Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Creating a New Golden Age

There was a time and place (Spain in the middle ages) when Jews, Moslems, and Christians lived together in harmony. During this time the confluence of these three cultures produced tremendous advances in science, medicine, philosophy, art, agriculture, and mystical religious thought. Although the situation wasn't perfect, and ended in the Spanish Inquisition, in which the Catholics decided that anyone, especially Jews and Muslims, who didn't accept traditional Catholic thought should be killed, this "Golden Age" does offer a precedent for the possibility of peace.

The Muslims, even during this time of coexistence, believed that there were three categories of people. The first and highest were Muslims who accepted Mohammed as the one true god. The second were "people of the book", Christians and Jews, who, although they had gotten off the track still were guided by god's words in the old and new testament. Then there were the pagans who had no hope and were considered worthless. This view though, was the mainstream view fostered by the politicians and religious leaders. It was not the view of the deeper thinkers who saw the similarities and values in all religious thought.

One of the more important outcomes of this co-mingling of philosophical thought was the development and refinement of the mystical side of these three religions. The Kaballah, Sufism, and Christian mysticism began to see religion not just as a question of faith but as an opportunity to experience God directly. Dogmatic religious belief was replaced by each individuals' ability to experience the reality of a higher power and an expanded universe through meditation, prayer, dance, and the entering of ecstatic states.

From the experiences and discussions regarding these states arose an awareness of the oneness of all mankind and our connection to each other. What became apparent to these mystical philosophers was that our present rational views of the world were limited in their ability to understand the meaning and purpose of life. What was required was a higher consciousness that was not available to the ordinary man through ordinary thought. This realization that there was a higher consciousness and that it is only through this higher state that we can understand our world and learn to live together is, in my opinion, critical to solving the problems of today's world.

What this means to me is that the battle the world is facing is not between Islam and the other religions, or between different countries, or between capitalism and communism or socialism but between a way of thinking that promotes separatism and competition versus a way of thinking that sees us as all connected and created from the same source. Although we may appear differently or think differently, we need to learn see our differences as opportunities to learn and grow and expand our understanding of how our planet really functions.

Out of this can come another "Golden Age" in which the results of cooperation and mutual support can enable us to live happier, longer, and more exciting lives. This is not a pipe dream or an idealistic viewpoint. Just as there were in medieval Spain, there are thousands, even millions of people who are working along these lines, who see the possibility of creating a new world by recognizing that truth does not exist in one philosophy or ideology but in an open-minded striving to expand our awareness.

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