Within the Covers of the Book of Religion We often think of primitive human as
simple and naive, but such egotism merely ignores the immensity of the contribution of primitive cultures to our present civilization. Primitive human established the path for generations to follow; creating goals, standards and designs for our advancement, and thus should be credited for his/ her bravery, imagination and vision. One of the many contributions of the primitive culture to our cultural life was the creation of religion. Many cultures were founded upon ritual grounds; temples were built for the sake of worshipping. We revered earth and the nature surrounding our lives. Religions informed and governed the details of everyday life. Religions founded on the ancient system of polytheism introduced a way of devotion to a personal god focusing on the “one reality.” Others focused on the absoluteness of good and evil, introducing gods of light and darkness. And yet another group revered multitudes of gods that expressed both the forces of the natural world and the elements of human nature, and there were many more spiritual systems in between. As we advanced in our knowledge and information, as our technology developed and we began to question the limitations imposed on us by the natural world, we gradually found answers to a few of our questions. We learned that the sun was not a god but a star, that forces of nature were not dieties but actions, reactions and interactions of matters and energies, that celestial beings were galaxies, orbits and planets. Monotheistic religions emerged from the Middle East and taught us to revere and believe in one God, or rather the Ultimate Divine Reality and Unity—the Divine that was Eternal, Compassionate and Merciful. 15
Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1
If we think of Judaism as spiritual teachings based on laws, then Christianity is founded on love and Islam on knowledge. Centuries have passed and in every new era we have found a new way of understanding our quest for Divinity. Yet the questions of “I” and its relationship to understanding God have remained puzzling. As soon as the teaching of a prophet found its way into the marketplace of religion, salvations and redemption found new interpretations. Then, each such religion begins to provide an answer in harmony with the needs of individuals and cultures of time era. These answers have indeed satisfied different people at different times, but where can we find a universal answer to our questions? One of the reasons that we are still searching, that many of us are not happy with the answers provided by traditional and marketplace religions, is that we are looking outward to find an answer for a very deep, inward, personal question. Within any one of the great traditions of spiritual teaching and religion there exists a mystical dimension, where a personal striving is required for a higher, inward understanding. To answer the questions of “I” and its relationship to understanding God, in the framework of religion, one may need to know what is “religion?” The same logic applies to the question of God. Who or what is God? One has to define the extent of one’s search even to reach the question. Where does one look for an answer, in what framework, in which discipline? One has to search within cultures and times; within history and geography; within nature and supernatural. And one must do so while realizing that the way the domain of the search is structured will determine the framework of any answer.