock the providential purpose and meaning of religious variety, in the portrayal of the multi-dimensional nature of God. A deeper understanding of the Trinity might include a synthesis of all that God has revealed of himself, as contained in the wisdom of all the world’s major religions. Thus, an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a scaffold of pluralistic theology.
In answer to the question: “Why Trinity?” Raimundo Panikkar (1918-2010), the founder of religious pluralism in the Trinity, pointed out that “the meeting of religions cannot take place on neutral territory or in a ‘no man’s land’ because it is scarcely possible to speak of these subjects from outside one or another tradition, for it is these very traditions that have the determining terminology.” Trinity Absolute provides the most readily-available all-inclusive language for speculating on systematic unity in metaphysical matters of religion. This abstract understanding is of the utmost urgency, for a truly democratic settlement of this world into a universal civilization, constructed on the highest ideas or concepts of all our basic religions and cultures – our common world heritage.
These “divine ideas” are individualized, personalized and conserved in the concept of the three fundamental personae of One God, reflected in the world’s three basic underlying religious attitudes to the Absolute. Taken in their over-lapping teachings, they articulate the members of the Trinity in an absolutely elegant and truly beautiful portrait.
The research gathered in this book shows how the major religions of the world map directly onto the Holy Trinity, when considered in the abstract absolute form it naturally exhibits; i.e. the Trinity Absolute. Indeed, One God is craftily hidden in his creation.
In a rational pluralistic worldview, major religions may be said to reflect the psychology of One God in three basic personalities, unified in spirit and universal in mind – analogous to the orthodox definition of the Trinity. In fact, there is much evidence that the psychologies of world religions reflect the unity of One God in an absolute Trinity.
We don’t have to invent anything, because it is readily acknowledged that Allah, Abba or Father (as Jesus called Him), and Brahma are religious representations of the Creator. But the Creator is the first Absolute person of the Trinity of the thrice-personal One God. So, in at least one respect, we can say that a large portion of humankind apparently worship the same God – the Deity Absolute Creator – reflected in three world religions, i.e.: Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. This pluralistic worldview becomes inclusive if you consider that Buddhism, Confucian-Taoism, Shinto, and some other major religions seem to be variations on the third Absolute, while certain others, e.g. Sikh and Baha’i, suggest combinations.
In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universal Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity, i.e.:
Trinity Absolute portrayed in the logic of world religions
1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.
2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.
3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.
Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.
* The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.
** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.
The Hebrew Old Testament and the Muslim Qur’an wonderfully portray the Deity Absolute in many colourful situations and moral dramas. Likewise, the Christian New Testament and the Krishnan Bhagavad Gita beautifully present the Universe Absolute Supreme Being. Similarly, some Christian, Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, and Confucian-Taoist scriptures provide testimony for the Holy Ghost or the mysterious Destiny Consummator – the Unconditioned Absolute or Spirit of the Tao of All That Is.
After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao (see book cover); involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas indentified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.
If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.
Absent any better idea, it would seem that this TRINITY ABSOLUTE concept of One God in three phases or personae is the only adequate metaphysical vehicle necessary and sufficient for a real form of religious pluralism that is more than just lukewarm toleration and talking past one another.
“Modalism,” in the form of over-identification with the imposingly awesome Deity Absolute seems to be a natural psychological attitude of many Muslims, Jews, and some fundamentalist Christians. This attitude is highly comparable to the pronounced proclivity of many Christians, Krishnans, and others to “devotionalism” or bhakti, rendered primarily to the apparently almighty Universe Absolute Supreme Allsoul or Supersoul. Similarly, Shaivite Hindus, some Buddhists, Neo-Confucians, Taoists, and others seem to venerate primarily the mystery of the seemingly ruthless Destiny Consummator (Holy Ghost) or Unconditioned Absolute Spirit of All That Is – the undifferentiated, unqualified, and ineffable Tao.
Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others should be encouraged to continue worshipping the person of the Deity Absolute or Creator, but at the same time, they should be asked to acknowledge that Trinitarian Christians and Krishnan Hindus can also worship Him through devotion to His second persona – the Universe Absolute Supreme Being or Allsoul Perserver – and to recognize how well this fits with worship or homage directed to expressions of Their mysterious third persona – the Holy Ghost – envisioned by Shavite Hindus as a personal Destiny Destroyer/Consummator, and by Buddhists as the neither personal nor impersonal Unconditioned Absolute, and then again by Taoists as the pre-personal Spirit of the Tao of All That Is. Different views – Same God.
Religious Pluralism is not undercutting Allah or the Deity Absolute, but supporting Him as the “First One,” standing with (and some might say a “minaret” taller than) His two co-creative competitors (or rather His co-equal coordinates), in a fellowship of the three persons, or basic expressions of religious consciousness, most worthy of all adulation.
Religious Pluralism in the form of the Trinity is not trying to abrogate, but rather to assist all religions in metaphysically connecting and uniting their individual and collective ideas of God; so that they may rationally include themselves more fully in a universal community of truly peaceful co-existence.
Trinity Absolute is the only adequate metaphysical vehicle for a form of Religious Pluralism that is systematically inclusive, universally moral, and highly synchronized with the world’s three basic underlying religious attitudes to the Absolute; as well as totally unified through the systemic metaphysical necessity of synthesis and the principle of the unity of all truth.
All religions can deepen their own understanding and strengthen their own communities, by looking at themselves and each other as different but related images of One God – multidimensional and manifest in the Trinity Absolute.
Religious Pluralism based on the Trinity Absolute could be a providential paradigm for mutual understanding and peace.
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