Outline of world religions

Outline of world religions
[referencing Huston Smith)

Defining religion

A religious story, rising out of religious experiences, encoded in symbols,
shared with a community, and enacted in rituals. [Andrew Greeley]


Atman-Brahman—hidden self-Godhead
Jiva—individual soul
Samsara—passage of individual jiva through sequence of bodies
Karma—absolute moral law of cause and effect
Maya—provisional illusions
Darshan—seeing the divine image in limitless manifestations

Path of Desire—pleasure and success of wealth, fame, power
Path of Renunciation—duty and liberation

Jnana yoga—way of knowing through learning and thinking “Who am I?”
Bhakti yoga—way of loving devotion
Karma yoga—way of work
Raja yoga—way of psychophysical exercises

Tat Tvam Asi—That Living-thing Thou Art
Satcitananda—being, knowing, joy
Samadhi— sam+adhi > “together with the Lord”
Lila—play of the Divine in Cosmic Dance

Stations of life
brahmins-seers, kshatriyas-administrators,
vaishyas-artisans-farmers, shudras-follower servants

Stages of life
1. student> 2. householder (family, vocation, community) >
3. forest dweller (retirement-contemplation) > 4.sannyasin (transparency)


Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni, Buddha—the Enlightened One; Sakyamuni-silent sage of the Sakya clan

Buddhism is a religion 1. devoid of authority, 2. devoid of ritual, 3. skirting speculation, 4. devoid of tradition, 5. requiring intensive self-effort, 6. devoid of the supernatural.

Buddhism is 1. empirical, 2. scientific, 3. pragmatic, 4. therapeutic, 5. psychological (rather than metaphysical), 6. egalitarian, 7. directed to individuals

Three Marks of Existence
Dukkha-suffering, and anatta-no soul.
Anatta—“no soul,” or dualistic identity separate through many lifetimes

Karma—chain of causation, lineage of desires and dislikes, a flame passed from candle to candle, throughout which the will remains free
Skandas—skeins of bodily existence

Three Vows—I take refuge in the Buddha (guide); I take refuge in the Dharma (way); I take refuge in the Sangha (community).

Four Noble Truths
I Life is dukkha—suffering, pain, dislocation, conflict, constriction:
1. trauma of birth 2. pathology of sickness 3. morbidity of decrepitude,
4. phobia of death 5. bondage to dislikes6. separation from love.

II Dukkha is caused by tanha, desire for private fulfillment which separates by selfishness

III Release from dukkha comes with overcoming tanha

IV The Eightfold Path:
1. Right Views (outlook, what the problem is)
2. Right Intent (focus, what one really wants)
3. Right Speech (attention to language)
4. Right Conduct (understand behavior)
Five Precepts:
Do not kill Do not steal Do not lie
Do not be unchaste Do not drink intoxicants
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort (will)
7. Right Mindfulness (continuous self-examination unto deliverance)
8. Right Concentration (extirpation of poisons of delusion, craving, hostility)

Yana—raft or ferry
Mahayana—the Big Raft
centered in karuna-compassion and
the boddhisattva, one who renounces nirvana for the good of others
Hinayana—the Little Raft; also Theravada, Way of the Elders or sangha
centered in bodhi-wisdom and
the Arhat-perfected disciple

Vajrayana—the Diamond Way of Tibetan Tantra
Upayas—skillful means for channeling physicla energies
Mudras—hand gestures of sacred dance
Mandalas—circular icons
Yantras—sacred diagrams

Satori—mystical experience of at-one-ment in Zen
Nirvana—“to blow out” or “to extinguish” the boundaries of the finite self

Prajnaparamita—Perfection of Wisdom texts


Jen—right relationship

Chun tzu—right living

Rectification of Names
Doctrine of the Mean
Five Constant Relationships



Wu-wei—never forcing; no wasted effort

I Philosophy
II Practice (chi)—matter / movement / mind
III Teachings



Meaning in God
In the beginning God… GENESIS 1:1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness….” God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. GENESIS 1:26 AND 27

Meaning in Creation
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus, the heavens and the Earth were completed in all their vast array. GENESIS 1:31—2:1

Meaning in Human Existence
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. DEUTERONOMY 6:4 [SHEMA]
sin— “to miss the mark”

Meaning in History
divine purpose
collective action
field of opportunity
uniqueness of experience
chosen people

Meaning in Morality—dangers of power, wealth, sex, and speech
Decalogue (Ten Commandments)

Meaning in Justice
prophetic tradition—future depends on justice; individual responsibility

Meaning in Suffering—instructive and redemptive; vicarious

Meaning in Messianism—conditions of life will improve

Hallowing of Life—ritual

The Chosen People


Gospel > The Good News
Love never ends. 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-8

God’s love through Christ in imago Dei frees one from ego, guilt, and fear of death

The Great Commandment
One of the teachers of the law…asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. MARK 12

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command… This is my command: Love each other. JOHN 14

Incarnation—Jesus is Yahweh’s extension in the world; Christ is fully God, fully human

Atonement—reconciliation and recovery of wholeness: at-one-ment
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” —which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” MARK 15

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. 2 CORINTHIANS 5

Trinity—in Pentecost, the visitation of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete or Counselor

The Church—mystical body, teaching authority, sacramental agency
Faith in resurrection produced the Church.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

For as in one body, we have many members, so we who are many, are one body
in Christ. ROMANS 12

Roman Catholicism—authority in Apostolic Succession
Sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Unction, Reconciliation, Eucharest
Eastern Orthodoxy—authority in the fathers and in consensus
Protestantism—authority in salvation by grace through faith
Protestant principle—warning against absolutizing/idolatry

Parousia—the Second Coming of Christ
Basileia—the Reign of Love


Islam >> s-l-m “peace” compare with “shalom” and “Jerusalem”, also “surrender”
In the beginning God… Allah >> Al “the” + Ilah “God” compare with Hebrew Elohim

Adam > descending to Noah > Shem [Semites} >
Abraham X Hagar >Ishmael > Arabs > Muhammad > Muslims
Abraham X Sarah >Isaac > Hebrews > Jews
Coming after Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, and Jesus, Muhammed is the Seal of the Prophets.

On the Night of Power, in cave at Mount Hira, Muhammad was visited by the angel who instructed him to proclaim, there is no god but God! La ilaha illa ‘llah

Qur’an > “recitation”, the Standing Miracle, facsimile of the Uncreated Koran
“If Christ is God incarnate, the Koran is God inlibriate.” (liber, book)
Koran continues Hebrew and Christian scriptures, God’s earlier revelations;
Jews and Christians are also “People of the Book.”

“The Qur’an does not document what is other than itself. It is not about the truth: it is the truth.”

God—the all-powerful, individual, and invisible
Judaism has Shema, but confines teachings to people of Israel;
Christianity has Gospel, but wrongly deifies Jesus (Trinity not Unity);
Allah is not well understood in parental or anthropomorphic metaphors

Creation—by deliberate act of the will of Allah; material world is worthy (Islamic science)

The Human Self—is of divine origin, marred by ghaflah, or forgetfulness of this origin
Individuality of human soul is everlasting; once created the soul never dies.
Human beings are called to gratitude and surrender (islam).

Day of Judgment—leads on the basis of the soul’s Reckoning to heavens or hells

Five Pillars
Shahadah, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.”
Prayer, on arising, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, before sleep
Ramadan, holy month of fasting, commemorating revelation to Muhammad and journey (ten years later) from Mecca to Medina (Hijrah, migration)
Pilgrimage to Mecca

Islamic law
economics / status of women; polygyny / race relations / use of force (jihad) must be defensive or to right a wrong


“The Bahá’í Faith upholds the unity of God, recognizes the unity of His Prophets, and inculcates the principle of the oneness and wholeness of the entire human race. It proclaims the necessity and the inevitability of the unification of mankind.”

“Bahá’u’lláh is the Messenger of God for this age and the Promised One of all religions.”

Bahá’u’lláh means‘The Glory of God.’ He suffered 40 years of imprisonment and was exiled from Iran to ‘Akká in the Holy Land where He passed away in 1892.

The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith (quotations from Bahá’u’lláh) include:

Oneness of God

Oneness of Religion

“Every Divine Revelation hath been sent down in a manner that befitted the circumstances of the age in which it hath appeared.”
“Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed unto men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity.”
“Know thou assuredly that the essence of all the Prophets of God is one and the same. Their unity is absolute. God, the Creator, saith: There is no distinction whatsoever among the Bearers of My Message.”

Oneness of Mankind

“Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one ocean.”

Religion should be the Cause of Love and Affection

“Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it was better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act.”

Elimination of Prejudices

The Purpose of Life

“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization… Those virtues that befit [human] dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”

The Potential of Man and the Importance of Education


The Primal Religions


Place versus space


Native American religions largely believe in a world of unseen powers, gods, spirits and wonders. Most believe in a sky god who rules at the center of the universe, associated with the axis mundi, the world pillar. Another widespread belief is in the interdependency of all things in the universe. The actions of all beings, including humans, animals, and supernatural persons, are intertwined. Interdependence calls for a proper balance and harmony. Worship strengthens bonds between humans and other beings. Sacred fools and clowns remind us that we are not divine and often seem ridiculous.

They had what the world has lost: the ancient, lost reverence and passion for human personality joined with the ancient, lost reverence and passion for the Earth and its web of life. Since before the Stone Age they have tended that passion as a central sacred fire. It should be our long hope to renew it in us all.
// John Collier, Indians of the Americas

Fred Alan Wolf: For both the shamanic cultures of Peru and Australia as well as Native American cultures, the central core of their culture is that nature is alive and conscious. When you walk the land, you’re walking on a living being. And it’s not just a question of metaphor for them, it’s not a question of belief for them, it’s a question of reality for them. And when you walk in that presence in that sense of spiritual presence always there, it totally changes the way you model things. Now, one of the problems I’m having with western models in general is that we’ve lost spiritual presence as a basis… The spiritual presence is basically something that’s alive and conscious, out of which, then, we can build holograms, we can build automobiles, whatever model you want to use. Or quantum computers, it doesn’t matter, because that’s just the technology of today that we’re using. But it’s the acknowledgment that science as a whole need to take, of spiritual presence per se, as conscious, as fundamental. Now whether we talk about it as the ground of being or as knowledge, I think we’re really going even deeper into something which is purely subjective and alive and conscious. And that’s everything that is. And I want to know if you model from that point of view, would it change anything that you’ve said so far?

Edgar Mitchell: No, I don’t think so because I totally agree with just what you have said. But I’ve been trying to keep myself grounded very firmly in what the scientific model would be because jumping with both feet to the spiritual model doesn’t allow you, as we’ve all understood, to have much rapport in the academic, scientific community at all. And…we’re providing a mechanism via the quantum hologram which does extend our understanding of some of the internal conscious experience, namely, all of the so-called psychic non-local stuff… Does it explain all? No, I don’t think so. But it does allow me to say in the model that nature is an alive, learning, intelligent, creative organizing system itself.

FAW: It seems to me… we’ve got a world that’s on the verge of chaos. And a lot of hungry people, and a lot of wars still; what I’m trying to say to science, to us as scientists as a whole, is that we ourselves need to transform. Because the world really, the world, meaning other than just the United States of America and our culture, really is looking. I mean we need to incorporate the world in our model.

EM: Fred, there is utterly no disagreement with what you [and others] have said here.
//Quantum Holography and the Physics of Consciousness IONS Symposium, November 1999

On the dialogue of world religions

There is no single Hindu perspective on ultimate reality. In the Upanishads, the key to salvation is to know that Brahman, the ultimate reality of the cosmos, is the same as the self. Since each individual is one with the entire universe, there is nothing to desire and nothing to fear or flee.

Buddhism does not rely on transcendent reality or accept any theory about the source of the universe but rather offers a concrete, practical path of liberation. Contemporary Buddhists emphasize the radical interdependence of beings in the cosmos. Life is suffering. The cause of suffering is our desire to attach ourselves to persons or things under the illusion that we are independent selves who can actually dominate them. The end of suffering is possible.

The sages of Israel assumed that wise persons outside of Israel knew the one God, as is implied in the positive use of images and wise sayings from other traditions. St. Paul quoted non-Christian Greek writers as witnesses to the one God and cited non-Christian affirmations that God is close to each person and can be worshipped even when unknown.

Islam acknowledges that God gave both the Torah and the Gospel as well as the Qur’an, according to which anyone who makes true surrender of heart to God is a Muslim.

The Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, declares the all-embracing salvivic will and plan of salvation of God. The Declaration on the Non-Christian Religions concludes with this sentence, “The Catholic religion rejects nothing of all that which is true and whole in these religions.”

Judeo-Christian systematic theology

The transcendental and metaphysical claims of revealed religion—namely the communication of the uncreated, absolute and ultimate reality of the divine with created human beings—are the concerns of theology. The ultimate theological context is Totality. Our experiences as moral agents and as beings sensitive to beauty direct consciousness to this high transcendence. The self-surpassing of the individual is the essence of being human, of responsibility, of religious experience including mysticism, the possibility of divine self-communication, and of intimations of life after death. These ultimate questions we cannot forget or evade.

Notions of transcendence that radically split the divine nature into the “wholly other,” that God willfully withdraws from thought (Deus absconditus), are corruptions of the later Middle Ages and Reformation. A god of non-mediated transcendence is affectively impotent or non-existent. Subsequent dissolutions of Scientific Humanism affectively result in a cosmopolitan culture bereft of an image of the divine or of any content-transcendence. With Fundamentalism, the void is filled with the anti-intellectual and misplaced concreteness of a regressive, wrathful, punishing patriarchal replica of a transcendent divinity. Church models centered in the ego-centered power-complexes of narcissistically alienating authority-figures hold their flocks as spiritual hostages from the numinous power of any authentic transcendence that threatens ego control.

Theologically, belonging to the totality that includes the infinitely and immanently transcendent divinity cannot be brought about by finite efforts alone. Grace is the tertium non datur essential to resolve the oppositions of human-and-divine.

In postmodern theology, avenues of transcendence appear so abundant and indefinable that all phenomena are significant. A capacity to transcend any particular being (immediate figure) and to be open to the limitless horizon (ultimate ground) is the necessary condition of any possible knowledge. The ultimate horizon cannot be an object because it would require a wider horizon against which it could be known. As humans, we are the constituents of the finite world who are always open to the infinite. Every conscious and fully human experience of our daily lives involves an implicit transcendence as the very essence of being human. Openness to transcendent mystery and conscious choices regarding this mystery determine our ultimate identity. In this model, theology itself is not an objective science but a process of knowing.

Myth carries word, news, messages of event and history, but religion binds individuals to wider and deeper cultural and psychic phenomena in a community of experience, practice and purpose. While lived myths express understanding in traditional and aesthetic narratives, religion endeavors and proclaims to reach beyond understanding to access occasions of objective revelation, ultimate values, and possibilities of life after death.

• Historical, dating and identifying the first context and intentions of a text using evidence of other scriptures and archaeological remains and non-biblical sources
• Traditional, establishing oral and written traditions
• Literary, value and impact of texts as literature
• Textual, establishing original wording
• Form, analyzing styles of speech and writing
• Redaction, analyzing the motivation and mindset of authors in inherited traditions.

• Systematic theology seeks to understand the whole of Christian belief and practice:
• Dogmatic theology interprets faith in official church teachings.
• Moral theology interprets the demands of faith on attitudes, motives, values and behavior.
• Spiritual theology focuses on inner transformation.
• Liberal theology, in Protestantism, reduces supernatural to the least common denominators.
• Neo-orthodoxy (Barth, Niebuhr) re-connects with “sinfulness” and “need for redemption.”
• Radical theology addressed the “death-of-god” movement.
• Secular theology emphasized the this-worldly character of experience.
• Liberation theology stresses liberation from economic, racial and cultural oppression.
• Political theology holds that statements about God must be refer to the human condition.
• Existential theology emphasizes individual as locus of transformation and redemption.
• Process theology is drawn from process philosophy.

Trans-onto-logical theology would bring about a theology free from all metaphysical, ontological, and even linguistic presuppositions, to reflect the icon of God’s self-revelation and not the God of Being (Aquinas), the God of Reason (Kant), or the God of Morality (Nietszche) — all of which reduce God to anthropomorphic idolatries. For Jean-Luc Marion, the act of gazing requires the idol: “the gaze is gazing at itself gazing, at the risk of seeing no more than its own face.” An idol always ends up as a mirror play of “self-idolatry.” Icon precedes gaze and imposes upon the gaze in a movement from self-self (thinking about thinking) to self-Other (thinking about God). In “silence” [as suggested by Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida], silence implies a mystical experience which is outside “logoi” (the text), that is, hors-texte.

Feminist theology. How we speak about God and how we interpret our lives are inextricable. Elizabeth Johnson finds that regarding:
• divine incomprehensibility, no one set of images adequately alludes to God
• analogical language, affirmations about God are inadequate, verging on mystery, never explaining
• the many names of God, the tradition reveals a pluralistic, even playful freedom in speaking about the Holy One. God as Spirit-Sophia is the “mobile, pure, people-loving Spirit who pervades every wretched comer, wailing at the waste, releasing power that enables fresh starts.”

Transforming the god-image in Judeo-Christianity

YHVH and Essential Judeo-Christian Anthropology

Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, one LORD, and you must love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul and strength. [Deuteronomy 6:5 NEB]

Understand that this day I offer you the choice of a blessing or a curse. The blessing will come if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God which I give you this day, and the curse if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God but turn aside from the way that I command you this day and follow other gods whom you do not know. [Deuteronomy 11:26 NEB]

Yahweh, as a storm god, speaks in the thunder, and shoots lightning. As El Shaddai, Yahweh is God of mountains. Fire is a sign of the divine presence and a weapon. Yahweh is God of the desert, controls the waters, the rivers, the rain. Yahweh is giver of life and bringer of death, God of war and peace. Above all, Yahweh is God of the covenant that sustains nature and the people of Israel, the salvation history of whom is the central theme of the Hebrew scriptures.

However, concretized expressions such as Yahweh or Jehovah (a false reading) are contrary to the strict injunction against speaking (or even presuming to know) the divine name and so doing to summon its magical power.

Too sacred for utterance, YHVH, is an acronym for the voice in the burning bush that responds to the appeal of Moses for a divine name. Translated, I am that I am, the phrase is more accurately interpreted, I will be what I will be. Without the interpolated pronoun, the expression is, Will become what will become, or is becoming what is becoming.

In Judeo-Christianity, faith is the relationship of the human “I” and divine “Thou” indicated in the statement: “I believe you.” In Hebrew and in Christian scriptures “believing God” means the attitude of one who assents to and relies on God’s self-communication (revelation). Christian faith is a “Yes” to the transcendence of grace and the sharing of the mystery of divine life. This companionship is trinitarian: The transcendending YHVH (Abba) becomes personally intelligible through the acts of Y’Shua (Jesus) and made immanent in the active presence of the Loving Spirit. The secret of divine consciousness is disclosed in the consciousness of the person made capable of accepting self as intimate and free partner — among others — in a mystical relationship with the godhead. The offer of divine companionship forms the radical character of human freedom. Alienation (sin) is overcome in the deliverance of belonging (redemption).

This relationship progressively unfolds: In the image of God, the imago Dei, the source of the personality also guides the personality through the journey of life as incarnate Word, or image to the ultimate goal of divine likeness. We freely create individual and collective meaning when we make conscious choices.

In the Hebrew conception, wisdom is Sophia, the feminine emanation of godhead, that is, the Shekinah, through which the universe, the cosmic order, was created. Rooted in this wisdom is hokhmah, the wisdom of practical work, the knowledge and skill to spin goat’s hair, to shape things in wood and metal, to serve the basic human needs. With hokhmah, we know how to tend to our daily needs, to eat and to laugh, to do whatever we have to do and to do it well. Psychologically speaking, experience of god is experience of some god-image which presents a symbol with the power to unify polarities and psychic fragments in the transcendent function. Like any image, it is not to be identified with the totality of the object it represents and to which it directs. The god-image points to a transcendent, numinous reality that compels attention and attracts energy. As an image of totality and “as the highest value and supreme dominant in the psychic hierarchy, the god-image is immediately related to, or identical with, the Self.”

The ultimate intuition of analytical psychology and of mystical traditions is that human beings can be empowered as co-creators to participate directly in the ongoing transformation of the god-image, and to live the divine life consciously.

Eschatologically, to live in divine companionship is to experience the Basileia, or the emerging presence of divine love in the experience of totality that is the present moment (already) and the New Creation (yet to come). The mystery of the Basileia is the central concept of the message of salvation preached by Y’Shua.

Then one of the lawyers, who had been listening to these discussions and had noted how well he answered, came forward and asked him, ‘Which commandment is first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is the only Lord; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is not other commandment greater than these.’ [Mark 12: 28-31 NEB]