11 October, 2000

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A World Beyond

I just finished reading "The Gnostic Gospels" by Elaine Pagels. It's a wonderful book discussing the origins of Christianity based on the discoveries of ancient texts at Nag Hammadi. These Gnostic writings offer a new perspective to the Christianity many of us are most familiar with. I recommend the book to you.

The book tells the story of the Gnostics, and their rival Christians, those who started the Catholic Church. The Catholics eventually persecuted the Gnostics to the point of extinction. Gnostic texts were burned, and until the discovery at Nag Hammadi, little was known about their beliefs. What really stood out to me were the different perspectives of the two groups. While the future Catholics extolled an organizational hierarchy and outward ordinances, the Gnostics focused on internal spirituality and a personal relationship with God. The foundation for either approach can be constructed based on New Testament texts.

The same conflicting perspectives have appeared in various different religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the examples I'm most familiar with. A variety of mystic or spiritual movements have contended with the orthodox. These contentions have existed over thousands of years, and continue in our day.

Today, how many times do we hear a particular religious group boast of their membership figures, or the numbers of new churches or temples they've constructed? What about the hearts of their members? Are they still filled with prejudice and disdain for those holding different beliefs? Do they look down on those who worship differently, or do not share the same moral rigidity? Do they accept people with different colored skin, or sexual preferences?

The world has had enough of intolerance, close-mindedness, and authoritarian structures. In the past decade we've seen the end of many of the last vestiges of authoritarian political control, as the Communist regimes of Russia and Eastern Europe disappeared seemingly overnight. Over the past weekend, Slobodan Milosevic, a man who stirred up religious and ethnic hatred throughout the Balkans, was finally ousted by his Serbian subjects.

China continues to face a growing threat of rebellion both in Tibet and throughout China. The Falun Gong, a loose-knit spiritual group active over the past several years, recently organized (using email and the internet) a large protest in Beijing against Communist tyranny and thought-control. Although it was ruthlessly suppressed, the elements of rebellion are growing and will not stop until personal and religious freedoms are granted.

Although the term has fallen out of favor somewhat, I believe we've entered a "new age". Or as the Theosophists believe, we have re-entered a period of great spiritual development and power, leading to our evolution and eventual reunion with God. Take a look at the books available today, where the same basic spiritual beliefs are currently espoused by psychologists, rabbis, monks, scientists, psychics, and educators. Clearly, something is going on. People everywhere are beginning to awaken to the potential that lies within them. This time, personal spirituality will not be extinguished as it was during the early Christian years. There are too many books to burn, too many ways for like-minded individuals to share beliefs.

This new age will lead to a World Beyond the one we now know. A world where loving-kindness, not hatred, dominates. One where many paths are tolerated, where others' opinions are respected, where each individual may grow spiritually, according to the dictates of their hearts. I hope we can all find the strength of purpose to do whatever it takes to further our spiritual growth and further the creation of this World Beyond.

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