Monday, June 15, 2009

The Patchwork Quilt

I have been engaging in an extensive discussion on some Chabad blogs and sites concerning Jewish doctrines and attitudes that remain prevalent in some circles leading to airs of superiority. The metaphor of a patchwork quilt was brought up, a common image used in discussions about honoring diversity. After further thought, I came up with the following as a succinct summary of my view on the subject.

The Patchwork Quilt

Imagine that all of the various peoples of the world and the texts that they have designated as their Scriptures, and the various theologies that have been generated are all represented by distinct patches on a quilt. Patchwork quilts are constructed by first taking one large piece of material that is the size of the finished quilt and usually the same homogenous color, which serves as the backing for the quilt. Each patch is sewn both to the backing, and also to all of the other patches that border it.

There are views prevalent among some quarters of Christianity and Islam particularly, that hold that their patch is more special than any of the others, and has greater and special access to the backing that none of the others have. This belief justifies a view that their patch has a imperialistic Divine Right to expand and take over all of the other patches until there are no other patches, just their one big patch. The remaining patch will still demonstrate some individuality and diversity, but all within much more limited confines than the original multi-patched quilt. This is the view of those who believe that theirs is the only true religion, and that everyone needs to convert to their religion. It is a very juvenile view, anchored in and driven by a deep sense of insecurity whereby anything that is too contrary or different to their myopic and provincial point of view is seen as a threat that must either be converted or destroyed. It manifests as a frightening doctrine of arrogant imperialistic superiority. It fuels actions consistent with it, leading to inevitable conflict, as more than one group maintains this view, in addition to the fact that others that would just like to be left alone resist and resent efforts to change them. Such views also fuel all kinds of supremacy movements and attempts at genocide.

Then there is a different perspective, prevalent among some quarters of Judaism and Hinduism, particularly. This perspective acknowledges that there is validity to at least many of the other viewpoints expressed by the other patches, but still maintains a similar notion as above that their particular patch is more special than any of the others. It has a more special connection and access to the backing than any of the others. It alone was the first and original patch that emanated out of the Oneness of the backing. All of the other patches originated from and are somehow derived from this one special patch. The special patch does not seek to convert or obliterate all of the others as described above concerning Christianity and Islam. Rather, it accepts and celebrates the diversity expressed by the others. However, it would certainly be helpful for the betterment of humankind as a whole if the others would acknowledge and honor the specialness of the special patch, but it is okay if they don’t, as long as they at least respect its integrity and afford it dignity. So this viewpoint also has an inherent notion of superiority, just as the imperialistic view does, but it has a different twist to it. Instead of the imperialist drive to convert or obliterate anything that is different, it establishes an elitist “in-crowd” approach. Outsiders can convert to gain such status, but it is not encouraged, and even discouraged.

Just as the Christian and Islamic imperialistic views are going to clash with each other and any other views, so will the Hindu and Jewish “exclusive club” views clash with each other and the imperialist views that inherently do not wish to tolerate them. The story of Abraham provides a good example of how the Jewish and Hindu views have a clash of interpretation. It is a particularly good example, as it is a foundational story. The Jewish view is that Abraham was the first monotheist and first Jew, and the Torah and Covenant originating with him in nascent form came to full fruition in the actual giving of the Torah and sealing of the Covenant through Moses at Mt. Sinai. All true religion and wisdom in the world originates with the Torah and is derived from it. The Jewish people alone have this special relationship with the Torah and its Originator, and thus stand in a special relationship with the rest of mankind concerning all things spiritual. Abraham sent forth the six sons of his old age to bring this message to the East, but it unfortunately got distorted and debased in the process, resulting in an inferior spirituality that developed as the Vedic tradition in India.

The Hindu view on the story of Abraham differs from the Jewish view in much the same way as the Muslim view of the story of Ishmael and Isaac differs with the Jewish view. Hindus point to the fact contained within the Jewish version that Abraham did not receive his initial revelation of the Oneness in the area of the Promised Land, but rather somewhere considerably to the East of the Promised Land. This “East” might not be the physical location generally conceived by the Jewish authorities, but may be even further to the East, in India. This “East” may also be construed more as a spiritual, rather than a physical realm, again indicative of the spirituality developed in eastern spiritual realms such as India prior to or around the same time as Abraham. Abraham was like a pioneer who had a special mission to bring forth this eastern spirituality and message of Oneness to the shores of the Mediterranean, in an area that is a crossroads between East and West, between Africa, Asia and Europe. He left his descendants Isaac and Ishmael in this new frontier region to carry on this mission in their own separate ways, and sent back his later six sons to the original land of his initial revelation. The descendants of Isaac were instructed to erect a Temple in this region and face it East, as a vehicle to continue to receive the message from the East and transmit it to the West, on a horizontal level, while also receiving and transmitting vertical spiritual energy. The spiritual message of Oneness, therefore, originated in India, and was propagated in areas west by Abraham, not vice-versa, as the Jewish tradition claims. It was propagated in areas further East as Buddhism, another derivative of the ancient Vedic spirituality, the most ancient in the world, from which all other religions are derived.

So the Jewish and Hindu viewpoints share common characteristics, just as religious fundamentalists, regardless of their stated faiths, share common characteristics. They just all have a different version of WHO IS NUMBER ONE. BECAUSE WHO IS NUMBER ONE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THEIR RESPECTIVE COLLECTIVE BLOATED EGOIC PSYCHES.

What about considering that nobody has to be number one? What about considering that each patch on the patchwork quilt has equal validity and equal access to the same backing that supports it all? What is being given up or conceded by considering such a notion? How necessary is it for any tradition to incorporate as a core value that they are number one? Aren’t there deeper core values that are the true essence of these traditions that are not dependent on the doctrine that they are number one? Are there any truly, significant, essential chips that would fall by the wayside if the number one claim is abandoned? Every patch is unique, every patch is special in its own unique way. Every patch has a mission that only it can fulfill. There is no patch that is more special, more central to the whole than any other. There has been a concern expressed that full equality whereby all traditions have equal standing would somehow lead to bland homogeneity. But such a notion would not result in the horrible sameness that is so objected to if everything in fact was totally equal. All flowers would not smell the same, all mountains would not be leveled or valleys elevated to create a horrendous flatland. Such fears are overstated and unfounded.

Perhaps another principle, Simultaneity, should be considered. Maybe Abraham didn’t teach the Indian Rishis, and maybe the Indian Rishis didn’t teach Abraham. After all, everyone is connected with the backing of the patchwork quilt. Isn’t it possible that the same revelation could be experienced simultaneously at the same time in more than one place or even at different times and places independently of one another? I haven’t even mentioned Taoism, which appears to have developed totally independent of either Judaism or Vedism. This principle of “simultaneity” has been exhibited from time to time in modern science. Two groups of researchers working totally independent of one another in different parts of the world come up with the same basic breakthrough, often right around the same time. It is quite wondrous.

I believe there was a reason I was born Jewish. I believe that there is some validity to the notion that the Jewish people, as many other distinctly defined people, have a mission particular to it, and it obviously relates to being spiritual teachers. I believe it is worthwhile and important for Jewish people to explore the reason and meaning to their Jewish birth. I am deeply sorrowed and saddened when I encounter people of Jewish birth who have assimilated or have come close to assimilation without enquiring into such matters. I am curious about and encouraged to encounter people who have converted to Judaism or are in the process of converting. I believe that there is something deep and profound to the Jewish soul, but I also believe there is an even deeper layer of my soul that is beyond any such distinction or quality.

I earnestly hope and pray that more people will wake up and consider such a viewpoint, and abandon these horrible notions of superiority that are grounded in some distorted primitive instinct whereby they have to feel that they’re more special than anyone else in order to feel important. Just like a patchwork quilt, in order for an orchestra to be an orchestra, it must have a variety of instruments in order to play the music that the Composer intended. Are we going to fight over who is the Conductor, who is the Concertmaster? Does someone always have to play second fiddle? Can we interchange some of these roles sometimes? Can there be more than one Conductor, more than one Concertmaster? Can we recognize and acknowledge the value that each instrument contributes to the whole that is the orchestra? Aren’t there symphonies, concertos and other pieces of music composed in which different instruments are featured? This is my viewpoint that I know is shared by others, and that I hope and sense is growing in its acceptance. I don’t see anything in it that is contrary to true essential core Jewish teachings. I see any of the other viewpoints discussed above as contributing to the never-ending conflict, violence, resentment and persecution that has haunted humankind since its inception. It is time to re-consider and think anew.

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Quote of the Week 381 - Heaven

Heaven is all round,

Translated to sound.

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Announcing Publication of New Book, DIMENSIONS: Navigation the Spiritual Spectrum

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum, now available at Amazon, in paperback print and Kindle versions. It is easily found by searching my name, or by searching the full title and subtitle. You can also click on the image of the book in the right hand column of this blog.

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