RELIGIOUS AWE & CRITICAL THOUGHT by Anton K. Jacobs

RELIGIOUS AWE & CRITICAL THOUGHT

by Anton K. Jacobs

The Community of Reason

April 7, 2013

I had a professor in college who would say, “Smart people change their minds.” Were my father still alive, today would be his 87th birthday. He was not a highly educated man. But he was thoughtful. And he would read and debate. He and I during my college years had some huge arguments, primarily over economics and politics. However, he was studious and thoughtful, and he would change his mind. That’s not a bad model for emulation. So I think I’d like to dedicate these comments today to the memory of Wilbert Charles Jacobs.

The Origin of Religion

Long before dawn one recent morning I stood in my bathrobe out on a wooden porch in a small valley in southern Missouri near the tiny town of Brixey, not far from the Arkansas border and about eight miles from the nearest paved road. All was quiet except for a couple of barely audibly barking dogs somewhere across the valley.

I had gone outside in order to look at the sky. It was a crystal clear night, and I could see the stars in a way that’s typically impossible inside the city with all the surrounding lights. Google Earth tells me I was at latitude 36°45’23” N and longitude 92°19’05” W and 717 feet above sea level, which seems to me somehow cosmically significant.

Recognizing various constellations, the names of which I can never remember, and other clusters of stars in that overarching blue-black blanket of lights, I thought about people in the time before time; those early ancestors of ours who lived without the modern stuff that stands between us and an immediate experience of our natural surroundings.

I wondered what it was like for them at the dawn of human consciousness; that time when they began to be aware of themselves as beings with an identity distinct from other beings and distinct from nature itself, and beings with a past and a future. This would be when they awoke to the reality of birth and death, started reflecting on the meaning of it all, and began to live more by deliberation than by instinct.

Given our consciousness of past and future, of time and development, of life being born and life dying, it might make more sense to think of ourselves, not as human beings, but as human becomings.

Looking up at that vast speckled starry sky, I thought about the reactions of sentient and conscious beings awakening to all this. And I thought about what today we call “religious sentiment.”

Many thinkers have tried to identify the origin of religion. Psychologist Sigmund Freud thought it was rooted in humanity’s frailty and vulnerability. He thought it was a matter of psychological comfort for being subject to calamities, suffering, and death; also a compensation for the loss of one’s infancy under the care of all-powerful parents.(1)

Sociologist Emile Durkheim thought it came from the tribe’s or clan’s feelings of belonging together. We take our sense of community and project it onto the heavens, mistaking it for a god hovering over us.(2) It’s like when patriots view their nation as sacred and transcendent.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche thought religion was rooted in fear and resentment. There is a terrifying abyss we face when looking at the cold hard facts of life and death. So we retreat from the challenge to create our own meaning by self-deceptively concocting some other meaning provided by an imaginary god.

Nietzsche also thought religion was a convenient way for the weak and vulnerable to instill in the powerful a restraint on their tendency to oppress the weak. He seemed to think that Christianity especially was the result of weak and powerless people devising a system that would constrain the strong and powerful from exercising their will in ways that could harm the defenseless.(3)

Indeed, one of the greatest critics of religion, Voltaire, said he preferred that powerful people believe in God. He thought they would probably be ruthless towards social critics like himself if they weren’t constrained by a heavenly ethic.

Voltaire saw religious fanaticism as particularly wicked; in general much worse than atheism. Fanaticism inspires criminal and violent passions, he argued, while atheism does not.(4)

However, he wrote (and I paraphrase), I would not want to have to deal with an atheist ruler who thinks it would be useful to pound me into a powder. I would surely be pounded. And if I were a ruler, I wouldn’t want to have attendants who don’t believe in God and who might think it in their interest to poison me. It is absolutely essential, then, that rulers and others have engraved in their minds a belief in a supreme being who is creator, ruler, and avenger.(5)

Various explanations for religion’s origin continue to issue forth from philosophers and scientists. Recently some have been examining pre-human animal behaviors for incipient religious sentiments and activity. Sociologist Robert Bellah, for example, has suggested that our capacity for playfulness is closely linked to the evolution of religion, and he thus suggests that the playfulness we see in animals could contain “the conditions for the emergence of ritual.”(6)

It would appear to be impossible to confirm an explanation from a time so empirically inaccessible to us. From what we do know about historically available religious practices and religious sentiment all of the proffered naturalistic explanations can marshal evidential support and so would seem to be more-or-less plausible. Probably all of them contain some of the truth. The psychologist and anthropologist Pascal Boyer has mined anthropological, evolutionary, and neuro-psychological research to find, naturally enough, that religion is “a mere consequence or side effect of having the brains we have.” He concludes that the source of religion cannot be reduced to any one single source in human life, but rather “many different cognitive processes conspire to make religious concepts convincing.”(7) We human becomings are a complex species.

But to return to the simple exercise of imagining the earliest humans awaking in consciousness to their place on the earth and under the stars, I don’t doubt that religion is in part, maybe even in large part, humanity’s attempt to cope with its fragile tininess in a limitless universe of mystery and power. But I can’t help but suspect that human awe at the natural universe has something to do with the rise of religious sentiment. It might even be at the very core of it.(8)

Looking up at those stars, I suppose, eventually we may come to feel a certain amount of terror as we’re reminded of our vulnerability, mortality, and insignificance in the grand scheme of things. This place is huge beyond measure, and I’m just a speck in it all! But I’m guessing that human becomings’ first thought upon awaking to this remarkable reality of being a being in this vast and spectacular universe was: Wow!

Religious Explanations

Of course, as the world’s religions emerged, they developed their own explanations for the origin of religion and religious sentiment. They have tended to offer up grand mythologies of a transcendental or divine reality reaching out to touch someone.

Westerners are aware of those stories in the Judeo-Christian tradition of God creating in six days the world and all that is in it, as well as an original pair of humans in God’s own image and placing them in a garden of unending comfort, but unfortunately too near trees whose fruit could make them like gods. They began to eat of one of those trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they discovered the power of discernment and perhaps even rational thought. God learned, then, to God’s chagrin, that the nature of God’s created beings was a bit more like God than God had intended. Also concerned that they thus might also pick of the tree of life and attain immortality, the Lord drove them out of that garden and into lives of toil.(9)

From narratives such as this as well as ongoing religious experience, Western religious thinkers have suggested that planted in the very nature of human beings is a drive towards the divine, a built-in yearning, if you will, that human beings might neglect or forget or distort or deny but cannot ignore.

So St. Augustine famously prays in his Confessions (I’m paraphrasing): We human beings want to praise you, O Lord. Even though we’re a small part of creation and terribly burdened by our own mortality and sinfulness, we still want to praise you. You inspire us to find pleasure in worshiping you because you created us for yourself, and our hearts will remain restless until we find our peace in you.(10)

Other developments in Western religious thought emphasized the idea that human becomings are so deluded and twisted that God would have to reveal to them the specifics of truth and goodness and beauty. We can understand this conclusion when we notice how concerned religious leaders are about the obedience to authority and doctrine by people who are often reluctant to so obey. We can understand it, too, when we notice how impossible it seems to be for human becomings to live up to standards of morality, peace, and justice for any length of time.

Nevertheless, it has continued to be maintained in Western religious thought that the origin of religious sentiment lies in the reality that human becomings are created by God and are thus in some fundamental way related to the Divine. Such an origin, of course, couldn’t help but stimulate in human becomings an awesome awareness of transcendence and power.

In this regard it’s not too terribly different from some streams of Eastern religious thought. The oldest of the most sacred scriptures in Hinduism, the Vedas, are viewed as shruti writings. Shruti literally means hearing or listening, and the belief is that ancient seers, known as rishis, were able to hear the truths that are the Vedas by a special kind of attentiveness to the universe. Through spiritual self-development they acquired the ability to hear and thus discover ultimate truth.

It’s interesting then that one of the oldest and oft-quoted texts expresses puzzlement at the origin of existence. This is found in the Rig Veda and expresses well the awe of a waking humanity at this remarkable universe:

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then; there was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond. What stirred? Where? In whose protection? Was there water, bottomless deep? …

“Who really knows? Who will proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?

“Whence this creation has arisen—perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not––the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows—or perhaps he does not know.”(11)

In spite of that stated uncertainty, the shruti have given us a variety of creation stories. One that developed a little later in the vedic tradition, found in the Upanishads, suggests the universe was a matter of Brahman or God who created it out of himself in a kind of playful spirit. In one narrative we find the world as originally only one body shaped like a man, who, then, dissatisfied with himself, split himself into two—a man and a woman. Their offspring became human beings. But she thought it odd that he would copulate with his other half and starts hiding by transforming herself into other beings. And in an ongoing game of hide and seek, he finds her, transforms himself into the same being and copulates with her again. Thus they give birth to cows, horses, donkeys, and so on, until they “created every male and female pair that exists, down to the very ants.”(12) Then in a remarkable moment of self-awareness, he notices that all this creation he did himself, as if he’d forgotten it or not noticed in all that copulating activity. Thinking this is cool, he does a lot more creating till he has a super-creation with gods and mortals and everything else.(13)

It’s all pretty cool, and I’m guessing that’s one of the narratives that led the philosopher and theologian Alan Watts to characterize the Vedantic view of the relationship between God and the creation as a game of hide-and-seek. God likes to play, but there is no one outside God to play with, says Watts. So God pretends he isn’t himself. “He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars.” This is how he has all kinds of adventures with himself, some wonderful, some like nightmares. God is very good at this game of hide-and-seek with himself, so sometimes he forgets even where he has hid himself. That makes the game especially fun, and is why we have to become aware “that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself.” When we all wake up to the reality that we are God playing, then the game will end and start over again.(14)

The Origin of Reason/Science

So we have the religious narrative or narratives for humanity’s development as conscious becomings as they awoke to their place in this remarkable universe of endless space and time, wonder and terror. Following their deep sense of awe, and then noticing their own fragility in a place––huge, strange, and dangerous––they set about generating the mythologies that locate them in the overall scheme of things and that allowed them to celebrate the pleasures of life and cope with its miseries.

But there is another narrative. After all, when I stood on that porch looking up at the sky and hearing the dogs bark across the valley, I also wondered about the universe and those stars, the names of whose constellations I can never remember, and the world, and life, and what those dogs were barking at. I have no doubt that those earliest awakening human becomings also started asking themselves all kinds of questions about this huge, strange, beautiful, and dangerous home of theirs.

In other words, those waking human becomings did not only feel religious awe and begin generating mythologies of celebration and lament; they also felt a deep curiosity and began to ask questions.

Aristotle, who laid the foundations for much of philosophy and science, wrote that “[a]ll men by nature desire to know.” We know this, he said, because of “the delight we take in our senses.” Quite apart from whether knowledge is useful, we love sense experience for itself, and especially that of sight. The reason for this is that sight, above all the senses, lets us know and understand the “many differences between things.”(15) Writing in the 1990s, the geologist Peter Wyllie, in an introductory essay to the study of the earth sciences, writes: “One of the rewards of studying and understanding the Earth is…[that it] brings us closer to nature, closer to an awareness of some transcendental power, closer to God if we choose to define God in these terms.”(16)

While the divinely inspired continued to spin out tales of gods, goddesses, saviors, and devils of various sorts, curious and earnest more earthly rooted persons were seeking understanding within nature and experience rather than in more transcendental realms. Even before Aristotle, Thales was wondering about the nature and character of the universe, as was Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and others. Thinkers like Democritus and Epicurus postulated an early materialistic atomic theory of all matter.

Some of these naturalists laughed at the more imaginative anthropomorphic narratives of those who saw divine hands in the process. The Roman poet Lucretius, an Epicurus ditto-head, writing in the first century of the Common Era, stated bluntly that all the talk of gods creating things and people praising gods as if their immortal lives depended on it was “all sheer folly.”(17) He asks, “if Jupiter and other gods” are responsible for storms and lightning, why then do they not strike particularly pernicious sinners and thus make an example of them for others? And why then do they strike the innocent who haven’t given any offense with “the whirlwind and fire of heaven”? And how can you explain it when lightning is just striking solitary spots for no obvious reason? Are the gods exercising or practicing, he asks? And why do they not toss down bolts of lightning when there are no clouds? It makes no sense, as well, that sometimes their storms will destroy their own temples and images of them created in their honor.(18)

Even earlier than Lucretius, in the East, the Charvakans of ancient India were pooh-poohing the vedic-inspired theologies that would become what we know as Hinduism. The Charvakans said: Come on! Consciousness is nothing more than some inexplicable phenomenon emerging from some combination of the elements—earth, water, fire, and air. When the body dies, so does the self. That’s all folks. Nature couldn’t care less about good and evil. Virtue and vice are merely social conventions. There ain’t no divine plan. The basic issues of life are pain and pleasure.(19)

But not everybody was convinced that knowing and understanding ultimate reality or having a doctrine of metaphysics was achievable, rational, or even all that important––whether from a supernaturalistic or a naturalistic perspective.

Buddhism eventually developed its own ontologies and cosmologies with levels of heavens and such. But frequently cited texts show the Buddha refusing to teach metaphysical doctrines––whether the world is eternal or not eternal, finite or infinite, whether the soul and body are identical or not, or the one one thing and the other something else, whether saints exist or don’t exist after death. The Buddha says that he hasn’t adopted any of these disputed metaphysical doctrines because all this searching after metaphysical doctrines is a wilderness; it’s a puppet-show, he says, that comes with misery and doesn’t contribute to one’s liberation. If you get shot by a poison arrow, says the Buddha, you’re not going to tell the doctor, Don’t take the arrow out or treat me until I know who shot the arrow, where the arrow-shooter is from, what clan he belongs to, whether he lives in a village or city, what kind of bow and bowstring were used.(20) Asking after metaphysical realities while one is still in a state of suffering is utterly foolish.

Confucius in China seemed to imply that the pursuit of ultimate truths about the universe might be a bit beyond us and is, in any case, not nearly as important as finding the right way of living. He stressed the mandate of heaven, but by that he appears to have meant something like the natural order of things. One of his disciples complained that Confucius will talk about human culture; he’ll talk about the behaviors of the virtuous; but he won’t tell us anything at all about human nature or the ways of heaven.(21)

In ancient Greece Socrates and Plato, too, had much less concern about the nature of the universe than the pre-Socratics before them and Aristotle after them. They were applying reason to the proper ordering of human affairs and social organization. With a Western rationalist bias, it is to them that we typically trace the idea and spirit of critical thought. I say we do that with a Western rationalist bias because centuries before Socrates and Plato across the great pond of the Mediterranean the Hebrew prophets were developing an even more radical and flamboyant critique of human affairs in the interest of justice and humane relationships. Both Socrates and the Hebrew prophets claimed divine inspiration.

What we’re talking about is the Axial Age.

The Axial Age

The world’s major religions, what Huston Smith refers to in one place as “the world’s great, enduring religions”(22) and in another as “the historical religions”(23) emerged within a relatively short period of time throughout the world. They emerged during a period, ranging from about 800 to 200 BCE, identified by philosopher Karl Jaspers(24) as the Axial Age and elaborated more fully recently by religion scholar Karen Armstrong,(25) among others.(26) The religions that emerged during the Axial Age would eventually cover the earth. Today these religions have sacred texts and well developed traditions of organization, ritual, and belief.

But this age didn’t give birth to just religions, as we’ve already noted. The Axial Age was the period during which all the world’s major philosophical traditions emerged as well. Jaspers writes that in the time centering around 500 BCE “the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid, simultaneously and independently in China, India, Persia, Palestine, and Greece.” Jaspers suggests this was a pivotal period for world history, a turning point of great significance for the development of human culture. It included Confucius, Laozi, Mozi, and Zhuang Zi in China. “In India it was the age of the Upanishads and of Buddha”; in China all kinds of “philosophical trends, including skepticism and materialism, sophistry and nihilism”; in Iran, Zarathustra; in Palestine, the prophets Elijah, Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah; in Greece, we get “Homer, the philosophers Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, the tragic poets, Thucydides, and Archimedes.”

Here’s the thing: While it’s tempting to view the emergence of the religions and schools of philosophy during the Axial Age as a kind of spiritual and intellectual consolidation, that would be only a half truth. Indeed, it was a time of institutionalization. Judaism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Platonism, Aristotelianism were forming habits of thought, ritual, and practice that many yet celebrate as the creative activity of a partnership between God and humanity and others lament as shackles from which later generations have had to seek liberation. But this was the period, too, when the profound importance and power of the critical spirit, of critique, of criticism issue forth.

Critical Thought

In the Axial Age, radical questions were raised in “the drive for liberation and redemption.” It is in this period that humanity set for itself “the highest aims,” says Jaspers. Debates, discussion, and passionate thought generated a kind of spiritual chaos. “This era produced the basic categories in which we still think” and dwell. Former customs and beliefs were challenged.(27) The age of myth “with its peace of mind and self-evident truths was ended,” argues Jaspers. “This was the beginning of the struggle—based on rationality and empirical experience—against the myth; of the battle against the demons for the transcendence of the one God; ethical indignation waged war on false gods.” Even while spiritual and intellectual traditions were offering up dogmatic pronouncements, a new uncertain humanity was raising challenging questions leading to an awareness, says Jaspers, of “new and boundless possibilities.”(28)

There were for the first time people who would stand on their own feet in a new independence from the past. Seers, thinkers, and ascetics raised their own inward journeys against the world. They became aware of history in a new way—that they had a past, lived in the present, and had a future which could be influenced. They began to seek ways to “control the course of events,” to determine what were the optimal conditions for human beings to live in, “how they might best be administered and governed. It was an age of reform.”(29)

Sociologically this was also a time of “innumerable petty states and cities, a struggle of all against all, and yet at first an astonishing prosperity.”(30) Karen Armstrong in her book on the Axial Age points out that this was a time of rising civilizations and mass migrations accompanied by war and terror. So the flowering of these religious and philosophical traditions were in part an attempt to deal with uncertainty, conflict, suffering, and horror, and to assert a different vision for humanity.

This, I would suggest, is the essence of critical thought.

After all, when the Hebrews were putting pen to paper creating a legacy of creation stories, they were living in exile, having been conquered and carried off to a foreign land.

Years ago, when I first studied ancient Greek history, I was struck by the bellicosity and militancy of Sparta. I thought the bellicose and militant United States is actually much more like Sparta than like the seat of ancient philosophy, Athens. One of the problems with my particular studies at that time was that the historians did not sufficiently cover or I did not pay sufficient attention to how incredibly bellicose and militant was ancient Athens. The truth is that while Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others were laying the foundations for philosophy and science, the Greek city-states were either at war with some other people or with each other—time after time after time—as nations and people fought over land, power, privilege, and economic advantage. And who knows what else? (I know someone who thinks human becomings go to war because they simply like to fight.)

Throughout human history these two streams of intellectual exploration and creative imagination—myth and religion, on the one hand, philosophy and science, on the other—have generated ongoing streams of now cooperating, now conflicting sensitivities because they’ve not only been the result of religious awe and rational curiosity but also of personal and tribal struggles for advantage and domination. In the process they’ve also developed what we call critical thought or critique in struggling attempts to point a visionary finger to more just and peaceful ways of living.

Probably critique was born when some hunting party of human becomings screwed up and a few of them became the eaten instead of the eaters. Someone afterwards said, “There has to be a better way of doing things.” But it’s most obvious that critique arose in that boiling cauldron of world events, of contesting peoples and traditions, of blending and combating ideas known as the Axial Age. Besides our religious and philosophical traditions, there developed also a reforming zeal, the critical spirit, the practice of criticism.

Critique evaluates the past and works in the present for a visionary future. It is most associated with philosophy in general and specifically with reason. But it has never been absent from religious traditions. In fact, the leading critical voices for peace and justice in the 20th century whom we honor and remember the most were people inspired, not so much by Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle, but by Jesus and Lord Krishna and the Buddha. Indeed we had our peace-loving justice-promoting secular saints such as W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Nelson Mandela, but the most honored and better known purveyors of peace and justice had names like Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Daniel Berrigan, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, and they continue to be the ones to whom we refer for a vision of any future of justice and peace.(31) It might not be so ironic that during the world’s bloodiest, 20th century, when secular nations were shredding the lives of its youth and bombing its cities, the clearest voices of protest were frequently those who knew religious awe and practiced critical thought.

So standing on a porch in our bathrobes in the middle of a cool spring night, looking at the stars, listening to the barking dogs across the valley, and wondering, with awe and fear and wonder, about the stars and everything under the stars, we ask ourselves the biggest questions of all. What is this universe? What are its hidden powers? Are we more like accidental orphans in a place of no particular bias towards life one way or the other? Or are we children of something ineffable that creates life and wants to make more of it? How is it, for human becomings, a place of terror and alienation, and in what ways a place of awe and affiliation? How is it like an orphanage and how like a home? If an orphanage, how do we make the best of it?34 If a home, how do we learn to live in it, protect it, and share it? And maybe even extend it?

Three and sometimes four Sundays each month the Community of Reason will continue to deal with everything under the sun. But once a month, on the first Sunday, a Sunday we could playfully call our first-Sunday Sunday school but are currently labeling with the more highfalutin “Critical Religious Studies,” we plan on taking up again this magnificent and terrible history of humanity’s ongoing quest to deal with the biggest questions of all, the ultimate questions, if you will, or the questions of ultimacy—and especially how they manifest themselves in religion, in spirituality, in faith traditions of thought and practice in the everyday life of peoples and nations.

References

  1. Sigmund Freud, Die Zukunft Einer Illusion (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1993 [1927]).
  2. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. Joseph Ward Swain (N.Y. and London: The Free Press, 1915 [1912]).
  3. Nietzsche’s views on religion are scattered throughout his works. See especially Der Antichrist (1888, The Antichrist) but also Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872, 1886, The Birth of Tragedy), Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882, 1887, The Joyful Science), Also Sprach Zarathustra (1883-85, Thus Spoke Zarathustra), Jenseits von Gut und Böse (1886, Beyond Good and Evil), Zur Genealogie der Moral (1887, On The Genealogy of Morals), Götzen-Dämmerung (1889, Twilight of The Idols)
  4. Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, edited and translated by Theodore Besterman (London: Penguin Books, 1972 [1764]), 56.
  5. Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 57; a paraphrase of Besterman’s translation.
  6. Robert N. Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Cambridge, MA & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), 117.
  7. Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (N.Y.: Basic Books; Perseus Books, 2001), 330.
  8. This would seem to be the argument, too, of Rudolf Otto’s classic work: The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational, trans. John W. Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1923).
  9. See Genesis 1-3.
  10. Saint Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Rex Warner, introduction and afterword by Martin E. Marty (N.Y.: A Signet Classic, 1963 [400]), §1.1, p. 1.
  11. Rig Veda: An Anthology, ed. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty (London: Penguin Books, 1981), 10.129 Creation Hymn (Nasadiya), pp. 25-26 [from the incipit ná ásat, “not the non-existent”; aka Nasadiya Sukta; the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala]. (Pp. 23-24 in Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957).
  12. The Upanishads, excerpts in Hinduism: A Reader, ed. Deepak Sarma (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008 [from Upanishads, tr. Patrick Olivelle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)]), Brihandaranyaka, chapter 4, p. 31.
  13. The Upanishads, excerpts in Hinduism: A Reader, p. 31.
  14. Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (N.Y.: Vintage Books, 1966), 14-17.
  15. Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, The Complete Works of Aristotle, vol. 2, ed. Jonathan Barnes, Bollingen Series LXXI-2 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 1552.
  16. Peter J. Wyllie, “The Great Globe Itself,” in The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th edition, Propædia (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1994), 61.
  17. Lucretius. On The Nature of Things. Translated by H.A.J. Munro. In Great Books of the Western World. Vol. 12, edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins et al. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica; William Benton Publisher, 1952), 2, 3, 17, 63, 77.
  18. Lucretius. On The Nature of Things, 85.
  19. Paraphrasing from Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 227; Jayarasi Bhatta, Tattvopaplavasimha, translated by S, N. Shastri and S.K. Saksena, revised by S.C. Chatterjee, edited by Pandit Sukhlalji Sanghavi and Rasiklal C. Parikh, in Radhakrishnan and Moore, 229, 242; Krishna Mishra, Prabodha-chandrodaya, translated by J. Taylor, in Radhakrishnan and Moore, 248.
  20. From the Majjhima-Nikaya, Sutta, 72 in Henry Clarke Warren, ed., A Buddhist Reader: Selections from the Sacred Books (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004 [1906]), 117-122.
  21. The Analects of Confucius, Book V, verse 12. See Confucianism: The Analects of Confucius, trans. Arthur Waley. (N.Y.: Book-of-the-Month Club, 1992), 110.
  22. Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (San Francisco: HarperCollins; HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 43.
  23. Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (San Francisco: HarperCollins; HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 365.
  24. Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy, trans. Ralph Manheim (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1954 [1951]), 98-100.
  25. Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (N.Y.: Anchor Books, 2006).
  26. Some of the next three paragraphs is taken or modified from Anthony J. Blasi and Anton K. Jacobs, in a forthcoming introductory sociology text with National Social Science Press, currently untitled.
  27. Jaspers, Way to Wisdom, 100.
  28. Jaspers, Way to Wisdom, 101.
  29. Jaspers, Way to Wisdom, 101.
  30. Jaspers, Way to Wisdom, 102.
  31. These are, of course, those who are widely and popularly known. In the scholarly world, we have such people, on the secular side, as John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, Amartya Sen, and Richard Rorty and, on the religious side, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Sri Aurobindo, Desmond Tutu, Jim Wallis, and others.
  32. The idea that it could be viewed as an orphanage comes from naturalist Loren Eiseley who, in an article for the Encyclopedia Britannica, appropriated from the Dead Sea Scrolls the metaphor of “orphan” for human beings vis-à-vis the cosmos. Loren Eiseley, “The Cosmic Orphan,” in The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th edition, Propædia (Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1994), 139-141.

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