Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 170
Publication Date: 1919
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Edmond Holmes, a Pantheist, reviews Buddhist theology and critiques Western conceptions (or misconceptions) of fundamental concepts such as Nirvana. In this book Holmes attempts to get back to the core of what Buddha taught, not necessarily what is considered orthodox. His interpretation is thought-provoking.
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THE religions of the civilized world may be divided into two great groups, those of which the paramount deity is the Jewish Jehovah, and those of which the paramount deity is the Indian Brahma. Jehovah reigns, under the title of God the Father, over Europe and the continents which Europe has colonized; and, under the title of Allah, over western Asia and northern Africa. Brahma reigns in the far East, India being under his direct rule, while Indo-China, China, and Japan belong to his "sphere of influence." Even in India he receives but little formal recognition. But he is content that this should be so. He is content that men should worship other gods until the time comes for them to give their hearts to him.
Between these two worlds, which I will call--loosely and inaccurately--the Western and the Eastern, there is a great gulf fixed, a gulf which few minds can pass over from either side. This gulf has been hollowed out by the erosive action of speculative thought. Western thought, which has always been dominated by the crude philosophy of the "average man," instinctively takes for granted the reality of outward things. Eastern thought, which, so far as it has been alive and active, has been mainly esoteric, instinctively takes for granted the reality of the "soul," or inward life. Such at least is the general trend of thought, on its various levels, in each of these dissevered worlds. As is a man's conception of reality, so is the God whom he worships. Jehovah, the God of the Western world, is an essentially outward deity. Debarred by its instinctive disbelief in the soul from seeking for God in the world within, constrained by the same cause to identify "Nature" with the world without, the Western mind has conceived of a natural order of things which is real because God has made it so, and of a supernatural order of things which is the dwelling-place of God. But because the Western mind, in its quest of reality, must needs look outward, this supernatural order of things is conceived of as a glorified and etherealized replica of the natural order; and God, though veiled from sight by a cloud of splendour and mystery, is made in the image of man. Thus in the Western cosmology there are two worlds, the natural and the supernatural; and two bases of reality, lifeless matter and supernatural will.
In the East, where the soul is the supreme and fundamental reality, the identification of God with the world-soul, or soul of universal Nature, is the outcome of a movement of thought which is at once natural and logical. This divine soul is the only real existence: by comparison with it all outward things are shadows, and all inward things, so far as they hold aloof from the all-embracing consciousness, are dreams. Thus in the Eastern cosmology there is one world, and one centre of reality, the world of our experience seen as it really is, seen by the soul, which, passing inward, in its quest of absolute reality, from veil to veil, and gathering within itself all things that seem to bar its way, arrives at last at the very fountain-head of its being, at its own true self.
There are evils incidental to the worship of each of these sovereign deities. The despotism of the supernatural God tends to reduce to a minimum the spiritual freedom of his subjects. To tell men in precise detail what they are to believe and what they are to do, is to prohibit (under tremendous penalties) all spiritual initiative, and to pander to one of the most demoralizing of all human weaknesses,--the spiritual indolence of the "average man." And as in the higher stages of soul-growth freedom is not merely one of the first conditions of life, but is scarcely to be distinguished from life itself, the autocratic restriction of the spontaneous energies of the soul by codes and creeds, by scriptures and churches, must needs bear deadly fruit. In the present condition of the Mahometan world we see what devastation can be wrought by centuries of blind devotion to the irresponsible Lord of Fate. In Christendom the character of Jehovah has been profoundly modified (though the change which has been effected is as yet potential rather than actual) by the influence of the Founder of Christianity, whose ideas, whatever may have been the history of their development in his mind, belong in their essence to the creed of the Far East. The gospel of spiritual freedom which Christ consistently preached was long ignored by Christianity--so potent was the sway of Jehovah--and has not yet been consciously accepted; but the leaven of Christ's teaching is now producing a visible ferment, and the struggle of the European mind for freedom bears witness to the efficacy of its action. Yet even in the development of that life-giving and soul-redeeming struggle one can trace the baneful influence of the commonplace and unimaginative philosophy which underlies the worship of Jehovah. The deification of the Supernatural too often ends, as it always begins, in the despiritualization of Nature; and the rejection by progressive thought of a supernatural deity prepares the way for the conscious acceptance of a materialistic "theory of things."
There is another way in which the shadow of the Supernatural tends to blight human life. If freedom is to be strangled, love, which is the most expansive and emancipative of all forces, must first be Wounded and disarmed. Dogmatism, intolerance, and uncharitableness are by-products of the worship of Jehovah. The people or the church which believes itself to have received a supernatural revelation, naturally claims to have exclusive possession of "the truth," and therefore regards all who are beyond the pale of its faith as either outcasts from God's presence or rebels against his will.