Jesus on the Cross is an instrument of division,
because he is the Jesus of Christians.
In search of concord in human affairs, my work has religiously stayed away from any discussion of religion. Only now, at distance of years and as a consequence of direct engagement in writing this book, I can clearly see the reason why. Finally, I can attempt to clarify the issue for me and, ideally, for others.
The reason why I tend to stay away from discussions of religion is astonishingly simple: Religions are ferociously partisan.
The question then arises: Why are religions so partisan?
Why Are Religions So Partisan?
Religions are so partisan for a complex set of reasons. The reasons are so commingled with the very essence of life that it is hard to separate them from one another and scrupulously analyze each one of them separately. The fundamental reason is this. There is an inner contradiction in the relation between each human being and God; an identical contradiction exists at the core of the relation between each human being and religion.
Life is such a big thing that it can be lived well only if it is confined to a tiny bit of time and space. This is the human condition. Equally, God is such a big thing that it can be grasped only a tiny bit at a time.
That is one way of looking at things. The traditional way perhaps. The up close and personal way; the point of view of each one of us. Perhaps even the pessimistic way: This is the human condition and there is nothing I can do about it. I can grasp only a little thing of this huge reality; what I grasp is clearly true and valid, otherwise I would have not chosen it. Therefore, all other people, all other religions that do not agree with me must be dead wrong. That’s it.
Another Way of Looking at It
But wait. There is another way of looking at this inner contradiction.
The Story of the Elephant
The religious condition can best be grasped through the well-known story of blind men in a room touching an elephant. Since God is infinite, that tiny bit that each one of us grasps is the whole of God. Hence, each religion experiences the totality of God at any moment in time and space. My hope and my prayer is that dissecting issues along these lines we might be able to find a way to peace among the various religions.
A Restatement: God Is Here and Now
If writing this book has proved anything to me, and hopefully to the reader, it is a little thing; that little is that God is not an abstraction. And one may even say that God abhors (especially pretentious) abstractions. God is here and now. Therefore, each and every religion is right: Even by being in touch with a part of God, each religion is in touch with God.
While necessary, is this conclusion sufficient to comprehend God?
The answer is so evident that it does not need to be stated. Indeed, we have to be humble enough to recognize that we will never be able to totally comprehend God. This is the essential core of our human condition. Yet, as we are called to be realistic enough to accept the fact that we will never know the totality of God, so we have to be realistic enough to realize that we are also called to aspire to know always a little more about God.
Our realistic hope is to try to understand God by understanding Jesus. Next to this singular tried and true way, which unfortunately is still not open to a great many people, what better way of taking this extra step than to try to understand what the religious person next to us truly understands of God? To do so requires that we let go of partisanship. But how?
Seeing God in the Other
We will be able to let go of partisanship, we will be able to understand what the religious person next to us truly understands of God only if we see God in the Other.
Religious fanatics see the Devil in the other person. That is why they feel justified in never crossing the boundaries set by their own religion. They never face the ferocious reality experienced by St. John, as he wrote in 1 John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.”
No, they do not see this reality.
They never stop to look deeply into this reality. On the contrary, they embody this reality and willingly, even joyously, proceed to kill the brother who does not share their religious beliefs.
On the Devil
I am not an expert on the Devil and the ahrimanic arts. Nor do I wish to become one, because I believe that this is a dead-end road. Of course, I believe in the existence of the Devil and accompanying interesting theological assumptions. The core of the issue for me is this: I see human beings do devilish things. I also believe the Devil is immensely creative; therefore, it is not of much use to know what did he/she/it do in the past.
The question for me is: Where is the Devil now?
Where is the Devil?
The Devil is inside us. More. The Devil does not hide himself only in people: you and me—as I previously believed. The Devil also hides himself in matter. And he wins if we believe that matter is more appealing than Spirit.
How to Deal with the Devil
With my whole heart, with my whole mind, with the strength of my whole body I accept what Jesus said about the Devil and what he did to the Devil. Jesus said: “Go away from me Satan.” Jesus also resisted all temptations offered to him by the Devil.
As we know, Jesus rejected the temptations that the Devil in increasing fury was throwing at him. He told the Devil to go away.
And the Devil went away.
Likewise with sin. I am not sure where sin comes from. I do believe in sin as stressed by Psalm (36:1-4):
“Sin speaks to the sinner|
in the depths of his heart.
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
He so flatters himself in his mind
that he knows not his guilt
In his mouth are mischief and deceit.
All wisdom is gone.
He plots the defeat of goodness
as he lies on his bed.
He has set his foot on evil ways,
he clings to what is evil.”
By the same token, resist the temptation to sin and sin disappears.
Repent and sin no more, that is the precious Christian formula. Of course, not easy to implement; but not that difficult either. The difficulty resides elsewhere. The difficulty is twofold. First, we need to understand sin, and to understand sin we need to define sin. A superficial reading today seems to convey the sense that sin is all related to sex. Not so at all. In the Book of Miracles (p. xi, Text, p. 11), sin is defined as “lack of love.”
The second aspect of sin is even more complex. As all formulas, they function well when taken as part of systems of thought. Put the other way around, you cannot believe in the power of Jesus’ words if you do not believe in Jesus.
My Personal Experience
I, too, have been attacked by the Devil. Certainly, many, many more times than once. Many times I was not even aware that I was under the spell of the Devil. That is when I was in doubt about the very existence of the Devil. The Devil is that insidious.
Once he came at me personally and forcefully.
Since I was at prayer in the presence of the Madonna (Mary, Mother of God), I reacted equally forcefully. He was coming at me feet first, Ninja-like. I grabbed his feet. I twisted them. And sent him flying head first in a straight mid-air flight toward the Madonna.
What Else Did Jesus Do?
Above and beyond these specifics, important as they are, there is the supreme teaching of Jesus, which to me now seems to be the strongest weapon to fight the Devil within us. Fully manifesting the truth that sin is lack of love, Jesus said: “Love yourself, love your neighbor, love God.”
LOVE IN HUMAN ECOLOGY
How to succinctly emphasize the sublimity of this commandment in a social/ecological context? One must go beyond its apparent simplicity to discover its complexity. No love, no Solidarity—and no Sustainability either. God so ordered things that the wicked fall into their own snares. To start with, if one describes—as one should—“Nature” as the first “Big Neighbor” that one encounters in real life, one is automatically imbued with the dictates of a proper Ecology and Sustainability. We are all enveloped by this life sustaining entity that we call Nature. In unison with Nature, one gradually grows intellectually and psychologically. There is much more. If one describes The Other to include the whole of mankind, one is comprehensively imbued with the dictates of a proper Solidarity, a Solidarity with the entire human race. Justice is the instrument of Solidarity and Sustainability; with justice alone comes peace.
And then Jesus made this commandment even more specific as it relates to the Devil. He said: “Love your enemy.” Love your enemy, those you know and those you don’t. Love them “until it hurts,” as Mother Teresa suggested. Love them, not in a static way; but in an active, dynamic way: ”Pray for your enemy.”
This suggestion was, of course, rather hard for me to swallow. Until one day I realized this: If I pray for the welfare of my enemy, he/she might acquire peace. Only then will he/she leave me alone. You see, it is all self-interest, as some people preach!...
What else to say? How to make these issues any clearer to a modern mind that believes only in “material” entities? Well, let me try to put it in the form of a Doctrine of the Devil. The Devil is not; the Devil was not; the Devil will not be. The Devil becomes. Hence, one does not deal with devilish things in the realm of statics but in the realm of dynamics. Not in the past, nor in the future, but in the present. Not with a nihilistic faith, but with a heart full of faith that, if we cannot win over the Devil—which we clearly cannot—we can at least keep him/her/it at bay.
To put it another way, our task is not to do devilish things in order to fight the Devil. (Speaking as a deeply religious person, this is what I have to say: Jesus will take care of the Devil wherever he/she/it is, if we let Jesus do it.) Our task is to guard against the Devil inside us.
The Devil Is in Me
The Devil is in me. The Devil that is in me is my utmost concern. I have total control over this immense negative destructive force that is in me.
I have no such power over the Devil that is in others. I cannot extirpate that immense negative force that resides in others. That must be their responsibility; that must be left to their powers.
Until they do that work, my responsibility is restricted to the need to create defenses against evil doers. That is work that I can do—work I must do—on the social, economic, and political level.
On the spiritual level, I have only one duty, only one power. I can only resist the temptations of the Devil that is in me.
And what is the greatest temptation that I do have to resist? What is the easiest temptation with which the Devil is desperately trying to conquer me?
The temptation assumes two forms: The temptation is to hate my enemy; the temptation is not to love my enemy. I submit to either of these two temptations, and the Devil wins.
Bah humbug. Those are the big but easy temptations! You have to absorb the life and work of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux to realize that the hard temptations to resist are the little ones, the subtle ones. Let us say, you are in a convent and your sister splashes you with water. How are you going to interpret that splash; how are you going to “fight” back?
Are you going to hate, even simply despise your sister? Or are you going to fight yourself? Saint Thérèse highly recommends that you fight the temptation to take that splash as an insult, because that is the slippery slope that leads to an escalating war of wills in which we both lose, and the justifying rationalization for this debacle is: “The Devil tempted me. The Devil made me do it.” Rarely is it acknowledged that I did it.
As soon as we see the Devil in the other person, an amazing transformation occurs. We hate the other person. Hence, we become ourselves devils!
We can help other persons only by loving them—no matter what—and, having overcome temptations, loving ourselves at the same time.
Is God Cruel?
Is God cruel for allowing the Devil to tempt me?
God is never cruel.
Perhaps we have to think about it this way: “How boring would a life without temptations be!” We have to think this way especially when the temptations are oppressive.
And so, Back to the Warring Religions
No. Religious people have no excuse. They cannot justify their dastard actions on the assumption that they fight the Devil in others. They can and must only help us fight the Devil inside each one of us. And the way to be successful in this effort is to start from the beginning.
If one is convinced that God is everywhere, God is above all in the other person. A recommendation to masters, imams, ministers, priests, and rabbis easily follows: Allow your flock to discover God in the religious affiliation next to you.
Be not afraid. Your flock is not going to abandon you, if you have truly taught them the best that your religion offers; they will always come back to that core. And they will expand from there.
They will come back enriched from the journey. And you may also be enriched, whether you have accompanied them on their journey or you are now ready to learn from your flock.
A Quick Report on My Journey
Let me make a quick report on my journey.
To, in, and from Buddhism
As a teenager, I ran into two expressions: 1. When a Chinese is left with two pennies, he will spend one penny on rice and one penny on roses. 2. Europe bells; Asia trumpets. Who would not go deeper into a culture that creates such gems?
Later on, in confirmation of my expectations I interpreted the central message of Confucius’ Analects to mean: “Who wants to corrupt the people will first corrupt the language.” I was then knee-deep into the discovery of how corrupt is today’s language of economics.
It stands to reason that the first time I went into Buddhism, many years ago, I had great expectations. I expected especially great depth.
As I repeated my experience over the years, I found great width: The more I looked into Buddhism, the greater the variety, the greater the richness of practice and expression I found. Is there any religion (many insist that Buddhism is, not a religion, but a philosophy) with greater creativity in topics that range from astrology to mythology to good and bad human action in this life and the afterlife?
A few days before going to Japan, led by our teenage son, Jonathan, who was deep into Ninja Turtles and manga, terrified at my ignorance I hit the books. I was lucky enough—I am always lucky in such a bind; I found this description of Japanese architecture: You take away all decoration; take away the windows; take away the partitions, and you are left with space. That leads to the discovery of the art of architecture. That is why Japanese architecture at its best is so pure.
Apart from its own internal sense, it all made much sense to me as soon as I realized that this process is a specific case of the universal Eastern philosophical approach that tends to emphasize the essential importance of not-Being, rather than Being. Do take away one by one all the attributes that Western philosophy ascribes to Being and you logically reach an understanding of not-Being.
Not-Creator, not-All-knowing, not-All-powerful, not-Absolute, and you approach the philosophical understanding of not-Being. Sorry to single out St. Thomas Aquinas. He said that “God is Universal Perfection.” Bur one can object by saying that if God/Being was perfect he could have created a perfect world. He could have had a more perfect plan. He could have constructed people to freely refuse to commit ghastly acts. I am not personally going that far, because I believe that the world is perfect as it is. I am writing this only to attempt to prove that any description of God/Being is necessarily imperfect or incorrect.
More to the point. As soon as we affirm such a self-evident truth as "God created the world," the other part of our brain asks: "Where is the evidence?" And we cannot objectively provide any answer that scientifically satisfies our intellect. The answer that satisfies my intellect is this: Yes, God did not create the world in some distant past ("14 billion years ago"), and then disappeared. A truer answer, for me, is this: God is creating the world right now. Simplistically talking of physics, how are those warring atoms kept in their place if not by the spirit of God? To assume that “matter” does it is truly to believe in miracles.
Since human beings need to communicate with each other, and they use words to accomplish such a feat, Eastern thinkers have come up with the word OM to represent the essence of not-Being.
OM is the portal through which the individual soul is gradually connected with everything else. Thus OM performs the same logical function as the word “God” in Western religions.
This chain of thought is in confirmation of the axiomatic expression that to understand anything we need first of all to understand nothing. (Then we are purified of our potentially wrong assumptions, and we can truly engage in the process of learning anything.)
The Same with Religion as with Philosophy
The same with religion as with philosophy. If you want to reach the essence of religion, as soon as you make a statement, such as God the Creator or about the First Mover, you have to be honest enough to leave room for doubt. Is there really God? Is God the Creator, and any such statement? If you are honest, you have to say, no, I do not know for sure. We have no “scientific” proof for any such statement. You have to make room in your heart and mind for the conception of not-Being, not-God. Only then will you reach the “essence” of philosophy and religion.
As expressed in a few more details at Mother Pelican:
The whole truth about God is contained in two complementary statements: As there is no scientific evidence of the existence of God, so there is absolutely no scientific evidence that God does not exist. Intellectually, we believers and non-believers wade in the same pond, the same human condition. Hence, as God undoubtedly intended, we are free to make personal decisions. Provided we are consistent, we both perform important functions. Believers keep the flame of hope, faith, and charity going. Secularists perform the function of not letting believers fall into intellectually inconsistent positions. Indeed, let us unite in a sturdy compact against hypocrisy. Let us say scat to the hypocrite: God knows there are way too many of them. Let us teach each other the roots of our own hypocrisies.
It is at this juncture in our intellectual explorations that we stop thinking and discover the historic reality of Jesus.
The Historic Reality of Jesus
All this is well and good in relation to things of this world, to the history of this world—and even to our conceptions and misconceptions of God. What if, as non-believers tend to assume, it is all an illusion and the reality is truly full of not-Being? This, of course, whether through the study of Eastern philosophy or not, is the conclusion reached by all convinced atheists.
One consequence of such an understanding of the reality of the world is that then it is really hard to attribute any meaning to the universe and to life.
The other parallel, automatic consequence is that we must deny any meaning to our own lives as well.
It is here that the scrappy me takes a stand. You may want to deny meaning to your life, you are free to do so; but, as far as I am concerned, I, as well as billions of other people, have always fought to give meaning to our lives—and we are not ready to stop now.
But there is more. An empty not-Being means nothing. But, what is the full not-God after all? That I gather is the Devil—a nonexistent entity that, as seen earlier, if believed in, can do much damage. The damage is not done by this entity itself, but by us believing in it, and obeying the wrong messages that we send to ourselves.
In summary, I will fully concede that the analysis of not-Being leads to a fuller understanding of Being. But by itself the conception of not-Being is sterile. Here is a brief “proof,” which becomes powerful if put in positive terms.
Toward the Unity of East and West
One is creative and generative of the number sequence (see Chapter 2 of the
Neither zero nor infinity are capable of such a feat.
To do so, zero and infinity have first to transform themselves into one.
The number set starts with one, not zero (the last digit to arrive on the scene). This is why. You annul zero and you get zero: a nonstarter. Same with infinity. But if you annul one, you get zero: thus forming a more complete number set and getting a very useful addition to the number set.
The potential unity of East and West—which is already practiced in many segments of today’s society—comes from here. As Jonathan Kopel points out, we cannot know one without infinity, since infinity encapsulates all the numbers in a given set. We can only understand the number one, if we have accepted that there is an infinite number of numbers above it.
And the concept of infinity has in itself the potential of reversing the Copernican Revolution in theology, a revolution that left the world fragmented in smithereens. As pointed out in Chapter 2 of the book, “Then, man—indeed, every man and woman—is again positioned at the center of the universe.” Here we can expand to include two pertinent conclusions: One, Neither the East nor the West are at the center of the universe—they are both at the center of the universe; Two, The earth can again be placed at the center of the universe, because in the world of infinity every point is at its center.
The Centrality of the Creation
All monotheistic as all polytheistic religions—and, indeed, apart from a few outliers, all atheists as well—believe in the creation of the world. All conversation starts there—and often ends there. All disagreement starts with the identification of who or “what” the Creator is and ramifies into each and every aspect of this interrelated creation of which we are such a small part.
How can we resolve all our doubts?
We will never know God with our intellect; it is with our hearts that we can love God and feel his/her/its presence, and thus be certain of his existence. Has God created us with the same heart, the same capacity to feel, but with an individual mind, so we have so many intellectual disagreements. Is that not quite true? It is the heart that unites the whole human race. The same capacity to cry and to laugh. The same capacity to cry and to laugh at the same things, all over the world, and at every age—for mankind as well for each individual person. Is not this capacity that identifies the uniqueness, the persistence of character? Are not the ever so subtle, nearly imperceptible differences in this capacity to cry and the laugh that identify us?
Rightly or wrongly, our age distrusts the emotions. Thus we cut ourselves off from this powerful source of knowledge. What are we left with then? Potentially, it is the reality of Jesus that can help us solve all doubts. Jesus can answer all our doubts about reality. Hence, it is Jesus who helps us resolve all intellectual doubts about the existence of God: "If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him" (John 14:7).
The "if" is all important.
Why has Jesus not performed this function yet?
The Reality of Jesus
The birth of Jesus was designed to make all disagreements disappear.
His death shattered this possibility. Jesus on the Cross is indeed an instrument of division.
It is the Resurrected Jesus who still holds the promise of the unification of the world of the intellect. Hope is not completely lost yet. If we see the Resurrected Jesus in all his splendor, his promise of unity of mankind might still be fulfilled. Then we can see how central to the needs of mankind the Resurrection of Jesus is.
To see the risen Jesus might be the only way to peace among the warring religions. I will, therefore, attempt to buttress the pivotal statement that the resurrection of Christ is central to the potential achievement of unity of all mankind. To get there directly, I have come to realize, would be a mistake. We have first to get acquainted with the mystery of the Incarnation; we have to face the mystery of the Incarnation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carmine Gorga is president of The Somist Institute. He is a former Fulbright scholar and the recipient of a Council of Europe Scholarship for his dissertation on "The Political Thought of Louis D. Brandeis." Using age-old principles of logic and epistemology, as well as mathematics employed by modern engineers and scientists, in a book and a series of papers Dr. Gorga has transformed the linear world of economic theory into a relational discipline in which everything is related to everything else - internally as well as externally. He was assisted in this endeavor by many minds, notably for twenty-seven years by Professor Franco Modigliani, a Nobel laureate in economics at MIT. The resulting work, The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture, was published by the University Press of America in 2002 and has been republished in a paperback expanded edition in 2009. For reviews, click here. During the last few years, Dr. Gorga has concentrated his attention on the requirements for the unification of economic theory and policy, calling this unity Concordian economics.