Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Religion & Culture | Love is the only true religion

Published:Sunday | July 3, 2016 | 7:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
An artist impression of St Augustine, who recorded his spiritual anguish in 'Confessions'.
Master Zhou Ting-Jue (left) with Dr Glenville Ashby at US-China Wudang Qigong Association in Los Angeles in 2014.
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How grateful I am for the stream of emails from readers. My work has touched many in diverse ways. I have been lauded and encouraged to be provocative.

"We need to think differently, the old way hasn't worked," said one reader.

"Keep up the good work," wrote another.

On some occasions, my analysis has been called out, trashed. I have been accused of butchering the New Testament to suit my conjectures and biases.

"I am baffled as to why you are so obsessed with Christianity. You don't understand it, but you continue to write nonsense," wrote an obviously annoyed gentleman who, admittedly, happens to be very learnt in Christian thought.

Earlier, he wrote, "Dr Glenville Ashby, since I discovered your article, 'Saint Paul' or 'Paul the Villain' in The Sunday Gleaner of September 6, 2015, I look forward to your weekly column. I don't agree with your views of Christianity, but you are entitled to your opinions."

He has since been writing to me, expounding on the dynamics and 'truths' of the New Testament. To him, I tip my hat.

One reader, a minister, wrote a 2,000-word letter, part of which stated: "My brother, I must be honest with you, if you are in a religion, it cannot save you. Neither can my religion save me. No religion can save one human soul, for the simple reason that no soul was created by a religion.

"Only the Creator of the human soul can save the human soul. Our soul is invisible as the Creator is invisible. That Creator is Jesus Christ, who visibly showed Himself in flesh."

She continued: "Every religion is desperately searching for the true God (the Holy Spirit). I see where you are a president of an interfaith organisation. I congratulate you on that. However, everyone in those (faiths) is desperately seeking and searching for the Holy Spirit, to live in him again."

I have been writing on religion, metaphysics and the occult for many years. It is a responsibility I take seriously only because there is a God gene in everyone.

Atheism, in itself, is a religion. The need to know what happens upon death; to find transcendence, comfort, and inner magic began at the dawn of time and will never end, for there is an eternal validity to existence.

My quest for a deeper understanding of life's mysteries began four decades ago. It has been a long and, at times, tortuous journey studying and researching in several countries.

Being born into a devout Roman Catholic home never prevented me from exploring every strain of Christianity. When no longer constrained by tradition and fear I began to indulge in esotericism.

 

CULTURAL AWARENESS

 

Cultural awareness brought me to the Orisha faith and I was initiated under the most respected Iyalorisha in Trinidad.

Later, I studied Hinduism under a famous pundit, preferring to spend weekends at the temple than sow my wild oats. In the United States, I was ordained and served the church as a canon lawyer.

We parted ways, but I never let up, pushing my mind to the outer limits with Holotropic Breathwork. I studied exorcism in Rome; attended an Islamic institute where I sought credentials in Aqeeda or Matters of Faith. (Circumstances surrounding Islam, at the time, warranted study and training).

I have lived in a Taoist temple in Los Angeles, where I was instructed in Taoism and in the sacred art of qigong - all the while cementing my academic credentials.

Some call this "authoritative", my licence to write and teach. But for all that I have accomplished, I was still restless, forlorn, hurting, and grasping for more.

And there were periods - long ones - that were divorced from God, as I swerved to paths better left alone. But something always brought me back, not to any one faith, but to God consciousness.

That never leaves you once the door has been opened. In Confessions, St Augustine's youthful years were passed trying to fill an existential void. He, too, sought mysticism and was an adherent of Mani, one of the greatest prophets. He eventually surrendered to Christ.

Many have likened my quest to known and nondescript Christian converts. But of baptism I find irrelevant. Who needs another ritual? While I agree with the fundamental thesis of the reader who wrote, "everyone in those (faiths) is desperately seeking and searching for the Holy Spirit, to live in him again," I know that this principle is not a Christian phenomenon.

It is with reason that I ask my Christian friends, as I have asked the highest authorities at the Vatican: Wasn't there salvation (union with the Divine) before Judeo-Christianity?

I ask readers to revisit my articles 'Qigong: Experiencing the Holy Spirit through an ancient Chinese art' (May 25, 2015), and 'Christians speaking in tongues: An unconvincing act' (July 13, 2014).

The Holy Spirit, called by different names, has always been experienced by all peoples and cultures through the ages. No true God favours one nation over another.

 

CONDUIT OF VERITABLE LOVE

 

It is this Holy Spirit that is the conduit of veritable love, non-violence - the turn-the-other-cheek dictum. This is what religions and their messengers have preached so tirelessly, but without success. Why?

Because religion, for all the good it has done, reflects man's interpretations and cultural biases. In the case of religions whose basis is evangelisation, we face well-meaning devotees who are unwitting victims of hubris.

And no Holy Spirit passes through a man poisoned with pride. The same holds true for religious scholars. Debates surrounding biblical linguistics, exegesis and history foster arrogance, and worse. We well know the suffocating, unending death toll of religious wars.

Indeed, better is a man who is a disbeliever but humble than a believer puffed up with pride and prejudice. Charity existed long before religion reared its head.

Yes, after four decades of spiritual highs and lows, I am assured that the only true religion is love, the love of all creation.

Having love is to possess a quality, an essence, an extremely rare gem - more like a personality trait that cannot be taught or learnt in a church, temple, mosque or gurdwara. Without it life has no meaning. And surely, it is a reward bestowed only on a handful for many blessed incarnations.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is an academic member of Religion Newswriters Association and author of 'The Believers: Hidden World of West Indian Spiritualism', and 'Anam Cara: Bridge to Enlightenment'. Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby