Before I delve into into the mystics from each religion, I’ll share that I lived with intense feelings of hostility toward all religions, including Christianity, the religion most followed by members of my own family and culture, for over two decades. It’s taken me a really long time to grasp viscerally that before the religion, comes the individual. When you take the time to study any religion in depth, you’ll find many different expressions of its tenets. If a follower is practicing the most offensive expression of their religion, they’ve chosen to.
We’re all free to dive into the depths of our personal darkness, and make the choice to inflict that upon the world; the religious are not immune to such choices.
However, I also want to share that I’ve also come across a handful of devoutly religious people who’ve possessed profound faith, wisdom, and openness. A personal thanks to them, the ones who’ve helped me heal my own religious intolerance and shift it toward something more akin to benign ambivalence.
According to Wikipedia, the most popular religions in the world are: Christianity, 2.2 billion, Islam, 1.6 billion, Hinduism, 1.1 billion, Chinese Folk Religion, somewhere between 750 million and a billion, Buddhism, about 500 million. If that’s at all accurate, 92% (6.9/7.5) of the 7.5 billion people in the world practice some sort of religion. Are they really all stupid and blind, incapable of independent thought and/or obstructed by cultural, familial, political, social forces that demand them to follow belief systems with no inherent truth? Really?
In 1843, Karl Marx wrote: Religion is the opium of the people; in 1797, the Marquise de Sade wrote: This [religion] opium you feed your people. No doubt both were deeply frustrated by religion's power to subvert the infliction of their own vision of the ideal society upon their contemporaries: Marx would have preferred the world to worship at the altar of bureaucratic government, while Sade's spiritual pilgrimage viewed sexual bondage, degradation and humiliation as the holy grail.
See, we all worship SOMETHING.
Religion endures because it taps into that unshakeable sense that above—beyond—behind—below—infusing our seemingly mundane daily existence there is something quite profound and mostly unfathomable about this incredible planet and the journey that each of us makes here.
I’ll be beginning my discussion of the religious mystics with the Christian mystics because they’re the ones I’m most familiar with, and the ones I’ve studied most extensively. But before I do that, I’m going to share a great resource with you on Friday, one that those of you who are feeling spiritually adventurous will especially enjoy.