November 4th, 2008

Generic Meditation Issues: Monotheism

Karen Armstrong once identified herself as (I think) "a freelance monotheist," meaning (I think) that she could see value in all the great western religious traditions (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i) without being able to commit to one or the other of those.  Yes, monotheism represented a great advance from its immediate predecessors (State endorsed polytheisms) but compared to more ancient traditions (animism, shamanism) it also has its costs and drawbacks.  When monotheism is combined with anthropomorphism, God becomes sexed and that sex is almost always male.  God then acquires the characteristics, positive and negative, that are associated with masculinity in the culture that worships that god.  We end up worshiping gods that are our moral and spiritual inferiors being "jealous." "egotistic." "proprietary," and "vengeful."

Of the religious figures "I admire most," only one was clearly a monotheist.  Jesus called God "father,"  outlined his "kingdom"  in the "sermon on the mount,"  and modeled him in the father of the "prodigal son."
His followers probably tampered with his teachings enough to make his central message less clear, but even despite the "masculinization" of Christianity, the themes of unconditional love and endless forgiveness stand out.  Lao Tsu (and I prefer to believe such a person existed) and Buddha gave no clue about their concepts of God, if any.  Jesus may have had the most creative and spiritually valuable monotheism ever, but I have no idea how it ever will be discovered so many centuries after his death.  I await the continued revelations of the Jesus Seminar, but I have little hope that they will clarify my picture of Jesus and his concept of God..  The fact that he may have been "God's only begotten son," or the product of a rape means that his connection to the concept "father" may have very  different implications: unusual, creative, and/or carefully thought out.

But if I dispense with monotheism, what do I do about personalism which is characteristic of those monotheists I respect and seek to emulate.  Can I pray to "the pure light of the void," or the Tao?  For, though monotheism turns me off, I find monism attractive and perhaps necessary.  I don't think praying to lesser gods or to saints is an option for me,