Seek God and God Seeks Us:
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
Nhien Dang Co Phat--Proto Taoism
Thai Thuong Dao Quan--Proto Confucianism
Second Stage: Shakyamuni Buddha--Buddhism
Third Stage: CaoDaism and other unifying philosophies
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
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
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
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
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.
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.