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We Seek God and God Seeks Us:

Parallels between the Evolution of Humanity and Religion

      As I have written in the Bulletin Board article on the Formation and Early Years of CaoDaism, the CaoDai faith sees the major religious movements of the world in three stages:

First Stage:    Dipankara Buddha--Proto Buddhism (Hindu precursor)
                Nhien Dang Co Phat--Proto Taoism
                Thai Thuong Dao Quan--Proto Confucianism

                                Phuc Hi--Judaism

Second Stage:   Shakyamuni Buddha--Buddhism
                Lao Tzu--Taoism
                Jesus Christ--Christianity

Third Stage:    CaoDaism and other unifying philosophies and religions.

      However, and this will be significant later in this article, CaoDai is also known as the Third Amnesty.

      In each of these movements, one can see the development of humankind reflected in their respective moral codes. 

      Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation.  However, the Hindus believe that one can do nothing to alter or prevent one's rebirth except through appropriate worship and moral action. Buddhists believe that one can completely liberate oneself from the cycle of rebirth through the process of meditation, leading to the realization of the nature of the universe and its causality (and one's own).

      Both early and late Taoists expressed similar beliefs about the nature of the universe, but it was the later Taoists that developed individual practices (physical and mental) for unifying oneself with the universe and for possibly achieving immortality.

      Early forms of Confucianism focused primarily on the structure of a just society, with the heaven-sent emperor as its chief.  Later forms emphasized each individual becoming his own "emperor," and finding the justness of his own heart.

      Christianity is every bit a moral religion as Judaism, and the requirements of the law were equally important, but Jesus Christ pointed to a deeper law--that of one's own, God-inspired, conscience.  If one could root out evil in one's own heart, then one is "no longer under the law," meaning that the law would be unnecessary.

      There are two things common in all these developments.  First of all, each succeeding movement seeks to incorporate and transcend the previous movement.  That is, the spiritual truths of the previous movement are never denied, simply enlarged to include more people. Second, and more importantly, these truths are individualized, are left to the responsibility of the individual, rather than a priesthood, to perform the appropriate actions/prayers/meditations.

      If we compare this with individual human development, the parallel is striking: As children, we are completely reliant on the parents to instruct us on the basics of our lives. We are directed, yes, but also protected and sustained. This process diminishes as we mature, and we are expected to then take up the reins of our lives and ourselves determine our futures.

      As with the individual, so with the species. Ken Wilber, in his groundbreaking series of texts on evolutionary psychology and religion, observes a regular pattern, regardless of which psychologist or religious tradition is speaking: As an individual,
indeed as humanity, matures, there is an unmistakable, though not always unbroken, development of inclusion of greater and greater Truth.  This is the learning process. As new information is verified, some old is discarded, but much is also kept and, when possible, integrated into the new framework caused by the addition of new knowledge.  This Wilber calls transcending and including.

      As Wilber puts it, Both the quality of humanity's spiritual understanding, and the form of its presentation, are deepening and becoming more adequate in modern times, not less." (The Eye of Spirit, p.62) "The point is that the evolution of the forms of Truth clearly show a succession of increasingly adequate and more comprehensive structures for Truth's _expression and representation...The past had the Great Religions.  The future will have the Greater Religions." (The Eye of Spirit, p. 65)

      In this way, not only has humanity developed, but also its cultural institutions, including religion.

      As the late mythologist Joseph Campbell has observed, there are two ways to view similarities between religions separated by thousands of miles and cultural history: psychologically (the similarities are the result of the commonality of the human mind) or theologically (the similarities all stem from somewhere else).

      The brilliance and uniqueness of the CaoDai faith is that this development is seen not simply as directed from within the human psyche, but also from without the human psyche, by the Supreme Being Himself.

      Seen this way, God alone (who by definition is the only One who can see into all of our hearts, individually and collectively) can determine when enough of humanity is ready to take greater responsibility for greater inclusiveness.  The CaoDai faith thus specifically includes all previous religions and also transcends them all at the same time, by revealing the historical pattern of all religions as part of the Supreme Being's greater plan to bring humanity together and restore it to Himself.




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